Somewhere to Belong
Deslea R. Judd
Disclaimer: Characters and situations not mine. Expression mine.
Fandom: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Rating: M or maybe borderline R for sexual references.
Spoilers/Timeframe: Set after This Is The Day Part 2.
Summary: Loves from different timelines are resolved. Sequel to The Lives and Loves of Derek Reese, but you can probably follow this without having read the first.
Feedback: deslea at deslea dot com.
More fic: http://fiction.deslea.com
See also the prequel, The Lives and Loves of Derek Reese
"Can I come in?"
She is laying there on her side, still, her back to the door. The lines of her body are taut in the moonlight as she hugs herself. She was like that before he opened the door.
"Fine," she says tonelessly.
There is no chair in the room and he has never shared her bed, and this isn't exactly the reception he might have had a week ago. But there's no other option unless he stands, so he slips into bed beside her. He sits up, leaning his head against the bedhead, with his knees pulled up in front of him. Careful to keep some space between them. He doesn't dare touch her.
He hasn't seen John since they got home from Jesse's hotel. As soon as they'd walked in the door, he had left Derek wordlessly, and locked himself in the lounge with Sarah and Cameron to tell them everything. Derek had taken a blistering hot shower, washing away blood and gunpowder and trying vainly to rid himself of the horror and shame. When he came out, Cameron gave him a scathing assessment of his role in the affair, grudgingly praised him for having the sense to kill her, then deigned to inform him that everyone else was in bed.
"Devastated," she says. "Not just about Riley. The idea that his own people would hurt him." She turns her head to look up at him. "For what it's worth, he doesn't blame you."
He stares up at the ceiling. "He should."
She turns over, lying on her back, looking up too. "Yeah, he should."
He'd visualised a loud confrontation with shouted accusations. He'd almost welcomed it. Accepting her fury would have been a penance. This quiet, tired condemnation is a thousand times worse.
At last, he says, "I know it doesn't help, but I love you, and I'm so goddamned sorry."
Her sigh is long and bereft. "I know," she says in a low, bruised voice. "And it doesn't." Her arms are crossed protectively over her chest, tucking her sheet in around her, and he wishes her hands were out so he could take one of them in his. Even if she slapped him for it, it would be worth it.
They sit there in silence for a while. The clock ticks and the moonlight washes over both of them and there isn't a goddamned thing he can say to her.
Her voice breaks the quiet, sudden and heavy with self-recrimination. "Dammit, I should have known myself. The moment you said you weren't sure she was the same woman you married, I should have asked about her. I should have made sure."
"Why didn't you?" he wonders. Truly curious.
She shrugs helplessly. "She was the other woman. I didn't want to know." Her expression crumples. "I feel so *stupid*-"
It all comes over him in a rush, guilt and hurt and sorrow all at once. "Don't," he whispers, watching her helplessly, sure she will push him away if he tries to hold her. "You trusted me to know, and I let you down. And John. And Kyle." That last one hurts even more than the others.
She looks at him sharply. "Why *didn't* you know?" she demands with sudden anger through streaking tears. "Can you honestly tell me nothing was ever wrong? Was she really that good?"
He shakes his head. "No. She wasn't that good. There were signs. Even right from the beginning, I think. I didn't want to see it."
Her voice is barely above a whisper. "That afternoon, on our way back from the desert. You knew something by then - I know you did. Maybe not what she was doing, but you knew it was falling apart."
"Yeah." That day in the grass seems like a lifetime ago. He can still see her tilting her face up towards his, drenched in yellow light like a new beginning. Can't believe he's managed to drive her so far away in the space of a few days.
She whispers, "Was any of it ever about me?"
It makes him unspeakably sad that she even has to ask. "Oh, God," he sighs, looking up at the patterned ceiling, "it was always about you. Even before then. There was never a question of who I would choose, Sarah. I just...didn't have the balls to choose at all."
"You'll have to forgive me if I think that's bullshit. When did you fuck her last, Derek? Yesterday? The day before?"
Well, he deserved that. "Yesterday," he admits, and it's a good word for what happened in the shower that morning. It had felt all wrong, mechanical and anonymous. He doesn't bother to mention that he came close earlier today, too - it makes him feel used and revolted. "But the last time I made love to someone was a week ago." She doesn't answer, but her lips suddenly begin to tremble. "Now ask me the first time I held her at gunpoint. It wasn't tonight."
Her voice is hurt, but surprisingly steady when she answers. "Tell me, then."
"I found photos. Weeks ago. Photos she shouldn't have had - surveillance photos of all of us. I'd never even told her I was living with you. She convinced me part of her mission was to check up on Cameron." She arches her brow at him, and he adds as an aside, "I know, I can't believe I fell for it either. But before that, I told her she had thirty seconds to tell me what she was doing before I put a bullet in her head. She didn't believe me until I started counting down. I'd have done it, too. It was never a question."
Understanding spreads over her face in the moonlight. "That's when it started to break down."
"Put it this way - by a couple of days ago she was accusing me of being your lap-dog."
Sarah manages a wan little laugh, in spite of herself. "She really said that?"
"She knew I was yours," he says simply. "Maybe even before I did."
"Reese," she sighs, turning her face away to look at the ceiling again, "I don't know what to think. About any of it. Remember when I lost your diamonds? A million dollars' worth? And you just shrugged and said 'you got played, it happens'? Part of me feels like I should do the same. But this - a girl is dead, my son has had his heart ripped out - it's different. It's personal."
"Yeah, it is."
She turns on her side, facing him fully for the first time. "And while it was happening you were torn between me and the woman who did it. And now she's turned out to be the bad guy and your whole dilemma is solved, and I'm never going to know if you're here by default. Or because of your brother and John. Or because you're out of your time and we're all you've got."
He shrugs. "I could say the same of you, you know. Would you love me - and I know you do, even if you've never had the balls to say it - but would you love me if I wasn't Kyle's brother? Would you love me if none of this had ever happened and I met you when you were an eighteen-year-old waitress? I'll never know, and I doubt if even you know."
That seems to touch her. She nods, suddenly pensive. "You're right," she admits. "I do love you. And I don't know."
"I never lied to you," he says. "I never said it was clean and tidy. If you're asking me how much of it is Kyle and how much is John and how much is my wife transforming across time into a fucking *stranger*, I don't have an answer. It's a goddamned mess. But I love you and I chose you, even before I knew what Jesse had done, and I swear to God that's real."
"Reese," she whispers again. Near tears. Reaches up to him and draws him down, the sound of her hitching breath skittering across his raw nerves, sending waves of guilt and hurt through his body. He tastes salt, his and hers, as her lips part beneath his. He threads his fingers through her hair, kissing her softly, working her shattered walls apart until she opens for him completely, until their kiss is slow and long and deep.
Still kissing her, he slides under the sheets with her and draws her against him. She comes to him, moving willingly but hesitant...bruised. Her lips tremble a little under his, and he feels tears rising up in his throat, hating what he's brought down on her. On all of them.
Their first time was about joining as quickly and utterly as they could. This time is, too. There is no foreplay, no preamble as they help each other kick off track pants and cotton knickers. They are engaged in the serious business of becoming one against a world that seems hell-bent on keeping them apart.
"I love you," she whispers as she stretches out beneath him. "Always remember that." And for one split second the fog of hurt and guilt and love breaks apart, revealing a shadow of something terrible to his troubled mind, but then he's inside her, their bodies are pressed together down their whole length, and half-formed knowledge evaporates as he immerses himself in her warmth and her softness. In the way she holds him against her and kisses him with incredible tenderness, even while her body is rising with his.
As they finish, she cradles his head with her hands, and he sees that terrible truth in her eyes. And this time he recognises it for what it is.
"No," he rasps suddenly. "Don't leave."
She doesn't answer, but her eyes brim with sudden, fresh tears. She looks away, still in his embrace. Turning her head in the crook of his arm to look out the window, her body shuddering with hitching breaths. She's still trembling from what they did, her body still fitted against his, and her tears find their way into the fold of his elbow.
"I fucked up," he says urgently. "I know second chances are a luxury for us, but I happen to think we can look after each other in this. Even despite what happened. You could run from everyone who loves you, but is that even a life worth saving? You might as well be a machine if you're going to do that."
"Stop it," she whispers. The tears are flowing freely now.
"No. I can't keep you here but I can damn well make sure you know what you're losing."
"Do you think I don't know?" she flares, looking at him once more. "I have to protect John."
"Like you protected him from Sarkissian? Or losing Riley? We're human beings, Sarah, and your job is not to keep him safe and happy. It's to help him survive. And no one - no human - can do that for long without a few people they just love, who love them back and have their back, warts and all. Are you really going to take that away from him, and you? Would you rather have no one?"
The anger falls away, and she touches his face with trembling fingers. "No," she admits.
"Then let's go somewhere and rebuild. Together. Please."
Sighing, she says, "I don't know." After a long moment, she makes a sudden, wry sound. "Are there any more wives? Girlfriends? Boyfriends?"
"Not that I know of, but who knows what FutureDerek is up to. He could be fucking his way through John Connor's army as we speak."
She rolls her eyes with grudging amusement. "I wouldn't put it past him. I get the feeling he's a bit of a slut."
"Look who's talking, Miss-Slept-With-My-Brother-After-Two-Days."
He grins goodnaturedly. "So, how 'bout it, Connor?"
She sighs in resignation. As much through sheer exhaustion as anything, he thinks, but he'll take this victory any way he can get it. "Fine. We'll play it your way. But no more secrets. And no more sexing it up with your exes. I don't care how goddamned mixed up you are. I told you - I don't do the other woman thing."
"Agreed." He's amused, and he loves that she can make him amused even after everything that's happened.
"You can get off me now," she says. "You're heavy."
"Sorry." He rolls off her apologetically.
She sits up beside him, drawing up her knees to her chest. "So. How *do* people get married when there's no law and no clergy and not much else?" she asks, looking at him curiously. "I've wondered ever since you told me about her."
He shrugs. "Sometimes you say, 'I'd like you to be my wife,' and she says, 'Okay.' Sometimes, if you find a ring, you put it on her wedding finger. That doesn't happen much, though - most of the rings have been melted down for other purposes. And sometimes you just start calling her 'my wife' in conversation and she doesn't deck you for it. It's very romantic."
She laughs - really laughs for the first time since it all went to hell. "I see," she says. "On the upside, it sounds a lot cheaper."
"It is." He looks at her sidelong. "So, would you deck me?"
He isn't really asking her - not yet. More testing the waters. He regrets it when her brow puckers. He remembers, too late, John telling him about the way she ran from marriage to Charley. But she says, "I don't know. Try it one day and find out. Worst that can happen is I break your jaw."
"Ow." Sarah has a better left hook than most.
"You're an old-fashioned guy underneath it all, Reese, aren't you?" she says, watching him with interest.
He never thought of it that way. "No more than anyone else after J-Day," he says, thinking about it. "I mean, don't get me wrong, there's a lot of indiscriminate fucking. Most of us are soldiers and we're often the only one in our family to make it, and life is short. We're not exactly saving ourselves. But when you find somewhere to belong, you don't mess around the way people do here. You commit."
Slowly, she nods. "I think we belong."
He reaches for her, and they hold hands together in the dark.