Summary: Hers is only one of many: stories, lives, pasts and futures. Cameron Phillips' life is a coil, a twist of time unraveling, the end chasing the beginning. Cameron origin fic.
She's sitting on his bed when he finishes his shower. His hair is dampening the collar of his shirt but for once he's too distracted for it to bother him.
“He's not dead.”
John stares, his gaze focused on a spot somewhere between her and the bed; it's new and familiar and she slides approximately seventeen inches from her position at the centre of the bed's edge. He hesitates, but her calculation isn't in error because he takes the short step forward and the mattress gives under the additional weight.
“Did you know him? In the future?”
It's so easy to understand what he needs to know and maybe this is what holding all the cards means. “He's seen me before.”
He weighs more than she does, he thinks, aware of the way her body angles towards the dip he's making in the mattress.
“Did you try to kill him?”
“I don't know.” (The facts are shadows behind smoky glass she cannot see to break; this is as much of an answer she can give.)
“What do you know? About the future. About...me. Him. Whatever.”
“That future is gone, John.”
“But you talk about him like it isn't. Future me. What's so special about him that people keep coming back for him? He sends them back, sends them to die just to protect him. Me. To protect me. And you won't even tell me why.”
His fingers are striped white and red and the blankets are wrinkling in his fists where his grip twists the fabric under his hands.
“Because you're John Connor.”
He laughs and she would think it an odd response if it wasn't just like the sound John made when there wasn't anything else to fill the silence. (It's these things and a hundred more that make her sure of him, this John.)
“And I'm gonna save mankind.”
She doesn't hesitate on this, because if she were human, the words for it would be desperation. Need. Hope. Faith. “You're going to save all of us.”
John looks at her with young eyes. “Yeah?”
She knows her cues and leaves him to be the mattress's only burden; night has fallen and Sarah will want her to secure the perimeter, especially after Derek Reese's rescue.
“Did I send him back to kill Andy?”
John Connor is dead twenty years from now and there's no one to tell her what is right and wrong, nothing but memories and observations and maybe this is what being alone means.
There's a bullet hole in his chest. It's more of a bloody rip hastily forced closed by thick black thread, but when the reality of it is hidden under clean white gauze and a thin cotton shirt, it's easier to think of it as a hole. Clean and tidy, nothing like the mess of tenuously mended insides he's trying not to think about.
Derek Reese isn't the kind of man who shies away from the reality of things and a gunshot wound that neither kills nor disables you is small potatoes in the long run, but it still hurts with every exhale and whatever drugs they pumped into him are doing nothing to keep the room from moving. He thinks that it's okay to lie to himself just a little more, just until it doesn't feel like moving too fast might make him throw up.
He sleeps and wakes up paranoid.
He's always been a little paranoid, always had that niggling little bit of anxiety, that hint of tension lying under his muscles, waiting for that first sense of something to push him into action. It's kept him alive this long and he wouldn't give it up for all the firepower under Sarah Connor's bed. It's also making him twitch like a rabbit on her sofa.
The machine, the machine. Sent back to wait, for that. That thing that has a bed it doesn't sleep in, that walks around unchecked and unquestioned, with the face of a woman nobody but him is alive to remember.
He hates Connor a little more now. And a little less, because this John isn't like the other, he's just a kid; soft around the edges with his hair in his blue-green eyes, a smile that all adds up to Kyle.
Maybe it's because he doesn't have much of one, but Derek's always found it hard to hate family.
They attribute the renovation orders to post-traumatic stress and the change in her personality to private grief. Humans are so good at filling in the gaps with explanations and illusions, so preoccupied with social protocols and etiquette that any failures on the part of her infiltration are laid at the feet of her tragedy.
Her daughter's young, her face round and her hair bright. Silent and soft, Savannah Weaver has already played her part and Eve expends the minimum amount of time necessary to her maintenance for the sake of continuity.
She raises her arms and reaches out with tiny hands. “Mommy.”
Her eyes don't leave the computer screen until she reaches the end of the report and by the time she spares a glance at the space next to her, it's empty and Savannah is gone.
“I know you.”
“I know you too.”
The triangle of pancake disappears. It doesn't really matter that there isn't a stomach to digest it; you can't see the difference and she's learning that sometimes, that's enough.
It isn't enough here, because Derek Reese knows the difference without seeing it, in a way that neither Sarah nor John do. He knows what she is, if not who she is, and he knows the future. But she won't tell him about John.
“He sent me back.” It's the truth at an angle, and the tines of the fork are still reverberating with every tap against the kitchen table; he won't accept it as easily as Sarah but there isn't any way to prove the lie.
“Did he now.”
“Yes. He did.” The fork skips a beat. “He sent you back too. To wait.”
“What, for you?”
“You expect me to believe that Connor sent you to babysit his teenage self?”
“It's not the first time.”
“And what, we're supposed to sit tight 'til Judgment Day and take orders from Sarah Connor?”
“No, not from her.”
“John? He's a kid.”
“He won't always be.”
“And that's why we're here, huh?”
She considers the repercussions. “Yes. That's why we're here.”
The pancakes go cold.
This is what she learns from Maria Shipkov:
Dance is the hidden language of the soul.
Cameron isn't sure that they're real, but she has insufficient information on souls to draw definitive conclusions. But there is a hidden language here, silent and wordless. The body speaks and it's more than hints and blunt statement; there's subtlety and she's just starting to learn its meaning.
She listens to newly-learned Russian and watches Maria's reflection in the studio mirrors.
There's power in her lean body, her stance firm and grounded on the polished floorboards, but it's undermined by the faint line between her eyebrows and the tension in her shoulders; tiny betrayals.
A dancer's body lies well, and when Maria smiles at her as she leaves, Cameron decides that it will take more time to secure the Turk.
She returns in the afternoon for another lesson.
The little things, the details flow from one to another, breaking templates and patterns to create something new. The past is filled with so much new, so much to learn and take and hold but this is the first that's stretching and growing and pushing against her mind; everything is different. John is dead but she has a perfect memory so she's learning - understanding - more than she did before. She knows him better now, knows what he was saying unconsciously and wonders what - if anything - she's been saying back. The conversation is equal parts performance/interpretation and self-deception isn't part of her programming; she excels at neither.
She learns to bend and curve and extend, learns the delicate strength of the barre. It's nothing more than wood she could crush easily, but destruction is not the point. Destruction is not her point, as she slides from third to fourth and listens for Slavic voices.
There are no classes when she lets herself be seen at the front doors; her footsteps are light and her smile soft when they speak of brothers and the clear notes of a piano fill the studio.
And then truth breaks the pretence and ballet is a façade; she is no dancer.
She selects the music without hesitation, but without cause either and calls it random. (It isn't really, but that's a truth under locks and invisible guards.) The disk spins and there's a moment of silence before the song begins. She's unnaturally still because there are no protocols for this, nothing in the stores of information she's accumulating to tell her how this goes. There's no one to copy and no one to watch for her inconsistencies. The music comes to a close twice before she begins at all.
Cameron is hope and death in one and no one – not even her – really understands that yet. But she sees what she knows now is desperation and panic; either will get her what she needs and the diamond between her fingers will focus their attention.
Dmitri's debtors are coming but she has the answers she needs; she lets them keep the diamond. Maria is graceful even in her despair and it's unfortunate that their timing wasn't better; she doesn't need to die but Cameron cannot help her live.
She is collateral damage and when her screams punctuate the gunfire, Cameron isn't thinking about nocturnes on piano keys or pliés at the barre. She isn't thinking about anything at all.
It isn't her mission.
(The rules are bending, not breaking.)
When she does, she isn't a machine and she isn't human either. She isn't a cat or a bird or even a girl, and Maria Shipkov is dead but she's echoing in her dancer's feet.
Time is flowing through and around and against her, but she's here, she exists and that is enough.
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