The Lives and Loves of Derek Reese
Deslea R. Judd
Disclaimer: Characters and situations not mine. Expression mine.
Fandom: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Characters/Keywords: Sarah/Derek (primary), Derek/Jesse
Rating: Mature. Mid level sexual references.
Spoilers/Timeframe: Set after Desert Cantos, but events up to This Is The Day Part 2 are assumed to be part of this universe.
Summary: Loves from different timelines collide.
Feedback: deslea at deslea dot com.
More fic: http://fiction.deslea.com
See also the sequel, Somewhere to Belong
It's a beautiful day in the countryside, and Sarah is driving.
The combination of these two factors means that Derek can sit there with the breeze on his cheek and the sun on his arm and he can rest. He can think. It's a rare state of being.
It's also a slightly unsettling one. There are a lot of things Derek prefers not to think about lately.
A lot of things? Well, one thing, mostly. A whole host of questions under the general heading of Jesse.
Things about love and loyalty the way they are tied to who a person is. And what makes a person in the first place. How much their past needs to change before they are no longer the same person, before love is just misplaced nostalgia and loyalty is cancelled out. Whether his Jesse still exists somewhere, or whether this Jesse, darker and hotter and more secretive, is the only one left.
And then there's the question of what he will do about her if she isn't *his*, because she knows a hell of a lot about his family. Too much, maybe. And speaking of family, there's the question of what, *who* there is for him if Jesse...isn't.
And when that thought crosses his mind, he glances sidelong at Sarah and wonders what she would look like with her hair splayed out on a pillow, and then he tells himself he didn't think it at all. And if he *did* think it, it was just the way perfectly sane people will think in passing of jumping off a cliff. It's in the nature of sane people to eyeball insanity, and of men to eyeball women, and *shit*, he wishes his brain would just. shut. up.
All of which is why he doesn't like to think.
He'd exchange small talk with Sarah if he could, but they haven't spoken since they snapped at each other about Kyle at the funeral the day before. They've talked shop, yes, but no social niceties of any kind. He could do something about that, but it would involve an apology, and he doesn't like to apologise, either.
Like it or not, though, he's going to have to do it sooner or later. At least this way, there's something in it for him, too. So he takes a breath, grits his teeth, and turns to look at her. Injecting as much grace as he can muster, he says, "I was out of line yesterday. I'm sorry."
She doesn't ask what for, but her grip on the steering wheel tightens and her jaw sets firmly in aggravation. "I offered to tell you about your brother. You didn't want to hear it. If you had, you might understand."
"I understand that you loved him." Please leave it at that, he thinks; he can't handle hearing about Sarah and Kyle's fated love affair right now. Not when his own love life is in shambles and thoughts of her nag at him rather more often than he'd like.
"No, you don't. You think you do because you saw me half-dead and delirious and talking to him, but you're wrong."
That brings him up short, brings him out of his own preoccupations. "You didn't love him?" he says slowly. He doesn't believe that.
"Of course I did," she snaps. "But, what, you think I was seeing some romantic soft-focus vision of him or something? Are you that stupid?"
"I hadn't thought about it." And he hadn't, not consciously, but she's right - that was exactly the idea in his mind, half-formed and inarticulate and tinged faintly with envy. She was crying out Kyle's name, smiling and piteous, for Chrissake. She was in a world with his brother that he would never know.
Her voice is scathing at what she obviously regards as his lack of insight. "He was telling me to live, you idiot. That's what he does. It's when I see him. When our son needs me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. You forget, Reese, that he wasn't just my lover. He was my soldier. Just like you."
"Wasn't a bed name, so get the fuck over it."
She was right - he hadn't understood. It was a name used in battle. He understands now that it is a compliment.
"Okay," he says at last. "I'll shut up about it."
The annoyance goes out of her voice and the lines of her body. "I'll give you a free pass on that one, Derek, but only because you lost him months ago and for me it's been seventeen years. You don't know what it's like over time. Not yet."
"Why don't you tell me, then?" He isn't just distracting himself from his own troubles anymore. He really wants to know.
She shoots him a look, as though suddenly uncertain. He doesn't think he's ever seen her unsure. But she nods after a moment, and says, "It's like a little box that you carry around. Most of the time it's closed. That's why you can go on. It's why you can be happy again without feeling guilty about it, or why you can find another partner, or whatever. But if something happens to open the box, the love is still there like it was yesterday. It doesn't stop your life, but just for a moment here and there, it stops you in your tracks."
He asks before he can consider the wisdom of the question. "Do I open the box?"
"No. But I don't think you believe that." She's right, he doesn't, but before he can answer, she suddenly pulls over to the side of the road, tyres screeching on gravel, and flicks off the ignition. She clambers out of the SUV, almost in a run.
Baffled, he follows her as she ducks through a wire fence and walks into the field beside the road. She must have seen something, he thinks. Something about Kaliba. He can't think of any other explanation for her actions. Tramping through the long grass, he calls, "What? What have you seen?"
She keeps on walking away from him in long strides, then stops suddenly. Looks up into the sky with her head back and her shoulders slumped in an unmistakeable look of surrender. "Nothing," she says, turning to face him, gazing into his eyes in weary resignation. "Except maybe you." With this inexplicable statement she drops down onto the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest.
He stares at her. "Fuck, Connor, stop being so goddamned cryptic."
She looks up at him with something like sympathy. "I didn't know you knew about Kyle and me - not until you weren't surprised that day. I've been wracking my brain all these months to understand why you wouldn't touch me when we both knew you wanted to. But it all makes sense now. It's some 'shalt not covet thy brother's wife' thing. Because you don't understand about the box."
All this time he's been operating out of his own conflicts, never realising how it might look to her.
He drops down heavily on the ground, taking his place beside her. Doesn't even bother to deny the truth she's put out there so baldly. "It's not that. I mean, partly. But there's something else. Jesus."
A dark shadow spreads over her face as she begins to understand, maybe, that there's something she doesn't know. And if there's something Sarah Connor doesn't like, it's not knowing.
"Derek?" she says. Half question. Half warning.
There's no easy way to say it. Softly, he admits, "I have a wife. At least," he amends, "as close to a wife as you get when there's no law and no church and not much of anything else."
The softness, the naked honesty in her face visibly retreats as she absorbs this. "In the future," she says carefully. It isn't a question, but it isn't a statement, either.
He wonders if she'll deck him - or worse. "She was in the future. She came back."
"No. Since then. But I've seen her."
He can almost see her mind ticking over. When. How long. What does she know. "Did she follow you?"
"No. She's on a mission."
She thinks silently on that for a minute. "So," she says at last, "she's here, and you love her, but you want me." Her voice is totally neutral, like she just wants to get her facts clear. Like she wasn't talking about wracking her brain about him just minutes ago.
He laughs bitterly. "It would be easy, if it were that simple." He looks away. "Her history has changed because of the things you and I have done. And now - she's not the same. We're not the same. And I don't even know who I'm trying to be faithful to anymore."
Slowly, she nods. Choosing her words with obvious care, she says, "There are a lot of questions that I could ask, but I'm going keep it to one. Are you doing, and will you always do the right thing by John?"
He meets her gaze, and says gravely, "I have and I will."
She wraps her arms around her knees for a moment, hugging herself and rocking a little, frowning. "All right," she says at last, rising up on her knees as though to get up. She might as well be closing the shutters. "Then that will be enough."
On an impulse he doesn't stop to question, he rises up too and grasps her wrist. "No," he says in a low, bruised voice. "It's really not."
They're close, very close. Too close. The sun streams down, drenching her features with yellow light, and her eyes are brilliant with colour and he can feel her breath on his face as she tilts hers up towards him. They move at the same moment, leaning in, her breath hitching as their lips meet.
She lets out a sigh as she softens and opens beneath his lips. Her body is yielding and defenceless, as though accepting something inevitable. Troubled thoughts flicker across his mind - complications, guilt - but they leave as fast as they arrive. He's missed this, he thinks irrationally, as if they've done this in another time and part of him remembers her scent and her skin and that sound (what sound?) she makes when he's just about to thrust into her.
Tentatively, she lifts her hands to his chest. Slides them up into his hair. Then, more certain, she kisses him harder and presses against him, whispering that name, Reese, and he finds that he likes it.
He has to stop, he thinks, or he'll take her right here in the grass, and he doesn't know if he should do that. And she obviously thinks it too, because she pulls back a little, letting out a shuddering breath as she gently disengages herself from his arms.
She looks away, awkwardly, and repositions herself to rest her knees, putting distance between them in the process. She seats herself cross-legged beside him. "Sorry," she says with forced casualness, staring out ahead of her, like she bumped into him in a corridor instead of kissing him like she'd been waiting all her life to do it. "I shouldn't have done that."
He follows her lead, sinking back onto the grass. "It was mutual. Don't beat yourself up." He thinks he'll do plenty of that all by himself.
"I don't do the other woman thing. I don't believe in it and I don't have time for it." Always the pragmatist.
"Neither do I," he says. "I just wish-"
She looks at him once more. Eyes alert with sudden curiosity. "What? You wish what?"
Shrugging a little, he looks away, back at the road in the distance. He starts to speak once or twice, then stops, at a loss. Finally, he says, "I told John once that you had a pure soul. I think I could meet you in a thousand lifetimes and you'd still be you."
"And she isn't?"
Somehow that cuts through it all. He doesn't know what he feels about who she's become, or what he owes her. But he knows his wife and he knows this Jesse, and no, they're not the same. His eyes sting and she's seen him cry before but damn if he's putting that on her now. Bad enough that he's opened this door at all.
"No." It comes out as a whisper. An acknowledgement of something he's always known.
She takes his hand and squeezes it a little. "I'm sorry, Derek."
He nods, swallowing hard, blinking against the sun. Changes the subject. "You can call me Reese, if you want."
She gives a short, sharp, bittersweet sound of mirth. "And to think I thought that was the problem. Jesus, Derek, what a mess."
"Well, Kyle didn't help. But it would take more than that." And then he shuts up, because he's already given away much more than he should.
"Reese..." The name catches in her throat.
That sound, that aching half-moan derails him somehow, unravels any resolve he might have had. Suddenly his whole body is responding to hers and he is reaching for her, leaning over her to kiss her.
She brings her palms up to his face and cradles him as he finds her again, soft and eager under his mouth. Threading his fingers through her hair, he suddenly knows why he hasn't been home much lately. What he was afraid of - the door he was afraid to open. He understands that he has started a slow-moving train that will ultimately lead to a choice.
But he thinks the choice might already be made.
With that thought, his kiss grows stronger. More possessive. He murmurs her name against her lips, tugging her body against his. She comes willingly, pressing her torso hard against him, and he can feel the fast, shallow rise and fall of her breasts and the rapid beat of her heart.
There are few preliminaries. She sinks back into the grass, arching her breasts against him as he follows, finding his mouth again as their bodies find each other. She slides her palms up under his shirt and splays them out searchingly over the planes of his back, and he runs his hands down over her hips and thighs, dragging her zipper down with trembling fingers. He rolls on to his back, taking her with him, and strokes down into the curve of her buttocks. Her flesh is firm beneath denim and he presses hard, cupping her between his hand and his hips. Rubbing hard against him, she gasps out a sound of longing that is even hotter than the friction between their thighs.
"Do it," she whispers. As if there was any doubt.
Shivering all over, he pushes her jeans and her knickers down over her hips and manages to work one of her legs free. She doesn't help - too busy kissing him and opening her shirt with one shaking hand, his zip with the other. He feels the sudden wet warmth of her against his stomach, and then she abruptly sinks down onto him in a single stroke. He gasps out her name - she shocks it out of him - and arches his back, thrusting deep up into her. She whimpers, seizing around him then opening wider, and he remembers how long it's been for her. He wonders if he should ease up, but she's rocking hard against him, drawing him into her, gasping as he touches her there with gently probing fingertips. She comes hard and fast and recovers just as quickly, nowhere near finished with him yet.
He grips her hip with one hand, hard enough to leave a mark, and she kisses him hard, whimpering in response. He doesn't so much thrust into her as hold her there and shudder and grind. He finds her breast with the other and holds her there, massaging and grasping just a little harder than he probably should, but she begins to shiver all over and moan and sweet Jesus, he misses this. Misses it as though he's had it before and is coming home, although he's never touched her before in his life.
"I love you," he whispers. He didn't know he was going to say it until he said it. "You know I love you."
She pauses, posied over him, and nods, her face pale and damp with sweat. She looks like a winter's day and cold chills and English beauty. Nothing like the sun beating down on them and the fire between her thighs. "I know that, Derek." He feels her sudden, involuntary tightening around him, and he knows that she won't say it back - not now - and he knows she loves him anyway.
"Do it," she says again, still pale and trembling with lightly suppressed need.
He doesn't need any more encouragement than that. Sitting up, he draws her against his torso, his arms across her back and his hands in her hair, and thrusts hard up into her, possessively, the way she wants him. She winds her legs around him, spreading to receive every inch of him. She gasps out his name through parted lips as she shudders out her orgasm, and he lets go of his own, filling her with his warmth and drooping his head against her shoulder.
They come to rest at last, sinking back together in the grass.
Awkwardly, she straightens and rolls off him, pulling her jeans up and buttoning them as they lay there, side by side in the sun. He does the same, feeling the walls come up again, at least part of the way.
As though by mutual agreement, they turn their heads to meet each other's gaze. The light dances brilliantly on her hair and her eyes, but there is something bittersweet in the look she gives him, as well.
"We shouldn't do this again," she says, implacable and resolute. "Not while you have things to figure out."
"No," he agrees. Then, more quietly, "You know, Sarah, I don't regret this, but I hope - I really hope I haven't done the wrong thing by you."
She looks away, back up at the sky. Sighs. "We both have a job to do, Reese. I'm used to nothing being really mine."
If anything can break him, he thinks, it's that. Hearing her say that, so matter-of-fact.
He props himself up on one elbow and leans over her. "Hey. I'm yours, Sarah. Yours and John's. No matter what. We're family."
She looks up at him, lashes suddenly wet. Strokes his cheek and nods.
"We should keep going," she says at last, nodding towards the SUV. Slowly, diffidently, she pulls away from him and rises.
He follows, and it hurts him to watch her, still shivering lightly from what they just shared, yet walking alone a little ahead. Somehow her carriage is lighter and heavier at the same time. He wishes he had an easy solution. For her and for him.
He catches up with her at the SUV and takes her arm. "Hey," he says.
She turns, and it seems to take a lifetime. Her smile is gentle and sad. She touches his mouth, stroking it with her thumb. Caress and instruction, in equal measure. "I know, Reese. I know."
They kiss one more time, and then they break apart, and they get in the car and keep on going.
NOTE: This one was written while I was struggling with writers' block on another variation on the same Sarah/Derek/Jesse triangle theme. That one is from a quite different angle, so hopefully it'll be back on track soon.