TITLE: Gnothi Seauton
FANDOM: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
SPOILERS: Everything from the first season.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Don't know who does.
CHARACTERS: John Connor, Sarah Connor, Derek Reese
TIMELINE: set several weeks
after the season finale
Connor knew himself better than he wanted to think possible.
stood in the cramped galley kitchen absently tapping the cd
against his leg. When Sarah walked in, his attention snapped to her and
he wondered how long he’d been standing there.
“You okay?” she
asked quietly. She’d been like that a lot lately. Motherly. He felt
kind of stupid thinking that, but it was true. Sarah was his mother,
but there were times when she was far more emotionally available than
others. Lately, she’d been more available than usual. He liked it, even
though he was pretty sure he shouldn’t.
“Fine,” he said,
putting on a fake smile. He held up the cd. “Just burned this for
and took the cd. It wasn’t labeled, but she looked at him. “That music
“Nocturne in C-sharp Minor by Frédéric Chopin.”
Sarah shook her
head and handed the cd back to John. “Any ideas why she likes it so
why Derek hates it so much?” Sarah continued, but she said it absently,
rhetorically like she didn’t really expect an answer.
John looked at
eyebrow quirked. “What?” she asked, stepping closer. The new apartment
was a shithole. And temporary, Sarah assured him. Two bedrooms, one
bath. He and Derek were crammed into the smaller room. Sarah and the
guns were in the larger room. Cameron spent the bulk of her time
standing in the living room corner healing. Needless to say, it was a
challenge to keep anything secret stacked on top of each other as they
John looked at
her, wanting to say more, but unable to do so.
“We’re going to
get some milk,” Sarah yelled pointedly, grabbing John’s shirt and
pulling him toward the door.
"John Connor is
lactose intolerant," Cameron replied automatically from the living
room. Sarah and John ignored her.
They were a
couple blocks from the apartment in their newly liberated truck before
Sarah spoke. “Talk,” she commanded.
John took a deep
breath. “Derek’s not right.”
snorted. “Uh, I really don’t think we needed to leave the house for you
to make that revelation,” she said dryly. “Derek Reese is broken in
ways you can’t fix.”
It was true
enough. Derek had moments when
he was capable of integrating, of acting like a normal human with
normal human connections. But for each of those moments, he had darker
times. His thousand yard stare, his absolute ruthlessness. The way he
drank coffee by the gallon and snorted Adderalll so he didn’t have to
sleep. He was a soldier, and a damn good one. But he often failed at
being a human being.
“That’s not …” He swallowed
thickly trying to think of some way to voice the dread that kept him
awake nights. “I’m not worried about fixing Derek. I’m worried about
what broke him.”
over at John, her expression
concerned. And there it was again, that shameful joy in his heart that
even in a moment like this that he was speaking to his mother
and not his commanding officer. Turning her attention back to the road,
she quickly scanned the horizon and found a place to park on a busy
residential street. She turned off the engine.
“What are you
thinking?” she asked pointedly. “Derek lived through only god knows
what in his time. He lived through the apocalypse. Of course he’s
John replied defiantly. It was a gamble.
Sarah spoke of Kyle in specific terms so rarely John really had no idea
if his father suffered from the same missing pieces that kept Derek
from fully integrating. But somehow in his heart, John doubted it.
Somehow in his soul, he knew that Kyle’s humanity was soundly in tact.
gaze shuttered immediately and she sank back against the seat, staring
blindly out the windshield. She did that, sometimes. When she thought
of Kyle. But it had been a long time since John saw so clearly just how
intensely his mother loved his father. How much she still loved his father.
And there it was again, that satisfaction.
spent his entire life trying to live up to the reputation he had yet to
make. It was such a bittersweet relief after Sarah was
institutionalized to learn she was a textbook psycho. Messiah complex.
Even his initials, J.C. John Connor. Jesus Christ. Savior of mankind.
His father existed only in death, never in life and John always thought
his might as well have been a virgin birth.
But then he was
target. And the machine saved him. And he learned that Sarah wasn’t
crazy and the destiny that weighed so heavily on his small shoulders
was twice as heavy. Because he saw it with his own eyes and textbook or
not, it was real. He really did have to figure out how to save humanity
from the machines.
Sarah, still lost in painful
memories of Kyle and it comforted him the way nothing else could.
Because maybe he was one big, literal, self-fulfilling prophecy. But he
was also human. And his mother loved his father. And vice versa. John
might have sent Kyle back. He might have orchestrated the
circumstances. But the emotions were real. His parents’ love
for one another was real. And because of
that, he was real. He was a real boy.
Not a construct. Not a machine.
finally said, her voice hoarse with emotion. “Kyle wasn’t broken. Not
like that. Not like Derek.”
This time, it
was John’s turn to look away. “I sent Derek here for a reason.”
“To help us. To
wait for us. You sent the whole team.”
shrugged, still unable to meet her gaze. Sarah had a suburban middle
class upbringing, but by and large, her education was at the school of
hard knocks. One of the only Greek phrases she knew was Gnothi Seauton,
the term carved into the pronaos of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It
roughly translated to know yourself. Sarah liked it, she liked what it
meant to her. She took strength from the phrase. But for all of his
mother’s love and compassion, she had no idea what that phrase meant to
him. Sarah Connor could know herself. She could know the girl she used
to be as well as the woman she had become.
wasn’t so simple for John. He had the absolute mindfuck of having to
deal with another version of himself that existed in the future.
Another self that made decisions and took actions which directly
influenced John in the here and now. John hated his future self. He
hated the cold blooded general who could cavalierly send Kyle Reese
back to his death without ever once betraying their relationship. John
didn’t know how he could ever get to that point. He didn’t want to
believe he would one day become that man.
But inside he
He knew it would happen. Because that’s how it had to happen. He would
one day become the savior of the human race, the man who would treat
people like pawns and do whatever was necessary to secure the future.
every now and then, John realized that his future self had a few
vulnerabilities, that he made a few concessions for the emotional
comfort of his sixteen year old self.
“I could have
sent someone else. I didn’t have to send Derek.”
“He’s one of
your best soldiers. That’s what Cameron said. And you know it’s true.”
was true. John would never dream of denying that. Derek was a damn fine
soldier. He would do anything necessary. Anything. Flexible morality.
Heh. That term always amused the hell out of John. For Derek, the ends
justified the means. And more and more, John was embracing that concept
himself. Because as much as he was drawn to Derek, drawn to the stories
he had of Kyle, drawn to a flesh and blood father figure, John knew he
sent Derek back for a very specific reason.
behavior. Not just in the sense of watching people, though he did do
that a lot. But really, seriously studied human behavior theory. He
knew that family units tended to find their own level. Derek performed
a very specific function in their dysfunctional nuclear family. He was
the extremist, the soldier, the voice of distrust and constant
vigilance. And because he was so extreme, so damaged, Sarah became
softer to offset him. Not soft. But softer. And the
natural friction between Derek and Sarah was so pronounced that often,
she went farther to her own extreme than any natural instinct would
have guided her simply because she liked to argue with him.
Derek in the house meant that John got his mother back. A version of
Sarah he’d only ever really glimpsed before. She could still beat a man
to death with her bare hands, but somehow they all acknowledged now
that it was Derek’s job, not hers. She was still their leader, but more
and more, she was free to be more compassionate, more caring. And she
could do that only because Derek maintained his portion of the equation
And Derek held
up his end of the bargain so well specifically because he was so
Sarah looked at
her son with a wry expression on her face. “It doesn’t take a genius to
figure that out, John.”
John held up the
cd. “While this music was playing.”
Sarah stared at
him blankly for a moment. She shook her head. “How do you know that?”
“And I think Cameron is the one that tortured him.”
knew Sarah wanted to voice some denial, but she didn't. She sat there,
blinking, taking in the words he said. He took a moment to marvel at
how all the family dynamics were changing. She trusted him on this. She
didn't demand to know how he came to these conclusions, she just
accepted them. Which was just as well, because he couldn't have
explained, even to her, how he knew. Only that he did know. Maybe
because he knew himself better than he wanted to think possible.
Sarah took a
deep breath. "That would explain why he hates her so much. And why he
keeps torching those cds."
said wryly, "but it doesn't explain why she keeps replacing the music."
"Maybe the Tin Miss likes it."
said she had her memory wiped," John replied. "She said it was standard
protocol, that it increased odds of mission success."
reasonable," Sarah said. "You wouldn't want a machine to retain its
John shook his
head. "No. No you wouldn't."
looked up at her and held her gaze for several long moments. "But if
Cameron tortured Derek while playing that music, and Cameron still
likes that music ..."
thickly. "You think Cameron tortured Derek after she was reprogrammed."
"Do you think
she's working for Skynet? Or maybe that she's losing it?"
shook his head. "I think Cameron did exactly as she was ordered." He
took a deep breath. "I think I sent her there to torture Derek."
Sarah stared at
her son blankly. "That doesn't make any sense, John. Why would you do
laughed mirthlessly. "So he'd hate them," John replied. "So Derek would
specifically distrust Cameron." He scrubbed a hand roughly over his
face. "I think I did it to break Derek, so he'd never be able to
forget, so he'd never let any of us forget what happens when you trust
despite the oppressive warmth inside the cab of the truck. "You can't
know that John."
"Yes I can," he
said sadly. "I know myself."
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