lines in the sand | anklebones

act 2

"Let’s go."

As soon as it became clear John wasn't going to answer his cell phone, Sarah was in motion. She was already halfway to the front door before Cameron caught her by the wrist and pulled her back.

"No."

"John needs us," Sarah said as if that was all the argument she needed, and in the past, it had been.

"John can take care of himself," Cameron pointed out. "Savannah can't."

"Weaver?"

"Weaver."

"You think it's a trap?" Sarah sounded sceptical, and Cameron didn’t blame her; she wasn’t sure she believed it herself. Triggering the alarm at the hangar would be a roundabout way for Weaver to get an unobstructed shot at Savannah, but Cameron couldn't completely ignore the possibility. And even if the other terminator hadn't planned this, she wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of the situation.

"Can we be sure it's not?"

"No," Sarah growled reluctantly, the steely glint in her green eyes promising a slow and painful death for Weaver if she ever got her hands on the machine. “Damned bitch. She has us either way.” 

“John will call,” Cameron assured her. “He had time to get out.”

“We don’t know that,” Sarah muttered, but she stopped fighting Cameron’s grip.

Satisfied Sarah wasn’t going to go rushing off to the rescue, Cameron let her go. “I do,” she said. “I programmed that system myself.”

Sarah snorted. “You’re not infallible, girlie.”

As if on cue, Sarah’s phone rang and Cameron raised an eyebrow. “You were saying?”

*****  

Banging on the door did nothing but bruise her hands and promise some small release to the pent-up tangle of fear and fury that was choking her. But it was a false promise, and when the ache of her hands matched the ache in her heart, Terissa finally stopped.

She slumped to the floor, raising weary eyes to the security footage that showed her only an empty gravel road on one screen and the remains of breakfast on the kitchen table on the other.

Danny and John were gone.

One boy who might destroy the world, and the other who was supposed to save it.

Men, Terissa reminded herself bitterly. Not boys. They weren't children anymore, but they were sons, and a son is always a boy in his mother's eyes. And Danny wasn't like John, he hadn't been prepared for this. He didn't know how to fight.

"Take care of him..." she whispered, cursing and pleading with John in the same breath. He had taken her son away from her, and not just now. Ever since they had pried Danny out of Kaliba’s clutches, John had encouraged him, befriending him and offering him a place in their fight when Terissa would have rather had him safe.

Was that why the machines were after him now? For something he had done for John?

Terissa wished she could feel pride that her son’s life would mean enough to bring him to the attention of Skynet's assassins, but selfishly, she wished he had remained obscure.

Enough wallowing, Terissa, she chided herself. Time to get out of here.

Suiting actions to words, she pulled out her phone and dialled the only person who might know what to do.

*****

Sarah wasn't sure how to feel as she drove to the hangar.  

She'd taught John to run. She'd taught him so well that he'd run away from nearly everything in his short life, including his responsibilities. But running would only get him so far, and that was something they were both coming to terms with. Sooner or later he was going to have to turn and fight, and Sarah only hoped it wasn’t too late for him to learn how.

Terissa’s call had calmed the worst of her fears, and even Cameron had relaxed enough to relent and agree that Sarah should go down to the hangar to spring her. She’d still adamantly refused to leave Savannah herself, and only reluctantly allowed Sarah out of her sight. But not before extracting a promise from Sarah to drive straight to the hangar and bring Terissa right back before they decided what to do about John and Danny.  

Sierra’s death had shaken Cameron more than Sarah had realized, and it wasn’t only grief. Cameron was afraid.

That makes two of us.

Leaving Cameron and Savannah alone had been harder than Sarah had expected. Rushing to John’s rescue was still a gut instinct, nothing was ever going to change that, but the usual obsessive need to protect him from himself was curiously absent, leaving her to fret over her daughter and her lover instead.

She forced herself to drive slowly through the checkpoints. The terminator should be long gone by now, but she kept her Glock at her side, and her eyes sharp.

Terissa's little car parked in front of the hangar itself was the only sign of life, and Sarah pulled up next to it, turning the truck off and sliding out to use it as a shield to get her bearings. Nothing came screaming out at her and there was no sign of any kind of firefight, but Sarah didn't miss the unfamiliar tire tracks in the driveway or the skid marks of a vehicle hastily changing direction.

The terminator had been here, but it had left before reaching the hangar and at some speed.

Bait.

That was Sarah's first thought, and it made her stomach twist. John had used Danny as bait to lead the terminator away from Terissa. He wasn’t running, he was leading.

“Good boy,” she murmured.

The front door gave way to her code, and Sarah put her back to it, going in gun-first. The lights were still on, which helped, and Sarah made her way through the kitchen, noting the half-eaten breakfast and the coffee pot, still warm.

She passed the wall of photographs, clippings and intel that had first brought them here without a glance, but she knew it was there. The reminder of Sierra’s work and sacrifice hurt, but she was glad John had preserved it.

The boy's bedrooms were clear, with no sign of a struggle beyond the expected battle for floor space in Danny's. John's was immaculate. Empty, Sarah's conscience pointed out, but she ignored it. They had all left things behind.

Once she had secured the hangar, Sarah headed for the lab where a muffled thumping betrayed Terissa’s impatience. 

*****  

"Mom will find her," John assured Danny, risking a glance away from the road at the sullen programmer curled up on his side of the truck. "She'll come as soon as she knows the alarm was tripped." She would, John knew. She would have to. He could have called, let her know he was safe, but then she would have come to them instead of going to the hangar, and he needed time. Time to find out what Danny was up to and time to deal with this terminator before anyone else got hurt.

He only hoped his mother would give it to him. He thought they had reached a point where she might understand he needed to do this on his own, but she was still his mother, and protecting him was her job.

One of her jobs, he corrected himself. There was Savannah now, and Cameron. It was strange, that something that had made him feel so insignificant before could empower him now. Sarah Connor had other responsibilities, and this, this he could take care of for himself. And for them. He could protect someone else. It was strange, and almost exhilarating.

Danny seemed somewhat less enlightened.

"We should answer the phone," he whined again. "We should go back. Why aren’t we going back?"

"There's a machine following us," John reminded him somewhat less gently that the first time.

"We lost it hours ago!"

John resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "No. We didn't. You don't lose them. You gain a little time, that’s all."

Danny looked stubborn. "We should answer the phone," he said again. "Tell them where it is. Isn't this what she's for?"

John ignored the slur on the word she;he had his own problems with Cameron right now, but that didn't mean he condoned Danny's suspicious contempt for the terminator. Still, this was hardly the time to get into a philosophical debate on the nature of life, particularly considering the secrets Danny was carrying around. "Cameron has other... responsibilities," he said instead, trying not to dwell on what those responsibilities might entail.

Fucking your mother? A nasty little portion of his subconscious offered.

Protecting Savannah! He corrected it firmly.

Danny subsided for a few minutes, and John focused on the road, steering them as far from the people they cared about as possible. He almost didn't hear Danny's last mutter, "we should go back..." but he did, and his patience finally ran out. Yanking the wheel to the side he ran them up on the shoulder of the road and killed the engine.

Danny's eyes were wide. "Why-" he started, but John cut him off.

"Do you want her to die?" he demanded.

"I-"

"Do you want Terissa to throw herself between you and a terminator?" John interrupted again, not giving Danny a chance to speak. "Because that's what she'll do. She won't be able to stop herself." His jaw ached from the effort of not shouting, and he resisted the urge to smack the wounded expression from Danny's face, angry with himself as much as Danny. Too many times he'd let his own mother take punishment meant for him, too many times he'd asked her to step in front of the bullet, and even when he'd saved her, he'd blamed her for that too. It was enough. It had been enough a long time ago. He was done putting other people between himself and death, and he was going to make damned sure that Danny was done with it too, or he'd kill the programmer himself.

One breath, two... John stared him down and Danny finally lowered his eyes.

"No," he admitted to the seat covers, and for the first time since they'd left the hanger there wasn't a trace of self-pity in his voice. "I don't want anyone to die for me."

John took a deep breath and decided to believe him. For now. He turned the key and pulled back onto the road. "Then we have to keep going. We need to find somewhere to fight, and then we'll take it out."

"We're going to fight it?" Danny's voice almost broke. "How?"

John shrugged. "I have no idea."

"You don't have a plan?"

John could have laughed at that. "When do we ever? Any ideas?"

Danny looked like he was about to say something, but he closed his mouth again and glanced out the window. John left him alone with his thoughts, sensing some of the war that must be going on inside of Danny right now. He could have called him on it, but John suspected Danny would run from anything even faintly accusatory, or if he couldn't run, surrender and beg for forgiveness, only to betray John as soon as his back was turned. No. If Danny was going to confess, he had to do it on his own, willingly, or John would never be able to trust him. Trust demanded trust in return.

"Why are you doing this?" Danny finally asked, his voice soft and hesitant. "It's after me, not you. Why risk your life when you won't even let my mother risk hers? Aren't you the one who's supposed to save the world some day?"

Danny's tone suggested he wasn't as sure of that last point as everyone else, but John let it pass. "Because I believe you're worth saving," he admitted. "And besides," he added, thinking of Savannah, "They're already training an understudy."

*****

Savannah stared out the window and sighed, a great gusting sigh pitched to be heard by the adults who had thwarted her.

It was well into morning. The sun was shining, the green grass gleaming, and birds singing. But she wasn't allowed to go outside.

Too dangerous, Cameron had said. Too dangerous to go out by herself, and Cameron was busy. Not busy because she was actually doing anything other than walking around the house, but busy because she was worried. Worried about Sarah, and that meant she didn't have time to play outside.

It was all John's fault. Savannah had worked out that much. He was the reason that Sarah had left before breakfast on a day that would have been perfect for going to the beach or training in the backyard. Cameron had been teaching her some new avoidance manoeuvres, and Savannah wanted to practice.

Stupid boys.

Even Walther was asleep. Savannah had crouched beside the couch and poked him a few times to see if she could wake him up to play, but he'd ignored her, and then Uncle Ellison had told her to leave him alone and let him sleep while he could.

He was cranky too.

And he didn't want to go outside either. He'd offered to play checkers with her, but Savannah was in no mood to be mollified by board games so now he was reading a book. It was too nice to be inside, but inside she was, and there she would stay, until the grownups decided it was safe to go out.

Sulking was a poor substitute, but satisfying in its own way.

Savannah sighed again, to no result.

When the phone rang everyone stopped, and that was when Savannah realized they'd all been waiting, even her. Waiting for news. Savannah felt a little wriggle of nervousness worm around in her belly. John was annoying, but she kind of liked him, and he was hers, like Cameron and Sarah and Walther. 

The ringing stopped, and Savannah slipped off the window seat in the living room and out into the hall. Cameron was sitting at the table in the kitchen, and Savannah ghosted to the doorway, moving silently the way she had been taught.

Cameron's back was to her, and Savannah could only hear one side of the conversation, but that was enough.

"Do you have to go away?" she asked after Cameron had hung up.

If Cameron was surprised that Savannah had been eavesdropping, she didn't show it. Leaving the table she came and knelt in front of her. "I don't know," she said. "Maybe." Cameron never pretended everything was okay when it wasn't. Most of the time Savannah liked that, but sometimes she almost wished they could pretend. 

"Is John okay?"

"I don't know," Cameron said again. "But we're going to find out."

Savannah nodded, and Cameron gave her a long hug.

After that she was busy again, but Savannah didn't go back to the living room. She cleared the toys and furniture out of the middle of her room and started practicing her rolls.

*****

"I'm going after him."

Somehow Sarah had known it was going to come to that. As soon as she had opened the door and found Terissa on the other side of it in the throes of thwarted maternal fury, she had known. What she hadn't known was that she wouldn't feel the same way.

She had fought so hard to hold on to John, almost as hard as he had fought to escape her; she was determined to wait until he was ready. She had agonized over the decision, questioning her own judgment and his until she hadn’t known which side of the fence she was on anymore. She’d begun to worry that she wouldn’t ever be able to let go, or that, after being caged for so long, he wouldn’t be able to fly, but somehow the moment had come and gone without either of them realizing it.

She’d opened her hands, he was gone, and she felt... good... about it. Scared of course, but good. Confident.

John could handle this.

"I think we should go home."

Terissa just stared at Sarah across the top of the car. Her eyes black with fear and worry. "Go home? And then what? Wait for more body bags?"

Sarah winced, but she didn't open her door. "John will call..."

"This is John's fault! He took Danny and left. There's a machine chasing them, and we have to find them."

"Terissa-"

"I'm going." Terissa cut Sarah off. "You can come with me, or stay here. But I'm going after my son."

Sarah had no doubt that she meant it. She had not been at all surprised to learn from John that after the apocalypse, Terissa Dyson had had the strength of character to not only survive, but emerge as a leader. This was not a woman to be taken lightly. But Sarah also knew what would happen if she let Terissa chase after a terminator on her own. Danny might not be high on Sarah’s priority list, but she wasn't about to let his mother die to save his sorry ass.

"I'm coming," she said, apologizing silently to Cameron as she opened the car door and slid in beside Terissa. "But we need to stop by the house first.”

*****

Cameron waited for Sarah on the front porch.

She had the bags packed and ready. Early morning daydreams of a life without guns hidden in the walls had been banished, snatched away by a machine with a mission and a boy trying to be a man.

But Cameron had a mission too, no less consuming for all that it was self-appointed, and one she had every intention of fulfilling.

If her family couldn't be normal, at least they would be safe.

"You don’t have to go," was the first thing she said when Sarah and Terissa pulled up and got out of the car. It wasn't what she'd meant to say, but she didn't take it back, meeting Sarah's determined green gaze firmly and waiting for the inevitable argument.

She didn't get it.

"I know," Sarah agreed, too softly for Terissa, busy loading one of the bags into the car, to hear. "But she does."

"I'll go with her," Cameron offered immediately, but Sarah shook her head.

"No, you were right this morning. Savannah needs you here."

I need you!

Unable to quite reach across the rift still between them, Cameron didn’t say it, but she held Sarah’s gaze until the other woman looked away.

"Danny's afraid of you," Sarah continued when Cameron remained mute. "And Weaver is still out there. One of us has to stay here, and you're better equipped." She tried to make a joke of it, but it fell flat.

Pressing her lips together in unconscious imitation of Sarah, Cameron turned on her heel and went inside.

Recognizing the expression and the inner turmoil it represented, Sarah glanced back once at Terissa and followed Cameron to the kitchen, where the terminator proceeded to clear away what looked like the remains of the lunch dishes and pointedly turned the sink on.

"You're angry with me."

"Yes."

"He's my son," Sarah felt the need to point out.

Cameron gave her a single scornful look. "John doesn't want you coming after him. You don't want to go after him because that would mean that you don't trust him. You are doing this for Terissa."

There were times when Sarah wouldn't have minded if Cameron hadn't become quite so perceptive when it came to human motivations, and this was one of them. "You think I should let her go alone?"

"Ellison could go with her."

"Cameron..." Sarah crossed the room and caught Cameron's wrist, turning her around to face her. A human might have tried to avoid her gaze, but Cameron met her eyes squarely, unafraid to show her fear.

"I don't want you to go."

"I know." Sarah wanted to close the distance between them, both physically and emotionally, but the first wouldn't have solved anything, as they'd spent the last few days proving, and she didn't know how to accomplish the second. Only time would fully heal that wound, and time was the one thing they didn't have.

A fact Ellison reaffirmed via tactful throat clearing from the doorway. "Terissa's ready," he said once he had their attention. "If you're going, now's the time."

"You'll stay here?" Sarah asked him, knowing the answer but needing to hear it.

"I'll keep them safe," he promised her, ignoring the way Cameron stiffened in indignation.

Sarah hid a grin at the terminator's wounded pride, waiting for Ellison to withdraw before she spoke again. "I'll stay out of it if I can."

"Will you?" Cameron was unapologetically sceptical. She used Sarah's grip on her wrist to tug her closer. "Swear," she demanded. "Swear you'll let John do this."

"I swear," Sarah agreed, hoping it was a promise she could keep, both to Cameron and to her son.

"You need to go," Cameron said abruptly, pulling away. But Sarah caught a glimpse of relief on her features as she brushed past her and she followed, wishing this didn't feel so much like a mistake. It would have been easier to look her family in the eyes and say goodbye if she believed she was making the right decision.

Savannah was waiting with Terissa and Ellison at the front door. Sarah ducked to give her a hug, gathering strength from the child's arms around her neck and the whispered "I love you, mom."

Ellison was easier. A nod and "good luck," was sufficient.

Terissa was nearly shaking with tension now, clearly aching to be gone, and Sarah felt her own shoulders tighten in sympathy, but she couldn't walk away from Cameron without saying goodbye. She turned back to the terminator, knowing that Cameron would understand if she left her with nothing more than a smile, a nod, a look. Cameron didn't need public displays of affection. It was enough, for her, that they both knew what was between them.

It wasn't enough for Sarah. Not today. She needed something to take with her.

Before she could think about it, Sarah had crossed the distance between them and buried her hands in Cameron's hair, pulling the terminator into a kiss that, for just a moment, erased everything else.

She didn't hear Ellison's grunt of surprise, or Savannah's delighted squeal. She didn't see the flash of guilt on Terissa's face or her split second of doubt.

All that mattered was Cameron. The smell of her skin, the taste of her mouth, with just a hint of coffee and sugar from her taste test that morning, the silky softness of her hair, and the warmth of her body where it was pressed against Sarah's. Cameron held her, breathed strength, and life, and love into her, and then she let her go.

Feeling flushed, Sarah stepped back, refusing to look at anyone but Cameron. She could feel their shock. She didn't need to see it too.

"Guard Savannah for us?" she asked roughly.

"With my life," Cameron promised.

Sarah took those words with her when they left, the words and the lingering taste of Cameron on her tongue. Terissa wisely said nothing, leaving Sarah alone with her thoughts until they had gone too far to turn back.

*****

Weaver watched them leave, sitting on her haunches at the precise distance from the house she needed to maintain in order to go undetected.

Not that they were looking for her.

The kiss had been... unexpected. Weaver had observed the closeness between Sarah Connor and the machine who guarded them, but this was new. Both fascinating and unsettling, Weaver wondered what purpose it served, and why the other humans tolerated it.

In her own future, there had been a great deal of division within John’s command over his... association... with this terminator. Was it something she could use?

Perhaps.

Stretching out her forelegs, Weaver settled down to think.

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