Author's Note: this final chapter is set after the end of The Matrix Revolutions. It is not the most cheerful thing you are ever likely to read; it complies with movie canon.
Inside the Dock, he saw a crowd surrounding something. He had never seen a group of people so still. They looked like statues, like pillars of salt, like the Temple stalactites. They looked under some dark spell, frozen by some malevolent witch. It made his skin crawl.
Walking over to them, he shuddered, wondering what new horror had been uncovered now – a child's body, a pregnant woman's?
"Second Officer Ghost of the Logos," he called out as he drew near. "What's happening here?"
An infantryman he'd never seen before turned, saluted hastily at the sight of Ghost's uniform. "Sir, none of us are members of the Fleet. Could you... could you confidently identify the One, Sir?"
Another man hissed something, something indistinct, but it plainly disturbed the group; suddenly freed from their spell, they all swung round to stare. The horror in their faces galvanized Ghost. "Let me see..." he began to push his way through.
"Sir, I don't..." Someone caught his arm, tried to draw him back. "Sir. Wasn't the One's... wasn't she your sister?"
Now and then down the years, he'd hear that she had almost died on some insane mission or other, that she'd escaped whatever death trap Morpheus had laid this time, always through her patented mixture of skill, guts, cussedness and sheer blind luck. She'd seemed somehow untouchable, beyond the reach of the stalking horse the rest of the Fleet so feared. Neo's arrival had reinforced that, been the best guarantee of her safety possible; for months Ghost had been able to breathe freely, to sleep unhaunted by dreams of her death. She'd almost died so often, but never had. Her skill, her luck, her indomitability of spirit had always saved her. But not now. Not this time. That almost was now a wasn't she your sister? And he wondered how he had ever hoped it could end differently.
"Please, Trinity. Please."
"I have to."
"But this isn't survivable. What he's doing – Trinity, he isn't coming back."
"I know. We both do."
"Trinity, he loves you, he worships you, he won't want you to go, he can't..."
"We belong together, Ghost. We always have. No matter where it takes us." She says it as simply as if it's a law of nature; a force that keeps the earth turning, the tides flowing, the stars apart. A truth of impenetrable density.
"But you'll die," he says, and the words catch his following breath in a gasp of pain. "Trinity..."
"We all die," she says, and her mouth twists, distorts. He can see her fear. "Nobody gets out of life alive."
"Please, Trinity... please. I love you. You know I love you."
She takes his hands in her own, and says, infinitely gentle, "Then don't ask me to live without him. I can't. I don't know how."
After six months. Yet you expect me to live without you, after fifteen years. But he knows he can't voice that. His only choice now is to let her go with his love wrapped round her heart, or to make this harder for her; further weight this monstrous burden. And that is no choice at all.
He hugs her. "The bravest of the brave," he says, inhaling the scent of her hair, so newly washed in Zion. "You always were. I've always been so proud, Trinity."
"You," she mutters into his sweater, her arms so tightly round his shoulders it is painful, "are biased."
"No. I'm not. Trinity- look after each other."
"We always do," she says, and chokes back a sob. "God, I can't start this shit. I might not be able to stop." She releases him, lifts her bag, turns to the door. "I have to go. I love you. Don't forget."
She blows a kiss from her fingertips, before disappearing from sight.
It's the most uncharacteristic thing he's ever known her do. It feels like a tiny glimpse of the woman only Neo knows. And he is grateful, even at such a moment, for that.
So much blood. Dried, caked, encrusted; her clothes rigid with it. Ghost hears his own breathing gasping in, out, in, out, as he climbs up onto the barge, shoves aside the hands that seek to restrain him, focuses only on the still frame that once held everything he most loved.
And that amount of blood meant death was anything but swift.
Ghost turns, and looks at the sea of faces.
"Sir... is it... are they..." the man swallows. "Sir... none of us know what she looked like. And his face... it's hard to recognize him, too."
It takes a few moments to recover his voice; formulate words from sounds. "It's Trinity. Yes." He looks now at the body beside her, though he already knows who he will find. "And that's... it's Neo. The One."
His eyes. Oh God, his eyes. What in hell did they do to him? Did she live to see that?
There's a small box in Neo's clasped hands. A square thing, made of metal. Machine made. Ghost takes it, gently, carefully.
Inside the box lies a disk.
He can't think about that now. He just wants them to have some privacy, time alone together before burial. Neo would hate strangers paying homage, taking him away from Trinity even in death, and nobody else will be determined enough to stop it, or even understand why it should be stopped. Nobody else will do this for them.
"Take them to their room," he says. "301. Level 303. Please. Before this gets out. Before the crowds."
"Not the morgue?" The man is diffident. "Won't that level be...a little warm?"
"No. The morgue is full. They liked to be alone together." He swallows. "It's the only home they ever had. They should be there until..." He blinks back tears, not caring who sees them, unable to say it, "... and we can put ice in or something. And... she asked me once. To see that she was buried, not cremated. Neo would hate to be apart from her, he always did. If that was what she wanted, he'd want the same. I know everyone else is being burned, but..."
He will never know who this man is, he will never be able to remember the face, but his kindness will never leave him, either.
"Sir, after what your sister and the One did, they'll have whatever in hell we can give them. Anything. You just say the word; we'll do it. I swear to you. You have a key? For their room?"
"Okay. You go and wait. We'll bring them down to you, arrange the practical side. It'll be done right, Sir. I promise you that."
"She died first," she said. "He was with her. She died unafraid."
Ghost closed his eyes.
"She was happy," she said softly. "She was, you know."
"Was she in much pain?"
"She should have been. But she was too far gone to realize it."
"She went into shock." He breathed out through his nose.
The Oracle nodded. "Best analgesic there is."
He raised his head, looked at her. There were tears in his eyes. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. I'm just sorry it's the best I can do for you." She sighed. "They were such good people. Both of them. Not fair, is it?"
"His eyes weren't what killed him."
"No. But what did? Nobody can tell. They tried..."
"He let Smith take him over. Copy himself. The action destroyed them both. Then they were able to use Neo to reload the Matrix. It was crashing before that, everyone was going to die."
"I don't understand."
"No. But do you need to? We just need to be grateful. All of us."
"I can't," Ghost clenched his hands, released them. "I know I should be, but I can't. I can't even forgive him. He took her with him."
"I doubt she asked his permission."
"He could have asked her not to go..."
"He wouldn't have made it without her. Then she'd have died anyway, in Zion, with everyone else. Without him. Would that have been better?"
Ghost was silent for a moment. Then he made a small, defeated gesture. "You're going to tell me it was her path, aren't you."
"Their path. Yes. He knew he would die. He could only win by letting Smith win. By letting Smith kill him."
"He let someone kill him? In the Matrix?" Ghost thought a moment, then looked up. "But–"
"It was a relief. No doubt about it. He negotiated a truce, then did what he had to to meet his side of the bargain. Death, as it happened. But he wouldn't have died unless it was necessary for Zion. He'd have lived if he could. It wasn't a suicide, Ghost."
Tears began to spill down Ghost's cheeks. "I wouldn't blame him," he said. "God, I'd understand."
"I know." She took a long drag on her cigarette. "But she deserved better than that from him. And she deserves better than that from you. You owe it to her, you know."
"To do your part in making this peace last." She flicked her ash, looked at him. "Creating it was their path," she said. "Maintaining it – now that, kiddo, is ours."