Title: Across Time
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: The Terminator
Genre: Canon divergence, fix-it, romance, science fiction
Relationship: Sarah Connor/Kyle Reese
Word Count: 15,385 (complete)
Warnings: Explicit sex, violence
Summary: A chance look at the date makes Kyle asks questions and recognize the deepest truth of his own fate—he’s John Connor’s father.
Sarah Connor was soft in a way he’d never expected. Kyle Reese knew little to nothing of such softness when it came to women. The women of his time were fierce and hard. They made their children and raised them in underground bunkers, sheltered as much as possible from the machines and the nuclear fallout. Once, when he’d been younger, and before he’d been transferred to John Connor’s team, one of those battle-hardened women had invited him into her bed—she’d wanted a strong child, one that might survive in their world because she’d lost two already.
Even now, so many years later he couldn’t say why he’d said no. It just hadn’t felt right, something in his bones had told him that his future was too uncertain to father a child. So he’d settled for the occasional hand job and had often enjoyed returning the favor, his fingers slick and sliding into the women who’d given him the privilege. It had been about pleasure but never anything more than that, and he’d had no regrets until now. Maybe a little more experience with women would’ve prepared him to be in Sarah Connor’s arms.
Sarah shifted in her sleep, the silken glide of her skin on his was the most luxury he’d ever known. Kyle ran one hand down her back and closed his eyes briefly. Sarah had been a beautiful ideal in his mind—a fantasy, but now she was real and warm against him in bed.
“You’re thinking too hard,” she murmured against his chest.
He laughed a little and took a deep breath. “I just slept with my field commander’s mother.”
Sarah snorted and lifted her head. “Would he be terribly disappointed in you?”
Kyle hummed under his breath. “I have no idea.”
“You said… in the car that you were with Tech-Com. What’s that?”
“Connor’s unit—our mission is to monitor, intercept, and destroy as much of the machine’s communication network as possible. We monitor the creation of Terminators to ensure that the resistance can fight and defeat them.”
“Infiltration then,” Sarah murmured. “Dangerous?”
“Easily the most dangerous job in the resistance but John insisted on doing it personally,” Kyle said. “Monitoring Skynet’s technological advancements are his primary goal.” He frowned. “Will be, I guess. Time travel is… a mindfuck of the first order.”
“It’s hard to believe it’s even possible,” Sarah said. “Even so far in the future—forty years doesn’t seem like a very long time for that kind of tech.”
“A hundred years ago, we were using horse and carriage,” Kyle pointed out. “Sometimes I think it would’ve been better to never have gone past that.”
“It’s our nature to… go forward,” Sarah murmured.
“To the detriment of our entire species,” Kyle responded and took a deep breath. “We shouldn’t linger here.” He slipped from the bed, despite his desire to stay in her arms.
He walked into the bathroom and paused only briefly at the mirror as he heard the television clicking on.
“At this time, the LAPD has confirmed the deaths of seventeen police officers at the West Highland Police Station. The unknown assailant is still at large despite the five-county manhunt.”
He walked out of the bathroom and focused on the TV. There was a picture of the Terminator on the screen—he wondered how many people would die trying to hunt it down and how much damage they might be able to do to the Terminator before it found Sarah again. The date popped into the bottom right corner as details regarding the shooting started stream across the screen. A list of names started, but his gaze flicked back to the date. May 13, 1984. His stomach lurched, and he walked back to the bed.
She raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“Are you…” He took a deep breath. “John will be born on February 2, 1985. That’s less than a year from now.”
Sarah blinked. “I…”
“Are you…” Kyle trailed off again and thought about the picture that John had given him all those years ago. He sat down beside her on the bed. “Are you seeing anyone?”
“I had a date, but he canceled on me,” Sarah said. “It was the third he’d canceled, actually. I haven’t had sex in months before today.” She pulled the sheet tighter to her breasts, and her eyes dampened. “You’re John’s father…” She touched his shoulder. “Kyle.”
“It’s… John said he died before the war,” Kyle said. “But he didn’t speak of him often.”
“Maybe he didn’t want to influence you when the time came to have someone volunteer for the mission,” Sarah said. “And the picture… well.”
“So I’d know what you looked like now,” Kyle murmured. “He monitored the machine’s advancements, so he’d know when… they would be targeting you in his timeline. He knew all along that it was going to happen. He certainly did everything he could to stop it but…”
“He had to know that he would ultimately fail because of his very own existence,” Sarah murmured.
“So sometime in the next month we’re going to make John,” Kyle said.
“Well, sometime in the next six days actually if not already.” Sarah shrugged when he turned to look at her in shock. “Women are normally pregnant for around ten months, not nine.” She chewed her bottom lip. “I’d have to check my calendar to be certain but… yeah… today was probably not the best day to go without a condom.”
He stood. “Get dressed, please.”
“You need some sleep,” Sarah protested.
Kyle shook his head, hurriedly pulled on his clothes then started packing the pipe bombs.
“No, we need to move now and get as far from Los Angeles as we possibly can. You spent years in hiding in several different countries in South America before the war because you had future knowledge. I never asked John why you were hiding before you had a reason to do so, and I should’ve but…”
“But what?” Sarah left the bed and started to pull on her clothes.
“I never wanted to interrupt him when he spoke of you because he didn’t do it often,” Kyle said roughly. “None of us did.”
“The legend,” Sarah said with a huff. “Do you know when I die?”
Kyle frowned. “Some say you died on Judgement Day and others say that you and John were separated during the initial attack and were reunited years later. I also heard, once, that you died of cancer. There are also rumors that you are actually in the upper echelons of the resistance, but I’ve never believed that because John spoke of you… as if you were dead even with me in private. And he told me more about you than anyone else.”
“What about my mother? Did he ever mention her?”
Kyle shook his head as he zipped the bag. “She died before he was born.” He looked up and found the color had drained from her face. “What?”
“I… spoke to her while you were out.” She lurched for the phone and jammed her finger against the number pad furiously. Her hand was shaking as she held the receiver to her ear.
“Sarah.” Kyle frowned. “Did you tell her where we are?”
Her cheeks darkened as she nodded and tears slid down her cheeks. “She’s not answering.”
He went to her and dropped to his knees, then pulled the phone from her hand. He hung it up and pressed a quick kiss to her shaking hand. “We have to go now.”
“I just… talked to her,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry,” Kyle murmured and pulled her up. “Get dressed. Now.”
They didn’t have time for her grief, and he felt like an asshole as she dropped the sheet and went in search of her clothes. He put the bag down on the bed, checked the parking lot, and glanced over the vehicles available to him. Constantly stealing cars wasn’t the best choice as it would provide a trail for the machine to follow. It had already figured out how to use the system to its advantage, and Kyle knew the Terminator’s knowledge would only increase. It would learn and adapt to the past far faster than he would.
“Where was your mother?”
“Big Bear at the family cabin.” Sarah closed her eyes. “I should’ve told her to go somewhere… unknown.”
“She wouldn’t have had the skills to hide from it long-term, Sarah,” Kyle said gently. “How far is that from here?”
“About four hours in heavy traffic.” She glanced toward the clock. “If he obeys the speed limit and doesn’t encounter police… he’s maybe an hour away?”
“It’ll avoid attention as much as possible until it finds you again,” Kyle said. “We need a vehicle that won’t be missed.”
Sarah finished tying her shoes and stood. “Why?”
“It’ll use police resources to track us,” Kyle said. “Stolen vehicles in this area will stand out since it knows we were here.”
“My dad’s jeep is in a long-term parking lot about ten blocks from here. It’s in my mother’s name but I’ll…” Sarah took a deep breath. “I’ll inherit it, I guess. I’ll inherit everything.” She rubbed her face with shaking hands. “Goddamnit.”
“The police might be watching it to get you back in custody. They’re going…” Kyle frowned. “Right now, you’re the best bait they have to find and catch the Terminator. They don’t know what they’re up against because they didn’t believe me. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“It’s terrible to say but all of those cops are dead and they probably didn’t get a chance to write much if anything down regarding what you said,” Sarah said. “Maybe they’ll find the video footage. I don’t know.”
“We’ll check the jeep out,” Kyle said and held out his hand. “Let’s go.”
* * * *
Kyle watched with reluctant admiration as Sarah flirted her way through the security booth at the parking garage. He leaned against the wall, grateful for the shadow provided as the incredibly dumb attendant handed her a set of keys to what he hoped was the jeep. She glanced over her shoulder just briefly in his direction before following the boy into the garage to retrieve the vehicle.
His stomach clenched and stayed that way until she eased out of the garage in the jeep with a cheerful wave in the attendant’s direction. Kyle turned, trotted down the alley, and picked up what little gear they had. At the end of the block, she turned the corner, stopped, and he slid into the passenger seat.
Sarah’s hand clenched on the wheel. “My mom had me listed as an authorized user.”
“Good. Did he make the connection between you and the Sarah Connor on the news?”
“Yes, but I told him that I didn’t trust to police and I wanted to get out of town.” She blew air out between her full lips and concentrated on traffic. “How many people knew the story of how I went into hiding with John in South America?”
“I don’t know,” Kyle said honestly. “I heard that story before I ever met him, so I have to think… it was pretty well-known.”
“Well known enough that the machines might know it as well,” Sarah murmured. “Why would he allow that kind of information to be spread around?”
Kyle slouched down in his seat and considered that. John Connor had never struck him as someone who did a single thing without purpose. In many instances, he was several steps ahead of everyone around him and sometimes even the machines. “Because the information was well known before he could control the narrative about you.”
“I made mistakes the first time around then,” Sarah murmured. “It would be easy to slip across the border right now and disappear.”
“It might be preparing for that, but fortunately, the Internet is essentially still an infant right now, and it doesn’t have the ability to network. It’ll have to physically tap into various resources to track us. We have an advantage in that area as long as we can stay off everyone’s radar.”
“This Terminator doesn’t know much about me at all.”
“Why do you say that?” Kyle questioned.
“He killed two other Sarah Connors before targeting me,” Sarah said. “And he probably isn’t even certain I’m John’s mother, but his programming doesn’t care, right? He was instructed to kill anyone named Sarah Connor that lived in Los Angeles.”
“There were only three in the phone book,” Kyle said. “You were the last—Sarah J Connor.”
Sarah turned on the radio and fiddled with it as she drove. “He’ll have reached the motel by now. What will he do when he finds the room empty?”
“Keep searching,” Kyle said. “It doesn’t need to rest. It’ll tear through every aspect of your life it can find, kill anyone or anything that gets in the way.”
“You said the weapons you have aren’t enough.”
“I’d need something military grade from this era,” Kyle said roughly. “The bombs we’ve made will probably do the job if we can get close enough to start blowing parts of it off. Getting rid of its arms and legs will be the priority as it will limit the machine’s mobility.”
“That’s suicide,” Sarah snapped. “We need a better plan.”
“We might not…” Kyle sighed when she glared at him. “It’s my job to protect you from it no matter what sacrifice I have to make.”
“Your job is to protect the existence of our son,” Sarah returned evenly. “And you can’t do that if you’re dead, Kyle. Do you want John to grow up without you… again? Do you want him to be alone in that world you left behind in this timeline, as well? John’s alone in that terrible future.”
“Not alone,” Kyle said. “He has a woman.” He cleared his throat. “Her name is Kate. She’s smart and brave. Beautiful. She runs the intelligence op of Tech-Com. He keeps her out of the field, but she’s more than capable.”
“Kate,” Sarah repeated. “Does she love him?”
“Beyond any sort of reason,” Kyle said wryly. “She’d set fire to the planet if he decided it should be done.” He focused on her then. “John gets that from you—he inspires everyone around him.”
“I’m not… I’m not the woman John told you about. Maybe I’ll never be her.”
“You’re everything he said you were,” Kyle said and smiled when her cheeks flushed. “Where are we going?”
“I don’t know,” Sarah admitted. “I guess we need to throw logic out the window and do what something the machine would never consider. I don’t know how they think or reason. What will he do if he can’t track us from the motel?”
“Regroup, research, access, and wait for the next chance,” Kyle murmured. “Only its complete destruction will stop it. The mission comes first. Fortunately, the T-800 is a blunt instrument.”
“How is that fortunate?” Sarah demanded in exasperation as she turned abruptly onto a small street.
“There is nothing subtle about it and that works in our favor because when it comes for you again, it won’t bother to hide,” Kyle said.
“Are there other infiltrators? More savvy ones? More human?”
“Yes, but they’re rare and used for special operations. Skynet obviously didn’t think you’d be much of a challenge at this age.”
“So it will send another,” Sarah said. “And another. Until I’m dead.”
“I have to believe that John is working even now to neutralize Skynet’s ability to send assets back in time,” Kyle said. “We trust in that, but we stay on guard.”
“And we should work to do that here and now,” Sarah said. “When will you be born?”
“July 21, 2003.” Kyle grinned at the appalled look that crossed her face. “My parents are going to meet and get married in a few years. They’re in high school right now.”
“I’m older than your parents.”
“So am I, by a lot,” he pointed out as Sarah turned into the parking lot. “We once had a sign from one of these places in the tunnels. It took us months to find enough intact bulbs to fill it up.” He glanced toward the big bright yellow M. “I’ve never actually had a burger made out of beef.”
“What are they made of in your timeline?”
“You really don’t want to know,” Kyle said wryly as he pulled the wad of cash from his pocket.
Sarah took the wad as she came to a stop behind another car. He watched her organize all of the paper bills quickly.
“Where did you get cash anyway?”
“I stole it,” Kyle said. “Everything I have is stolen.” He paused. “Except you and maybe I sort of stole you, too.”
She offered him a small grin then focused on a big board. A menu, Kyle thought. She ordered without his input, which was just as well since he really didn’t have any idea what he would like. He focused on checking out their surroundings as she handled the transaction, and several bags of food were passed through the window. He almost protested when she parked but realized she’d parked them in such a way that they had the best possible visible range. Kyle didn’t know if it was instinct on her part or if she’d put some thought into it.
He accepted everything she passed his way without discussion. He took one bite of the sandwich and quickly chewed. “Forget what I said—I’ve never had a burger in my life until today.”
“That is reason enough to blow Cyberdyne right off the planet,” Sarah said grimly as she chewed moodily.
“Attacking Cyberdyne could increase the machine’s campaign against us. Especially if we fail. It’ll ripple through time, and Skynet will reevaluate how much of a threat you truly are.”
“Then we don’t fail. We can’t change your past, Kyle. This version of you will always be from that wasteland of war, but we can make a new fate, right?” She turned to him and frowned. “Are you going to disappear if we change the timeline?”
“No, that’s… as you said, we can’t change my past. A new fate equals a new and different timeline for the whole world. I don’t know enough about time travel theory to really explain it, but John told me more than once that there was no fate, that nothing was predetermined.”
“Except his own conception,” Sarah said and blew air out between her lips. “Which is a bit of destiny, right?”
“The fact that I’m here suggests that Judgment Day will come no matter what we do. Maybe we can postpone it but…” Kyle frowned and shrugged. “I don’t know. The world is beautiful, and I can’t sit back and do nothing as Skynet is created. That isn’t the kind of lesson I want to teach our son.”
“So we destroy the Terminator, and we make sure Cyberdyne never, ever gets the chance to birth Skynet.” She stuck a straw in one of the cups and handed it to him. “You need better weapons.”
“We need better weapons.”
She exhaled noisily. “Right. Well. I have no idea where to buy them. We need more than a handgun. I’m not sure if civilians can buy the kind of crap we need.” She frowned. “We’re obviously going to have to steal it, but again, I have no clue where you’d steal a rocket launcher or a bunch of grenades or whatever else you think might work. There’s no way we’d make it onto a military base, and it’s risky since I’m sure the LAPD is low-key looking to arrest us both.”
“You went south for a reason,” Kyle said. “Maybe for more than one reason but I’m beginning to think that easily accessible weapons was probably one of them.”
“Between the cartels and the dictatorships parts of Central and South America would be ideal for it.” She pursed her lips. “My dad was retired military. I could reach out to some to some of the men he served with in Vietnam. Not all of them are stable enough to be of any help, but a few are… well. They’re sane enough to have connections and get weapons but crazy enough to give them to me without asking a bunch of questions.”
“How long has your dad been gone?”
“A few years.” Sarah took a deep breath. “He didn’t really come back from that war. I guess you don’t know much about that—I can’t imagine what kind of schooling you had in a nuclear fall-out shelter considering you learned out to make pipe bombs as a kid. My dad killed himself when I was sixteen. He suffered a lot emotionally and physically because of his service in Vietnam. You’d probably relate to him pretty well—growing up in a warzone like you did.”
Kyle considered that. He couldn’t disagree, but he also couldn’t wrap his mind around the idea of suicide. It would never be an answer for him. He’d been fighting to survive since the day he entered the world, and he’d fight until he took his very last breath. “I’m sorry he suffered like that.” He cleared his throat. “Sarah, how old are you?”
She glanced his way. “I turned nineteen earlier in the month.”
“Nineteen.” He slouched down in the seat. “I’m twenty-six.”
She grinned at him. “Cradle robber.”
* * * *
Sarah dropped back into the driver’s seat and passed a thick envelope to him. “My college fund. I was supposed to start this fall.”
Kyle shoved the money into their duffle. “What did you want to study?”
“Eventually I wanted to go to law school,” she said ruefully and rolled her eyes when he laughed. “I was worried that they would call the cops, but the branch manager said I’m not actually wanted by the police, so they aren’t obligated to report my doing business with them. Also, she wished me luck escaping my crazy stalker. She said her ex-husband stalked her for months after she left him.”
“Is that a common thing? Personal stalking? Is that really what people think is going on?”
“Obsessed stalker with a boner for me is much easier to believe than time-traveling cyborg is hunting me so he can kill me before I can birth the savior of mankind.”
“I don’t think the T-800 is sexually functional, but I’ve heard rumors about some of the other infiltrators. I mean he’s anatomically correct but…”
“Ugh, gross.” Sarah huffed and put the jeep in gear.
“You brought up boners.”
“Forget I said anything,” Sarah ordered. “I don’t want to hear anything about that asshole’s dick.” She pointed at him, and he couldn’t help but laugh. “Seriously.”
* * * *
Joe Wilbanks reminded Kyle of the men and women he had served with. It was almost a comfort to be welcomed into his small home. It had taken them nearly twenty-five hours to reach the small island in Washington state. Every single mile they’d put between them and Los Angeles had been nothing but a relief. The radio had updated them often on the status of the manhunt, the murder of Sarah’s mother, and repeated pleas by the LAPD for Sarah to seek them out for help.
“I’m sorry to show up like this.”
“None of that now,” Wilbanks admonished as he locked the door. “I’ve been watching the news. I’m sorry to hear that son of a bitch killed your mama.”
Sarah’s breath hitched, and she sat down on the sofa the older man gestured them both toward. “This is Reese—he helped me get out of LA.”
Wilbanks glanced him over but focused on Sarah. “The news isn’t saying much about why this man is hunting you except to say he killed two other women named Sarah Connor and your roommate before trying for you.”
“He thought Ginger was me,” Sarah said quietly. “And she’s dead because of it… I don’t know what to do, Joe. I don’t think I can trust the police, not after what’s already happened. He cut through them like they were nothing.”
“Don’t get much training these days,” Wilbanks muttered. “Not that they’d have any idea how to fight a war unless they’d served.” He glanced toward Kyle. “Like your man here. You’ve seen some action.”
Wilbanks nodded. “Good, good. Well.” He sat down and lit a cigarette. “You’ll need some weapons. I’ve got some things for home defense, and you’re welcome to it. They’re saying he’s armed pretty heavily.”
“Uzi,” Kyle said shortly. “Several handguns. There’s no telling what he’s picked up since he was last spotted. He’d have no issues with killing to procure more weapons.”
“Got a .50 caliber in storage,” Wilbanks said. “I’ll get it in the morning. Can you handle a sniper rifle?”
“Yes, sir,” Kyle confirmed as he glanced toward Sarah. She’d sank down in the corner of the sofa and pulled her legs up to her chest. She’d done the last shift of the driving so he could sleep. “Do you think you could get your hands on some armor piercing rounds?”
“Sure, sure,” the older man said roughly and took a long drag of his cigarette. “Figured he was wearing body armor after I heard the report about the police station. Seventeen cops and not a single one got a bullet in him? Damned unlikely, if you ask me.” He focused on Kyle. “What do you know about this asshole, son?”
A part of Kyle wanted to confide in the other soldier, outline their real circumstances, but they couldn’t risk Wilbanks deciding he was crazy. They needed his help. “He’s obsessed with killing her,” he said finally. “I don’t think he’ll stop until he’s dead.”
“No, that’s pretty clear,” Wilbanks said. “Well, you both look exhausted. Let’s get you settled in my guest room.”
“Harboring us is dangerous,” Kyle said. “I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted us to stay in a motel somewhere on the island.”
“Sarah’s daddy saved my life,” the old man said. “He dragged my ass out of the jungle—left my fucking leg there, but he brought the rest.” He hitched up his jeans to show off a prosthetic. “William’s not here to take care of his little girl so I will. I’ll make a few phone calls in the morning and call in a few favors.”
“Without mentioning her name, please.”
“It’s best that Sarah Connor disappear,” he said. “I got people who can help with that. We can get you both new identities—get you out of the country if that would be best.” He glanced toward Sarah, and Kyle followed his gaze. She’d gone to sleep. “She always was a pretty little thing, but I don’t buy for a minute that bastard is just some crazy stalker like the news is saying. He’s got resources and training. There’s an organization behind him which means he’s not the only threat she’s facing.”
“I agree,” Kyle murmured. “There could be others in the future. I can’t say for certain.”
Wilbanks sighed. “Let’s get her on a bed so she can rest properly.”
Kyle shouldered the bag first then picked Sarah up from the couch. She curled into him with so much trust that it hurt a little. Wilbanks led him to a small room with a full bed covered in a homemade quilt. Handmade things like the quilt were common in his time as machines, no matter their intelligence, were off-putting to many. He put Sarah down and quickly removed her shoes.
“See men like you at the VA all the time,” Wilbanks said roughly from the doorway.
Kyle focused on him. “What?”
“You brought the war home with you, kid.” The older man grimaced. “Can’t say I blame you a bit—it was nothing but heartbreak over there. I’ll go down to the cellar and bring up the weapons. You’ll sleep better with one close at hand, I expect.”
Kyle couldn’t deny it. “I could use some more ammo for the .357 I’m carrying.”
“Got plenty of that.”
“Thank you, Mr. Wilbanks.”
“Call me Joe.”
Kyle sat down on the bed with a nod. “I’m Kyle.” He took a deep breath. “Thank you for this. I wasn’t sure about driving all this way but, I agreed because getting her out of LA seemed like the best choice.”
“I’m glad she came to me,” Joe said roughly. “Her daddy was a good man. He made a lot of friends, and I’m more than willing to call in every favor he was owed for his girl. Get some rest, Kyle, you’re going to need it.”
He shrugged out of his jacket as the older man pulled the door shut, and rubbed his face with shaking hands. Sleep actually had no appeal. All that was waiting for him were nightmares full of people he’d never see again. Sarah shifted on the bed and curled into the pillow. Kyle stood and dropped his jacket on a chair before snagging a folded blanket from the bottom of the bed which he draped over her.
Kyle pulled one of the chairs over to the window, shifted the curtains so he could see the main road in front of the house and sat down. He wondered where the machine was and how long it would take for it to find them.
The beauty of Whidbey Island made Los Angeles look like a wasteland, Kyle thought as he guided the jeep onto the narrow dirt road that Joe Wilbanks had turned down. The older man had found them a property off the beaten path to rent not far from his own home. The small furnished house on a heavily forested lot had sounded perfect, and Sarah had been eager to have some space of her own—a refuge. She’d insisted on going shopping for groceries and clothes which had led to Kyle’s first trip to a K-Mart. It hadn’t been a great experience.
Sarah hopped out of the jeep as soon as he parked and offered him a bright smile. “It’s perfect.”
It looked like something out of a storybook and it served to remind him, once more, that he would spend the rest of his life in a world nothing like his own. He had no room for regrets—not even the knowledge that he’d probably never see his brother again was enough to make him regret volunteering to go back in time for Sarah. The idea that she might already be pregnant with John had weighed heavily on him since they’d left Los Angeles.
“One road in and the second floor has a window that will give you a full view of the driveway,” Wilbanks said. “I’ve got a favor coming in the next day or two. We’ll be able to set up an electronic perimeter.”
Kyle nodded as he opened the back door and pulled out two cases, both full of weapons the older man had already provided. “Are there people here that you could trust to look out for him?”
“A few,” Wilbanks muttered. “But I’ve some friends coming in that will help me keep an eye out. He won’t get near this place without you getting a head’s up if I can help it.”
He leaned against the jeep after a glance toward Sarah, who had come out to the vehicle to retrieve the bags from the shopping trip. She trotted back into the house quickly. “He’s not like anything you’ve ever faced before, Joe, so don’t try to get in his way.”
“I may be old, but I can still handle myself,” Wilbanks said roughly.
“It’s not…” Kyle frowned and cleared his throat. He didn’t know how to say it without sounding like a lunatic. He really needed Wilbanks to have faith and trust in him. Sarah’s survival depended on it.
“You’ve got a big secret sittin’ on you.”
Kyle laughed harshly and tried to ignore how helpless he suddenly felt. “If I told you the fate of the world depended on Sarah’s survival, what you would you say?”
Wilbanks exhaled sharply. “I guess I need to get some more weapons.”
“I can’t be forced to speak of things I don’t know,” Joe said. “Got a few buddies who think the world is going to end—they’re stockpiling weapons and supplies for a while.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Maybe I should start?”
“Maybe you should,” Kyle agreed because he didn’t want to encourage paranoia but Judgment Day was looming, and he didn’t know if he could stop it.
“Fucking government can’t leave well enough alone,” Wilbanks muttered. “Nuclear, you think?”
“Seems likely. It would be better to be prepared than not.”
Wilbanks nodded. “I’ve got a friend coming in with some heavier artillery tomorrow. Set up the sniper rifle first thing, kid. If we’re lucky, you’ll get that son of a bitch before he gets near her again.”
* * * *
“How long do you think we’ll be safe here?”
Kyle looked up from the bowl of soup Sarah had slid in front of him just moments before. It’d come from a can, but it was better than any soup he’d ever had which said a lot about his food situation in the past. He’d never really considered himself deprived when it came to food. He wasn’t malnourished because he had to be fit to serve. There were those who went with less to ensure the security and safety of their shelters. While he’d accepted the necessity, he’d never been comfortable with it.
He considered a lie but then dismissed it just as quickly as it had come to him. “Safety is an illusion, Sarah, and you no longer have the luxury of believing in it. I regret it for you, but I can’t change it. Our situation is secure at the moment, but the police in California probably know about your bank transaction by now. He’ll be monitoring them and their search for you. They’re going to lead him straight to us.”
Her eyes welled with tears, and she sucked her bottom lip into her mouth before focusing on her own food. Her shoulders hitched up briefly, but then she nodded and started to eat.
Kyle let himself relax slightly. Grief was a process, and Sarah Connor had a lot to grieve.
“I have a brother named Derek.”
Her gaze snapped to his. “You left… family behind?”
“Our parents died about ten years ago,” Kyle said. “Derek took care of me as much as he could until I could prove myself useful to the resistance. He was part of Tech-Com long before I was, but he took a lot of recon missions. John trusted him a lot.”
“Like he trusted you?”
“In some ways, more than he trusted me. Derek operated as his second on nearly all recon missions.”
“Do you think Derek knew about their family connection?”
“No.” Kyle shook his head. “Derek’s rabidly loyal to John, but it’s not familial at all. He’d be more militant if he knew. I don’t know how he reacted to what I’ve done.”
“Do you think John told him?”
Kyle considered that. “In a lot of ways, John is closed off from most of the people who work around him. Kate’s the exception. He doesn’t trust easily, and precious few people are in his personal circle. Maybe he felt he couldn’t take that risk with Derek or me considering… what he knew was going to happen.” He sat back in his seat and set aside the spoon. “Dogs are pretty easy to come by in the future—lots of strays and their births are unchecked for the most part. Where would we get one?”
“There are shelters and probably a county facility. But if you want one already trained, then we should ask Joe. His grandson is a cop in Seattle and works with dogs. He’d know where to source a trained dog of some sort,” Sarah said and smiled briefly. “Last summer, Joe tried to set me up with his grandson much to our mutual horror. He’s almost 30 and lectured his granddad for trying to set him up with a teenager.”
Kyle understood the man’s disconcertion but decided discretion was definitely the better part of valor in the current conversation. “You’re very mature for your age… ”
She rolled her eyes.
“Most of the time,” he finished and grinned when she huffed. “I’ll talk to Joe tomorrow about a dog. It’ll be a good secondary security measure.”
* * * *
There was only one bedroom in the small house. It hadn’t appeared to bother Sarah, but Kyle didn’t want to make assumptions about his welcome in her intimate space despite what had already happened between them. He heard the shower shut off as he checked the locks on the front door. The flimsy wood wouldn’t stand up against the Terminator for even a few seconds, but he knew enough about the past to understand that the machine wasn’t the only threat he had to watch out for.
He had taken a quick shower before the sun had set, and even that had felt like too much of a luxury. Freshwater had been at a premium in the shelters, and he’d often waited as much as a week for his five-minutes in the shower facility. Kyle wondered how Sarah would react to such a thing. The cleanliness in the past was actually both a relief and a galling reminder of how much the machines had stripped from humanity.
Kyle shifted the curtains and looked over the front yard, and the small part of the driveway he’s could see from the first floor of the house. Sarah came to stand beside him.
“You should sleep.”
Kyle took a deep breath.
“You barely slept at all last night,” she said, and he glanced toward her. She was eyeing him with a stubborn set of her jaw that instantly reminded him of their son. “I can sit upstairs in the chair you put by the rifle and watch for him if it would help.”
It wouldn’t, he thought, because she didn’t have the training to see the machine coming. She shifted slightly, and her arm brushed against his. She smelled of the soap she’d put in the shower. He’d watched her pick out the container at the store—flicking open one cap after another until she found one she felt would suit them both. He’d been too amused to tell her that he wouldn’t care at all to smell like flowers.
“At least lay down,” she said and laced her fingers with his then tugged him away from the window. “The Terminator is still in California.”
“We can’t trust the news reports,” Kyle said roughly. “The police probably aren’t giving even half of the information they have out to the public regarding the manhunt.”
He let her pull him up the stairs and just dropped down on the bed when she released his hand. He leaned back and looked her over. She was wearing a long T-shirt and a pair of pristine white socks. She looked fresh, clean, and delicious. He wet his lips and curled his fingers into the quilt under his hands. As if she understood exactly what was on his mind, she quirked an eyebrow at him and slid astride his thighs.
She put both of her hands on his shoulders and grinned. “Well, we only have a few days to make a baby.”
He cupped her hips and brought her closer. “You said we’d probably already done that.”
She wet her lips. “Wouldn’t hurt to be thorough.”
“I’ve always taken my missions very seriously,” he murmured and rubbed his thumb along her left hip bone. She felt fragile in his hands and the desire to have her welled up inside of him. “I…”
Sarah inclined her head. “If you don’t want—”
“You’re all I want,” he interjected. “I just don’t know how to balance that against the mission.”
“I’m not a mission,” Sarah murmured and ran her fingers through his still damp hair. “We’re going to build a family, Kyle, and you can’t treat it like a military operation. Our safety is important, so I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t be on guard, but we need to give John something to fight for.”
“I don’t understand?”
“What do you think drove him?” Sarah asked. “John’s personal motivations are just as important as his skills as a leader. He needs to love this world and value the people around him. Life is precious.”
No pressure, he thought. It made Sarah’s initial reaction to being told what her son would accomplish resonate with him in a way it hadn’t before. He pursed his lips briefly and focused on her. “I honestly have no idea what a checkbook is, so I don’t know how important it is to be able to balance one.”
Her eyes went wide, and she burst out laughing. He spilled her onto the bed and slid on top of her even as she continued to giggle. Kyle buried his face against her neck and took a deep breath as she spread her thighs for him. There was something so enthralling about being welcomed so intimately by a woman that it left him breathless and very hard. He pressed his cock against her, and she hummed under her breath then slid a leg up against his hip.
“We’ll figure out that checkbook stuff together,” Sarah decided.
He pressed his mouth against hers and sank into the kiss when she clenched her fingers in his hair. The chaste love for Sarah he’d brought back in time with him had quickly morphed into something stark and carnal. Kyle really didn’t know how to handle it, and there was no one in his life he could ask. She pulled at his T-shirt, and he shifted so it could be pulled off. She tossed the material aside and started to wiggle out of her own clothes. He wasn’t all that surprised to find she wasn’t wearing any panties since she’d said that all the underwear they’d bought would have to be washed. He wiggled out of his sweat pants with her eager assistance and slid his hand between her legs.
She was already warm and wet, which was flattering and honestly kind of relieving because he was genuinely uncertain about foreplay. She’d definitely been in charge during their first and only sexual encounter which had been for the best. Kyle slipped off her to rest beside her on the bed and met her gaze as he rubbed her clit.
“Very,” she murmured, and her cheeks flushed. “I…” Her breath caught, and her hips hitched slightly as he slid one finger into her. “Fuck.”
“I don’t know much about this, you know.”
“You said.” Sarah wet her lips and spread her legs wider. “I’ve only had two other partners. I didn’t want to get too tangled up with anyone because of my school plans.”
“I don’t know how we’ll swing it,” Kyle murmured. “But if you want to go to college, Sarah, we’ll figure it out.”
“That part of my life is over,” Sarah said and touched his face. “We’ll make a new plan together—for all three of us.”
“Three,” Kyle murmured. He leaned down and brushed their mouths together. When he lifted his head, she wrapped her hand around his cock, and he almost came. He bit down on his lip hard and shivered as her slim fingers gripped him. “You…”
He laughed. “My refractory period is probably twenty minutes—so keep messing with me, and that’s how long you’ll wait to get fucked.”
“What a terrible threat,” Sarah said with an amused grin as she urged him onto his back.
She straddled him quickly and sank down on his cock with a visible shiver. The hot, tight grip of her cunt was so intense that he could barely keep it together. Kyle planted his feet flat on the bed and caught her hips as she started to grind down on him.
“Tell me how you like it.”
Sarah shuddered. “Jesus, Kyle.” Her eyes fluttered shut as she braced herself on his chest. “Move with me.”
He watched her for a few moments and rolled his hips upward as she ground down to deepen his penetration. The breathy moan that earned him told him he’d made a good choice. The pleasure of being inside another person was raw—unreal. He’d really never considered what he might be missing when it came to such things. Life in his timeline hadn’t left a lot of room for that kind of thinking. She shuddered and clenched down on him with a harsh groan. Her nails scraped against his skin.
Kyle rolled them over, and she wrapped her legs around his waist immediately. “I… God, Sarah.”
He rocked into her repeatedly, her hands clenched on his back. Her hard nipples scraped against his chest, which he quickly realized she liked a lot. She came far sooner than he’d expected, her pussy clenching tight and wet around him. It brought his own climax to a head, and he spilled into her with a harsh groan.
“You’re a fast learner.”
He huffed against her cheek and reluctantly pulled from her body. “I wouldn’t want to disappoint the legend.”
“Kyle!” She shoved him off of her with a glare, and he grinned. “You asshole.”
He dropped on the mattress and laughed despite the haughty look she sent him as she flounced from the bed and disappeared into the bathroom.
* * * *
The sun was warm on his face when he woke. Sarah was curled up in the chair by the window, staring out with a disquieting concentration. She focused on him, and her expression softened.
“Joe should be here in about an hour,” Sarah said. “He spoke with the owner of the house and got them to agree to a six-month rental versus their normal vacation rental situation. When he called, I spoke to him about a guard dog. He said he knows a guy who trains them for security—ex-Army Ranger—who worked with dogs in the service. He doesn’t want to involve his grandson since the LAPD put out an APB for me late last night. I’m wanted for questioning as a person of interest in the murders of seventeen police officers.”
Kyle grimaced. “Did they mention me?”
“Not at all, actually. I don’t know how much evidence survived his invasion of that police station but surely… I mean… you committed quite a few crimes, but they only seem to want me.”
“You’re the target—the bait they need to trap what they think is a psychotic killer,” Kyle said shortly and left the bed. He pulled on the sweatpants he’d discarded the night before. “Moreover, whatever information they have on me is incomplete and probably confusing. I don’t know if the video footage survived his rampage through that station, but they didn’t take any pictures of me or anything else.”
“Fingerprints?” Sarah questioned.
Kyle paused, then shook his head as he figured out what she was asking. “They disarmed me and started interviewing me. I told them too much, but I was… I felt like if I could make them allies, they could help protect you, but now I know better.”
He walked to stand at the window. “There wasn’t enough time to prepare—I didn’t have a game plan when I landed beyond finding and protecting you. We couldn’t risk the machines finding out I planned to follow the Terminator back in time. Given enough time to plan, I would’ve researched available weapons in the era, memorized the map of Los Angeles, asked John all the questions I’d avoided asking about his mother for years. We can’t stay here long-term, Sarah, so don’t get attached. Seattle was one of the first targets on Judgment Day. I’ll have to study current maps thoroughly to pick a location that won’t suffer heavy nuclear fall-out.”
“You don’t think we can prevent it.”
“I think at most we can postpone it,” Kyle said grimly. “We’ll know—because Skynet will keep sending Terminator back for you and eventually John. Maybe we can prevent it in this timeline, I certainly want to try, but I’m standing here a traveler from a wasteland future, and maybe I wouldn’t be if it were possible to prevent the birth of Skynet.” He cleared his throat. “Perhaps both Skynet and John Connor are inevitable.”
“It sounds like a nightmare,” Sarah murmured. “I don’t know how to protect him from it, but I want to. I don’t want a constant state of war for him, Kyle.” She focused on the gun. “Show me how to use this thing.”
Kyle wasn’t sure a .50 caliber sniper rifle was the best choice for a beginner, but she pressed her lips together and glared at him when he hesitated. “Yeah, okay.”
* * * *
Joe brought them a perimeter system that Kyle was actually very familiar with as they used them in the tunnels. Old technology that didn’t have networking capabilities were all that was allowed in the shelters. In a lot of ways, being in the past had decreased the Terminator’s effectiveness as it didn’t have the Internet at its disposal, nor could it contact Skynet for modified orders.
He relaxed a little bit after the system was in place. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing, obviously, and he doubted the machine would look for it. It was operating in as much of an alien world as Kyle was so hopefully it wouldn’t notice the system at all and seek to circumvent it. The T-800 didn’t appear to have any sort of discretion programmed in when it was focused on a target. Kyle didn’t think it would lay low for long. Maybe the police were counting on that as well but not for the same reasons.
The cache of weapons the older man had started to build was a mixture of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Most of it was military grade and probably illegal for a civilian to own. Thankfully, Joe hadn’t brought anything to the house that Kyle had never seen before, so nothing dented his developing cover story. He knew that Joe and the men he’d brought with him to help secure the property had made some assumptions about his past military service, but he’d been careful not to claim to be a veteran of the war that had done its worst to all of them. It had seemed deeply disrespectful to do such a thing.
Another vehicle was coming up the drive, Kyle shifted slightly toward the house and saw the curtains move in the upstairs bedroom window.
“That’s the last of your supplies coming in,” Joe said. “Sourced some claymores. Illegal as fuck, of course, so you’re gonna have to act really damned surprised to find them on the land if someone with a badge comes along with questions.”
Kyle shrugged. “I’m not concerned about that.”
“Didn’t think you would be,” the older man said wryly. “Let’s map out some likely paths of approach and get it set up. Think this guy is savvy enough to park on the road and come in on foot?”
“Savvy enough, yes, but he’s proven to be not concerned about stealth at all,” Kyle pointed out. “He’ll take the most direct route he can straight to the house and to his objective. He cares less about being contained or punished by the authorities than I do.”
“He certainly already proved that,” Joe agreed. “California will be after putting him on death row for the cops he killed.”
“He killed four other people before that,” Kyle said. “Plus, the people who were killed in the night club. There were probably others that won’t be connected to him… I doubt he bought the weapons he used.”
“They don’t care about that now,” Joe murmured. “They don’t even care to know why he’s doing it at this point—he murdered their own, and for some, that’s going to matter more. I talked to my grandson, Mark, last night; he’s a cop in Seattle. I had to remind him four different times that the son of a bitch is still hunting for Sarah. All he could think about were the cops that were killed. He also asked me if I’d talked to her. I had to lie to the boy because I know he’d have reported it. I expect he’ll show up to check for himself in the next day or so. I did the rental agreement for this house off the books and in cash so he won’t be able to see it if he goes snooping in my bank records.”
“Lying to your family can’t be comfortable.”
“It was more uncomfortable to listen to him rant about the death of people he didn’t know while dismissing the fact that a nineteen-year-old girl he did know was being hunted by a killer,” Joe said. “It just made it more clear to me—how important it is that you both just disappear no matter if they catch this asshole or not. They want to blame her for what happened to their own people so they’ll be gunning for her one way or another for the rest of her life. Right now, she’s just wanted for questioning, a week from now they’ll have convinced themselves that it was a conspiracy and that she’s involved. As soon as he gets sighted across state lines, they’ll bring in the FBI then the focus on her will only get worse.”
The driver of the truck left the vehicle with a cheerful little wave for Joe and Kyle blinked in surprise at the petite woman no older than Sarah that trotted in their direction.
“Joe.” She glomped on the older with a man fierce hug as soon as she could. “Dad said you needed these claymores ASAP, so I offered to deliver them.”
Joe patted her back. “Good, good. Get with Ken over there about placement and leave the detonators on the porch. We’re thinking to the line the driveway up here.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Just the driveway?”
“Got reason to believe the threat wouldn’t bother with a stealth approach,” Joe explained. “Intelligence is sound.”
“Right.” She glanced toward Kyle, then back at Joe.
“Best you not know his name,” Joe said. “Just handle your business, Jamie, and go on back to your daddy.”
The girl nodded and trotted off.
Joe turned to him. “Her parents run a commune on the other side of the island. Most everyone thinks they’re some kind of hippy-free sex thing, but the place is full of weapons, nuclear fall-out shelters, and the like. I honestly kind of thought they were extreme, but maybe the next time they offer to build me a cabin over there, I’ll take them up on it.”
“Might be a good idea as long as they don’t start throwing religion on top of it,” Kyle said. “Or draw too much attention from the police.”
“True, wouldn’t want to get invaded by the FBI.”
* * * *
The ringing of the house phone never ceased to make him nearly jump out of his skin. Sarah picked up the receiver without speaking and listened intently for almost 30 seconds before she hung it up and turned to him. “Joe’s grandson showed up with a couple of detectives from LA. They must have flown in. How would that impact the Terminator’s ability to track them?”
“I don’t know,” Kyle said. “It depends on whether or not it was able to get access to information at the airport. The problem is he’d have probably been able to listen to their conversations fairly easily if he were close enough.”
“Surely they would’ve noticed him,” Sarah said. “The asshole stands out plus… didn’t you notice how he smelled in the police station? He smelled like rot.”
“His skin will regenerate but if it’s damaged—it’ll die and fall off first.”
She made a disgusted face and came back to the table and carefully started to load the Desert Eagle Joe had given her personally. Kyle hadn’t asked about the weapon at the time or the choice—it was a lot of gun for anyone and not the decision he would’ve made for her.
“This belonged to my dad,” Sarah said. “My mom gave it to Joe after… well… after he was gone. She gave all of dad’s guns to Joe because she didn’t want any weapons in the house.”
“Did he shoot himself?” Kyle asked then grimaced as he realized what a callous question that was to ask to anyone. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s fine. He took pills. The police were surprised by that since it’s not the norm for men to take pills as a method of suicide, but my dad would’ve never wanted to leave such a… it’s crazy, but he’d have never made a mess like that in our home. He was a conscientious man and liked things to be neat.” She put the weapon down on the table. “If the cops find me, I don’t want you to fight them and get killed in the process.”
“Sarah.” He focused on her. “They’re no match for him as they’ve already proven. They’ll get you killed.”
“They don’t have a legitimate reason to hold me, and I’ll get a lawyer. In fact, I think I should probably get a lawyer anyways because I don’t like the way this situation is heading and I don’t want to have to worry about being hunted from several different directions. How I went from victim to person of interest in just a couple of days is pretty fucking insulting.” She pursed her lips. “I guess I need to contact my mother’s attorney regarding the estate. We’ll need the money.”
“That money will lead them straight to us,” Kyle said. “You might have to walk away from it, Sarah.”
“No.” She frowned. “That’s not an option—that money means security for John, and that means we’re getting it.” She waved a hand and left the table. “The LAPD is going to have to back off, and that means a lawyer. We’ll start with my mom’s and see what he says.”
“I’m not sure financial security in the future is worth your physical safety now.”
“Money makes this world work, Kyle,” Sarah said patiently. “Maybe you don’t understand that because of how and when you grew up but the more money we have at our disposal, the fewer crimes we’ll have to commit which is certainly in our favor. Shelter, equipment, ordnance, and more weapons do equal physical safety, and the best way to procure all of that is to have money. Legitimate money. If I have the estate liquidized—mom’s house in Santa Barbara, the cabin in Big Bear… plus what she inherited from her own parents. Then there is her life insurance which she insisted on getting after my dad died… it’s probably all total half a million dollars or more depending on the sale of the properties. I have no idea what my mom’s house is worth. She inherited it from an aunt before I was even born.”
He had no concept of money, but that seemed like a lot. “John never really spoke about your financial situation in the past.”
“He wouldn’t have,” Sarah said. “Unless there was no money and we struggled to eat. Hiding out in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language means that I definitely gathered up all the financial resources I could before I left LA in the first timeline. I wish… I wish he’d told you how my mother was killed.”
“Maybe he didn’t know,” Kyle said. “It would’ve tempted him to give me more information than maybe I needed. He certainly couldn’t afford to do much to alter what would happen when I came back for you.”
She nodded and offered him a small smile that looked sad. “Right.”
“I’m sorry you can’t… memorialize her properly.”
“My father was cremated—his ashes are at the Santa Barbara house. I can appoint an executor for the will to stand in my place in Los Angeles if I can’t return there. It makes me nervous, though, considering how much money is potentially involved. Also, they might freeze my assets to get me to come back to California.” She pursed her lips. “I hate this, you know. I hate all of it.”
“I know,” Kyle said quietly. “I wish I could solve all of these problems for you. I feel…” Powerless, he thought, but he was positive that he shouldn’t say it.
Her hand settled unexpectedly on his, and he focused on her. Her eyes were dark and serious. “That’s not what I want for us. I need to be your partner. I know I’m not what you need when it comes to… protecting us, but I want to be. We’re a team, Kyle, so I’m going to figure all of this stuff out.” She waved a hand over the table and the weapons he’d cleaned and loaded. “I have a lot to learn.”
“So do I,” Kyle said. “It’s like being… on a different planet, Sarah, and I can’t say I’m going to always handle it well… Kate said most of us have PTSD because we live on the edge of being destroyed. I’ve been on that edge my whole life.”
“Did they plan to have children?” Sarah asked. “Kate and John?”
“I don’t know—he wouldn’t have discussed that kind of thing with me or anyone else serving under him. He guarded his privacy closely, which was for the best. The machines didn’t need to have more information on him than they already had, and any single person with intimate knowledge of John Connor could be captured and used against him.” Kyle stood from the table and walked to the fridge. He pulled a couple of bottles of water and brought them to the table.
“Grab my vitamins, will you?” Sarah asked as she accepted the bottle.
He pulled out the large bottle of vitamins she’d bought at K-Mart. He hadn’t questioned the purchase of pre-natal vitamins because if things were going as they had before she was certainly already pregnant even if they couldn’t confirm it. Though she’d also bought a pregnancy test. He hadn’t asked about that either.
“We need to check the news to see if they’ve released a picture of you. I’m not certain I should risk going out in public at the moment, but we need some more stuff from the store.”
“I’m not leaving you alone, again,” Kyle said flatly. “Make a list, and we’ll ask Joe if he can go for you.”
She opened her mouth then closed it then frowned at him. The phone rang, and he walked over to the wall to pick it up. He’d watched her enough to figure out how it operated, so he picked up the receiver.
“Let me speak to Sarah Connor.”
“Look, asshole, you involved Grandpa Joe in a very dangerous situation, and I know he’s helping harbor that girl. I found this number on his desk—it’s the only new one. It won’t take me long to find the address attached to it.”
“Joe Wilbanks? I met him at the VA in Seattle. He helped me find a place to live.” Kyle tucked the receiver against his shoulder and glanced toward Sarah, who was staring at him in alarm. “Since he’s physically disabled, I’ve been helping him out around his place. If you asked him, instead of spying on him, I’m sure he would confirm that.”
“You sound younger than most of his other friends.”
“Yes, well, being a veteran of war has no age at all. There are children currently fighting for their lives in parts of this world,” Kyle said evenly. “My friendship with your uncle really isn’t any of your business, so I’m not sure why you’re calling me and asking about the woman on the news.”
“My grandfather served with her dad in Vietnam. He tried to set me up with her. Glad I dodged that bullet, she’s obviously a problem.”
Kyle had rarely instantly disliked someone before. “For being stalked by some psycho?”
“She must have done something to set him off.”
“You should probably call your grandfather and talk to him before I do because I will be telling him that you rifled through his desk and invaded his privacy.”
A dull tone was his answer. Realizing he’d been hung up on, Kyle replaced the receiver and focused on Sarah. “Joe’s grandson.”
“I figured.” She ran her fingers through her hair in frustration. “He’s probably going to show up here or send those cops from LA here. Without a warrant, you’re not required to let them in so they can search for me, but they might ask the FBI to raid the house based on the assumption that I’m actually involved with the whole mess instead of just a victim. Let’s check the news to see if there is a picture or video of you circulating.”
* * * *
Sitting on a couch watching television was surreal. She was curled against him, drowsing as the late news played. Her picture and the story of the stalker cop-killer had dominated all of the shows they’d watched. He wasn’t even mentioned in passing, and he didn’t know whether to be relieved or worried. Kyle was pretty confident that all of the cops he’d personally interacted with had died during the attack. He felt a bit like an idiot for how honest he’d been when he’d been interrogated.
“That criminal psychologist—he wasn’t there when the Terminator invaded the station. I don’t know if he took a copy of the interview with him, but he was elated by the mental illness he assumed you had. He made it clear you were having a paranoid delusion. Whoever is looking for me now, they’ve talked to him. They’ve heard your story.” Her fingers curled into his T-shirt. “If he’s shared that story with the government and based on whatever evidence they found at that station…”
“What are you saying?”
“That maybe they aren’t officially searching for you because they intend to make you disappear down a dark hole so they can use whatever knowledge you’ve brought with you.” Sarah moved closer still and took a deep breath. “And it’s enough to search for me because they know we’re together.”
It had crossed his mind once or twice so he couldn’t dismiss the idea outright. “Then the government will want you and John as well. I should’ve never…”
“You just wanted their help,” Sarah interjected. “You trusted them because they’re not machines and in your world that was enough.”
It was enough, Kyle thought. “Machines are the enemy—everything else fell away. Ambition, greed, friendship, lust… all of it was replaced with the need to survive. We only had each other to depend on, and that’s why the machines created the infiltrators. They had to pretend to be like us to get deep into our enclaves. Fortunately, they’re not great at mimicking the human condition beyond the superficial.”
The phone started to ring, and they both started. Joe had called later in the afternoon to apologize and complain about his grandson, but that had been hours ago. Kyle reached over and picked it up. “Hello.”
“The two cops from LA are staying in a hotel. Heard there’s a fed on the way. Gave Mark another talking to about being in my business,” Joe said gruffly. “Stay on guard, they’ve probably brought the asshole right to our doorstep.”
“You should probably go spend the night elsewhere,” Kyle said.
“I’m not at home. I think they probably have my line tapped, the little assholes.” Joe huffed. “It won’t take long for them to figure out I’ve rented a second house if they get my phone records. The fed will make that really easy, I imagine.”
“We don’t want to cause you legal problems.”
“I’ve got a lawyer friend or two,” Joe said. “Thanks to the draft, I served with men in a variety of careers. Speaking of friends, my friend came through with the dog. I’m supposed to meet him in Seattle tomorrow afternoon.”
“Right, stay safe.” He replaced the receiver after Joe hung up and sat back.
“The cops from California are staying here, and they’ve got something called a fed joining them?”
Sarah snorted. “A fed—that means they have an FBI agent joining them. A government cop with broader reach and jurisdiction. They probably can’t get the local cops to work with them.”
“Joe’s a long time resident and has a few friends who are county cops. He told me when we were setting up the perimeter.” Kyle ran his hand down her back as she turned to cuddle against him. “He’s not staying at home.”
“I don’t want him to get hurt because of me.”
“It won’t be because of you,” Kyle murmured and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “You can’t take it on, Sarah. Whatever the Terminator does—ultimately it’s not about you but the survival of our species.”
“If we can take it out—what do we do with it?”
Kyle considered that. “We definitely need to destroy the CPU. The actual body will have to be melted down, which will require a lot of heat. I’ve never really worried about it before. It has a fuel cell that could be used to help destroy it. Maybe we’ll have to level with Joe about what’s really going on. Having the remains of the Terminator would help prove my story.”
The perimeter alarm went off just as it should, so Kyle had plenty of time to tuck Sarah into the root cellar of the house with a weapon before there was a knock on the door. He supposed it was a relief that the LA cops hadn’t shown up with some sort of support team to break down the door. There were three of them, and one was probably the much-discussed fed. His gut tightened as he opened the door.
“Can I help you?”
“We’re with the LAPD, and we’re here for Sarah Connor,” one announced smugly.
“The girl from the news?” Kyle asked. “Did Joe Wilbanks’ grandson send you here?” He sighed. “Look, I told that guy I met his granddad at the VA in Seattle. Have you been to Joe’s place already? He’s an old man and doesn’t deserve to be hassled because his grandson is a prick.”
The man in the suit squinted briefly at him while the two others seemed to stutter in place as if they hadn’t been prepared for his response. Perhaps they’d expected violence from him or more raving about the future, but Kyle had already learned that lesson. It wouldn’t be easy to make allies in the past, and being a living breathing person wasn’t enough.
“We’d like to come in and look around.”
Kyle smiled. “Do you have a warrant to search my house for a woman from California? Wouldn’t the local cops have to execute that, Detective?” He leaned on the door frame and tried to relax. “You didn’t give me your names.”
“I’m Detective Brad Whitt, and this is my partner Detective Kevin Levison. We’re in charge of the investigation into the murders of seventeen cops.”
“Who’s investigating the murders of everyone else that guy killed?” Kyle asked curiously. “The news said he killed five other people… or do they not count anymore?”
Whitt flushed. “And this is Special Agent Scott Reginald, he’s helping to coordinate the manhunt for the perpetrators.”
“More than one?” Kyle questioned.
They didn’t recognize him at all, he thought, and that was a relief. He wondered what had happened to the videotape the police had made. Parts of the station had been on fire when they’d escaped, maybe the fire or heat from the fire had destroyed the recording. Which meant that really only that psychologist could identify him. He briefly considered hunting the man down and killing him.
“Sarah Connor is wanted in connection with the case.”
Kyle snorted. “A nineteen-year-old waitress? Are you serious? The press is telling the entire country that she was just the last unfortunate woman in the phone book to be named Sarah Connor and you’re going to try to blame her for his actions?” He focused on the FBI agent and found him staring intently. “What do you think?”
“I’m just an advisor… mister…”
Kyle’s gaze drifted over the trees behind them and wondered how far behind the machine was. “I’m not a naïve young girl, Detective Whitt. It’s obvious you’re hunting for this girl so you can use her as a bait for that psychotic bastard who killed a bunch of cops. Do I even have to tell you what kind of man that makes you?”
Whitt’s face darkened with fury. “We’re coming in!”
“Not without a warrant,” the FBI agent warned. “The man’s made it clear we’re not going to be invited in.”
Levison put a hand on his partner’s shoulder and nudged him gently. “You didn’t give us a name.”
“I didn’t,” Kyle acknowledged.
“And you’re not going to,” Reginald said.
“Don’t see why I should.”
Whitt shrugged off his partner’s hand and stepped closer. “I lost some good friends in that attack, you son of a bitch, and Sarah Connor knows why. She’s going to tell me. She’s going to tell me every fucking thing I want to know one way or another.”
Kyle inclined his head and stared at the man for a long moment. He’d seen that kind of vicious grief before, and it was no comfort at all. Men like Whitt were like grenades, and when they went off, no one around them would be spared. “Has it crossed your mind, at all, that the man you’re looking for probably followed you here?”
Whitt’s mouth dropped open.
“He’s obviously got some military training,” Kyle continued. “And his objective was clear. How or why that objective was chosen is probably lost to his own paranoid delusion. Based on the fact that he killed her mother, and invaded a motel she’d been staying in—this asshole is still hunting Sarah Connor. If he’s not here already, he will be, and that’s on you. I suggest you notify the local authorities that you’ve probably lured that psycho here under false pretenses.”
“You’re the guy,” Whitt finally snapped and poked Kyle in the chest. He did it again, and Kyle grabbed his hand. “Let me go.”
“Do not touch me,” Kyle said evenly and released him. “Badge or not, you have no jurisdiction here, and you’re trespassing.”
“You the guy that was arrested with Connor in LA,” Whitt said and stepped back only when his partner grabbed his arm.
“Do you have any proof of that?” Kyle asked curiously.
“You know we don’t,” Levison said wearily. “Most of the station burned. We were lucky to pull the footage of the asshole in the waiting room before he drove the vehicle into the building. Everything else is a dead loss due to the fire.” He glanced over his shoulder with a frown. “Just tell us why that guy is hunting for Connor.”
“I don’t know Sarah Connor,” Kyle said evenly. “And you can go now. If you haven’t brought that psycho right to my door, I’d be amazed. I’ll be filing several complaints—with anyone and everyone I can.” He shut the door and locked it.
“Goddamn it,” Whitt hissed. “Reginald, call your people and start working on a warrant.”
“We have no evidence to present to a judge, Whitt, and even if we did, we’re hell and gone from your jurisdiction. The locals already made it clear they weren’t going to search this house or the other house Wilbanks rents. I can’t bring in agents based on your assumptions.”
“Let’s back off,” Levison suggested. “Maybe this guy is right, and we were followed. We could pick up the suspect easily if we watch the properties. He’ll probably go to the Wilbanks house first—he’d have gotten the old man’s information the same place we did. It was clear he searched the cabin in Big Bear.”
Kyle grimaced at that. They’d barely touched on the death of her mother, and he hadn’t considered what information the machine might have picked up at that location. It made sense that the older woman would’ve had a record of some kind of family friends of which Joe Wilbanks more than qualified as. He stayed by the door until the three men left in the car they’d arrived in and went to retrieve Sarah from the cellar.
She was a bit pale and wild-eyed when he opened the door for her. He filled her in quickly and was relieved when she took in all the information with dry eyes. Sarah’s world was changing rapidly, but she was adapting fast. Maybe that had always been her saving grace. It was honestly an honor to witness, but he kept that opinion to himself as he really didn’t think she’d appreciate it. Any discussion of how people viewed her in the future immediately put her off, and he figured that was normal.
“They’re going to make sure he comes here,” Sarah said dully. “They’re literally going to point him right at me so they can arrest him. I…” She stood up from the table and walked away. “For fuck’s sake, don’t they understand he’s not going to surrender? He’s already killed over twenty people without any sort of hesitation. Even if he was just a human being, it’s pretty damn arrogant that they assume they can succeed where seventeen other cops have failed.”
Kyle watched her pace around the kitchen for a few moments. “They didn’t mention the psychologist.”
“Dr. Silberman,” Sarah said. “Perhaps he’s already in government hands.” She frowned. “Is that paranoid?”
“Probably but paranoia doesn’t automatically equal wrong.” Kyle shrugged when she glanced his way. “The FBI agent they brought with them was neutral to the point of suspicious. Silberman didn’t believe my story, but he listened to me very carefully. He probably was able to tell them all of the relevant details regarding the interview he did with me.” He pulled a glass out of the cabinet and got some water from the tap. “Did you take your vitamin?”
“Yes,” she answered and frowned at him. “Healthy incubation in process, probably.” She waved a hand in what looked like fury and turned away from him.
He grabbed her arm as she walked by. “Hey.”
She jerked briefly, but he held her firmly. “Let me go.”
“Not to be creepy about it, but never,” Kyle murmured. “You are my primary concern, Sarah.”
“Because of John.”
“No, because of you,” he snapped and pulled her close. “Don’t you get it? I told you—I came across time for you. I had no idea how much…” He took a deep breath and let her go. “I’d die for John Connor.” Her breath caught, so he focused on her. “But I want to live for you—I want to make a life with you, and I’ve never wanted that before. There were times when I was fighting when I was sure I’d die, and I didn’t care.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “Kyle.”
“Life was hard and ugly,” he said roughly and walked away from her. “It was painful, mean, and all I had was the fight. I slept, I ate what was given to me, and I fought. Not for my own life but for everyone else but now I have you, and that’s everything. It’s probably too much pressure, and I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything but just don’t… never assume that you aren’t important to me. I’m concerned about the pregnancy in more than one way—most of all I’m worried that maybe we haven’t actually made him and if John Connor never exists, then the machine has accomplished what they set out to do whether you live or not.”
“It’s too soon.”
“I know,” he said gently. “Well, I mean, I don’t know specifically since that whole process is kind of a mystery. But I believe you when you say it’s too soon to check or know.” He rubbed his hand through his hair. “Let’s try to get some rest.”
“I don’t think I can,” she admitted. “He could be… here any minute thanks to those cops and I don’t know what to do with myself.”
“We’ll take turns trying to rest,” Kyle suggested. “I’ll keep watch in the chair.”
* * * *
When the perimeter alarm went off again, Kyle was on the bed staring at the ceiling and waiting for it. He rolled from the bed before Sarah could get into position to check the driveway through the scope of the sniper rifle. He snatched the denotator for the claymores.
“Is it him?”
“Yeah,” Sarah murmured. “He’s on foot but walking up the driveway. He just passed the second sensor for the perimeter. I don’t think he’s noticed the system at all or doesn’t care. He’s carrying a rifle—automatic of some sort. He probably left his vehicle on the road.”
“He’s adjusted his hunting pattern based on past responses and the fact that you were able to get away from him in LA,” Kyle said. “Let me know when he gets close to sector three.”
“Close,” Sarah murmured as she shifted forward, her hands falling naturally on the weapon the way he’d taught her.
Kyle didn’t know if a .50 caliber round would be enough at a distance to take the Terminator out.
He denotated the nest of claymores they’d created, and Sarah flinched back from the scope. “Sorry.”
“No, I mean, I shouldn’t have kept looking.” She rubbed her eye and stood then grabbed her gun from the nightstand.
“Where are you going?” Kyle asked.
“To see what’s left,” she said.
Kyle huffed as she marched out of the room and snatched one of the pipe bombs from the dresser before trotting after her. “Wait for me, that damn thing could still be dangerous as fuck.”
She was waiting patiently by the front door when he got down the stairs. Sarah raised one eyebrow at him. “We don’t have long before those cops come, you know. They’re probably watching at a distance, and that explosion definitely got their attention.”
He couldn’t disagree, but he huffed and pulled the door open. “Me first.”
The smell of burnt flesh wasn’t a new one to him, and Kyle ignored the gagging sound that Sarah made as she followed him. There was a lot of damage to the ground around the driveway where the mines had been, and the Terminator was sprawled in the debris—no weapon that Kyle could see in the moonlight. It probably hadn’t survived the explosion, but that didn’t mean the machine was harmless. He kicked it over, and its eyes lit up red.
“No.” Sarah lurched forward, aimed her gun and put three rounds in quick succession in the Terminator’s face. She paused then emptied the Desert Eagle. The trigger snapped several times after all the bullets were gone before she got a hold of herself and lowered the weapon.
The eyes faded slowly. For a moment, neither of them moved—it seemed too easy.
He looked up and saw lights flashing. “Cops?”
“Cops,” she confirmed.
Kyle snapped half the fuse off the pipe bomb and shoved it in the Terminator’s mouth. “Go.”
He lit the fuse as soon as she turned and run. He wasn’t far behind her and caught her by the waist at the edge of the house. He pushed her against the wall and covered her with his own body just before the bomb went off. Sarah turned in his arms and wrapped her arms around him tightly. “I love you.”
She shuddered. “You have to run.”
“Run. Right now. Get out of here because… they’ll never let you go if you don’t.”
“I can’t leave you,” Kyle whispered fiercely.
“They won’t give you a choice,” Sarah whispered. “You’ll disappear into some government project because of what you know.” She pressed her mouth to his just once, very quickly. “Please. Go.”
“Joe will know how to contact me,” Kyle murmured against her hair. “Stay safe until we can meet.”
“I will,” she promised.
* * * *
Six Months Later
Information on Sarah Connor had been hard to come by in the weeks after Joe Wilbanks smuggled Kyle off of Whidbey Island. The older man had answered the phone every single time Kyle called. Joe had actually arrived on the scene before the FBI could contain it and had seen the remains of the Terminator. It had led to a very long conversation with Kyle after they’d met on the commune’s property. The people there had been generous and more than willing to defy anyone to hide Kyle. He figured they were honestly a tad insane, but he appreciated their generosity.
He’d slipped over the border into Mexico three days after the destruction of the Terminator, leaving Sarah and his son behind. It had been a galling situation, and his frustration had grown exponentially as he watched from afar as Sarah was interviewed on television more than once regarding being stalked and nearly killed. The government had clearly stepped in and taken control of the information because the Terminator, Judgment Day, and the nightmare future never came up.
Sarah had played the part of the victim to the hilt, and in the end, Joe had told him the government had no choice but to let her go because she’d done a great job of manipulating the public in her favor. They’d exchanged messages through Joe, but they’d been few and far between. It hadn’t been enough.
Kyle leaned on the building and watched Sarah interact with the boy and the man running the gas station. She was nearly an hour early for the time they were supposed to meet, but he’d been there all morning waiting on her because he couldn’t wait and hadn’t wanted to risk missing her. The large German Sheppard in the passenger seat wasn’t a surprise. Joe had helped her get the dog. His name was Roman and had been trained for security and protection.
The boy darted away from the jeep after Sarah passed him several dollars and she tucked something into the console just as the older man walked away. He couldn’t wait any longer, so he picked up his duffle and shouldered it.
The dog gave a short a little excited bark as he walked toward them, and Sarah’s gaze jerked upward. She smiled briefly but then schooled her expression. They had a plan, and that meant they needed to avoid making any sort of scene.
“Hi.” She bit down on her lip.
“Kind of hoping you could give me a ride,” Kyle said and glanced toward the gas station attendant who was far enough away that he wouldn’t be able to hear their quiet conversation. “I’m heading for Rosarito.”
“I’m not going that far, but I can give you a ride as far as La Joya,” Sarah said, and her hands tightened on the wheel.
Sarah nudged the dog toward the back seat, and he gamely slipped into the back of the jeep.
He tucked his duffle behind the passenger seat on the floor, let Roman smell his hand and slid into the jeep. “Thanks.”
Sarah put the jeep in gear as soon as he fastened his seatbelt and got on the road quickly. The moment they were out of visual range of the station. She pulled over, unfastened her seat belt and crawled into his lap—swollen belly and all.
“Kyle,” she whispered in a half-sob as she clutched at him.
“God, Sarah, I thought…” He’d been worried she’d never work her free of the US. They hadn’t even been sure that she’d be allowed to cross the border.
She pressed her mouth to his, and he let himself fall into the sweet taste of her. “I’ve missed you so much,” she confessed.
“You’re okay.” He touched her face with trembling fingers. “Right?”
“Great,” she promised and snagged his hand to press her against her belly. “We’re both good.”
Something that had been hard and ugly in his gut since he’d left the island relaxed. “Did they ask you anything about the pregnancy?”
Sarah flushed. “I had to threaten to sue a bunch of people to get free the investigation and said I didn’t know who the father was. Eventually, the Department of Defense confiscated the remains of the Terminator. They were furious with me they found out the CPU had been completely destroyed. They said we had no right to destroy it because the intel it had would’ve been very valuable. The whole thing is classified now, and I was pretty much ordered to never speak of it again as long as I live under threat of going to jail.” She sat back on his thighs and took a deep breath. “How are you?”
“Better now,” Kyle admitted. “Now that you’re here. I have a house in Rosarito ready for us. I’ve been working in construction which pays well here. I’ve made some contacts through Joe down here, and I have a stockpile of weapons I’m building just in case.”
She grinned. “I can’t wait to see what you’ve accomplished.” She ran her fingers through his hair.
Roman stuck his head up between the seats and nuzzled Kyle’s head. He reached up with one hand and patted the dog. “How’s this guy working out?”
“Great, he hates Detective Whitt who remains a complete pain in the ass,” Sarah explained. “I had to file a restraining order to get him to back off. He was really furious when the DOD came in and took everything. They also threatened to put him under a jail if he ever spoke of what really happened on Whidbey Island. They forced him and his partner to tell a story about gunning down the suspect in my defense.”
“I saw that interview,” Kyle said and rubbed his thumb over her generous bottom lip. “God, you’re beautiful. I’ve missed you like crazy.”
Her cheeks darkened pink.
“What did the kid sell you?”
“Oh, he was a total little con artist,” she said with a laugh and reached down into the console. She plucked up a piece of paper and offered it.
Not paper, he thought as he took the Polaroid photograph. He stared at the image for several seconds in shocked silence then he couldn’t help but smile. “What were you thinking when he took this?”
She inclined her head and smiled back. “That I couldn’t wait to see you again. Why?”
“This is the picture that John gave me, Sarah.” He focused on her face then and tucked the picture down in the console for safekeeping. “He carried it for years before he gave it to me so we should keep it safe for him.”
“Do you think we made enough changes to prevent Judgment Day?”
“I don’t know,” Kyle murmured. “Nothing is certain. Let’s just sit here for a moment, then I’ll drive for a while. You look a little tired.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck. “No fate.”
“No fate,” he agreed quietly.