Out of Nothing
- AUTHOR: Beat
- TITLE: Out of Nothing
- CATEGORY: Drama
- RATING: PG-13
- SUMMARY: In the silence of aftermath, what does it take to save a spark from fading? What does it take to break the barrier of fear and build a fire out of nothing?
- AUTHOR’S NOTES: Set directly after The Matrix, this story came about as a challenge from Chord – she wanted me to make things as awkward as possible between Neo and Trinity. And well, here it is. Massive thanks to Chord for handing me the idea like a plate of cookies. Here, Chord dearie, have a cookie ;).
Out of Nothing
“What are the roots that clutch?
What branches grow out of this stony rubbish?”
— T S Eliot
“I’ll put these here now.”
… where do we go from here?
After the end of the quest, after the minutes when all was close to being lost, after the betrayal, the discovery and the voiced secret, the Nebuchadnezzar once more vibrated with energy. Electricity pumped and raced through the blood vessel like wired of the ship, much like before. The people, what remained of the crew, now paced the narrow spaces of the battered hovercraft, going out of their way to renew its efficiency, to save its life. They hadn’t managed to save the lives of their crewmates, who now lay motionless in what usually was Neo’s tiny room, door shut tightly, awaiting their final halt somewhere deep in the sewers. They’d never come back. But the Neb was alive, and in a way that assured the four silent, busy minds that indeed they were too. They spoke little, but their silence screamed; of grief, of paradoxical joy and excitement, of labour, of life. This energy, the one of physical labour, was one kind. But most of all, what imbued the ship was the misplaced silence between the two who had shared a kiss on the brink of death.
The silence between them sent waves of another kind of energy, frantic and confused, through the small space between their tattered beds. Where would they go?
The majority of the Neb’s sleeping quarters had been destroyed, quite literally mashed, in the sentinel attack that had left the entire ship in a devastated condition. Not that Neo had cared much at the time, being far too busy revelling in the sensation of her knuckles on his cheek, her eyes locking with his, and then her lips drawing nearer…it had been perfect. Only two days later, things had turned even more confusing than they’d been before. Neo didn’t like it.
Following the initial inspection of the general condition of the Neb, Morpheus selected the least destroyed quarters to serve as double rooms for the remaining four crewmembers. One for Tank and himself, one for Trinity and Neo.
Neo wasn’t sure if this was a good thing, as he aided Trinity in dragging a makeshift bed from his room into hers. Since their lips had parted and the fiery look in her eyes slowly subsided, it had been replaced with something else entirely. Fear, nervousness, caution? Whatever it was, he had no clue how to handle it. He really had no clue at all. Trinity didn’t speak, looking up at him and making a gesture telling him to dump the camp bed against the wall opposite her own, leaving a narrow passage between them. Right then, Neo felt his heart sink. This was rejection. This must be rejection and he did not like it. He opened his mouth to speak.
“Trinity, I…we…” And then nothing. Useless. He looked up, facing the unreadable expression on her face.
“Yeah”, she mumbled back. “I know.” Averted eyes, fluttering lashes. God, Neo thought, you’re beautiful.
And picking up her welder’s mask from the floor, the beauty cast him one last glance and left, leaving Neo with nothing but a desire to push those beds together. You’re a soldier now, Neo, go and be useful, be productive. Think of something other to do than this crap. He decided to do repairs on the mess hall.
“We will need to charge her as soon as possible. Tank is setting course for Zion right now, and seeing to the condition of this ship it is the only option. Besides, we all need some proper rest. How are you feeling?”
Neo peered up at Morpheus through dark lashes. The attempt at usefulness had proven to be an ordeal. He was far too exhausted to raise his head from his hands, but though he had finally found a reasonably comfortable position at the cold, hard table, he straightened up. This is your captain, he thought. You wouldn’t be here without him.
“Fine”, came the reply. Only a fool could believe that.
But he was fine; he was alive and in one piece. That must count as fine, at least to him. Morpheus looked far from it. Weary, tense, with a slumped posture that clashed entirely with his usually magnificent presence, he left the door and came to sit opposite Neo. He winced and exhaled. Neo stared blankly at the two grimy pairs of hands on the table.
“You seem pensive”, Morpheus started. “Neo, this must have hit you really hard. I want you to know that I truly admire you, all three of you, for holding it together. What’s on your mind?” Neo found the deep voice strangely comforting.
Christ, what a question… what was a good answer to that? His mind was racing. It felt like stress and insomnia back in the Matrix – you’d think a lot, but everything would one way or the other end up as a confused, almost manic blur. Yes, every single fucking thing was on his mind – the newly found friends dead on the floor where he’d slept before, the transformed, shrunk captain before his eyes, his own life…death…Trinity. Trinity. Around her circled the only coherent trail of thought he’d had in what seemed like eternity. Her hand, her eyes, her lips…and now her beautiful, tense presence and the sting of rejection. He felt like a teenage boy. He needed to catch her off duty, off guard, take her hand and voice the only thought that meant anything to him: I love you, where do we go from here?
“Things…are different now”, Neo said, suddenly feeling stupid. “I’m not quite sure what I should think to be honest.” Things are different…pah! Understatement of the year.
Morpheus peered at Neo, seeing his shipmate rapidly growing frustrated. He sighed. “I see what you mean. You have to give it time, Neo. We all need to think about things and make clear to ourselves where we stand at this point in our journey.”
“No…n-no, that’s not it”, Neo stammered, struggling with enormous effort to articulate his point. Morpheus couldn’t have understood what he meant…God, he was confused. “That’s not it. What I mean is…it’s not what I -think- as such…I don’t know what to do. I know I should be reasoning, but I just…I just feel…”. He lost the trail. The effort, he thought, had been exhausting, and utterly futile. You’re a fucking idiot, Neo.
The captain, however, was much more perceptive than Neo thought. “You will sort it out in time”, he said wearily but with great care in his voice, as he rose up from his seat and moved to the door. Looking back at Neo, his eyes sparkled slightly. “And…if you see Trinity, tell her we’re going home.”
Neo nodded, and couldn’t help but hope that that’s where they really were going…home.
It felt like she was avoiding him at all cost. Or rather, she would have avoided him hadn’t it been for the scarce space of everything, including the mess – where they’d partake of their meals between shifts in silence, Neo struggling not to stare at her – and their room… felt so strange to refer to it as theirs, but it probably was now. From their beds, in one swift movement, they could easily reach out for each other’s warm bodies.
He wished she would reach for him with those hands. He wished he’s had the balls to touch her. Wished he could kiss her lips again, because in the instant he had, it had awoken him from another kind of sleep; a feeling of companionship he’d been sure he’d never feel, that had set deep in the pit of his stomach and now refused to leave, nagging him constantly. You gave me life in more ways than one, he thought, wishing he could grin at the memory of her kiss. He wished that he could tell her. He wished for many things; things were different now, as he’d so eloquently put it. If only he knew what to say, what to do. Guide me, Trinity.
He made his way down to the Core in long, fast paces, even from a distance he could hear Trinity on duty, at work, doing what she was ordered – hammering away at something. Possibly fixing up the chairs, walls and floor of the Core. He wondered if the place meant something more to her now, as it did to him. Stopping in the doorway, he didn’t want to interrupt the woman whose back was turned to him – a back that looked terribly tense. Her entire body seemed to ooze of frustration, that uncomfortable electricity that had he knew had been consuming his entire being for the last few days. Could she feel the same? Hmm… very likely, Neo. In any case, he did wonder what made her hammer so furiously, the impact of the tool with the metal panels underneath so violent, nearly sending sparks through the room. He did hope that it was not his horribly stupid behaviour, but didn’t blame her if it was. He knew he was probably annoying the living hell out of her. Well, he must be a pain to everybody, being the poorly trained supposed One…whatever the hell that meant. Right now, he didn’t give a shit about being any One, except maybe the one Trinity chose.
The feeling in his stomach started to come alive again. Watching her work from behind, he could almost sense every frustrated groan she probably vocalised for every hit of the hammer. Strong. Lovely. He felt increasingly shameful, dirtily voyeuristic, watching her like this without letting her know he was present. Well, he thought, at least at a distance you’re not quite as frightening. He looked down at the bowl of goop in his hands – dinner for Trinity, that’s why he was here.
Walking up behind her slowly, Neo hoped she wouldn’t smash his head with the hammer first thing after seeing him. But Trinity, intuitive, quick Trinity, must have sensed his entrance somehow, for she stopped working, and he could hear her somewhat ragged breath. She turned to face him, and he was met with…not the eyes of a focused worker, but rather something that resembled…a person who’d recently cried. Cried? Eh…now that he thought of it, he could make out tear streaks down her grime-smudged cheeks. This was why she’d been so violent with her work, it must have been. His jaw fairly dropped as he tried to say something, to voice some sort of…he didn’t have a clue. Trinity’s eyes were piercing into his and she was silent.
Dropping her hammer to the floor, she sighed. What the hell caused this? Seeing that Trinity had shed tears was like seeing your mother cry…only completely different. He was instantly gripped by an emotion he couldn’t name or pinpoint. All he knew was that it must be up to him to make her feel better. So he tried. Setting the bowl down next to the hammer, not caring if the food was destroyed, he quickly took one step towards her, laying his hand on her shoulder and gentry trying to shift her body to his.
But as quickly as Trinity obliged at first, moving closer and putting one of her own hands on his chest – a sensation he marvelled at in spite of the all-but-pleasant situation – just as quickly did her shoulders, arms and face stiffen, and she moved away. She retreated, going to stand three feet away from the man staring at her with wide, confused eyes. He watched her eyes run rapidly across the floor, her hand moving up to brush through her hair. This was not a woman who appeared comfortable. And he was definitely not a man who was. Speak.
“What’s…”, he started very quietly, “what’s wrong?”. It was as if he’d forgotten how to speak, growing accustomed to the motion of his tongue and the sounds his mouth made with every syllable. Trinity didn’t move, she simply rolled her shoulders as if in an attempt to soften up stiff muscles. This was not an act of shyness or discomfort with the company, he noticed. It must be exactly what he felt – awkwardness so piercing it paralysed the socially apt part of him. There must be a way of fighting it. Trinity finally spoke.
“Nothing. I’m just tired. Need some rest soon…speaking of which, as do you. Are you off your shift?” Neo felt her go from the hurting, vulnerable woman he’d seen moment earlier back to Trinity, his superior. This was the longest conversation they’d had in days, since…well, since the beginning. Don’t push it, he said to himself. Don’t you dare fucking push this.
“Yeah, just now. Brought you dinner. Neo’s Special.” She chuckled lowly, still gazing at the floor, and he was instantly proud of himself for lightening the tension. He followed her gaze to the metal floor. Her boots must be a fantastic attraction, she seemed very fascinated with them. He knew he was…boots and that attached to them.
Somehow, between his lowering his eyes and looking up, Trinity had swiftly moved closer to him without a sound. Cat feet, he thought. How ironic. Cats keep themselves to themselves. Looking up, he saw Trinity glance at his face, before her eyes settled on his chest, and back up to look him straight in the eyes. He wondered what the hell this means. This was entirely different from what had been ten seconds ago. Trinity touched his shoulder lightly, before smiling a small but nonetheless brilliant smile.
“Go to bed, Neo. Thanks for dinner” – and she smiled again – “I’m off in about an hour, will try not to wake you”. And with a tiny, reassuring squeeze of shoulder, she turned her back to him, picking up the hammer and resuming her work.
Neo noticed that the impact of the tool and the object beneath it, in this case a wall panel, had become less violent, less threatening. Whatever had softened her behaviour towards him, he was grateful. It did, however, still scare the living shit out of him, he thought as he climbed down the ladder and walked briskly to their room. Now all he needed was something to take his mind off her for a while. Getting drunk and passing out was not an option, so sleep would have to do.
Why hadn’t anybody told him love would be like this? Neo didn’t know what to think as he collapsed on his hard cot, pulling himself up slightly to drag the boots off his feet but not bothering to shed his clothing. He settled for not thinking at all, lying flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling. That proved to be a bad idea, as not thinking only caused him to start…feeling, all over again. What the hell had Trinity meant by that gesture? Why was he himself such a socially disabled idiot? Here he was, a grown man, who should be able to handle things like a man. But no…this, whatever it was – love, he reminded himself. LOVE. – was far too overwhelming, illogical and as far from his old world, the one of computers, circuits and commandos as he’d ever get. Sleep was very far away. He wished he could find a way…he would. She’d opened up just slightly to him in the Core, now he would do his part. Going to tell her. Just wait. Just lie here, stare at the ceiling and wait.
Had anyone come into the room at that moment to see the physical manifestation of his mind, they would be faced with a trembling fear, but this time it was mixed with courage, growing confidence and all other things that were proof of a pure, intense humanity. Then maybe they would smile.
She enters, slowly and silently. He doesn’t even bother to pretend to be sleeping, for if she understands anything at all, she’ll know perfectly well that there is no way. He peers at her from his bed, where he’s resting his head on his arms, tense. She shuts the door behind her, back resting against the cold metal, and seeks out his eyes with hers.
“You’re not asleep.”
Her voice soft, his – almost apologetic.
“Nah. Can’t, really. Morpheus told me we’re heading back to Zion. Thought…thought I’d tell you.”
She nods, leaning back against the wall and sighing, still holding his gaze. Why is she doing this to him? He remembers his earlier plan…to catch her off guard, off duty. Maybe then she’ll understand? But no, he decides, better abandon that and just do…whatever comes to mind first. Best let her guide him. She’s started already, or at least he hopes she has.
“What are you thinking about?”
Damn, does this woman read minds? So you want to know, Trinity. The truth? Alright. Time to tell you the truth. Alright. He shrugs lightly, still on his back, now staring intently at her.
“Just…things, you know. How beautiful you are. What you’re making me feel. How much I want to kiss you and how I wish you’d let me.” There. Done it. If the Armageddon decides to come now, he’ll let it.
He looks at her while he says it all, and though her face doesn’t give anything away, he can tell that every word strikes an electric shock through her body. Their gazes are locked. He isn’t sure if this is a Kodak moment or the instant before he dies. Her brain is working at a great speed, he can tell from the way her fingers tug at the hem of her shirt and her brows furrow slightly. It almost seems to him that she’s plotting.
And then, quickly, she budges, moving away from the wall and breaking the lock of eyes. But instead of seeing her walk out of the room, stating the final rejection, he watches, mesmerised, as she takes the single step to the battered metal drawer of clothes, reaches down to the floor next to it and emerges again clutching a bundle of sweaters. Those are his sweaters.
He watches as she methodically straightens them out and folds them, then as she makes room on one half of her drawer and places the garments next to her own. She turns back to face him, directly seeking out his eyes.
“I’ll put these here now”, she says matter-of-factly, but her eyes speak of so much more.
“Yeah”, is the only thing he can manage, still unsure of what this means.
He gets his answer when she steps close to the bed he is still on, extending a hand to him and cocks her head in a small gesture for him to stand up. What can he do but oblige, swinging his feet onto the floor, shivering at the touch of her hand? She pulls him up, and leaves him to stand back pressed against the door, watching her do…whatever she is about to do.She takes a breath, and immediately starts prying his bed, the one not welded to the floor, away from the wall, with one swift, forceful movement pushing it towards her own, the one foot between them closing, like it never existed.
He is amazed as he watched her start rearranging the two worn mattresses, the two thin pillows, in a new constellation nearer the middle of what she’s just created – a new bed. One bed. Questioningly, he raises his eyebrows, and finishing her practical task, she straightens up again, once more silently speaking to him. Then she kneels, and proceeds to take off her boots. He feels he has to aid her, and she lets him do so, his fingers move gracefully to unbuckle the left boot, carefully sliding it off her foot. They are left there, carelessly on the floor.
As they rise up again, she places a hand on his chest – what’s with that?, he’d be thinking had he been able to think at this point – the other one settling on his hip. And once again, a cock of head, this time telling him to lie down…lie down together with her. He can’t take it any longer, and closes the distance between them, trapping her in a hug. Her arms wrap around him as his move around her. The synchrony is there, like magic. She is soft, a lot softer than he’s ever felt before. This must be a good sign…though there have been lots of good signs already. Let her guide him.
Pressing her hand against his hip lightly, she gestures for him to move. They slowly slide onto the covers together, and remain in an embrace – in spite of the uncomfortable position this proves to be on the hard bed. This is nice, he thinks, intimate and nice and tender. Never thought this would happen. His eyes are shut, because he thinks that should he open them, he’d be far too overwhelmed to do anything except…faint.
Then she starts to move.
He feels her hands move up his back, all the way up to his neck, brushing the fuzzy hair at the back of his neck. From there, they are moved forward, to his cheeks. And now…oh, now she is pulling him towards her. Opening his eyes, he quickly places one hand on her cheek, returning the favour of a warm touch. Beautiful. After this, all he knows is that her face draws closer, capturing the lips that were just starting to form a question in a kiss.
Soft, nothing else. Her fingers massage the sides of his face, his temples, jaw line, while her mouth is on his, moving slowly, sensually. Lying on their sides, he grips her tighter, allowing his mind to shed all rational or irrational thought, in favour of this. This…nothing else.
He sighs into the soft, gentle kiss. It’s lovely. And now she catches him off guard, using the slight separation of his lips to tease them with her tongue. She guides him as the kiss deepens, as tongues meet briefly and after a few seconds of exploring their new surroundings collide again, this time fighting a gorgeous, lazy battle. Then they are still. She breaks the kiss, still holding him, and he opens his eyes to be met with a flushed face, a tired face, but a face that is alive and that tells him one thing: she wants this, and she wants it with him. He tries to catch her gaze, eyes fluttering.
He smiles, for the first time in god knows how long, a genuine, toothy smile. Watches her lick her lips, smile at him and wriggle. He lets her go and she sits up. Wait a minute…
…but all she does it fight with the blanket they are upon, pulling it out from underneath them and covering both their bodies. Lying back down, she places a hand across his torso, a leg draped over both of his, her head opposite his to make their breaths mingle. She looks him briefly in the eyes; he loves the colour of hers. Never thought a cold colour could be this…warm. And then she shuts them.
They are of course much too tired for anything else at this point, he thinks, but now he knows what it took. It takes the effort of two sparks to make a flame. Where do we go from here? He doesn’t care, settling for merely holding her body close to his and drifting off. Sleep. If anyone comes into the room right now, they will most certainly smile.