Title: Between the Devil and Metal
Warning: Femslash subtext.
Disclaimer: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and all related characters are copyright of Josh Friedman, Fox Television and James Cameron. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters are copyright of Joss Whedon and ME. No infringement intended.
Note: Written for International Femslash Day and as a very belated birthday present for jedibuttercup
Synopsis: The future has been written. It’s the past that’s constantly changing. (Series: Here be Dragons)~*~
Between the Devil and Metal
Metal whined, the door beneath Faith’s hands buckling outward as she continued to tug on the massive handle and managed to separate the metal security lip, that made her scavenged crowbar useless, from the doorframe. Buffy moved forward, hooked the tips of her fingers beneath the ledge and added her strength to Faith’s. The three deadbolts keeping them out gave under their combined effort with ricocheting pops that filled the darkened alley behind the row of shops.
Brown eyes narrowed and Faith hesitated, turning to give the shadows behind them one last sweep before following Buffy inside. Her bare feet struck cool tiles and she shivered, stepping free of the Los Angeles smog and humidity into the air-conditioned darkness of the store before pulling the door closed, as best she could, behind her.
It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the muted light leaking in around the damaged door and her brows tugged together when she found herself alone in the small storage area. She snorted—Slayer solidarity her ass—and made her way into the front of the store. Streetlights illuminated the racks of clothing in varying shades of blue, green and white, casting through the graffiti paintjob on the panoramic windows bared to the street.
Faith paused to study the swirling colors and hard edges, admiring the skill it had taken to create something so intricate and steady. Artists like that had been coveted by the Resistance, using them to tag safe houses and bunkers throughout the cities so that the humans knew where to gather and when to get the fuck out of dodge. Those symbols and their ability to create them with such quick efficiency had saved lives and turned kids into heroes that were hunted by the metal.
With a shake of her head Faith tugged herself free of the future and back into the present, deftly turning from the window she slid between the racks toward the far wall and the underwear hanging from it. Her eyes narrowed as she drew nearer to the wall and saw that underwear was a pretty loose term for the scraps of lace and silk lining the peg hooks in front of her. Faith’s head tilted back, arms rising to cross beneath her bare breasts as she looked for anything with an underwire that could actually support her.
She settled on a black number that tucked the cousins in tight enough to make her cleavage vaguely resemble an ass crack—just what she needed—and pulled the excuse for underwear that matched up her legs and over her thighs to rest on her hips. A presence behind her had Faith spinning, fists raised and eyes narrowed before they settled on Buffy who simply arched a brow in response and offered her a pair of jeans and a black pinstriped top. “Already got the tags off.”
“Thanks.” Faith snatched the jeans and tugged them on, frowning at the fact that they had six buttons to keep them closed. Her brows slipped together, a line forming between them as she struggled to master the buttons on the inside of the jeans and looked up, saw Buffy was already fully dressed—the days of B insisting on washing before wearing were long past—and winced. “How long did I space for?”
A narrow shoulder rose and fell. “Not long. Maybe a minute. Maybe two.” Her face remained expressionless as she watched Faith snap the last button and accept the top before she jerked her chin toward the back wall of the store. “There are jackets and shoes over there.”
Faith held the pinstriped top in her hand a moment, frowning down at the black ribbon lacing up the back and sent Buffy a confused look. “How’in the hell am I suppose to wear this?”
“Turn it over, brain trust.”
Sending the other Slayer a mutinous look she did as mocked and smiled at the zipper, lined by leather piping, running down the front and grinned, suddenly admiring the construction of ribbon and metal hooks. Buffy moved away from her and toward the back of the store as Faith unzipped and slipped on the top before following. Once the front was closed and her breasts were flattened by the constricting fabric, and no longer ass-like, Faith looked up to see Buffy handing her a pair of socks.
“You’re all over this B and E.”
“Learned from the best.” Her cheeky grin was accompanied by a derisive laugh as Buffy turned away from Faith and toward the shoes set up in rows of boxes. The more fashion conscious Slayer bypassed the strappy heels and peep-toed pumps for the row of boots. Brown eyes dipped, taking in the sight of skin and scars bared by the sensible tank-top Buffy had chosen for herself.
Faith’s gaze lowered and was distracted a moment by the curve of Buffy’s ass through the tight fit of her jeans before she noticed the extra pockets and belt loops that adorned them. Her considering frown became more prominent by the moment before she lifted her head and stated, “You grab the boots. I’ll snag the jackets and then we can get gone.”
Green eyes lifted from their study of the boots to send Faith a narrowed look before she sighed, “Do we really need jackets? It’s at least eighty degrees without the humidity factor outside. Maybe we should skip on ‘em.”
A brow arch high and Faith inclined her head. “The more layers between us and them the better. You know that.” Not waiting for a reply Faith made her way between the rows of shoes to look over the small display of jackets and snagged a wool, flare-collared for herself before sorting through the rest. She gave a low whistle when she found a cotton, cropped jacket with a priest collar. It was short enough to stop just at the high point of Buffy’s waist and had enough detailing to look interesting against her less than thrilling jean-tank combo.
She bit through the thin plastic tab holding the price tag on before shrugging into her own jacket and tugged on her socks and turned, stiffening when she found Buffy standing just behind her. “Learn to stomp.”
An eye roll accompanied Buffy shoving a pair of comfortable looking motorcycle boots at her. The soles appeared thick enough to do some damage and take it in equal parts which sat just fine with Faith as she tossed Buffy the jacket she’d chosen for her. She snapped off the tag before fiddling with the zipper along the back panel as Faith pulled on the boots and rose, her brows tugging together. “There something wrong?”
A pointed chin lifted and Faith’s mouth curved downward at the sight of damp lashes as Buffy struggled to find words. “No, it’s-it’s fine,” she paused, frowned, “it’s more then fine. It’s nifty even.”
She slipped into the jacket and fastened the buttons hidden beneath a flap of fabric and the two holding the high priest collar closed. Faith smirked in triumph at the fact that the jacket hugged Buffy’s chest and shoulders, stopping right where she’d thought it would. She watched Buffy adjusted the sleeves that ended at her knuckles before she looked up to see Faith’s nod of approval. “Looks good on you, B.”
A quick dip of Faith’s chin accepted Buffy’s gratitude before she turned and slipped through the rows of shoes and racks of clothes toward the back entrance, only stopping long enough to snag a red tank from one of the shelves. The pair paused at the back door, heads cocking in unison as they listened for anything out of the ordinary and a moment passed before Buffy slipped around Faith and into the alley. Another moment eased by before she motioned the all clear, Faith’s crowbar clutched tight in her fist, and the pair made their way past the dumpsters and stench of burning vegetable oil from the restaurant four stores up.
Their new boots crunched over the debris and rocks, ignoring the uneven ground as they glided over and through it until they reached the street and fell into step side by side. Their gazes swept over the quieting neighborhood of shops as they made their way down the street and further away from the site of their thievery. Faith lifted the tank top up and grasped the seam along the side and tore it before repeating the same process to the other side until she had the tank in two pieces.
“Here.” Buffy paused, turned toward Faith as she tucked one side under her arm and folded up the other into one long strip of cloth. Faith smiled when Buffy simply presented her with her left arm, the crowbar clutched in her right hand came to rest against her shoulder as she watched Faith tie the strip of red around her bicep.
Buffy accepted the other half of the tank top and Faith’s left arm, the crowbar passing between owners and her arm jerked when Buffy tied off the strip and Faith nodded. “Thanks.”
She tucked in a loose section before allowing Faith to lower her arm and then she turned, glanced down the empty road. “We need transportation if we’re gonna make it to the safe house by dawn.”
“Reese isn’t gonna be happy to see us.”
Buffy’s shoulders dropped with Faith’s statement. “No, he’s not,” she blinked rapidly as if trying to will back tears before adding, “Because he’ll know what us being here means.”
Faith sighed, slipping her hand into Buffy’s and tugged her forward, made Buffy match her casual stroll down the sidewalk. “He will, but we’ll worry about that then. For now, let’s worry about our need to grand theft auto.”
Her sister in arms nodded, keeping stride with her and the hand nestled in Faith’s tightened before Buffy asked, her voice hopeful, “What about the ice cream?” 2021
A shudder tightened her muscles, twisted her stomach up enough for Shannon to taste bile as she simply stood in the entryway to the bunker and stared at the two women intertwined on a narrow cot. Their hair had been shorn, cut tight and militaristic against their scalps and the relatively clean clothing they had been given hung from their frail, intertwined limbs. She blinked back the sudden onslaught of fresh tears, tears that had violated her as she broke down in Andrew’s—Wells to Connor and the others—arms when he’d told her they’d found them, freed them.
Her heavy boots thudded against the concrete as Shannon made her way into the room, her stunned grief making her usually graceful gait awkward and coltish. She hadn’t felt this young, frightened and hopeful since she’d stood at Vi and Cho-Ann’s sides as they opened the Mouth of Hell back in Sunnydale, when there’d been a Sunnydale, and followed the two weakened Slayers before her into battle. Shannon moved until she drew the pair into her shadow and watched the steady rise and fall of Faith’s chest and the slow in and out of Buffy’s stomach.
They were alive—sweet Mother—they were alive.
She’d lost so many friends, so many sisters in arms to the metal. Shannon hadn’t seen another Slayer in over two years and hadn’t heard one over the call box in months. Months of feeling utterly alone because she knew Skynet had hunted them. Hunted every Slayer, regardless of age, regardless of skill and captured them, and until Shannon had entered the underground barracks that evening she had thought all captures lead to annihilation.
The two women sleeping in front of Shannon attested to that and another brighter hope was born from this knowledge. She went to her knees, placing Buffy’s back at waist level and had to ball her hands into fists, nails biting into her palms, as she resisted the urge to reach out and touch them. Anchor the thought, the belief that Skynet wouldn’t be the death of the Slayerline into reality, but instead she rested her ass against the back of her boots and pressed her palms to her thighs.
Brown eyes narrowed as she caught sight of Faith’s blank features over Buffy’s shoulder and she inclined her head. Studied the brunette’s nearly unchanged, if gaunt, appearance and knew Buffy and herself mirrored this fact of Slayer physiology. She still didn’t entirely understand Andrew’s, usually, long-winded explanation of their healing ability fighting off the normal effects of aging and the deterioration caused by breathing oxygen—and she really didn’t want to—but she did know that being a Slayer would have given them another decade, maybe two, of life if any of them had ever lived to old age.
Since Shannon was willing to bet a months rations that no Slayer would ever
live to old age the extra decade of life meant very little to her except for the fact that it created the illusion of youth in herself, Faith and Buffy. She knew the two women in front of her were pushing forty, but they appeared to be in their late twenties and in the right lighting Shannon could, and still did, pass as a teenager.
Though a teenager was not something Shannon ever wanted to be again. A hand rose, fingers absently tracing the ridged scar left behind by Caleb’s knife so many years ago and she winced, dropping her hand and pushed herself onto her feet. She resisted the urge to press her fingers against the burn mark he’d left her and instead turned, only to stop short when a hand snaked around her wrist.
She tensed, muscles cording with the unwelcome physical contact and she turned her head, body tensing when she realized who
held her immobile with just a touch. Clear green eyes looked up at Shannon, studied her face and Buffy’s limbs slowly extracted themselves from Faith’s and her legs eased over the side of the cot, bare feet resting against the warm concrete floor as Shannon’s heart rate increased.
The grip around her wrist tightened, turned Shannon fully toward the cot and a sharp tug brought the younger woman to her knees. She gazed up at into such a familiar face and watched those green eyes narrow, considering as they continued to look her over. Buffy’s free hand rose, her narrow wrist bending as she dragged abused knuckles down Shannon’s cheek and over her jaw. The knuckles were replaced by fingertips as they skimmed the edge of her throat and found her other reminder of Caleb.
Buffy searched the small circular scar with light touches that raised goosebumps down Shannon’s neck and across her shoulders before the older woman whispered, her voice harsh. “I know you.”
Shannon’s lower lip trembled as she sucked in a breath and nodded, tears already gathering in her lashes as she stated, “You do.” 2011
Ash fell like snow, coating the street and the children brave enough to face a nuclear winter outdoors with very little protective covering. Faith crossed her arms and lifted her chin, gaze trained on what was left of Seattle’s skyline—the Emerald City had seen better days—from the fifth floor of the Holiday Inn she and Buffy had stumbled across on their trek back from Canada with supplies. A balloon floated up through the ever falling ash and distracted her from the countless bodies trapped inside the city and thoughts of possible survivors and her mouth quirked, lips pulling upward as she watched it bob in the wind, rising higher.
Her gaze dipped back towards the street and she heard the mattress creak as Buffy woke, meaning it was her turn to get ninety minutes, but she couldn’t tear herself away from the sight of the children’s father blowing up another balloon, this one red. He handed it off to a little girl, her brown hair pulled into two neat pigtails that bounced as she made her way back towards her mother, the wrist the balloon was tied to waving wildly.
“What’cha watchin’?” Faith glanced over her shoulder as Buffy moved toward her, arms raised high above her head and back arching with the movement as she stretched out the kinks. She made her way around the bed to take a spot at Faith’s side, a smile spilling across her face, the first real one Faith had seen in months, when she saw the children playing, a hint of normalcy. A callused hand slipped into her own, fingers intertwining with hers as they watched the family attempt to give their children at least a measure of happiness wherever and whenever they could find it.
The little girl paused to look back, small head inclining and Faith felt Buffy’s hand tighten a moment before she heard the familiar whine of an air to ground missile. The glass separating them from the street vibrated as the children and adults below scattered and the bottom story of the building next to the hotel exploded in a shower of dust and concrete. Faith’s free hand rose, pressed against the cold glass, eyes going wide as the building began to collapse, the windows exploding outward, showering the street with glass and she lost sight of the red balloon.
Buffy was already turning, reaching for one of the M16 semiautomatic rifles, they’d gathered on their supply run, lining the foot of the bed and Faith snagged her arm, drew her back and away from the weapons. They both winced as the impact from the falling building with the street rocked the hotel they were holed up in and Buffy turned toward Faith, opened her mouth to argue before her gaze slid to the window and her face crumpled, tears darkening her lashes. Faith turned, throat constricting when she caught sight of the red balloon making its way skyward.
They cautiously made their way forward, toward the window and watched as a machine, built like a cut down helicopter, swept down from that cloud covered skyline, knocking the balloon and sending it tumbling through the air. It hovered near the newly created rubble, a massive light searching the debris covering the street. Faith stiffened, the hand grasping Buffy’s arm tightening when it suddenly let loose a peal of bullets to beat against a section of wall that still stood and Buffy whispered, voice harsh, “How do we stop something like that?”
Ash still fell, still coated the street and since Faith hadn’t a clue what to say she kept the fuck silent and used her grip on Buffy’s arm to pull her rigid, resisting body against her own, held her in her arms as her gaze, hot from unshed tears, lifted from the machine hunting and killing anything that moved on the street to the dust and skyline that had once been a city.
Instead of bullshit placations she offered her the truth, no matter how lame, “I don’t know.” 2008
The white spray paint stood out in stark contrast to the black billboard and Derek paused, ignore the curious look from Sarah directed his way and felt his mouth go dry. His hands balled into fists, blunt nails catching on his calluses as he recognized the symbols of the Resistance and the safe-house it directed anyone that needed help, shelter to, but one of the symbols was backwards. It changed the meaning of the message so that it requested help rather then offered and Derek exhaled slow before turning on his boot heel and cutting through the crowded sidewalk to head back toward the SUV certain Sarah would follow.
She caught up with him in a few angry strides and he ignored her first three queries until her hand caught the cruck of his elbow and dragged him to a stop. Green eyes narrowed, his brow furrowing as he glared down at her offending hand and she squeezed tighter. “Where are you going?”
His gaze shot up to her face, the thin line of her mouth was pulled tight with a frown and he jerked his arm down, before easing back, freeing himself from her grip and answered, “To help,” he jerked his chin back towards the billboard, “whoever made those symbols.”
Sarah turned, gazed up at the billboard. “Graffiti? That’s what’s got you worked up?”
“Graffiti to you. Salvation to the Resistance.” Derek shook his head and spun, continuing his trek back toward the SUV and felt more then saw Sarah spin to follow.
She was silent a moment, letting him lead them and more then likely thinking through her argument before she finally stated, “How do you know it’s an ally?”
“If the metal knew what those symbols meant they wouldn’t have spent so much time trying to capture the kids painting them.” His voice dipped, twisted toward agitated as he added, “They would have raided the safe houses.” He finally unclenched his fists, stretching his fingers out to reestablish blood flow as he turned his head, caught Sarah’s eye. “Whoever made those knew what they meant and they need help.”
They reached the SUV and Sarah moved in front of him, passing over to the driver’s side as she stated, voice certain. “I’m going with you.”
“No,” Derek’s eyes narrowed, “you’re not.”
They stared at each other over the hood of the vehicle and Sarah’s brow arched. “And why’s that?”
“They won’t know you. They won’t trust you.” Derek’s unspoken ‘I don’t trust you
’ hung between them.
“I want to meet them.”
“Because they involve my son. Because they’re from a future I want to stop.” Sarah’s voice grew to a snarl as she ended with, “Because maybe they won’t lie from the start.”
A hand rose, scratched at his jaw and the day old stubble marring it as Derek smirked. “I doubt that.”
The thin line of her mouth grew thinner still and Sarah’s shoulders pulled back, her spine straightening as she hit the button to unlock the SUV’s doors and moved to open the driver’s side. Derek waited, watched her crawl in behind the wheel and stare out at the street, the people surrounding them, passing them as she started the engine and waited. He eased back from the hood and moved to the passenger door, opened it and stood beside the vehicle as it rumbled to life. “I’ll be back sometime tomorrow.”
She kept her gaze forward, hands tightening around the wheel and Derek watched her knuckles pale before she offered, “We’re never going get anywhere unless we start trusting one another.”
His chin fell with a sharp nod. “You’re right,” he stepped back, hand catching the door’s edge, “Let me know when you’re ready to,” and slammed it. 2023
The disc of flatbread was torn in half and Lehane absently handed Summers a portion of it before using the rest to scoop up the beans from the metal tin holding her morning meal. Derek cocked his head, still confused by the fact that the pair shared their already equal portions with one another as if they were still in confinement, still trapped together in the hellhole that was Century. He shared a look with Kyle before his brother’s mouth curved inward and he turned his amused gaze on the two women across from them and dragged the usually solemn Summers into conversation.
Derek shook his head and tore off a section of his own bread to dip into his beans, stirring them. The heel of his boot beat an irregular pattern against the concrete beneath it as he took his first bite and ignored the curious glances of the rest of those loitering around the dining hall. A snort shook his shoulders and he ignored Lehane’s quirked brow before taking his first bite of breakfast and tuned into Kyle earnest urgings that Summers join in the team in getting a tattoo.
They were a team, the four of them, and Derek was still torn between unease and gratitude at having these particular members of the Resistance at his back. They’d started making a name for themselves in the past few months and with that type of human reverence came machine interference and probable death. Metal didn’t like beacons of hope, they’d been trying to snuff out Connor for years and Derek didn’t want that kind of heat on his brother.
Kyle, for all the hell he’d been through, still managed to maintain an unrelenting good cheer that was both contagious and irritating as all hell. Derek brought another scooping of beans up as he watched Summers’s mouth curve inward with the beginnings of a smile as she watched his brother drag up his coat sleeve to bare his mostly clean forearm. The small display of skin made her smile spread wider and a hand rose, fingers threading through the pale brown hair that had finally reached chin length.
An elbow hit the table with a thud and Lehane propped her chin on the palm of her hand as brown eyes bounced back and forth between the pair, a content smile on her face. Derek shifted, moving his body so that he straddled the bench and could study the conversing pair as he sopped up the rest of his beans with his bread and shoved the pile into his mouth.
Covering his chewing with his fist he felt more than saw Lehane lean into him, voice conversational as she stated, “I think we’re getting tatt’ed up tonight.”
He turned, swallowing a hunk of un-chewed bread that made him wince and run a quick tongue over his teeth, checking for leftovers, but before he could reply a muffled snort drew his gaze back to Kyle. The snort became a snicker that turned into full blown laughter and Derek simply stared.
In the past year of working with Summers he’d seen her smile on and off, but he’d never heard her laugh, never seen her so uninhibited as she threw her head back, enjoying the moment and Derek found himself quietly agreeing, “I think you might be right,” and watched his brother, ever the miracle worker, slowly bring someone back from the dead. 2008
The fingerprint resistant grip of the Mark XIX sat comfortable in the palm of his hand as Derek brought his left wrist up, bracketing his right and the steadying his line of fire as he clicked on the flashlight. It cut a path through the darkness of the tunnels beneath Los Angeles as he made his way deeper and the air grew thicker, damper around him as the heat of the city faded to be replaced by the sticky warmth that saturated the back of his shirt within moments.
Four city blocks and a staircase down brought him to a crossroads and green eyes narrowed as he glanced back and forth before a muffled yip turned his head to the left. The flashlight followed his gaze and he blinked when a shadow danced there and he hurriedly clicked off the light and pressed his damp back against the damper stone behind him. The utter darkness following the loss of the flashlight forced Derek to close his eyes and count slow and precise to fifteen before opening them.
Vague shapes could be seen in the darkness now and a dimness that had been drowned out by his flashlight was suddenly transparent against the far wall to his left. His elbows struck concrete as he thrust himself away from the wall and brought his gun and flashlight back up, left wrist bracing the right again, as he focused on his mission and, for a brief moment, he actually wished he had someone watching his six. With a shake his head he refocused and started forward, one foot crossing slowly in front of the other as he brought himself down into a crouch as he reached a blind corner and the light went up another few watts.
Shadows were back, small and bouncing, and his brows drew down before one of them wiggled and grew larger and Derek calmly released the safety. His body ducked lower as he slipped around the corner and paused, taking in the sight of more damp concrete and high ceilings and several tunnels branching off from the main one he found himself standing alongside.
The fourth tunnel on the right held the subtle light of a lantern’s glow, a glow he knew and had come to respect after a long mission away from the relative safety of the camps. The shadows were back and shifting, squirming their way towards the tunnel’s entrance and Derek’s arms rose, spreading his line of fire wider as the figures burst from the entrance and raced their way towards him.
He dropped his arms, the corner of his mouth tugging inward as he watched two pups make their way to him and the sight of the dogs, the normalcy of seeing them at a Resistance bunker, allowed him to crouch down, accept their curious sniffs and wildly thumping tails. A full black pup greeted him first, head cocked and one ear folded while the other quirked towards him and the shape of the face had Derek guessing German Shepherd as the mostly dominate breed in that one’s history before its partner leaped against him.
The ball of soft fluff was heavier then he’d expected and the size of the paws currently finding purchase on his thigh had him guessing it’d grow to rival the GS still carefully watching him. He glanced down, looking into the mostly white face with a splash of grey covering one eye that had darker grey and black speckled through it and Derek found his smile spreading wider as he rose and dislodged the animal.
“Boss! Goddamn it!” The black GS spun towards the tunnel the duo had just vacated, tail coming to life as the familiar voice grew louder and continued with, “Mister!” and the speckled pup gave an articulate woof and darted back towards the entrance, the black one not far behind. Derek rose, his brows dropping and his gun held at ready at his side, but the sinking feeling in his gut assured him he wouldn’t need to use it as the owner of the voice stepped into the main tunnel.
His jaw thrust forward, throat drying and world narrowing in the span of a second because Derek did
know the owner of that voice and she lifted her gaze from the pups at her feet to the man not thirty yards away, his hand flexed around the handle of Mark XIX. She stayed where she was, hands held loose at her sides before her head inclined and she inquired, voice still whiskey rough, “Reese.”
“Lehane,” his own voice sounded strangled, wounded and he struggled to keep the tremor from it as he inquired, “Where’s Summers?” because he knew one did not come without the other.
“Up ground.” He didn’t move, but her gaze was drawn to the gun at his side and she commented, “Nice Eagle.”
His fingers flexed around it and he swallowed, sandpaper and grit coating his throat as he stared at the near absolute proof that John Connor, his nephew, the only hope the future had was dead and sighed. “Gotta beer?”
“Beer and ice cream,” her chin lifted, jerked towards the tunnel at her back and added, “Come on,” brown eyes dropped to the pups at her feet, “You too, mongrels.”
She spun and made her way back into the tunnel and Derek followed.
It was just like old times.
Right down to the taste of ash on his tongue.