Title: Becoming John Connor Chapter: 35/?
Author: Dekardkain
Date: 09/13/15
Rating: T
Category: Action/character study, Drama J/C
Warnings: Language/Violence
Archiving: Would be an honor, just ask.
Disclaimer: I don't own this, no money, yada yada.

Author's note: It's been two years, an interesting two years to say the least. The story never left my mind, but time and circumstance just wouldn't let me work on it. Well, circumstances have changed again, and a new job now allows me a lot more time to get back to what I enjoy. To those of you who have hung onto the slimmest of hopes I would finish this, I hope this vindicates your decision. Lets get back to work, and remember, your reviews feed the creative monster.

Chapter 35 - "With Such People In It"

April 25th, 2011 0700 hrs Cheyenne Mountain

The weight was pleasant, despite the fact Darla Cole was still learning to become accustomed to it's presence. A rather alien sense of contentment seemed to be taking up residence despite her best efforts as she warred with the small smile she'd found lodged in place upon waking a minute before.

Three weeks.

Three weeks since the world had ended, since Skynet had fired the first salvo in a conflict she was now being forced to endure for a second time. Three weeks since John's injuries had confined the young soldier to bed rest and forced her to confront the unwelcome task of preparing and organizing this dispirate and uncooperative group into something even remotely resembling a cohesive fighting force. Three weeks of meetings, paperwork, meetings, personnel evaluations, meetings, screaming matches, and worst of all, meetings.

In short, three weeks of living hell for an Operater at the top of her game who wanted nothing more than for an enemy to be presented in front of her that needed to be removed and she was... happy?

Rolling her eyes in yet another an unsuccessful attempt to drag the smirk from her face, Cole slapped the forearm draped over her waist before rolling out of bed and grabbing her tank-top from it's position on the small desk beside it.

Almost on cue the covers rustled and a groan echoed through the small, but under the circumstances priceless, space of her bunkmate's private quarters in the officer's wing, "Unnnnnngghhh, we just went to bed!"

"It wasn't my idea to stay up all night filling out evaluations," Cole shimmied into her fatigues while earning a renewed groan by flipping on the desk lamp to aid the search for her shirt, "If you'll remember I was perfectly willing to say fuck it."

As if summoned by her thoughts her OD green undershirt magically appeared from the mists in Derek's hand as he tried desperately to block out the sixty watt menace burning through still stubbornly closed eyelids. "You've been saying 'fuck it' all week, Cole! John's laid up but he's not dead and there were definite threats in those last few e-mails."

The eye-roll returned as Darla snagged the shirt from grasping fingertips and tried to stretch the wrinkles out of it while pulling it over her head, "It was my job, numbnuts."

"Yeah, well..." Realizing the struggle was lost, Reese finally kicked his legs over the side of the bed and used a hand on each of the woman's hips to pull her back towards him, "I happen to appreciate that ass remaining at it's current residence for the time being."

Sweeping the hands away with a reflexive forearm, though a lot less angrily than would have been the case even a few weeks before, Darla stepped out of reach and grabbed her boots, "Between Sarah and I we've already made it through most of the people John had tagged for useful skills. The base staff are taking care of the maintenence work, the mess has a full crew now, Dooley and Coons have the Rangers converting the sections of the entrance tunnel not crammed with supplies into an armory slash motor pool."

Realizing a morning workout wasn't in the cards Derek leaned forward and switched off his alarm, wondering for the millionth time just how in the hell the woman always managed to wake up EXACTLY five minutes beofre it was set to go off, "You know that's not what's bot..."

"No!" Pulling her hair into a quick ponytail, Darla spun on her heel, buttoning up her uniform jacket and speaking around the unlit cigar she'd be enjoying over her coffee where it rested between her teeth, "We've IDed the most physically able of the civilians and Sarah is doing her best to get them trained up, the ration system is in place and working DESPITE the bitching of pretty much everyone in the facility. I've got Austin down in the Dungeon with Wilson setting up the R&D facilities and next week they'll be training new techs. Fuck, I've even got the damn daycare rolling!"

"I know." Scratching the back of his neck, Derek sighed, "And that's what I'm trying to tell you. John is proud, you did a great job, so stop worrying about him coming back! Hell, you should be thrilled! No more dealing with the rep from the Civilian Council..."

"Ugh!" Tossing her hands up both at the mention of that infuriating man as well as frustration at being completely unable to locate the files she needed for her morning briefing in the aftermath of whatever planet-ending catastrophy had apparently occurred on Reese's desk, "I still can't believe Johnny allowed that bullshit!"

"He thought that allowing them to manage at least some of their own affairs might limit resentment." Derek rolled his eyes and grabbed the folder sitting on the bedside table, flicking it loudly for effect, "Not that it's working, but that was the idea anyways."

Darla was proud of herself for maintaining the calm required to only slap him upside his smirking head while yanking the folder out of his hands, "And letting that shrink, Doherty open up shop? Forcing everyone to go through those bullshit interviews?"

"I'd remind you he ignored that sixty-seven page brief on The Importance of Maintaining Mental and Emotional Health and Stability During Times of Crisis the first three times she submitted it." Derek pointed out, "In fact, I'm pretty sure he only gave in out of guilt."

Cole snorted, "Guilt?"

"Yeah," His first meeting not starting for two more hours, Reese spread out as much as the narrow matress allowed and threaded his fingers behind his head, "He felt bad enough about leaving you holding the bag without having to deal with the good Doc beating down your door twice a day. Besides, except for making you talk about your feelings, what's the harm?"

Darla adopted her best 'are you fucking serious?' look before responding, "She's not treating these as counciling sessions, Reese, she's treating them like fucking evaluations! How do you think we're looking at the moment, huh? Dooley? Sarah? Fucking Mouth?"

"So she puts on her serious doctor face and tells John he needs to invest in special coats and rubber rooms." Derek smirked, "I believe he is already aware."

"What about him, Derek?" Pausing to gather her files and slip her pistol into the back of her pants, Darla looked genuinely shaken up, "What about when she talks to him? How do you think he's gonna hold up in front of someone who actually knows what she's doing? And trust me, I've gone through mine... she does."

Derek's eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly, "You saying you think he's crazy?"

"Crazy? Crazy is a broad term." The Operator frowned, "I've had her training, Reese. Not as deep, but it's what I did. Read people. See what they don't want me to, what they hind underneath... and I was good at it."

"Answer my question, Darla." Derek's voice had lowered until it was nearly inaudible, as if afraid they were being recorded, "Outside Lorne and his wife, you're the only one who's spent time with him in person since he was wounded... what do you think?"

"Crazy? No." Cole responded with just enough pissed-off vehemance to assure him it was the truth, "But crazy isn't all there is to it. Depression? Anxiety? PTSD the likes of which only someone whose first dodged assassination occurred before he was even born could manage to develop? Yeah, Derek, not a lot we can do to hide that, is there?"

"No," The older man was forced to admit with a frown, "But it's not like it was before, Darla. This time it's not your responsibility to fix him. To keep him together."

Cole nodded, though she couldn't quite fight back a tired sigh, "I get that, I do. More darkness is the last thing he needs... and he's already a lot better off than the General ever was. But some of this shit is unavoidable just because he's him. That Secret Service agent? He would have beaten him to death if Cameron hadn't stopped him. Jesus, Derek... a fucking terminator saved a human from Connor."

"He's burned out, Cole." Reese just shrugged, not nearly as bothered by the new and more decisive version of his nephew as Darla was, "Son of a bitch tried to kill him, he snapped. Kid was barely standing, stoned out of his mind just to stand upright."

"I know, I know." Darla rolled her eyes, leaning against the wall beside the door, "That's part of the point, though. Charley says he's at least six months of work from being anywhere near normal, that moving around is doing more damage, but he won't stop."

Dererk rubbed his eyes, having had this conversation half a dozen times already, "That's why he's bringing in that chick..."

"Airman Phillips?" Cole snorted, "That's a good omen right there, don't you think? She was still a semester short of a sports medicine degree, let alone any actual practice with pat..."

"Cole," Derek rolled out of bed and tried to ignore the freezing cold of the concrete floor beneath bare feet as he made his way over to the soldier, resting his arms on her shoulders as she glared in response, "He'll be fine, okay? I promise."

"He's popping pills like Pez and I'm pretty sure Austin is sneaking him booze while he's la...


"Half the people in this base think he's some kind of..."

"Still fine."

"Cameron is turning into the stable one and Lor..."

"So fine you could see it from space."

Cole glowered, mostly to try and hide the smirk threatening to break through, "You're a douche, Reese."

"And you're a good friend." Derek gave her shoulder a squeeze and actually braved a kiss to the forehead before hopping his way back over to the bed on feet so cold they were nearly numb, "Even Cameron seems to get that, now. She's been calm and relaxed even when you come visit, right?"

The glower became a lot more genuine, "Yeah, sure that has absolutely nothing to do with breaking my nose."

"Could have contributed," Derek shrugged.

"And sitting there for an hour while I tatooed her name over John's heart." Cole sighed, "I thought that superior little smirk was never going to leave her face. Winning is one thing, but rubbing it in is just plain..."

"Human? I know, it's freaky." He actually laughed out loud at that, "What does it say about me that I actually think I liked her more before?"

"That you have a brain." Darla cracked the door and stuck her head out to make sure the hall was clear, just as she did every morning before leaving the room, much to Derek's amusement. The very idea of people realizing Darla Cole was an actual human being with physical needs and wants was downright terrifying to the woman. "I've got work."

"Don't let me keep you." He wasn't going to do it. He wasn't going to ask and his smirk told her everything she needed to know. It was Cole's turn.

Rolling her eyes, hand clenching on the door in nearly identical fashion as her teeth, it took her almost ten seconds seconds and three starts and stops before she finally settled for a simple and concise, "So... tonight?"

Derek's grin was easily described as shit-eating, "Sounds great to me, maybe bring some..."

The door slammed on a still smirking Derek Reese, "Now that wasn't so bad, was it?"

April 25th
0830 hrs
Cheyenne Mountain

"Unnnnngggghhhhhhh... fuck me." Too disoriented and uncomfortable to do much else, John Connor bit his lip in preperation of the joy that had become his morning ritual for the last three weeks, counting to ten and inhaling deeply before leveraging himself onto his side and lashing out at the alarm screaming at him from the bedside table.

At least this morning he managed to actually deactivate the glowing menace on the first angry swipe and thus save himself from the borderline agony of bending over to retreive it from the floor, which he'd learned from experience was a five minute ordeal he wouldn't wish on Skynet. Shaking hands pushed downwards as the breath he'd been holding rushed harshly through gritted teeth, rising from the mattress with the sort of determination normally reserved for the last leg of a triathalon.

As his legs dropped over the side of the mattress and he fumbled into a sitting position, he registered a now-familiar unhappy noise from his wife's side of the bed as her limp arm slid from his flank and flopped onto the comforter beside him. Rubbing a still unsteady hand over a stubbled cheek, John fumbled in the darkness until his other made contact with the fuzzy softness of Rachel's gift.

Carefully lifting Cameron's arm before the cyborg began searching for him in her sleep, he couldn't help but smile indulgently while slipping the stuffed bear into it's now customary place beside her. Nostrils flared momentarily, her features returning almost immeadiately to the serene placidity he'd come to assosciate with his wife's slumber as his scent washed over her.

It had taken a bit of trial and error on his part, and more than a little assistance from Cameron's tireless best friend to figure out what parents had known instictively for hundreds of years. Granted, it wasn't the bear's value as an imaginary companion or a security blanket that aided in his wife's sleep, but it's fuzzy hide seemed more effective at retainining his scent than a pillowcase or t-shirt that required regular washing. Though to be honest, John still cringed a bit when he remembered Rachel's pout when reluctantly handing over Major Snuggles for his new duties.

As Cameron settled back into slumber, John ignored the protests of his mending back long enough to drop a kiss on her cheek, silently grateful for the progress she'd made over the last few weeks. Despite her still unstable emotional state, his injuries had practically forced her to at least attempt to overcome her nearly crippling social anxiety.

Torn muscles, herniated discs, and the still healing battle damage he'd accrued over the months leading up to Judgment Day had rendered John unable to accomplish much over the past three weeks that wasn't easily done from the comfort of his bed, and while Rachel had attempted to assist as much as her duties allowed, Cameron had been forced to pick up a lot of the slack. The look on his wife's face the first few times she'd returned from the mess with a meal had broken his heart, still panicked from being forced to wade through the veritable sea of unknown humans ebbing and flowing through the halls at all hours of the day and night.

Even with staggered shifts and practically engineering dual classes of day and night dwellers based on the not-inconsiderable problem of overpopulation, it was difficult to avoid bouncing off of bustling bodies virtually anywhere besides restricted areas and the officer's wing - that only owing itself to their location at the end of a long coridoor.

Still she'd persisted, forging through dozens of strangers while anxiety she'd never experienced before the true awakening of her emotions played havock on systems that had never been designed for them. Cameron had tried to explain the sensation to him over dinner one night during their first week in the base, the way her threat detection flashed insistantly at the slightest jostling, the dual urge to flee for safety or lash out in self-preservation pushing her still fledgling self control nearly to the breaking point.

She'd looked to him for answers, for guidance, and John had done his best to help her through it. If he was capable of sympathizing with anything, it was the paranoia of seeing potential threats in everyone and everything that surrounded you.

Thanks Mom.

At least his wife finally seemed to have accepted the necessity of sleep in the new dynamic of her emotional development and as long as she indulged regularly, it appeared to be helping her along considerably.

Thus the bear.

Ignoring the absurdity of the action he patted the guy on the head in thanks and finally leveraged himself off the mattress, relieved beyond belief that on this of all days he would be keeping watch until Cameron's chip decided she was sufficiently 'rested'.

To say she was unhappy with his decision to return to duty would have been considered an... understatment, even by the most optimistic observer. Unlike many of their arguments about his health and safety over the years at least this time John was forced to conceed her points. His back was a mess, only allowing him to remain upright and mobile for extended periods of time if he indulged it in a rather excessive cocktail of painkillers and muscle relaxors. His knee had been improving until his 'accident', but three weeks without the ability to work on it had rendered it stiff and uncooperative.

Snaking his pants with his toes and shimmying them up his legs in a system he'd perfected to limit bending to a minimum, Connor threaded a belt through the loops of the ABU pants he'd procured after his ABDUs had been bloodstained beyond recovery during the assault. Grabbing an undershirt and his uniform jacket he shambled into their tiny bathroom, one of the few private units in the entire facility, with the gait of a man twice his age and flipped on the light.

Glancing at the face in the mirror John let slip a tired sigh, trying to figure out exactly how he was going to play this. He'd been holed up in this room for three long weeks, issuing important orders by internal network email to Derek, Cole, and Sarah, but otherwise his wife had been his face to the rest of the teeming mass of humanity holed up in the mountain.

The last time these people had seen him he'd lost his shit, nearly beating a man to death in some form of PTSD-inspired freakout he quite frankly didn't even remember that clearly. Not that he needed the files upstairs to prove it though, the scabs on his knuckles were just now starting to fade.

Taking a deep breath, John Connor attempted the nearly insurmountable task of trying to put himself in their frame of mind. He tried to wind back the clock, to forget the decisions he'd been forced to make, the sacrifices, the death, the scars both physical and mental. Looking up and locking eyes with the man in the mirror, he tried to see himself through their eyes, and immediately frowned at what he saw.

Tossing the uniform jacket to the side, he slowly and carefully pulled the black t-shirt down over his head, leaving his tags tucked underneath. Splashing water over the now mostly white scars on his face he scruffed his now two-weeks past regulation hair until it stood at semi attention and attempted a smile that seemed alien on him. Clearing his throat, John fought the frustration building inside long enough blow a sharp breath between the tight line of his lips and snagged the bottles beside the sink with a frown.

Beyond even bothering to count them anymore, he dumped an equal amount of the painkillers and muscle relaxors that were keeping him functional into his hand and tossed them back, ignoring the bitter taste as he chewed a few to speed the much-needed effect before swallowing and shoving the bottles into a cargo pocket. Then another breath, another shake of his head, and another smile into the mirror.

Shrugging in acceptance of his best attempt so far at expressing 'genuine' human emotion, he ran an eye over himself one last time. Scruffy hair, plain black t-shirt untucked over his ABU pants, resting also untucked over a pair of black Vans - there was no way in hell he was leaning over to lace boots - the only concession made to military necessity was the USP nestled into the holster strapped to his thigh.

Rachel told him he often didn't realize just how much his wife had rubbed off on him over the years - the slight tilt of his head when curious or confused, the deadpan humor, his sometimes... 'blunt' responses. Maybe this was just one more example of that phenomenon, the ability to infiltrate, to blend. From the 'careless' hair, to the casual clothing, to his unshaven face, everything about his look was carefully crafted to scream loud and clear to all who approached, "I swear I'm not a psychotic military dictator!"

Or... at least he hoped it did.

Turning off the bathroom light, a much more genuine smile graced his face as the first of his meds began flooding his system, strained and angry muscles relaxing and pulling back from spinal protrusions that just didn't belong there. Running a few fingers along the curve of Cameron's jaw as he passed, he grabbed his laptop on the way through the door, "Love you, Sweetheart... have a good sleep."

Shaking his head at how novel that phrase still sounded when passing his lips, John let the door close softly behind him and set off for his office moving as smoothly as his current state allowed. It was one thing to try and appear human to those around him, to convince them he wasn't a threat, that he was here to protect them and guide them. Weakness was another thing altogether, especially when his command was new, when so many of these people owed him no loyalty whatsoever.

"It liiiiiiiiiiivvvvvvvvvvveeeeesssss!"

Jerking only slightly as the never exactly soft-spoken Rachel Lorne practically slammed her door as he passed, John rolled his eyes, "Morning to you too, Sergeant."

"Still sounds soooo much better when other people say it!" Beaming in a way that told him the always-slightly-homicidal-before-coffee young woman falling into step beside him had already managed to down her first cup of the day, Lorne bounced her shoulder off his, "SERGEANT Lorne. Has a ring, doesn't it? Like shorthand for, 'hey, how awesome is this chick?! Amiright'?"

"Yeah," Only focusing on keeping himself walking steadily prevented the eye-roll John felt coming on like the Apocolypse, "That's definitely why I promoted you, so there would be absolutely no doubt just about how epic you are."

"Called it!" Grooving to a beat only she seemed able to hear, Rachel ignored the steadily filling hallway as they rounded the corner and left the Officer's wing proper, walking backwards as she spoke, "So, how is the fearless leader this morning?"

Finally giving in to his eye-roll, John guided his wife's best friend around an impact or two as she continued to backpedal, "Living the dream, Rae, every day."

"And the Mrs.?"

"Still passed out." Unable to contain his smile, he gave up the ghost and spun Rachel around before she killed herself. "Major Snuggles is serving with distinction."

"Fucking shift change..." Ducking sideways between a small throng of Airmen on their way from a shift in the Command Center, Rachel popped back around with a grin, "You know, as long as we've been friends, I'm still not sure she picks up on my humor all the time."

Unable figure out why Rachel was having such difficulty navigating the halls, it genuinely didn't occur to Connor that the combination of his first impression and the perpetual Sarah Connor look of irritation he seemed to be sporting these days did the work of moving people out of the way for him, "What makes you say that?"

"Last night I asked her how the bear was working out for her," Chuckling to herself Rachel ducked under his arm as he held open the door to the mess, her smile only spreading when she realized they'd snuck in right after the breakfast rush, "She tells me he's 'so effective I'm considering promoting him to Colonel'."

"She didn't..."

"So did!" Grabbing a tray from the pile, Lorne both ignored the fact her best friend's husband was starting to move more stiffly as well as the fact he wasn't grabbing a tray of his own, knowing his medication was doing a number on his appetite, "I froze for like five minutes, confused the hell out of her. I'm sorry! I honestly couldn't figure out if she was deadpanning a joke or if she genuinely didn't get the pun!"

Snagging a cup of coffee as Lorne motioned for the more toast, Connor quirked a brow in obvious question.

"Yeah..." Rachel grinned in thanks while sliding down the line, "Turned out she didn't get the pun, took care of it, 'thank you for explaining' - ya know, par for the course. Just don't be surprised if she insists on a promotion ceremony at some point, Boss."

"Yeah, I'll get right on that." John blew on his coffee as he walked, "Damn bear already outranks me and sleeps with my wife... I'm developing a complex."

"Awwwww, you're still primary default snuggle partner!" Waggling her eyebrows back and forth, Rachel's grin only spread when she caught sight of the man behind the counter, "Sergei! Thanks for the extra breadsticks last night!"

Swiping his hands on the towel tucked through his belt, the grey-haired man nodded along with a sheepish smile, "For my favorite customers, this is nothing! I will hear no more about it."

Glancing down the line, the former contractor quirked a salt and pepper brow, "Speaking of this, where is Mrs. Connor this morning?"

Lorne's grin was indulgent as she grabbed her silverware. Sergei was nearly sixty, and wouldn't really have been her type in his prime, but the woman found the unique mixture of his charm and accent to be beyond endearing. The way he'd looked after Cameron since finding her milling around aimlessly during her first visit had just sealed the deal for Rachel, who knew how difficult it was for the cyborg to make friends with humans who weren't John.

There was no denying the old Russian had a soft spot for the boss's wife, based largely on the fact she apparently reminded him of one of his daughters. Bond they had though, mostly over his indulgence of Cameron's infamous sweet-tooth. At that thought, Lorne made a mental note to have a talk with her best friend about that. If she was looking to blend in, maintaining an intake of everything sweet or chocolaty she could get her hands on and little else wasn't helping - especially when her figure of course remained perpetually unchanged.

Taking a moment to indulge her own addiction, Rachel handed her thermos across the counter and chewed on a piece of 'bacon' as she spoke, "Mr. Connor finally decided to get off his crippled ass and do some work, so she's sleeping in today."

Eyes widening momentarily as they followed Lorne's thumb to the side, Sergei took in the sight of the young man before him. He'd known the skiddish and introverted girl was married to Captain Connor, but as one of the civilian contractors brought in to work on the new networking systems - something he only now knew had been an effort to integrate Skynet into the base's systems - he hadn't been present in the Mess during the short-lived and violently resolved hostage crisis and thus had never seen the man in person.

Rumors had run rampant over the last few weeks, and after his culinary past had landed him an assignment from Darla Cole heading up the Mess Hall, he of course had been exposed to nearly all of them as those in line passed stories back and forth.

What he'd been able to gleen for sure was that John Connor was nineteen years old, leader of this 'Resistance' Cell and by default they base they now occupied. Stories of his exploits on the other hand had seemed rather hard to digest given the man's age and the surprisingly tight-lipped response most of his inner-circle personnel seemed to adopt when asked questions about him - leading the older man to assume that bullshit was doing what it did best and filling the vacuum.

Raised from birth to fight the machines like some sort of Neo-Spartan? Prophecy and some sort of mystical ability to defeat an enemy that hadn't even existed a month ago? Some even claimed he was part machine himself, the scars dotting his body and clearly visible where his arms, face, and neck extended beyond the confines of his plain black t-shirt marking where cybernetic implants had been added to improve the man or replace battle-damaged 'components'.

These did not jive with the reality Sergei had lived in his entire life, and even less so once he'd met the man's wife. Of course he'd heard the stories of Connor's daring rescue mission, of how he'd beaten Senator Hargrave's security detail nearly to death with his bare hands as dozens of onlookers screamed in horror - only to be stopped by a single softly-spoken word from the diminuitive girl he'd come to care for over the past few weeks.

That jived.

The scarred and determined face sitting across the glass from him now made perfect sense, even before he'd even spoken his first word to the soldier the dynamic was clear. The reason the awkward and withdrawn young woman was drawn to him, took care of him, and supported him.

Whenever he'd inquired as to her husband's state, Cameron had spoken of the man with such unadulterated love and devotion it had swollen the Russian's heart to hear it. The vehemence in her voice, her choice of words - 'protect' being the most often repeated. His smile to the waif of a girl had always been indulgenct, a lifetime of being surrounded by the military forces of many nations making the idea she was 'protecting' a man as feared as her husband quaint and rather adorable.

Now, he labored no longer under such delusions and the rumors about John Connor made far more sense. Though his physical form was that of a nineteen year old young man, that was simply the vessel that transported something far different. The eyes, the set of the shoulders, the carefully constructed outward appearance that while clearly designed to tell the world how little he cared it managed to prove the exact opposite.

It now made sense to him why people spread rumors of him being at least part machine - when not directly engaged in conversation his gaze was nearly as mechanical and searching as Wilson's whom, if he'd understood the explanation correctly, posessed no human emotion whatsoever as a cyborg. John Connor didn't seem to so much look at you as he did assess you, categorize you, then file you away for future reference.

No wonder that girl saw what she did as protecting him. It was clear to the man instantly that Cameron Connor was his humanity, his safe place. The way she described their interactions, it made sense that the human part of himself he kept locked within would need a guard - a steward to tend and maintain it. To make sure it didn't atrophy from lack of use, or become forgotten in the war ahead. If this man was indeed to lead them in the war ahead, then Cameron Connor may very well have the most important job on this base.

Snapping back from his appraisal of the soldier, Sergei's smile was genuine as he reached beneath the counter and retreived a pair of the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies he kept stashed away for the base's children, "It is a pleasure to meet you, Captain. Make sure your wife gets one of these, I have found they help her mood considerably."

"You're not kidding." Quirking a brow, John nevertheless accepted the offering, admittedly surprised it seemed Cameron had made a new friend. Not that he wasn't pleased, it just didn't exactly happen every day, "Ummm... Sergei, right?"

"Yes," Sporting a surprised look of his own, the man nodded, "You know of me?"

"You're one of the techs from the retrofit crew," Taking a pull from his coffee, John tried to make the motion of leaning againts the counter appear casual rather than completely necessary in that moment, "Culinary school in France or something, right?"

"Aha! I should have realized this!" Shaking his head in amusement, Sergei continued, "You are after all base Commander. My security file. I assume I have you to thank for this posting?"

John rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, "Sorry, Sergei... believe it or not on a base full of Air Force personnel and my men, Tech skills are a lot easier to come by than someone who can make this freeze-dried crap resemble something edible."

"Oh, no no! You misunderstand, Captain!" Sergei shook his head vigorously, "I chose my words carefully and meant them literally. I wish to thank you for this! My first passion and it gives me a regular opportunity for my second."

Noticing a few soldiers and their families drifting in after their night-shift had ended, John realized with a pang he would have to start moving again soon, "Your second?"

"What do you say in English... um, people sighting?" Sergei smiled broadly.

"People watching," Lorne provided helpfully, "And he's good at it, Boss. This guy sees more than Lieutenant Baum on party night. Has some awesome stories too!"

"I but try to entertain the way a good Russian host should," Sergei's mouth screwed up a bit in disgust, "Despite a distressing lack of vodka."

Stifling a laugh, John was proud when only the slightest groan escaped as he pushed back from the counter, "That might actually be something my guys could help you with. I'll uh, 'encourage' Specialist Austin to make sure a case or two of his side-project make their way down here on the regular."

"You would do this, Captain?"

"Of course. Just make sure not to run out of these," John held the cookie up over the counter as he wandered towards the door and finished over his shoulder, "Before Cameron shows up. She gets... cranky."

Breaking away from his side and making her way towards a table, Rachel snorted, "You're not kidding, Boss. Can you imagine if we could harness that shit against Skynet?"

"I wouldn't give it a week, Lorne." Shouldering the door open, John was grinning as he waved, "Not a fucking week."

April 25th, 2011
0948 hrs
Cheyenne Mountain

Balancing his coffee as he leveraged open the door to his new office, John slapped at the wall six times before actually making contact with the switch and flooding the space with bright and oppressive halogen light.

"Not bad." Bobbing his head side-to-side, it appeared that Cole hadn't wrecked it too badly, despite her surprisingly unkempt lifestyle. A few emptied MRE packages on the desk, one on a couch in the corner that looked like it had been there since the Kennedy administration, and an ashtray in desperate need of being emptied, but otherwise the damage was minimal.

Gathering up the trash and dumping it into the basket beneath the desk, John fired up the computer and lowered himself slowly and carefully into the high-backed desk chair with a smile.

He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting, but glancing around the office this moment seemed oddly anti-climactic. The war was on, the final one if he had anything to say about it, the stage was set and Kirk was on the bridge. But dropping into his seat, it just didn't feel that earth-shattering.

Shrugging off the disappointment, he began digging through the drawers to try and find the binder Cole assured him had the meeting schedule in it. It shouldn't have surprised him that much, Darla Cole wasn't exactly a fan of computers and if he hadn't had Austin and his new protegee set up the inter-base email system he'd demanded she likely never would have fired it up.

Most of the desk was empty, with the exception of some basic office supplies, a few technical manuals and a legal pad with sketches that seemed oddly out of place considering the Operator had been the only person to use this office since the takeover. Flipping through a few pages his eyebrows only quirked higher, most were quick outlines of profiles, random people through the base going about their daily routines, cleaning weapons, carrying supplies, one of an airman carrying his daughter on his shoulders through the hall, bringing a smile to Connor's face, "Darla Cole... softy?"

Chuckling to himself, he idly wondered if she'd left it there on purpose, then realized that was a stupid thought as she never did anything accidently. He'd known she had artistic ability, the tatoos she'd done for him and a few others in the squad proved that, but this? It was subtle, understated, but she'd managed to capture each scene perfectly, expressing exactly what she'd been feeling when she observed them.

He flipped through a few more of the sheets, wondering idly how many people had sat on the other side of that desk from her assuming she was taking notes while she'd completed these. Cole did tend to bore easily. Then he froze at the most detailed, and last, of the portraits, covering his mouth with his free hand to stifle a laugh as the message she'd been trying to convey by leaving this pad became crystal clear.

John remembered that moment exactly, a week before when they'd been going over the staff interviews in his room, Cameron becoming increasingly cranky as the night wore on and unable to ask her to leave because that would have forced her to admit to Cole that she needed to sleep - something she didn't even want those she trusted completely to be aware of. A weakness bordering on a defect in the logic-driven machine's chip.

She'd been fighting sleep, curled into his side, playing with his wedding ring where his hand rested on her hip at the end of an arm that had long-ago gone numb where it rested over her shoulders. At the time, Darla had seemed vaguely annoyed when his attention would drift to his wife, speaking just a little more loudly to draw him back to the work at hand.

But here it was, before his very eyes, that moment in time displayed with every emotion present and magnified. Cameron's fingers were dancing over his ring, looking up from under her bangs with that small half-smile as she watched him gnaw his lip in thought and input changes into his laptop with his free hand. Even three hours into a job that he would have delegated gladly if it were possible and an hour after he should have taken his meds, and he looked content beyond words.

Darla Cole wasn't the type of woman to express emotion, even to John, her best and nearly only friend. This was likely the closest thing to acceptance he would get from the Operator, the message in that 'misplaced' picture as clear as if she'd spoken the words herself: I don't really like it, it makes me uncomfortable, but I see it. I understand.

Smirking, John placed the legal pad back into the drawer as carefully as he could and slid it closed. What he found in the bottom drawer was definitely more Cole's speed though - a bottle of whiskey with a post-it-note on the top reading 'Have a great first day, Johnny. But if you don't...'.

Chuckling to himself, John pulled the bottle out and immediately popped the top, pouring a few fingers into his coffee before returning it. Leaning back in his chair, he took a long pull from the cup, Darla's little message reminding him of Cameron's office warming gift. Reaching into his cargo pocket, John snagged the framed photo from their honeymoon, the setting sun in the background on the beach, highlighting the couple as they kissed. Setting it down beside his monitor, he activated the Ipod he'd loaned Cole in an effort to keep her sanity in one piece where it rested in the dock.

Pulling up his work playlist, he cranked the volume and took another long drag from his coffee as Enter Sandman bounced off the walls and he brought up his E-mail, eyes narrowing slightly when nearly sixty messages filled the screen, almost half marked 'urgent'.

"Might need another bottle." Head bobbing to the beat, he set to work with the sort of grim determination he usually reserved for the battlefield, letting the music surround him, figuring this was still better than the meetings he knew were scheduled to begin at noon.

The music, the haze from the meds and booze, and the fact that those meetings were still supposed to be hours away combined to prevent him from noticing the mousey looking woman across the desk from him until she'd turned off the the Ipod and brought ACDC to a screeching halt. "Mr. Connor!"

Frowning as he turned away from the monitor, John leaned back in his chair, the clock assuring him it was still ten hundred hours. The woman on the other side could have been anywhere from early twenties to early fourties, with the kind of face that would likely get her carded for alcohol until menopause. Still apearing rather flustered from what was probably a few minutes of trying to get his attention before finally snapping and killing the music, she pushed her thick-rimmed glasses up her nose and folded her arms, bringing the files she was carrying up to her chest.

"I'm sorry...," John quirked a brow, eyeing the security badge on the woman's chest, "Doctor. I didn't realize we had an apointment this morning."

"Doherty." Adjusting her glasses again, she smiled and extended a hand, only pulling it back when John snagged Cole's binder and flipped through it, "Rebecca Doherty. Um... and I don't have an appointment."

"The shrink?" At the narrowing of the woman's eyes, John ammended himself, "The therapist?"

"Yes, Captain." Taking a seat across from the young man, she set her files down onto the edge of his desk, "You asked me to screen for any potential problems and I've been running group three days a week for those who have been having difficulties with our new... circumstances."

John nodded impatiently, "Yeah, I remember that. If you're done with your interviews then I'll be more than happy to go over them with you, but you need to contact Major Cole and make an appointment."

"Oh? Oh! Yes, of course, and I will. But that isn't why I'm here, Mr. Connor." Doherty steepled her hands in front of herself, "I've made great progress, and with a few exceptions I'm nearly ready to bring my recomendations to you."

"That's great," Connor took a pull from his coffee with a shrug, "But if you're not ready to report then why are you here? Again, without an appointment."

"Ah, because I've learned that when dealing with members of your, shall we call it an inner circle? Seems fitting," She chuckled, "When dealing with your soldiers it's far easier to simply arrive, as it makes it more difficult for them to invent a reason to avoid the appointment."

"I told them to cooperate," He smirked, "That doesn't mean they're going to make it easy on you."

"I was simply explaining," Rebecca pulled a digital camcorder our from her case, setting it atop the desk and earning another quirked eyebrow from John, "I didn't mean to forego protocol, I simply wanted to make sure you could squeeze me in. You don't have a meeting for nearly two hours when Lieutenant Baum convenes the daily command council briefing. I assure you that will give us plenty of time."

Looking at the camera like it was about to reach out and bite him, Connor looked dubious, "Plenty of time for what... exactly?"

"I said I was nearly done with my evaluations, and I am." Rebecca popped the screen on the camera out to the side and adjusted it with a smile, "But I still have a few left to go. Now that you're back on your feet I figured it would be the perfect time to squeeze yours in."

Clearing his throat, John reclined in his chair, frowning pointedly as the woman began to open her files, trying for the life of him to figure out a valid reason for blowing her off that sounded even halfway reasonable.

Before his mind kicked in though, she was already settling into place and activating the camcorder, "Personnel evaluation, subject John Connor, ten hundred hours base time , Doctor Rebecca Doherty administering."

Catching the unhappy look flashing across the face of the soldier opposite her, Rebecca put on her most indulgent smile, "Relax, Mr. Connor. I promise, this will be painless."


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