Rockman.EXE is not mine. Don't sue.

Us After This
Chapter 8
~by Shimegami-chan

Exhibit 1:
Swimsuit Rockman [Fanart by Spicy]

Exhibit 2:
Obsessed Fangirl

Exhibit 3:
Resulting fanfic

Read and review, or the rabid fangirl may attack.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The sounds of the heart monitor were erratic and strained, as though its owner could not decide whether to breathe. His wife knelt by his side; his son's best friend solemn by the headboard. His son, looking grim, was plugged into a Net terminal beside the bed.

The boy held a PET in his hands, with a blank screen upon it. It was in standby mode--its Navi had left so suddenly that the programs hadn't even been closed. A status bar ran in the background of the screen, blue with white lines upon it.

Rockman had never seen the PET from this side out.

It was a curious invention, small and sleek. The PET itself was streamlined, silver, with a keypad and a handle to hold. The little terminal made clicking noises sometimes as programs ran, but there was no one inside to navigate them anymore.

Through the eyes of Hikari Netto, Rockman.EXE had seen more in one day than he had ever imagined he'd experience.

On the bed, their father lay in critical condition. Saito was almost overwhelmed by emotion--both his own, and the fear and pain of Netto pouring through the body they shared. Though Netto had brought them here, to this hospital and room after hours of agonizing wait, it was now Saito that stood by his father's bed, inspecting the PET he had once occupied.

"Netto..." Meiru spoke up from her position by the window.

Saito waited, turning his head to look at her.

"Netto...?" she repeated.

Saito frowned. "Netto-kun?"

The withdrawn twin answered both queries by closing his eyes and clenching his fist, a move that took Saito by surprise. Once Netto released control of their body Saito grimaced. "Eh...sorry, Meiru-chan, I don't think he feels like talking right now."

Meiru glanced at Hikari Haruka, kneeling at her husband's bedside, but it seemed as though she had missed the exchange. Netto and Meiru had told no one what happened to Rockman, not even Dekao, who had arrived at the Science Labs and accompanied them to the hospital earlier that day. Neither had they mentioned the attack on Netto, but Saito suspected that if it was connected to Dr. Hikari's shooting they would be hearing from the police soon enough.

"We should go back to my house awhile..." Meiru suggested slowly. "You can get something to eat, and I think you ought to rest too."

Netto, of course, didn't answer. After a long moment Saito finally said, "I think that would be a good idea. If Netto-kun doesn't object."

'Netto-kun' either didn't object or didn't care. Saito sighed and hooked the PET to his belt. "Okay, let's go. Shall we take Emdee?"

"Good idea, in case something else happens. Your father has a lot of important data in that PET, right?"

"All his research on me, for certain. I'd prefer to keep it with me." Saito took the other PET and added it to the bag Netto had left at the hospital during his stay. "We can go to the lab's computer later and have Emdee check out the files, since we don't know whether the criminals did anything to his"

Haruka did not respond; she was fast alseep, her head pillowed on Yuuichirou's arm. Saito smiled gently. "She needs her rest too. Netto certainly scared everyone this week, and now the shooting..."

"How are you doing?" Meiru asked, stepping around the bed. "This has been just as hard on you."

"Well, obviously I wasn't as close Netto-kun was. We spent a lot of time together when he programmed and tested me, of course...but...I never really knew him." Saito knelt beside Haruka and gathered her into his arms, moving her to the chair with ease. Meiru tucked a sheet around her.
The two teens left the hospital room and headed for the Metroline, back to Akihara. Saito chose to walk rather than rollerblade, although his sense of balance was just as good or better than Netto's.

"Ne...Rock..." Meiru said slowly as they boarded the train. "Without Hikari-san, how will you get back into your PET?"

Saito sighed again. "I don't know."

"Oh." The pink-haired girl fell silent. "...Sorry."

"It's okay, we'll be fine." Truthfully Saito couldn't say for sure how Netto felt about the matter. He trusted his partner implicitly; knew Netto would do anything for him...but this would be a strain. What if Hikari Yuuchirou died, and the twins were stuck together?


For his part, Netto was still silent. The brunette hadn't actually spoken a word since he'd seen his father in the hospital, and had been content to let Saito take over awhile. Saito was starting to wonder whether Netto wanted to deal with life at all today.

Must be a handy escape, even if it puts me in a bad position, he thought. I just wish he'd talk to me. It was so unlike Netto to withdraw like this, after all--even in the worst of times, Netto had always been a go-getter.

As though reading his mind, Meiru said, "It's odd, isn't it? Poor Netto...thinking he might lose both you and his father in the same week. This must be really hard on him, having just gotten you back."

"Yeah..." Saito replied slowly. "It seems like even I can't do anything for him, though."

"Rock..." Roll's voice from Meiru's side was muffled. Meiru handed Saito her PET.


"You can't give up, okay? We'll catch those World Three criminals--I'll delete their Navis myself for what they did to Meiru-chan. We'll find them, and I'm sure Hikari-sensei will be all right. Everybody can go back to normal."


Saito put his hand over the heart they shared.

How can anything ever be 'normal' again after this?

~to be continued...
Shi-chan: Hope you are all enjoying! :D
Seki: Thanks again to Lizeth and SpicyMarmalade for the gorgeous fanart! I really appreciate it!