Specs: Tron Legacy, Alan/Quorra, 6200 words
Etc: Sequel to The Meaning of Dreams
They'd both fallen asleep, and when the phone rang, Quorra's head jerked up. Since Alan's head was right there, he got a nice jarring knock to his jaw, which wasn't exactly the way he'd expected to wake up. Quorra managed to untangle their limbs, and she rolled over. Alan let himself study her ass as she hunted for the phone on the bedside table. Like the rest of her, it was a very nice ass.
"Hello?" Alan ran a hand up and down her back, knowing that since he was here, it could only be Sam on the phone. "I'm not really hungry," she said, and Alan could hear the tightness in her voice. "Whatever you want." She closed the phone, set it back down. A moment before she rolled back over, and her forehead was creased with worry.
"Alan, will it hurt his feelings?"
"I don't know. You would know better than me how he feels about you." Her frown was all he needed - Sam cared for her, probably loved her, and it would hurt him to find out, but Quorra had decided for both of them that the jig was up.
They showered quickly - mostly just a rinse - then dressed. Alan was halfway down the stairs before he realized Quorra hadn't joined him. She stayed where she was, arms crossed over her stomach. "I think you should talk to him first. He respects you, Alan."
He barked out a laugh at that. "Not the word I'd use. I've always been a thorn in his side. A LoJack." Quorra tilted her head at that, but the meaning was clear even if she didn't know the specifics. "What do you want me to say to him?"
"I'm going to pack my clothes," was all she said, then she turned and disappeared into her room. Was she planning on moving in with him, or was she just going to stay at a hotel for a few days until the smoke cleared? Alan sat down on the couch, having no idea where he was even going to start. Sam, I've known about Quorra this whole time. Don't know why we've never told you. Also, I'm sleeping with her now, and we're heading back to my place - see you at work tomorrow. He didn't think that would go well.
The minutes ticked by, and Alan kept running imaginary conversations through his head. Every one ended with Sam furious, pointing an accusatory finger in Alan's face. Somehow, Alan felt like he had done something wrong. Like he was a thief.
The garage door, when it started rolling up, startled Alan. His muscles were instantly tense, and he watched as Sam drove the bike in, the door rolling back down. He grabbed a bag out of the compartment under the back seat. "I got Thai!" he called out - and then he saw Alan. "Alan. Hi. I, um, was just telling the dog what I got for our dinner."
Alan nodded, watching Sam's eyes dart nervously around the room. And it was that guilty look, the way he could tell Sam was desperately hoping that Alan hadn't seen Quorra and didn't know she was here, that broke through Alan's own feelings of guilt. He hadn't yet been able to figure out why Sam had never trusted him with the knowledge of her existence, and Alan realized he was angry. After all these years, after all he had done, Sam didn't trust him.
"We need to talk, Sam." The kid wouldn't look at him, setting the take-out containers out on the counter. Alan could see the gears working, Sam trying to figure out if Alan knew, trying to play it cool. But Alan had known him too long, and knew all of his tics and tells. The fact that he couldn't look Alan in the eye was the biggest.
"Is this about the proposal? I already told you I'd have Junior look at it, Alan. I wish you'd trust me - I do know how to program." That was rich, but classic Sam, trying to turn it around on Alan. He knew all about the best defense.
"It's not about the proposal."
"Then what, Alan? You know I don't like you just showing up at my place. It's not like you don't see me at HQ at least once a week."
"You've never told me why you decided to step up. Why finally become CEO?"
Sam paced back and forth; Alan stayed right where he was, keeping his voice calm. He knew it drove the kid crazy. Alan didn't normally feel petty or vindictive, but suddenly he hoped Quorra was right, and it would hurt. He wanted to see the look on Sam's face when the knife twisted.
"It just felt like time. I was ready. And I've been doing a good job, haven't I? Been responsible, like you've always wanted? I don't know why you're getting on my case."
"I'm not on your case, Sam. I'm just trying to talk." Sam wasn't going to tell him. No matter how Alan pressed, no matter how many openings he gave, Sam would evade and obfuscate and flat-out lie. Alan felt his gut clench, both that Sam would keep her secret, and that he himself had done exactly the same.
"I know about her, Sam. I know about Quorra."
Sam stopped pacing and stared at him. Shock on the kid's face. Shock, and disappointment, and guilt, and a dozen other things, and whatever anger and pique Alan had felt melted away; it had been a strain on him, Alan saw. He hadn't known what to do. And he'd had no one to turn to.
"You were worried about her. You were afraid if people found out, she'd be taken away. Experimented on. Hurt. Is that it?" Sam nodded, slowly, and Alan sighed; he worried about Quorra in the same way. "But you could have told me, Sam."
"I know." Sam didn't offer any excuses, and Alan was left with the obscure feeling that some part of Sam, maybe a part he wasn't even aware of, had wanted to keep Quorra all for himself. Then Sam's eyes shifted, and Alan knew even without turning around that Quorra was behind him. Sam loved her - it was written all over his face. But he jammed his hands into his pockets, angled his body away. A healthy man in his twenties, but he had more restraint than Alan did.
Quorra slowly walked around the couch, and sat down next to Alan. She didn't reach for his hand, didn't snuggle up close, but her leg was flush against his. Sam looked back and forth between them, and a flash of pain shot across his face. He knew. Alan swallowed an apology, just let Sam work through it.
"I came by two days after you came back. Quorra answered the door."
"No. How long?"
Sam nodded, then turned his back to them, leaning over the counter. Alan wondered how he ended up in this place again. Lora and Kevin had been quits almost six months before Alan worked up the nerve to ask her out, but Alan still remembered the look of hurt on Kevin's face when he'd found out. It was the same look on Sam's face as he turned back to them.
She turned to look at Alan then, just one look. Alan left them, going out through the side door and to his car in the back. He sat and waited, and five minutes later he heard Sam's motorcycle speed off, and then Quorra came out and joined him. She had a little duffel bag that she held her in lap, her face down. Her dark hair fell in a curtain, and Alan couldn't tell what she was thinking.
"Where do you want me to take you?" He hadn't wanted to assume, but he still didn't expect the hurt in her eyes when she turned to him. "Are you still not hungry? We can stop and get something first, or we can just go home."
She nodded then, relief all over her face. "Home. Just take me home, Alan."
It was a long drive, and Alan couldn't help but worry about Sam, left alone in that apartment. But he didn't think he should call him - not yet. He stopped and picked up a couple burgers anyway, and it turned out he was the one who wasn't hungry. Quorra ate them both, slowly, meditatively. She'd put on a few pounds since he'd first seen her, which suited him fine; he'd always liked his women a little soft, didn't care for the sinewy, toned look that was popular now. And Quorra did love her food. He didn't think she was tasting much of anything tonight, though.
He had never taken her to his house. Whenever he could steal the time to see her in person, they usually stayed at Sam's apartment, maybe took a walk close by. Hand in hand they walked through the rooms of his house, and Quorra brushed her fingers over the few pictures on the wall - mostly prints of indifferent, inoffensive art; the pieces of rarely-used furniture; his personal computer; the odds and ends on his desk. Upstairs to his bedroom, and she suddenly hugged him tight, her words muffled against his chest.
"I told Sam that I loved him. That we were family. I don't have any family anymore; Clu killed them all. Even Flynn. You're both my family now. I told Sam that he was my brother, and that you were my mate." Alan waited. "He just left, Alan. He didn't say anything. But I had to tell him the truth." The last was almost a question, and Alan nodded.
"You did good. He needed to hear the truth."
"But that's not what he wanted, was it? He doesn't want to be my brother."
Alan held her for awhile, the last of the sunset staining the room red; night fell, and he finally undressed her, pulled a nightshirt out of her duffel and over her head. Stripped down to his boxers and pulled her into bed beside him. He felt like shit; he felt elated; he felt too many things all at once after years of feeling not much at all. Quorra settled against him, seeming to know just how to fit her limbs against his; he sighed into her hair.
"I've wanted this so much," she said. "Every night I would feel so lonely. Sometimes I pretended you were in bed with me, just on the other side, just too far to touch." Alan stroked her hair, rubbed her back. "I was afraid you wouldn't want me," she whispered.
"How could I not want you?"
"I'm not real." Alan had no idea she’d ever felt that way. He had no frame of reference for her existence, no way to understand how she felt. So he tugged on her hair, hard, then pinched her arm. She jerked her head up and stared at him, affronted.
"You seem real to me." Her smile always seemed to hit him right in the gut, and this smile was no exception. She tucked her head back under his chin.
"What's going to happen?" Alan figured she was asking a couple different things. What was going to happen between the two of them, with Sam, with her future. He didn't know. He planned on just taking things one day at a time, like he had been.
"You can only stay in the nest so long," he finally said. Tomorrow, for better or worse, he would have to start teaching Quorra how to fly.
Alan awakened to Quorra sucking on a tendon in his neck as she stroked him through his boxers. After two or three disconcerting seconds of who is in my bed and what is happening, Alan decided he could get used to this. Some rearranging, and then it was sleepy morning handjobs for all.
In the shower, though they didn’t get much showering done. He wanted to dry her hair, but couldn’t find his goddamned hair dryer - he had one, he knew it - so he just toweled it dry as best he could. Until she spun on him, tugging off the towel around his waist, and Alan was just too old to have any kind of sex on a bathroom floor. He managed to get her back to the bed, and proceeded to ravage her. A brief moment marveling at how quickly she’d healed - no soreness or redness at all - but a moment was all. Then he was lost in her taste, for how long he didn’t know.
Quorra finally grabbed onto his hair and tugged him up. “Ow, that hurts," he whined.
“Making sure you’re real.” She grinned and grinned at him, but then she looked down and the grin faded away. “Alan. It’s soft. And smaller. Make it…” Then she gestured with her hands.
“I’m old. It doesn’t work like that.”
“Two in twenty-four hours is pretty good these days. I’m not complaining.” But Quorra looked up at him darkly, mouth set in a petulant line.
“But I want to make you feel good.”
“You do make me feel good.”
“I want to make you--” She grabbed him then, made what could only be called an o-face, and then clicked her teeth together. “--feel good.” Alan lowered himself on top of her, trying to keep some of the weight on his knees and elbows, and kissed her softly.
“You do,” he whispered. Day began while they practiced kissing each other some more. Finally the alarm on the side table went off. Alan found his glasses, pulled a suit out of the closet. “Put on something pretty.”
“All my clothes are pretty.”
“Then put on the prettiest. I’m taking you someplace special.” She kissed him so hard she almost knocked his glasses off.
"Keep your eyes closed."
"They're closed!" Alan figured it would have been best to wait until he'd worked out some kind of story, but to hell with it. He was the chairman, and if he wanted to show a beautiful woman around the place, then he was going to do it, everyone else's questions be damned. He parked, and it was tough getting her out of the car and through the parking garage. Thankfully he'd gotten here a little late, and there wasn't anyone around to gawk.
"Don't peek." A swipe of his key card, and he took the general elevator to the lobby. "Okay, you can look." Alan wondered who was happier, Quorra, or himself, watching her. She looked around at the lobby with wide, wide eyes, one hand coming up to cover her mouth.
The security guards and visitors must have been fascinated by the girl slowly spinning around, staring at everything, occasionally grabbing Alan's arm, but thankfully they were all fairly discreet.
Alan showed her his office, the labs, the rows and rows of programmers in cubicles. He showed her the boardroom, and let her explore the mainframe on the big screen. But he saved the best for last, and as they rode the elevator down into the basement, he paid attention to the hushed, expectant look on her face - they were about to enter the sanctum sanctorum, the holy of holies.
He didn't come down here often, but when he did, the first thing he always noticed was the cold. The fans were constantly running, and he took off his suit jacket and draped it over Quorra's shoulders. She didn't seem to notice, though, walking slowly between the rows of servers. She stopped about a third of the way through the enormous cavern of a room, resting her hands on one.
"Yes. It's all in here." Quorra put her head against the case, her eyes closed. "Do you miss it?" She didn't move, but reached out and took his hand. Of course she missed it; it was her home. "Maybe some day..." he said, not really believing it. Kevin had invited him to come see it several times, and he'd never been able to work up the nerve. Half the time, he hadn't believed Flynn at all, thinking it more likely the man had been high, and the Grid had been his brain’s best way of understanding all the code he’d dealt with that night when they’d purged the MCP. He’d been sure that if he ever said, yes, Kevin, let’s go see that Grid of yours, it would all be some elaborate prank, and Kevin would never stop laughing at him. Of course it had been true, all of it; if he’d gone, would he have been stuck there, too? Would he have survived?
Alan shivered, and Quorra must have felt it. She tugged on his hand, and he stood right behind her, his chest against her back. He turned his head to rest it against the server, too, just above hers, and they both stood there. The case was warm against Alan’s ear, and the hum was low and soothing. He wondered what it sounded like to Quorra – the music of the spheres? A lullaby from the childhood she never had? Had she once really lived in this machine, nothing but pure energy encoded into zeroes and ones, zipping along the digital pathways so small the naked eye couldn’t even see them?
“Bradley, what exactly are you doing?” Ed Dillinger Jr.’s voice rang out sharply, and Alan jerked back. Quorra stayed right where she was, bless her; he didn’t think she even flinched.
“I might ask the same of you, Mr. Dillinger.” The gangly man was leaning against one of the machines, seemingly casual, but Alan knew that behind the sleepy eyes and the scruffy face was the mind of a shark; Alan felt his own hackles rise, and wished like hell he hadn’t brought Quorra here.
“I just heard that you were with a very…interesting guest. Anyone important enough for you to show around Encom is someone I just have to meet.” Alan followed Junior’s gaze, seeing that Quorra had opened her eyes, though she still rested her ear against the server. Alan was glad to see the coldness on her face, the blank readiness. “What are you doing, dear?” Junior asked.
“This is the heart of Encom,” she said. Then she closed her eyes again, as though that were all the answer anyone could possibly need. Junior blinked, but not much more than that; anyone who worked in computers and technology invariably ran across some pretty damned odd ducks, and compared to some of them, Quorra was hardly that strange at all.
“I didn’t think you had any children, Bradley.”
“So this is…a niece? A family friend?”
Quorra’s voice was bored, and Alan had to bite the inside of his cheek. “I’m his lover.” She finally pulled away from the machine, tapping its side with a fingernail. “There’s something wrong with this server.”
“Really,” Junior drawled. “You can tell that just from listening to it? The server whisperer?” He laughed then, dry and humorless, and Alan hadn’t wanted to punch anyone in the face since he was seventeen years old, but he wanted to now.
“This is a logic-parity RAM system, isn’t it?” she asked. Alan was about ready to say no, since the very idea was ridiculous, but Junior’s face blanched. “You have no idea how many soft errors are floating around in here," she went on. "The circuitry interference is probably slowing your systems by ten or fifteen percent. Since you don’t seem to have anything better to do, maybe you could send someone down to take a look. I don’t imagine you’d know how to fix it yourself.” Quorra glanced up at Alan with hooded eyes as she passed him on her way out of the room and back to the elevator. He admired her form for a beat before he turned his eyes back to Junior.
“What’s going on?” he asked, voice as affable as he could manage.
“What makes you think I know?” Junior retorted, but he reached up to scratch his cheek nervously.
“You were in charge of the server expansion last year, Mr. Dillinger. Is there any reason why we’re not running parity on all these systems?”
“Jesus Christ, Alan, we’re not running it on fifty percent of the servers, okay? We did a cost-benefit analysis, and the odds that we’ll have anything more than a micro-second of downtime are so low there simply wasn’t any reason to pay the extra money.” That made sense - no reason to spend the money on servers when you could keep the contract just as it was and pocket the difference yourself; Alan made a mental note to set up a little bookkeeping.
“ECC checking is enabled?” he asked. Alan knew that a lot of the younger men, especially Junior, thought he was an old codger who didn’t know what he was doing anymore. So Alan took a great deal of delight in seeing Junior’s eyes go wide.
“I’ll take care of it.”
“See that you do. I’ll remind you, Mr. Dillinger, that I’m chairman of the board now. Any future cost-benefit analyses you decide on will need my approval before they’re implemented.”
Alan let that sink in, then smiled warmly, and walked out. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this fucking good.
Quorra was waiting for him in the elevator, and Alan punched the button for the executive garage. She had her arms wrapped around her middle, and had pulled on Alan's jacket; the overall effect made her look tiny, fragile. Her head was down, and she only glanced up at Alan as he stood there.
“You could hear that? In the system?” She just nodded, didn’t say anything. He couldn’t tell exactly what she was thinking, only that it didn’t seem cheerful. He stepped slowly her way, giving her time to move; she didn’t, so he crowded her against the back of the elevator. Took a certain amount of relish in how he towered over her. What he wanted to do, what he really wanted to do, was have her right here in this elevator. Instead he settled for tracing a finger from her lips down to her chin, down her throat, down, down, down; she sucked in a breath, and it was more than a little ragged.
“You’re incredible, you know that?” he whispered, and her eyes darted up at him again – relieved, surprised. “Do you know what I heard?” He put his lips right next to her ear, then buzzed them. She laughed, then put her arms around his neck so she could whisper into his ear. What she said, even as late as yesterday morning, would have then sent cold shivers down his spine, but today it just seemed right, and only natural.
“I could hear the bits talking to each other.”
He bought them sandwiches from the commissary, and they sat on a bench in the mezzanine, eating while they looked out the windows. Quorra refused to give him back his jacket, so she looked a little silly and waifish. Alan decided he liked that look just fine.
“I think sandwiches are the best food,” she told him, examining hers.
“I never would have guessed you felt that way.” Quorra glared at him, eyes narrowed.
“You’re being sarcastic. Flynn was sometimes sarcastic. I didn’t like it when he called me a man.”
Alan found he couldn't manage to swallow the bite of sandwich in his mouth; he chewed and chewed. Finally: "Do you miss him?" A ridiculous question; of course she missed him.
"He was my teacher. My guide. He saved me."
His mouth was so damned dry. He hunted for the bottle of water that was here someplace, almost knocked it over. A long drink, and at long last he was able to get the mouthful down. He set the rest of the sandwich aside; no more appetite. Quorra took it, picked out the cheese and ate it. Alan didn't want to ask her, didn't want to know the answer - but he had to know. Now that he'd considered it, it would just eat away at him until he knew one way or the other.
"Were the two of you...intimate?"
Quorra turned to look at him, very slow, and Alan couldn't read her face. He could always read her face, always knew just what she was thinking and feeling; now he was left in the dark, and it was cold.
"And what would happen if I said yes?" She stood, went to the window. What had he been thinking, starting this conversation here? He was painfully aware of the other people on the mezzanine, at least one of them no doubt one of Junior's little toadies, ready to report back. Alan took a deep breath and studied her, the scant edge of her profile he could make out. He thought about Kevin - trapped in the Grid, for the rest of his life. Believing he would never see his son again, or anyone else he knew and loved. Watching as his world, his creation, slowly turned into something threatening and grotesque. Alan realized that he hoped Kevin had been able to find some happiness, fleeting though it may have been.
He stood and joined her, keeping a casual distance; no need to start any more talk than he already had. "I shouldn't have asked - I'm sorry. But if you did say yes, I would just be glad that he wasn't alone." He paused, remembering Kevin as he had last seen him. "He was always so vibrant. That's what I envied most about him." Alan was aware of her eyes on him as he looked out over the city, but only distantly; he tended not to think about Kevin much, so when he did, it took all his willpower to keep a hold of himself. All these years later, and it still felt like he'd disappeared only yesterday. "I was never anything special. Just a programmer, like dozens and dozens of others who worked here back in the day, before the place exploded. It took me a solid year to write Tron, and that program was the absolute extent of my know-how. But Kevin...for him, it was effortless. It was like he could see past the code, past all the jargon and hardware and just see whatever it was he wanted. Like it already existed, and he was just clearing the way.
"And he loved...everything. He had such enthusiasm, and it was infectious. You remind me of him, in that way, a little bit. And it hurts to think of him stuck in that place, getting old, being lost. You told me about a wise man, someone who was calm, who guided you. Someone who sat in that black and white place above the Grid and just watched - I don't know who that man is. That's not the Kevin I knew. It hurts to think of him being changed like that. So if the answer is yes, then...I'm glad."
Alan exhaled, a little shaky. Quorra's fingers slipped over, took his hand. "One night I was sitting on the balcony, watching the lights. Flynn came out. He stood behind me, never saying anything. I don't know how long we stayed like that. He said my name, but by the time I turned around he was gone. I didn't know what it meant. But now, looking back, I think he had wanted to invite me to his bed. But he didn't, and I never went."
Alan nodded, wondering how this news was managing to crush him. Quorra squeezed his hand, whispered. "But he wasn't alone, Alan. He wasn't alone."
He hated Happy Foods with a passion, but it was right off the 10 on his way from Encom to his house, and it was the only place close that sold his favorite kind of chips. Alan freely admitted he was sort of a cheap bastard, and could never convince himself to buy shit like potato chips on the internet. So they stopped at Happy Foods, with its grimy floors and blank-faced idiot cashiers. He dropped Quorra off at the candy aisle, then went to make a few purchases.
As he walked, Alan wondered if Quorra's apparent physical age was, essentially, meaningless. She was still so innocent, and inexperienced; sometimes he found himself talking to her like she was a child. He was hoping the candy aisle would babysit her, for Christ's sake. The feeling that he was a dirty, dirty old man only intensified when he used this time alone to pick up a box of condoms and some lube. The idiot checker winking at him didn't help.
That purchase made, he went back to retrieve her. She wasn't in the candy aisle, but three aisles over, holding up two cake mixes.
"What's the difference?" she asked. Chocolate cake mixes, two different brands.
"No difference, really. You want some chocolate cake?"
"I find baking interesting. It's the same as programming - you start with the same basic set of ingredients, but depending on how you combine them, you can get something completely different every time. Flour, eggs, milk, sugar - bits and binary. I could make a cake, or cookies, or muffins, all with the same starting materials."
"Well, if you want to make your own, you don't want a mix." Alan barely cooked; he certainly didn't bake. They cleaned the baking aisle out, and Quorra detailed everything she was going to make while the same idiot cashier rang everything up, making grotesque pantomime faces at Alan the entire time.
Back in the car, and Quorra gloated over her supplies. "If I have leftover chocolate, I can melt it and dip cookies in it. Do you like things dipped in chocolate, Alan?" He grunted, concentrating on merging. He didn't catch her sudden silence - but he did immediately notice the temperature in the car dropping twenty degrees the next time she spoke.
"What is this?" Alan glanced over - she was holding up the box of condoms. "Prophylactics," she spat out, and he had never heard disgust in her voice like that before. Then she rolled down the window and threw the box out.
"Jesus Christ, Quorra." She folded her arms and wouldn't look at him. "What we have is brand-new. We don't need to jump into anything. Babies...that's kind of a big decision."
"Not for me."
"What, I don't get any say in this?" No answer. She was looking out the window, her jaw tight. Alan felt a headache's beginning pulse settle in behind his eyes. "You still haven't seen a doctor. We don't know how your body works - we don't even know where it came from. We don't even know if you have chromosomes, if you're even the same species. But let's say that you are, that none of that is a problem. Even if you were able to get pregnant...Quorra, I'm sixty-one years old. I'd be seventy by the time the kid should have his dad take him fishing, or play catch. Almost eighty by his high school graduation - if I even lived that long. This is the kind of thing you have to think about."
She turned then, tears on her face, but her voice was furious. "You have no one, Alan! Flynn had Sam, so when he reintegrated with Clu, when his physical form was destroyed, he didn't end. Part of him still exists. But if you died today, there would be nothing left. How can you stand it?"
Alan didn't answer, and they drove the rest of the way home in silence. Putting up all her cupcake papers and shortening and eggs and spring form pans. Joyless, her every sniffle a recrimination. He wanted to say something to her to make her feel better, but he didn't know what to say. He didn't want a kid. Maybe that meant he was selfish and always had been, but he didn't want to put his life on hold to take care of anyone else - he'd done it enough for Sam, and sometimes even a few monthly visits and biweekly phone calls had been enough to make him feel harried and overworked. Dealing with an infant? At the same time he'd still be dealing with Quorra? On top of everything with Encom? The very thought was enough to make him claustrophobic.
He followed her up the stairs, but by the time he got to the top she had her duffel, heading across the hall from his room to the study. The door shut with an accusatory click. Alan stood there, leaning against the wall, for a few long minutes. She never came out. So he went to his room and climbed into bed, feeling ancient. All he'd wanted was to come home, watch her make cookies, eat her cookies, and then eat her. Instead he was alone - and after only one night, sleeping alone again felt like torture. Alan stared at the ceiling, waiting for the inevitable sound of Sam's motorcycle, the boy having been called to pick her up; he waited for the sound of Quorra leaving, the door slamming shut behind her; he waited for everything to go back the way it had been.
"Alan?" He didn't remember falling asleep, but he opened his eyes to find Quorra sitting on the edge of the bed, gently rubbing his shoulder. His eyes were scratchy, his head throbbed, his mouth tasted like shit, and he had a crick in his neck. Under her owlish gaze, Alan sat up. Waited.
"They're all gone. I'm the only one of my kind left. When I die, it will be as though we never existed in the first place."
He swallowed, thought. Reached out a tentative hand to cover hers. "We could go to a sperm bank. Work something out."
She jerked her hand away. "I don't want that," she said, exasperated.
"If you tell me no, I won't ask again. I just...this is important to me, Alan. I don't think you understand. I've been thinking about it a lot - long before you showed up yesterday."
"I understand." And he hadn't changed his mind, and he knew it was a mistake, but he couldn't tell her no. Not tonight, not with her chin already trembling, her fingers twisting the sheets restlessly. He would only be postponing the inevitable, which would only make it worse when the day finally came, but he was weak. He'd always been weak. "I'll think about it, Quorra."
Even that sounded pathetic to his ears, but she looked at him with shiny, grateful eyes. "Oh, Alan." She threw herself at him, burying her face in his chest. "Thank you, thank you." He held her, rocked her, kissed her. Finally they laid back down, and she wrapped herself around him, hugging him so tight he didn't think there was any way he'd be able to relax enough to sleep.
He was asleep in minutes.
Alan wasn't sentimental. He didn't collect, didn't hang on to things. Things were just things - they served a purpose, and when they didn't anymore, he got rid of them. This was true of everything, even his computers.
He had six, not counting the tablet. Two desktops and a laptop here at the house, a laptop that pretty much stayed in the trunk of his car, and two at work. He didn't count the dozen other computers throughout the Encom building that weren't his per se, but were used by practically no one else. When his computers quit working, or were old enough that they were obsolete (and it seemed the latter was true every six months or so these days), he backed everything up, chucked them, and never gave them a second thought.
The exception was the computer he'd owned when he wrote the Tron program. It hadn't been his first computer, but for whatever reason, he hadn't been able to get rid of it. He'd kept it up and running until the early 90s, when he'd finally reached the point of not being able to use it for much of anything. Lora gave him constant shit about it, and hated how much space it took up, so he'd finally unhooked it and stuck it in the attic. After she'd left, he'd brought it back down and stuck it in his closet.
There were a couple old quilts folded up on top of it, and for the most part, Alan forgot it was even there. He certainly didn't remember it that night, Quorra in his arms, the two of them sound asleep. Neither of them heard the soft, barely audible click when the machine came on, and neither of them heard the tones and static of a modem trying to make a connection.
Next: Into Thin Air