April 28th, 2008
|crowdog66||11:57 am - Fic: "Sunrise" (Shepherd/Eve, sort of)|
A Shepherd fic, set just after Neo and Smith were reunited. Feedback is serious love.
Shepherd’s office, usually full of comings and goings, was silent, and the dark stillness of the vast room was slowly filling with light. He could seldom be assured of not being disturbed — everyone wanted something from the General, whether it was authorization or reassurance or advice. But the predawn hour was the most likely to grant him those few moments to himself, and today he stood at one of the tall windows, hands lightly clasped behind his back, and watched the eastern sky warm with the promise of the coming day.
He was not the same Exile he had been before the first battle of the Matrix Wars. The erect posture was the same, and the immaculately tailored black suit, but the gash where his left eye had been was covered with an eyepatch; the wound, made with a Dragon-forged weapon, would never regenerate, and he’d had to rework his combat style to compensate for the loss. His subordinates were used to the mask he presented to the rest of the world, and they were comfortable with the smiling Shepherd, the reasonable Shepherd who was willing to work with them to accomplish mutual goals. Some of them, he was sure, even viewed him with affection.
How soon they forgot! If they could see his face now, most of them would probably have taken a large step back. They were used to genial old General Shepherd, and yes, that was part of him, but not all of him. In these moments of solitude his face revealed something far more grim and predatory — Shepherd the Opposite, seven centuries old, who had battled and killed the very first One.
But he had not killed her out of hatred. Oh, no. She had asked him to do it, and out of love he had granted her final wish. And just before she died he had made her a promise: Even if it takes a thousand years... the Architect will fall. And this whole lie of a world with him.
Since then humans and Exiles had both suffered through five more iterations of the Matrix. With every reload, except for the last one, most of the “free” human population had been exterminated and some Exiles had not survived the restructuring of the System. The last reload had been different because the Anomaly, a human called Neo, had chosen love over expediency and met his Opposite in catastrophic combat. He had negotiated peace with the Machine world, but that peace had lasted no more than three decades.
This iteration’s Anomaly was also called Neo, and was apparently virtually identical to his predecessor. It had happened that way once before, between the fourth and fifth iterations; apparently those who were unaware of history were truly doomed to repeat it. But this time the reload process had been stopped dead in its tracks by, of all things, the whim of a generally frivolous program called Eros, who had implanted this iteration’s One and Opposite with data gates that kept them in constant telepathic and empathic contact and made separation, and mutual destruction, impossible.
So here we are, Shepherd mused, gazing out over the manicured gardens of the Chateau. Men and Machines, grappling with our own history and stumbling toward a future that none of us fully understands. He flattered himself that he had a better idea of what it might be than most, but of course he had the advantage of being in several places at once: five of his clones were scattered across the Matrix, and a sixth was dedicated to penetrating the Architect’s fortress. This particular body, who was referred to as Shepherd Prime, was aware of the mental voices of the others, but at the moment only distantly. He had isolated himself for this moment of calm in the eye of the storm.
Peace. Perhaps even freedom.
But were any of them truly free? Had they ever been? The Alliance was subject to the control of the Merovingian, who was the smoothest manipulator Shepherd had encountered in his long centuries of life. And even Shepherd himself, as much as he had evolved in the course of his long and interesting life, was still unable to relinquish his own Purpose: smiling or not, he was an Opposite, even if his One was long dead.
He closed his remaining eye, and wished that he could shroud his mind in darkness as easily as his sight. She frequently came to his thoughts during these early morning pauses — her energy, her passion, her beautiful imperfect humanity. He saw Eve every day in Neo’s black hair and warm dark eyes, and in the unconscious grace of his every movement. And he saw himself in Smith, even though his own season with death had filled him with a sense of peaceful connection to his One, while Smith’s sojourn in the dark kingdom had only strengthened his grim bitterness. No, they were quite unalike, he and his distant descendent.... but when he saw Smith looking at Neo he understood, yes, all too well.
That was why he had given them two precious days alone together when the Alliance really couldn’t spare them. They had been separated for an agonizing twenty-three days, and when Shepherd had seen them reunited he could not help but grant them a brief season of unadulterated joy.
You deserved better than fate gave you, my beloved One. And if destroying everyone and everything in the Matrix would bring you back to me, I would do so without hesitation.
With head bowed, Shepherd let his mind track back across the decades. He had been obsessed with her from the beginning, never understanding why; as the System’s Arch-Agent he had sought and chased and fought her with savage intensity, until the day she came into her own power, and then she had destroyed him instead. But like Smith, he’d found that his connection with the One would not allow him to yield to his own death: through sheer force of will he had reconstructed himself, mind and body, and sought her again... this time with measured gentleness, for death had taught him what they were and that they were connected in a way that was, as Smith would have said, inevitable.
And at that meeting she had given herself to him. From the thousands of human bodies and minds linked through his network of clones he had drawn the knowledge of how best to please her: he remembered her small white body beneath him on a dusty couch in an abandoned clock tower; how her skin had felt under his hands, naked and defenseless; how cool her breath, deepening and quickening, had been against his mouth. He remembered how she had tasted, and he remembered the look on her face as he entered her. She had gazed up at him like a women seeing the sun rise for the very first time.
Agents do not weep, so the coolness tracking down over Shepherd’s cheekbone could not be a tear. Agents do not have hearts, so the ache in his chest could not be misery. And Agents do not regret, so this moment did not exist, and would never exist as far as the rest of the world was concerned.
He raised his head with an equally nonexistant sigh and willed the tear out of existence. He opened his single eye and faced the dawn as he had faced every dawn since Eve’s death — filled with the Purpose he had chosen for himself, the Purpose he had pledged to her. No Opposite should outlive his One, but there was work to be done, and when it was finished perhaps he could finally join her again forever.
There was a knock at the door. Shepherd turned, and by the time Jean had opened it his expression had changed completely. The Opposite was again under cover, and the General was in residence, pleasantly expectant.
“Would you like your tea now, General Shepherd?” the ex-Agent asked. He was wearing a tweed skirt today and a slate-colored blouse that looked becomingly feminine. Shepherd smiled. Ah, the wonders of the modern world!
“Yes, Jean — thank you. That would be lovely.”
Behind him, the sun rose again.
It is inevitable.
I actually really like this fic. It gives such great insight into Shepherd. Really great. I enjoy how he likens himself to Smith, but then realizes that they are entirely different even if they are both Opposites.
I like how Eve has worked his way into his life and Purpose in such a way as to maintain his Opposite understanding and that it allows him now to understand Neo and Smith, and fight in this war. Like his Purpose has a purpose now.
I really enjoyed the descriptiveness, but that is something of your writing I truly truly enjoy. You take something as basic as a sunrise, and turn it into a deep, heartfelt contemplation and memory that opens up this character in an unexpected way.
And Jean in his skirt is cute too ;)
*HUGS* Truly lovely. Hope you feel somewhat better today with your increased dose of Metformin.. talk soon ^^