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Loyalty (1/1): TRON Legacy

TITLE: Loyalty
AUTHOR: Amet (amet)
FANDOM: TRON: Legacy
RATING: PG/PG-13
SUMMARY: Tron's thoughts on building the grid, and Kevin Flynn.
PAIRINGS: Tron/Kevin Flynn
WARNINGS: Light slash (a kiss, suggested computer-ish sex), implied character "death" (that is canon)
SPOILERS: If you haven't seen Legacy, do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
FEEDBACK: Makes the world go 'round! ^.^
THANKS: To sephyelysian~ Who put up with me letting this eat me last night.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I wrote this in a total blitz yesterday, edited it today, and I'm still not sure it's quite finished but I'm going to stop hyper-focusing on comma placement and let it be free before my head explodes. I haven't written like this in months, so I'm pretty rusty, but after waiting all year for the TRON sequel and realizing that Tron/Kevin Flynn is still alive and well in the new flick just threw me into creative overdrive. Seriously, as soon as Rinzler went into that roll over Flynn's craft it was all over.

Loyalty


His physical interface is different in this system. More human; hands and head exposed, battle armor recoded into something like Flynn's organic leather jacket and Tron tries not to feel exposed to the elements of unpredictable code in this nascent environment, half-formed, and though that brings a spark of excitement to the user's eye, he is wary. This is a system unplanned, Flynn working with the chaotic, unpredictable bent of a user on a mission Tron remembers well, and he is wary of bugs and glitches Flynn's furious redesign will initiate. He can see in Flynn's expression that the user well understands he cannot help with the creation of this system, only do as he is programmed and protect it as Flynn has asked. It leaves him with many cycles to patrol the empty wasteland in Flynn's absence, to hover protectively over his user and watch in awe at the effortless demonstration of his power.

He believes in Flynn. Can do nothing else, and though the design unfolding before him is beyond his programming to understand, he is unspeakably proud to witness it.

---

Tron understands that Flynn's absence wears. Cycles of inactivity erode the careful construction the user sets into motion, and the isolation is beginning to tax his subroutines, scanning and scanning the empty system again, worried that he is missing some small error that will grow too disastrous for his meager protocols to handle before his user returns. "Jumping at Shadows," Flynn says laughingly, and Tron supposes that is an accurate assessment, though he notices the user's eyes are worried and the arm Flynn throws over his shoulders is tight. There is shame in that, those purposeless cycles waiting for Flynn to return, the worry he is causing his user, and Flynn's voice is quiet and kind as he promises to "fix the bug."

He is relieved when Flynn's levity returns almost as quickly, as Flynn seems to find this statement amusing; he finds many otherwise random statements amusing. Tron merely nods. He has learned it is better to indulge the user and wait for him to reveal the grand design of whatever plan he has devised. It is not in his scope to understand, and he will not question a user.

He could not have foreseen Clu, at any rate, or his uneasy alliance with the design program. Clu has the face of his user, but he is nothing like Flynn, lacking not only the spark of the user that makes him so much more but his exuberance, and it pains Tron to see his user's dark eyes turn flat and hungry in the other program's face. He shares some knowledge with Flynn, and is able to continue the work in Flynn's absence, monitor the burgeoning system in a way Tron simply cannot, but it is difficult for Tron to regard the wayward design program as anything but a threat.

Tron watches those cold eyes narrow when Flynn's attention is diverted, when the user throws an arm around Tron as has been his wont for many cycles, as his smile turns away from his creation and worries for Flynn. Clu is as capricious as Flynn himself, with a singular purpose so nebulous and undefined Tron is not certain the design program understands what his user asks of him, and Flynn is too trusting. He sees the enthusiasm in Clu when they work together, sees the wonders his program creates but he does not see the listlessness Tron witnesses when Flynn leaves them to return to his son in the outside world, the jealousy so clearly written into his code when Flynn's attention flitters away, engrossed in another intriguing puzzle or sharing his thoughts (perplexing as they are) with Tron.

Clu does not understand that Kevin Flynn is a capricious being, that to shackle his impulses to solve and ponder, to love and create, would be to destroy the very heart of his power. To begrudge him the son that fuels his desire to change the system, to change all systems, is a heresy and a cruelty Tron cannot compute. To be the creator, Flynn must be set free. The programs who serve him must understand that.

It is difficult to calculate a course of action, however, when Clu is not a glitch to be eliminated like the viruses Tron deletes with growing frequency, like the bugs he is called away to de-rez. He does not wish to alarm Flynn, but neither does he wish to leave his user alone with the covetous program, worried each time at what he will find when he returns.

Flynn assures him that nothing can go wrong.

"You worry too much, buddy!" his user crows, mussing his hair affectionately, and that is Flynn; always moving, always reaching for his companions.

Always searching, and Tron hopes his very human need for companionship does not lead him to harm.

---

Tron feels secure with Flynn, purposeless when he is absent and that is disconcerting, searching his subroutines for the impetus driving such dependence. At his core is a loyalty to the users, to defend their honor and their objectives but there is something more when he is with Flynn, a perplexing reliance on his user not only to guide him, but to be in his proximity, to share his thoughts, and it would alarm him were it not so obvious that it is reciprocal. Flynn needs him, as he needs his user.

Which is perhaps the way of all programs, but still Tron wonders what he is missing.

"I have never understood," Tron can't help but ask, "Why you brought me here. There are a thousand other programs with my protocols, who serve my function. You could create a thousand more with a few keystrokes; why appropriate an outdated security program from ENCOM's mainframe?"

Flynn is so noticeably shaken by the question his fingers slip, turning to gape at Tron and his eyes are wounded; Tron regrets the question. The light of his power flickers out over the console he is manipulating, sending the code he is compiling into chaos before Tron reaches out to steady his hand, snapping the user back to his task. Flynn saves his progress and pauses his work, turning to face Tron, reaching for him again, the arm around him unnaturally warm and Tron can't help but reach up to squeeze the hand clenching over his shoulder, trying to impart some comfort. It is a clumsy effort, these human emotions foreign, but for Flynn he tries, knowing the user needs the validation.

"You're not outdated," Flynn says, scandalized, "Alan's patched you enough times to be sure of that."

Tron smiles at the thought of his true user, so distant now from the early days of his involvement with Flynn that he knows he will likely never meet Alan1, longs to know the man who is his creator still and that, perhaps, is a bond he shares with Flynn, who wants more than anything to show his son, his friend, the outside world the beauty of the grid. He has spoken of it in recent cycles, in what quiet moments alone they are afforded when Clu is busy attending to other matters, of bringing Sam to the grid now that there are buildings and programs enough to make it feel less empty, alien. Tron can only hope Flynn's plan comes to fruition, that he will be privileged to meet the user child who is the inspiration for all that Flynn creates.

"Don't you get it?" Flynn says, cuffing his shoulder affectionately, searching his face as though he is willing Tron to understand, "I can't do this with just any security program. It has to be you, man! Don't be getting any crazy ideas about taking a vacation, 'cause I'm not trusting a new guy with your job!"

It is another of Flynn's peculiarities Tron fails to grasp, but he recognizes the emotion behind it in the user's expressive eyes and it comforts him nonetheless.

"I have no intention of abandoning my duties now, Flynn," he says, attempting to be reassuring in turn.

"Good," Flynn says with a tight smile when he regains his composure, then adds: "And you know, we've known each other for eight years now, Tron, I think you can call me Kevin."

Tron cannot do that, Flynn knows he will not, but the offer is not unexpected. It is Kevin Flynn's way of fostering closeness, of allowing Tron surety in the bond between them. Perhaps Tron has been spending too much time with users, finding the notion as satisfying as he does.

---

Clu has been busy, constructing roads and bridges, mapping the grid with architectural marvels that make Flynn giddy with delight. Clu basks in the glow of his creator's pride in him and Tron wonders -- hopes -- that perhaps he has misjudged the design program, walking the streets of orderly data streams lined with gigabytes of storage domiciles and entertainment access points, hundreds of newly written programs working in perfect synchronization with the user-programmed CPU to complete what Flynn hopes will be the penultimate free system. Harmonious, efficient, free from suffering in all its forms, and the grid is becoming just that, programs of every function travelling the data streams together. Tron knows them all; applications, drivers, operating systems and middleware, firmware and the often unstable testware Tron spends much of his time shepherding to Flynn and Clu for troubleshooting.

As the system grows, Tron's worries seem less dire, seeing Clu now only when they have official business to discuss or when Flynn comes to find him with his mirror in tow, his unease slipping as he sees the program at work, dedicated to their user more often than not. The growing system gives them all purpose, and in that purpose the programs that inhabit the grid find fulfillment. Tron is certainly more comfortable with citizens to protect and assist once more.

Flynn is proud of his creation, eager to show Tron every inch of it and he indulges his user, finding his own happiness in the manic smile of a man engrossed in the glory of his work. So much programming is built up from nothing, the city rising around them, its population growing by the cycle and it is a marvel, right down to the replica of Flynn's arcade the user shows him, arms flailing excitedly and he can see the portal emanating from the tower above. Clu builds for his user, to please Flynn and Tron cannot fault that impulse. That a shadow crosses the other program's face at Flynn's eagerness to share it with Tron is a small thing, letting the user tug him inside even as Tron knows Flynn is unwittingly turning what his creation hoped would be a private moment into something entirely unwelcome. Tron says nothing, unwilling to ruin Flynn's happiness but unless Clu stays focused on the functions he was programmed to perform, Tron suspects this will come to a head soon.

That Flynn chooses to share his work with Tron is a privilege in and of itself, Flynn pulling them along in his wake without thought to the distance between his design program and his security protocol. His two most trusted allies, and Tron strives to live up to that despite how distant he feels from the program that looks so much like his user.

Clu has built Flynn a glittering city of hope and promise. Tron can only hope there is enough of Flynn in his mirror to keep him from tearing it down around them.

He will conscience no other alternative.

---

It seems appropriate that the ISOs should find them when the grid is on the brink of reaching its greatest potential, coming from the outlands two-by-two, a line that extends into the horizon. There is a flurry of activity in the CPU while Flynn and Clu try to determine whether the new entities approaching the city are anomalies or bugs, fractured code or malicious viruses. Tron scans and rescans, finds nothing untoward and it is his conviction that the ISOs are harmless that sends Flynn running, outpacing Tron and Clu by sheer force of user will.

They find him laughing, dancing around the confused beings, clapping this one on the shoulder and throwing his arms around another, rapid-fire questions exploding into the darkness of the outlands as he flits from ISO to ISO, confounded by the miracle of spontaneous life.

A tall, dark ISO at the front of the line meets Tron's eyes with a weary look, asking for salvation from this strange, stuttering being and Tron smiles, laughs with Flynn as he claps a hand on Flynn's shoulder and drags his user away from the ISOs, distracts him with plans, logistics, the task of housing so many new programs spreading before them. Flynn delights in the challenge, turns to Clu with even more fast-paced demands and Tron has never seen the program stunned before, watching the ISOs filter into sector with an almost fearful expression.

"Hey, you all right?" Flynn says, reaching out to close a hand over Clu's arm, "Don't freak out on me now, this is everything we've been working for!" He pauses to glance over his shoulder at Tron, "Right, Tron?"

Tron laughs, too confounded to weigh in at all. "I serve the users, I do not make the plans."

"That's Tron-speak for 'If you say so, Kev,'" Flynn tells Clu, grinning wider. "That was almost a joke, so he must be pleased to see so many new faces."

Tron doesn't think Clu much cares whether he's pleased or not, but he nods for Flynn's sake. Clu seems engrossed in watching the glowing markings on the shoulder of the ISO woman nearest him for a moment more before he shakes his head, clapping a hand over Flynn's with a smile.

"Of course. The more the merrier, right?" they laugh together, the echoing sound eerie in the quiet of the outlands, the waiting ISOs silent and watchful in the dim light. Clu ignores them, seems to find comfort in the presence of his user and adds, "We'll have to build another sector of domiciles, tonight. Will you have time before the portal closes?"

Flynn shrugs. "Time enough to get you started. Don't need me looking over your shoulder all the time, do you?" He turns to Tron. "Could you--?"

"I will appropriate the necessary security programs to assist them to a temporary camp," Tron offers, already understanding what his user will ask of him, smiles at the grateful hand that pats his shoulder a little too heartily in the excitement of the moment, "I will see to their safety, Flynn. Get to work."

It's a presumptuous thing to say to a user, but Flynn finds amusement in familiarity and laughs even as he's already turning away.

"You hear that?" Flynn mock-complains to his mirror, "What a slave driver!"

Clu appears unimpressed, staring for a moment longer before he turns to follow Flynn, but Tron feels the affection in his user's words and turns to the curious ISOs with a welcoming smile.

"Greetings, programs," he says in the traditional salutation, "Welcome to the grid. You will find shelter and safety here."

---

Tron does not see Clu or his user until the beacon shines again, signaling Flynn's return. There is so much to do, the domicile coming into being in the newly appropriated sector of outland in a handful of cycles, and Tron watches with the awed ISOs as Clu implements Flynn's plans. It is a sight to behold, shining blue and white, refracting light outward into the grid, a luminescent monument to the regard Flynn holds for his Isomorphic Algorithms, the limitless potential heralded by their sudden arrival on the grid.

"That is the power of the creator," a siren tells the questioning ISOs, watching the building knit itself into being with wide eyes. Several programs have been temporarily appropriated to assist the ISOs until their domicile is completed.

It surprises Tron how easy it is to be swept up in their astonishment after all these cycles working side-by-side with a user, but it warms him to know he can still be amazed at the miracles Flynn works anew.

"Looks kind of like a giant flower vase," Flynn says when he sees it.

"A what?" Tron asks.

"Flowers are these organisms that grow from the ground back home," Flynn explains, "Good stuff; they're pretty and they give off the oxygen users need to breathe."

"Breathe?" Tron asks again, and watches Flynn glance at him in surprise.

"Ha!" he laughs, "Guess you wouldn't know that one, either. No drowning on the grid. That's why I love this place."

Tron suspects this is one of those times he is missing so much data it is impossible for Flynn to explain, wishing that there were a download point for understanding users and wishing again that he did not so easily slip into such blasphemous thoughts, too close to the users even now, where the lines between creator and program are blurred. What right does he have to Kevin Flynn's thoughts? They are beyond the scope of his function, as so much of what his user has done in this system has been, more than his meager programming can hope to fathom as an entire world is shaped into being around him. His primary objective is to fight and die for the users, that is all.

"Hey," Flynn says, his voice cutting through Tron's worried thoughts, "Don't shut down on me, man. I need you here."

"Understood," Tron says, formal because it makes Flynn grumble and grin, "I know you do."

---

"I'm thinking of bringing Sam here," Flynn says. "Tomorrow night, maybe."

They are alone in Tron's domicile, a pewter-toned room that opens onto a clear far wall, the inner room studded with far too many accoutrements in Flynn's attempts to "liven up the place," a sudden influx of furniture, work consoles and even user-style books Tron is more than curious about. He has been relocated to the ISO building to be close to their charges and calm Flynn's anxious worrying that his miracle might somehow be snuffed out if they are not cautious. Tron thinks it an unnecessary precaution, but if it pleases his user he does not mind the company of these new programs, finds their trusting dependence on Flynn and the citizen programs of the grid charming in its own way.

Flynn is sitting cross-legged on a strangely organic-looking couch, freshly created with a wave of the user's hand, looking pleased with himself even as he continues to code on a portable console in his lap. Working, Flynn is always working, evasive when Tron grows curious enough to ask when his sleep cycle is initiated and that worries Tron, knowing that even users require rest, even the great Kevin Flynn.

"I would like that," he says, knowing Flynn well enough to understand that his approval is required. It is genuine, he would very much like to meet young Sam Flynn, has heard so many stories about the boy from his father it is as if he had downloaded a database onto his memory disc, or met the boy himself.

Flynn smiles. "I should warn you, he's heard a lot about you. Might be some hero-worshipping going on." He pauses, then adds: "Oh, and Clu, too. That might be weird, though. Do you think that'd be too weird for a young kid? Seeing two of his dad?"

Tron has never seen a "young kid" and has no advice to offer. He shrugs, in the way of the users, and smiles when Flynn smiles, arranges himself on the couch beside the user to watch the lines of code fly like bit clusters over the screen, the furious scrabble of Flynn's fingers on the keys. It is oddly soothing, quiet that for once is not isolating, leaning his arm against Flynn's shoulder and his chin against his arm.

"This cannot be that fascinating," Flynn laughs after a few moments of silence.

"Perhaps to a user it is not," Tron says, nearly into Flynn's shoulder, "But you see, there--" He points to a line of code, flickering as Flynn finishes the final touches, "That is a siren. And that--" He points to another, "That is a debugging program that tomorrow will man the halls of this domicile."

"Already decided for him, have you?" Flynn says, jostling him.

"Do you not see?" Tron says, "Watching you work--I am witnessing the birth of fellow programs. I am privy to the process by which Alan1 programmed me. Everyone in this system, you have built. Given purpose and the will to fulfill it. That is…" he trails off, shakes his head, "Incredible."

Flynn is close, and very warm, fingers pausing the console in his hand as he ducks his head in an attempt to hide the pleased smile that dawns across his face like the beacon that signals his return.

"Didn't know programs used words like that," Flynn says.

"I wonder perhaps if I am spending too much time with users," Tron answers playfully, earning himself another jostle.

They fall silent for a moment, lost in thought before Flynn continues: "Maybe I do that, maybe I give you the push, but I think what's really incredible is how you programs grow, how you learn and become something so much more than I ever set out to create. That's the real miracle, Tron, that I look at you and you're not just a line of code Alan pecked out onto his console all those years ago--you're a person. A living, feeling, sentient being."

"I would not be if not for Alan1," Tron reminds him. "If not for you."

"You need us to get the ball rolling," Flynn admits, "But that's it. And not even that anymore, the ISOs have proved that."

The thought is jarring, the idea of a life without users, without the purpose he has been programmed to fulfill more than terrifying, and Tron takes a moment to isolate the cause of his fear and eradicate it. Flynn will not leave; Tron would never believe him to be so cruel as to abandon the system now, and it is unsurprising how incompatible he finds the idea of continuing on without the user rewriting his domicile code and making incomprehensible jokes at the worst of times. He does not begrudge Flynn his other affairs, but he does not enjoy the thought of not having any part of his time at all.

"Never," he says fervently, watches Flynn's eyes widen as he realizes what he's saying.

"Hey now, I'm not saying I'm gonna take off," Flynn says, shifting and Tron is jostled into sitting up, Flynn following into his personal space and the hand that clamps over his shoulder brooks no argument. "Universe-changing, amazing discovery aside, who would I complain to if I never saw you again?"

"You are attempting to defuse a potential argument with humor," Tron tells him bluntly, "But you must understand, for a system such as this, where our creator has been so instrumental in the design and implementation of system-wide programming, your disappearance would be catastrophic, our purpose destroyed. Sentient beings need something to believe in."

Tron pauses to let that sink in, and before Flynn can cut in adds, "And I would miss you, my friend. Who am I, if I cannot serve my user?"

Flynn's hand is in his hair again, but his fingers tangle, carding through it as he contemplates Tron and so different from the times he's mussed Tron's hair simply to be childish. "Your user. I thought Alan was your user."

"Alan doesn't come to visit very often."

He's not expecting Flynn to angle closer, watching him, slowly as if he expects Tron to back away, and Tron is not certain how that would happen when he has no idea what Flynn is going to do. He does startle when their mouths meet, if only because he knows what this means, knows from what Yori had shown him so long ago the memory is like a distant dream, half-degraded with age. Flynn's mouth is wet, organic, entirely alien and it's a strange sensation he struggles to catalogue, the hand tightening in his hair and the warmth of the user pressed against him now, unlike anything he's felt in any system, filled with the otherworldliness that characterizes Flynn himself.

Flynn pulls away with a sigh, a pause before his eyes snap open, widening in panic and he tries to pull away before Tron catches the front of his jacket, yanking him back down.

"Oh God, I'm sorry," Flynn babbles, "I shouldn't have done that. You don't understand what it even--I'm sorry, Tron, I just got caught up in the moment and that wasn't okay. It won't happen again, I promise and if you could just let go of my clothes that would be--"

He means to flee, and Tron will not allow that, hand tightening against the oily organic fabric.

"Flynn," he says, voice as calm and inflectionless as he can manage, "I know what it means."

"You--" Flynn sputters, "But how?"

"Many cycles ago, with…"

"Yori," Flynn says, face pinching. "I took you away from her. I'm sorry."

This is not the conversation Tron wants to have, struggling to keep his voice level with Flynn panicking in his arms, to stay focused when all he can think is that he has just upset a user, and that means Flynn can leave and never return if he deems it necessary.

"My decisions were my own, and Yori--" Tron paused. "My first loyalty is to the users. Hers is to maintaining functionality of ENCOM's mainframe. Our paths diverged."

Flynn snickers weakly. "Is that program for 'It's not about you'?"

"Yes."

"Oh." Flynn looks down at the hand clinging to his jacket and squirms. His breathing (and Tron has made a point to learn about the primary biological functions of his user now) is elevated, body taut with stress and he is frozen like an unfinished song, wanting to continue but Tron knows that without his permission Flynn will not dare. "So you--"

Tron lets go of Flynn's jacket and throws him a bland look.

"Understand," he repeats, reaching out, hesitating before he lets his fingers graze Flynn's shoulder, down over his chest in the paths he learned with Yori, watching Flynn's alien clothing light the way they should beneath his touch with some measure of satisfaction. "I know there is more."

Flynn hisses and grabs his hand before it can move lower. "I'm getting that. So you programs…?"

"I assume it is different," Tron tells him, wiggling his trapped fingers with a grin that would make Flynn proud, "I assume we will learn. Together."

Flynn's smile is like the beacon in the sky. "Together. I like the sound of that."

Tron is unsure if he is built with the capacity for so much contentment. As he pulls Flynn closer again, it seems too strong a current to contain, liable to fry his circuits at any moment.

Kevin seems intent on hastening his demise.

---

It is not a surprise when the betrayal comes, and Tron wonders if Clu has been planning it for cycles or if he simply senses that something has changed to take his creator further away from him. It is no matter, and Tron pushes Kevin away without a thought, feels the patches and newly integrated subroutines his user has been adding to his code for cycles kick in to make him stronger, faster, more agile as Clu's sentries attack. By his calculations it is unlikely that he will defeat them all, but he will keep them occupied until Kevin has escaped, grateful that he is offered that much consolation in turn.

Tron will die for his user. Who is he, if he cannot?
Tags: amet, fanfiction, tron
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