TITLE: The Next Morning (a companion fic to "Serenity" by Scottishlass)
RATING: uuh… G-ish, PG-ish, somewhere in there. Pretty harmless.
DISTRIBUTION: If Scottishlass gives you her permission to distribute "Serenity," then I give you permission to distribute "The Next Morning" with it, provided this opening statement is attached, and so is my email. But this story can't really stand apart from "Serenity."
DISCLAIMER: The characters aren't mine, I'm just having a little fun with them. They belong to the Wachowskis and the WB and all those important folks. And I'm not making a single penny offa this.
THANKS: First and foremost, thanks to Scottishlass for giving me the idea for this story as well as permission to write it. And, of course, thanks to Mara Trinity Scully, my faithful editor, without whose stupendous rippage my stories would be little more than a jumble of words on the page…
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is a companion fic to the story "Serenity" by Scottishlass. I was reading "Serenity" awhile ago, and as I finished it, the beginnings of some nifty little ideas for a follow-up story began to pop into my head, about what goes through Neo's mind when he wakes up the morning after "Serenity" takes place. So I got in touch with Scottishlass, and she gave me permission to write this. I drew on "The Lotus Eaters" and "THE BIG ONE" to make sure I fully understood Scottishlass's characterizations before starting, and she OK'd the story before I posted it. She actually said (and I quote) that "it's so funny how we write alike—it's like an X-File!" and I nearly passed out from the compliment. But I want to establish a few ground rules for all you readers out there:
1) Do not read this story until after you've read "Serenity" by Scottishlass, because it probably won't make sense. You can link to it through my profile, it's in my "favourite stories" list.
2) Do NOT credit me with ANYTHING regarding "Serenity," as I had absolutely NOTHING to do with writing it. It's 100% Scottishlass's genius. I just liked it, so basically, I'm writing a fanfic of a fanfic here *g*.
3) When you read "Serenity," be kind and leave the Goddess of Matrix Fanfic a review, wouldja? (No, she DID NOT ask me to put that in, I'm doing it of my own accord because damnit, she deserves it!) It's a fantastic little gem of a piece.
4) If this story gives you the urge to write a companion fic for some other story you've read, BE SURE TO GET THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S PERMISSION BEFORE YOU WRITE IT. I don't want to be blamed for tons of unauthorized companion fics suddenly appearing on this page…
Sorry, that was way too long. And now, at long last, I give you…
THE NEXT MORNING
I wake from dreamless sleep.
For the first time since my unplugging, I feel refreshed. For a moment, it is almost unnerving—I've become accustomed to waking tangled in sweat-drenched sheets, still trembling from whatever nightmare wracked me in the night. Every night, I have them--horrible, horrible nightmares of death and pain and blood and loss—
Those are the ones that kill me. They eat away at my soul, as though I've been infested by something dark and evil. Because what I do—what we do—in my head is disgusting, and it revolts me that my subconscious could produce such ideas, especially considering how much I care for her. They frighten me to the point that I've almost stopped sleeping altogether.
I wish that once, just once, I could have a dream that made me happy instead of afraid, so that when I awoke I wouldn't feel so vile, like I'd lost everything, and so damn alone--
But I'm not alone.
As I slide further into consciousness, I become aware of a warmth against my back, a tickling at the base of my neck—
And I realise she is with me.
Instantly, I tense up, afraid that the slightest movement will wake her and end this perfect moment. As if on cue, she shifts in her sleep and mumbles something, and her arm tightens around my chest. I wish I could be facing her, to see her out of command mode, when her mind isn't occupied with sentinels, agents, and exits.
I only know Trinity, the leader and warrior.
I wonder what Trinity, the woman, looks like.
Memories of last night flood back to me, foggy and broken. My exhaustion was keeping me from thinking clearly. For the three nights before, I hadn't slept. I don't know what possessed me to crawl out of bed at that hour and come to her door. I wanted to knock but couldn't bring myself to do it, so I just sat there in the corridor, my ass freezing against the cold metal. She would be sleeping—God forbid I disturb her. But she came for me anyways, even though I hadn't knocked; she helped me up and invited me in, and I clutched fiercely to her cool fingers, afraid to let go.
I realize that I almost told her, last night. The first word came out—"I…"—but then I caught her eyes, and once again felt her hand in mine, and the fear of being alone overcame me. "I'm so tired," I said, instead. And in her eyes—something changed.
Her hand rests against my chest, now, and I can feel her arm tucked under mine, against my ribcage. Very slowly, so as not to wake her, I wrap her fingers in mine. Only this time, our hands are both warm.
For the first time in all my weeks on the Nebuchadnezzar, I am warm.
Suddenly, I'm overcome with humiliation at my behaviour from last night. What a fool she must think I am-- like a child, running to her for protection from my bad dreams. She took care of me. For an instant the embarrassment overwhelms me, and I consider slipping out before she wakes. And then, again, I feel her shift, and I realize there's no way I can bring myself to move.
I wonder what I'll say to her when she wakes up.
But I don't wonder for long, because I feel her stir, and her hand squeezes mine. As she awakens, her breath quickens from the deep, slow, rhythmic pattern of sleep. I squeeze her hand in return.
"Did you sleep well?" she asks me quietly.
"Good." I can't see her, but I swear I can feel her smile.
Neither of us moves for a few minutes. The lights and the heat come on, and I realize that I hadn't noticed the darkness or the cold. Eventually, she untangles her fingers from mine and sits up.
"We'd better get going," she says. "You have more training today."
Stifling a groan, I sit up beside her. My body is still aching from yesterday's training sims.
There is no awkwardness between us, but I know this can't go un-addressed.
"Trinity," I begin, "about what happened last night--"
"It's okay, Neo."
"What?" I look at her, amazed that she is not upset with me. Our eyes meet for an instant, and something glows behind her pupils before she looks away.
"Don't worry about it. It's okay." She pauses, as if unsure what to say next. "Neo, I--"
For a moment I stop breathing, hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe—
"—I think you should go get some shoes on. I'll meet you for breakfast."
My heart drops a foot in my chest. I nod, slowly, before standing and walking to the door. Before I open it, I turn to face her again:
"Yes?" She looks up at me.
And without another word, I slip out into the corridor.