TITLE: Tipping Point
SERIES: And So It Went
FANDOM: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
RATING: Adult for language
SPOILERS: Anything through 1:7 "The Demon Hand" is game.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Don't know who does.
CHARACTERS: Sarah Connor/Derek Reese, John Connor
SUMMARY:  After eleven weeks of living and breathing the Connor family dynamics, he knew Sarah and John didn’t usually fight.
..

***
The door slammed so hard behind John the entire house seemed to reverberate with the force of it. Sarah stood there, staring at it, her features still set in grim lines. Derek watched as little by little the anger gave way to fear and sorrow. She crumpled slowly, backing up until she hit the wall and then sliding down it to huddle on the floor, her eyes still on the door.

“The metal will watch him,” Derek said.

Without turning to face him, Sarah said, “I know.” She sat there for maybe a minute and finally looked at him. “I thought you didn’t trust that thing.”

“I don’t,” Derek replied, “but it’ll watch him.”

Sarah leaned her head back against the wall, staring blindly up at the ceiling. “He’ll be okay. He can take care of himself. This isn’t the first time he’s taken off like this.”

“Oh yeah?” Derek asked quietly as he watched Sarah. “You two fight like this a lot?” He already knew the answer. After eleven weeks of living and breathing the Connor family dynamics, he knew Sarah and John didn’t usually fight. They were all about lies of omission to spare one another uncomfortable truths, but fighting, no.

She shook her head, screwing her eyes shut. “Not often.”

Derek stepped closer. He sat down in the middle of the floor, several feet from Sarah, watching.

“It was stupid,” Sarah swore, her eyes still shut. “He shouldn’t have done that. It was an unnecessary risk.”

“John thought it was necessary,” Derek said.

Sarah lifted her head, snapping her eyes open. “John’s just a boy.”

Derek shrugged. “He’s not a boy,” he countered gently. “By these standards, maybe, but in my time, he’s a man. And if you want him to grow into the general who will finally kick the metal back to the stone age, you’re gonna have to give him some leeway.” He meant it kindly, but he wasn’t shocked at all that Sarah didn’t appear to appreciate his advice.

Glaring, she pushed herself to her feet and stalked out of the living room and into the kitchen, needing to move. She paced the length of the kitchen and then turned to face him. “What the fuck do you know about it?” she demanded. “What do you know about raising a kid? You think sleeping on our couch somehow makes you an authority figure?”

He pushed himself to his feet, meeting her gaze evenly. “I practically raised my little brother, so yeah, I do think I know a thing or two about it. And don’t you fucking do that to me.”

She stepped closer, arms crossed over her chest, posture defiant. “Do what?” she challenged.

“Don’t talk to me like I’m a goddamn house guest.”

She gaped at him. “You think you’re more?” she demanded. “You think the occasional fuck or suck somehow entitles you to a say in how I raise my kid?

He shook his head, lips pursed tightly together, closing the distance between them. “No,” he bit out. “I don’t think fucking you gives me a say.” He leaned in closer. “I think being here gives me a say. I think teaching John how to track and how to spot HKs gives me a say.”

Sarah shook her head, floored by his audacity. “So this must be a lot of fun for you,” she countered. “You get to play mentor to your mentor. I get that to you John Connor is some mythic figure, but clue in here, he’s my son, my baby and it was stupid and reckless of him to risk his life like that tonight.”

Derek shook his head with irritation. “Oh get the fuck over yourself. You’re not the only person who cares about John. He’s a smart kid with a good heart. And you’re right, I came here and risked my life in the line of duty at John Connor’s order, but I can tell you that I would die to protect that boy. So don’t give me this mythic bullshit. I’m well aware of the difference between the two. More than you could ever imagine.”

She glared at him, trembling with a surfeit of emotions, rage, fear, grief. He could tell she wanted to throw yet another biting insult at him, but she held her tongue, teeth clenched tightly together. With a growl, she turned and punched the refrigerator, then kicked it. The door spilled open with the recoil of energy, sending condiment bottles crashing to the ground. She kicked it again, and then again when it popped open. She finally put both palms against the door and slammed it closed, shoulders heaving with her breath. She stood there for a long time, finally pressing her forehead against the freezer door.

Derek approached cautiously. She'd punched it with her left hand which meant she hadn't been totally out of control. Several of her knuckles were bloody. Carefully, he touched her hand and she hissed in pain. He took her hand in his own, examining it.

Her forehead still pressed to the refrigerator, Sarah said, "It's not broken."

"You hope," Derek replied.

She turned her head to the side and looked at him. Gently, he pulled her away from the fridge, backing her against the opposite counter. Satisfied she would stay where he put her, he turned back to the fridge and pulled the freezer open. He grabbed two ice trays and then a towel from the counter and made an icepack. He held his hand out and she placed hers in it, allowing him to lay the ice pack on top of it.

They stood like that for a very long time. When Sarah's hand was so numb she could barely feel it, Derek set the icepack down and gently palpated her hand. "It's not broken," he said.

"I already told you that," she replied. Despite the caustic words, her tone was soft, tired.

Derek reached up and brushed the hair back from her forehead. Her eyes were shiny with unshed tears.

"I was out of line earlier," she said.

"Damn right you were," he countered, but like her, his words were said without rancor.

She swallowed thickly, screwing her eyes shut. “He’s my baby.”

“I know,” Derek said softly. “And I know what it’s like to feel the responsibility of protecting someone you love. Kyle and I were all each other had in the world.”

She looked up at him.

“But John’s a good kid. You can guide him only so far. He’s going to have to find his own way.”

Her lips twisted into a wry grin. “Maybe you’re not so bad at this parenting stuff.”

He laughed mirthlessly. “I might have neglected to mention that Kyle hated me for years.”

Sarah raised her eyebrows.

“Oh yeah,” Derek continued, “he was convinced I was holding him back, ruining his life. God, he was a pain in the ass. I can’t tell you how many times he risked his life doing something just to spite me.”

“That’s hard to imagine,” Sarah said in wonder.

Derek looked back at her and his throat was suddenly tight. He had a tendency to forget. To forget Sarah and John knew Kyle as well. He shrugged.

He was suddenly all too aware of the silence, of Sarah's hand still cradled in his own. Sexual tension he could handle, but this wasn't about sex. It was about a connection that he and Sarah had been fighting for weeks.

Slowly, deliberately, he leaned in closer to her. She watched him carefully, but for the first time, didn't pull away. Cautiously, he pressed his lips to hers. She didn't kiss him back, but she didn't fight him either. He tried again, more insistent, nipping at her lips.

And then, something changed and she was kissing him back. The fingers of her uninjured hand threaded through his hair and her right leg twined around his left and he could taste the salt from her tears.

This time it wasn't against the garage wall or the shower wall or the kitchen floor or the backseat of a car. It was a bed. And this time, it wasn't just sex.

But the bed was hers and once they both caught their breaths, he wondered if she would kick him out. She didn't. And thank god, she was even less eager to talk about it than he was. They laid there in the dark touching, but not cuddling, thinking but not speaking.

***

When Derek woke, Sarah was gone and dawn was just turning the sky gray. He heard the bathroom door slam and knew John was home. Pushing himself out of bed, he pulled on the jeans he discarded last night. Sarah’s bedroom door was open and John no doubt saw him sleeping in her bed when he walked by. Derek figured John had known for weeks what was going on, but the time was quickly coming that they were going to have to acknowledge it in some way.

Fuck. He really didn’t want to do that. He had no idea what last night meant to himself, much less Sarah. Or more importantly, if their truce would hold.

Dragging his hand through his hair, Derek walked into the kitchen. John’s backpack had been tossed on the counter, its contents spilling out. One of the items caught Derek’s eye and he extricated the picture from the rest of the miscellany. It was encased in a plastic sleeve to prevent scratches, but the picture had seen better days. Derek knew the scene well. Sarah Connor in a Jeep, German shepherd in the background. The image was iconic, one of the most recognizable propaganda items of the war. Men carried Sarah Connor’s picture with them into battle like a talisman. Often, it was this picture, though there were others, ones with Sarah older, probably close to the age she was now. There were also drawings, artistic renderings of her unmistakable features.

But this …

This was the original.

Derek studied it closer. Frowning, he slipped it out of the plastic covering and turned it over in his hand. It couldn’t be … But it was. This was Kyle’s picture of Sarah. Derek recognized the same frayed corner, the same scribbles along the bottom. Why the hell would Kyle have the original picture of Sarah.

Why the hell would John Connor have given Kyle the original picture of …

The realization hit Derek so hard, his head actually snapped up. Just in time to watch John walk into the room, hair wet from his shower. For once, his damn hair wasn’t all in his eyes and covering half his face. It was wet, slicked back and Jesus fucking Christ, the kid looked exactly like Kyle. John had his mother’s eyes, but the rest of him was pure Reese. Fuck. How did Derek miss that for three months?

“Hey, man,” John said, nodding to Derek before turning to the fridge and rooting around for the orange juice.

“Hey,” Derek replied, still staring at John. Kyle’s son. Derek’s nephew. Holy shit he had a nephew. Who, in this timeline, was older than Derek’s contemporary self. What a mindfuck. He shook his head sharply in a vain attempt to clear it.

John turned back toward Derek, juice carton in hand. He glanced around to make sure Sarah wasn’t nearby and he opened the juice, drinking directly from the carton. Three big gulps and he closed the carton, tossing it back in the fridge. He half turned toward Derek. “Hey, uh, did you do something to the fridge?”

Derek shook his head. “Me? No. Your mom might have had a little trouble with the door last night.”

John looked pointedly at the smear of blood on the freezer door. “Yeah.”

“Where’s the metal?” Derek asked, changing the subject.

“She’s in the,” John faltered, looking at Derek holding the picture. “She’s in the back. Hey, what are you doing?” he asked, taking the picture away from Derek. Protectively, he slipped it back in the plastic sleeve and scooped it and the rest of the items back into his backpack.

“Sorry,” Derek said. “It was just laying on the counter.”

John looked at Derek, then to the backpack and then back to Derek. “No. It’s fine. It’s just … That picture is kind of important.”

Derek nodded. “I know.”

John’s brow furrowed as he looked at Derek.

“It’s a really famous picture,” Derek explained. “In the future. During the war. Sarah’s sort of the patron saint of fucked up soldiers.”

John smiled mirthlessly. “Figures.” He laughed. “Guess I better keep an eye on it then.”

Derek watched him for a moment. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “Especially that one, the original. You need to give it to your father.”

John’s head snapped to Derek and they stared at each other in silence for a long time. “You, uh … “John trailed off. “What do you mean?”

“Kyle.”

John looked away, out the window, then back to Derek. “You don’t … I mean, I don’t …” He sighed, running his fingers absently through his damp hair. “How’d you know?”

A grin spread across Derek’s features. “You look just like him.”

John half smiled, then looked away self-consciously. Finally, he looked back to Derek. “I didn’t know him,” John admitted, his eyes shiny with unshed tears. “He died before I was born. I don’t even have a picture.”

“Jesus,” Derek swore. “This stuff screws with your head.”

“Tell me about it,” John agreed dryly.

“If it’s any consolation, I find it a hell of a lot less creepy now,” Derek offered.

“Creepy?”

Derek smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “I thought it was seriously fucked up that John Connor gave my kid brother a picture of John’s mom. Makes a lot more sense now.”

John reached into the unzipped backpack and pulled out the picture again, looking at it. Then he looked up at Derek. “Did he love her?” he asked quietly.

For a long moment, Derek held John’s gaze. “Yeah,” he said. “I think he did. He never said it in so many words, but I used to give him hell about it all the time. Girls used to …” Derek trailed off, taking another approach. “Girls liked Kyle, but he never really found anyone. He was always pre-occupied. He carried that picture around for years.”

John nodded, staring at the picture. Without looking up, he asked, “Do you love her?”

Derek snorted uncomfortably, but then John looked up, meeting his gaze and letting him know he wasn’t kidding. Derek swallowed. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “Last night was … “ He was silent for a few beats. “Knowing you’re Kyle’s son changes things.”

“Why?”

Derek shook his head. “Look, John, I don’t even want to have this conversation with your mom, I’m sure as hell not having it with you.”

John looked irritated, but he didn’t push it. Placing the picture once again in the backpack, he zipped it shut and slung it over his shoulder. “Can you give me a ride to school?” he asked. “Absent gets me on the radar.”

“Sure.”

***
End Section


***
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