- AUTHOR: GrinningRandomElf
- TITLE: Augustine’s Goodbye
- CATEGORY: Drama
- RATING: PG-13
- SUMMARY: Ghost has always loved Trinity, and now he might never see her again.
- SPOILERS: Big fat Revolutions spoilers. Haven’t seen? Don’t read.
- AUTHOR’S NOTES: Many thanks to Alina for beta-ing this for me. I have an unhealthy obsession with Ghost that will get me into trouble one of these days, and I can’t stop writing fics about him.
- DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Matrix or any associated products, characters or ideas. I am making no money off this whatsoever, and am doing it simply because if I don’t the voices will come and get me.
The home official looked in exasperation at the pair of children standing before her. Trinity and Ghost. The pair were legendary for breaking the rules, though not for the usual reasons. Trinity had been caught for the third time this week sneaking into the boys dorms. Last week, Ghost had been caught sneaking into the girls’ dorms.
That wasn’t the problem though. If they had just been horny teenagers, she would have given them a three-day holiday, a private room, and let them get it out of their systems. The problem was she didn’t know why they were doing it. Ghost was only seven years old, Trinity not yet nine.
“I don’t suppose you two have some kind of explanation for your behaviour – again?” she asked sharply.
Trinity sheepishly scratched the black fuzz she chose to call hair and shuffled her feet. “It was my week,” she explained unhelpfully.
Ghost smiled enigmatically. He had perfected that inscrutable, blank look some time ago, and Mother Kaa suspected he did it just to irritate her sometimes.
“What do you mean, your week?” she asked with as much patience as she could muster.
“Well, last week it was Ghost’s turn to sneak into my room. He’s better at sneaking than I am, so he only got caught once.”
Trinity looked vaguely surprised. “So we can sleep together.”
“These beds are bigger than the ones aboard ship, so we don’t have to top-and-tail, but we do anyway,” added Ghost. “It’s more comfortable that way, except Trin’s got stinky feet.”
“Do not,” said Trinity loftily. “You’re smelling your own feet from all the way down the other end.”
Kaa sighed. “What am I going to do with you two?” she asked, mostly rhetorically.
“Let us share a room so we don’t have to keep sneaking around all the time,” replied Trinity promptly.
“Why should I?” Ghost shrugged. Trinity scratched her head again. “Why do you two need to share a room at all? You spend every waking minute together. You can sleep apart.”
Both children looked horrified at the idea. “But – but he’s my best friend!” exclaimed Trinity.
“Yeah!” added Ghost, with a touch of pride. “Besides, you let the big kids share, and they do naughty stuff.”
Trinity nodded her support. “Yeah, we can hear them when we go back and forth. They’re really bad.”
Kaa blinked, but before she could come up with an answer, Trinity continued. “It’s not like we’ll be having sex or anything,” she said blandly.
“FINE!” said Kaa, unable to stand the onslaught. “You can share. Until Trinity turns twelve or I say otherwise.”
“What’ll happen when I turn twelve?”
“You’ll go to live with the other girls. Twelve’s too old to be sharing with a boy, and too young to be having sex.”
Trinity pouted slightly, but Ghost whispered something in her ear and she relaxed again.
“Okay,” she said, a little too willingly for Kaa’s liking. The kids turned and left her office sedately, and she realised what she had just done: rewarded the pair of them for breaking the rules by giving them exactly what they wanted.
I’m so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave
Because your presence still lingers here
And it won’t leave me alone
Sixteen-year-old Ghost glanced up from his conversation with Minx just in time to see her entrance. Trinity, a year older than him, had been going to the gatherings for a year now, but this was the first time Ghost had been, and he was enjoying it a great deal.
Minx was a young free-born of about his own age, who had only one thing in mind and was willing to go a fair way to get it, flirting as hard as she could with the Ghost who was not at all averse to her charms. Then he looked up and saw Trinity, and forgot everything else, down to his own name.
She looked like a dark angel standing on the steps in the flickering light, hair the shade of deepest midnight grown too long for a soldier, strands falling over the nape of her neck and cheeks. A stray lock fell into her eyes, which gleamed with a beauty as intense and wondrous as the sky hidden so far above them. The torchlight seemed to sculpt her like a master artist, each plane of her sometimes severe face softened and starkly perfect in the golden, glowing haze. Long black lashes brushed her cheeks as she blinked slowly, the soft rosy colour of her lips echoed faintly in her cheeks.
Her skin was as flawless as a marble statue, glowing softly golden in the torchlight. It was fitting for the delicate lines that made her throat and arms. Her figure seemed designed to hide the strength in those slim, elegant shoulders that looked too frail to do the things she did. The crafted hollow at the base of her long throat, the sleek dip of her collarbone and the rounded rise of her breasts looked far too carefully created to be anything but impossibly delicate. White materiel curved from her slim shoulders, sliding over the lean lines of her body.
She looked like something out of a dream.
It took several crowded moments for Ghost to remember how to breathe. In those moments, she had located him, and began to make her way over.
“Hi, Ghost,” she said cheerfully. “Enjoying yourself?”
“Yeah,” he said, still a little breathless. “You look nice.” That was an understatement. She looked like a goddess. Could this really be the rough-and-tumble tomboy who’d been throwing him around the dojo for years?
She shrugged. “I always feel overdressed at these things. ”
“Hello, Trinity,” said Minx in her girlishly bored voice.
“Hi, Minx,” said Trinity, surveying the half-naked girl with distaste. He knew she’d never gotten along well with the other girl. Ghost glanced at Minx, who had been entrancing him moments earlier. Her barely-there skirt and transparent halter neck top had been so alluring a moment ago, but when compared with Trinity’s elegant white neck-to-ankle gown, looked positively tacky.
“Ghost, come and dance,” commanded Minx breathlessly.
He turned his head and looked at Trinity. She tilted her head. “Go ahead. I never dance at these things anyway.”
“Then why do you come?” asked Minx cattishly, taking Ghost’s hand and pulling him towards the dancing.
“For the hooch!” replied Trinity, taking a cup offered by a priestess. Ghost craned his neck to look back at her, and saw her tilting her head back to swallow the drink, exposing the long, graceful line of her neck. Then the dancers closed around him and he saw her no more, but her image burned in his mind’s eye as if it had been branded there.
He loved her, he realised, and not as a friend, not as his sister. He wanted to do things to her, with her that you’d never do with a blood relative. He wanted to kiss her and hold her and feel her body against his.
And as the drums poured their hypnotic, commanding beat over him and Minx shoved her overripe body against him, a very unbrotherly love was born in his heart for his slender sister.
These wounds won’t seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There’s just too much that time cannot erase
They sat side by side in the mess on the Nebuchadnezzar and listened as something hit the other side of the bulkhead.
“They’ve started throwing things,” remarked Trinity for no reason in particular. They both knew.
“Yep,” confirmed Ghost. “It won’t be long now.”
She sighed. “I don’t even know why they bother any more. We meet up, they go and have sex, and then they start throwing stuff.”
“She’s just using him for sex,” suggested Ghost, only half-flippantly.
She shrugged. “Least it gives us time together,” she said sadly.
“I don’t think that’ll last long,” he agreed. She reached out and took his hand, much to his surprise. Since joining up on the Nebuchadnezzar, Trinity had been very reserved about public displays of emotion. He squeezed her hand and after a moment, she leaned over to lean her head against his shoulder. He couldn’t stop his heart from jumping at the contact.
“If this keeps up, we’ll hardly get any time together at all,” she said quietly. The voices of their Captains grew louder.
“You’re abusing your position with these kids, Morpheus, especially with Trinity. She trusts you -”
“Niobe, I do only what I need to do to ensure the fulfilment of the prophecy -”
“The prophecy! I’m so sick of hearing that bullshit. You can take your prophecy and shove it -”
“The Oracle says that Trinity will be integral to finding the One -”
“You can shove the Oracle and your precious One up with the prophecy. It’s no excuse -”
The voices faded again. Ghost shifted Trinity to a more comfortable position and put an arm around her shoulders. Completely platonic, he told himself. Just some comfort between friends. Right.
“So,” he said, trying to keep his voice light, “what did the Oracle tell you, sister?”
She said nothing for almost a minute, and he didn’t say anything to fill the silence, simply waiting and letting her take her time. Finally she said, “A lot of things. Things I didn’t understand. But she said some stuff about the One that I did understand. She made sure I understood, there could be no mistakes, she said.”
“What about the One?’ he asked gently. There was a tension in her shoulders. Whatever the Oracle had told her, it had upset her.
“That there will be a man,” she said in a small, childlike voice. “And I’ll love him, and that’s how I’ll know. Morpheus will find him, but I will be the one to – to discover him. The man that I love will be the One.”
Ghost felt as if his heart would stop. Trinity never spoke of love. She showed it to the few she cared for – Morpheus, himself, her other brothers and sisters aboard the ship, but rarely spoke of it, at least not to him. Could it be that Ghost would be the man she loved? It seemed unlikely.
In spite of Trinity’s best effort to appear as just one of the guys aboard ship, the feelings she had aroused in him all those years ago had hardly faded. He adored her mutely. He never told her, never so much as hinted at it to her, in case her ingrained fear of intimacy kicked in and drove him away. It was easier like this, just to be her brother and be close to her in ways that no other man in her life ever had. She had certainly never indicated that she wanted anything more. Why, then did he dare to harbour a hope that one day, she might choose him? Would that mean I’m the One? he wondered vaguely, kissing the top of her head gently.
The door of the mess slammed open, revealing a short, very angry Niobe and Morpheus leaning tiredly against a wall behind her. “Come on, Ghost. We’re getting off this ship,” she snapped.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.
Trinity and Ghost trailed disconsolately after Niobe, hand-in-hand, each unwilling to release the other until the last minute. They parted with a fierce hug, as they always did.
When you cried I’d wipe away all of your tears
When you’d scream I’d fight away all of your fears
And I’ve held your hand through all of these years
But you still have all of me
Ghost dropped through the large hole in the top of the Nebuchadnezzar after Niobe. They began to make their slow way through the ruined Core of the silent ship. Ghost saw the four blanket-covered bodies lying on the deck and felt a slow coldness creeping over him. It couldn’t be her. It couldn’t. He looked over at Niobe, whose face was tight as she surveyed the figures. Neither of them had the guts to walk over and lift the blankets away to see who they were.
“Morpheus?” called Niobe sharply, making her second-in-command jump.
“Trinity?’ he added.
There was silence for a long moment, and they looked warily at one another. Then there was a thump, and Trinity’s head appeared from a hole in the floor. “Here,” she said tiredly. “I’m so glad you guys came. We’re all down in the med bay.”
Ghost stared at her, his heart suddenly light with relief. She wasn’t dead. She looked terribly worn, her eyes red-rimmed and mouth pinched, but she was alive. “Are you okay?” he asked softly. She looked at him as if she was about to cry and shook her head before disappearing again. Ghost and Niobe followed.
The med bay, like the rest of the ship, was dark and cold. Three figures sat huddled together in a nest of blankets in the corner. Crouched over them was Trinity. Ghost and Niobe stood in the doorway, trying to make out the faces on the other three. That big shape was Morpheus, his bald head shining in the faint light, his eyes closed, apparently asleep. The one next to him, leaning against his shoulder was Tank, looking absolutely awful, his once-cheerful face shrunken, and twisted in pain. He was shaking, his head tossing from side to side. The third man, on the other side of Tank, had the shaven head and skinny, awkward-gosling look of the recently unplugged, but was in at least his mid-thirties. Nobody would unplug anybody that old, would they?
It was to this man that Trinity spoke. “How is he?” she asked, leaning over to lay a hand on Tank’s forehead.
“Bad,” replied the man wearily. “We can’t keep him warm, not even like this. He keeps talking to Dozer.”
Trinity let her head fall almost to her knees. She was shaking with exhaustion. “You?” she asked softly, reaching out to touch his face.
He smiled slowly, as if his face wasn’t used to assuming that expression, and reached out to mirror her gesture, brushing the hair out of her eyes. “I’ll be okay.”
Ghost felt something thud into his stomach as he realised what the expression on her face meant. She had never looked at anybody that way. It was love – no, not even that. Love was such a tame word. She looked at him with adoration, worship even. It was an expression of raw emotion, so powerful it took his breath away.
In that moment he realised that the Oracle was right. She would never love him the way he wanted her to, never love him as much as he loved her, as much as she loved this man, whose name he didn’t even know. He was her brother, and her feelings of gentle affection for him were like a candle flame compared to the firestorm of love she had for this skinny, bald-headed, pasty-faced man. The One.
He remembered when they had been unplugged – on the same day, on the same ship. Due to her androgynous appearance and shaved skull, he had spent weeks believing that his new friend was a boy. He had bonded with the other child, and had gotten a rude shock on discovery of her true gender. He’d gotten over that quickly enough in Zion when he realised that he himself was smarter than all the other boys in their age group, and she didn’t mock him for being slightly small for his age. She fought his physical battles, taking on anyone who so much as threatened him, and he helped her with her school work. He had a vague idea that the situation was a strange one, but even at that age, gender politics were almost non-existent in Zion. One child helping another in exchange for like help in a different area was all that most adults saw, unaware of the firm bond being created between them.
“What happened?” Niobe’s very pertinent question cut across his moment of self-pity. Trinity, who had been checking on Morpheus, stood up.
“Maybe we should go someplace else. It’s kind of a long story.”
“Alright. We’ll get you all across to the Logos and talk there. Your ship’s gonna take some fixing before she’ll fly again.”
Trinity grimaced. “Don’t I know it.”
She gently woke Morpheus, who seemed confused as to his surroundings and circumstances. He could walk though, and Niobe led him gently like a child. Neo was in worse condition physically, and leaned heavily on Trinity as they moved. They had to call Sparks over to help carry Tank.
Hours later, Trinity sat in the mess of the Logos, wrapped in a blanket and cradling a restorative drink.
“After we blew the EMP, we found out that our heating and life support were badly damaged and the engines were ruined. Then Tank collapsed and Morpheus started getting a migraine -”
“Whatever drugs those agents gave him messed with his brain chemistry pretty bad,” interjected Sparks. Niobe waved him quiet.
“And Neo could barely walk. I couldn’t do anything. We just had to wait.”
Ghost crouched and squeezed her leg through the blanket. “You did good, Trin. There wasn’t anything else you could have done.” She nodded weakly, exhaustion written plain all over her face.
“How long ago was this?” asked Niobe.
Trinity squinted as she tried to reckon. “I lost track. What’s the date?”
“The twentieth,” replied Sparks.
“Then three days ago.”
Niobe exhaled softly and shook her head. “How are our guests, Sparks?”
“Morpheus and… Neo? Will be fine. But I’m worried about Tank.”
Trinity seemed to curl in on herself a little. “I think it got infected. Or maybe it was shock. He just started getting a fever and he was delusional… I didn’t know what to do. Never did the medical training.”
“All I know is, we need to get him back to Zion as soon as possible,” said Sparks.
“Alright,” said Niobe in the tone that indicated she’d made a decision. “Sparks, stay in the med bay with the others. Ghost, put her to bed and then join me in the cockpit.”
The others left and Ghost helped Trinity to her feet, guiding her stumbling steps with a gentle arm around her waist. She would not have allowed that degree of physical closeness from anyone but him, he knew. And maybe this Neo guy.
“So,” he said as they reached the door of his cabin. She could sleep there while they returned to Zion. “You’ve found the One.”
She looked at him, startled. She hadn’t said anything about that in her story. “What do you mean?” she asked, unable to hide the quaver in her voice.
“Oh, come on Trin,” he said affectionately, opening the door. “I saw the way you looked at him.”
And how I pray I’m wrong, he added silently.
Trinity smiled gently, which startled him. He hadn’t seen her smile in years. “Caught me,” she confessed, and his heart sank. “Never could hide anything from you, could I, brother?”
“Nope,” he said weakly, turning away.
“Ghost?” He turned back at her soft voice. She was leaning against the doorframe looking at him. “Say you’re happy for me.”
No! He wanted to scream. “Do you love him?” Say no, say no, please say no. But her face lit up, her weariness allowing the joy to shine through her face all the brighter.
“Yes, I do.” His heart cracked in two. He wondered if she heard it.
“Then I’m happy for you,” he said simply, and held out his arms. She came to him willingly, burying her head against his chest and hugging him tight. “I’m happy for you, sister mine.”
You used to captivate me
By your resonating light
But now I’m bound by the life you left behind
Your face it haunts my once pleasant dreams
Your voice it chased away all the sanity in me
Steeling himself, he knocked on the door of the room she had been given on the Hammer.
“Come in,” said a small voice.
He opened the door and found her sitting on the bunk, staring at her feet. One of her boots was buckled, the other was loose.
“You okay?” he asked softly.
She shook her head, still staring at the unbuckled boot. He crossed the room and knelt in front of her, taking hold of the buckle.
“Don’t,” she said quietly. He left the buckle alone and gripped her ankle lightly.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, then could have kicked himself. That was a very stupid question.
“I’m ready to go, except for buckling my boots up,” she said quietly. “And when that’s done, I’m going to get up, walk out the door, find Neo, and we’re going to the city of the machines to negotiate a peace. Just as soon as I get my boots done up.” She paused, chewing on the inside of her cheek. “I’m scared. I don’t want to go.”
She leaned forward over her knees, hugging herself. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders, pulling her close. She wasn’t crying, but she was shaking pretty badly. Scared as hell. He knew her, but even if hadn’t he would have known she was afraid. Every muscle in her body screamed it. She leaned into him, accepting comfort and assurance. Both were false, he knew. If she went to the machine city she would die. There was a part of him that screamed to cosh her over the head and cart her off to a safe place and never let her near that madman Neo again.
“Trinity -” he whispered, then stopped, unable to find the words. For every other situation, but not now. Nothing to express the feeling that had not dimmed in all these years.
“I know,” she replied, resting her cheek against his head. He froze. Knew what? “I know how you feel about me, Ghost.” Her voice was a strained whisper, her body very still. “I’ve always known.”
He pulled back and stared at her face. Her hair was falling across one eye, but she looked at him steadily, sorrowfully.
“Trinity, I don’t – I’m sorry, I -” He couldn’t find the words. For years he’d dreamed of telling her what he felt and now his chance, his last chance, was here, he couldn’t.
She shook her head. “No, I’m sorry,” she whispered, her face sad. “I’m sorry I didn’t – I’m sorry I couldn’t be what you wanted.”
“What I wanted?’ he repeated stupidly.
She shook her head, as if to clear away a fog. “You wanted me to be… so many things. I couldn’t. I couldn’t be your lover. I’m sorry.”
He realised she was on the verge of tears and did what he had always done to calm her. He took her gently in his arms, pulling her down so he could cradle her and rock her like a small child. Now he could feel and not just see the fine tremors running through her. It was like holding a wounded animal.
“It’s okay,” he murmured, desperate to keep her calm. He didn’t want their last memory of each other to be a sad one. “It’s okay. I don’t need you to be anything except what you are. You’re my sister, my baby sister, and the best friend I’ve ever had. I don’t need anymore than that.”
“But you want it,” she sniffled.
He shook his head fiercely, hugging her tight. “No, I don’t. What I need is for you to be strong and be happy. Are you happy with Neo?”
“Yes,” she replied without hesitation. “I love him.”
“That’s all I need. I can find someone else, or live by myself. But you need him. Don’t go screwing that up. I’m happy to just be your brother.”
Her shaking stilled and she calmed slowly, relaxing against him. He stroked her hair gently, still rocking her.
He could feel how much weight she had lost in the past few months, how painfully frail she was under his gentle hands. He could feel every rib under the sparse flesh. She was a light as a child, though even as a newly-unplugged eight-year-old girl she had had more padding on her than this. He wasn’t sure whether the weight loss was an unfortunate result of stress and grief, or a deliberate slimming down to help her in combat or impress Neo. There had been a time when he would have known, and made her eat, but she was so distant now, like a stranger.
They sat like that for perhaps a minute an a half, though it seemed like much longer than that to Ghost. Finally something about her shifted, though not a muscle moved, and he knew she’d had enough. He released her carefully, spilling her onto the floor.
She buckled her boot, not looking at him, while he scooted backward to give her enough room to move. He knew her. After something as intimate and personal as that, she would want some space. That was just her.
Finishing with the boot, she looked around herself. She had nothing else to take. Everything she had owned had been on the Nebuchadnezzar when it blew. All she had were the clothes on her back. Finally she looked at him.
“I have to go,” she said quietly.
He nodded, avoiding her eyes. “I know. Good luck.”
“Ghost -” he could hear the edge of an emotion he couldn’t identify in her voice. Anger maybe, or annoyance. “Don’t. Don’t end it this way.” She shuffled awkwardly on her knees over to where he was sitting. He looked up at her. Her face hovered over him, her brow creased in concern. He couldn’t help himself.
He surged up onto his knees in one fluid movement and kissed her on the mouth. It was a soft, almost-chaste kiss that lasted for perhaps three seconds. Then he pulled back and looked into her beautiful, tired face, eyes wide with shock, and allowed himself to imagine what might have been.
“I love you, Trinity,” he whispered, then got to his feet with an easy movement and walked out the door without looking back.
I’ve tried so hard to tell myself that you’re gone
But though you’re still with me
I’ve been alone all along.