A/N: As I've said, I know this idea has been done before, but I had to do my own version. This will basically follow Neo throughout the trilogy. None of the canon dialog or plot has been changed, and I've tried to keep all of the characters/events/etc. as consistent with the movies as possible. Most scenes, though, either start a little before or end a little after where they do in the movies, and I plan to write a number of scenes that I think could fill in time-gaps, so, in general, if you don't recognize it, it's mine. Everything else belongs to the Watchowskis.
(The lyrics in the beginning are from Dissolved Girl by Massive Attack, the song playing on Neo's headphones when he first wakes up in front of the computer.)
"It feels like I've been, I've been here before..."
It's not morning. That's the sum of his first, half-conscious thought—it's not morning, and he's not in bed. He can see the computer flashing behind the wall of his eyelids. Goddamn. He really hadn't meant to fall asleep.
"Well, you're not my savior, but I still don't go on..."
The search is still running. If he opens his eyes to look, he'll see some fifty webpages flicking across the screen, a few shoddy photos of a silhouette with sunglasses, every mention on the web of "Morpheus" or "the Matrix"—upwards of a hundred articles on a man who, for all intents and purposes, may as well not exist. It's the same thing he's seen every day for the past month and a half. There's never anything new.
The screen stops flashing and he opens his eyes.
"It feels like something that I've done before..."
The desk comes into view in an unfocused blur—a keyboard and an array of disks and wires, shoved to the side so he could put his head down at some ungodly hour of the night before. He blinks a few times as his vision clears. The monitor is blank. He must have kicked the plug out, but—
—there are words—at the top—of the screen.
Wake up, Neo...
"I could fake it, but I'd still want more..."
Green font on a black display—the words evaporate and are replaced.
The Matrix has you...
The question comes involuntarily. This is a dream—this has to be a dream. He remembers the headphones he's wearing and pulls them off, wincing at a head-rush as he sits up. "What the hell...?"
He hits ctrl-x without thinking and the message disappears. The screen is still for a moment. He can feel his heart rate shoot several notches up when another line of text types itself in the space.
Follow the white rabbit.
"'Follow the white rabbit'?" He repeats it, half believing the display will confirm it if he asks. He hits escape twice—hard—nothing happens.
Knock, knock, Neo.
The door bangs in its frame and he jolts, barely catching his breath in time to remember that—impossibilities aside—a knock implies a person on the other side of the wall. He chokes for a moment, staring at it. The bolts are all in place. If he wanted to keep silent, he could—he ought to. No one could get in. No one even needs to know he's here. He toys with the idea a moment longer and decides.
"Who is it?" Curiosity always wins.
Neo halts, processing that. It's Choi. Not another hacker, not the feds, not anyone here to arrest him, or kill him—it's Choi. It's his perpetually stoned neighbor from down the hall, here to buy a program. God—fucking—damn.
"Yeah..." He turns back to stare at a blank screen. The computer is off, and he pulls back, letting his voice drop a bar or two in volume, "Yeah..."
He cracks the door, leaving the chain lock in place—it's habit. Choi is not alone in the hall, and Neo takes a moment to observe the entourage he's collected. There are four of them in his line of sight. He can't help but wonder how it could possibly require four people to pick up a computer disk, but he lets that go, only giving Choi a bit of a look as he peers through the doorway.
"You're two hours late." And of course, Neo is well aware of the reason, even as he says it—Dujour is already hovering in the not-so-distant background. He's unsure if "girlfriend" is really the right way to describe her relationship to Choi, but it's somewhere in that vicinity—she's been hanging off his shoulder since they arrived.
"I know. It's her fault."
Neo sighs in his mind and lets this go as well, "You got the money?"
A wad of bills is produced unceremoniously and placed in Neo's hand. Choi shrugs, "Two grand."
He shuts the door again before crossing the room, and pulls a book from a haphazard stack of shelves. Simulacra & Simulation—the majority of it is carved out—it makes for subtle storage. The final intact page begins the chapter on nihilism. He had thought he was being witty. He retrieves the disk and leaves the money in the book, opening the door fully as he hands over the program.
"Hallelujah. You're my savior, man. My own personal Jesus Christ."
Neo bypasses the comment, "You get caught using that..."
"I know, it's never happened. You don't exist."
He winces slightly—somehow that wasn't quite the turn of phrase he'd wanted to hear right now. His response comes out sounding about as derailed as he's feeling, and a bit more so than he'd have liked, "Right..."
Choi frowns, "Something wrong, man? You look a little whiter than usual."
"My computer...it..." He pauses and starts over, "You ever have that feeling...where you're not sure if you're awake or still dreaming?"
"Mm, all the time. It's called mescaline. It's the only way to fly."
Neo doesn't respond, unsure what temporary insanity had possessed him that he'd tried to explain this to Choi.
Unfortunately, Choi chooses to continue, "Hey. It just sounds to me like you need to unplug, man. You know, get some R and R?" He turns to the girl on his arm, "What d'you think, Dujour? Should we take him with us?"
Dujour scans him up and down and smirks, "Definitely." The smirk is a little unnerving.
Neo looks down at the carpet, meeting none of their eyes. He's heard this sort of offer from them before, and he can say, with complete certainty, that some "R and R" is not going to improve the situation.
"I can't...I have work tomorrow."
"C'mon, it'll be fun." She snuggles Choi's shoulder and scans him again, adding, "I promise."
Neo is more than ready to protest, and is debating exactly how to do so convincingly when he notes—for the first time—the tattoo on Dujour's left shoulder. He stops, any faith he had left in his sanity taking an abrupt nosedive. It's a white rabbit. It's a small, two-inch tattoo of a white rabbit.
He speaks without taking his eyes off it, not bothering to explain the change of heart, "Yeah, sure...I'll go."
Choi grins at him, "Great. You go get ready, do whatever it is you do, and we'll meet you there in two hours."
Neo nods numbly and shuts the door, redoing all the latches. His computer is on again. He rushes over and slides into the chair to see the monitor. The display is back to normal—the computer is doing exactly what it had been doing when he woke up.
It's running a search on "the Matrix."