The Kill

Disclaimer: I don't own 'em. Making no money, yadda yadda.

Author's Note: Okay, to clear things up. This does take place during the movie, pre-Oracle. Kind of explains Neo's apprehensiveness toward Trinity, etc. It was going to be a smut fic, but now it's all angsty and they're, well, still chaste. Rating R for naughty language.

Cat-and Mouse: The Kill

"Get her out of there," yelled Neo angrily as he furiously tried to unbuckle himself from the loading chair. "She's going to get killed!"

Morpheus studied his reaction carefully; Switch's eyebrows nearly flew off her head. No one talked to Morpheus like that, except for the occasional Trinity-rant, and she was allowed to.

Neo continued to fume. "Why are you just standing there? Get her out!"

Morpheus put a hand on Tank's shoulder, reassuring him that Morpheus did indeed want his second-in-command to stay in the program.

"Are you fucking kidding me? Get out of my way," spat Neo, trying to take over the controls. Morpheus calmly held him back. Neo may have an exceptional mind, but his physical muscles were no match for the captain's strength.

"She's okay," explained Morpheus. "She can't be killed in there."

Neo's face screwed itself into a contortion of anger and fear as he scanned the monitors for Trinity's vitals. "She's hurt, look you can see right there..."

"It's a program, Neo, you have to let her finish."

"Like hell I do. Let me go!"

Morpheus bent Neo's arm behind his back and led him away from the core. The crew turned their eyes back to the screens, watching Trinity make a painful dash to her alternate exit to the soundtrack of Neo's incessant cursing.

***

"So when are you going to bring in the boy wonder?" asked the Oracle, lifting her eyes over the top of her book.

"He's why I'm here," replied Morpheus as he sat in a red-and-orange plaid chair across from her.

"Yes, that's what your operator said. He sounds like a nice man. Tank, is that his name? I wish I could meet him. Maybe one day."

"About Neo," continued Morpheus. "Today he went through a training simulation with Trinity..."

The Oracle's eyebrows shot up. "You paired those two together?" she interrupted. "Can't you tell what's going on between them?"

"Well, yes, they are fond of each other..."

"Fond? By this point those young people are probably crawling out of their skin for one another! Tell me, Morpheus," she continued, her tone becoming more serious, "they haven't done any love confessing yet, have they?"

"I don't believe so..."

"Good. Because now is not the time. Those two are meant for each other...but it is imperative that they not tell each other yet!"

"Why is that?"

"There is a time for everything, Morpheus. Now go back to your ship. Have a talk with Neo."

"What about Trinity?"

"Leave her alone. She's going to have a hard enough time telling that boy her feelings."

***

Here's where I act like a dick, thought Morpheus as he sat across from Neo. He didn't quite understand why the Oracle didn't want them to deepen their relationship, but he knew better than to ask too many questions. It was better to do as she said. Morpheus tried to think of the best way to reprimand Neo for his stint in the training simulation and discourage him from starting anything with Trinity at the same time. Although he was disappointed in the performance of his two brightest crew members and the fact that they let their emotions tag along with them into the Matrix, he wasn't terribly angry about it. But he knew that Neo was emotional, and perhaps pulling on his heartstrings a bit would be more successful than anything else.

"I'm disappointed in you, Neo," said Morpheus at last, his fingers pressed up against his lips. "I expected you to keep up with her, at the least."

Neo stared at the table. "I don't understand how you can talk to me about my performance in there when Trinity's obviously going to come out of this hurt."

"That's her problem," said Morpheus calmly. "It was her simulation, she knows what she's doing. She just made a mistake, and in that world, Neo, we always have to pay for those mistakes."

"Oh, and it's just that easy," he said vehemently. "You left her in there for a punishment she didn't deserve."

"She hesitated, Neo, and that could have cost us your life."

"What about her life? Doesn't she count for anything?"

"You are the One."

"You don't know that."

"Your protection is all that matters."

"That's bullshit, Morpheus. I won't accept that."

"Accept it or not, Neo, we would all die for you. It is our duty."

Neo sighed with remorse. "I should have gotten shot, not her," he said quietly at length.

Morpheus raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.

"I...I wanted to beat her. Show her that I could beat her."

"You were flirting with her, Neo," said Morpheus, trying to make himself sound more disgusted than he really was. "That's a dangerous game to begin with, but what you did in there had no place in a serious training simulation. It was uncalled for and will not be accepted." He narrowed his eyes a bit for emphasis. "Especially not with my second-in-command. She is the expert out there, Neo. You get her killed and you can forget about any of us getting out of the Matrix alive."

"I'm sorry."

Morpheus shrugged his shoulders and paused for a moment. Then, leaning in toward Neo, he spoke.

"Do you have feelings for her?"

Neo stared at the table.

"Get rid of them now, Neo, before they kill you. Before they kill her."

"I thought we...shared something," muttered Neo.

"You thought wrong."

Morpheus thought he could almost see Neo's heart break in two.

"You've learned many lessons since you've been here," he said at last. "Trinity's the hardest lesson of them all."

***

Trinity laid flat on her back, trying to ignore the pain and concentrate on the other feeling...that deep slow-burning fire that raged somewhere between her heart and her gut. It was nearly overpowering. She knew that she should be angry, or upset, after what had happened: Neo catching her off guard, getting shot. But it was her own damn fault anyway, she knew, and tried to let the anger flow through and out before it had a change to fester.

She'd sustained wounds from six of the eight shots and was able to put cap in Agent Dick before he reloaded. Thank God she'd slowed them down a bit; had he been a real agent she wouldn't even have been able to get Neo out.

Limping, she managed to make it to the alternate exit without complications.

The rest of the crew stood by silently as Dozer helped her out of the chair and to the med lab where she knew more than a couple of stitches awaited her. Thankfully only one required stitches; had it been real it would have been a direct shot to the throat. Dozer felt her embarrassment and dressed her wounds without a sound, and the crew watched in anxious silence as she hobbled from the medlab to her cabin without a backwards glance.

Now, however, embarrassment was far from her thoughts. There was only Neo clasping her tightly as he stood against the fence, that awkward moment where they had been so close. She actually contemplated looking back through the saved simulation later to see if the tension between them was expressed in code.

Calm down, Trinity, she urged herself. You told yourself not to let your body run away with you until you knew for sure... She exhaled sharply. Yes, she liked him. Wanted him, even. But loved him? That was something she hadn't yet decided.

***

Neo lay on his cot, wide awake. He'd heard from Dozer that Trinity was pretty beaten up; a lacerated shoulder, bruised ribs from her fall, welts from the bullets...

His heart sank another foot into the pile of shit he'd mentally created.

Trying to make himself comfortable was impossible, he decided, and resolved to lay flat on his aching back, arms above his head, and stare at the ceiling. He was simply disgusted with himself. Here he was, the supposed One, the protector of humankind, and he couldn't even get through a stupid simulation without nearly killing someone. He was so sure of himself, but now...this changed things.

For an instant he was so sure that he'd done something right, beating her at her game...it was a game, wasn't it? Suddenly he understood; nothing was ever a game here. They were always fighting, always on. Never let your guard down, he remembered Morpheus saying from one of his earlier training sessions. Perhaps that's why he couldn't let go of her face, her eyes, as he grabbed her from behind and she nearly ran into him, locked in a stare of something primal that he'd never seen from her before.

He thought it may have been for him, now the thought disgusted him. He realized it was just a game to her, another chance to show off her skills. And that was okay by him; he knew he needed to go up against her one time or another. But what he had pulled was inexcusable, he knew. Letting his penis run away with his mind like that...and to Trinity!

Trinity had been the one person aboard the Neb that he really managed to bond with; Morpheus was too much of a leader to enjoy a friendship, Mouse too young and immature, Cypher too - well, creepy, Switch and Apoc too wrapped up in each other. Tank and Dozer he was close to, yet, try as he may, Neo was unable to relate to them, the plugless and free. Trinity, though, was different. Even from the first time he met her he knew that his life would some how be entangled with hers. Romantically would be great - God, she was beautiful - but he valued her too much to let romance screw things up now. Today his stupid moves resulted in the abuse of the person whose friendship he treasured most.

Morpheus' words echoed through his mind as he thought of her lying there, alone, bruised and battered: not with my second-in-command. His heart sank another notch. She was his superior, friend or not. Morpheus obviously knew something about Trinity that he didn't...did she already have a lover? Was she completely uninterested? What did he mean to her?

Neo flopped over in his bunk, trying to ease his upset stomach and troubled mind. Trinity was too hard to read, even harder to touch. He replayed all of their interactions over and over in his mind, trying to make sense of it all. The more he thought, the harder it hit him: she doesn't want you, Neo. You are her friend, nothing more. She thinks of you...as a brother, perhaps. Someone to pick on, to be close to without being intimate with. She was just sick of your cocky ass today and decided to make a fool of you. But it was you who made a fool of her. Morpheus was right. The day she loved him...well, shit, that would be the day he would actually turn out to be the One.