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In Absentia

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1995

By the time Alan and Lora make it to the bar, Roy’s already there, wedged into a corner table and well into his second drink, by the look of it.  It’s not their fault they’re late; traffic on the 405 coming back from the courthouse was an utter bitch, but seeing Roy sitting there alone makes Alan’s heart twist guiltily just the same.  He hopes it hasn’t been too long.

“I’ll go order us something,” Lora murmurs, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek, and walks up to the bar.  Alan nods and watches her for a moment before heading over to Roy’s table.

“Hey, Roy.”

Roy looks up from his drink.  He’s still in his work clothes, though they’re a bit rumpled now, and his face is slightly flushed from the alcohol, but that doesn’t do anything to hide the bags under his eyes.  “…hey.”

For a moment, neither of them can find anything else to say.  It’s been a long, grueling, miserable year for all of them.  The situation at Encom turns uglier by the month.  Lora’s department has already been slashed.  A sweeping new wave of layoffs has been proposed by the Board; Alan knows Roy and his team are on the list and although he’s fighting tooth and nail for them, he has the sinking feeling that it isn’t going to do a bit of good in the end.  Then of course there’s Sam, fourteen years old and more than his grandmother can handle.  The long nights, the crazy nightmares, all three of them worn down to the bone trying to hold onto what they’ve got left.

None of those things, though, are the reason they’re here, today, in this bar.  Except maybe they are, because what happened today really sums up everything.

“…it’s official?”  Roy asks finally, breaking the silence, and Alan nods wearily.  

“Yeah.  It’s official.”

Today was the final hearing.  The petition has been signed off on by the LA County judge.  Declaration of Death in Absentia.  

After seven years, Kevin Flynn has been declared legally dead.

Roy nods back, taking off his glasses and rubbing at his eyes.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there with you guys…I tried like hell to get out of work, you know, I should have been there but they’re running my team into the ground and I…”  His voice cracks and he can’t finish.

“I know, Roy.  Believe me.  I know.”  He reaches out to settle a hand on Roy’s shoulder.  “It’s alright.  I’m sorry it took Lora and I so goddamn long to get here, the traffic coming out of downtown was a nightmare…”

Roy waves it off.  “It’s fine.  The waitress was very sweet.  Kept asking me if I was okay.”  He attempts a crooked little smile.  It only lasts a second.  “How’s Sam?” he asks.

“…as well as can be expected.  Coping.”  Alan answers, his own voice tight now.

“Good.  That’s good.  …fuck, no it isn’t.”  Roy slumps, looking back down at the tabletop, at his half-finished vodka tonic, and whispers “What the hell are we going to do now…?”  

Sweet, loyal, earnest little Roy Kleinberg, with his wisecracks and his awkward charm.  Roy with his fierce devotion to his adopted family of friends and coworkers.  Roy with his amazing, underappreciated talent for writing intuitive, efficient programs that performed far beyond what one would expect from his simple, streamlined coding.

Kevin Flynn had seen that talent in him almost immediately, nurtured it, given him the opportunity to be more than just another code monkey in Encom’s cube farm.  And now Flynn’s gone, and Roy’s going to lose his job, and it isn’t fucking fair.

Alan squeezes Roy’s shoulder, racking his mind for an answer that won’t come.  Roy’s slump deepens and he sinks all the way to the tabletop, burying his face in the crook of his arm.

Lora returns, takes one look at the two of them, and sets the drinks down on the far side of the table across from them before moving to Alan and pressing herself quietly against his side.  Alan’s free arm wraps around her; the hand holding Roy’s shoulder slips all the way around his back, and he pulls both of them against him, eyes squeezing shut against the tears suddenly burning them.

“We’re going to make this right,” he whispers to them, his lover and his comrade, his partners, the people he’d go to the ends of the earth for. 

“One way or another, we’re going to make this right.”