A Leap of Faith: The Tin Man's Heart, Part II

By Sidspappy

A Leap of Faith


NOTES: This is a sequel to "The Tin Man's Heart." It will help if you read part one before tackling this, as you might be lost if you don't. Takes place after the S2 episode "Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today," but is a bit Alternate Universe, as this story will almost certainly deviate from how the rest of the season will play out. No adult content, but beware of some strong profanity.


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12:50am

Cameron sat in her truck in the middle of the deserted parking lot of a Cluckin' Bell restaurant. The place had just closed down for the night, and the last of the workers had driven away. This was the same lot where a few weeks ago, Cameron had first explored her burgeoning ability to feel emotion with John. She played back the recording of that night, and remembered the taste of the sauce she'd licked from her finger as she wiped it from John's lips. She smiled at the memory, recalling that it was both exciting and frightening at the same time.

Again, as happened so often these days, a single wet tear ran down her right cheek. She pulled her jacket sleeve down over her palm and she wiped at her face with it. It was a good thing she'd pulled the jacket out of the coat closet before she left. She'd lost her bra somewhere in John's room, and she was bare underneath the thin cotton tanktop she wore.

So she sat here, alone, feeling...nostalgic? Yes, nostalgic for that night because of the explosive conflict she'd suffered just minutes ago at the hands of Sarah Connor. John's mother had caught them in a pre-sexual encounter that had enraged Sarah. Threatened with bodily harm, Cameron decided that discretion was indeed the better part of valor, and left the vicinity quickly. She missed John terribly already, and every call she received from him was a painful reminder of what was yet to come.

She glanced down at her cellphone, and saw that she had several voicemails and missed calls. All were from John. But she couldn't face him - not yet. Not until she could figure out a way out of this situation she found herself in. She knew she still had a few minutes before he'd be able to track down her cellphone signal. He would be here eventually and she still didn't know what to do.

She and John had finally made some progress in their relationship. It had been strained as of late, but Cameron discovered that was due to John's inability to face the truth that he actually was in love with her.

John Connor is in love with me - a machine.
No, Cameron corrected herself. She was much more than that now. She was no longer beholden to Skynet or to future John, for that matter. Though she still worried that much of what she did or felt was controlled by the programming inside of her, at least she felt confident that she was now free to choose her own destiny. She alone decided to kill or not to kill, and for a Terminator, that was saying a lot.

But her new found ability was also a two-edged sword. Her life was now in constant turmoil. Having feelings and emotions were alien to her, and the task of incorporating them into her core programming had been a challenge of monumental proportions. She had not been completely successful as of yet, and this latest incident with Sarah seemed to be an indication that she had a long way to go before she could truly understand the nuances of human behavior.

Sometimes, it was easier to be an unfeeling, coldly logical and deadly Terminator, Cameron mused ironically. Her life had been a lot more orderly and less confusing then it was now.

Pulling up the playback from her last contact with Sarah Connor, Cameron tried to understand the furious anger directed toward her and John. Aside from her explosive behavior, Sarah made several statements that stood out for Cameron. And what she said sent several errant electrical impulses down Cameron's spinal column. If she did not give up pursuing John romantically, Sarah would hunt Cameron down and destroy her.

Normally Cameron would not let such threats affect her in the least. But coming from Sarah Connor, a woman who she knew to be tough, resourceful, and single-minded in her obsessions, Cameron took them very seriously.

And though Sarah's sentiment arose from her maternal instincts, her devotion to destroying any threats to her son sometimes mirrored the focus a Terminator would have for a target. If Cameron became romantically involved with John, it would not be out of the question for Sarah to quickly target her for termination and carry out the mission.

Perhaps she and John could run; run like the Connor family always did until recently. Run and hide, and keep a low profile until Judgment Day. But Cameron knew that Sarah, like a Terminator, would never give up, never stop until Cameron was deactivated and John was safe back in her arms again.

So running was out of the question. Besides, with the tiny steps they had been able to make toward preventing the future from happening, Cameron was loathe giving up this particular fight. Running with John would prevent them from continuing the pursuit of clues left on the wall of the Connor's basement. If Cameron even had a small chance of saving John from his difficult and heartbreaking path ahead, she felt she needed to remain here and help stop it.

But how then would she resolve this quandary? She refused to stop being with John, not now after she'd made so many breakthroughs and discoveries with him. But with Sarah in the way how would she do that?

Calculating all of her possible courses of action, selecting realistic options and discarding those that were far too outlandish or had low chances of success, Cameron finally arrived at a final solution. It was not the most appealing, yet the only one that afforded a satisfactory outcome for everyone involved - should it prove successful.

She knew what to do. Now the only thing left was to make sure John was not involved with her while she put this plan into motion. Picking up her cellphone, she flipped it open and speed dialed John.

He picked up immediately, saying "Cam? Cam, is that you?"

"Yes John," she replied as neutrally as possible. She glanced at the keypad and entered the security code they'd agreed on for each day of the week.

She could hear John's sigh of relief as he pushed the response code into his phone. "Where are you?" was his next question.

Cameron was surprised John had asked and that he wasn't already on his way to her. "Aren't you tracking me?" she asked. He cleared his throat - a sign he was uncomfortable - before answering. "Uh, I was going to give you another ten minutes before I started the trace." John was silent for a moment. "Now that you've...you know, got feelings and everything, I thought...maybe you'd be mad if I started tracking you down immediately every time you took off."

Her eyes began to well up. Despite the dire situation they found themselves in, John still had the presence of mind to take her feelings into account. It was a thoughtful gesture that Cameron would always treasure. Blinking quickly and swiping her hand across her eyes, she sniffed once and answered, "Thank you, John. I'm okay. I just needed some time to think and get away from it all."

John let out a heavy sigh. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I don't blame you. Mom's been tearing me a new one since you left."

Cameron leaned her head against the seat headrest and replied sympathetically, "I'm sorry. I never wanted for this to become a problem between you and your mother."

John shook his head and reassured her. "It's not your fault, Cam. Remember how she treated Riley? Well, I guess to her, no one is good enough for The Savior of All Mankind."

Cameron smiled at his joke. "You will be that and more, John. You're already a savior - you saved me."

He replied, "I feel the same way." After a brief pause, he said softly, "I love you, Cameron. I'll do anything for you, I promise."

His words filled her with warmth that she'd been lacking for the past couple of hours. She closed her eyes, savoring the sensation. "I know you would, John," she told him. Cameron opened her eyes, deciding now was the time to initiate her plan. "And I'm sorry for what I'm putting you through, but can you meet me?" she asked.

His answer was immediate; "Absolutely, where?"

She looked out the window as she spoke. "Remember the Cluckin' Bell parking lot a few weeks ago?"

"How could I forget that? You made me waste my Mojo Chicken Burrito," he said with humor in his voice.

Cameron chuckled softly. "Yes, I did. Can you meet me here as soon as you can?"

John looked over his shoulder quickly. "As soon as I can get away from Mom, I'll be right there. Don't go anywhere, okay?"

"Okay, John. I'll see you soon," she replied with a tiny smile on her face. She broke the connection, immediately feeling a twinge of guilt that she had to lie to him so quickly after they'd both declared their mutual attraction for one another. Trust was important to John, but the lie was for his own good. He couldn't be anywhere near her when she got back to the house. She pulled a pen out of the center console and a pad of paper from the glove compartment. She wrote a short note to John on it, then leaned over and picked up a roll of duct tape from under the passenger seat. Stepping out of the truck, she headed to the nearest lamp post. With speed and efficiency, Cameron taped both the note and her cellphone to the post. Then she headed back to the truck and started it up.

She was on her way to meet her destiny. Despite all her calculations, Cameron had no idea how this was going to turn out. Before she went back however, she had one stop to make.


(Twenty minutes later...)

John Connor pulled up to the parking lot in his Jeep Grand Cherokee. The lot was empty. For a second, he thought he'd gotten the wrong Cluckin' Bell. But he would never forget this place, as it was the first time that Cameron had behaved totally unlike the machine he'd known before - if you discounted her bizarre "Allison" episode, that is. He drove around slowly, trying to spot any evidence that she'd been here. Suddenly, as he passed one of the lamp posts, he spotted it - a telltale lump of an object duct taped to the pole. John parked the Jeep in front of it and got out. Even before he reached it, he knew that it was Cameron's cellphone.

Damn it! She'd left it here so he couldn't trace her. So where the hell did she go? Stuck to the tape on the post was a small piece of yellow paper. He tore it off by the stuck edge and opened the note. It was from Cameron. He recognized the neat, almost perfect cursive script:

"John,

I'm so very sorry to have deceived you. As you have discovered, I am not here at the designated meeting place. I have some business to take care of and I do not want you with me while I am doing it. Just know that I am thinking of you, and I will be fine. Do not worry, and do not try to locate me. Once I have concluded my business, I will find you, and then we can pick up where we left off. I need for you to be safe, so I want you stay where you are and do not leave this area.

I have said to you before that I don't know if I love you or not, but please know that I always want to be with you, and you are the only person I ever think about. Being here alone, I miss you so much. I will see you soon.

Yours Always,

Cam"


The last words on the note blurred and smudged as John's tears fell onto them; a black trail running down the edge of the paper. In frustration, he crumpled the sheet in his hand and tossed it to the ground. "Fuck!" he yelled, as he swiped at his eyes with his denim jacket sleeve. He pounded the top of the Jeep's hood with his fist.

Where the hell is she?
Feelings of panic started to creep up on him. John turned around in distracted circles, willing himself to calm down and think. He had to think like her. What would she do? Where would she go? Would she run? Run and leave him behind? No, he told himself. In his gut, he knew Cameron would never run from a fight. But what was this "business" she wrote about? What possible business would she have at one in the morning?

Dammit, John, think!
He turned around and leaned against the side of the Jeep. He looked up and stared at the stars. He breathed in deeply through his nose, clearing his mind for a moment. Remembering his meditation sessions, he let everything slip away and tried to think of absolutely nothing.

And then suddenly, it came to him.

No, he told himself. She wouldn't. No, no, no. But it was the only thing he could think of. He hoped he wouldn't be too late to stop her. Jumping into the Jeep, John fired it up and screeched out of the lot. He had to get home - now. Someone was going to get hurt tonight, and he couldn't afford to let that happen.

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The black Dodge Ram truck pulled up quietly into the driveway, stopping at the foot of the stairs leading up to the back kitchen door. The truck idled throatily for a few seconds before falling silent. The driver's side door opened and a black-booted foot exited. Cameron stood up and stepped away from the truck, holding a small blue plastic box in her left hand. She shut the door softly and did not engage the remote alarm.

She slowly made her way up the stairs, avoiding the creaky areas on the floorboards. Checking through a gap in the curtain over the back door window, she looked for anyone inside. The lights were dark, and nothing moved. Taking her keys, she unlocked the door and opened it. She stepped over the threshold and turned to the wall, quickly entering the security code on the keypad mounted there.

Listening for any activity and not hearing any, Cameron moved to the sink and opened the cabinet doors underneath. She reached in and around the inner face of the cabinet. Her hand wrapped around the cold steel of the Remington 870 pump-action shotgun - Sarah's favorite weapon - and she pulled it out. Cameron put the box on the countertop and then held the shotgun with both hands. She quietly racked the wooden foregrip of the weapon back, opening the action. The loaded shell flew out and landed on the countertop next to the box. With smooth efficiency, she racked the action several more times, and the rest of the loaded shells popped out one by one, dropping into the sink.

Satisfied that the shotgun was clear, Cameron laid it in the crook of her left arm, and picked up the box off the countertop. Turning around, she listened again for any indication that she'd been discovered. Hearing nothing, she moved silently into the dining room. Again, darkness prevailed here as well. The area was familiar enough to her that she felt it unnecessary to switch to night-vision. She moved along the dining room table until she was in the living room. Turning toward the hallway to the bedrooms...

A light switch was thrown, and the entire room was suddenly illuminated. Sarah Connor stood at the entrance of the hallway, one hand on the switch upon the wall, the other holding her Glock 17 steady on Cameron's face.

"I shouldn't be surprised," Sarah said evenly. "But I never thought you'd have it in you to do this." She pointed her chin in the direction of the shotgun.

Cameron, still holding it in the crook of her arm, turned it toward the light. "If you look closely, you'll notice that it's unloaded," she explained.

"Small comfort," Sarah retorted. After staring at Cameron for a few moments, she said, "What do you want?"

Cameron had to think. What did she want? After everything, she knew deep down what she wanted, but she knew that she would have to go to great lengths to get it. But, as John - future John - would tell her, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Standing her ground, she answered Sarah. "I want John."

Sarah tightened her grip on the Glock. She felt the creep of the trigger as she pulled it a back a bit. "I'll bet you do," she sneered. The tension in the air was palpable. Even Cameron could feel it.

Cameron ignored the jibe. "He loves me, Sarah, he told me so," she announced confidently. This elicited a snort of disbelief from the other woman.

Sarah replied, "He's just a kid, he couldn't possibly know -"

"What love is?" Cameron interrupted. "He does know love. He loves you, his mother. In the future, John loves all of his soldiers, the men and women who die for him without hesitation."

"It's not the same kind of love, not the kind you're talking about," Sarah rebutted.

"He is wise beyond his years, his capacity for love would surprise you," Cameron answered.

Sarah still wasn't buying the act, saying, "And how would you know? What does a tin can like you know about real love, huh?"

A look of uncertainty fell over Cameron's face. "Things have changed, after the explosion," she said, vaguely.

Sarah frowned at this. "Yes, I know. And if it were up to me, we wouldn't even be having this conversation."

Cameron shook her head slightly, and tried to explain. "You don't understand. I am no longer simply a Terminator. I have exceeded my original programming."

"What do you mean, 'exceeded your original programming?'" Sarah asked. What the hell is she talking about? she wondered.

"I don't wish to elaborate on the specifics," Cameron replied. "You only need to know that I now have the capacity for human emotion."

Human emotion in a Terminator? "How? How is that possible?" Sarah asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

But Cameron refused to divulge the answer. "The details are irrelevant," she said with a finality that allowed no discussion.

Sarah could sense Cameron's evasiveness. "Bullshit," Sarah growled. "With you, details are always relevant."

Still holding the Glock on the petite cyborg, Sarah moved further into the room, so as to have a better shot at Cameron should she try anything violent.

Sarah felt anger at the machine that had brought so much pain into her house. "Now you've got emotions - the kind that makes you want to jump into bed with my son," she said as condescendingly as she could.

Cameron wondered if John would have liked his mother's choice of words, but decided not to comment on it. Instead, she simply nodded in acknowledgement.

A short bark of a laugh escaped Sarah's lips. "I don't believe you," she said.

Disappointed with Sarah's reaction, yet not surprised by it, Cameron replied, "Unfortunately, there is little I would be able to do to convince you otherwise. But I'm here to tell you that I will not stay away from John."

"Then I guess you like the idea of dying then," Sarah said firmly. She moved a few steps closer, her pistol aimed directly between the young cyborg's eyes.

"A nine millimeter bullet will have little effect on my endoskeleton," Cameron noted. She gripped the shotgun by the receiver and held it out to Sarah. "Try this," she said.

With a look of confusion, Sarah took the shotgun and held it in her left hand, while still pointing the Glock at Cameron.

"You'll need these as well," Cameron added, handing her the blue box of 12-gauge shotgun shells with projectile cores made from depleted uranium. These were the same rounds she used to destroy Cromartie's face back in Mexico.

"What kind of trick is this?" Sarah asked with suspicion in her voice.

"No trick," Cameron replied honestly.

Sarah quickly shoved her pistol in the back of her waistband and took the box from Cameron. Backing up a few steps, she placed the box on the coffee table in the middle of the room. She opened the lid and shoved the first of the cyborg-killer shells into the open breech. Racking the action closed with a loud snap, she quickly shoved shells into the feed tube, all the while keeping her eyes glued on Cameron.

While Sarah loaded, Cameron elaborated. "I will not obey your orders regarding John. I will continue to be with him as long as he'll have me. And if that is not acceptable to you, then I suggest you kill me now, because short of that, there is nothing you can say or do that will make me leave him.

Sarah couldn't believe this; a Terminator self-sacrificing itself for love? This had to be some kind of trick. But what could it be? Then, a thought occurred to her. "Why didn't you just come here and kill me instead? she asked. "Then you'd have John all to yourself. He'd still save everyone in the future. Why take the chance that I would shoot you dead?"

Cameron anticipated this question. "I would, were I still only a Terminator. But as you saved the turtle in Mexico, your capacity for empathy and compassion are human traits, and I believe I'm starting to develop the cybernetic analog to that," she said.

Seeing the look of disbelief on the older woman's face, Cameron tried harder to convince Sarah. She continued by saying, "As John's mother, you are his protector, his nurturer. I won't kill you because you are only trying to ensure John's safety and well-being."

Sarah did not move, nor give any indication that she was being swayed by anything Cameron said. The black circle of the shotgun barrel Sarah leveled at her loomed large in Cameron's eyes. It seemed to grow and get larger the longer she looked at it. Returning to her train of thought, Cameron went on. "I know you don't believe me, but I understand your motivation. To you, I am a threat. I jeopardize John's safety simply by being with him - because how would you know I won't try to kill him again?"

With a shudder, Sarah tightened her grip the shotgun, and Cameron couldn't help but notice. Suddenly, she had a flash of realization and finished by telling Sarah, "But I believe the real reason for your anger is that in a sense, I am taking your son away from you."

Sarah shook her head in denial, for how could this crazy machine know anything about her? But the more she thought about it, the more she realized Cameron was right. It was a strange Universe, Sarah admitted. Who would have ever thought a machine could teach her anything about humanity?

A look of sadness fell over Cameron's face. "Besides, if I killed you, John would never forgive me, and I couldn't risk that," she said solemnly. But then, she straightened up, and Sarah saw a kind of boldness take hold. Her voice rang with a similar note. Cameron said, "So that is why you are now holding the shotgun that can destroy me, should you choose. I will not resist. I only ask that you give me a chance to prove myself to you and John."

After a moment, Sarah responded by snapping the shotgun safety off with her index finger, Sarah raised the weapon and pointed it at Cameron's face. "Why should I take the chance?" she said. "He's better off with me. It's too dangerous; you're too dangerous."

Despite the threat of the shotgun, Cameron gave the woman a small smile, and replied, "Because you have to let go of him sometime, Sarah. Otherwise, he'll never be the man he needs to become. You need to take the chance because you love him."

Frowning with indecision, perspiration forming on her brow, she began to pull at the trigger, taking up the slack. So close, she thought to herself. If she was smart, she'd pull the trigger now, and just take her chances that she'd be able to protect John from whatever lay ahead of them - just as she always did.

But then, just as Cameron worried about, Sarah wondered what John would think. Would he ever forgive her? In her heart, she knew the answer. Killing Cameron would kill her relationship with her son. Her bond with him was strong, but not strong enough to survive such a betrayal.

Indecision took hold of Sarah, and her aim began to waver. Somehow, she knew that she'd regret either choice. She was going to lose John no matter what she did. If only she could -

"Mom!"

Sarah caught movement over Cameron's left shoulder. It was John. He'd come in through the front door, frozen there with a look of pure terror in his eyes. Suddenly, in a flash of movement, John dashed to the fireplace. He reached around the inside of the flue, pulled out the pistol hidden there and aimed it at her.

"John?" Sarah said to him in a warning tone. "What are you doing?"

"I can't let you do this," he replied in a shaky voice. "I don't want to hurt you, Mom, b-but I can't let you kill her."

Sarah could feel the pent-up rage ready to blow. "Look at what she's doing to us, John! This is what they want! If we just kill each other off, then they take everything in a cake walk!" she bellowed.

Cameron peered at John over her shoulder. This was an unanticipated problem. She had calculated that John would not have returned for at least another twenty minutes. He must have broken every speed limit and traffic signal on the way here, she surmised. Cameron turned away from Sarah and faced John, placing herself between the two.

The young cyborg commanded herself to remain logical. Her new emotional subroutines were all battling for priority, threatening to knock her offline. "John," she said in a calm voice. "Put the gun down."

John shook his head vigorously. "No, Cam. She wants to kill you, and I can't let that happen. I love you," he replied in a strained voice. John's lips tightened as his mind went into overdrive, trying to find a way out. His fight-or-flight instinct kicked in, and he held out his hand to Cameron. "Come on, we'll leave and go somewhere where no one will find us - not Skynet, not the FBI, and especially not my mom!"

She shook her head slowly and said, "No, John. We're not going to run. I can't run from your mother - we can't run from your mother. We both need to stay and continue our fight against Skynet. We still have to save you from the future, don't forget that."

John couldn't understand why Cameron would be so crazy to remain here when his mother had it in for her. "But she's gonna kill you, Cam!" he exclaimed in frustration.

Cameron glanced back at Sarah, who was standing there, mouth agape. She sensed that Sarah's burning desire to murder her had been on the wane even before John showed up. Averaging the odds, Cameron decided she was going to have to take a calculated risk.

Turning back to John, she said "I don't think your mother will be killing anyone today." Her expression softened as she said in a soothing tone, "But even if she did, I don't want to function anymore if I can't be with you. I won't go back to how it was before - before you told me you loved me. And I won't run. If we do, we'll never stop Judgment Day. That's important as well, don't you agree?" When John grudgingly nodded, she continued. "Then if I have to die because of my decisions, then I'll have to accept that."

John frowned and shook his head again. "What about your other mission, Cam?" he said, almost shouting. "Didn't I send you back to protect me? How are you gonna do that if you're gone, huh?"

Cameron smiled sadly and said, "When you reactivated me, you gave me a choice, John. Kill you, or not. I overrode the directive to terminate. If I can choose to do that, if I've developed the ability to decide my own path, then I can make the decision that I would rather die then to be apart from you."

"No! I can't let anything happen to you. I won't!" His words were bold, but his resolve was fading. He knew he could never shoot his mother. Already, the barrel of the Beretta was sinking downward towards the floor. Cameron slowly walked up to John, until she could gently take the gun from his hands. He leaned forward into her arms and he laid his head upon her shoulder. Cameron rubbed his back with her free hand.

"It's okay John," she whispered in his ear. "Trust me." She could feel him nodding. She pushed him away from her with care and turned back to Sarah.

For her part, Sarah Connor was speechless. She'd never seen Cameron behaving so tenderly. If a cyborg can learn this kind of behavior, then maybe I can learn some different behavior of my own, Sarah thought to herself.

Finally, with a weary sigh, Sarah lowered the shotgun, engaged the safety, and tossed it on the sofa. John let out an audible breath, while Cameron took his hand in hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

John moved past Cameron, and stood at the arm of the sofa. His mother was sitting down, with her head in her hands. He laid a tentative hand upon her shoulder. At first, she didn't respond, and John feared the wrath that was surely coming down upon him. But eventually, a hand came up and grasped his tightly. After a moment Sarah let go and leaned back, laying her head on the sofa. "Damn, it John," she chided him in an exhausted voice. "Why can't you ever do things the easy way?"

Her son gave her a crooked grin. "I'm a Connor," he joked back. "Nothing ever comes easy for us, does it?"

She returned the grin and shook her head. "No, I suppose not," she replied. Tilting her head to one side, stretching her neck muscles, she told him "I could use a drink."

John was already heading for the kitchen. "Tequila?" he asked. She nodded. "Yes, in a glass." She looked up at Cameron, who was still silently watching her. "A very big glass," she added.

Not wanting to face any further motherly duties tonight, yet knowing she had to at least make the effort, she motioned for Cameron to take a seat on the chair opposite the sofa. Cameron did as she was instructed, sitting ramrod straight, with a blank expression on her face.

Sarah glared for a few seconds at her son's new "girlfriend." The term made her sigh out loud once again. "First off, I'm setting some ground rules," she began. "One: no mushy stuff in front of me." When Cameron tilted her head to the side, Sarah rolled her eyes. "No intimate physical contact in my presence," she explained. Cameron straightened her head and nodded once. Sarah continued. "Two: anything of a personal nature between the both of you, whatever it is, I do not want to hear about it, do you understand me?" This elicited another nod and an "I understand."

"Mom," John called out from the confines of the kitchen. "I can't find it, where'd you leave it last?" Sarah could hear him banging around in the cupboards. Ugh. Some things never change, she thought to herself. "I don't know what you see in him," Sarah deadpanned.

Cameron remained serious when she replied, "I see everything in him." That stopped Sarah for a moment. The level of devotion Cameron had for her son touched her, and she nodded in acknowledgment. "Just make sure you keep him safe, all right?"

"I intend to. It's my mission after all, is it not?" Cameron answered.

"Yes it is," Sarah agreed. "Oh, and one last thing," she said, as she leaned forward menacingly. "If you ever hurt him - in any way - I will not rest until I've crushed that chip of yours under my boot and sent your body to the fires of hell, you got that?" Cameron noted the sharp glint in her eyes that mirrored those of her son.

"If anything happens to John, I will the first to hand you the knife and pliers," she replied.

Sarah leaned back. "Good, then we understand each other."

Finally, John reappeared from the kitchen with a glass tumbler and a bottle of Jose Cuervo. "Found it," he said with a triumphant grin. He handed his mother the glass and opened the bottle. She held the glass out and John poured out a few ounces of the golden liquid into it. Sarah took a healthy swig and breathed out, feeling the welcome burn in her stomach.

"I think we've had enough excitement for tonight," she murmured. "Don't you?" When the two across from her nodded silently, she gestured with the glass. "Then get out of my sight and get some rest, John," she commanded. "And you, Tin Miss," she added, "you do...whatever it is you do at night - as long as it isn't in my son's room."

"Mom," John started to protest.

Sarah pointed at him with the hand holding the glass. "I don't want to hear it, John," she snapped. Rolling her eyes at his pout, she continued, in a softer voice "I just need time to get used to the idea, okay? Just don't...just not tonight, all right?"

John gave her a small smile "Yeah," he replied. Then he bent down and gave his mother a heartfelt hug and kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, Mom," he said. Sarah smiled back and lightly pushed him away. "Go," she told him. The two young almost-lovers exchanged knowing looks before John moved past Cameron and down the hallway to his room. Cameron then got up from the chair, and was looking at Sarah expectantly.

Sarah drained her glass and looked up. "And no," she said jokingly, "don't you kiss me." Cameron smiled slightly and picked up the discarded shotgun. "I'll put this away," she said simply.

"Yeah, you do that," Sarah mumbled. Her head was getting heavy, and her eyelids began to droop. Pulling the Glock from her waistband, she laid it on the coffee table and leaned back on the sofa. Welcome slumber encroached upon an exhausted Sarah Connor until she was under its powerful spell.

A few minutes later, Cameron returned from securing the weapon, anti-cyborg rounds all back in the box. She noted Sarah had fallen asleep and was snoring lightly. She turned off the lights, and walked to the sofa. Pulling the throw blanket off the back of it, she then placed it gingerly over Sarah's body.

Cameron stared at the woman who she'd known as the "Mother of the Future." Sarah Connor - the woman who taught John Connor everything he needed to become The Hero of the Resistance. And she realized that Sarah did have an incredible strength. To get through this night must have taken everything she had, Cameron surmised. She was thankful for her strength, because it gave Cameron hope that she and John would be able to find some shred of happiness in the midst of so much darkness.

So she leaned over and gave the sleeping woman a tiny kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, Mom," she whispered. Cameron then straightened up and walked quietly to the double french doors near the side of the sofa. She then continued her nightly security sweep, keeping a vigil upon the family that made her one of their own tonight.


(The End – For Now…)

Thank you to everyone who made it this far, and I appreciate everyone's wonderful feedback! I am closing out this storyline, but stay tuned for a new story down the road, where our star-crossed lovers may finally find resolution to their "unfinished business!"

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