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19 March 2008 @ 11:28 pm
Fic: Secrets, SCC Derek/Sarah  
Title: Secrets
Author: Rhien Elleth
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Derek/Sarah
Word Count: 9,950
Spoilers: through season one
Disclaimer: Don't own them, don't profit, just fun and entertaining, nothing to see here, etc
Beta: Thanks to mspooh for the awesomely fast beta! Plus, she's been a beta for me since my first fic days, which is nostalgic and fun. :-)

Summary: After the events of the season one finale, the weight of secrets between Derek and Sarah creates tension between them.

As usual, this thing is too damn long to fit in a single LJ entry.  I've waffled a bit with how to post it, but for now, I think I'll break it down into two entries. 


Sarah
Sarah Connor used to believe. 

August 29th, 1997.  For more than ten years, she held that date close, turned it over and under in her mind.  She saw it every time she closed her eyes, every time she went to sleep.  She lived it in her nightmares, and dreaded it when she was awake.  It consumed her.  The day.  Judgment Day. 

Until she stopped it from happening. 

Even now, she remembered every moment of August 29th, 1997; every long, incredible second.  She remembered the crawl of tension up her spine, the itch of it at the back of her neck, the headache that had lurked behind her eyes all day, beside the images of nuclear fire from her nightmares. 

It was a Friday, but she hadn’t made John go to school.  Instead, she’d taken him to the park.  They’d eaten hot dogs and ice cream, and watched the sky together, watched people walking their dogs, playing with their children, throwing Frisbees and softballs.  They stayed until the sun set, and longer still.  Until Friday, August 29th became Saturday, August 30th.  Judgment Day didn’t happen, and for the first time since before John was born, Sarah could truly breath again.  Light.  Freedom.  Joy.  She’d allowed herself the weakness of tears, and John had held her hand.  They’d sat together in the darkness of a Saturday morning, and quietly celebrated the continuation of the world. 

Sarah Connor used to believe.  She believed in Judgment Day.  She believed she could stop it.  She believed it was over, and humanity had finally won. 

Until the day belief failed her.  Judgment Day hadn’t been defeated; SkyNet hadn’t been destroyed.  Only delayed.  She and her son had given humanity a stay of execution, that was all.  The nuclear fire was still coming, John destined to rise up as humanity’s savior against the machines.

Belief no longer fueled Sarah Connor, and part of her, the part that wasn’t bitterly disappointed in her own failure, realized that wasn’t such a bad thing.  Belief had driven her down a dark road.  She’d crossed lines, done things, and almost done things that compromised her humanity.  And for what?  For all her belief, she’d stopped exactly nothing.

She could never allow that to happen again.  What she did now, she did for another reason.  Not for belief.  Not even for humanity, not really.  Instead, she acted out of love.  Fierce, determined, protective love.  She would not allow the machines to win.  She would not allow them to kill her son. 

It was a simple resolution, but one that allowed her to act without the horror of belief creeping back in.  Judgment Day had a new date, but she didn’t hold it close.  She didn’t wake every night from the nightmare of nuclear fire - sometimes, yes, but not like before, not every time she closed her eyes.  An important distinction.  She didn’t see a date in her head, and live it, breath it, believe it with her body, heart and soul.  She looked at John, and knew she would never stop, never give up, never tire of her goal.  In that way, she’d become like the machines.  Like the terminators.  But unlike them, her determination didn’t come from a directive.  It had, once. 

Now, it came from her soul. 

Derek

Like so many other things, they didn’t talk about it.  Maybe, if the jeep hadn’t blown, if recovering the machine – he refused to think about it by its so-called name – hadn’t been Sarah’s first priority, if they hadn’t needed to move, maybe then they would have.  But he didn’t think so. 

Sarah didn’t trust him, and in some ways he preferred that.  Good, don’t trust anyone, least of all the fucking machine.  But this was going to get in the way if they didn’t talk about it.  Between them, they could only bear so many secrets before the weight became crippling.  Before it crippled the cause.  And that he couldn’t allow. 

How long did it take, he wondered absently, before she trusted Kyle? 

Now where the hell had that come from?
  It didn’t matter.  This, he didn’t doubt, was not the same woman his brother had protected, worshipped, and ultimately loved.  He’d seen it in soldiers before - hell, he’d seen it in a mirror, now and then.  This Sarah had seen too much, suffered too many disappointments, too many sorrows.  Trust had to work past all the hard edges, grim determination, and brittle tension.  So far, he’d only seen her soften for John – and once, when he’d asked about Kyle.  He’d seen it then, before she looked away.  Sarah had loved his brother.

He could use that, he knew he could.  But the thought of using Kyle’s memory in that way left the taste of bitter ashes on his tongue.  It was almost a relief to know there were still some lines he wouldn’t cross.  He’d have to find another way past Sarah Connor’s armor.  He just didn’t know how.  He wasn’t his brother; he didn’t have Kyle’s easy charm. 

Kyle had been the poet.  Derek was just another soldier.

They’d moved to a new house, one with enough bedrooms for Derek to rate his own.  Given Sarah’s habit of throwing up personal boundaries, that put her mind at ease, he was sure.  For himself, it didn’t much matter.  He’d slept for so long on tunnel floors and propped up against whatever surface was handy, the bed turned out to be more a liability than a comfort.  He took to sleeping on the floor, pillow and blankets scavenged from the now bare mattress.  He was sure Sarah knew, but she never commented, never asked.  John would, when he figured it out. 

“Hey.”  As though thinking of his nephew had conjured him, John came shuffling into the kitchen, eyes still heavy with sleep.  “Are you making breakfast this morning?”

Derek almost laughed. 

“No,” he said.  “Just the coffee.”

He didn’t feel the need to elaborate, to explain that the only cooking he knew how to do involved ripping open a ration pack and spooning the contents into his mouth.  He finished pouring water into the coffee pot, and flicked the switch on.  Like beds, coffee was another luxury they didn’t really have in the future.  He’d fallen into the habit of indulging in it here, mostly because Sarah was a stone bitch in the morning if she didn’t drink it. 

John made a nearly unintelligible noise before slumping into one of the kitchen chairs.  His hair hung in a disheveled tangle, and Derek found himself suddenly, powerfully reminded of Kyle at that age.  The odd sense of déjà vu, looking at the slightly distorted mirror of his brother in his nephew, came as it always did – with a pang of loss, a bitter tide of grief.  He closed his eyes, and looked away so John wouldn’t see it.  Took a minute to remind himself that Kyle was gone, but his brother had left this precious gift in his place.  Kyle had given him a family.

He took his time, taking a couple of empty mugs down from the cupboard.  Made sure he had his emotions back under control before he spoke. 

“What are you doing up?” he asked John finally, curious.  “You think your Mom’s going to let you go to school today?”

“Naw.  I’ve got a little more work to do on Cameron.  She’s almost ready.  Maybe tomorrow.”

“Should’ve let it die.”  The comment was automatic, reflexive.  Derek knew he’d started another fight the second the words left his mouth.  Damn it.

Sure enough, John bristled in his chair, suddenly alert, and angry.  They’d already had the same argument a dozen times in the last two weeks.  Derek had promised himself he’d give it a rest.  John and Sarah were united on this, and the Connors, once they made up their minds, were un-fucking-movable.

“We need her,” his nephew corrected.  “Without Cameron I’d’ve been dead by now.  Mom, too.”  He stood up.  “Besides, if my ‘sister’ doesn’t come back to school with me, it’ll put us on the radar.”

Derek bit back a sigh.  John’s trust in the machine was the one thing, the one true sticking point they would never agree on.

“The school already believes she’s ill,” he said, unable to stop himself from making the argument.  “It would be easy enough to fake your sister’s death.”

“No,” said John.  Hard, resolute.  Right now, he reminded Derek of the John Connor of the future.  And of Sarah.  The boy definitely got his temper from his mother.  He hid a smile.  The stubbornness, though, that was all Reese.

Again, as though thinking of her had conjured her, Sarah chose that moment to walk in.  Her dark hair was pinned up in that haphazard way of hers, and she wore all black today.  It flattered her lean frame, but not like the form fitting skirt she’d worn to their first real meeting.  This made her look harder, more warrior than woman.  One look and it gave him pause; maybe some of John’s stubbornness came from his mother, after all. 

She stopped two steps into the kitchen, her eyes moving from John, to Derek, and staying there.  Her smile for her son turned into something flat and thin lipped, the warmth in her expressive eyes cooling.  She held Derek’s gaze for a long moment, then crossed to John.

“Morning,” she said, giving her son a casual kiss on the brow.  “Pancakes?”

What is it with this woman and pancakes?

“No,” said John, his jaw set.  “I’ve got work to do.”  His jaw tightened defiantly as he glared one last time at Derek before stalking out.  Sarah watched him go, then turned, one eyebrow raised, arms folded across her chest.

“You two have a fight?”

“No,” he said, as he poured them each a cup of coffee.  “Sometimes it’s just better if certain things are left unsaid.”  He passed her one of the cups, felt the brief brush of her fingers against his as she accepted it.  He met her eyes.  “And sometimes it’s better to say them anyway, and damn the consequences.  I’m better at that second one.”

She eyed him over her cup, wary.

“I’ve noticed,” she said finally.  “What are we talking about, exactly?  Because I’m pretty sure it’s not John.”

He leaned back against the counter, took a slow sip from his own cup before answering.  The delay was deliberate; he knew his silence made Sarah uncomfortable.  That weight of secrets between them was getting heavier.  He imagined her trying to decide which one he was talking about, and almost smiled.  Then he reminded himself to stop goading her.  There was only one thing they needed to talk about right now, this morning.

“You’re angry with me,” he said finally, “for using that little girl.”

For just a second, between one sip of coffee and the next, Sarah went still.  It was the only indication of surprise she gave.  Whatever she’d expected him to say, it hadn’t been that.

Did you think I was finally going to confront you about Kyle, he wondered, or something else?  It didn’t matter, not really.

He set his cup down on the counter. 

“I saved John.”

“You could have saved him without threatening a four-year-old,” she said instantly, and he knew he’d been right. 

Sarah had never killed anyone.  As many sacrifices as she’d made to protect her son, to stop Judgment Day, she’d never made the truly hard choices.  That was all right; Derek’s life was nothing but hard choices.  He could make those decisions for her, act on them for her, but not if she was going to hold it against him every damn time.  Like Andy Goode.  She was still harboring that resentment, he was sure.  Let it continue, and pretty soon she wouldn’t be able to stand to be in the same house with him, much less the same room. 

“She provided a distraction,” he said evenly.  “And I shielded her from the worst of it.”

“You traumatized her, you mean.”

God, this woman was frustrating. 

“That was John, Sarah, John with a gun to his head.  Anyone else, anyone at all – you, me, any other sixteen-year-old on the planet – and we can afford a little moral high ground.  But not with him.”  He pushed away from the counter, but she didn’t back away.  She never backed away.  “He’s your son second, future savior of the human race first.”

She looked up at him, her eyes dark and turbulent with anger, and he thought for a second she might actually strike him.  But she didn’t.  He could see it in her face, watch as she reined in the emotion.

“How dare you,” she said, biting off the words.  “You think you have to tell me that?  Me?”

“Yeah, I think I do.  You make too many decisions based on emotion.  About John.  About the machine.  Your old boyfriend is a perfect example.  Every time he contacts you, he puts us at risk, puts John at risk.”

“I know, damn it.  I’ve already told Charley—”

“Right, you’ve told him.  Wow, really effective there, Sarah.  How many times has he called since then?  I’m sure he’d’ve come by, too, if he had any idea where our new safehouse is.  Thank Christ you didn’t tell him.”

“I—”

“If you really want him to stay away, give him a fucking reason to, since protecting you and John doesn’t seem to be enough. 

“And how would you suggest I do that?” she asked, snide and sarcastic. She was on the defensive, now.  Still angry, but deep down, she knew he was right. 

“He’s a man, Sarah.  We’re really not that hard to figure out.  Charley comes around because he’s still invested in you.  He’s married to someone else, but he still feels tied to you, because you’re tied to him.  Every damn time he sees you, the way you look at him.”  He paused. “You’re still in love with him.”

The silence was deafening.  Hell, thought Derek, how did we go from little girls to Sarah’s goddamn love life?  This was not the conversation he’d planned on having.  Too damn late now.

“I was never in love with him,” Sarah said softly, after a long moment.  She wouldn’t look at him. 

Fucking great, Reese, he told himself.  That was goddamn subtle. 

“I loved him, yes, but I wasn’t in love with him, not really.”  The words came fast and bitter.  “Not that it’s any of your business.  I didn’t allow myself to go that far, to feel that much, with anyone.  Not even when I thought I’d stopped the world from ending.” 

She paused, seemed to struggle with herself.  Instead of defiant and angry, she looked small and defensive.  Derek felt like a complete shit.

“After—” She caught herself, barely.  He could almost hear the name hanging in the air between them. “—after John’s father died, I…”  She stopped, shook her head and he could actually feel her withdrawal.  “It doesn’t matter.  I’ll take care of it, of Charley.” 

She met Derek’s gaze, and he had the oddest urge to reach out and stroke her hair, to offer comfort.  He didn’t.  He didn’t move, didn’t speak.  So Sarah kept talking.

“You’re right.  About the girl, about Charley.  You saved John, and even if that little girl had died, it would’ve been worth it.”  For a second, her mouth trembled.  “I would’ve cried for her, would’ve seen her face in my dreams every night.  But it would have been worth it.  So, thank-you.  Thank-you for saving my son, whatever the cost.”

He couldn’t think of anything to say, except…

“You’re welcome.”

She nodded once, then,  “Be ready.  We have work to do tonight if I’m going to let John and Cameron go back to school tomorrow.”

After she walked away, he sagged back against the counter, ran a hand through his hair.  Maybe Sarah wasn’t the one he needed to worry about; maybe the weight of secrets wasn’t even getting to her; God, maybe he was the one about to fucking break.  He could think of nothing else to explain his sudden lashing out, over the boyfriend for fuck’s sake.  He’d never imagined, never dreamed he’d fall into that trap.  His brother, sure, but Kyle had always been the sentimental one.  Derek closed his eyes.  Christ, he was jealous over Sarah-fucking-Connor.  The irony was damn near painful.

Sarah

The thing she hated most about Derek Reese wasn’t that he lied to her, or even that he did things like use the lives of small, innocent children to save her son.  Or that he killed people when she couldn’t bring herself to.

No. 

He made her feel weak.  That’s what she hated most.  He pointed out all the things she wanted to ignore, the things she wanted to remain quietly unremarked upon.  Like Charley. 

She should have been harder on Charley.  She knew this.  She hadn’t been, out of guilt.  She had a lot of guilt where her former fiancé was concerned.  Guilt for leaving like she had.  Guilt for using him to save Derek’s life.  Guilt for drawing him into the nightmare, even though it had actually been John, and they’d had no choice.  Well, other than letting Derek die, which wasn’t a choice at all.  And most of all, guilt for ever accepting his proposal, for ever allowing him to believe, even for a moment, that he meant as much to her as she obviously did to him.  She loved Charley, she did.  Even now.  But she didn’t love him like she had Kyle.  She’d never again allowed herself to love someone like she had Kyle.  Never let them get that close.

And maybe that was really what she hated most about Derek Reese.  Like his brother, he had the ability to get close whether she wanted him to or not.  The habit of seeing past all of her walls and insecurities, to who she really was.  Kyle had seen the strength she hadn’t yet known she possessed.  Derek saw the weaknesses she wanted to forget she had.  Neither insight was comfortable. 

She didn’t avoid him, exactly.  She just didn’t have any reason to be in the same room with him again, not until that night, when Cameron made her entrance for their inspection and approval.  Well, Sarah’s.  She didn’t think Derek would ever approve of Cameron, in any capacity.

John and the machine had done wonders, really, with Vick’s skin, Cameron’s regenerative abilities, and two weeks to patch her back together.  There were a couple of angry red scars, yet, but none that couldn’t be covered by clothing.  She looked…good.  Normal.  Like a seventeen-year-old girl again, instead of a machine, damaged and inhuman.  It was a frightening testament to the indestructible nature of the terminators.

Sarah looked at Derek, where he stood looming in the doorway with a forbidding expression.  She looked quickly back at Cameron and John, and cleared her throat.

“All right,” she said, aware her voice was husky.  “You can go back to school.”  She held out the folder she’d obtained earlier in the week.  “Here are all the forms that prove Cameron was in the hospital, sick with pneumonia.”  They could thank Charley for that, but hell if she was going to bring that up in front of Reese. 

Cameron’s head tilted, that physical response that would have been curiosity in a human.  In her, it simply reflected a piece of data that didn’t quite compute.

“What about John?” she asked.

“He was excused for a family illness – you almost died, you know.”

“Actually, though my body took extensive damage, my positronic chip only shut down for a total of fifty-three seconds, not long enough to qualify as—”

“Cameron.”  God, she did not need this right now.  And she hated the fact that her tone sounded more like a mother arguing with a teenager than a leader disciplining a soldier. 

“She means the you everyone at school knows,” said John.  “They all think you almost died, and I needed to be away from school because I was worried.” He frowned.  “Grieving.”

“Like Jordan.”

“Yeah, like Jordan.”

“Thank-you for explaining.”  Cameron looked back at Sarah.  “My remaining scars will finish healing within seventy-two hours.  Until then I will wear concealing clothing.  No one will know.”

“Good.”  You’re no good to us if you can’t pass for human.  Sarah stood up from where she’d been perched on the arm of the sofa.  “Derek and I are going out.  We’re going to do one last check, make sure Sarkissian hasn’t come back to his old haunt.”

“It would not be good strategy,” said Cameron, “if he had.  Just as it would not have been good strategy for us to remain at the location he’d identified.  If we assume he has sold the Turk to the man John found—”

“We don’t assume anything,” said Derek, speaking for the first time.  He didn’t move from his position in the doorway.  “We don’t know if he sold the computer to that guy in the photo.  We don’t assume he’s left town.  And we don’t assume he’s ditched his café.”  He shrugged.  “It doesn’t hurt to check it out anyway, see if he left behind anything we missed, before.”

Sarah looked at John and Cameron.

“You’ll both stay here.  Rest.  You have to get up and face school tomorrow, and if I know teenagers, you’ll be pestered with about a million questions.”

John smiled faintly.

“Try a couple million,” he said.  “I’ve already had to use every excuse I could think of to avoid Morris’s phone calls.”  He shook his head. 

“All right, we’ll be back as soon as we can.  Don’t go out.”

“Yeah, Mom.  We know.”

Smiling, she resisted the urge to ruffle John’s hair.  He’d stopped appreciating that when he was eight.  She didn’t think that had changed in the intervening years, but the motherly urge to do it never went away.  She turned and met Derek’s eyes. 

“Let’s go.”

Wordlessly, he followed her out the door.



On to Part 2.
Tags: ,
 
 
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
 
 
 
Diana: scc_sarahthe_grynne on March 20th, 2008 08:21 am (UTC)
But unlike them, her determination didn’t come from a directive. It had, once.

Now, it came from her soul.


Yes!!!

This is fantastic.
rhienellethrhienelleth on March 20th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
:-) Thank-you! That whole section was mostly my way of bridging the differences between T2 Sarah and series-Sarah. Plus, I love the movies and wanted to be sure and tie them in as backstory.
Miss Crankypants: Burn Notice Michael Westen I Spyaka_paloma on March 20th, 2008 08:54 am (UTC)
Kyle had seen the strength she hadn’t yet known she possessed. Derek saw the weaknesses she wanted to forget she had.

I really like the contrast of these two insights. There's a sort of symmetry with this.
rhienellethrhienelleth on March 20th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks! It was something that occurred to me while I was writing, but strikes me as true.

(Ohh, Love the Burn Notice icon!)
indie: SCC Sarah/Derek showerindiefic on March 20th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
Lovely!
rhienellethrhienelleth on March 20th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
Thank-you. :)
rhienelleth: derekrhienelleth on March 20th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
And I keep forgetting - but I soooo need an icon of that scene *points to your icon*
Lutra Chaiteaotter on April 11th, 2008 09:19 pm (UTC)
This is really good. I think you've done a great job with Sarah's POV especially.
.m, purveyor of wasted minutiae and wisdom: 05miconic on April 15th, 2008 11:07 am (UTC)
I'm currently playing around with this new fandom. I like the uneasiness between Derek and Sarah. Even if they can find the words, I'm not sure if they'll say them. Thanks for sharing this part. Can't wait to read the next.
missnyah: Sophiemissnyah on January 2nd, 2010 11:26 pm (UTC)
Very nice work on this. I don;t think I've read any of your fiction before. You've dissected the motivations of these characters so well and draw an excellent scene.
rhienelleth: derek/sarah lean - charming_syrairhienelleth on January 4th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)

*sigh* I miss this show.