LOTRIPS Remix Home | 2008 Remix Listing
Disclaimer: This is a non-commercial, non-profit work of fiction under the names and likenesses of real individuals. This fictional story is not intended to imply that the events herein actually occurred, or that the attitudes or behaviors described are engaged or condoned by the persons whose names are used without permission.

Black plus White makes Grey

Author: tweedle_
Original Story: Dreaming in Color, by often_adamanta
Pairing: Orlando/Elijah, Karl/Liv
Rating: PG13
Summary: Matrix AU. Elijah (Li) and Orlando (Zane)'s relationship seen through the eyes of two of their colleagues.
Notes: Italized sections are taken directly from the original story as it's just too good to muck about with. As per the original, hacker names are used: Li for Elijah and Zane for Orlando.
Post-reveal Notes: Beta'd by lisabellex. 'Dreaming in Color' is a favourite fic for me and I was chuffed to bits to try something with it.


It is the year 2201, as near as they can calculate, and the humans are holding their own against the machines.

But only just.

The Matrix gives the machines unlimited access to infinite resources. The forged reality it creates gives the farmed humans the will to live, which in turn generates the energy resources required for the machines to function and the Matrix to maintain its lie.

Quid pro quo.

Those humans who have escaped the net of the Matrix know that 'that' kind of life is not enough. By stealth and ingenuity, they are determined to tip the balance. While the Matrix remains intact, there is little chance for the freedom of humankind, so they collect and collate data -- data, which is meticulously entered into the ship's computing system.

This data is not left to their computers to interpret and act upon. They will not make that mistake again. And not when history has shown, time again, that there is a leap the human mind can make which no machine can replicate: the leap from impossible to possible, based on imagination, desperation and, for the most part, hope.

In their war against the machines, the humans' primary objective is to unravel the fabric of the Matrix. They have come to believe that any hope of doing this is dependant on the skills of one young man.

When they wrenched Li from the grip of the Matrix, he did not come easily.

Now nothing happens to him that they don't know about. He is watched twenty-four/seven, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Changes to his EEG are recorded and, if they're significant enough, an alert is sent to the Captain and primary crew.

It has been many months since this has happened.


When he hears her coming, Karl places a protective hand on the monitor. Keyboards they have in abundance. But monitors? Not so many.

Liv bursts into the small room and bumps into the chair, which knocks against the table, which in turn rears up on two legs and bucks the keyboard onto the floor. The monitor is safe in Karl's hands, held firmly yet gently.

"He's not...?" she demands tightly.

"No, but something's changed."

"Is it good?"

"I think so."

"Thank fuck for that."

The frenetic energy that carried her into the room dissipates and for a second she looks lost, then broken - arms braced hard against the table, head hanging low, face hidden behind a curtain of dark hair. There is a moment of complete stillness until the first sob escapes her in a great gasp. It rocks the table, almost as much as her abrupt entry into the room.

The hand that had started to reach out to her is diverted back to steady the lurching monitor. Once it's stable, Karl considers reaching out again, but the moment is gone. Formal and distant once more, he reaches down to the keyboard instead, picks it up and sets it carefully in front of the monitor.

There is a hiccup of breath and then she stills. "Too long," she says. "It's been too long with this hanging over us. Over him." She breaks off and clears her throat.

Straightening, she roughly wipes her eyes on her sleeve before finally looking up to meet his gaze. "If we lose him, we lose everything."

He knows that this is as close to an apology or 'He knows that this is the closest to an apology that he will receive for this show of weakness. He accepts as gracefully as he knows how -- by ignoring it. "We still might lose him," he admits. "But..." He swivels the precious monitor so that she has a clear view. "Look."


"So, what do you want? Exciting and fun or calm and relaxing?" Li asks, once they reach the room Zane has become so familiar with these past few days, a circle of chairs and wires and gadgets.

"Well, I'd normally go for the excitement, but right now, I could seriously do with some calm."

Li grins as if he was anticipating that answer. "I've got just the thing." He loads a disk, and then motions to one of the chairs.

Zane sits back and watches Li grab the long metal bar that he knows goes into his brain, which still makes his stomach flip. "You're joining me, right?"


"That's it?"

Karl shrugs. "Looks like it."

Liv watches Li plug himself in next to Zane. Watches his features go slack. 'Which program is he accessing?' she asks curiously.

"Something he wrote inside, in the Matrix." Pulling the keyboard towards himself, he enters a command and brings up a new view on the monitor.

The garden surprises her. It's not a side to Li she has seen before or even suspected existed. She feels a twist of disappoint in herself for not having known this about him. It makes her wonder what he knows about her.

"Did you know where they were going?"


"How? Did you run the program yourself?"


Liv mulls this piece of information over before turning her attention back to the screen.


"Tea?" a quiet voice asks, and Zane turns to find Li kneeling in the soft grass. His attention immediately locks onto Li's skin. He's not wearing a shirt and is as pale as before, which is surprising, but what draws Zane's attention are the tattoos covering his entire upper body. Mostly black ink, with colors added here or there. There's a large circular symbol in the center over Li's sternum, quite a few designs that look like Chinese writing, and many more things that Zane can't decipher.


Liv sneaks a glance at Karl.

"And the tattoos?" she asks, easily picturing them on his larger frame.

He regards her briefly before turning his attention back to the monitor. "I think it depends," he says shortly.

'On what?' she wonders.


Zane turns back to the man across from him and is once again mesmerized by the patterns in Li's skin. They cover both arms and his neck, and Zane flushes faintly as he wonders how far down below the waist of Li's pants they go.

"You can touch them, if you like." Li's voice is low and inviting, and Zane realizes that Li is anything but offended by his staring.


"Um. Should we be watching this?" she asks, trying to ignore the dryness in her mouth and the damp heat between her legs.

"Focus", he chides drily. "You can have a cold shower or whatever later, for now we need to figure out just what exactly is happening."

"Right," she mutters. She makes a concerted effort to ignore the bulge she can just make out between the spread of his thighs. "Whatever."


Never has the lack of hot water been so welcome.

She flexes tense muscles under the spray. It actually feels good on her skin and she lets it stream unhindered down her body. It feels so good to let go for a moment. To drop the rigid control they all carry as a part of their daily routine. She suddenly sees that it is coloring every part of her life grey.

But right now, if she closes her eyes she can imagine the red glow of her skin and the cool blue-green of the water. She lets her thoughts fly and she's a rainbow. The colors mingle and merge as her fingers trace the contours of her body. It's golden yellow where her fingertips touch and the trails of sensation they leave behind glow deep indigo.

She sighs deeply, relaxes completely and then jumps at the loud bang on the cubicle door.

"Hey. Don't use up all the water."

'Fucker,' she thinks and lets the precious water run for another long moment, washing the colors away, before turning it off with a sigh and towelling herself dry.


It's a long week.

Pretending life goes on as normal has never been so difficult. The crew's daily interaction has become stilted and awkward. It's painful to watch this non-progress.

They bring in new data regularly, but they can see from the mainframe's logs that it is not being accessed or acted on. After the brief spike of activity, his EEG readings have been worryingly flat.

They can only watch and wait. That's what Karl keeps saying.

Liv is not so sure. She'd never call it intuition to his face, but she has a feeling that there is something else they could be doing. Should be doing.

It's intuition that makes her wait until she's alone in the ship to breach the dividing airlocks and access the restricted zone.

'Beautiful boy,' she thinks sadly, looking down at the carefully tended body of the permanent occupant of the single 'chair' in the centre of the room. Why does it have to look as if he's only being held together by the tubes and lines from the machines that keep him alive? They do that just fine, up to a point. Patch 'em up and keep 'em going. But if the mind decides there is nothing left to live for, no amount of hardware can sustain it.

It eats at her that this is just what the Matrix is designed to do and does so well, yet they are failing.

It makes her mad. It is so damned unfair. It makes her want to scream and rant and plead, so she does.

"You need to try harder, damn it! We must win. We must! And when we do, it'll be because of what you've done. What you will do. You can set us free. Do it for yourself." She pauses, hoping for a sign other than the expected flicker of lights across the monitor. When there's nothing, in desperation, she cries, "Do it for him!"

As the echo of her voice dies, and the rage and despair clears from her eyes, she sees him again.

"I'm sorry. That wasn't fair."

She comes back to his side, takes his hand and weaves their fingers together. "Can I tell you something I don't think you know?" She leans close to whisper conspiratorially to him. "He really likes you. I don't think you see it, but he does. He lights up when you're around. Really! I'm not kidding. And you should see the look in your eyes when his name is mentioned. I think you're as bad as each other." She hopes he can hear the smile in her voice.

"And we both know that this program is you. You act out your life there, but you keep it here. The memories are with you. Here. Safe. I think he'll understand if... when you choose to tell him. In fact, I think whatever you give him will be enough. And just think, when it's over, when we win, there will be that and more. It's for you, too, if you can just hang on. I know I can't make promises, but at the worst you will still have what you have now. Is it enough for you? I think it will be for him."

There. She's said what she came to say. But she can't leave. Doesn't want to leave.

Pulling a crate over, she sits down and makes herself comfortable, then reaches out and smoothes a lock of dark hair from his brow.

"Have I ever told you about my first partner? I don't think I have. It was a girlfriend and I was so besotted. It seems like ages ago now. We met in high school, before the war... "

She continues her monologue for a very long time.


Li blushes faintly. "I just wanted to tell you that, um, my next session is in a few days, if you wanted to visit the garden again."

Zane's eyebrows rise in surprise. Now he's even more confused. "I didn't think you wanted-"

"I do."

"Then why have you been avoiding me?"

Li shrugs and looks away. "It didn't matter. The machine's been busy. New training program."

"Um, look, the garden was very nice," Zane assures him, growing more bewildered by the moment, "but we're in a private room right now. Sitting on a bed. Together. I'm sure we could come up with something to do, even if there is a lack of tea."

"It's just. Um ..." Li seems to have shrunken into himself, and his voice is soft enough that Zane leans in closer to hear it. "They're not real."

"Who's not?"

"No. The tattoos aren't real here. See?" He pulls up a sleeve to reveal pale, pale skin and one stark black plug on his forearm before yanking it down again and bundling his hands back in the fabric. Hiding them, Zane realizes.

"Li. Your tattoos are beautiful, but they're not the reason I'm attracted to you. I'm serious," he adds earnestly, because he can tell Li doesn't believe him. "Last week, if you had come in here and made a pass at me here, instead of in the garden, the same sort thing would have happened." He moves closer, bringing a hand up to trace one high cheekbone. "The same kind of thing I'm thinking about right now."

Li shakes his head in disbelief. "I'm ... ugly without the tattoos."

"You are not," Zane objects immediately. "You're gorgeous." And he kisses Li.


When the alert next sounds, the EEG tells them nothing they can't already see in the monitor with their own eyes. And it is all good.

"Yes!" hisses Karl in controlled triumph.

Okay, she knows it's only the first step, but Li has taken it. And if Zane was being tested, he appears to have passed with flying colors.

Liv is almost giddy with relief. She feels like an enormous weight has been lifted. "I want to go to the garden," she blurts out and emboldened by her secret success, adds quickly, "Come with me?"

She lifts her chin and tries not to color at his look of calm appraisal.

"Okay," he replies.

With Zane and Li otherwise occupied, surely there is no time like the present?


Liv arrives in the garden first. It feels fresh and new and beats the hell out of the normal training programs. She savors the feel of sun and wind on her skin until she becomes aware of his arrival.

She exhales slowly, before turning to look at him. She is not even remotely surprised to find that Karl is exactly as she imagined he would be, and mentally salutes Li's programming prowess. "Nice tattoos," she remarks, tracing the perfect lines curling across his chest with her eyes.

Karl glances down at himself briefly, before huffing out a disparaging sound. "Not as nice as yours," he corrects, reaching out. "May I?"

"Yes," she answers, and his first touch wipes away any remaining trace of grey and bathes her in every color under the sun.


Comment on this story
Read comments on this story

LOTPS Remix Home | 2008 Remix Listing