This is an old ass request from puffintalk. Not for me, specifically, but for the Tron kinkmeme. However, she asked me to fill it since it never was, and well, here it is. Sorry for the long wait, Lundi. /_\
Warnings: PG for very mild violence; spoilers for TRON: Legacy and its prequels
Summary: Kevin is suffering from insomnia. Quorra comes to his aide.
Notes: For the tronkinkmeme prompt requesting Kevin reading Quorra Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. I've made it something of a bedtime story. More details above. Sorry if this feels rushed.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
It was something Users called 'insomnia'.
At first, Quorra had considered it normal for Kevin Flynn's people, the Users. That there would be days they went without going idle, or 'sleeping.' Yet, after four days, she could see this was anything but average. Kevin looked sickly, managing somehow to look more pale than he all ready was. There was rings of gray around his eyes, the wrinkles creasing beneath his exhausted gaze and corners of his mouth deeper and heavier set. His head seemed to be hanging, back drooping when he sat and feet swaying when he walked.
By day five, Quorra finally managed to summon the guts to ask the User what was wrong. She had been returning from a supply run in the city, and found Kevin sitting on the edge of his bed, furiously rubbing down his tired face and cursing under his breath. The ISO frowned and deposited the supplies on the table. Quietly, she moved to the cracked doorway, gave a knocked gently.
Kevin looked up, blinked sluggishly. Quorra smiled and stepped inside, hands crossed over her lap. "I'm back," she hummed.
"Meet with any trouble?"
"Nope." The ISO took a step forward. "But as I recall, you said you were going to sleep just before I left."
Kevin smiled crookedly. "Yeah," he exhaled, "thought I was, too."
"You haven't slept in almost a week now, Kevin," Quorra noted. She frowned. "Are you ill?"
"No," Kevin murmured. He shook his head. "Just experiencing a little insomnia."
"Basically, can't sleep. No matter how hard I try."
Quorra chewed the corner of her lip. "Is there anything you can do to remedy your insomnia?" she inquired.
"Been trying," the User murmured, "might try to program me a cup of tea. That might help."
Quorra clapped her hands together. "Is there anything I can do?"
Kevin chuckled. "You need some rest yourself, little lady," he insisted. He swished a hand at the door. "Go on. I'll be fine."
The ISO was reluctant to leave. She didn't know if insomnia was only related to sleep disorders. Because even behind his smiles and words of comfort, she saw something was disturbing him. Something he failed to mention. "... Is that all?" Quorra mumbled a second later. She appeared sweet, willing to listen. Kevin instantly knew what she was doing. "Do you not want to... talk, maybe?"
Kevin shook his head. "I think tea'll take care of it," he said and grinned again. Quorra was forced to accept his response; her smile was weary but she nodded and quietly headed to her own chamber.
It was quite by accident that she overheard him.
Quorra woke from her slumber, feeling an unnatural fatigue. It was not something to be cured by sleep. She was low on energy, having been busying herself until she fell into bed that day. Gathering to her feet, she silently slipped out of her room, moving stealthy like a cat to the kitchen. Kevin had mixed her one of his specialty energy cocktails, and her programming mimicked a rumbling belly.
She was just about to slip past Kevin's room before she heard the uneasy noises. Instantly believing her friend was in trouble, Quorra equipped her disc and peeked inside, opening the door a crack. But the pleading and soft groaning was not for help, nor was he being attacked. Kevin was squirming on his bed, lashing under the sheets. His fingers were fisted into the blanket, tugging and pulling; head rolled back and forth with a pained expression on his sweat coated face.
Quorra knew he was asleep, and experiencing a nightmare. Kevin told her about them on multiple occasions, but this one... This one was unlike the others he mentioned. Something much more terrible from what she knew nightmares to be.
"Sam... S-Sam... No, no, not... Jordan, don't... Please, st... stop..."
Quorra felt a sadness wash through her. Sam, Kevin's son and Jordan, his wife. The two most precious people to the User, now dead and gone. Before Quorra could wake her friend and bring him back to benign reality, Kevin burst to a sit with a gasp. The ISO jumped back, listened to his heavy panting before peeking inside again.
The User was clutching at his heart, yanking open the front of his robe. Kevin was breathing heavily, and even from here, Quorra could see the tears falling from his glassy eyes. She debated on what to do next; help or return to her room. Kevin grunted something and threw a fist down on the mattress before shoving himself onto his feet.
Quorra darted down the hall and ducked back into her room. A second later, she watched from her cracked door as the User stomped and swayed by; he failed to notice her, probably still groggy from the little slumber he managed to catch. He headed to the kitchen and she could hear the pots and pans as he went about brewing more tea. The ISO waited until the equipment hushed; Kevin had finished off a cup, and she expected him to return to bed.
No sign or indication he was going to move. Quorra turned and pressed her back to the door. The User would face another sleepless night. She felt her heart ache and knew then and there the nightmare was the culprit that had been corrupting his sleep and driving him miserable.
Quorra had been rather elusive the next day. Kevin had only half-noticed. He was too weak and exhausted to focus on anything more than meditation. Any attempts at napping proved futile. Because the nightmare was always lingering, waiting for him to drop his guard. As soon as he shut his eyes and the darkness consumed his consciousness, he'd see it again.
See them again.
Clu is laughing, cackling like a mad man. He is holding Sam, a small, whimpering child, by a fistful of hair. His disc is at the sobbing boy's throat. Kevin is standing adjacent of them, ten feet away, horrified and pleading with his Program doppelganger. "Please, let him go!" he begs and drops to his knees. "Clu, you don't have to do this!"
"If it weren't for this little virus, none of this would have ever happened," Clu snarls and gives the handful of hair a jerk. Sam cries and Kevin feels his heart stop. "We were doing so well, Kevin. We had made such progress! But then you let this insignificant child get between us and the perfect world."
"No, Clu, please..."
"You forced me to do this! I did what I had to because if not, the Grid would have fallen to ruins just as you have now!" Clu screams. Sam is choking on tiny cries as the disc burns against his throat. "No. I will not become like you. A simpering weakling with a bleeding heart." He looks down at the child with a malicious grin. "The ISOs have all been annihilated. Now only you and this brat stand in my way." His eyes twinkle danger and death.
Kevin throws his hands forward. "Kill me! Let Sam go!" he pleads. "He's innocent! Just kill me!"
Clu chuckles. "You'll have to wait your turn," he sneers and then slices Sam's throat open. Kevin hears his son utter one more word. Mother; he cries out mother. And Kevin sees Jordan's face, twisted in horror and disgust because Kevin has failed to protect their only child, the light of their lives, and he is apologizing through his cries, apologizing to Jordan and his son bleeding like a pig in Clu's grip, and the Program is giggling like a maniacal bastard before he tosses the User corpse aside and makes way for his next prey-
Kevin's eyes snapped open, the light above nearly blinding him. He jerked in bed, the sheets twisted around his body. Before he jerked to a sit, a cool hand pressed to his chest. Kevin took a deep breath, wild, frightened eyes turning. Quorra was sitting beside him, concern and fear readable in her pale expression. "Q... Quorra?" the User swallowed.
"Yes," the ISO replied. She moved closer, let her hand drop to his. She squeezed. "It's me. You're here. You're safe."
Kevin licked his dry lips. The tremors of the nightmare continued to roll off his skin rippled in goosebumps. With a few more swallows of air, he began to settle. The panic wore away, replaced with ennui and bitterness. Another failed attempt at sleep; he wanted to laugh. What was the point anymore?
"I brought this."
Kevin blinked and looked back to Quorra. The ISO was holding up an old book, its spine weathered and binding worn. He recognized the title instantly: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. He remembered, slowly... Yes, Quorra had been fond of reading. Especially Verne's books; he had only just recently introduced her to this piece of his.
"I'm almost at the end," Quorra noted. She opened the book, flipped a page beneath her black gloved fingers. "It's fascinating. It's almost hard to put it down once you start reading." She smiled sheepishly at the User. "Would you like to read with me?"
Kevin stared at her a moment. He wasn't sure what she was implying or trying to do. However, the nightmare had made it hard for him to turn her away and close his eyes again. "I suppose a chapter won't hurt," he mumbled, voice hoarse.
The ISO beamed. "Here," she said and quickly placed a glass of water in his hands. Kevin looked from the cup to Quorra as she snuggled into the bed beside him, spread out over the covers. She seemed excited, handing him the book. Kevin smirked and took a few swallows of the water before sitting it down. Taking the book, he opened it to where the bookmark saved the ISO's place.
Kevin cleared his throat and sat back against his pillow. "'On this day the engineer came on deck,'" he began, and the ISO inched closer, "'went up to Mr. Fogg, and began to speak earnestly with him. Without knowing why it was a presentiment, perhaps Passepartout became vaguely uneasy. He would have given one of his ears to hear with the other what the engineer was saying.'" Licking his thumb, he turned the page.
Quorra said nothing, kept perfectly still at his side as he continued reading. A few minutes later, the User glanced down at Quorra. "'Passepartout understood it all; he was seized with mortal anxiety.'" She was staring at the book with intense interest, and he knew instantly the pages were unfolding into a bright, vivid world in her eager, young mind. For some reason, it spiked energy in his shaky, run down body. "'Ass!' replied the detective, shrugging his shoulders and turning on his heel'!" he exclaimed and Quorra giggled beneath her hand.
Kevin turned another page. "'Passepartout was on the point of vigorously resenting the epithet, the reason of which he could not for the life of him comprehend; but he reflected that the unfortunate Fix was probably very much disappointed and humiliated in his self-esteem, after having so awkwardly followed a false scent around the world, and refrained.'" At this, the ISO's eyes widened a little, curiosity filling her. Kevin was reminded of a small child on the edge of their seat. "'And now what course would Phileas Fogg adopt? It was difficult to imagine.'"
As Kevin continued to read, he noticed and picked up every little reaction from Quorra. Sometimes she would smile and giggle, other times frown or look confused. She was animated, her face lighting up or settling depending on the words the User read. Once, she squirmed closer to him, just as he announced he would be starting the next chapter in a few more lines.
The words began to blur and fade, and he was only faintly aware he was speaking. In the back of his mind, he found a memory. Its warmth caught his attention, beckoned him away from the real world. There, he saw a familiar room covered in posters and shelves lined with toys and books. At the edge of the small bed he stood, and Sam was smiling up at him, tucked in and waiting with a thin book in his hands.
"You're gonna read it all, right?" Sam asked, twinkle-eyed. He was missing his two front teeth, his hair shaggy and badly in need of a haircut. Kevin smirked and nodded and his son wiggled with excitement. He took a seat beside Sam, lifted the book from his hands and opened it.
"These monsters are a little creepy," Kevin chortled. The first page turned. He cleared his throat and began to read. A story of a mischievous boy named Max who disobeyed his mother, and went to bed without supper. ("Do the voices! Do the voices, dad!") And as he slept, suddenly he found himself floating through an ocean on his bed. ("That's impossible.") It took him many, many miles away from his home, to a land ruled by frightening monsters. ("Let me see the pictures!") Max proved his strength and the monsters do not only fear him, but also make him their king. ("He's so lucky. I wish I was him.")
And the story ended with Max missing home and his mother, regretting the way he had treated her. He could smell his supper on a warm ocean breeze and so the little boy and King of Monsters made an escape from his loyal subjects. The monsters felt betrayed, chased after Max and threatened to eat him up. ("Run!") Max managed to escape the wild creatures, and left them behind, sailing across the sea until he was home and in his mother's arms once more. ("Aww, can you read me another?")
Kevin laughed. "You need to get some shut eye, kid," he said. "You got school tomorrow." He reached out and ruffled Sam's messy fop of hair. "Tomorrow, though. I'll read you another story tomorrow."
Sam reached out and yanked at his sleeve. "You better," he scowled, "or I'm telling mom."
Kevin chuckled. "I'll take your threat seriously," he teased. He leaned in and gave his son a big kiss on the forehead, sending the little boy whining and giggling.
"Gross! I'm not a baby!"
"All kids, no matter how big or small, young or old, are always babies to their parents. That's what grandma told me when I was your age, too." He smiled tenderly. "And I believe it now."
Quorra didn't say anything as Kevin's words trailed off into mumbles until he finally went quiet. She carefully sat up, helped him lay back into his bed. He was sound asleep, and there was no trace of pain or horror on his face. The ISO knew wherever he was, it was good and happy and the nightmare could not reach from the darkness into the glorious bright light.
Quorra took the book from his hands. She sat up beside him, flipped a page. Smiling, she read in a quiet hum, "'The night passed. Mr. Fogg went to bed, but did he sleep? Aouda did not once close her eyes. Passepartout watched all night, like a faithful dog, at his master's door.'"
The chapters Kevin is reading are 34 and 35, iirc. The story he is reading in the flashback is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, one of my favorites.