Dance With Me
- AUTHOR: GrinningRandomElf
- TITLE: Dance With Me
- CATEGORY: Drama
- RATING: PG-13 for implied sex, dirty images and pillow talk.
- SUMMARY: Sometimes, the body will remember what the mind does not… Sometimes passion is still there, it just needs to be re-discovered.
- SPOILERS: See below.
- AUTHOR’S NOTES:
- GrinningRandomElf, purveyor of fluffy vignettes and review whore.
- Post-revolutions, with all that that implies – SPOILERS, people. Don’t read if you haven’t seen it. Yes, I have tried to make Lock less of an asshole. You should have seen my first draft – he was positively cuddly. I’ve roughened him up for your reading pleasure at the urging of my lovely betas, Alina and Jocelyn. Worship the betas.
- The name of my one and only OC (at least for this fic), Grainne Mhaol, is Gaelic, and means Grace the Bald. It was one of the many nicknames of the sixteenth-century Irish pirate queen Grace O’Malley, who is my new second-favourite kick-ass heroine. Trinity, of course, will always be first.
- And now with little or no further ado…
Dance With Me
Niobe entered Lock’s office with a sense of calm. She felt she should be nervous about the upcoming conversation, but couldn’t shake the tranquillity. It seemed to be an indication that she had made the correct choice.
He looked up and smiled. Happy to see her. “Niobe.”
She smiled back as gently as she could. “Hi, Jason. Could we talk?”
His smile faded to a wry twist of lips. “About Morpheus.”
Her own smiled dropped away. “Jason, I -”
“You’re leaving me to go back to him.” Her back stiffened, and she stared at him. He still had the wry, self-deprecating smile on his face, and didn’t seem upset at all.
“I wasn’t going to put it like that,” she stammered.
He stood up and came around the desk, looking straight at her. “I’m a lot of things, Niobe, myopic, bigoted and egotistical among them, but I’m not a fool. I’d have to be to miss the way you look at him.”
She flushed. “I’m sorry, Jason, I didn’t mean for this -”
He shook his head. “It’s okay, Niobe. I knew this was coming.”
She stared at him, mouth moving soundlessly, unable to form words. He turned away, his face suddenly harsh with emotion. “I love you, Niobe. I do.” He leaned against the wall, his arm supporting his head. “But I can’t… you love him. You always have.”
He took deep breaths and she saw the muscles in his throat working. He was shaking, and she realised that he was holding back something he desperately wanted to say.
“Jason?’ she asked hesitantly, taking a step towards him.
“I don’t want you to go back to him,” said Lock, very quietly, very controlled. His voice was so rough, she thought distractedly. Like gravel. He continued, “I wish I could keep you here. But I can’t. You’re going back to him. Aren’t you? Isn’t that what you came to tell me?” His tone was neutral, but seemed to her to be almost accusative, or maybe pleading. Pleading her to tell him he was wrong, that she’d come for another reason.
“Yes,” she whispered.
“There’s nothing I could do change that. You’ve always loved him.”
He pulled away from the wall and faced her, his face composed once more. She spared a thought to admire that in him – except under most dire stress, he was always in control of every aspect of himself.
“So I decided. I could either be an asshole and try and hold onto you and make you feel bad about it, in which case you’d go to him anyway and end up hating me.”
She started to say something, but he hushed her. “Or, I could let you go, hang onto the last few shreds of my dignity, and you might still feel some vague affection for me.”
She bit her lip. “I’m so sorry, Jason.”
He shook his head, suddenly looking nothing more than tired. “Don’t be. Just – Niobe?”
“Just be happy, okay? I don’t want to be selfish. I just want you to be happy.”
Her vision was sudenly blurred with tears. “I almost wish this had gone another way,” she said.
“I don’t think it could have gone better,” he said gently. “Or would your rather I lost my temper?”
She shrugged. “You’re easier to deal with when you’re being an ass.”
“It’s always easier when you’ve got the moral high ground,” he shot back. She gave a soft, uncomfortable chuckle, and a silence fell. He broke it first. “You’d better go. I have work I need to do.”
She nodded and turned to go, then turned back. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
He looked at her consideringly for a long moment. “I’d be better if it was just about anybody but Morpheus.”
She nodded. “I can understand that.”
And she left.
Well, that had gone differently to how she’d expected. She had expected arguments, tears, guilt trips, emotional blackmail, confusion. Not a sort of dignified surrender. In some ways that made it even harder for her to leave him, but she knew she’d made the right decision. Something told her she was right, something lower than her heart. She had always trusted her gut, and had never been wrong yet.
Morpheus leaned against a stalagmite. Or maybe it was a stalactite. He could never keep them straight and didn’t really want to try.
Before him, all Zion danced. The free people rejoiced that they lived, and as was common in Zion, did so with a huge dance that would end in a ridiculous percentage of the adult population getting laid. He smiled faintly at the thought. It felt good to smile.
He remembered the last of these dances, just before the machines’ invasion. Neo’s first dance. He’d missed most of it, but nobody could have begrudged him the quality time with Trinity. They had no privacy on the ship, where the metal walls acted like some kind of sound conducter and every slight noise was amplified, especially in the off-shift, when everything was quiet. They’d been very, very good, even while sharing a room, keeping the conversation muted and the sounds of affection very limited. He could only imagine what a release it must have been for them to arrive in Zion, where there were entire private apartments with soundproofing and they could do whatever the hell they wanted without fear of disurbing anyone or embarrassing themselves. No wonder they had taken off as soon as possible.
The smile faded to a thoughtful frown as he reflected that it was likely the last totally private, or at least totally intimate, time the pair had had together. The thought of his two most precious children dead was no longer enough to drive him to tears, but still brought him down. Before he could fully dive into a well of self-blame and depression, a voice somewhere down by his arm cut across his thoughts.
“Do you remember how we used to dance, Morpheus?” He turned. Niobe stood beside him, smiling up at him. It was a long way up – she was a fair bit shorter than he.
He looked her up and down, and she stepped back to give him the full view. “You forgot the pants,” he said softly.
She laughed and tugged unselfconsciously at the hem of her very short skirt. “Come and dance with me, Morpheus.”
He shook his head with a smile. “I don’t think so.”
She pouted slightly. “Oh, come on.”
“I don’t think Commander Lock would approve.”
“Commander Lock and I,” she smiled here, “are no longer together.”
He looked at her, surprised. “Why not?”
“Because he had enough dignity to let me go when he saw I was still in love with you. Dance with me.” She reached out and took both his hands, pulling him toward the fringe of the dancing. He allowed himself to be led like a child, his mind frozen by her words. Suddenly something welled up in him, something that was almost too primitive for words. It had nothing to do with freedom, or reality, or any of his high ideals, and everything to do the small woman in front of him and the drumbeats slamming, pulling at his body.
“Do you remember?” she shouted over the drums and pounding feet.
He felt the blood pounding in his head, the warm flesh all around, the drums. Suddenly he did remember, and pulled her close, his body already moving to the beat.
“I remember,” he muttered against the top of her head, not knowing or caring if she heard. She would know.
They danced. His body remembered what his mind did not, the way the drums seemed to lift the weight away, the way her body felt pressed against him. She was so small, but she moved like she was born for this, as if she had never done anything but dance, and it tugged at the desire growing inside of him. He dug his fingers into her waist, pulling her closer, pressing her whole body against him.
Names, faces, past present and future all fell away, until all that was left was the beat of the drums and the woman in his arms. He moved as had not done in years, and somewhere in the midst of it he heard Niobe laughing with delight. He reached down and lifted her up so her face was level with his, and she wrapped her legs around his waist and looked down at him, her eyes intense. He buried his face against her shoulder and kept moving.
How long they danced he could never afterwards clearly remember, but the next thing he knew, the crush of bodies was lessening as they made their way towards the entrance. His feet carried him down familiar corridors out of habit, still carrying her. So many times they had done this. Danced until their feet took them to one or another of their apartments where…
That thought stopped him, and he gently put her down. They were in a deserted corridor. She stood in front of him, still pressed to his chest, and craned her neck to look into his face. “Morpheus? What is it?”
He stared down at her. She smelled very distinctive, like sweat and engine oil and rough, home-made soap. It was a good smell, triggering memories of other nights, other dances. His body remembered, and he wanted to kiss her so badly it hurt.
“Niobe,” he breathed, and did kiss her. It was just the same as he remembered, only much sweeter, more intense. He had forgotten, forgotten the feel of her, the taste of her. How far down he had to bend down to reach her mouth, the way she strained up on her toes and grabbed his shoulders to keep her balance, to stay pressed against him, the line of her slim body molding to his perfectly. She was trembling when he pulled away, and stayed still for several moments, eyes closed and face upturned, her mouth slightly swollen.
“Niobe,” he whispered. “Is this…?” He trailed off, the question unspoken, but understood between them. Years of coolness could not be forgotten in a night.
She leaned back in his embrace, studying his face sadly. “I love you,” she whispered back. “Dance with me.”
He looked down at her sweet face. With a nearly audible click, his mind finally remembered what his body had never forgotton – he loved Niobe. He whispered as much to her, and suddenly, without realising it, he was kissing her again, and she was making small noises as she tried to climb up his body to reach his mouth.
The morning – or at least what passed for morning in a city that hadn’t seen the sun in god only knows how long – brought with it a sense of sleepy contentment and a vague soreness. Niobe grinned and stretched carefully, trying not to disturb the big man lying against her chest. He shifted in his sleep, one big hand going to cup her hip.
He wasn’t normally this sound a sleeper, she knew. Six hours would suffice him and he would wake, obedient to his inner clock, measuring his sleep right down to the minute. But sex would knock him out – he would sleep quite contentedly all day after a night of passion. Or until she, much more a morning person, woke him for some entertainment.
She didn’t feel like waking him. She was quite happy to lie here and listen to him breathing all day. He lay across her, pinning her to the bed, his head against the place where neck met shoulder. He was a sprawly sort of sleeper, she mused – nothing like Jason, who had slept in a small, economical huddle, practical even when unconscious. Morpheus flung out his arms and legs and took whatever space was available, and some that wasn’t, which was why she was glad she took up so little.
Still, he was heavy.
There had been other mornings like this, years ago, when they were both young and foolish. Mornings when she would lie happy and sated and he would sleep – she was very glad he didn’t snore – until she got bored and woke him up to entertain her. He was always happy to oblige.
She felt no boredom yet. She was sure she would have been quite happy to lie quietly there under him until kingdom come. She tried half-heartedly to pinpoint that sense of peace and contentment, something she hadn’t experienced in years. Not since she had broken it off with him.
She recalled spectacular screaming sessions followed by even more spectacular make-up sex. But soon even the sex, wonderful as it was, couldn’t make up for his distance, his drive toward a goal she couldn’t understand. She became aware that she had ceased to be the most important thing in his life, she had been usurped by some distant rhetoric. Searching for some target to focus her anger on, she had turned all her fury upon the skinny white girl he had chosen as his second in command. She had cornered the child one day aboard the docked Nebachadnezzar and screamed at her in a blind rage. Trinity had simply looked at her with something between empathy and amusement in her blue eyes and turned away.
Soon after, Niobe had been promoted to captain and given command of the Logos. She had taken up with Lock, then captain of the Icarus, partly out of a burning need for sex, and partly to spite Morpheus. The relationship had continued long after she had expected it to finish, mostly because she hadn’t cared enough to take steps to end it.
Morpheus stirred, rubbing his face against her shoulder. She kissed the top of his head with a smile. He was such a grizzly bear when he first woke up.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” she said affectionately. Not original, but who was? He grunted and mumbled something. “Come on, get offa me.”
He took a deep breath, and with a herculean effort, rolled off her onto his side. He lay there quietly for a moment, then tensed in shock and opened his eyes.
“Niobe?” he asked softly, apparently confused.
“And you were expecting?” she asked.
His face went blank as he tried to remember the events of the previous night. Slowly the realisation dawned, like the sun rising, and his face softened. “Niobe,” he said again, with a gentle smile. She kissed him once, then again, and lay back to enjoy being able to breathe without his weight on her chest. He curled himself around her, one leg thrown over hers, his arm across her waist.
The lay there happily for a time, with neither of them feeling any need to fill the silence. It was a comfortable silence.
Finally he took a deep breath and said, “I’d forgotten.”
“Forgotten what?” she asked lazily.
“Forgotten what it was like to be with you,” he replied quietly.
She didn’t answer. That was the wonderful thing about talking with Morpheus – there was no pressure to come up with witty answer and keep the repartee going. The conversation unfolded itself quite naturally, and if one of them had nothing to say, they wouldn’t say anything. So she stayed quiet and let him talk. She’d said all she wanted to last night anyway.
“I had to forget, I think,” he said thoughtfully.
“Because if I remembered, I would have gone crazy. I couldn’t have done it.”
She frowned at that thought. “I was a distraction?”
“You’re very distracting,” he replied. Speaking of distractions, his hand was tracing small circles against her ribs, sending small waves of warmth under her skin. It felt nice.
She placed her hand over his to still his caresses. “So you forgot about me.”
His fingers curled around hers. “Well, I didn’t have anybody to comfort me through the lonely nights like you did.”
She stiffened at the remark, but he shook his head. “I’m sorry. That was out of line. I’m sorry.” There was a pause. “I hated Lock, you know. I hated you for taking up with him and forgetting me so easily.”
“I didn’t forget,” she said, staring up at the ceiling. Rock melded into steel above her. Flesh into steel in her body. Interesting. She sighed. “I kept wanting you to give up, and admit you were wrong about the prophecy and come home.”
“I was wrong about the prophecy.” His voice was flat and unhappy.
“And yet we’re still here.”
They were both silent for a while. Then he said: “We are, aren’t we,” and his hand slid up to cup her breast.
She laughed, the tension broken between them. “Yes, we are.” She paused, feeling her body react to his gentle touch.
“You know,” he breathed, “with you I always felt like I could fly.”
She smiled, warmth washing over her skin in slow waves. “Flying with me will involve a certain amount of walking, and a lot of time in small cramped spaces.”
“I can live with that,” replied Morpheus with a soft chuckle and began to pay serious attention to her nipple. After a moment, he bent his head and added the fine, flickering pressure of his tongue as his hand slipped across her belly, settling on the curve of her waist. She arched towards him, surrendering to the slow rhythms of their intimacy, a rising warmth still so familiar, like a long-lost friend.
Somebody banged on the door. “Captain?” called an unfamiliar voice.
Morpheus lifted his head, to her disappointment, a look of irritation on his face at the interruption. “Are we at my place or yours?” he asked. Niobe turned her head to look around.
“Um. Mine, I think.”
“Maybe you should get the door, then.”
“Maybe you should get off me, then.”
He did as instructed, and she rolled off the bed with a dancer’s grace, catching up a robe from the floor as she moved to the door. Morpheus rolled onto his side and watched her move, without trying to hide his appreciation of her nude form. She jerked the curtain closed behind her, tied the belt of the robe securely at her waist, and opened the door.
The surprised-looking council flunky stayed his hand, as he had been about to knock again. “Captain Niobe,” he said instead. “The Council requests your immediate presence, ma’am.”
She nodded and began to close the door again. “Ma’am?” said the man hesitantly. “Also… have you seen Captain Morpheus anywhere?”
“Let me guess. They request his immediate presence, too.”
“I’ll tell him.” The man’s eyes widened at the inference. “You got a problem with that, boy?”
“N-no ma’am!” the man stammered.
“Then get going,” she snapped and shut the door in his face. “Come on, Morpheus,” she called through the curtain, shedding her robe and heading to the bathroom. “Time to get up.”
There was a groan. “Do I have to?”
“Council wants to see us,” she said, turning the tap on and splashing her face with water. A shower would have to wait. “I assume it’s about the postings. Remember how they were having those meetings?”
“I remember,” he answered, appearing behind her without a sound, already buttoning his pants. It never ceased to amaze her how such a big man could move with such silent grace. She moved out of his way, and he stepped up to the sink as she went back into the main room in search of some clothes of her own.
They dressed quickly. That was something else she remembered from the early days – as young soldiers, they had had little choice in when their trysts ended. Sometimes they got interrupted, and they simply learned to deal with it, without complaining.
Within minutes they were ready to go. They paused just inside the door for a final, passionate kiss, then released each other and left.
The Council was not yet present, the assembled fleet talking quietly amongst themselves. Lock looked up as the pair entered. Walking side by side, Morpheus slowing his steps to cater for Niobe’s shorter legs, they could have been just any two Captains who had just happened to meet up in the corridor outside. They weren’t touching, not holding hands or giving each other suggestive glances. There was nothing in their body language to suggest that there was anything between them, which in itself meant that there was. There had always been that electricity between them, that promise of something more. Now that that was absent, it meant that whatever it was had been resolved. Lock felt something burn in his gut at the thought.
They separated as they entered, Niobe headed over to the far wall to talk to Ghost and Sparks, while Morpheus went quietly to his appointed place in the ranks. The room was emptier than it had been in times past, with so many dead. Usually the Captains had each been only able to bring one or two crewmembers with them to the meetings. Now all that remained of the fleet was assembled, and the room still seemed pitifully bare.
Lock turned, and there was Morpheus, standing beside his chair like an enormous shadow.
“Come to gloat, Captain?” he asked bitterly.
“No,” said Morpheus, his voice soft and smooth. “I came to apologise.”
Surprised, Lock looked up at him. “For what?” he asked suspiciously. In his mind, Morpheus had a lot to apologise for, but he hadn’t thought the other man would concur.
Morpheus took a deep breath. “I have been… making your life more difficult than it had to be over the course of the past few years. While my general actions would have been the same, had I not been angry you, my manner and level of co-operation would likely have been much improved. I am sorry.” He sounded like he’d been rehearsing in front of a mirror.
Lock blinked up at him. “You were angry because of Niobe.” It was a statement, not a question.
Morpheus inclined his head. “And your refusal to allow me free reign in my search for the One.” A pause. “But mostly because of Niobe.”
Lock looked at him steadily for a few minutes, battling with himself. It was terribly tempting to throw this apology back in the other man’s face. He swallowed his pride and stood, holding out his hand. “Apology accepted, Captain.”
Morpheus’ face relaxed, and he shook the proferred hand. He turned to leave, then turned back. “Commander, about Niobe -”
“Save it, Captain,” said Lock tiredly. Morpheus went quiet, watching as Lock re-seated himself. He looked up, meeting Morpheus’ gaze coolly, blankly. “Allow me my dignity, would you?”
Morpheus bowed his head and turned away. As he left, Lock looked past him to where Niobe was, over against the far wall. She was watching them, a slight frown marring her forehead. Probably wondering what the hell the two of them were talking about.
The door opened, and all those who were seated sprang to their feet as the council filed in solemnly.
“In light of the hesitant new truce between the machines and the free peoples of Zion, as well as the decimation of our armed forces, the council has decided that as of this day, we shall be conducting our defence differently,” announced Councillor Dillard, her face untroubled and upper-crust accent lending her soft voice authority.
Councillor West took over. “Commander Lock.” Lock stood, almost but not quite at attention. “You will continue to be in charge of the defence of the city. However, your resources will be less than what they were. You authority will end two hundred kilometres beyond our borders, and you will have no control over the mobile units of the fleet.”
Commander Lock went very, very still. Morpheus could see the muscles in his back wind up as the news sank in. The Council, however, did not wait for his reaction.
“Grainne Mhaol,” said Councillor Hamann. A woman in her late forties stood up, near the back. She had bright red hair shorn so short that the grey streaks looked like discoloured patches on her skull. Morpheus recalled she had been a protege of Hamann, back when the man had still been just Hamann and not a Councillor “The machines have requested an ambassador to clarify the terms under which this peace will operate. Congratulations, you’re it.” The woman went green. It clashed with her hair. Dillard sent Hamann a scathing look for his flippancy, but he continued unperturbed. “Your supporting staff will be appointed at a later date, but the machines have agreed that you will meet them in the Matrix, with a human-seeming program to negotiate with.” Grainne nodded tightly, her eyes wide with shock as she seated herself once more.
“Now,” said Dillard, smoothly regaining control of the meeting. “We have, as you are all no doubt aware, managed to salvage eight ships from the sewers. All bar two of them should be fully operational within the week.”
Councillor West took over, reading out the names of the salvaged ships and the Captains who would be given them. Neither the shattered Nebuchadnezzar or the lost Logos were mentioned, and neither were Morpheus or Niobe. Morpheus felt his heart sink a little further with each name mentioned.
“The Dauntless and the Phoenix will both remain in or near Zion at all times, as a part of our perimeter defence, under the direct command of Commander Lock,” he concluded. “Now, since Commander Lock will no longer be running the mobile units, there will need to be a mobile Commander. This position has been awarded to Morpheus.”
There was a stunned silence, then ragged cheers broke out all over the room. West held up a hand to quell the noise. “The flagship, from which you will operate, Morpheus, will be the Exile. Command of this vessel has been given to Captain Niobe.”
His head snapped around to look at her. She grinned back at him, her face fierce and happy. The Councillors kept talking, speaking of appointments to various ships and positions within the city, but Morpheus was no longer listening.
They sat together, side by side, right down the bottom of the well. The Exile left the next day, and they were quietly treasuring this rare time they had alone.
“It won’t be easy,” Morpheus ventured.
She shook her head. “I never thought it would be.” They were both silent. “We’re gonna have to deal with all the same stuff we did before.”
“And then some,” agreed Morpheus. “The sex is the easy part.”
“There’s other stuff,” said Niobe, warming to the topic. “Like who has to make the bed in the morning -”
“And who gets first shower -” interrupted Morpheus.
“And keeping the room tidy -” Niobe was grinning now. She was a fanatic about keeping their living space clean.
“And even command desicions,” finished Morpheus solemnly, which they both knew was the real issue.
She ducked her head, sobering, scraping at the dirt beneath them with one broken fingernail. “All that stuff seems so petty,” she said at last.
“All that stuff is life,” said Morpheus. “The war is over. We get to live now. That means being petty sometimes.”
She thought about that, still intent on her hands. Then, abruptly, she turned to him. “Let’s make a deal, then. We can fight as much as we like over bed space and showers and messy rooms, but let’s never fight about the important things.”
He regarded her solemnly for a long moment. “Done.”
She smiled. “So, have you spoken with this – what’s her name? – Wheat?”
“Grainne,” Morpheus reprimanded her gently. “Grainne Mhaol.”
“Silly sounding name,” mused Niobe.
“Sillier meaning,” replied Morpheus. “Yes, I’ve spoken to her. I think she’ll do well.”
Niobe pried a piece of rock loose. “Do you think we’ll be able to make this peace last?”
He frowned, tilting his head back to look up at the city rising above and all around them. “I hope so,” he replied softly, almost reverently. “I hope so.”