Rating: PG, alas.
Fandom: The Matrix
Pairing: Very slight Neo/Morpheus, if you squint and turn your head.
Disclaimer: Not mine, don't sue. All you'll get is a collection of my
trashy fanfic and a well-thumbed copy of LotR anyway.
Summary: Neo has a crisis of confidence.
When Trinity left the room he was thinking of Zion. He looked up at her as
she left and a smile tugged briefly at her lips as she closed the door
behind her. She thought she understood. He loved her, but she didn't
They came at him in waves and bearing gifts he found ugly in their
triviality, their wide eyes and their hot, clutching hands demanding
nothing short of his every living breath in return for their fervour. As
the months had passed he'd felt the panicked nausea that it all raised in
him begin to subside slowly. And he'd come to accept it all, perhaps even
understand it; he stood there like a saviour to them, though how they could
believe when he'd showed them not a single shred of proof was entirely
Neo had always been a very literal man, grounded in fact. He found
philosophy intellectually fascinating and for a while he'd flirted with it
from afar, but the literality of his consciousness precluded serious
philosophical engagement. His life was lived in fact and not in question,
and he supposed that explained his attraction to computing; he'd see the
code flash across his screen, he'd bask in the cold electric glow and he
could trust that; code had no guile, no cunning. Code was inherently direct
and upfront and was only deceptive if you allowed it to be – everything
necessary to its understanding was right there and required zero
It was interpretation that bothered him.
He sighed, lying back on his bunk, the back of his wrist resting heavily
against the bridge of his nose. He shivered and almost imagined he could
see his breath on the air like when he was a kid and his family had stayed
up in that cabin in the mountains that one Christmas. He'd stood outside on
the slippery wooden porch and watched as the snow fell, blanketing the wood
and the world in white. The heat of his breath misted the air and he licked
melting snowflakes from the back of his hand. He was seven years old then,
wrapped up tight and warm in his winter coat, and happy. He liked when it
was cold enough to see his breath. It sort of reminded him that he was
real. Even at seven years old, he'd needed reminding.
But the air on the Nebuchadnezzar, though cool enough to make him shiver
and peak his nipples almost painfully beneath his shirt, wasn't quite
*cold*. He'd never really seen his breath. And he wasn't sure that his
family even existed, let alone that cabin in the woods, the mountains, the
snow. Neither thought was particularly comforting.
He was going stir-crazy in that room, alone with his thoughts. He sat up
and swung his legs off the bed, pulled on his boots and wandered down the
corridor toward the common room, the kitchen, dining area, whatever it was
serving as at that particular moment in time.
The hum of the deck-plates beneath his feet made him feel sick and the
philosophy of the Matrix made his head hurt. For a literal man, waking to
the truth from the dream that had been his reality was jarring to say the
least. What was his reality now? The hovercraft, Trinity, Zion, the fleet,
the hot core of the earth, Morpheus, the Matrix... He shivered. So many years
of untruths, his reality fed to him through a jack in the back of his neck.
It was ironic, really. The only thing he'd ever trusted was technology;
he'd organised his life around computers, dedicated his life to them, only
to find that they'd lied to him all along.
Now he didn't know what to believe. Beliefs belonged to other people. Faith
was nothing. Truth and knowledge were relative.
But Morpheus believed. Morpheus had faith. In him. It was almost a shame
that half of Zion thought that Morpheus was mad, and the other half thought
he was some kind of a prophet. And that half-mad prophet was sitting at the
table as Neo walked into the room.
"Neo," The way he said it was half way between a greeting and a question
and Neo wasn't sure how to respond. He just flashed an uncomfortable smile
and took a seat at the table. "Trinity told us you were sleeping".
"I couldn't sleep." He didn't sleep. He never slept.
Morpheus nodded solemnly, as if this were the answer to some great,
perplexing riddle. He was sitting with the chair tipped back, one booted
foot curled around the chair leg and the other pulled up and resting
against the edge of the table; it was an awkward-looking pose, completely
out of character - it was as if he could topple over at any given moment,
when Neo felt he should be in constant control. Morpheus was always in
control, measured, calculating, knowledgeable. And at the same time he was
so open, everything in him there to read like a code on a screen. It was
reassuring and somehow unsettling together, like so much was these days.
Neo's eyes moved over him slowly. Morpheus was reading. He looked up and
caught him staring. For a second he smiled, a small, faint smile, then he
He couldn't sit still. Neo fidgeted on his chair, pushed at the objects on
the tabletop, smoothed his permanently wrinkled trousers, tugged at the
cuffs of his sweater. He made himself a drink and drank it. He sat on a
worktop and swung his legs. He reorganised the cutlery. Eventually he ran
out of things to do in the small room and slumped back down onto the same
seat where he'd begun his little misadventure. If he'd been inside the
Matrix he would have run or flown or fought... he almost wished he were
jacked in, Agents everywhere, glasses on, ready to fight. But he wasn't. He
was sitting there on the Nebuchadnezzar, tapping agitatedly at the
tabletop, angry at his own inconsequence.
Inside the Matrix Neo was a god. What did that make him outside?
Morpheus didn't even need to ask him what was wrong. All he did was look at
him over the top of his pad, raising an eyebrow quizzically.
"How do I even know this is real?" Neo blurted before he even knew he meant
to say it. "I mean, I know it's real, but *how* do I know?"
Morpheus smiled darkly. "How do we know that anything is real, Neo?" he
said, his voice eerily soothing. "Your senses cannot be trusted. All that
you can know are the facts, the universal truths; whether inside the Matrix
or outside, there are always constants – those of mathematics, science.
Beyond that there can be no knowledge, no 'real'. Beyond that there is just
Morpheus smirked and set down his pad, set the raised legs of his chair
down on the deck plates. "You did not ask for comfort, Neo."
"No, I guess not." Neo sighed and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his
eyes. Outside the Matrix, in the glare of the shipboard lights, his eyes
always hurt. It was now just something he lived with. "But... inside the
Matrix I can feel that it's not real. I can *see* it. Here... what I see
seems real. Sometimes a little too real."
"The Matrix is not reality, though it is real."
Neo shrugged. "Perhaps it's *my* reality," he said.
Morpheus nodded once, simply, considering, then spoke again. "The Matrix is
the dream from which you woke. Did you simply wake from that dream to fall
into another, or is this reality?
Neo paused. It was a terrifying thought, that Zion could be just another
construct, no more real. He just couldn't believe that. He of all people
couldn't afford to.
"This is real," he said, with every last scrap of conviction he had in him.
"I'm glad you believe that." But there was something in Morpheus' tone that
made Neo wonder if any of them really did believe. How could they? But Neo
knew that wasn't a question he could ask. It was best left to the
philosophers, the leaders, left for other people to decide while he went
out to save the world, real or not.
Outside of the Matrix Morpheus was in every way his superior, and Neo
acknowledged the fact. When Morpheus stood, Neo watched him. He had that
kind of gravity to him, the kind that made him a leader. Neo wanted to look
away. He didn't like the way Morpheus was looking at him. But he couldn't
look away, even as Morpheus stood beside him, cupped his cheek roughly with
the hot palm of his hand as if trying to ascertain that Neo was really
there. As if he were checking that Neo was really *real*. Neo wondered what
conclusion he came to.
"Tell me the truth," Neo said. "What do you believe?"
"The truth is relative."
"Then tell me your truth. Tell me what you believe."
Morpheus smiled. "I believe in Zion," he said, and dropped his hand to his
side. "I believe you are the One."
The One. Being the One set Neo apart. But as Morpheus left the room, as his
words echoed in Neo's mind, he didn't feel so alone.