Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Rating: R for sexual references.
Spoilers: To 2x19 This Is The Day Part II.
Summary: It occurs to him that Sarah will never tell him about all the good that could come from what happened to Riley. Sometimes her persistent angst about their rising body count gets on his nerves, but not tonight.
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
Feedback: deslea at deslea dot com.
More fic: http://fiction.deslea.com
Author's Note: This fic has been sitting half-written for close to a year. Then I stumbled across two old meta posts - one by roxybisquaint about Sarah the warrior versus Sarah the waitress, and another about Derek by beccatoria. And I realised that they were the missing pieces. So this one's for them.
When he gets back, the house is empty.
He's too relieved to care much where everyone is. His soldier's senses note and archive the fact that Sarah and Cameron are arguing in the garage, but there is little thought in between. John is nowhere to be seen, but if they aren't worried, he guesses he isn't either.
He feels dirty, and not in the good way, not like good hard work or like honest sweaty sex. More like morning breath and grease. He's never felt that way after Jesse and he doesn't know why.
It started when she said something good could come of what happened to Riley. At least, he thinks that's when it started. Maybe that's just when the combined forces of a thousand things broke through his love-crazy, sex-addled mind. All he knows is, a dark voice rose up: "That's not your Jesse." And he ignored it, he stayed and made love to her like she was his bright beautiful Jesse and not this dark unknowable thing she'd become, but now he feels all wrong.
He acknowledges the hypocrisy. Of course he does. Not so long ago, he killed his best friend in an abortive bid to save the world. But he learned firsthand that no good can come of such things. It is a lesson written on his heart in Billy Wisher's blood. It is his guiding light now, crying out when he brushes too close to the darkness. He doesn't always listen to it, but he always hears.
And he hears it when he's with her.
He steps in the shower and flicks the water on full.
It doesn't help.
When he finally comes out of the bathroom, he slips into the tiny nursery that passes for his room. Changes his clothes, draping his old shirt over the cot. Wishes for the first time that he had a bed so he could rest. Had he really been so crazed with Jesse that he couldn't be bothered to buy himself a bed? Hell, he didn't even have to do that - he could have moved one of the sofas up here. What the hell is wrong with him?
He turns on his heel and heads downstairs. Goes to the darkened kitchen and gets himself a beer. Considers grabbing a Tylenol while he's at it, but figures the two might not mix.
"Get me one, too," Sarah's voice drifts in tonelessly. "Please."
He does it. Gets her a beer and follows the sound of her voice out onto the verandah.
She stands there in the dark at the top of the steps, hugging herself in the moonlight. Takes the beer from him wordlessly. He can't see her face, but he hears little hitching breaths in the dark.
"You okay?" he says.
She doesn't even try to fake it. He likes this Sarah, honest in the dark. This is Sarah the waitress rather than Sarah the warrior. He doesn't see her much.
"No, I'm really not. That poor dumb kid - Jesus, Derek, *everyone* is going to die very very soon. Why the hell does it even bother me so much? She probably got off easy."
"Because she was a nice kid? Because she died hard and it wasn't fair? You're allowed to be human, Sarah."
It occurs to him that Sarah will never tell him about all the good that could come from what happened to Riley. Sometimes her persistent angst about their rising body count gets on his nerves, but not tonight.
She shrugs. "I guess. I just wish I hadn't had to be so mean to her, you know? She was just a silly messed-up girl. She was sweet and dumb and I'm so *sick* of having to be mean to people to keep them alive. And I can't even seem to manage that."
He moves closer to her. Standing with his shoulders hunched and his hands in his pockets, just barely touching her. "Don't. I liked her too."
She lets her weight shift against his. Just a little. "She reminded me of me. Before. You know. All this."
Yes, he thinks. His face contorts a little in the dark. That's why this is messing with both their heads almost as much as John's.
"Me too," he admits. Looks at her sidelong. He can see the skyline through the trees behind her. The city lights cast a dim palette of yellows and reds and blues across her hair.
She looks away, a little awkward, but she doesn't break away or apologise or try to cover her damp cheeks. They've seen each other so many times, naked and wounded, and it isn't in either of them to pretend at being fine. They'll push each other around and away, they'll snap and spit and snipe at each other like a pair of highly-strung cats, but they don't pretend.
He thinks that he and Jesse pretend a lot.
"Hey," he says. "Sarah."
She turns her face to look at him, holding his gaze as a sigh ripples through her shoulders. The lines of her jaw are soft and unguarded; her eyes are pensive. It's a look he's never seen on her face before and it takes him a moment to place it. Then he realises that she is simply sad.
He's mildly surprised that she lets him see it, but then, she lets him in at the oddest moments. Will she let him so much as help her walk with a gunshot wound inflicted by an agent of the forthcoming apocalyse? Hell no. But she'll open up sitting in a cafe outside City Hall casually plotting to blow the thing up. And she'll let him see her sadness in the dark on some middle-class Van Nuys woman's patio as she waxes philosophical about how shitty it is to have to be mean.
She shakes her head a little. Looks away from him again, out over the night sky. "I'm all right, Derek. I just feel like *someone* should grieve for her. Her foster parents are never going to know what happened to her. John had foster parents like that - perfectly nice people who did their best for him. They don't know what happened to him, either." The ones that lived to wonder, anyway.
"She liked you too," she says presently, a little smile forming curves at the corners of her mouth. "I could tell."
"Yeah?" He is oddly gratified.
"The school counsellor didn't think so," she adds grimly. "She hinted that it wasn't a good idea to have a single man in the house with a troubled girl around."
That hits him like a punch in the gut. "You don't think-"
"No. She was just fishing. Something about her left a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted to scratch her eyes out."
He's been on the receiving end of Sarah's wrath and she fought like a man. He wouldn't have picked her for the catfight type. "Well, thank you for wanting to defend my honour."
"It wasn't just that, but you're welcome anyway."
They fall silent again for a while. He's suddenly aware of her closeness, the way they're side by side and touching from shoulder to thigh, and he wonders if he should pull away. He doesn't. Doesn't want to make her aware of the closeness, because then whatever is holding her here like this, whatever makes her jaw soften and her eyes pensive and her voice low and thoughtful and unguarded, it might disappear, and he doesn't want this Sarah to leave.
"I'm glad you're here, Reese."
The name catches on a little tripwire in his mind. Not enough to make him pull away, but enough for him to stiffen. It stings him, when she does it, and he's always been a little reluctant to analyse exactly why. He isn't stupid; he knows it's Kyle and maybe some of it - he doesn't know how much - is Sarah herself too. But it doesn't lend itself to a neat formula and life's complicated enough.
She feels it. Turns to face him again. "You've never understood about that name. It doesn't always mean what you think it means."
"Why don't you tell me, then?"
She doesn't answer at first, but then, her gaze sliding away from him, she says softly, "It does mean Kyle - sometimes. I feel him close to me when death is close, too." She looks at him again. Eyes gleaming and fixed on his. "I don't know if he's waiting for me or just trying to stop me, for John, but that's when I feel him."
He nods. He gets that.
"Other times, it's you," she says simply. She's still looking up at him, and her brow puckers a little and then her gaze falls on his mouth with sudden, unmistakable wonder. Making a decision, and surprising herself by making it.
The moment is like a microcosm. A universe of its own. A universe where he can already feel her thumb on his lips. A universe where he's already inside her.
Oh, shit, one part of him thinks. The other part is already pounding with sudden, leaping, crazy desire.
She leans in, so slightly that he could ignore it if he wanted to.
He doesn't want to.
He leans in and takes her face in his palm. She's never been willing or able to let him in this far before and he can't step back and let it pass. He suddenly realises that he's been waiting a year for her to do it.
*Jesse,* one part of him whispers. The part that's sliding his hand into her hair and hooking his arm around her waist, still holding his beer, whispers back. *Not my Jesse.*
"God, woman," he murmurs against her, "why now?"
Her hand is on his neck and her beer is cold against his throat and she says softly, "Analyse it, or make love to me, Derek. You can't have both because I don't know why. So take your pick."
That phrase, make love, surprises him. But then, she did love Kyle and Charley, dyed-in-the-wool romantics both. Maybe under the hard edges she's still got a soft side after all. He doesn't say so because he loves the feel of her like this, and he likes his jaw intact as well.
"Sarah," he says, tilting her chin so that she looks at him, eyes impossibly wide and shining in the moonlight. The more he looks at those eyes, the less he cares why.
"Call it unfinished business." Pulling back a little, she shakes her hair off her face, looking at him resolutely in the moonlight. He thinks that the answer is really just that she's decided impetuously that it's time, and for Sarah, that is reason enough. She finds his arm, the one that's round her waist, and grips him, hard. "Shut up and *touch* me."
Oh, Jesus, this Sarah gets under his skin, talking about making love in one breath and giving orders in the next. He doesn't want to fuck her, doesn't even want to make love to her. He wants to possess her. It's a primal urge, blurring love and ownership and she'd probably rip his balls off if she knew, but he's a man, dammit, and he doesn't just want to take her, he wants to *have* her.
He realises that the word "love" has slipped much too easily into his vocabulary, and that he's in more trouble than he knew.
"Oh, *hell*," he groans, and he leans in again, and this time his lips find hers, parting them in a single movement. She balls up his jacket in her fist and uses it to pull herself closer, breathing him in with a shiver. Warmth and softness opens up beneath him, and he can taste beer and need and he can taste her under them both. He presses her hard against him, feels her arch her spine against his beer bottle in the small of her back. He is conscious of it, and of hers against his chest, and wants them gone, wants hands free to touch and to hold.
He pulls back, just a fraction, gazing down between them as he takes her beer from her. Nudges her backwards. She leads him until they're beside the wicker couch. He leans past her to set the bottles on the ledge.
He's on the couch before their first kiss is done. By the second, she's struggling with too-tight jeans. By the third, she's straddling him, and his hand is wedged between fabric and *her*. It's difficult and they could be seen and Cameron can probably hear them and it's hotter than hell.
"Reese," she chokes out as he threads insistent fingers through her hair, and her eyes are wide and she knows who she's talking to, and he feels a wound inside him close.
When it ends, when they're dressed and they're drinking companionably side by side, he asks her, "Sarah, are we starting something here?"
"I don't know," she says idly into her beer. There's warmth in her voice. He thinks that's a good sign.
He nods. "There's something I need to tell you."
There's no easy way to say it, so he says it straight. "There's someone else."
There is a wry little smile on her face. "I wondered. You don't sleep here much. What have you told her?"
"Nothing," he says, quite truthfully. He doesn't mention that she knows far too much from her own sources (and it suddenly occurs to him that he has no idea what those sources are). "But it's gone all wrong. I don't feel like I know her anymore, if I ever did."
She frowns. Not commenting. Waiting for him to say whatever he's going to say.
Abruptly, he comes to a decision. "I'll end it," he says. "I want to be here."
She smiles faintly in the dark. "I'm never going to be your best bet, Derek. I'm messy and I'm hard to live with."
"You know who I am," he counters.
"Yeah, I do." She leans over and gives him a softly chaste kiss on the lips. Warm lips melding with stubble in the dark.
Out the corner of his eye, he sees light winding up the driveway. John. They break apart and put a little distance between them as the van pulls up at the bottom of the stairs. By the time John gets up onto the patio, he and Sarah are drinking their beers in silence.
The kid looks like he's been to hell and back.
"I need to talk to you," he says, and Derek realises he's talking to him.
Sarah speaks, getting to her feet. "Not so fast. I want to talk to you, too. About Tin Miss in there."
"Derek first. We'll be back soon." He doesn't wait for a reply, but returns to the van and switches on the engine to idle.
They watch him leave, and he and Sarah glance sidelong at each other.
"I'll end it," he says again.
He leaves her to meet John in the dark.