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Midnight Chatter

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Sam was glad the couch was under him when his exhaustion got the best of him. His body was still sore from being jostled around the Grid for what seems like uncountable hours, and Alan’s couch set could be heaven right now. 

Alan was kind enough to let them crash at his house after Sam realised his old Dumont container home couldn’t provide for Quorra and him both now. Sam honestly couldn’t thank the man enough for everything but didn’t have enough words to express so; all he could think was that Alan deserved to know what happened to his father and what the Grid was, and Sam definitely needed a full night of sleep before trying to do that.

The main living room lights switch off, leaving one table lamp left to illuminate the room as Quorra returns with a pile of Alan’s spare blankets. She haphazardly layers them on the couch opposite Sam's, rearranging the pillows randomly. Quorra paused for a second, then turned around with a proud nod, “What next?” Sam’s eyes darted to the blankets as he weakly pointed at them with an inching motion. Quorra rolled her eyes and tossed one onto him.

“Thanks,” Sam managed to mumble. He felt himself smile, with no energy to move the rest of his body in the slightest, “Ha, I guess this is a sleepover now.”

“What’s that?”

“What?”

“A ‘sleepover’?”

Sam blinks, this is definitely not a conversation he thought he’d be having after everything that’s happened in the past 48 hours. “I guess… it’s when you spend the night with your friend’s house and you stay up way later than you get to normally. And then you whisper-talk for hours, about everything from crushes to ghost stories to emotional baggage, until everyone falls asleep.”

“Sounds fun!” Quorra plops herself cross legged on the couch opposite him with one of Alan’s folded blankets in her lap, “Let’s do that!” Sam chuckled lightly, tilting his head up to see the ISO grin excitedly.

Her eyes sparkle, and Sam admits, it’s hard to say no to that. “Alright,” he begins, “We can start with…” What happens at sleepovers? Sam runs through faded elementary school memories before speaking again, “We can start with something simple: Truth or dare.” Quorra nods seriously, which gets a small laugh from Sam. He can’t believe he’s doing this.

“Basically, I’ll ask you ‘truth or dare’, and you pick one,” He tries to explain quickly, “If you pick truth, I’ll ask a question which you have to answer honestly. If you pick dare, you have to do something I dare you to do.” Quorra gives another overly pensive nod, and Sam asks, “So, truth or dare?”

“Dare!” 

“Okay, I dare you to…” something lights up in the back of his mind, “try to lick your elbow.” 

Quorra blinks, “I thought this was supposed to be a challenge, Sam!” With a grand stretch, she grabs her right arm and folds it as close to her face as she can. Face scrunched and tongue stuck out unceremoniously, the ISO is quite a sight to behold. A few seconds pass as Quorra strains, Sam opens his mouth to say something but Quorra gives him a pointed look to shut him up before he can start. “ I can do this ,” she tries (and fails) to mumble. She huffs and tries to fold her arm the opposite way, trying her absolute best.

“Q… Q! You don’t actually have to!” Sam laughs, “Most people can’t do it either! I can’t for sure.” 

Quorra flops back on the couch, on top of the pile of blankets, “Thank the Users, I thought I left my strength in the Grid for a nano there.” She chuckles softly, “So, I ask you now? Sam Flynn, truth or dare?”

Sam hesitates, remembering the ache still crawling all over his body. He couldn’t handle a dare right now. “Truth,” Sam says plainly.

“What do you think Flynn meant when he said we have to change the world?”

The room seemed to go still, and the silence didn’t settle very comfortably.

“Dad said disease,” His voice was quiet, “He said that your… digital DNA could cure the world. Dad really wanted you to help him ‘change everything’.” Sam turns to face Quorra, “Did he ever mention what exactly he wanted to do with your help?” 

She looks at the ceiling for an intense moment, then shakes her head, “He spent cycles just talking about what he could’ve done better for the Grid. He didn’t mention much beyond that.” Quorra pauses, “He mentioned you a lot though, and some other Users too, Lora, Alan, Jordan…” She closes her eyes for a long, hard second, “It was mostly about you and the Grid, though. And Tron.” She shifts her head towards where Sam lay, “I’m sorry, I should have asked him.”

“No,” Sam speaks abruptly, “it’s okay, man. You wouldn’t have known. It’s okay.” He takes in  a shaky breath, “We’ll just have to figure out how to change the world together then.” 

Twenty years. Was what ISOs were capable of worth protecting for twenty years? Or longer, if you wanted to think in Grid time (which Sam didn’t understand in the slightest yet). The time probably felt longer to his father though, making Sam feel guilty for every grudge he held against him in the past. A thousand human years on the Grid was more time than Kevin Flynn ever got to spend here, in the real world, at home. Did he still think of L.A. as his home? 

The gears shifted slowly in Sam’s mind. If his father spent so much time in the Grid, maybe there was something in there that could help Sam figure out how his father wanted to ‘change the world’... But the Grid was probably in shambles now, after Reintegration and the loss of it’s creator…

Sam furrowed his brows in the dark, a whirring growl in the back of his memory whispering, “U̷s̷e̷r̷.̷.̷.̷” He’s the Son of Flynn. He’s a User. He could help fix the Grid! It’s the least he could do to honor his father’s memory… even if no one in the ‘real world’ could know about it.

Quorra fusses around with her blanket, trying to shuffle herself under it without lifting herself off the couch.

Where would he start, if he wanted to help the Grid? Sam didn’t know the first thing about that world beyond bedtime stories and the blur of the night before. He can’t afford to make the same mistakes his father did, can’t let the whole ‘Creator’ thing go to his head. He can’t strive for perfectionism, seeing how that ended up for his father last time.

“You think too loudly,” The ISO’s voice interrupts his thoughts. “You don’t seem like your father, Sam Flynn. I think you may be what the Grid needs to become… alive again. Even if you don’t know how yet.” Quorra shifts around on the couch, kneading the blanket around her, “I’ll be there too, of course. It’s my home in the first place.” She finally settles on her side facing him across the coffee table with the blanket wrapped around her tightly as she looks Sam in the eye, “I want to do anything I can to help.”

“Of course,” His reply is soft, wavering a little more than he realised, “thanks.”

The night’s silence envelopes them quietly as Quorra’s words swirl around Sam’s mind.

He had to help the Grid. It’s home to those programs. He needed to do it for them. For Quorra. For the living, bustling civilisation his father made by accident. Sam brought his hand to the memory chip at his neck. How could someone’s entire world fit in such a small thing?

Sam closes his eyes for a moment to clear the incoherent nighttime thoughts clouding his mind. Maybe he should actually get some sleep now. He listens to his breathing for a still second, it almost sounds muffled. Weird. There’s some sort of humming filling the air… lightly mechanical, but without whirs and clicks to be from the house’s inner workings.

The humming, Sam noticed, was coming from Quorra. It was light, almost like breathing, but still somewhat akin to a laptop’s whirring after being on for too long. She was probably worn out too, maybe it was a normal program reaction when on low energy. Back on the Grid, you could feel the environment alive with pulsating energy, which wasn’t the same case here in L.A. Still, it was hushed compared to anything else Sam had heard on the Grid; it seemed like almost nothing compared to the buzz of an identity disk at his throat, like whispers compared to Rinzler’s— Tron’s— purr above him, “U̷s̷e̷r̷.̷.̷.̷” 

Tron. 

Sam stared up into the dark. 

How could that unwavering program from the Games be the hero he was told to believe in? The same program his father had trusted with his life? His childhood hero, seemingly only a shell of who he was before, Clu’s primary enforcer, responsible for who knows how many program-considered atrocities. A hero who had saved his life. And his father’s, and Quorras , while still having blazing orange circuits. Rinz— Tron hadn’t been at the Portal with Clu… If Tron survived reintegration, that means he’s all alone on the Grid, he probably needs help. Or company, at least. Maybe… No, Sam shook his head. He couldn’t help the Grid for the sole reason of Tron’s possible survival (that’s the mindset that caused all this in the first place).

He was going to help rebuild the Grid for all the programs who deserved to live their lives, and then for Tron, for the slightest chance that he could return to his life, too. His father wanted him to help change the world, and he didn’t know how to do that yet. The least he could do was help rebuild the world that meant everything to his father.

“Hey, Q,” Sam’s voice came out hoarser than expected, “D’you think, if Tron was still around, he’d help us rebuild the Grid?” The question stood alone in the air. 

“Quorra?”

She didn’t reply. Sam turned to where the ISO slept, the faint and unknown energy humming from her form and blanket tossed off the couch. Her skin almost looks like TV static, glowing grey and shifting in the dark. Her hair was a mess and eyes shut all the way, and she definitely would’ve been snoring had she had the capacity to do so. 

Sam smiled, eyelids suddenly a lot heavier than before.

Wouldn’t that be strange, working with his childhood hero to rebuild the world a faulty copy of his father tore down? The memory card seemed to thrum against his chest. 

The tired part of him almost hoped the Grid could recover without him. The rational part of him knew he had the responsibility to help rebuild the Grid, for Quorra. And his father, and all the other programs who called it home. The same part of him wanted Tron to have survived whatever programming turned him into Rinzler, and be there waiting for him and Quorra when they return to the Grid. After all, it can’t be a story about the Grid without Tron.