A/N: This chapter is dedicated to a friend of mine. Her penname on fanfiction is fifteen-days-of-bliss. I strongly urge everyone who has enjoyed my fanfiction to read some of her stuff, because seriously, she writes the best descriptions! You won't be disappointed if you R and R. Thank you!
Neo stood on the edge of the corridor outside his room, leaning on the balcony and resting folded arms on the banister in front of him, overlooking the city of Zion as lights everywhere were being switched off and people were preparing for a peaceful nights sleep. Although he was exhausted from the days events, he knew that he would struggle to sleep tonight with the same ease as those in the city around him. Disturbing thoughts still plagued his mind…
He couldn't believe that he had not seen it coming. He was usually good with sensing discomfort or unease in people, so why didn't he sense this? If only he hadn't allowed Vivianna to take full reasonability for Lorena…if only he had stayed with her for forced her into moving in with him…if only he had somehow forced her to report it in the first place…if only…
No! he needed to stop thinking like this. He should know by now that blaming himself wouldn't change anything. What's done is done. But this thought didn't stop him from wishing that everything that had happened today could be undone, or wondering what would have been if he had done something different.
Lorena was so young – far too young to be driven into such a state. He hardly knew her, but that didn't mean he didn't hurt deeply because of what she had done. She was just sixteen years old, which made her virtually a child. Children should not have to be put through so much pain and suffering that they are practically driven to the point of insanity. Children should not have to know what its like to feel so helpless and worthless that they would even consider taking their own life.
So many confusing emotions were confronting him right now – pain, sadness, anger, betrayal, hurt, confusion – and he hardly knew what to think or feel. He was furious with Lorena for giving up so easily, and felt as if she had betrayed him by giving up like this. Part of him wanted to strangle her if he could, yet all the sorrow and anguish just made him want to break down into tears. Lorena was only human, just like everyone else. If she couldn't hold on, then could anyone else? Was it only a matter of time before everyone else began to break down and lose control? All these new thoughts and ideas confused him immensely, and thinking so much was beginning to make his head ache. He desperately wanted to sleep for a few hours, but knew his sleep would be troubled if he did.
He clearly remembered the last time he had stood in this exact spot on his first trip to Zion after he had slept with Trinity for the first time. He had felt like some kind of god – strong, powerful and practically unstoppable. Nothing had seemed impossible then; Nothing. But now, he felt completely the opposite. He couldn't get the image of how he had seen Lorena that morning out of his mind, lying on the floor in her own blood – looking so lost and pathetic…helpless.
Yes, that was exactly how he felt. Helpless. Helpless to do anything to save Lorena, instead having to simply watch on and hope…
It had taken him some time to recover from the initial shock of seeing Lorena lying there that morning. It felt as if this moment in time was frozen, and he would be forced to relive it again and again. That, or time had suddenly slowed down like it sometimes did when he was dreaming. For a brief moment, he had even wondered if this was a dream. When Trinity spoke to him, her voice sounded miles away…
"Neo, we need to get her to the hospital immediately." When he turned to look at her, Neo could see that she was trying to play the part of Second-in-Command. He was beginning to realize that this was the only way she knew how to get through difficult situations – to become as cold and unfeeling as possible, distancing herself from her emotions so that she could maintain a sense of logic and reason. He wished that he could be like that, then perhaps he would be able to push his own emotions aside and do what he could to help.
Trinity had already stooped beside Lorena's body and had taken hold of her wrists, tracing her thumbs lightly over the wound. Neo observed the sickly look in her eyes when the blood rubbed off own her own skin. Now he was closer to her, he was able to pick up of signs that most people would ignore. Signs that conveyed how she was really feeling. Even though she was trying to keep her expression stony and level, he could tell that this was even more disturbing for her than it was for him. It was bringing back memories…painful memories.
Sensing her distress, Neo snapped out of his trance and knelt beside her, lifting Lorena's fragile body so that she was reclining in his arms. She felt even more brittle and weak than usual, but she was still warm. Still alive, if barely.
"She's unconscious. Probably passed out from lack of blood." Trinity stated, trying and failing to keep her voice level. "We have to hurry, Neo."
She led the way down the streets towards the hospital, practically running, but making sure not to stray away from Neo. Neo moved as fast as he could while cradling Lorena in his arms, ignoring the people who stopped and gaped at him when he past. He didn't have time to worry about what others would think of him at the moment. All that mattered was saving Lorena's life.
By the time they reached the hospital, Lorena's blood had seeped into the material of his shirt, dyeing it a dark shade of red. He held her close to him, clinging to the futile hope that somehow his own strength would be able to pass into her and keep her alive long enough for them to save her.
The Matron was the first to see them, and crossed the front room briskly. Her wrinkled face was etched with stress and anxiety, and exhaustion was evident in her gray eyes. Her long, silvery hair swung about her shoulders as she approached them, stopping in her tracks when she saw the unconscious girl's bloody wrists.
"What happened?" She barked in a tone that told both Neo and Trinity that she would not except a false answer.
"She…she…" Neo stammered, unable to force out the words. Just saying it would make it all seem too real.
"She tried to kill herself." Trinity snapped back curtly, glowering at the Matron to hide the sadness in her eyes.
The old woman blinked at her, obviously taken aback by this response. "What?"
Trinity groaned with frustration. "We don't have time for this! This girl needs to be taken to a bed and treated – NOW!"
"There's no need to shout. Everything will be taken care of in due time." The Matron replied irritably.
"Damn it, there's no time for 'orderly procedure'! She's dying!"
Dying. So far, Neo had only thought of this possibility to himself, but hearing Trinity say it aloud made it seem very real. He could tell that Trinity felt the same way, because she stopped short as soon as the words had left her mouth. He was suddenly confronted with the blunt and obvious truth. Dying…Lorena is dying.
The Matron stared from one to the other, her lips pursed together tightly. Her eyes then traveled to the girl in Neo's arms and she sighed heavily. "Follow me."
Minutes later, Lorena had been taken inside the main hospital walls, leaving Neo and Trinity to wait in the corridor outside her room. Neither made any argument when they were told they weren't allowed to enter. It was all too much to take in at once, and they needed to recover from it first.
Neo leaned against the hospital wall, feeling as if the last of his energy had been spent. He was already so emotionally drained that he didn't know if he could keep on his feet much longer. Depression…anger…resentment…sadness…grief…anguish – he didn't know which of them to feel. There were other emotions that were surrounding him too, ones which he didn't fully understand and simply couldn't name. They were too profound – too dark – to even put words to.
He suddenly became aware of Trinity's shaky breathing and turned to look at her. She had turned pasty white, and her eyes were clouded with pain and memory.
"Trin?" He asked hesitantly.
Trinity looked up at him, and he could now see that tears were brimming in the corners of her eyes and threatening to fall. "Rape…suicide…waiting here like this and not knowing what was going to happen…it all reminds me of Charity."
Neo felt his heart lurch and instinctively reached out to pull her close, but then noticed the blood that was still on his shirt. He hadn't remembered it until now, and just looking at it made him feel sick. He swayed a little on his feet, then slumped so that his full weight was against the wall. Trinity reached out and touched his arm, and he could feel her fingers trembling.
"Do you want to talk about Charity?" He asked her softly after sometime had passed.
Trinity bit back her tears and shook her head. "Too many memories and emotions. It would only make it worse."
"Sometimes talking about things can help."
"You already know about it anyway…what happened to Charity, I mean. Besides this isn't about Charity anyway, it's about Lorena. God, I don't even know why I'm even thinking about it." She finished on a note of frustration, then folded both arms protectively across her chest and sniffed, looking him directly in the eyes as she said, "Neo, it happened so many years ago. It wasn't even real. Why doesn't it stop hurting?"
"It was real, Trinity. She might not have been your biological sister, but you were still close to her, and you saw her as your sister for most of your life. What happened to her was real."
Trinity was still, pondering this silently before she continued, "I used to think that if I ignored my emotions, then they would just go away. But now, I'm beginning to see that wounds don't heal with time. All time does is bury it all inside of you. The pain is still there, just hidden under layers of memory."
"Trin, it only hurts because you've kept it bottled up inside of you for so long." Neo answered her blatantly. "If you keep hiding from your emotions, then of course they'll never go away. Remember what I said to you on the night of Switch, Apoc, Dozer and Mouse's funeral? You can't hold it all in forever, which is what you have been doing most of your life. Charity's death still hurts you so much because you never had anyone to talk about it with. Of course you'll never fully recover from Charity's death, but talking to someone will help. And you know that you can always talk to me without having to worry about being judged or…or anything. I won't think any less of you for admitting your feelings. In fact, I will think just the opposite. You should be proud of what makes you human."
Trinity just stared at him, taking it all in. Neo had told her similar things before, but she had never taken them to heart. She had just been thankful that she now had someone she could trust and who she could share things with without worrying about protecting a reputation or hiding who she truly was. But now, she finally grasped what Neo had always been saying to her. Admitting her emotions was the only way to come to terms with her grief, and she had been hiding them for so long…carrying the burden of so much pain and suffering for so many years. She shouldn't be ashamed of these emotions or consider them a weakness. She should realize that they made her stronger. Her love for Neo had proven that to her long ago, but she was too blind to really see it.
"You know, you've become a lot surer of yourself recently." She thought aloud with a small smile, remembering how shy he used to be when he was newly unplugged. "You're a lot more self-confident…stronger."
"We've both become stronger, Trin." He replied. "We've both grown."
Trinity considered the way she used to be just months ago and realized he was right. If anyone had told her then that she would become the person she was now, she would have laughed at them. It was hard to believe that she was the same person she once was. Sure, on the outside she still upheld her barrier and maintained her reputation, but purely for self-defense against her enemies. Inside, she was a completely different person. She had opened herself up and allowed herself to love someone else, and it was that love that had changed her for the better.
It was impossible for her to imagine what life would have been like if she had lost Neo the day he discovered he was the One. If she hadn't admitted her feelings to him…if she hadn't kissed him, then he wouldn't have realized someone loved him and wouldn't have seen a reason to live. She would have lost him, and would have regretted it for the rest of her life. Constant loneliness and isolation would consume her, and she probably would have ended up doing anything to get herself to stop grieving, maybe even…No, she couldn't even think like that anymore. Not after what had happened to Charity, and now to Lorena as well.
"How can you be so…giving?" She asked him quietly. "How can you be so willing to listen to me, and to love me?"
"How can I not?" Neo smiled at her. "I'm always going to be here to listen, Trinity, if you want to be heard."
"Right now, I don't think I need to talk. I think I just need to…" She trailed away and pulled him close to her instead, ignoring the bloodstains on his shirt.
"Don't worry, Trin." He whispered, kissing the top of her head and returning her tight embrace. "We'll get through this together, just like we got through everything else."
"God, Neo, I've been selfish." Trinity suddenly said. "I haven't even asked you how you're feeling."
"I'm okay, I think. I'm just a little confused. There's so many different emotions…I'm not sure which one is the strongest. I'm not really sure how I feel. I'm just at a bit of a loss."
"I know what you mean." Trinity replied, pulling away from him slightly so that she could try and read his facial expression. "How could Lorena do something like this? She knows that there are people willing to help her, so how could she just give up?"
"I guess it wasn't enough. When I first confronted her, she told me that she had hoped I would be able to use some kind of magical power on her to help her to forget all her pain. Maybe she thought that the only way to forget was…was…" He sighed heavily. "I feel like I've failed her."
"You haven't failed her, Neo." Trinity replied indignantly. "You did everything you could. No one can expect any more of you. Don't ever feel like it was your fault."
"You're right." Neo said grimly. "But it's still going to take some time."
"I know it will."
He opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by the sound of someone coughing behind him. He turned around and almost jumped in surprise when he saw Vivianna standing behind him, her face blotchy and her eyes stained with tears.
"Neo, I'm so sorry." She wept. "All of this is my fault."
Neo glanced back and Trinity, who hesitated only briefly before nodding in answer to his unvoiced question. He then hurried towards Vivianna without a second thought, forgetting everything that had passed between them recently and pulling her into a warm embrace. She instantly broke down and began to sob uncontrollably into his shoulder. He said nothing, but patted her on the back comfortingly until she had calmed down enough to speak.
"I stayed with her all of last night. I tried to get her to come and stay with me, but she didn't want to leave in case he came back and went searching for me. She was trying to protect me. She said he would try to kill us both if he found her. B-But the next morning, I left her sleeping while I hurried back to my room to grab a few things and forgot to lock the door. When I came back, the door was open and there was blood all over the floor. I didn't know what to do, so I started asking people if they'd seen her. Someone told me that they'd seen you carrying her off to the hospital, so I came here. Oh God, Neo, I shouldn't have left her alone. I'm so stupid! She could have died and it was all my fault!"
Vivianna finished her frantic speech and struggled to catch her breath. Neo felt a wave of sympathy go out towards her. He knew exactly how she felt, and what it was like to wonder if there was something he could have done to prevent any of this.
"It's alright, Vivianna." He murmured soothingly. "You couldn't have known that she was thinking this way. It's not your fault at all."
Trinity watched on with a mixture of different feelings. Admittedly, she was jealous, and wanted to rip Vivianna off Neo right away. She wouldn't have minded them embracing if she didn't know the young girl still had feelings for Neo, but she couldn't seem to get that idea out of her mind. But the embrace was far from being anything romantic, and she was sure that this was the last thing on Vivianna's mind right now. In a time like this, they both needed each other's support. Friendship had always meant a great deal to Neo because he had never really had that many friends in his Matrix life. She didn't want him to lose the ones he had, especially when he needed them.
"Neo's right, Vivianna." She added somberly, "If this is anyone's fault, then it's mine. I was the one who told her about my sister. I was the one who put the idea of suicide into her head. If it wasn't for that, then…" she shuddered. Even after her death, Charity's legacy was still hurting people.
"Trin, that's not true!" Neo exclaimed, stepping away from Vivianna and drawing closer to her. "No one here is to blame for what happened. If you're to blame anyone, then it should be – "
As if on cue, Dwayne had appeared in the corridor, a smug expression on his face. There was a self-satisfied glint in his beady black eyes, and his lips were twisted into a sinister leer. Neo was instantly filled with hatred and rage as he remembered the conclusions he had come to only the previous day. Dwayne was the one who had caused Lorena so much pain. Dwayne was the reason why she had tried to take her own life. Dwayne was the reason for everything. Neo couldn't believe that he had once felt pity for a man who had done such a horrible thing, and who then had the nerve to turn up at the hospital to gloat about it.
"He calls you Trin and you actually let him get away with it?" Dwayne doubled over laughing. "And I thought I'd seen everything."
"YOU SICK, TWISTED, SON OF A BITCH!"
Neo stormed towards him without any sense of control and landed a punch squarely in his jaw, using as much strength as he could muster. Dwayne was caught completely off guard and toppled to the ground in an almost comical fashion. Behind him, Neo could hear Vivianna's shriek of surprise and Trinity demanding him to back away, but ignored both. Dwayne was the reason for all of this, and he deserved pain. He only had time to kick his enemy sharply in the ribs before Trinity tugged him away.
Dwayne staggered to his feet, clutching his stomach with one hand and wiping blood from his mouth with the other, eyes glowing dangerously with rage. "What the fuck was that for?"
"You know exactly what that was for, you sick bastard!" Neo shouted at him. "How dare you even think to show your face here after what you did to Lorena! Come to gloat about it, have you? Or are you here to see if you can try the same thing with Trinity or Vivianna?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about. Who in the hell is Lorena?"
Neo glared at him. "Oh, that's just disgusting. You don't even know the name of the girl you've been raping."
"Rape?" Dwayne chuckled nervously. "This has to be some kind of joke. I'll admit that I'm low, but I'm not that low."
Neo opened his mouth to reply, but Trinity rested a firm hand on his shoulder, interrupting him. He marveled at how she could be so calm in a time like this. This was the man who had been raping Lorena, torturing her to the brink of insanity.
"I think we should hear him out, Neo. You can't go accusing him until you've heard what he has to say."
Neo was so angry that he didn't want to listen to reason. All he wanted to do was to pound Dwayne into the ground, but he used the small thread of common sense that he had left to convince himself to wait and hear what Dwayne was going to say.
"So what are you doing in the hospital anyway?" Trinity asked him curtly when she saw that Neo had calmed down. "And don't try to play any of your 'games' today, Dwayne, or I'll help Neo to bash your head in instead of preventing him from doing so. Get straight to the point, understand?"
Dwayne nodded vigorously, aware that he was trespassing on dangerous ground. "I'm only here because I've been trying to score with one of the nurses who works here all week. I haven't been raping anybody."
"That's partly true." Vivianna put in, glaring at Dwayne with utter dislike. "He's been hanging around me all week, using just about every lame pickup line you can imagine."
Dwayne noticed Vivianna for the first time and smirked at her, "Hey, beautiful. Matron told me I could find you back here."
Vivianna shuddered. "Matron actually finds it amusing to watch Dwayne chase after me."
"Well, I guess he has an alibi for being here." Trinity remarked, unable to keep the amusement out of her tone. It seemed as if she had finally found something she had in common with the Matron. The idea of Dwayne trailing around after Vivianna was amusing.
"But that still doesn't mean he isn't guilty." Neo replied.
"We don't have any proof that he is guilty, either." Trinity said pointedly. "The only person who can prove whether Dwayne is innocent or not is Lorena herself. Until then, there's nothing we can do. Dwayne, you better get out of my sight right now."
Dwayne did as he was told without needing anymore convincing.
Shortly after Dwayne had departed, the Matron had approached them and informed them that Lorena's condition was now stable, and that she would regain consciousness tomorrow morning. However, she was not allowed to have any visitors until she had been seen by trained specialists. Neo was happy to know that she would now be getting the help she needed, but wished that he could see her, just to reassure himself that she was alright…
Realizing that there was nothing more they could do, Neo and Trinity had said goodbye to Vivianna and returned to their room for some rest. He had spent hours trying to wash the blood and tears of his friends out of his shirt, but he still felt as if he couldn't get the scent out of the fabric. Finally, he abandoned all attempts to clean it and decided to throw it out. After this, he had sat with Trinity in comfortable silence for a while before she eventually dropped off to sleep, and then went out onto the balcony.
He found it hard to believe that so much seemed to have changed in a single day. He had felt so many different emotions in such a short time, and now the only thing he felt was completely drained. Punching Dwayne had taken out some of the built-up emotion he had been carrying, and somehow it had made it easier from him to think clearly once more, although he probably shouldn't have used Dwayne for this purpose. He hardly felt guilty about it, though. He was still mostly convinced that Dwayne thoroughly deserved that punch.
The soft tone broke through his silent reverie. Neo moved away from the banister and smiled awkwardly when he saw Vivianna approaching him. She attempted to smile back, although she didn't seem very cheerful. They may have hugged each other before, but things between them were obviously still tense.
"I hope I'm not interrupting you or anything, but I just couldn't sleep and I wanted to talk."
"You're not interrupting anything." Neo answered calmly. "Are you worrying about Lorena?"
"No, not anymore. She's alive, and now she's going to be getting the help she needs. I know she'll be fine." Vivianna smiled to reassure him. "I actually wanted to talk to you about…something else."
Neo tensed, doubting he could take much more emotional strain today if Vivianna tried to kiss him again. His reaction must have been noticeable, because she laughed at him.
"Don't worry, it's nothing like that again. All I want to do is tell you something. Can you promise me that you won't interrupt or say anything until I'm done?"
"Sure," Neo said curiously. "I promise."
Vivianna took a deep breath before she continued, "First of all, I wanted to say that I'm really sorry about what happened that day in the hospital. I knew you were in another relationship, but I guess part of me didn't want to believe that. I didn't think things through and I apologize for putting you in an awkward situation. Now that I've seen you and Trinity together, I can see what love is really meant to be like. What you have is something really…profound, and goes deeper than just mere attraction. I've realized that I was wrong when I said I was in love with you. But I'm not going to make that mistake again. I'm going to wait until I can find the kind of love you and Trinity have."
"Wow…" Neo breathed, scarcely able to believe his ears. Finally, Vivianna had come to understand what he had being trying to tell her all along! "Sounds like you really rehearsed that well."
"Yeah, I was working on that speech for the last four hours." Vivianna grinned at him. "But I mean every word of it. Neo, I really hope that we can still be friends."
"You'll always be my friend, Vivianna." Neo beamed at her and rested his hand on her shoulder. "Even if you do come up with corny speeches."
"Oh come on, it wasn't that bad." Vivianna shoved him playfully. "Give me some credit – I put some effort into that speech!"
"I'm only kidding." Neo laughed and shoved her back. "You know, someday you're going to make some guy very happy, Vivianna."
"I know." She answered smugly, yawning. "Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I think I'm ready to get some sleep now."
"Alright. Goodnight, Vivianna."
"See you, Neo."
Neo watched her until he was certain that she had returned safely to the elevator before heading back to his own room and the woman he loved.
A/N: As you probably can tell, I am now heading towards the end of this story. There is only about ten or so more chapters to go, in which I will do my best to wrap up unfinished plotlines and set the scene for the Matrix Reloaded movie before I stop writing. If you have any final suggestions for scenes or dialogue to include in the last few chapters, this will be your last chance.
Thanks for reading, please review!