Fandom: Tron (Legacy)
Rating: T - sexings, mild violence
Disclaimer: I own my laptop and a sleep deficit. It's like owning the Tron franchise, except there's nothing in common.
Summary: You can't always protect the ones you love. But then again, they don't always need it. Sam/Tron oneshot; Tron has trouble keeping calm when Sam's injured. Set in my Hold On AU; a good while after.
Author's Note: Written as my half of a fic/art trade with the awesome Salioka on fanfiction.net; the prompt was "Sam gets hurt/sick; Tron freaks out." Oh, and this was largely written between the hours of 0200 and 0900; it may be severely edited depending on how it looks when I have more sleep.
Tron had seen this before. It was familiar, too familiar, in a way that curled inside him with the edged closeness of corruption. The stray thought flickered out as quickly as it came—the data was external, sensory instead of diagnostic. This wasn't about him.
His processing still froze at the sight of the blood.
Red. Vibrant. Glistening in the white glow of circuitry. Sam cursed, doubled over even as the last of the bugs shattered to broken data under the edge of Tron's weapon. The program was half aware of his own motion, disks pressing together, returning to his back. Turning, moving closer. He didn't reach out, but knelt beside Sam as the user sat heavily on the rock.
It wouldn't stop coming.
"Shit, shit, shit." Sam's voice was a hiss, hands clutching his lower leg as more dark liquid welled up beneath his grip. "Those things are fast." His smile tightened to a grimace.
Tron watched the blood as it hit the unshaped stone below, spreading into fissures, shading the blackness to a tainted crimson. This wasn't the arena (not this time), there was no smooth cage floor to repel lost life. It trickled into cracks in the darkness.
Tron didn't know what to do.
"Are you—can it be fixed?" His speech sounded steady. Almost calm. Tron wondered why.
"Well, I—" Sam inhaled sharply. "—can't just write up a patch, if that's what you mean." The user looked up at him, blinked a moment, gaze distant. "Actually… hey, can you put your hands here? Keep up the pressure for a minute or so?"
Tron blinked. Tilted his head, moved quickly to comply. Sam was warm beneath his grip, suit slick around the deep cut. Tron's right hand slipped, and he tensed in brief panic before his grasp firmed above Sam's, adjusting his force to compensate as the user's hands slid out from under his own. But it still leaked out, red and hot, bubbling up across his fingers, sizzling faintly on his circuits as they flickered in alarm. More pressure? Less?
"Is—is this right?" The words were less steady this time.
Sam nodded absentmindedly, his own hands flitting to the side, tracing shapes through the air in faint white light. "Yeah, that's good." His face was set, strained in concentration as he worked. It wasn't as easy in the Outlands, Tron remembered Flynn saying. Less structure to draw on. And Sam was still learning, adapting to what he could do in this world.
Tron stared at the blood, jaw tensing as he pressed down. He stayed quiet.
The program's hands were red by the time Sam finished.
"Ha." The grin was more real this time, relief and satisfaction replacing the pained tension. "Got it." The glow faded, and Sam was holding a long strip of cloth, dark brown in color. "Dad showed me how he made his Jedi robes awhile back. Same idea, less work."
Tron's focus flicked up from the dark fluid. He didn't understand. "Will that help?"
"Well, it'll stop me leaking all over. Here…" Sam shifted the program's hands aside, wrapped the fabric around the injury once, twice. More. The first few layers darkened as they tightened against the wound, crimson seeping through. By the time Sam pulled the loose ends tight, knotted them still, it was just brown cloth on black suit.
…And underneath? Tron didn't look away.
Sam inspected the leg, brow furrowing in contemplation, then shrugged, wiped his hands on his armor. Tron blinked, followed suit. The blood was sticky, more viscous than liquid energy, and it clung to his fingers, staining the blue-white glow with streaks of red. Sam was standing, and Tron hurried to help him up.
"You can't… repair it? Get it back?"
Sam smiled at him, leaned back against Tron's hold as he shifted his weight, testing. "The blood? Nah, there's… Well, there's transfusions and things, but that needs a hospital. In my world." He shook his head. "Besides, it's not nearly so bad. This should hold 'till I head out the portal."
Tron cautiously loosened his grip as Sam took a short step, then another. He seemed steady. But if it's degenerative… Tron closed his eyes, tried to redirect the looping images, the dark fluid spreading from the wound. His fingers curled, circuits prickling as the substance… thickened? Is this…?
"Seems good." Sam's mouth twitched up in a faint grin. "Let's skip the gridbugs on the trip back?" Tron inhaled, tried to match the user's smile in reassurance. He doubted he was succeeding.
I don't know what to do.
Tron seemed quieter than usual. Sam frowned at the program as he leaned right, lightcycle swerving around a protruding stone spur before turning again to follow Tron up the winding path. They weren't racing, not this time, but Sam was still surprised at the program's pace. He usually had to work to keep up.
Slow or not, he supposed lightcycle rides didn't leave a lot of room for conversation. Sam blinked at the narrow opening in the rock wall before he sped into it, attention fully occupied navigating the short tunnel before he came out at the top of the slope. It was lighter above, the city a brilliant glow in the distance, and Sam angled his head right, glanced towards the Sea as his vision adjusted.
Is that what he's upset about? Their trip had been… less than successful. They were supposed to check up on the Sea of Simulation, see if his dad's tinkering had produced any improvement. But the water was as black and infected as ever, and Tron's scans showed pretty much what they'd come to expect—Clu's virus had adapted past their efforts again. Sam scowled at the dark water. He hoped Clu was getting a taste of his own work. Actually, screw that. He hoped Clu was dead.
He'd better be dead.
…Right. No fix yet for the Sea. But Tron wouldn't (shouldn't) be taking that personally; the isomorphic virus was really not his problem to handle. What, then? Had something happened since Sam's last visit? Tron had seemed well enough when Sam first showed up, but he was painfully aware by now how much longer Tron had to wait. From Sam's end, he often spent more time in-Grid than not. For Tron, it was a few days of each month.
His grip tightened painfully as he stared at the program's lights ahead, blue disk above faint circuitry, Tron's shape mostly dark above the brightness of the surging cycle. He said he didn't mind. Sam exhaled slowly. He was being paranoid. Panicky.
Sam refocused on the road. Blinked.
Wait, where are we going?
The city lights were behind them now, the pervasive dimness of the Outlands stretching out in front. They were still on the rough path; off-Grid lightcycles or not, it was nice not to have to jump little crevasses every hundred feet. But regular or not, the dark stone didn't lead back to Tron City.
Sam frowned, tightened his grip on the throttle and pushed his bike forwards to catch up to Tron. He'd nearly pulled alongside the program, mouth opening to ask, when Tron's cycle swerved right, descending a short slope before… huh.
Well, that answered his question.
Sam followed down the hill, pulling over his own vehicle in front of the small structure. His dad had put in a few of the little rest houses along the various routes to the portal. Half for convenience, and half, he'd joked, to stop Sam missing the portal's deadline. Sam frowned. He was pretty sure it had been a joke. I only missed it the once. Well, twice, but the second hardly counted. Besides, Dad really doesn't get to talk. Unlike some people, Sam didn't keep his family in the dark about where he was going. Or disappear for twenty goddamn years.
His lightcycle disassembled, collapsing into the baton, which he clipped to his thigh, wincing a little as he stepped forward on his injured leg. Almost forgot about that. But seriously, why had they stopped here? Quorra wasn't due to open the portal for at least a few more hours, leaving them… what, a millicycle and a half before Sam had to go back?
He mentally shrugged. Less travel time to here. If there really weren't any issues to handle in the still-fractured city (which would be a first)… well, Sam wasn't going to complain.
Tron was looking at him.
The program was leaning against the doorway, eyes cautious, the stillness of his face disrupted by a faint unhappy twist of his mouth. Sam wanted to fix that. Seems like the thing to do. He closed the distance.
"Hey." He looked up at the program, unable to suppress a smile as Tron's head tilted slightly in response. Sam leaned closer, pressed a hand to the wall at the program's side, thumb lifting to glide across the touch of light on the inside of Tron's arm. He blinked, blue glow flaring slightly, and Sam grinned as the tension bled out from Tron's expression. The grey eyes were warm as Sam's left hand came up to tug him down into a kiss, finding the tiny upward curve of Tron's lips and pressing against them, closing as the program leaned into it, his mouth opening in response.
Their circuits were bright, mingled patterns of light wavering against the grey wall when Sam tipped aside for air, head resting on Tron's shoulder. He closed his eyes, leaned against the solid presence, so desperately glad just to be here. After a moment, Sam pulled back—though not far. He looked up, exhaled softly, smiled again at Tron's expression, the way the dark brown hair stirred slightly at his breath.
"C'mon." Sam's voice was uneven as he turned, palmed the door. It slid open, and he started down the steps into the building, Tron following after. Sam glanced back as he walked, met Tron's gaze with his own need—
—and slipped, foot settling past the edge of a step as he lost his balance and tumbled down with an undignified yelp. Sam sprawled across the bottom in a tangle, pressing his face to the floor in utter embarrassment. Shit. The light panels throughout the room chose this moment to showcase his misery, activating on 'entry' to leave him blinking at the sudden brightness and wondering exactly when the inanimate objects in his life decided to screw him over. He heard Tron's intake of breath from behind him, and Sam closed his eyes. Don't say anything. Please.
"…Sam." Tron's voice was quiet, but tight with alarm, and Sam looked back despite himself. Followed the program's attention back down to the growing stain on the brown cloth. His leg had reopened. He pressed his head back against the floor.
Just fucking great.
Tron couldn't do anything.
Sam had re-bandaged the wound. Consumed some energy. And the portal wouldn't open for another quarter-millicycle; there was no point in heading for it this soon. There was nothing that could be done.
That didn't stop him burning out his processing trying to find a solution.
He should have headed back to the city. A repair program might know what to do—know something to do. But no, that wouldn't have worked—Sam was a user; Tron would be surprised if more than a few programs in the city even knew what blood was. He should have headed for an I/O tower, asked Quorra to open the portal early. But no—by the time he made the detour, the portal might well be open already, and he shouldn't drag Sam along for further travel while he was still losing data. Blood. Losing blood.
There had to be something he could do.
You could have been faster in the first place.
"Are you okay?"
Tron stopped. His vision refocused. He was looking out the window—staring through the darkness to the black and empty sky. The portal wasn't open yet. It wouldn't be for a while.
"Tron?" Sam sounded worried. That was wrong.
He pivoted, turning to face the user. Sam sat on the edge of the empty desk, face still flushed with faint embarrassment, but shaded now with new concern. Tron's gaze flicked to the leg, fabric patchy with a reddish-brown residue. Sam had rewrapped it, but not replaced the covering. Tron couldn't see any new stains.
He didn't know.
"You look… agitated." The words came out awkwardly, Sam's mouth spilling cautious worry through the air. "Tired?" The user's brows had knit together, forehead furrowing uncertainly. "Do you need to recharge?"
Tron blinked slowly. Gave a small shake of his head.
Sam sighed, pushed off the desk, and Tron tensed. He shouldn't be standing. The program closed the gap between them in quick strides. Sam didn't sit back down, but he did accept Tron's support, looking up with a troubled expression.
"Seriously. What's wrong?"
Tron opened his mouth. Closed it. He didn't know what to say. Sam was injured. Limb function decreased. And he didn't know how bad it was, if the blood would keep leaking from the wound until the user was empty.
And the other thought kept cutting at Tron's edges. That even if Sam made it out, even if he could repair himself in his own world, he had still been hurt. In the Grid. With Tron here, trying to protect him.
And it could happen again.
Sam's look was still anxious, faint frustration seeping through. "Look, if there's some… problem you didn't mention before, we can send a message to Quorra. Tell her to wait on the portal, open it later. It's not like—"
"No." The word was quick, panic flaring. Sam had to go. Flynn would know what to do for him. Quorra might know by now. "You need—you should leave. When she opens it."
He froze at the expression on Sam's face. Confusion, surprise. Hurt. Badly hidden. Tron hurried to speak, had to explain.
It was what he meant, but it was the wrong word. For Sam. The user didn't want safety, didn't like to stay behind. He didn't come to the Grid to build or administer. He came to help, to do whatever needed doing. To do it with Tron.
Tron wasn't sure he could let him keep doing that.
It's not safe.
Tron looked up. Sam was staring at him, eyes sharp, expression set in a way that cut too close for comfort. Sam was new to this world. Easily confused, prone to instinctive reactions that occasionally bordered on what most termed malfunction. But sometimes he could be as knowing as any ISO.
He knows me.
"Tron." The words were flat, edged with frustration and a lingering unhappy trace that made the program wince. "I don't want 'safe'. And you usually don't care too much for it yourself." He didn't overprocess, the user meant. Didn't try to keep Sam out of it. And yes, just maybe, he enjoyed the risk more than was logical. His own risk.
"So seriously, Tron. Why now?"
Sam wouldn't look away. Tron glanced at him, glanced down, flinched as the memory replayed again. Red liquid, red life flowing out. (Again.)
Sam opened his mouth, irritation visible, shifted to move, and Tron found his voice.
Sam stopped. His mouth froze for a moment, half-open, speech halted.
Then he laughed.
Tron wondered if he was glitching.
"Wait." Sam's hands came up, little quick motions cutting through the air. "Wait, wait, wait. That's what's been bugging you?" Sam stepped back, tugging Tron to sit on the low bed, and the program followed, confused but unwilling to leave Sam by himself. The user looked up at him, face twitching uncontrolled between exasperation and amusement.
Tron really didn't understand.
"Look, I…" Sam paused for a moment, regarding Tron's expression, shook his head. "It's really not a big deal." The grin was fading, but still there, and the user's blue eyes met his own unflinchingly. "Honest. You've seen me much worse. Hell, I get more messed up on a monthly basis in the—in my own world."
Tron blinked. He hadn't thought… does he malfunction there, too?
Sam shook his head again, flopped down backwards to stare up at the ceiling. "Man, really?" He propped himself up on his elbows, turned towards Tron again. "Didn't my dad ever get scraped up, all the times he came here?"
Flynn had bled once. Tron remembered it vividly. But it hadn't kept coming.
"…Flynn never wanted to fight gridbugs." He couldn't help smiling, just a little, through the worry.
Sam snorted. "He's missing out. Look, users… get hurt. We bleed. And then we heal over time. We just need rest. Our—our self-repair systems are pretty damn good." His mouth was an awkward upwards turn.
Tron wasn't sure what to make of this. "You're not—you're sure it will… heal?" He'd lost the blood. And it wasn't something that could be recoded.
"Really, really sure." Sam was grinning, but his gaze turned serious as he looked back at Tron.
"And hey, you might want to protect me, but no matter what, you don't get to leave me behind." Tron's eyes dropped, fell to the side. But there was a touch on his face, and Sam was reaching up, hand lightly tracing his features.
"I wouldn't give any of this up." Tron stared back, something twisting in his code at how strongly Sam meant that.
…Not that different after all.
Sam smiled. "Injuries included."
Tron tilted his head. Sighed. "…You really don't make sense."
He loved the sound of Sam's laugh. "Says the anthropomorphized firewall."
Tron gave him a look, and Sam laughed again as he pulled the program down, circuits flaring at Tron's touch.
Sam liked the humming.
He was vaguely aware of the soft surface beneath him, the tangled shapes of sheets and blankets above and around. He was much more conscious of the arm draped around him warmly, the tickle of soft hair against the nape of his neck.
But mostly he was just enjoying the faint humming feeling that pressed against his back. It's nice. He shifted slightly, leaned against the solid shape as Tron lay curled against him. Sam liked the warmth, the quiet vibrations of the program running, even while he slept. Reassuring. He sighed.
The arm tightened, squeezing gently. Sam turned to look.
Tron was watching him, blue-grey eyes soft in the dimly lit room. His brown hair was disheveled, strands sticking up against the pillow, falling sideways across the frame of his face. Sam smiled faintly, appreciating the sight. Tron looked to be appreciating him right back.
"The portal's probably open."
Tron's lips twitched upwards. "Probably."
Sam raised his eyebrows. "Think we should head out?"
Tron looked at him for a moment, head tilting to one side. "I think," the program replied seriously, "we shouldn't rush things. You're injured, after all. I've heard rest is good for that."
Sam grinned. "Well, I guess we've got some time. But if I'm supposed to be resting—"
Tron cut him off with a kiss.