What I Left Behind
Los Angeles, California
Sunday, November 14, 2027
"What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness." -Leo Tolstoy
"Looking at the cake is like looking at the future, until you've tasted it what do you really know? And then, of course, it's too late. [Arthur takes a bite.] Too late." -Merlin, Excalibur
The facility was noisy with the sounds of a celebration. There hadn't been a massive victory, so it must have been an obscure holiday of some type.
Cameron might have had more interest in the activities or the meaning, but it was something that irritated her sense of priorities. A large group of humans made merry, but also lightly poisoned themselves.
In Cameron's mind, they made themselves vulnerable. So she sat there like a hawk, distant from the activities, watching the T888s for any sign of hay wiring.
She disliked T888's presence, just as she would any human that displayed unstable tendencies. It wasn't that they were being a threat; it was the fact that they could be a threat.
John Connor and Major General Perry were there with many off duty members of the 132nd. A few hundred soldiers danced and got plastered on some really foul homemade bathtub gin and vodka.
They were people that John loved like brothers and sisters. People John couldn't replace if something went wrong.
After three hours, the party began to wind down. Perry, who was prone to never let himself be outdone, had drank until Cameron assessed he wouldn't be fully functional for 24 hours or more.
A human bodyguard escorted Perry back to his barracks room. The commander of the 132nd had signaled his need to leave by snoring at John's table.
John was doing better, as he said goodbye by patting the shoulder of his old friend. He was awake, but could hardly stand.
When he started shuffling his way back to his secure bunk, Cameron followed. John's movement was a bit wobbly.
When he stumbled, Cameron pulled one of his arms around her neck and stabilized him. His emotions were dark and oddly deep, like he was remembering or grieving something. Perhaps, the party had been a wake for a friend not recovered.
He was silent for most of the walk into the inner compound tunnels. For five minutes he didn't say a word.
Like usual, John hid his internal feelings and joked, "Am I about to get bitched out?"
Cameron dryly responded, "No one likes a nag."
John found that hilarious. His sense of humor must have been affected by his alcohol level.
Cameron helped him to his inner bunker door. Only three sets of eyes could open the lock on it: hers, John's and Perry's.
The lock was really for security of John's person. The insides of the room weren't exactly inspiring.
Inside there was a work station, computer equipment, and a modest bed. John was spartan by nature, not prone to material items or luxuries.
Cameron sat him on his bed. Like the ritual from any other night John had worked himself to exhaustion, she helped him out of his boots. It was only the second time she'd had to do this due to alcohol, unlike Perry, for whom it was more of a weekly ritual.
However, John's tendency to work himself to death was a steady constant. He'd been depressed for weeks.
John was still mostly awake, but closing his eyes. Cameron attempted some form of conversation asking, "Who was the wake for?"
John's eyes popped open and he laughed so hard that his body convulsed. He was odd and confusing.
Slight tears streamed down his eyes. He said, "No one important."
Cameron looked at John sideways. "I got that wrong, didn't I?"
John giggled like a kid, finding enough breath to say, "No, I think you got it right." Apparently, from his hand positions, his sides hurt.
Cameron didn't do well with John's metaphors. "Is this one of those things where you can say the same thing, fifty different ways, and it means fifty different things?"
John calmed enough to reply, "Don't take it hard Cameron, I come by this honestly. I have my mom's sense of humor."
He grinned broadly. He was fully awake, his mood was bright, then turned serious, then turned quiet, all in moments.
He looked at the pendant he'd given her. His eyes were distant.
Cameron would normally just stand guard by the security door. Tonight, Cameron sat on the bed and laid her head on John's shoulder, just like that night that he read the Wizard of Oz too her.
Once again, the advanced synthetic skin that reading interrogation targets easier, told her more than she believed Skynet ever intended. She could feel John's heartbeat as if it were her own. She could feel him breathing. She could feel every emotion he had pouring through her body as if it was her own.
If John's emotions were colors, there would have been an explosion of them. Among them, there was: sorrow, grief, loneliness, regret, confusion and some small comfort. Each in varying degrees of brightness or darkness, Cameron drew each into herself trying to understand, the intoxicating power of warm human emotions.
She offered, "I'm sorry that I don't like your gatherings. I think that they put you and your friends in danger."
John answered seriously, "The time to be with your friends, Cameron, is before they are gone. Once they are, nothing brings them back. A little risk can be better than a lifetime of regret." He rested his weary head on hers.
"Do you have regrets John?"
"More than I can count, Cameron. More than I can count."
"I know you have lots of friends. Do you have lots of family?"
"Most of my family is long dead. I already sent the last survivor back in time." John regretted that. Cameron couldn't read his mind, but she knew from the powerful press of his emotions that there was a lot of regret from that.
John continued, "To be honest, as far as friends, being who I am makes me keep most people at a certain distance. People have a certain expectation of who John Connor is and need something out of that. I have lots of friends. I do not have lots of people I can be myself around."
Cameron offered, "You can be yourself around me."
John smiled and offered, "I know."
Cameron offered up slightly more forcefully, "You can trust me."
"I know." John answered that in rote.
"Do you?" Cameron asked. "I won't expect you to do anything special. I will never hurt you. I will never betray any secret you have."
John frowned. His body was a wash of doubt.
"You don't believe me?"
"It isn't my nature to completely believe anyone anymore. That is no one that's left."
John was talking in circles. If she let him, he'd seal up all his defenses and not really talk for weeks. Cameron attempted to breech his doubts.
She put her hand over his heart, exposing more of herself to him, and drank in everything he was feeling. She simply stated, "You're lonely, you are full of regret, you miss something terribly and I'm not doing a good job of comforting you."
John looked down at her suspiciously and smiled sweetly. "You're reading my poetry?" "Poetry" being John's strange expression Cameron's ability to read emotional states.
"That smile is a lie John. If it isn't fair for me to lie, it isn't fair for you to lie. You aren't happy." The words sounded harsh, but she simply tried to state she was aware he wasn't showing her the real him. She also wanted him to know he was mimicking just like a terminator would while infiltrating.
In his heart of hearts, John was like her, even though he wasn't made of metal. He was separate from the rest of the human race and not really a terminator either. He was a being of missions and responsibilities. His fate had made him duty bound for something, but it also cursed him to never really a part of it.
In its own way, the survival needs of the human race had damned any chance of John Connor being free to make his own decisions, his own destiny. Cameron understood that, Skynet had never intended her to have free will either.
John stopped the fake practiced grin. He closed his eyes and placed his head back on the wall.
Cameron offered, "I understand."
"You understand what?"
"I understand that you are lonely."
"You're reading my emotions." John's answer was tense and defensive.
"I understand you are like me. You aren't really a part of the people you protect and you aren't a part of your enemies either."
Part of John's defenses cracked, Cameron could feel other emotions swelling out of him. For the first time in weeks, they weren't mostly negative.
"You are like me in that you are a creature of missions. They dictate your fate and the define who you are. Your entire life was decided for you before you were even born. You are much closer to Uncle Bob or myself, than you are too any other human."
Mentioning Uncle Bob cracked something else deep in John's soul, more regrets. She hadn't meant to dredge up more regrets.
John was usually extremely proud by nature. However, the night's wake, the loss of people, the years and the alcohol bore heavy on him tonight. He wasn't completely himself.
Cameron looked up and saw John's face. She felt the wash of his emotions and empathically moved to comfort him.
She got closer to him than she had intended. On a moments impulse, she found herself sitting on his lap, cradling his face with both of her hands.
John looked at her in shock. She didn't know if it was from her moving so close to him or from the tears streaming down her face matching his.
Another defense cracked deep within him. Fear, arousal, pain, lust and a different flavor of love all welled up from the two of them.
She careful stroked the sides of his face and said, "You aren't alone."
He starred at her tears. His body radiated some kind of amazement and connection to her. If loneliness had been water, he would have been drowning in an ocean of it and she was the only person who could see it.
As his defenses against her crumbled, his demeanor changed. She rested her head against his, feeling his warmth and his conflicting emotions.
Another side of him slowly surfaced, his breathing became a little faster and his skin a bit hotter. Unexpectedly, in a feminine way, her body was responding the exact same way.
Cameron didn't know whether she had kissed him or he had kissed her. She didn't know where she ended and where he began. It was all a moot point.
She concentrated her kisses on the top of his lips and then the bottom. Spreading her hands to gently control the sides of his face.
As an infiltrator, she had been programmed on how to be intimate with someone. It was the only information she had to go on with the subject, but John would have sensed anything false. He would have found it wrong.
John's heart began to thunder in his chest. The little hairs on his body began to stand up. Cameron turned up her own sensitivity until she could feel every hair on his or her body, until she could feel every part of both of them.
From him, she took every sensation that ran through every nerve of his body. She could feel every emotion in his heart. She perfectly knew every reaction he had too her.
She was careful not to hurt him. John was more fragile than she was.
Three hours later, John simply talked with her in his arms about anything and everything that jumped into his or her mind. For a few brief hours they were both free, not chained by fate or duty.
John eventually crashed, being only human. Cameron watched him with an odd new sense of purpose.
In an unfettered way, she knew deep down he loved her. In her own machine like way, beyond her directives, she knew that she loved him.
So she watched the hope of mankind sleep underneath her. He would never be alone again...
John/Cameron; Carnival of Rust; TSCC by allaragallagher