beengone

The First Fall

 

New Capital City

 

***

 

It wasn’t quite what he’d imagined.

“Well?” Morpheus asked at his side, hands behind his back.

“It’s not like Iimagined.”

“In what way?”

“Well…” Neo looked about. Everything was white, even the sky, even the empty shells that used to be Capital City. “It’s a lot colder.”

Morpheus laughed, his breath casting a cloud of white vapor, covering Neo’s face for a moment. “The Matrix was formed to provide a real-world experience. You must have come across snow before.”

Neo shrugged and began to walk towards the cliff.

Tank had dropped them off as close to the lake as possible, not wanting to be caught in the convection winds coming off the roiling waters and the going was tricky. The snow looked smooth and benign, but it covered rock and metal and—he kicked a piece of cement—what looked like the remains of a lake-front home. He wondered if the inhabitants had been enjoying the view when the world had changed. Maybe. Probably.

When he got to the edge, he stopped.

The lake had once been just that—a big body of water. But thanks to war, the Machines and global warming, its shape had been recarved and enlarged to that of a relatively deep ocean, complete with a strong tide and high cliffs.

He looked down, studying the desolate beach below. It wasn’t much to look at—just a thin strip of white sand and cement slabs.

“What are you thinking?” Morpheus asked, coming to stand a meter behind.

“Nothing.” A lie. He was thinking that if he were in the Matrix, he could jump the hundred meters to the beach and walk along the water’s edge. He was thinking that it would be like floating, like a leaf or a current of air…

He took a breath and then another, fighting the compulsion to step forward.

It was starting to be a problem, the lighting quick urges to test reality as he’d done in the Matrix. He’d find himself on the roof of a new skyscraper or he’d stop in the middle of some mundane task and think, ‘What if…?’

He’d mentioned it to Morpheus once and after a long discussion, they’d gone to see the Oracle. She’d been as pleasant as usual, sitting on a park bench in the weak sun, surrounded by her potentials.

Morpheus remained out of earshot while they talked, mostly about the reconstruction and the changing world. After a few moments of that, as he was trying to find the words to tell her he was beginning to confuse the real world with the false, she broke off and leaned over and stared into his eyes. He stared back, forcing himself to not look away, feeling as if he were under bright interrogation lights. But she said nothing, she just watched him with a knowing resignation and a sharp sadness.

He hadn’t asked her what she’d seen; he didn’t have to. He’d said his goodbyes—weak excuses of things to do and people to see—and hadn’t been back to see her since, no matter how many times Morpheus had encouraged him.

“What is it?” Morpheus said.

“Nothing,” he repeated, suddenly feeling too exposed, too dark in this white, white world. “We should go back.”

***

Tank picked them up at the same location, in a vast empty field that used to be a Machine-run nursery and entering the Neb was like entering a cave. A convoluted, messy cave that smelled of engine grease and electronics. He breathed a sigh of relief as soon as his boots touched the steel grid floor.

He turned to Morpheus. “Feel like sparring?”

Morpheus took of his sunglasses. His gaze was blank but watchful. “Now? You’re not tired?”

He shook his head. After three long weeks of meetings and consultations with Zion and the newly-formed Earthwide Leadership, he was more restless than tired. He’d thought a visit to the real world without his ever-present entourage of fans would ease the tension, but it hadn’t.

After a moment, Morpheus nodded and called out, “Tank? Load up the dojo.”

***

They fought, almost desultory at first because it had been a while, with one thing and another. A slow circling punctuated by soft jabs that became harder and faster until he was sweating and panting, his mind on hold, only aware of Morpheus and how good it felt to be moving with no other motive except staying one step ahead.

Morpheus, too, loosened up. He lost that cloak of reserve he’d been living under for the past few months until he was almost smiling each time Neo pulled a punch, each time he managed to land one of his own.

The practice ended abruptly, an hour in. Neo threw a kick he’d used many times before, but somehow Morpheus anticipated him—instead of ducking, he lunged, grabbing Neo’s waist, using his weight and momentum to spin them in the air across the dojo. They hit the wall, then fell onto the mat.

Neo started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Morpheus breathed into his ear.

“Nothing.”

“It feels good, doesn’t it?”

He sighed, his face pressed against the mat, Morpheus heavy on his back. “Yeah, it does.” He twisted around. “Do you have to work?”

Morpheus’ gaze flickered, down to Neo’s mouth and back up. “We’ve been gone three weeks. I need to check the systems and review the ship’s log and supplies.”

Neo didn’t push or prod; he just lay there, letting his body do the speaking. Finally, Morpheus leaned over and kissed the side of his mouth. “But it can wait.”

***

They were on each other before the heavy cabin door slammed shut, kissing hungrily, hands fumbling, legs bumping into Morpheus’s desk, tripping over a pair of boots, finally landing on the cot.

And this felt good, too, better than the sparring, freeing Morpheus from his clothing, being stripped in return until they were naked and he was on his belly, Morpheus once again heavy on his back. He smiled at the pressure and muttered things like, “Yeah,” and, “There,” and, “Hurry…”

Morpheus fucked him or maybe he was fucking Morpheus, his body heavy with sweet gravity, pushing back, moaning and fisting the sheets, no time for gentleness or caution.

When Morpheus came, a brief stillness and soft sigh, Neo was there, too, his vision darkening to white.

***

“Are you all right?”

He touched Morpheus’s hand without opening his eyes. “Yes.”

“What scared you out there?”

“Nothing.”

Morpheus sighed. And moved, sliding off Neo’s back to lie at his side. “Okay. We’ll leave that for now.”

He opened his eyes.

“But I need to speak to you. I should have, earlier, but…”

He had been waiting for this. For five long months he’d been waiting until the waiting became a physical thing, almost as real as the Matrix.

Morpheus added quietly, “It’s gone on too long.”

Neo rolled on his side and turned his back on Morpheus, for all the good that would do. “What’s the point of talking?”

Morpheus pulled the covers over them. “Because even though things have changed and we’re no longer being hunted every second of the day, this is a small ship. I won’t allow conflict.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning, the longer you take to talk to her, the harder it will be. On her, mostly.”

He didn’t have to ask who Morpheus was referring to—in their world there was only one ‘her.’ “I’ve tried.”

“Try again. She means too much to me. I don’t want her jumping ship.”

He turned slightly. “Are you saying it’s me or her?”

“No. I’m saying you’re an adult. Act like it and ease her pain.”

“I’ve tried,” he repeated insistently, feeling the first touch of anger. “She shuts me down every time.”

“Do you blame her?”

“No.” And his unborn anger died because he didn’t blame her. If anyone had done to him what he’d done to her, he’d say fuck you and never look back. “I can’t force her to listen to me.”

“Well, you’re going to have to find a way. You’re the only that can fix this.”

There was a dull clang and the ship shuddered and groaned. Neo cocked his head, but the noise didn’t repeat.

“She did it,” Morpheus murmured.

He nodded.

Trinity had been working on the turbo’s new power pack for weeks now, refusing to give up even though Tank and Morpheus had argued that it couldn’t be salvaged and they’d make do with the old one. But she’d just brushed them off, told them that they’d bartered valuable equipment for it and she’d be damned if she let anyone rip them off like that.

She hadn’t glanced at Neo while she spoke and he hadn’t expected her to. Because that was business as usual ever since his epiphany of the summer—that the love he’d felt for her the minute she’d confessed her own feelings, almost three years ago now, had muted into something cooler and less happy. That he’d finally acknowledged that it was Morpheus that held his interest, as it had from the very beginning.

‘You’re looking for him.’

For most of his life, although he’d only realized the depth of his fascination the week he and Morpheus were in New Paris for the first gathering of what was to become the Leadership. They’d wrapped up the day’s meeting, then left the group to go for a walk. It was stupidly romantic, almost embarrassingly clichéd, the dried up Seine on one side, the sporadic bright lights on the other. They’d stopped at the barricade to what was once a bridge. He’d looked at Morpheus and Morpheus had looked at him. Without a word or a touch, they’d turned as one and went back to their hotel room.

After they’d had sex, wiped out but bracing for round two, he had a second epiphany: that fucking Morpheus was as natural as breathing and as real as anything he'd ever known. And that he’d been wanting it for a long time.

He’d kept his revelation to himself, but as in all things, Morpheus seemed to know what he was thinking and by the time they’d returned to New Capital City, things had changed between them.

So, yeah, the epiphanies had been bad enough; what had been worse was Trinity’s expression when he finally had the guts to tell her—surprised, but not surprised. As if she’d been waiting for his confession the whole time they’d been together.

Morpheus made a deep sound, an impatient hum, as if tired of waiting for Neo to speak. He slipped his arm around Neo’s waist, pulling him back. “You know how I feel about you, yes?”

“Yes.”

“I won’t give you up. Not now, not ever.”

The words relaxed something inside and he nodded. “I’ll do it. I’ll go to the Oracle and find a way to fix it.”

“Good. And while you’re there, you’ll ask her about your other problem.”

“I thought we were going to leave that for later?”

“This is later.”

He snorted, then hummed with pleasure when Morpheus leaned close to kiss his port.

He shivered, imagining he could feel Morpheus’s warm breath against the cold metal. He reached behind and touched the port and Morpheus’s lips, then rolled to his back, shoulder against Morpheus’s chest. “I’ll talk to her tomorrow,” he said again, and this time he wasn’t talking about the Oracle.

Morpheus stroked his chest but said nothing and Neo fell into kind of a waking sleep, eyes closed. When Morpheus got up a while later, he listened to the sounds of clothes being pulled on, the soft hiss of the door being opened and closed, all the while picturing the way it would be.

He’d take her to the white field and show her to the beach far below the cliff. He’d show her the washed-clean ocean, the weak sun, both free of the Machines and the old way of life. He’d explain and ask her forgiveness, doing whatever necessary to find the right words because Morpheus was right—she meant too much to him, too, and he couldn’t imagine his new life without her.

He turned on his side, buried his face in the pillow and the scent of Morpheus, and smiled.

 


fin.


~~~~~~~~~~~~

Story notes:
Neo/Morpheus
The Matrix
2,o00+ words
Based solely on The Matrix and not either of the sequels
All characters belong to people and organizations that are not me