GrinningRandomElf > Not Romance

Not Romance

We were in Switchís cabin one night, on the big roomy bed, with a deck of cards and a decanter of Dozerís hooch. Apoc was on duty, so it was just us girls.

"Hah! Gin!" cried Switch triumphantly.

I threw my cards down with disgust. "I think youíre cheating," I said, barely slurring my words.

She smiled slyly, and I punched her in the ribs. She shrugged. "Youíre so drunk I barely need to cheat."

I considered that. "True. But thatís hardly the point."

She laughed. We were both drunk, to tell the truth. She drank more often, though, so she was less affected by the amount weíd consumed.

"So finish the story," I said, lying back on the bed and stretching my legs, not-quite-accidentally kicking her in the hip.

She lay down beside me, shoulder pressed against mine. This was the only bed on the ship wide enough to do that. Weíd shared a bed for a while when we first came on board - simply for the warmth, nothing else - but weíd had to spoon together to fit, even though our still-maturing bodies were slight. It was a novelty to have room to move and still get the body warmth.

"I already did," she replied, groping for the drink.

"Thatís no way to leave it," I complained. Sheíd been telling me about Apoc, and some of the things that went on behind closed doors, as it were.

"Well, thatís as far as Iím going. You want to find out more, get a boyfriend." She took a swig, careful not spill any.

I grunted. "Yeah, and inflict world saving on the poor guy."

"What, youíve never heard of casual sex?" Switch was the only person Iíd told about what the Oracle had said to me. Yes, I was drunk at the time. Whatís your point?

I groaned, throwing an arm over my eyes. "Itíd be so weird," I said. "Weíd be in the middle of an intimate moment, and Iíd start wondering what heíd look like in a Superman costume."

Switch laughed, and passed me the container of grog. "Or in a stained-glass window," she suggested.

"Huh?" I said, my mind slowed down by the harsh alcohol

"You know, heís supposed to be some kind of Messiah," she said patiently.

"What does that make me, the Virgin Mary?" I asked, only half sarcastically.

"Well, keep going the way you are, and youíd qualify." I elbowed her in the ribs and she laughed. "You donít have a snappy comeback for that, do you?"

"Iím drunk, Switch."

"So?"

We both turned as we heard through the closed door somebody come down the ladder. There was a pause, and then footsteps started down the hall towards us. Switch struggled upright.

"Thatís Apoc. Youíd better go."

"It might be Morpheus," I suggested, unwilling to move.

"No, itís Apoc. Out you go." She was really very firm about it.

"He might be pleasantly surprised to find two gorgeous women in his bed instead of one." I really was very comfortable right where I was.

"But then there wouldnít be any room for him," Switch countered, and, placing one foot against my hip and her back against the wall, started to push me out of the bed. I sat upright, not wanting to meet the floor at any speed, as the door opened.

Apoc staggered in, aiming in the general direction of the bed, and did a double take upon seeing me occupying the space to which he was headed.

"Donít mind me, Iím just on my way out," I grumbled, searching the floor for my boots.

I had located one, and was about to pull it on, when Apoc interrupted. "Thatís Switchís."

I blinked groggily, and stared at it. It looked like my boot. I blinked harder and shook my head. It was Switchís. Okay, then.

I found my boots and pulled them on while Apoc lounged against the doorway and Switched lolled on the bed. They watched me quietly. I lurched upright and staggered to the door, nearly falling. Apoc caught me by the shoulders and gave me a push in the general direction of my own room. I turned back to shut the door, and just before it slammed, I saw Apoc tumbling onto the bed as Switch held out both her arms to catch him.

I went back to my own room, fell into my cold bed, and fell immediately into a deep, dreamless sleep.


My heart sank as Morpheus came through the double doors alone.

"No go?" asked Cypher, unnecessarily.

Morpheus shook his head sadly. "Blue pill. Switch, Apoc, Trinity. Take him back home."

We got up. I noticed with vague interest the way the two of them seemed to move in tandem, like dancers, gracefully complimenting each effortlessly. Though normally far from clumsy, I felt out of step, like a rusty training wheel. They were so in sync with each other.

In the next room, the potential looked up at us with big, frightened eyes. The drugs were already beginning to have an effect on him. He was still conscious, and might remain so for some time, but the next day he would remember nothing past taking the blue pill.

I looked down at the man consideringly. Morpheus had thought he might be the One. I could have told him differently. For one thing, this guy was shorter than me, and call me shallow, but I could never fall for a guy I need to bend down to kiss. He was short, with dirty blond hair and big blue eyes. He looked - jaded, I supposed. Heíd been in and out of jail for years, came from an abusive background. Perfect candidate - problems with authority, good with computers, no reason to stay. But you canít win them all, I guess.

Apoc took him by the shoulder and hauled him to his feet. "Come on, man. Time to go home." He gave the guy a shove towards the door. Switch followed, automatically covering his back. I tagged behind.

We drove to his house in silence. By the time we reached it, he was passed out across the back seat, his head uncomfortably close to my hip.

"I like it when theyíre small," Apoc commented as he hefted the guy across his shoulders.

"Itís nice when theyíre on the ground floor, too," remarked Switch.

We dumped the guy - I donít even remember his name anymore - and drove back to the exit without any trouble.

I was first out. I opened my eyes to the cold reality and Tankís cheerful face. I sat up and rubbed my neck. The data spike was a painless experience, but it sometimes held my head at an odd angle. I stretched carefully, working the kinks out of my neck and shoulders, when suddenly Dozer swore sharply.

I scrambled to my feet. "What? What is it?"

"Agent," he replied tersely, but Iíd already seen it. Behind me, Apoc woke with a gasp. Switch was still in there. The agent wasnít in the room yet. She couldnít know he was there.

Dozerís fingers flashed faster than I could see across the keyboard. Re-establishing a connection is a very simple program, but it seemed to take an age. I watched, in seeming slow motion, as the Agent approached the door. A soft beep indicated the connection had been made. Switch reached out her hand as the door opened.

I couldnít watch. I turned away, only to see Switch lying helplessly jacked in, a wide-eyed Apoc scrambling from his chair to be by her side.

Donít die, donít die, donít die. I realised I was repeating this in time to the frantic pounding of my heart. Donít die.

Switch opened her eyes and sat upright with a scream. Tank and Morpheus, on either side of her, held her down to pull the data spike out of her skull. Her hands scrabbled frantically at thin air, until Apoc grabbed her arm. As soon as the others released her, he pulled her upright into an embrace, carefully holding her, stilling her shaking, whispering to her. I couldnít pick out the words, but I could read the emotion clearly enough.

There was a moment of frozen silence in the Core, broken only by Apocís hoarse whispering, then Morpheus broke in. "Switch, are you alright?"

She nodded, pulling back from Apoc. "Iím fine. I think the bullet - Iím fine. I got out in time."

"Only just," said Dozer in an awed voice. "Jesus, girl, a microsecond later and that bullet woulda gone straight between your eyes."

I saw Apocís hand convulse on Switchís shoulder. She tilted her head toward him. "But it didnít. Iím okay," she insisted.

He nodded, apparently satisfied with her answer. "Well, you can have the rest of the afternoon off. Cypher, youíll pick it up instead."

Cypher looked like he was about to protest. I kicked him in the shins hard enough to make him yelp. Morpheus turned and gave him a curious look. "What was that?"

"Yes, sir," he growled, glaring at me.

Apoc helped Switch to her feet, then released her. They walked out of the Core without touching one another.

"Going off to have wild yay-weíre-still-alive sex," said Cypher snidely. "So Trin, you up for it?"

I blinked and took a moment to realise he was propositioning me. "You up for having your nose broken and all your teeth punched out?" I enquired sweetly, and stalked off.

Asshole.


That night, I went to call Switch and Apoc for dinner. I had protested this duty in the strongest of terms, but Morpheus glared and said go, so I went, expecting to have to flee, red-faced, back to the mess.

There was no noise coming from their cabin, so I knocked quietly. Apocís voice said "Come in."

I opened the door. He was sitting at the foot of the bed, his back to the wall and legs curled up to his chest. Switch was sprawled out face-up on the bed, fast asleep with her mouth open. I could see her chest rising and falling gently beneath the covers. So, apparently, could Apoc, who hadnít even taken his eyes off her.

"Apoc?" I said, as gently as I could. "Itís dinner time."

"Iím okay. Iíll just stay here." His voice was terse.

"Apoc, you need to eat."

He shook his head. "I donít want to wake her."

"Sheíll be fine here. You donít need to stay with her."

He turned his head so I couldnít see his face, but something told me he kept his eyes on her. "I donít want leave her. Iím afraid that..." he hesitated. "Iím afraid that if I leave the room sheíll stop breathing."

I looked hard at him. He seemed serious. His face was still turned away, his voice soft and vulnerable. I realised with a sudden lurch that he was crying, and took the two steps between us, sitting down on the bed and taking hold of his shoulders.

"Apoc, itís okay. Sheís fine. She got out. Sheís alive."

"I know," he whispered. "But I know that I wonít be able to sleep properly for weeks. Iíll have to wake every couple of hours and make sure sheís still breathing."

"Apoc -" I began, but he cut me off.

"You donít understand, Trinity. I canít lose her." The fierceness in his voice startled me. "Sheís... God, sheís a part of me. Itís like weíre one person, Trinity."

I rested my forehead against his back, between his shoulderblades. I could feel the tension in his muscles. I remembered suddenly, how they moved together, as if one mind commanded two bodies. How when they sparred each other, they could fight until they were exhausted with no clear winner, they were so evenly matched. The way they read each otherís minds. I remembered noticing how whenever one came into a room where the other was, they would find an excuse to touch one another. Nothing overt, just a hand on the shoulder, or brushing a little closer on the way past, but it was there. The way they would smile at one another sometimes, sharing some secret joke perhaps, a loverís smile, warm and intimate.

How she knew his footsteps as he walked down the hall. How he knew every article of her clothing, down to how her boots were different to mine when even I hadnít noticed.

The way he was watching over her now, guarding her sleep.

I realised there were tears running down my own face. I pulled away from him, standing. "Iíll bring you some dinner."

I turned to go out of the door, but his soft voice interrupted me. "One day, youíll understand, Trinity."

I smiled at the thought of me ever having a bond with someone that was as deep and strong as the one my two friends shared. That was unlikely to happen, whatever the Oracle might say. "I donít think so." I leaned against the door, face against the cold metal.

"You will." He sounded so sure. "Youíll find him. Youíll find somebody you wonít be able to live without. Youíll be able to feel him in every part of yourself. Youíll spend hours watching him sleep, just fascinated by the sound of him breathing."

I shook my head, rolling my forehead against the wall. "No," I protested, unsure.

"You will," said Apoc. "Youíll love him, Trinity. I know you will."

I blinked, and another tear ran down my face. "What if I donít want to?" I asked quietly. "She told me I would, but what if I donít want to fall in love?"

There was a sudden movement behind me, and I was engulfed by Apocís huge form as he wrapped his arms around me in a hug. I turned, leaning against him. "Itís not a matter of wanting, Trinity," he said. I could feel his voice rumbling in his chest. "When you find him, you wonít care about anything that came before. Itís not got anything to do with flowers or candles or any of that shit. Itís not about romance or poetry."

"Then what?" I whispered miserably.

"I canít sleep unless sheís here, and I can hear her breathing. Nothingís right when she isnít in the room. She completes me. I couldnít survive without her. Everything else flows from that."

I couldnít find any answer to that. I couldnít imagine being so completely dependant on somebody. I had survived all these years on my own steam, I knew for a fact that I didnít need anything else.

I pulled out of his embrace. "Stay with her. Iíll bring you something."

He watched me go with an unreadable expression.


The next day, as we were alone in the mess hall, I asked Switch.

She looked hard at me. "No matter what he claims, Apocís a romantic," she said coolly. "He uses a lot of words to say something that really quite simple."

"Whatís that?"

"I canít imagine living without him," she said in the same calm tone. "Heís right, itís not about romance. Itís life. I could no more live without him than I could live without food or oxygen."

I shook my head. "I donít think I could ever need someone that much."

She smiled almost gently. "Youíll find it. You wonít know how much you need him until heís about to be taken away."


She looked up at, her face harsh with emotion. "Not like this," she said, very firmly, between clenched teeth. She knew she was going to die. "Not like this."

Donít die donít die donít die donít die...

Her eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed over the digitised representation of the dead body of her lover.

"God damn you, Cypher!" I hissed into the phone.

Iím afraid to leave the room in case she stops breathing...

"Donít hate me, Trinity. Iím just the messenger." His voice was so offhand, so casual.

I canít imagine living without him...

"And right now, Iím going to prove it to you."

Oh, God. Neo.

"If Neoís the One, then thereís no way I can pull this plug. If Morpheus is right, thereíd have to be some kind of a miracle to stop me."

Neoís eyes werenít jaded with experience, I knew. He was a total innocent. I told him to trust me, and he did.

"I mean, how can he be the One, if heís dead? Eh?"

And now he was going to die.

"You never did answer before, if you bought into Morpheusí bullshit."

The man you love will be the One...

"Come on, all I want is a little yes or no." His voice was soft, wheedling. Neo was crouched down, checking the bodies. It was hopeless. I had seen people killed this way before, when squiddies had attacked and theyíd been too far from an exit and had to be shut down to save the rest of the crew. Or maybe thereíd been no warning, and the ship had been destroyed. It happened.

"Look into his eyes. Those big, pretty eyes." Cypherís voice crawled down my spine. I felt sick, compelled to look into his eyes. Soft, chocolate brown.

"And tell me..."

Safe eyes.

Youíll be able to feel him in every part of yourself... The way I always knew exactly where he was on the ship. They way just being around him made me hypersensitive to everything, feeling things more acutely than I had since I was first unplugged.

"Yes..."

Trusting eyes.

Youíll spend hours watching him sleep, just fascinated by the sound of him breathing... The way I wanted to take care of him, how I could sit and watch him when he was plugged in and training, how I would bring him dinner after hours just so I could look at him, examine his features in repose, with nobody around to call me on it. Until Cypher caught me... bastard.

"Or no?"

I couldnít move. I was frozen.

I swear I heard a click as everything fell into place. If he died, I wouldnít be able to live. With a sudden clarity, I understood. That was what it was all about, stripped down to the bones as everything was in this harsh, cold reality. I needed him to complete me. That was all. That was enough.

"Yes," I whispered.

END

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