TITLE: Somebody Else

AUTHOR: Carmilla


SUMMARY: For slaygirl, who requested: Bane-Smith and Neo have a conversation on the Hammer. I like ConfusedEvasive!Bane-Smith as he tries to adapt to having normal conversations and not be too extremely obvious about who he is (and failing miserably, but oh well...). I also would prefer it if Neo wasn't too much of an idiot in the fic...be fair about his characterization.

DISCLAIMER: They're owned by the brothers Warner and Wachowski. I make no money herefrom.

Neo looked up as the door of his narrow room swung open.


"Me, actually." A pale, bearded man stood in the doorway. Neo glanced over him curiously.

"You're Bane, right? We met earlier."

The man smiled. And somehow, it was very different from the Neo-the-hero-remembered-me smiles that Neo was used to. "Oh, we've met before, Mr. – Neo."

"Just Neo will do." He was suddenly very tired. He wanted this man to go away. He had to think.

"Do you ever wonder, Neo, what it would be like to be somebody else? Or maybe you already are. How would you know? We're none of us who we thought we were, are we?" Bane's speech was slow, measured, deliberate. The cadence rose and fell in a way that was oddly hypnotic and somehow familiar. Neo didn't like it.

"No, here we're exactly who we thought we were. Why do you think my name is Neo?"

Bane smiled slightly, and inclined his head. "You wouldn't – want to change, then?"

Neo was becoming increasingly uneasy. This wasn't at all the sort of conversation people usually wanted to have with him. "Everybody thinks about it. But no, I wouldn't want to change." He paused for a minute. "Have you been thinking about life on the inside?" Apparently it was a fairly common response to trauma to wish you could be inserted again, and this man had just been in a coma. "Who were you in there?"

"I was an… enforcer, you might say. I kept the place running smoothly. Less job satisfaction than you might expect. Recently I went – freelance. Much more rewarding."

Neo glanced at him sharply. "Recently? You must have been out five years." Even allowing for the large number of minds they'd freed recently, the age restriction was still in place, and this man was clearly over the prescribed boundary.

Bane hesitated for a second. Then he smiled his slow smile again. "I was referring to coming here."

"Then you aren't unhappy here?"

"Oh, no. I really find it quite… stimulating." He took a deep, savouring breath. "Why would you think that?"

Neo looked pointedly at the scars running down Bane's arms.

"Like I said, Neo, different people. I was a different person when I did this."

Neo inclined his head, not really wishing to push further.

Bane straightened his back. "Well, I will leave you to your contemplation – Neo. But remember, this war is changing everyone. You may have to change in your turn, before the end."

The door was shutting behind him before Neo could ask what he meant. He flopped back on the bed. He didn't like Bane, he decided; the man was unnerving. But he might be right, nonetheless. If he did what he was increasingly sure that he had to, there was no telling what he might become.