Title- Becoming John Connor
Chapter- 1/?
Author- Dekardkain
Date- 01/09/10
Rating- T
Category - Action/Character study JC/C
Archiving- Would be an honor, just ask.
Warnings- Violence/language
Disclaimers- I don't own this, no money, yadda yadda.

Summary: Facing one's fate is the measure of a man. Changing one's fate is the measure of a hero.

AN: I decided to do the intro to this chapter (at least) in the monologue style the series used. If people like it, I may continue doing so, just let me know what you think. Unlike the series though, most of the voiceovers will likely come from John as frankly, this is his story.

Chapter 1 - "Under Seige"

I've always liked chess.

My mother wanted me to learn the game because of the lessons it teaches. Lessons she believed would help me in the coming war. Strategy. Patience. Deception. Sacrifice.

But I liked chess because at it's heart, it's the very antithesis of war. Chess is literally black and white. The lines are always clear. The pieces always move the same way and always with the same mission in mind.

Kill the king.

It always boils down to the king. Without the king, all of the other pieces, so valuable in their own right, become useless. Without the king... the war is over.

War, unlike chess, is messy. It's smoke and death. It's chaos.

Soldiers, unlike chess pieces, don't always follow orders. Their judgment can be compromised. They can fail to see the bigger picture. They can make mistakes.

But a chess piece has never won a match through an act of bravery. It's instincts can't tip the tide of battle. It can't inspire others with it's sacrifice.

When Skynet looks at the battlefield, it sees a game board. It sees pieces with set values and known quantities. It sees rules, and forms, and functions.

That is why it will lose.

Pueblo Colorado

February 15th, 2011

0850 hrs

"I didn't cook those so you could admire their beauty John." Sarah frowned from the doorway separating the small kitchen/dining room from the living room as she hastily snatched her apron from the top of the fridge and fastened it around her waist.

John simply groaned in response, motioning idly to his plate for a reason even he couldn't come up with at the moment. He wondered if she was trying to punish him, as there was little doubt she'd figured out what he and his still passed-out-on-the-couch uncle had been up to the night before. Empty beer bottles littered nearly every flat surface in sight, the ravaged remains of the pizza they'd ordered around midnight had been shoved to one corner most likely to give Sarah room to prepare his pancakes. Hell, she'd had to step over three of her son's 'lieutenants' just to make it through to the kitchen.

Finally deciding that now was probably not the time to push his luck, John ignored his headache long enough to nod toward his mother, "Sorry mom."

"No you're not." She eyed him for a long moment before deciding to take mercy on him... just this once. Snapping her name tag into place over her left breast, Sarah found she couldn't entirely suppress an eye-roll, "I'm not stupid John. Your men look like they had a very good time last night."

"Ugh," She couldn't tell if her son was about to be sick or to attempt a rapid tactical retreat of the room, probably serpentining the entire way if his balance managed to hold out. "I can explain..."

"Don't bother." Sarah silenced him with a raised hand, still shaking her head slowly. "We're lucky enough to have some down time, but I don't want you getting used to it. We have work to do John and I won't jeopardize it so you can get drunk with Derek!"


"But," The older Conner sighed as she leaned back against the fridge and rubbed her temples, "You're eighteen years old and I understand that you need to be allowed to unwind while... well, while you still can. I guess I'd rather have you doing that at home with Derek than sneaking out with that fake I.D. you keep taped to the underside of your dresser."

John visibly blanched and Sarah couldn't help but lean forward to ruffle his hair, "Like I said John, I'm a mom. You only think you have secrets."

Shrugging off the the effects of the previous night long enough to get up from his chair John tossed his arms around his mother. Clearly not expecting it, Sarah stuttered awkwardly for a second before returning the gesture with a reassuring squeeze. The moment itself was a perfectly condensed example of their interactions over the last few months. Ever since her brush with cancer and their decision to bunker down and prepare for the inevitable battle now looming so closely on the murky horizon their relationship had taken on a new dynamic.

It had shocked all of them that in the end it was John himself who had decided to end their long-running guerrilla war against Skynet so they could focus on establishing the groundwork of a resistance network even before the bombs dropped. Sarah had actually smacked him when he'd uttered the words she'd only heard come from a terminator's mouth in the past: 'Judgment Day is inevitable.'

She had ranted and raved for hours, more than once bringing random objects lying loose around the house into play to punctuate the points she really wanted to make sure she got across.

Later that night, she and Derek had lounged together on the porch and shared a bottle of Jack Daniels he'd been saving for a 'special occasion', which for Derek could mean anything from a wedding to a Tuesday. About two thirds of the way through the bottle she'd looked up at him from under her hair, obviously fighting tears as she whispered, "I never imagined John would be the one to quit. To let all those people die, knowing there might still be something we can do to..."

"Sarah," Derek had cut her off, shaking his head with a mirthless smile, "You need to understand... that wasn't... that wasn't John in there."

She'd looked at him like he'd sprouted another head, "Then just who the hell do you think it was?"

"That," Reese pointed over his shoulder and back towards the house where the future leader of the human race was sprawled out on the couch with Cameron, watching Monday Night Football while field stripping his M4, "Was the General."

No longer blinded by her anger, Sarah had been forced to admit that Derek had seen something in her son she'd managed to miss entirely. He had stood toe to toe with her in all her fury, never once raising his voice nor backing down a step as he calmly explained that there were simply too many concurrent AI programs for them to take out by themselves. The fact that most were being sponsored or conducted directly by the United States military made the locations of the research nearly unassailable and both John and Sarah would never have agreed to an operation that would have brought about the kind of loss of life those assaults would have entailed.

He'd gone on to say that the 'first time around' he hadn't had the benefit of forewarning in regards to Judgment Day, and that was a tool he wasn't going overlook just so he could be dragged kicking and screaming into the inevitable battle unprepared. He wanted to give humanity every edge he could, to prevent the extermination camps, to make sure the horrible fires his father had described to Sarah were never lit in the first place.

She should have seen it in the living room, the way his eyes never deviated from hers as he told her exactly how they were going to prepare for the nuclear firestorm and the coming war with Skynet. Sarah had never imagined she would live long enough to see for herself why millions of human beings would charge to their certain deaths for her son, but she knew she'd caught a glimpse of it that night.

John had made a decision and in his mind there was simply no going back. He would make it happen. He would stay the course.

Over the next few months they had assembled a small arsenal as well as quite the eclectic little team. Sarah and Derek had made tracking down Resistance operatives and safe houses in their time line a priority, as it would be easier to recruit soldiers who already knew the score than it would be to convince fresh meat that Judgment Day wasn't just a bad cult pitch. Counting Derek, twelve of their nineteen soldiers had survived it once already and were now preparing to weather the storm again. John had insisted Charley be brought on board, arguing that a trained field medic would prove invaluable in the coming fight. Sarah couldn't dispute his logic, but also realized there was far more to his decision than simple practicality.

She had pretended to fight him on it long enough to work Ellison, who John and Derek still didn't entirely trust, into the fold in exchange for Dixon's addition. Sarah was convinced the man would provide a much-needed voice of humanity and morality post J-Day, traits that the rest of John's soldiers didn't exactly possess in abundance.

Sarah still wasn't entirely sure how to feel about their new additions. They were undoubtedly capable combat soldiers, all of whom had more experience fighting the machines than anyone else they could hope to scrounge up before the bombs dropped. They just... unsettled her. No matter how many times she herself had told John of his importance to the future, it was still a shock to her system to see the way his soldiers acted in their commander's presence.

With Derek being her primary source of intel on future Resistance fighters, Sarah wasn't in the least surprised when most of them turned out to be just as vulgar, surly, and slightly unhinged as her son's uncle. That part didn't bother her. Years of running with Central American rebels had rendered her all but immune to their macho bullshit and despite keeping the last name Baum to preserve the time line, her known status as John's mother bought her a wide berth to begin with. It was how they responded to John.

Her son's slightest wish was carried out with a fanatical devotion that scared the living shit out of her. They refused him nothing. Hell, they never even hesitated. When John entered a room, even stumbling into the kitchen in his boxers for a bowl of cereal, every one of them was on their feet and immediately silent in preparation simply because there was the smallest possibility Connor was about to issue an order. They'd remain as motionless as deactivated machines until he either left the room or noticed and actually ordered them to relax.

When John spoke, their entire universe began and ended with the words coming out of his mouth. They remembered every order, every suggestion, every corny joke, to the point they often tried to quote her son's own words back to her to prove points. It was maddening.

The only consolation, albeit a small one, was that it seemed to irritate John almost as much as it irritated her. In fact, she had a sneaking suspicion that last night's party had as much to do with John's desire to be treated as 'one of the guys' as it did with Charley's arrival. She couldn't suppress the momentary pang of sympathy that thought caused, the idea that her son had to work so hard for genuine social interaction pained her. She had tried to give him every tool he would need to survive and eventually win the coming war, but that simple gift most parents took for granted she could never provide. She could never give him normal.

In the future, John Connor has many friends.

Sarah could only shake her head at that, wondering if Cameron could really tell the difference between friends and followers.

The object of her musings seemed equally lost in thought at the moment as he shoved the remains of his breakfast around his plate in an apparent effort to gather up every drop of syrup that remained, so she settled for ruffling his short-cropped hair one more time before departing for work. It never once occurring to her that her completely unnecessary job at the local diner was nothing more than her own desperate bid for a normal life before it all came crashing down. In her own mind, she simply needed 'something to do'. A menial task to keep her from losing her mind as the clock ticked down.

Sarah Conner was a lot of things, but few would accuse her of being overly introspective.

John Connor on the other hand was a man who lived primarily within his own thoughts. Sometimes to the point of feeling trapped, boxed in by a mind that never seemed to give him a moment of peace.

The future was a tangible and frightening thing, always bearing down on him, forever haunting his every step. Being John Connor meant there was no escape. He ate the future for breakfast, fate for lunch, and destiny for dinner.

No fate but what you make... bullshit.

A lie meant to soothe the frightened and impotent. Sure, you could change the future. You could twist and mold it to your heart's content, but you could never escape it. It was a storm gathering on the horizon, and it was always coming.

"You're brooding again."

John could have sworn he caught Cameron smirking as he nearly upended his stool at her words, his heart hammering in his throat. Before he had a chance to compose himself she closed the distance between them, running a finger along the back of his neck and sending another jolt careening along a much different course. Did she have any freaking idea how much that bothered him? Again she was gone before he had a chance to adjust, snatching a glass from the cupboard and filling it at the sink.

"You're also dehydrated," Cameron frowned, taking a seat across from him and setting the glass next to his plate. She looked as immaculate and unruffled as she always did, only serving to highlight John's own unkempt appearance. Her black tank-top hugged her form perfectly without a single wrinkle or loose thread. Her jeans were freshly ironed, as she constantly reminded the future leader of humanity, she never slept.

"John, if you insist on consuming such copious amounts of alcohol then I must insist you alter your diet to compensate. Water is the most efficient means of flushing your system of the toxins and..."

"I hate it when you do that," John returned her frown but drained the glass anyways. The satisfied smile he received from the cyborg across the table earned an eye-roll that Cameron found oddly reminiscent of his mother. She deemed his attitude irrelevant as long as he complied with her wishes. It was, after all, for his own good.

A few months ago he might have argued in what she would have deemed a useless and utterly self-defeating episode of adolescent rebellion, but now he simply chuckled as she returned with his now refilled water glass. This development was heartening for the cyborg, as such pragmatism would serve him well as the leader of the Resistance.

However, said leader was in less than inspection-ready shape at the moment. An OD green t-shirt he'd worn the day before was stained across the shoulder with what she could only assume was motor oil, the wrinkles down the left side indicated he had in fact slept in the garment. Cameron noticed he had also recently developed his uncle's apparent aversion to shaving, though his hair was shorter than she remembered seeing it in a long time. That insight caused her to tilt her head to one side, "You cut your hair."

John squinted at her comment for a long moment before running a hand through his recently-shorn locks thoughtfully, as if he'd forgotten about it entirely, "Oh yeah... Darla cut it yesterday while you and mom were setting up the weapons drop with Manny."

"I didn't realize Corporal Cole was proficient in cutting hair." If John didn't know better he would have sworn he detected a distinct dislike for the young woman in his protector's voice.

"Yeah," His hand running down from his hair to scratch idly at the base of his neck indicated to Cameron he had grown uncomfortable, "She's something huh?"

Cameron's head tilted to one side as she attempted to understand his reluctance. It was moments like this that she most recognized the differences between this John and her John, "Does she not wish to copulate with you?"

Halfway through his second glass of water, John suddenly found a good portion of it soaking the front of his shirt as he sputtered for some much-needed air, "What?!"

"I am aware that Corporal Cole has expressed interest in perusing a sexual relationship with you John." The lack of inflection in her voice only seemed to make her charge more uncomfortable, so she attempted to adapt by employing a more 'friendly' approach, "As I said, I do not understand your reluctance. She is a healthy female of breeding age, many of the other soldiers have commented on her physical attributes, she appears willing to..."

John cut her off before the blood rushing to his face could physically overwhelm him, "That's not the point Cam."

"You have decided to embrace your destiny." Cameron stated matter-of-factly, "This is part of that."

The future leader of humanity looked like she'd just told him his father had actually been a T-800, "Ummm... having sex with Corporal Cole is part of my role in the future?"

"Not her specifically." Cameron couldn't help but smirk slightly at John's relieved exhalation, "However, you are a highly sought after breeding partner post Judgment Day."

John paled at her rather frank assessment of what amounted to sending him out to stud. "Is that so?"

"Yes." Obviously either failing to detect the tone in his voice or, more likely, choosing to ignore it, Cameron continued. "Your genetic traits, personal charisma, relatively limited exposure to radiation, and physical appearance all make you a prime candidate for Command's re-population program. At last count you had fathered eight children by four different..."

Slamming his empty glass down onto the table with enough force to rattle the light fixtures John growled, "And I'm okay with this?!"

"You are John Connor," Cameron frowned at his incredulous expression, as if her comment should have explained everything to the dense human. "Who among the Resistance is better suited to aid in establishing a diverse genetic base in order for the survivors of the war to flourish afterwards? Even your wife agreed that it was a necessary step towards..."

"My wife?!" That was the last straw for John, who was now on his feet literally shaking in defiance. Over the past few years Cameron had grown to understand and anticipate her charge's emotional responses better than she had even those of his future self, but sometimes he still managed to baffle her. Most eighteen year old males would not respond this way to the news they were to procreate with a wide variety of females in the future. It occurred to Cameron, perhaps belatedly, that John Connor was not a typical eighteen year old male.

"Yes. Katherine Connor was one of the primary architects of the program, in addition to being your wife and the mother of three of your children."

John was running his hands over his face feverishly as if hoping he'd wake up somewhere else, "Jesus... I thought she was making it up! She couldn't understand why I wasn't interested."

Cameron's frown returned as she tilted her head in confusion. Of all the things about his future that might upset him, she didn't understand why John was fixating on this one insignificant detail. "In the future, it is not abnormal for fertile males to have multiple reproductive partners."

"Still!" John was practically growling. "Aren't I a big enough asshole in the future already? Do I really need to add infidelity to my list of war crimes? Darla told me a joke - how does John Connor plan to repopulate the human race? One woman at a time! Isn't that hilarious?! Is there anyone in the Resistance I'm not fucking?!"

Assuming his question was anything but rhetorical, Cameron's eyes flashed blue as she pulled up the required information. "One moment please."

Subject: Connor, John

DOB: 02/28/85

Subject Sexual History

Orientation: Heterosexual

Marital Status: Married (Non-monogamous)

Sexual Partners: Katherine Connor (3 offspring)

Lt. Sarah Fernandez (1 offspring)

Lt. Taryn Sallis (2 offspring)

Cpt. Blair Williams (2 offspring)

Cpl. Allison Young

The light leaving her eyes as quickly as it had arrived, Cameron smiled as she anticipated finally being able to provide an answer that might lift the young man's spirits, "In actuality, you have had sexual relations with less than one percent of the known members of the Resistance."

"Fantastic." John's tone indicated he did not in fact find this information to be 'fantastic'. Humans rarely said what they were thinking. It was a distressing habit with no perceivable advantage.

"There is no fate John." At his frustrated scoff she continued, "We have already changed the future. Judgment Day has been delayed, the odds of a quicker, more decisive Resistance victory have been significantly improved."

There is no reason you have to become that man.

John considered that for a long moment, every dream of a normal life he'd ever entertained running past his mind's eye before disappearing off into the ether, most likely to never be seen again.

Deep down, he was aware of the reason this bothered him. It was simply one last reminder of the cold, calculating, flat out heartless son of a bitch he was supposed to become. The kind of man who could send his own father to his certain death. The kind of man who stepped out on his wife to 'repopulate the species'. John had always held out the slim hope that at least he might find someone to share the burden with. Someone who could love him for the man he was, not just because he was John Connor.

The term 'soul mate' was just new-agey enough to make John's eyes roll back into his head, but he thought he could live with 'companion'. "Sorry Cam, It's not your fault. I guess I always held out the hope that I'd find someone special."

"Special?" Cameron asked, apparently requiring further clarification.

Little did he know that the cyborg often pretended to misunderstand him while knowing full well what he was getting at. As Cameron's emotions had developed over the past few years, she had managed to identify three-hundred and eighty-five things that could be filed under the heading 'enjoyment'. Of those, three-hundred and twenty-one directly involved John Connor. Currently, his explanations of human behavior ranked fifth, and it had been a while since she'd indulged herself.

"Yeah... special." Cameron felt as if the sun had suddenly arrived with the small smile John always wore when launching into another edition of Humanity 101. "Someone I could really talk to. Someone who I could actually be myself around instead of always being the General. I may have had sex with those women, even had children with them, but I get the feeling that not one of them actually knew me."

John, her John, had always told her he valued honesty above all else. Precisely because was forced to lie so often throughout his life. It was a dichotomy he'd had to explain to her - that the more scarce a thing is, the more inherently precious it becomes. With that in mind, she pressed on, despite the fact she detected a high probability her words would wipe the smile she so enjoyed from his face. "In the future, you find it difficult to foster interpersonal relationships with your peers. With the notable exception of Kyle Reese you are considered by most to be an intimidating, nearly unapproachable figure."

Cameron's voice took on a lighter, almost hesitant quality, "You often point out it's something we have in common."

"We talk a lot," John leaned back against the counter, drumming his fingers on the cool plastic of the counter tops, "In the future, I mean."

"Of course." She didn't feel the need to add that his choice to confide in her alone would cause a great deal of strain among the ranks, or detail the rumors that circulated about 'Connor's Love-bot'. This information would only serve to further upset him.

"So I have Kyle," John could only shake his head while considering the six shades of screwed up that relationship was. "Wait. You said in the future I had friends. Friends. That's plural."

Her 'are you dense?' look had returned full force, "Me John. I am your friend."

"Oh." He couldn't help but smirk as he tilted his head to one side, "Thank you for explaining."

Previous Night

Pueblo Colorado

February 14th, 2011

2230 hrs

"Enjoying yourself?" Derek had been standing next to John for more than ten minutes, only breaking the silence when he realized the younger man wasn't going to do it himself.

For his part, John just grunted slightly as he repositioned his shoulders against the wall in the pose Derek had dubbed 'Connor Broods 2.0', "Oh yeah. I mean, why wouldn't I be? Last Valentines Day before the apocalypse and I'm getting drunk with my uncle."

Derek smirked, tilting his beer at him, "That's the spirit."

Deciding that bemoaning his serious lack of a sex life wasn't going to improve his disposition, John snagged one of the pre-prepared tequilla shots from the table beside them and knocked it back with a quick exhale. Laughter from across the room caught his attention, a wry smile tugging the corners of John's mouth, "Charley's fitting in nicely."

Nodding from side to side, Derek frowned as he noticed a solitary figure at the kitchen table trying to read the paper as if in defiance of the party swirling around him, "FBI guy... not so much."

"Give him time Derek," John shrugged, "At least he showed up."

His uncle's reply was cut short when the distance between them was halved in a second by the sheer force of the massive hand coming to rest between his shoulder blades, "Connor!"

Mike 'Huey' Hendrix was the kind of guy that would follow you into hell just because it sounded like a 'kick-ass time'. The war had fostered more than a few adrenaline junkies, but if Derek was forced to choose their poster boy, it would be Lieutenant Hendrix. Tossing his empty into the trashcan and snatching a fresh one from the cooler in the same motion, Reese frowned at the man pointedly, "You're lucky John's metal isn't around Mikey, or your arm would be in too many pieces to count."

"Aw, come on Reese!" Hendrix's smile stretched from ear to ear, "Everybody knows I like my fightin' at altitude."

Derek had noticed almost immediately after the man's arrival that he tended to make his nephew uncomfortable. It's not that he wasn't a friendly guy, quite the contrary, it was that he'd known him. The General.

'Huey' had earned his nickname, and his current assignment in the past, through a decade of service as Connor's personal pilot. He'd told the story of their meeting too many times to count to anyone who would listen, and more than a few who swore they'd gnaw their own arms of if forced to sit through it one more time.

"Sorry," Mike shrugged, not the least bit sorry. "I gotta steal Connor. It's time."

Derek made sure to look as serious as possible while glancing at his nephew from the corner of his eye, "Are you sure L.T.? He's just a kid after all."

"Um... what?" John suddenly looked very interested in their conversation. Where is Cameron? She should definitely be present for any potential hazing rituals.

Slapping a hand on each of the young man's shoulders, Huey ushered him unceremoniously to the center of the living room.

Knowing his own roll in the little ceremony, Derek cranked down the stereo and got everyone's attention with a whistle loud enough to reach even the drunkest of their party guests.

The conversation in the room dropped to a persistent buzz as everyone all redirected their attention to the massive soldier with a hand on John's shoulder. "Now, most of you know the story of the first time I met John Connor..."

His introduction was met with a chorus of groans, two couch pillows and a plastic cup bouncing off his bulky frame in protest. At least the cup had been empty. "Anyways, like I was saying."

"Jenkins and I had just finished a supply run to one of our forward bases outside Bakersfield when we start gettin' the most interesting chatter coming over the party line." Mike's retelling was only spurred on by the rapt attention of the 'new meat'. Charley, who'd had more than a few beers himself, plopped down onto the couch in front of his former girlfriend's son, eager to get any insight into the man he was supposed to become. Even Ellison had set his paper aside and was looking on patiently as John blushed furiously at being once again the center of attention.

"Nothin' too special mind you - just some random assault on a Skynet research facility. I had a hell of a headache that day, and was just about to tune out the battle when the words every Resistance fighter lived to hear cut across clear as day," There was a reverence in the man's voice that always left John decidedly uncomfortable, "Connor is on the ground."

"Well it don't take a genius to know shit was gonna get interesting, we were at least an hour and a half from bingo fuel so I say to Jenkins, 'why don't we see how this plays out'?" Hendrix shrugged jovially, glancing to Charley for a little aside, "I wasn't as smart in those days brother."

"You ain't exactly Einstein now Huey!" Corporal Cole sidled up to John's right, a large rectangular box cradled in both hands and a slightly predatory look peeking out from under her raven locks, "Finish your story so we can get back to the debauchery."

"Alright. Alright! So we're skirtin' the perimeter all sneaky-like, A-10's rolling in and out of the area blasting every damn thing in sight when we hear this voice on the radio." Mike tossed one massive arm around his Commander's shoulders and gave him a shake that rattled his molars, "No one needed tellin' just who's voice that was. I'd been listening to Connor's Resistance broadcasts since a few months after J-Day, and that intense, raspy voice still managed to shake me to the core every time I heard it."

"Seems this cocky bastard had decided he was gonna tear ass after a Skynet prisoner trasport all by his lonesome," That elicted more than a few knowing chuckles from the crowd. Connor may have been known for his leadership in the future, but it was his almost reckless abandon when human lives were hanging in the balance that made him a legend. John Connor did not leave people behind. "We were just changing course to get in on the chase when all hell broke loose. Ground ripped open and seemed to spew out pure fire, blinding us both just before the shock waves knocked the chopper all over the damn place. I still don't know how the hell we stayed airborne, but thank God we did... cause Connor sure as hell didn't."

"We lost our shit." Mike was shaking his head at the memory, "Hadn't seen a mushroom cloud since J-Day. We figured, 'no way is anything walking away from that'."

His grin nearly split his face, "Shoulda known better. This was Connor we're talkin about."

Ellison quirked a brow as the room burst into cheers and whistles, even Derek was nodding along with the story now. It was all part of the myth - the legend that was his nephew.

"Son of a bitch barely had a scratch on him! Walkin' his happy ass away from a nuclear blast with slagged machines littering every inch of ground you could see." After a final hard shake, Hendrix released the obviously embarrassed teen, and not being quite as oblivious as most people believed, decided to cut through to the end for the kid's benefit. "Tough as nuclear nails. Ordered me - flat out overriding Command - to drop his ass into fifty-foot swells with no diving equipment! I knew then... this was the guy I wanted to work for. Have been ever since, sir."

John could only shrug slightly in thanks, deciding good humor was his best shield at this point. The liquor coursing through his veins the only reason he hadn't bolted from the room yet, "This has to do with my present how?"

"I was gettin' to that." Huey actually managed to look offended at being 'rushed', but it reverted into his trademark grin as he motioned to Corporal Cole and the box in her hands. "That was the day I met John Connor. Every time I look into your face, I see that man, but we all agreed that something... something was off."

For his part, John cast a questioning look to his uncle, whose grin took on that devious quality that frustrated him to the core. Before he had time to get too worked up though, Darla had removed the lid from the box, brushing aside the tissue paper covering the garment she pulled it from the box and shook it out from the shoulders with a flourish. "What Mikey is trying to say is that you look the part - but you can't be Connor, until you have this."

Now standing in front of him, Darla helped him slide into the forgiving warmth of the leather jacket, her fingers dancing deftly over the buckles and holsters, making adjustments as if it was something she'd done for him a million times before. "We weren't exactly sure how you got it the first time around, but if you stumble across one in the future at least now you'll have a backup."

A rare and completely genuine smile graced John's face as he ran an eye over the dark brown leather, musing out loud, "Future me has good taste."

"Very good taste." Corporal Cole agreed, unzipping the coat now that she'd adjusted it to his frame. "We just wanted to do something for you sir. After everything you've done... everything you're going to do," She sucked in an awkward breath, "Well, it's just not very often we get to return the favor."

Derek felt himself nodding along with the group unconsciously, mentally noting that Cole should probably be elected group spokesperson the next time they needed to deal with John. Mike was a great guy, in Derek's opinion he just needed a regular injection of 'get to the fucking point already'.

Reese also couldn't help but like Darla Cole. She was pushy, willful, and more than a little aware of the effect she had on men. That, coupled with her thick raven hair and smooth almond skin was enough to remind him almost painfully of Jesse.

But most of all, he liked Darla because she wasn't her. The walking, talking, pain-in-his-ass known as Cameron Phillips.

Since being recruited into their little strike team, Darla had let anyone dense enough to go sniffing in her direction know in no uncertain terms she was only interested in bunking with one man. Derek couldn't help but sigh. He loved his nephew, he really did. Hell, he'd given up the only dream he'd ever allowed himself to have - stopping Judgment Day - for him. He was preparing to live through that devastation all over again, this time as John's trusted lieutenant, Derek Baum.

Yes, he loved his nephew. That didn't change the fact the kid was nearly as socially deficient as Cameron.

It wasn't his fault, Derek recognized that. Being John Connor was a pretty lonely existence and he'd simply never lived a 'normal' life long enough to develop abilities the older man took for granted. Even though the world had ended when he was in high school, Derek had at least had a normal childhood. He'd played sports with his brother, he'd had friends and taken dates to school dances. John had missed out on all of that.

In a lot of ways the soldier had been hoping their new friends would help John in that regard. A group of people, all of whom knew his secret, who he could be himself around, should have done him a world of good. Unfortunately, as with everything else involving John, nothing was ever that simple.

How was someone supposed to connect with people who viewed him as the second coming of Christ? Derek supposed he had never taken that into account. His time in the past had almost made him forget the simple fact he was one of the few people who didn't consider John's every utterance gospel.

John seemed to mistakenly assume the woman's attentions were those of any devoted soldier, missing the forest for the trees as it were. Unfortunarely for his nephew, Derek was just drunk enough to feel like 'helping' the wayward young pup. After all, it was Valentines Day, and if Kyle couldn't be here to do it, it was Derek's responsibility to step up, right? Right. He nodded to himself before walking resolutely over to his new charge, now standing alone at the table pouring himself another drink - a pretty stiff one too - Derek noted with a smirk.

"Ask her to dance kid."

John's brow hitched three inches as he turned to face his uncle, "Excuse me?"

"Wow," Derek smirked, "Deaf and stupid. I said - Ask. Her. To. Dance."

"Ummm...," John frowned, "No one else is dancing Derek. In fact, no one has danced all night."

Reese's eyeroll could have been picked up from space, "For once in your life John, just shut the hell up and do what you're told."

Giving the young man a last shove in the right direction with an expectant look on his face, Derek just sat back to watch the fireworks.

There was only one reason you asked a Resistance fighter to dance. But that was a lesson John would just have to learn for himself.


Author's Note - I generally do more action oriented fiction, which this will become as the story develops (particularly post J-Day). However, the psyche of someone like John Connor is just too fertile a playground to ignore.

One reason I hadn't written this before is because I was very weary of trying a John/Cameron pairing, as it's difficult to do well and is often very... cheesy. I can only hope to avoid those pitfalls as we progress and hope you as the reader will be kind enough to point it out if I drift into dangerous waters.

Let me know what you think. Who knows, a few reviews might actually spur me to update more quickly.