Author: Art Badger
Rated: R for Language
for beta reading!
Word count: 4361
Disclaimer: No ownership, no profit, etc. All credit to James Cameron, WarnerBro, McG, whoever else.Summary: John Connor and Marcus have to deal with the future fate of Kyle Reese.
Note: This story is set in the same world as my other series: The Fate We Made
and How To Be A Good Guy
July 21st, 2021
The blood soaking into his jacket terrified John Connor. He screamed at Marcus to get aboard the Black Hawk, hoping the cyborg could hear him over the noise of the guns. Blair on the Black Hawk's side-mounted gun, Marcus' mini-gun and the weapons of the Terminators that were closing in on their position, all added up to a deafening roar. There were too many machines, far more than there should have been. Their intelligence had been bad; they'd fallen right into an ambush.
Kyle's weight made Connor's arms burn, but he clutched his father tight, keeping pressure on the wound. A bullet from one of the Terminators had found a weak spot in Kyle's ragged Kevlar and punched into his chest. That was just the worst of what the young demolitionist had suffered. There were lacerations across his face and neck from shrapnel and two more bullets had gone through his left shoulder. A piece of flying scrap metal was still sticking out of Kyle's stomach. Connor's vision blurred with tears as he tried to keep his father conscious, yelling at him to stay with them.
Marcus' bulk crashing to the floor made the entire helicopter shudder, but he was aboard. He and Blair concentrated their fire and blew the closest T-700 to burning bits.
"Get us out of here, Decker! Now!" Blair's voice carried over the din of battle, but the pilot was already on it. The copter rose slowly and joined the rest of the retreating Resistance forces. Blair and Marcus fired a few more rounds before they joined Connor in huddling around Kyle.
"If you die on me, kid, I'm gunna rip your damn head off and use it for a football. Got it?" Marcus snarled at Kyle, but he was already taking the young man's weight from Connor's arms. Untiring hands held the improvised bandages tight against Kyle's chest.
For months now Kate and a former paramedic named Dixon had been training Blair as a back-up medic, but with supplies as limited as they were there wasn't much to spare for her field kit. She did what she could, giving Kyle as much morphine as she thought was safe and starting a transfusion from Connor to the younger man. With Marcus holding the chest wound shut the blood should do some good. Blair didn't want to risk causing more harm by going after the bullet with her uncertain skills and the motion of the copter. She wrapped the hole in his shoulder and secured the metal shard in place where it wouldn't cause further damage. Removing it would just let more of Kyle's blood seep out.
"I'm not going anywhere, Marcus," Kyle tried to grin, but a sudden bout of turbulence shook the copter and sent a spasm of agony across his face. "You're going to have to find another football."
"Shut up, kid, you shouldn't be talking," Marcus's free hand clamped on Kyle's unhurt shoulder, "just stay awake."
Connor couldn't speak, could barely think. Kyle couldn't be dying; he couldn't die. His father had to live. He would go back in time and save Sarah Connor, fall in love with her, prepare her for the future. He didn't – wouldn't – die here, in a helicopter after some damn ambush by a bunch of tin-cans. He couldn't. The blood that covered Connor's jacket, turned his shirt slick and sticky against his chest made his skin crawl. There was so much of it; he knew from bitter experience that Kyle was in a lot of trouble. Despite Marcus' unwavering hand holding the bandage tight on the wound, the red stain was spreading through the pads with each breath Kyle took.
Blair and Marcus kept talking to Kyle, but Connor couldn't make his mouth move. He stared at his father, years younger than he himself and pale with shock. He could feel more hot tears running down his cheeks. He kept his eyes on Kyle's face, holding the younger man's blurry gaze with his own whenever Kyle looked away from his adopted family: his sometimes-mother and his not-quite-father.
The most Connor could do as his mind struggled violently against the situation he found himself in was grip his father's hand tight in his own as the Black Hawk took them to the fall-back site where Kate was waiting with the surgeon.
Kate and Dr. Walsh, the unit surgeon, had done all they could. The bullet had shattered inside Kyle's chest and they weren't certain if they'd been able to get all the fragments. The battered X-ray machine was having one of its days; even Marcus couldn't convince it to work properly. The wound was closed now and Kyle was getting more AB- pumped into him. Since the pirate team that Marcus and Blair led had raided another Skynet medical facility there was more than enough synthetic blood when it was needed.
The medics had spared as much of the precious antibiotics as they could, but there was still a high chance of infection, especially for the stomach wound. Kate and Dr. Walsh wouldn't speculate about Kyle's chances, even when Connor had begged his wife. It was too early to tell, she'd said.
Marcus and Blair took shifts with Kyle, alternating out to take care of their little son, Tyler. Blair, at her husband's vehement insistence, also took shifts off for sleep. Connor refused to leave his father's side, keeping Kyle's hand clutched in his own. He made his broadcast for the day from Kyle's bedside in the base infirmary. He wouldn't have slept if he could have helped himself, but Kate refused to let him near any stimulants and his body forced sleep on him eventually.
"What the hell?" Connor struggled upright, wrestling to free himself from the sheets that had tangled around his legs and arms.
"Kate told me to keep you in bed, Connor. She was very careful not to be specific as to how I do it." Marcus' voice started out hard, but softened once he was done threatening. "You need rest. Kyle would be the first one to tell you that, after Kate."
"She drugged me, didn't she?" Connor knew before the shorter man nodded confirmation and he fumed silently for several seconds. "How is he?"
"Dr. Walsh says he's improving. No infection yet. Kate thinks they can use the Skynet tech to repair the lung damage. He should keep full use of the arm that got hit." Bright blue eyes kept a close watch on Connor for any signs of impending escape attempts.
"When can –" Connor didn't get to finish the question.
"When something changes, Kate will let you know." Even knowing that Marcus was telling the truth and Kate would call for him at once, Connor's mind screamed against not being there for his father.
"I guess until now I thought you were just being crazy when you said Kyle was your daddy." Marcus shook his head when Connor's eyes went wide at the comment. "Man chains you to an axel and hangs you over an empty missile silo, you tend to remember what he says to you."
"Don't tell him." Connor saw the other man's expression harden, "Marcus, you can't tell him anything about what I said." His voice came out rough and quiet, turning what he'd meant to be an order into a plea.
"There happen to be some sort of reason? Seems to me it's the sort of thing he should know, considering you said Skynet killed him."
Connor didn’t realize he had grabbed hold of Marcus' arm until his fingers started to cramp from his grip on the other man's wrist. He was holding tightly enough that even through the layers of skin and muscle he could feel hard metal. Marcus didn't flinch at the grip. He was still waiting for Connor's answer.
"I don't want to put anything else on him, Marcus. Isn't the present enough? He doesn't need to worry about the future," he tried to keep his voice calm, but he didn't do a very good job.
Marcus' face showed nothing for long minutes while Connor waited, hand still clenched around the cyborg's wrist. Finally, Marcus gave a small nod, but his words didn't reassure Connor.
"I ain't mentioned it to anyone up till now, mostly because I thought you were just being nuts. You better have a damn good reason for asking me to keep this secret though. Kyle has a right to know whatever you know about him."
"He's my father –"
"He's a big kid, he can deal with whatever you have to tell him. This ain't some mission you're planning, Connor, it's his life."
"What fucking right do you have to get involved, Wright?" The words exploded out of Connor, coming from the part of him that had been watching for years as Marcus adopted Kyle into his family and gained Kyle's trust, respect and even love in a way that Connor couldn't ever allow himself to hope for. It was a part of him that resented, maybe even hated Marcus. Connor's fists clenched as he glared at the smaller man.
"I'm what he's got, Connor. He's my s—"
Connor lashed out, his fist landing with enough force to snap Marcus' head around and send a shock up Connor's arm. Hitting Marcus in the face was damn painful. Marcus brought his head back around and gave Connor a cool stare.
"He isn’t your son," the snarl in his voice didn't faze Marcus any more than the punch had.
The cyborg just looked at him with that same unruffled expression until Connor lost the last shreds of control over his temper and launched himself out of the bed. He tackled Marcus, venting the frustrations and pain that had been building inside him since he'd seen Kyle go down with a bullet in his chest. Connor slammed into the smaller man, taking the wind out of him with a forehead to the belly. His head rang from the impact, but at least on Marcus' stomach the metal was padded with human muscle and flesh. The speed of his attack had taken the other man by surprise; Connor had him on the floor before Marcus reacted.
"Damn it, Conn--!" Marcus wheezed before John's fist closed his mouth. The crack that followed the punch told Connor that he'd damaged something in his hand, but he didn't care. He welcomed the simple pains in his hand and his head, they distracted him from thinking about his father dying, Marcus' accusations, the whole fucked up situation.
Connor snarled angrily as he felt Marcus take hold of his shoulders and wrap one leg around his feet. A second later he was on his back, pinned under the cyborg's heavier body.
"You don't understand any of this, Wright! Stay out of it!" Connor's voice was hoarse with too many feelings for him to straighten out, much less contain.
With a derisive snort, Marcus rose easily to his feet which left Connor to glare up at him.
"Kyle'd die for you, Connor," that stopped short any response that Connor might have had ready. Even though he knew it was true, it sent a stab of pain through him. That wasn't what he wanted. "He trusts you and here you are keepin' secrets from him. Secrets about him, that he's got every right to know."
Connor opened his mouth to reply, but he couldn't get anything out. That was the problem, wasn't it? For him to live, Kyle Reese had to die. His father had to die for him to be born. And he was the one that had to sent him to his death.
"I'll give you a while to sort it through," Marcus left before Connor recovered enough to mount another protest.
"Fuck," though he'd halfway risen to stop Marcus, Connor sank back to the floor and put his head in his hands. "Fuck."
"John! What the hell happened?" Kate had finally returned to their quarters at the insistence of the second shift medics only to find her husband attempting to wrap his own broken hand.
"Marcus thinks I should tell Kyle about the future." Connor yanked angrily at the bandages he was trying to tie around his hand, sending a spike of pain through the wounded limb. He cursed and sank onto the bed, glowering at the offending hand.
"He broke your hand?" Kate was outraged, she had never been able to bring herself to like Marcus Wright as much as her husband or her best friend did. She tolerated him for their sake and because her daughter, Sarah, adored him.
"I broke my hand. He just stood there and let me hit him," being honest with his wife made Connor realize how stupid that sounded. He huffed a half-hearted laugh as Kate took over the first aid.
"You must have been pretty pissed to break your hand with one punch, even on Marcus' jaw." Kate was somewhat mollified that Marcus hadn't hurt John, but that just allowed her to redirect her anger. John should know better than to take a swing at Marcus. In her opinion the differences between Wright's head and an anvil were astonishingly few.
"If I can't convince him it's better for Kyle not to know, Marcus is going to tell him what he knows."
Kate took a deep breath and sat next to John on the bed. "How much is that?"
"That Kyle is my father, that Skynet kills him. He's probably smart enough to figure out that it involves time travel."
Her opinion on Wright's intelligence remained in her head. Kate simply nodded, waiting for John to continue. She knew him well enough that she expected he could talk this out himself if he wasn't being pushed. She bristled mentally at that man sticking himself in something so private, but even she had to admit that he'd been the closest thing that Kyle Reese had to a father for the last several years. If anyone was going to stand up for the young man, it would be Wright.
"It's the right thing to do, isn't it?" This wasn't the first time he'd asked her that, but each time it was just as bad as the first. How could anyone make such decisions, all of it based on guessing and maybes because they didn't really know anything about how time travel worked.
Kate hesitated, but she knew John needed her answer. "Yes, it’s the right thing to do. Kyle can't be expected to go back and trick Sarah Connor into loving him; it has to be real for both of them. If Kyle knows what's going to happen," Kate trailed off and shook her head. "He probably wouldn't even be able to look her in the eyes if he thought he had to seduce her to save the world."
As horrible as everything going through his mind was, John Connor had to laugh at the thought of the still mostly-innocent Kyle Reese trying to purposefully seduce anyone.
"It'd be wrong for him to have to try. John Connor's parents loved each other; they weren't forced together because they knew they had to have a child to save the world. Wright will understand."
"I could post guards at the infirmary," John mused to himself, but he didn't sound as if he were really considering it.
"You know you don't need to," Kate shook her head and finished with the wrappings on her husband's broken hand. "Wright could have told Kyle any time since he first found out, but he hasn't. He's trusting that you know what you're doing. I think what happened at that depot just pushed him and now he wants to know what's going on. If you tell him, he'll understand." Kate didn't think she was just comforting John, still, she had a hard time predicting Wright's reactions. The cyborg wanted to see Skynet fall as much as anyone could, but he'd shown in the past that he was willing to risk almost anything to protect his family and there was no denying he included Kyle in that.
"They both trust me and that just makes it worse. No matter what else I say, I have to send Kyle back to die."
Kate hugged John and rested her head on his shoulder. "He saves everyone else, he saves the whole human race. I think even Wright will understand that Kyle would think it was worth the trade. Have you ever doubted that?"
"No." The word burned in John Connor's mouth, conflicting pride and pain. His father wouldn't hesitate, even now, as a teenager. He'd give up his life in a moment to save his friends. "It feels wrong, though, that he doesn't get to choose for himself."
"He does choose, John. I've listened to the tapes, too. Kyle could have left Sarah Connor at any time and the Terminator wouldn't have gone after him. He chose to give up his life to save her, you and everyone else. Even if you send him back, he's still the one that makes that choice at the end."
John nodded. It helped, thinking about it that way, and he knew it was true. If he could make Marcus understand that, he thought the other man would agree to keep his silence.
Kyle was still unconscious, but his condition was stable. Dr. Walsh assured everyone that he was resting, which was exactly what his body needed. The surgeries had all gone well and the cloned tissue grafts were taking properly. He'd have scars, but Kyle wouldn't lose his arm or his lung.
Reassured as to his father's condition, John Connor was ready to deal with Marcus. He had promised Kate that this time he wouldn't hurt himself trying to beat sense into the cyborg and promised himself he would try to keep his temper.
Blair answered when Connor knocked at their door, her dark hair rumpled and looking generally harassed. When Marcus appeared behind his wife, baby Tyler clasped firmly in his arms and struggling to escape, Connor was helpless against the small surge of happiness he felt as he saw the family together. This was the future that Kyle's sacrifice would make possible.
The news of Blair's pregnancy had sparked a lot of debate, especially once confirmation that Marcus was the father made its way into common knowledge. It was hard for anyone but the most battle-scarred and dogmatic soldier to hold on to the perception that Marcus Wright was a machine when he was holding his infant son in his arms. He didn't care any less for Star, who might as well have become his daughter, but seeing the gruff cyborg dealing with the trials of a newborn son made it virtually impossible to doubt his humanity. There were still people, like Marcus' nephew Walker, who avoided the cyborg; largely they did so for their own reasons that had more to do with Marcus' violent temperament and antisocial attitudes than his half-machine nature.
Tyler reacted to the sight of his favorite babysitter with glee, struggling harder to escape Marcus' grip, "Connah! Connah!"
"We've got our hands full at the moment, John. Is it an emergency? Kyle is still doing alright, isn't he?" Blair smiled at him while Marcus hushed Tyler and shifted the squirming boy around when he tried crawling right out of his father's arms. Sometimes Marcus was so wary of his strength with Tyler that he ended up putting in twice the effort to hold onto him. Tyler certainly thought it was a fun game to play, but only with his father. He'd learned his lesson about trying to escape when it was Blair who had him.
Connor didn't enjoy lying to Blair, but her faulty brain-mouth filter had let more than one sensitive detail slip out before. Thankfully that had only been embarrassing instead of fatal. Since that incident, Blair was routinely considered not to need to know. He smiled at Tyler then shook his head at Blair.
"Sorry, I need Marcus for a while. We have to finish working out some issues before the next mission. I've been putting it off while Kyle was in the ICU." He kept his tone casual, but the dark look in Marcus' eyes told him the other man knew exactly what this was about.
Tyler sensed the change in his father's mood and stopped trying to escape. He looked up at Marcus and reached quizzically for his face. Marcus gave the boy a quick grin before he handed him over to Blair.
"We'll try to be fast," Marcus kissed his wife and son quickly before he followed Connor. "Remember, Kyle's supplies are still on my bench."
"As soon as he's better, I'm having words with him about leaving his explosives here," Blair growled, but she was smiling when she did.
Marcus dropped into the battered ejection seat that Connor had appropriated for his office a few weeks ago when Kyle's salvage patrol found a wrecked F-23. The ejection seat handled his weight and occasional temper better than the old metal chair had. Connor couldn't help cracking a smile when he recalled Kyle presenting Marcus with the right armrest of that chair, still twisted and bearing the cyborg's hand prints, for his last birthday as a reminder about self-control. As far as he knew, Marcus still kept the twisted scrap of metal in his quarters.
Connor seated himself, waiting a few seconds to see if Marcus would speak first. He didn't, he just watched Connor's face with cold eyes.
"I've been trying to deal with this myself since I found out about the whole damn mess almost twenty years ago," Connor paused, expecting something but Marcus remained silent. "Fine. I want you to understand why I haven't told Kyle anything and why I've kept my distance from him."
"You've been treating him like the walking dead since the moment you laid eyes on him, Connor. He thinks you're just waiting for him to screw up and die." The words weren't spat at him; Marcus wasn't trying to hurt him. It still felt like a knife being shoved into his belly. Connor closed his eyes for a second and nodded.
"I know," he took a second to compose his thoughts as best he could. After a deep breath, Connor told Marcus the whole story: the tapes from his mother, the Terminators that had come back when he was a child, Kyle's mission to the past, time travel and how Kyle Reese had sacrificed his life to buy enough time for Sarah Connor to save herself and their unborn son. Everything he knew about what lay ahead and behind. Marcus didn't interrupt him, he just listened with his face an expressionless mask.
"If I don't send Kyle back, everything could change. Skynet could win the whole war."
Marcus remained silent for a few more seconds before he shook his head and grumbled, "That is fucking nuts, John."
Connor gave a helpless bark of laughter. Didn't he know that! "Do you understand now why I don't tell Kyle what's going on?"
"Yeah," Marcus finally agreed. Some of the weight that had been pressing on Connor's chest lifted and he took a deep, relieved breath. "I think you should listen to yourself a bit harder, though."
"What are you talking about?" Connor was confused, which wasn't common when he spoke with Marcus. The other man was usually painfully easy to understand.
"All that shit you and Kate say about there not being any fate and the future not being set. Sounds like you think it's pretty damn set."
"No, it isn't. I've seen things change myself. But what do you mean –"
"The whole future would just fall apart then if you gave Kyle a heads-up so that maybe he doesn't have to blow himself up to save your mom?"
"I don't know!" Connor snarled, his anger rising again. "Anything I tell him could change the future, that's the point!"
"Everything changes the damn future, John. You could break your neck next time we hit the gym, Kyle could get blown up next mission he goes on. I don't see how giving him a better chance is going to make the future any worse. It's already pretty much shit."
"Skynet hasn't won yet. When Kyle goes back, it'll be the end of the war. In his future, we win, Marcus. I can't risk changing that."
"If all that crap about fate and the future is true, it's already changed. You told me the 800's were showing up years earlier than they should; that's change. Kyle knows what one looks like, how to fight one."
Connor tried to gather his thoughts and straighten things out. Marcus was making sense but it went against everything he'd known for almost twenty years. He hadn't stopped to think about all the things that might already have changed the future that Kyle would be sent back from. He risked the whole course of the war any time he sent his men out to engage Skynet. It was part of the job, leading the Resistance.
"You're a smart guy, Connor. You'll figure something out," Marcus rose to his feet and clapped a hand on John's shoulder. "You've got a few years to think on it, right?"
"Yes," Connor's mind was still racing along new tracks. Futures where his father didn't die before he was born, where he had a chance to really know him. He didn't know how that might affect the future, but he realized that he might just be willing to find out.
"Besides, if you do destroy the whole future, it isn't like we'll be around to care, is it?"
"Shut up, Wright," Connor gave a mock-glare to his friend as Marcus left, heading back to his family.
John Connor checked his watch and headed for the infirmary. Kate would be getting off her shift soon. He could stop in to check on Kyle then take her back to their quarters and discuss trying to make a new future.