The digital readout on the clock informs him that it should be about twenty-five minutes before sunrise, which means that he’s spent the last half of the night on the Grid.
No big surprise there.
On these weekends when Roy volunteers to babysit, time tends to lose all meaning. Entire days are lost in the warmth of Alan’s arms. Incinerated in the heat radiating from his mouth and between his thighs. Even now, Flynn isn’t certain which day it actually is.
The hint of a smile tugs at the corners of his mouth as he stretches; Clu’s uncanny frown from moments before overwritten by the knowledge that his boyfriend is back at the house–probably naked, or at least close to it. And yet, the smile falters, slipping off of his face like a drop of oil spilt over the Ducati.
This. This is what Clu was talking about earlier.
“It’s one thing to favor your world of Users, Flynn–don’t deny it–and don’t mistake me for one of the baser conscripts who eagerly accept your half-truths. What I ask is that you aren’t so quick to purge our plight from your memory as soon as you rejoin them.”
And now there’s always that unmistakable note of jealousy in his tone when he says ‘them’. No matter what Flynn claims, he’s never been very good at the balancing act. Try as he might.
The past few millicycles, Gamma Sector has been so overrun with gridbugs and fragmented code that it’s had to be quarantined and extensively wiped. It’s not the first time, and he knows that it won’t be the last either. The system simply wasn’t built to handle the additional strain that it’s under.
He swivels in the chair, scrubbing a hand over his face as he stands. A nagging voice in his head chimes in that Alan would know what to do.
Of course, exposing Alan to the truth isn’t an option. Eventually…yeah, eventually he will, but right now Flynn doesn’t even have the energy to entertain that overly complicated and frankly terrifying train of thought.
White hot frustration radiates out like a damaged nerve, blocking out everything else on his mind. He very strongly considers hurling a random object across the dimly lit room. Of course, that would only succeed in him breaking his own equipment. Who knows, he might actually damage something important this time.
“Fuck this.” He grumbles, deciding that he’d much rather be under the covers next to his partner than sulking alone in the cold darkness of the arcade’s basement.
Speeding through the damp streets, he passes vehicles and pedestrians alike. Tries to guess who’s heading out and who’s heading home from the clues he snatches in passing.
As stealthily as he can, Flynn sneaks back inside, glancing down the hall through the slatted blinds to confirm the navy tint beginning to color the sky. The unmistakable hiss of the coffee maker beginning to percolate stops him dead in his tracks. It must be Sunday, he accepts with sinking spirits. Alan likes to get an early start on Sundays to make up for the Saturdays they usually spend rockin’ the kasbah clear into the a.m.
Plastering on his best attempt at a cheeky grin, he continues bravely to the kitchen.
“A bit late in the morning to start getting ready for church, isn’t it?”
Alan turns from the machine, blinking blearily at Flynn propped against the archway. His glasses are absent–probably on the bedside table down the hall, and he’s got what has to be the worst case of bedhead in the history of mankind.
“We usually caught the service at ten cuz the first one was too early for Mom.” His voice is heavy with sleep, the deep bass sending blood rushing straight to Flynn’s groin.
Hey, it’s not his fault that a groggy Alan just happens to be a ridiculously seductive one. Doesn’t even have to try. And how delectable does he look in nothing but an oversized shirt from the arcade?
“You mean there was a time when you were fresh as a daisy before noon?”
Alan huffs, aggressively rubbing sand from his eyes as he yawns hugely. The customary fluttering migrates from Flynn’s stomach to his heart–he’s so hopelessly screwed.
“There was a time when I wasn’t over the hill yet.” He grumbles into his palm before another yawn overtakes him.
“Alan, you’re thirty-seven,” he chuckles affectionately as he pushes off the wall. “You’ve got three years left before that even applies to you.” He steps over to his boyfriend, lowering his arms around his waist to pull him closer.
“Tell that to my biological clock.” Encircling his arms around Flynn’s neck, Alan pecks him on the lips and squints in an attempt to bring him into focus. “You didn’t just ‘go for a walk around the block’, did you?”
Sighing, Flynn leans in to rest their foreheads together. “You know me. Fires to put out, bugs to squash…”
Returning the sigh, Alan makes a point to subject him to a warmed blast of morning breath. “That system isn’t going to crash overnight without you, Kevin.”
And there’s that icy feeling settling into his lungs at the first hint of disdain creeping into Alan’s voice. Not now. God, he doesn’t want to start fighting before the sun’s even up.
“I know,” he lies, digging his fingers into the hem of the shirt ghosting over that absolutely perfect ass that he’s such a big fan of. “What can I say, Bradley? You get a man’s gears turning.” He nuzzles Alan’s nose on the way to his lips–morning breath be damned. “All of them.”
The kiss is a silent exchange; Flynn pleading to postpone the old familiar argument for the time being while Alan begrudgingly agrees that he’s too tired to engage in any conflict at this hour.
The machine behind them spits and whirrs with the announcement of a finished pot. Alan breaks the kiss with a hum of approval, disentangling himself to claim his caffeinated bounty.
“D’you want some,” he fills a mug. “or is the plan to reinforce your vampiric sleeping habits?”
Shooting a withering look at his back, Flynn begins to cross his arms before forcing himself to shrug instead. “That’s the plan.” He concedes, keeping his voice as light as possible as Alan stirs cream and sugar into his mug.
Facing him, Alan nods; jaw twitching with the clear impulse to bite. Lowering his eyes to the coffee he can’t possibly see, the man sighs and brings the steaming mug to his lips. It’s obviously too hot to drink, but he sips anyway. Flynn grimaces in wicked satisfaction and sympathy when he burns his tongue.
Great. He’s going to be feeling that all day long, and he’ll keep remembering why he burnt himself in the first place.
“You wanna watch the sunrise?” Flynn blurts out, desperate to wave the tension from the air between them.
Squinting up at him, Alan quirks an eyebrow.
“What? It’s romantic.” He can feel the absurd blush slithering up his neck and is extremely grateful for Alan’s significantly diminished vision.
His stupidly adorable best friend smiles, apparently as relived as he is for a kinder diversion. “Let me throw some pants on.”
He sets the coffee on the counter, and Kevin cops a feel as he passes by. “Mmm, why bother?” He purrs after him.
They move out to the patio as the first tinges of pale light begin to bleed over the horizon. Flynn cinches the drawstrings on his hoodie to keep the chill out and smooths over Alan’s hair as the steam from the piping coffee fogs up his glasses. They opt for lingering touches over speech. Pressing his knee into Alan’s, Flynn sidles in close to soak up his body heat as the sound of the surf fills the spaces between them. He must close his eyes at some point, because one minute the top half of the sky is a pale periwinkle and the next, his head is jerking off of Alan’s shoulder to witness the luminous canary yellow sun starting to crest over the skyline across the bay.
An affectionate hand comes up to scratch the back of his scalp and he lets out a low moan of appreciation.
“Do you really have to go in today?” He doesn’t even mean to say it–usually steers clear of beating a dead horse, which is exactly what that half-hearted plea is.
After a beat, Alan nods against the side of his head as his fingers continue their work. “I’m helping Walt Jr. with some R&D interviews.”
“Make sure that when the girls enter, the thermostat doesn’t accidentally think it’s the middle of Winter again.” Flynn allows his eyelids to flutter close as he leans back into the touch. “Seriously, that guy needs to stop sticking it in the intern pool already. That’s what mixers are for.”
He can tell that makes Alan smile without even having to look over.
“You can’t get Hicks to fill in? Pretty sure he owes you one, if not several by now.” He plows on, unable to resist. Alan tenses next to him, but dammit if Flynn isn’t going to fight for the hours he had to sacrifice.
“He owes me because the last batch of applicants he hired on couldn’t tell me the difference between defragmentation and decompression.”
They sit in silence for a few moments as the sun continues to climb higher and higher into the sky. When the pinks begin to fade and the clouds start to lift, Alan slowly ceases his grooming and Flynn braces himself for the inevitable departure he always tries to draw out for as long as possible.
“I know how important the Grid is to you.”
Certainly wasn’t expecting that. He gapes at the apologetic grin that Alan offers him.
“But sometimes you run yourself ragged for it.” Brushing a stray lock of hair out of Flynn’s eyes, Alan takes a steadying breath before continuing. “You’re the smartest man I’ve ever known,” he chuckles fondly at the deepening look of stunned surprise he receives in return. “And also the stubbornnest.”
“You have a family, and you’re loved, Kevin. More than you’ll ever know.”
Oh shit, he is not going to start crying. Kevin Flynn does not cry in the face of sentimental declarations. No matter how sleep deprived he is, or how suddenly overwhelmed he may feel.
Leaning in, Alan brushes his cheek with the tip of his nose and intones “Just don’t get lost in there, ok? You’re needed out here too.” He kisses him, slow and sweet.
It takes every iota of self-control that Flynn has not to break down in front of him. Tell him everything–no matter how crazy it sounds. Admit that he’s a goddamn fraud who’s built his legacy on the very literal backs of sentient digital lifeforms. Fall to his knees professing eternal devotion while begging Alan not to desert him in the wake of all the revelations he’s spent their entire relationship–platonic and romantic–keeping to himself.
Perhaps it’s that fabled stubbornness that allows him to keep it all inside. That allows him to return this kiss like he has a thousand others. And if Alan notices the way that Flynn’s trembling, he must chalk it up to the brisk spray of the ocean, or the noticeable lack of sleep, or maybe the shock of just hearing something so incredibly tender. Whatever the reason for his silence, Flynn is immensely grateful for it.
When they part with a soft exhale, it breaks the spell. And thank God, because he’s not entirely positive that he could have kept it together much longer if they’d kept kissing like that.
“Course, babe,” he puts on a fearless smile and squeezes Alan’s knee. “Who else are you gonna get to be this big a pain in your ass–well, replace pain with–”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Alan scoffs as he blushes, swatting him on the arm with the back of his hand. “Can you pick the kids up from Roy’s before he spams my pager again?”
Just like that, they’re mercifully back to normal.
“Yes, dear.” He simpers in falsetto, batting his eyelashes. “Do you need your dry cleaning picked up too?”
“Knew there was a reason I chose you.”
They burst into barely restrained laughter that sends a small flock of seagulls flapping off indignantly. Flynn watches them take off and thanks every force in creation for gifting him the companionship of the man beside him whose hand fits so well in his own.