DISCLAIMER:  not my characters.  They belong to the Wachowskis and the WB.  And I’m not making money off this.  But you already knew that.

AN:  This is a little lighter than the stuff I usually write.  I needed a break, and hell, it’s fun.  Enjoy! 

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Zion

by Centaur

 

She had always found visits to Zion to be a mixed blessing.  Of course, she welcomed the chance to get off the ship, to stretch her legs and breathe a little fresh air—as “fresh” as air could be in an enclosed cavern miles beneath the earth’s surface—but it was during these visits that her sense of loss was at its greatest. 

Having Tank around didn’t help things, either.  Tank was an absolute prince, a friend to all and a genuine asset to the crew, but in the final few days before every stay in Zion, he became unbearable.  He would start whistling to himself, laughing giddily for no particular reason, rising hideously early every morning and wearing ridiculous smiles until he went to bed every night.  When they docked, he would without fail be the first person out of the hovercraft doors and into the arms of his waiting parents, little sister, and girlfriend.  These were the times that she hated him.  He has it so damn easy, she would think, all he has to do is sit in the ship and watch over a couple of fucking computer monitors while the rest of us risk our asses every day in the Matrix.  Then she would chastise herself, remembering that he was cooped up in the ship twenty-four hours a day.  While the rest of them at least were granted the illusion of space and travel in the Matrix, he was completely confined.  It must be claustrophobic, to always be in there, to never see anything but rusty metal or smell anything but recirculated air for weeks and months on end. 

Still, watching Tank leave with his family stung more than a little bit.  All the family she had had been left behind when she took the red pill so many years before.  She hadn’t particularly liked them, but if nothing else, they had provided her with a loose sense of attachment in a world that had otherwise rejected her.  In Zion, she was constantly bombarded with the sight of children walking their younger siblings to school, of mothers wiping speckles of food from their children’s chins, of elderly couples strolling down Main street, and she was reminded of just how alone she was... the only family she had was herself.

            She usually made a point of disappearing as soon as she could after docking.  She would wait for Tank to leave with his family, then slip out and jog off in a different direction.  It always threw her off to run in the real world—she wasn’t used to getting tired, to feeling the ache in her calves and the weight in her lungs as her body attempted to tell her that it was reaching its limits.  She reveled in that feeling; it was what reminded her of the difference between the Matrix and reality.  It made her remember what it felt like to be human.  There was a crag in the rock on the edge of the city that she had reached, once, when she had run out of room to run so she decided to start climbing.  It was high enough off the ground to put her above the city, so she could watch over all that went on without actually having to be a part of it.  Since she’d found it, she spent almost all of her time there.  

            This particular stay in Zion was a week long.  As usual, Tank had disappeared with his family on the first day.  She immediately departed for her cliff without a word to Morpheus or even Neo.  Very late that night, when the city was asleep, she crept back to military headquarters and into her bed, careful not to wake the sleeper who lay there already.  The next morning, she got up early and left for the same place, before the city awoke.  This was her Zion routine.  The cold impersonality of the military quarters was worse than staying on the Neb, and the crag, it seemed, was a place that belonged to her. 

The second day passed, and the morning of the third, and she spent every waking moment on her cliff.  If she lay on the warm surface of the rock and closed her eyes, she could almost imagine a blue sky above her, and place herself in her favourite park from her childhood years before she was freed.  She could pretend that the park was real, here in the real world.  For what seemed like an infinite amount of time, she lay there, daydreaming about better places with her eyes closed against the much uglier reality.

She didn’t hear him approach, but when she felt his hand rest gently on her stomach, she knew who it was without opening her eyes.  The touch was so familiar, so comforting.

“How did you find me?”

“I haven’t seen you in three days, Trinity!  I could feel you getting into bed so late every night, but you always left in the morning before I woke up… so I followed you today.”

“Shit, Neo, how long have you been up here?”

“I don’t know, two hours, maybe.”

Her eyes sprung open at that.  The fact that she hadn’t noticed him didn’t bother her—rather, it was the fact that he had been there so long without saying anything.

“What were you doing?”

“Just watching you.  You had the cutest little smile on your lips.”  He lifted a small package, “I brought you some food.  Figured you probably hadn’t eaten much today.”

He was right.  She hadn’t realized how hungry she was until he mentioned it.  She took the proffered can of slop and began to nibble at it, her distaste for the stuff battling with her empty stomach.  She had turned to sit with her legs dangling off the side of the outcropping, looking out over the city.  He came up to sit behind her, positioning himself so that she sat between his legs.  She rested her head comfortably against his chest.

“So, Neo, do you still like Zion?”  It was only his second time in the city.

“Yeah.  It’s so nice to see people living out normal lives… helps me to remember what we’re fighting for.” He paused for a second, then added:  “I have a hard time with the stares, though.”

She knew what he was talking about.  That he was the One had not yet been released, and it wouldn’t be until the end of the war was in sight.  But the looks that all of the unplugged received from the free-born were hard to cope with.  The free-born saw the Matrix as some kind of punishment, and were in awe of those that had somehow managed to escape it.  They didn’t understand that it had been a life as real to most as was life in Zion.  It was more like an alternate reality than it was like a prison.  The problem with it was that those forced to exist in it were denied the right to actually live. 

“Zion’s not your favourite place, is it.”  His tone sounded more like a statement than a question.

“I like it well enough, but…” she paused, trying to choose her words correctly.  “Doesn’t it make you feel alone?”

He didn’t answer her immediately, and she didn’t push him.  Hopefully, he felt more at home here than she did.  A few moments passed.  She continued her vigil over the city, holding his hand loosely in her lap, oblivious to his preoccupied expression as he carefully considered her question.  Finally, he broke the silence:

“Trinity… I need to tell you something.”  His voice was all seriousness as he dropped her hand and carefully slid away from the rock’s edge.       

She turned to face him, disconcerted, unsure of why he had moved away from her.  “What?”

“Come here.”

She crawled over and knelt in front of him, filled with a sense of foreboding that stemmed from the abrupt edge to his voice. 

“What’s wrong, Neo?”

He didn’t answer her, which only served to exacerbate her concern.  Her eyes drifted up and met his just in time to catch their mischievous twinkle, and suddenly she found herself pinned flat on her back with his lips firmly planted on her own.  She lost herself in moments like this, her senses overwhelmed by the taste of him, the beautiful way his tongue clashed with hers, the fire she felt as his hands slipped under her shirt to caress the skin at the small of her back.  With him, she could forget the rest of the world, forget Zion, forget the war, and just enjoy being a woman in the arms of the man she loved.  He was her perfect drug, and she was hopelessly addicted to him. 

He released her lips and planted a trail of kisses from her ear down to her throat before pulling away and stretching out beside her.  For a while nobody said anything, the two contentedly staring off into space and enjoying the mere presence of the other.  Finally, she spoke:

“So… is that what you wanted to tell me?”  A quiet laugh, then a pause.

“No.”  The edge in his voice was still there, and she closed her eyes in concern.  Tension emanated from him, and she could sense that he wanted to say something important.  She only hoped that it was something she wanted to hear.  Ever since she had found him, she’d been afraid to lose him the way she had lost everybody else she’d loved.  His hand stroked her cheek, and for a moment she trembled under his touch.

“Trinity, look at me, please.”

Slowly, her lids opened, and she was drowning in pools of brown that could reach into the depths of her soul and heal the wounds that lay there.  His eyes were magical, and in that moment they were so full of passion that she knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth.  He moved to speak, but she silenced him with a finger across his lips, letting his eyes communicate for him.  Their message found its way straight to her heart, and at that moment, all she could do was embrace him as its meaning coursed through her entire self:

 

You are not alone anymore, Trinity.  You will never, ever be alone again.