Flynn was different after the hacking. Not just in the "my life doesn't suck anymore" way, either. Sure, that accounted for the new suits, the spring in his step, and probably the fewer beers. But there were other things that Alan spotted, too. Puzzling things. "Greetings, programs!" was just the start of it.
In the days after he took over the company, Flynn met with every programmer on the staff, evaluated them. Frankly, it was more "corporate drone work" than Alan had ever seen him put up with before. But weirder than him doing it was the way he did it — Alan would catch him peering into their faces as if looking right through them, an odd expression on his face. When he gave him a quizzical look, Flynn just shook himself out of it and laughed it off. He barely looked at the files in his hands for most of them, just asked a few questions and sent them on their way.
The day after he finished the interviews, a handful of the programmers cleaned out their desks and were escorted from the building. Alan headed up the security sweep that found backdoors in their code, or unauthorized tracers, or information from systems they shouldn't have had access to. But the same programs — offshoots of his original Tron, which he was justifiably proud of — that told him what these people had done to warrant firing, also told him no-one else had seen it yet. Flynn hadn't had any evidence yet. So how had he known?
"They just looked untrustworthy." He smiled a secret little smile Alan was getting heartily sick of. "Was I wrong?"
"No, you weren't. But that's not the point. Flynn —"
"Look, Alan." Flynn stopped and put a hand on his arm. "Let's just say I got some inside knowledge, all right? Thought I might as well make use of it."
Alan sighed. "What other changes is this 'inside knowledge' going to force us to make?" he asked, resigned. Professionally and personally, he was used to Flynn springing things on him. He'd mostly given up trying to change him, but he couldn't help but hope.
Flynn grinned. "Oh, I'm sure I'll think of something." He laughed and started walking again, and Alan shook his head and followed.
Flynn didn't chase Lora anymore, either. She got the same knowing look from him, then he went right on treating her…well, considerably better than he had in the past, actually. She confided to Alan in the privacy of their lab that, "If he'd treated me this way all along, we might still be together." But he didn't seem to have any urge to light that flame again; he kept her at a distance, never made a move. After a while, Alan stopped worrying he would.
The truth was, Flynn kept Alan a lot closer than anyone else, these days. Some of it was security work, not to mention cleaning up and streamlining the system, getting rid of the dead and useless code that had accreted to it under Dillinger. There were more monitoring programs than even Alan had known about. And it seemed like every time they got rid of one bug, three more would crop up. The first few months, there were more than a few times he'd look at his watch and see it was nearing five, then have to check outside to see AM or PM.
Flynn didn't shy away from this work, though. He seemed to take it as a personal point of pride to be as hands-on as possible. He ended up calling Alan so often, they ended up setting up a linked console to one side of the giant glass-topped desk that was the last remnant of Dillinger left in the office. At least it meant the chairs were more comfortable and the coffee was better. Not to mention the company.
"Damn, would you look at this?" He scrolled back to the top of the block of code and shifted to let Flynn see over his shoulder.
Flynn eyed it and scowled. "Get that out of there." He sat back and turned his attention to the green-and-white roll of logs, then looked back up. "And lock that section down, would you? Don't want any unwary programs stumbling in, getting themselves hurt."
"Any what?" Sometimes, he really suspected Flynn was losing it.
Flynn laughed. "Just lock it down, okay. Authorized access only."
"Whatever you say. Who's authorized?" His hands flew over the keys as he killed the offending lines of code.
"You and me." Flynn thought about it. "And see if Dr Gibbs needs in for his research."
Nodding, Alan paused long enough to make a note to ask him, then went back to the code, the clatter of his keys and the scratch of Flynn's pen on the printouts the only noises.
In the earlier days of the company, when it was just them and a couple modded-to-within-an-inch-of-their-metal-lives boxes, they'd pulled these all-nighters a lot. It had been thrilling sometimes, the feeling that they were really doing something, breaking through. He'd lost some of that joy recently, when "coding" meant more and more "finding profit for the company". Now with Flynn back at the top and a real sense of accomplishment at making it theirs again, he sometimes couldn't keep from grinning. He felt more alive and energetic than he had in ages.
Of course, that could've just been the massive amounts of caffeine.
He gleefully killed one of the routines that had been spitting bugs out into Lora's code, then did away with the last few bugs. He hit Enter with decisive force and leaned back with a groan, stretching his arms out over his head. "Done!"
Flynn grinned at him. "Congratulations!" He shook Alan's hands, which were nearly in his face, and patted his chest. "Time for celebration?"
"I do believe it might call for that," he answered with a grin.
Patting him again, Flynn levered himself up and headed for the bar, breaking out a bottle of whiskey and a couple of glasses.
"Oo, the good stuff!" Alan gave him an arch look. "This is an occasion."
"Only the best for killing that thing." Flynn poured for them and handed Alan his glass with a flourish and a little bow.
Alan laughed. "Thank you, sir." They touched glasses and drank.
Flynn sank back onto the couch and set his papers aside, and Alan joined him, stretching out.
"Another month or two, we might have it all cleaned up," Alan guessed.
"Maybe." Flynn grimaced. "Of course, by then we'll have all our own problems to start over with."
"True." He chuckled. "Kind of like the dishes — cleanup never is done."
"Yeah, or the laundry." Flynn made a face, and they both laughed.
"As if you've ever done laundry voluntarily in your life."
"You wound me!" Flynn mimed a hit to the chest, then took another drink. "Okay, probably not. But now I can pay someone else to do it for me!" he announced, more than a little smug.
"You finally get your own back from Dillinger, and that's what excites you?" Alan stared at him, incredulous. "Not having laundry to do?"
"Admit it. You're just jealous." Flynn grinned.
"Maybe a little," he admitted, giving Flynn a dirty look.
"Yeah?" Flynn smirked. "So come over more often. We'll throw yours in, too."
Alan sighed. "Look, Flynn, I don't know. We're not kids anymore."
"Which is what makes this a hell of a lot better," he retorted. He leaned over Alan and sunk his hands into his hair, kissing him.
Alan closed his eyes and groaned at the feel of his tongue, letting him in, his free hand going automatically to his friend's hip. Flynn's tongue mapped his mouth, then coaxed him to return the favor, relearning the taste and feel of Flynn.
Eventually, Flynn pulled back, grinning at him. "Tell me you don't want me."
Alan scowled half-heartedly. "You're a cocky bastard."
"One of my many charms." But his smile softened and he touched his forehead to Alan's, fingers tightening in his hair. "I realized some things in…when we were doing that hacking," he said slowly. "Let's just say, not all that inside knowledge was about other people." He settled next to Alan, arms around him loosely and his head on his shoulder, not looking at him. "You've been there for me. And I…care about you. A lot. Okay? If you ever…left… Well, just don't, okay?" He shook his head and pushed himself up. "You can always do your own laundry if you'd rather," he continued archly, and someone who knew him less well probably wouldn't see through the facade of uncaring.
Still a little stunned by his words, Alan tried a smile. "Well…" He cleared his throat and tried again. "I suppose I could always try it. See how good your laundry service is. Sometimes."
Flynn smiled at him. "In that case, I think we're done for the evening. Or morning. Or whatever." He jumped up and offered Alan his elbow, like a man at a dance.
Alan rolled his eyes and used it to pull himself up, then let go. "You're insane."
"Yeah, I get that a lot." He grabbed his jacket and waited at the door. "So?"
"So what about the office?"
"It'll last without us for a day. Tron'll look after it." Flynn glanced at the computer fondly.
"I swear you like that program way too much." He shook his head. He was proud of it himself, but still.
"A lot," Flynn agreed. His arms wound around Alan. "Not as much as his user."