Comfort...And Affection

by Susan P.
  Fandom: The Sarah Connor Chronicles     Pairing: Sarah/Cameron  
  Rating, etc.: 13+, f/f Pre-slash, adult concepts.  
  Spoilers: Up through and including #106, "Dungeons & Dragons."  
  Summary: Even the best soldiers need to rest sometimes.

  Author's Notes: I began this after seeing #105 "Queen's Gambit" but before seeing #106 "Dungeons & Dragons." It just took forever to complete due to a rather hectic month or so in my personal life. I actually kind of prefer the TV-verse confrontation between Sarah and Cameron over Charley, but I decided to go with what I'd come up with originally. Creative license. <shrug> Un-beta'd, except by me, so if anyone finds any errors, please feel free to let me know.  
  Disclaimers: These characters belong to Fox, Warner Brothers, and I'm not even sure who else. I'm just having a little fun with them.  
  Permission to Archive: Passion and Perfection & Shatterstorm Productions may have it.  Anyone else, please ask first.  

She awoke with a start in the semi-darkness. She blinked a few times and squinted at the heavy curtains obscuring the window. Late afternoon, maybe close to sunset, she guessed. 

It hadn't been a nightmare. Not exactly. She'd been with Reese, in his arms, warm and safe for a moment. For Sarah, it was waking up to 'reality' that was the nightmare.

'The Reese boys.' Were there any other Reese boys out there that she didn't know about, she wondered, and would she have to watch them all die, too, before it was all over? 

At that thought, she bolted upright from the corner of the couch where she'd nodded off earlier, the grief as strong and fresh as it had been when she'd lost Kyle, all those years ago. Would it ever really, finally, be over?

She tried to slow her breathing, knowing instinctively that she wasn't alone, and having a strong suspicion as to who her silent observer was.

"Derek?" she asked the shadows.

"Sleeping. Possibly unconscious, but his heart rate and respiration are strong and steady. John and Charley are watching over him."

"And you're watching over me."

"I don't…"

"Don't sleep," Sarah finished for her. "I know."

"Neither do you. Not much."

"No. Not much," she conceded. It was hard to sleep when you knew that the monsters were real and that they could come after you at any time.

The three year stretch she had spent in a mental institution had been its own special kind of hell. She could dwell on the whole, very long, list of reasons why, but what had plagued her most was the constant, overwhelming frustration of being stuck in a cage, knowing that her son--that the whole fucking world--was in danger, and she could do nothing about it.

She'd learned her lesson. She learned to keep her secrets because she knew there were damned few people who would ever believe a word she might say about Skynet, Judgment Day or Terminators. The frustration of carrying the burden alone was still there--almost back-breaking at times. It made her almost envy the ignorance and the absolute certainty that had allowed others to judge her insane for daring to tell the truth.

There were moments when she longed for that ignorance. Wanted to share in the conviction others had in the constancy of their existence. She wanted to believe she was safe. If it weren't for John, she might have happily convinced herself that she really was insane and let them drug her into oblivion. But she knew what she'd seen, and because of what she'd seen, she knew she'd never be safe until John was.

A sudden thought occurred to her and she turned once again to her young shadow. Young-looking, she corrected herself, not quite sure what to make of the fact that she was suddenly having to remind herself what Cameron was. 

"I did change the timeline," she murmured to herself. "Is… Do you know anything about a Kyle Reese in your time? Is he…did you know him?"

Cameron stepped out of the shadows, tilting her head to look at Sarah curiously. 

Sarah shook her head sadly. She didn't know whether Cameron's seeming hesitancy was due to some order given by future-John, or whether the cyborg had simply learned to read her a little too well, but it gave her time to re-think her request, and she held up a hand to forestall any reply the girl might have made. 

"I want to know, but I'm not sure I want to know." Her voice dropped to a whisper, speaking mostly to herself, "Even if he's alive, it doesn't mean he's safe."

Cameron heard her, of course, as Sarah had known she would. 

"You loved him." Cameron spoke the words softly, with something more than her usual monotone.

"I did. I do." The admission seemed to come easier with Cameron than it ever had with John. Sarah wondered if she were getting soft since hearing the news of her impending death, or if the ghosts of two lost loves in one day were simply more than any reasonable human could be expected to endure with equanimity. 

"And you loved Charley."

Sarah studied the girl closely for a moment. She was sure she detected something that sounded like emotion in Cameron's tone that time, but it definitely wasn't the same. Her voice was harder, leaving Sarah oddly certain that Cameron was silently planning to kill Charley like she had Enrique in order to preserve their secrets. 

"Cameron, you can't just go around killing anyone who knows anything about me. About us. We have to keep a low profile, and there's already a trail of bodies in our wake. If we're going to stay, if we're going to fight, we have to attract as little attention as possible." Sarah desperately hoped that would be enough to convince the girl, because she didn't know whether she could stop Cameron if it became necessary.

Cameron said nothing, just tilted her head and looked back at Sarah quizzically.

"Don't. Kill. Charley. Don't. Harm. Charley. In any way. Or I swear I will rip that chip out of your head myself," Sarah spelled it out for her.

Cameron seemed to twitch slightly, but looked back at Sarah with what she hoped was understanding. "Because you love him?" 

The petulant look on Cameron's face left Sarah wondering if cybernetic organisms could pout, because the one looking back at her seemed to be doing a fair imitation of it.

"Because… Because it's wrong, damn it!" Sarah blurted in frustration, unsure of how to answer the girl's question. She did love Charley. It wasn't the same as it had been with Reese, but she did care for Charley. She had wanted what he offered her--wanted to build a life with him. She had wanted, not just the pretense of a happy family, but to sink into that fantasy entirely. She wanted to be able to believe in it. And that had scared her more than anything. 

John had been right about her fears, if not about the reasons behind them. It wasn't a fear of commitment. It was her willingness to commit that scared the hell out of her. She had been willing to set aside what she had known would be her mission from the first moment she knew John was growing in her belly. That was what had sent her running, and she knew now that she had been right to do so.

"He is the reason you are being pursued by the authorities."

"And you and your kind have been hunting John and I for how long, now?" Sarah snapped before she could stop herself. She ran a shaky hand through her hair, took a deep breath and tried again. "Charley just wanted to find me. To talk to me and get some answers. He had no idea what the consequences would be for us. He's not a threat. To me or to John. Understand?"

Cameron didn't answer, but she did offer a slight nod of her head. 

Sarah wasn't sure she could trust Cameron to leave Charley alone, but she was too damned tired to fight it out now. She would just have to keep an eye on her. She leaned forward over her knees and scrubbed a hand across her face.

"You should try to get some rest."

She looked over at the girl with a smirk. "Isn't that what I was doing?"

"No. You were sleeping. You were not resting."

Sarah quirked an eyebrow at her. "And what would you know about the difference?"

"Observation. I spent time in the Resistance camps. John explained it to me."

"Ah," Sarah nodded. Part of her knew Cameron was right, but part of her was either unwilling or unable to let go, despite the fact that she was so tired her vision was beginning to blur. "I should…" she half-turned toward the kitchen.

"You should try to get some rest." Cameron's voice was soft, and oddly insistent.

Sarah looked at her closely, trying to figure out what was going on in that mechanical head of hers, but Cameron's features had slipped back into that semi-blank look she wore so often. Sarah stood slowly, and turned to take a long look at John and Charley, who were talking quietly while they watched over Derek Reese.

She caught John's eye and made a vague gesture toward the bedroom. He nodded back at her seriously, acknowledging her unspoken directive to come get her if she were needed. She turned to head for the bedroom when her eyes caught on Cameron, who was watching her intently. 

Sarah looked back at John a moment, then back to Cameron, then another sideways glance at John before her eyes settled on Cameron's again, a thought forming that she wasn't quite sure how to process. Not yet. She shook her head tiredly.

"Stay away from Charley," she admonished before resuming her trek to the bedroom. 

She knew without looking that the girl was following her, and the thought lurking in the back of her mind grew stronger. She stopped just short of the bedroom door. Not bothering to turn, she asked, "What are you doing?"

"Staying away from Charley." Cameron's tone was serious, but with an edge of something that left Sarah wondering if the girl was smirking behind her back. She decided to let it go, and stepped into the room. She climbed onto the bed, settling onto her side on top of the bed linens, knees pulled up, boots still on.

She had just gotten comfortable enough to close her eyes when she was startled by the slim, though not light, body settling onto the bed behind her. She twisted her torso awkwardly and turned back to look at Cameron, who seemed to be attempting to mimic the position her body had been in a moment before.

"What are you up to, girlie?" Sarah asked, having the distinct impression that she'd have been enveloped in the cyborg's embrace had she not reacted so quickly. What she didn't know was why Cameron would even think of such a thing. Nor could she figure out why she wasn't more disturbed by the idea than she was.

"Attempting to help you sleep."

Sarah opened her mouth, closed it, then tried again. "By doing…what, exactly?"

Cameron canted her head to one side. "People in the camps would often sleep close to one another, for various reasons. John explained it to me."

John explained a lot to you, apparently, Sarah thought to herself.

"Oh he did, did he?"


"And what did he say? What reasons did he 'explain' to you?"

"Sharing body heat, comfort, affection… Sometimes, a pair of individuals would lie back to back, hoping that at least one of them would be alert to any potential threats…."

"Okay," Sarah stopped her, "I get it, so," she couldn't help but smirk at the girl, "do I seem especially cold to you?"

The girl looked at her curiously for a moment, and Sarah wasn't sure if it was because she had confused her circuitry with the question, or whether Cameron was simply trying to ascertain her current body temperature. They weren't touching, not yet, but Sarah guessed the machine had other sensors at her disposal that would not require direct contact.

A simple 'no' was Cameron's only reply.

"Uh-huh. And are you expecting any direct attacks in the next few hours?"

"I am always attempting to anticipate any potential attacks, from all possible sources."

Cameron's tone was deadly serious, but a slight quirk of her lips let Sarah know she was being led on, so she merely raised a questioning eyebrow at the young woman.

"No," Cameron conceded.

"So, what led you to the conclusion that you should try to help me sleep?"


The word stopped Sarah cold, effectively wiping the smirk from her face as she wondered whether the girl could possibly have any real understanding of the concept. She couldn't admit to the girl that she needed comfort, of course, but she couldn't fool herself.

It had been a very bad day, starting with Andy's murder, and ending with Derek Reese almost dying on her kitchen table. Add to that the fact that Derek's appearance in her life had not only brought the spirit of her dead lover to the forefront of her memory, but had also brought a very-much-alive Charley back into her life, and it was little wonder that she was left physically and mentally exhausted as well as emotionally raw.

"You sleep rarely," Cameron continued, interrupting Sarah's thoughts, "and restlessly, often awakening from nightmares. Even the best soldiers have to rest some of the time, or they lose their effectiveness as soldiers. You need rest, Sarah. I want to help. I could…" the girl hesitated a moment. "I could hold you, if you like? If it would help."

There was something in Cameron's voice that sounded too much like eagerness, and she was already starting to lean a little closer. There was some traitorous part of Sarah that wanted to know what it would feel like. And that meant that it couldn't happen. Not with Derek's words still ringing in her ears, anyway.

She held up a hand to stall the girl. "All right, you win, Tin Miss, but let's try something a little different. Roll over onto your other side."

"You wish for us to lie back to back?" Cameron asked curiously.

"Not exactly. Just..." Sarah made a vague 'go ahead' gesture with her hand, wondering if she were a little insane for even considering this.

She was a little surprised when the girl did as she asked, and she would have been awed at the degree of trust the girl was showing her had she not realized a split-second later that trust probably had nothing to do with it. The girl really had no reason to worry about anything Sarah, or almost anyone else, might do behind her back.

She shook those thoughts off and, once the girl appeared to be settled, gingerly moved in behind her, matching her position. After a moment's hesitation, she slowly slid an arm across Cameron's torso. It wasn't a close embrace, she wasn't sure she was ready for that, but she did feel…lighter, somehow. Maybe it was only the illusion of human contact, but it seemed to be something she needed, for the moment.

Cameron turned her face slightly to acknowledge her. "Thank you for explaining."

Sarah ducked her head, trying not to laugh. "No problem."

They lay quietly for several minutes, until Sarah's breathing slowed and she felt her eyelids begin to droop. She decided then to ask the question that had been bothering her since she had awakened earlier to find the machine watching over her.

"Cameron. Who are you here for, exactly?"

The girl hesitated a moment, before asking, "Does it matter?"

"It matters."

"I'm here to protect John," the girl answered automatically.

"Uh-huh. And?" Sarah prodded, suddenly certain that there was more to it.

"And you are the best fighter he knows. No one will fight harder to protect him. No one will fight harder to stop Skynet. Your survival is as important as John's."

That thought woke her up. "Not as important! Do you understand? Protecting John should be your primary objective, Cameron. You shouldn't distract yourself looking after me."

"'Looking after you' is not contrary to my primary objective."

"It is if you're looking the wrong way at the wrong time."

The girl nodded as if she were considering it, but said nothing further. Sarah suspected this wouldn't be the last time they had this particular argument, but she simply didn't have the energy to fight it out now. Fatigue was overtaking her, and the rhythm of Cameron's simulated breathing was starting to lull her to sleep, in spite of herself.

"John has to survive," Sarah murmured softly in a last attempt to convince the girl before sleep claimed her.

"So do you," Cameron replied, with the same soft-spoken earnestness. Sarah couldn't decide whether she wanted to believe that the machine was merely mimicking her responses, or whether Cameron actually meant it.

"Why?" She snuggled a little closer to the girl, unconsciously seeking out the warmth she could feel coming off the girl's skin. Sarah blinked a few times before giving in to her exhaustion and allowing them to slide closed.

"Because I…" Cameron trailed off, and the silence stretched out between them. 

Sarah's breathing evened out as she slowly slid into slumber, but she sighed out a, "hmm?" in an attempt to prompt the girl to answer the question.

Sarah would never be sure whether Cameron actually uttered the words, or whether she dreamed the quietly tender words: "Because I want you to."


© March 2008