Rockman.EXE is not mine. Don't sue.
Us After This
Author's Note: Whee, somehow got out this chapter quicker than the last. Incidentally I should be doing schoolwork, but that can wait till tomorrow, and the editing on EXE 27 doesn't have to be done for another couple of hours yet. Enjoy kudasai!
Time passed quickly over the next few days for the Akihara Net battlers and their families--a week of searching and uncertainties. Life had become a parody of normality for most; and those that remained became distant, not knowing what to say.
Hikari Yuuichirou's condition had moved from critical to stable, the coma in which he slept a morbid parody of the one his son had suffered through just days before. Haruka was by his side constantly, speaking to him in a quiet voice, laughing weakly at her own jokes. She often spent the night at his bedside, holding his hand in her sleep.
The remaining two family members were being faced with a position they never had before. Saito was in a constant state of feigning normalcy; while Netto had not spoken in days. Worried for Netto, Meiru and Saito had kept the predicament a secret from both family and friends.
"Netto, you're going to have to go back to school."
"What?" Saito looked up from his PET, where Emdee was currently putting together information he had gathered on the remaining WWW faction. "I didn't hear you come in, Mama."
Hikari Haruka looked tired and worn, her eyes heavy-lidded from lack of sleep. "I'm not going to sleep at the hospital anymore. You and I have to start living normal lives again, no matter what happens."
"You want me... to go back to school?" The thought unnerved Saito. It was fine to pretend to be Netto here, in front of Mama and Dekao and Yaito, but in front of Mariko-sensei and his classmates was too much. Saito knew how much his speech habits differed from his twin, and a thousand other details that had arisen over the years. He knew perfectly well how to be Hikari Netto, but it wasn't necessarily a role he wanted to play for the rest of his life.
You could, if Papa dies, he thought inwardly.
He had been forced to tell his mother about the attack on Meiru, which had gotten both of them off school for the rest of the week while the crime was investigated. However, the police hadn't reported anything new, and the man who shot Hikari Yuuichirou still hadn't been caught. There was only so much Roll and Emdee could do if the Net Police wasn't even on the lookout for the criminals' Navis.
"It's what's best. I don't want you to fall too far behind." Haruka looked as though she expected an argument (which was, Saito reflected, what Netto most likely would have given her). He wondered if Netto could be convinced to come out of his shell enough to go to school.
"All right, I understand," he said simply. She had been through more than enough already. "I'll go."
Haruka looked relieved and thanked her son, closing the bedroom door as she left. Saito put down the PET and sighed. "Netto-kun...?"
Netto, of course, didn't answer, the same way he hadn't answered in the past four days. "I can't keep doing this. I can't live your life forever. Why won't you talk to me?"
The computer hummed softly; Haruka sang to herself in the kitchen. Saito whispered, "Netto-kun, I miss you."
After a long moment, Saito forced back the feelings of loneliness that had flooded him and turned to Netto's PC, deciding to page Roll using an instant messenger system.
Roll linked to Netto's PC almost immediately, her green eyes blinking at him from inside the screen. "Rock! I haven't seen you at all today. How are you?"
"I'm fine, Roll-chan," Saito said with a smile. "And you?"
"I'm great," she said happily. "Gutsman and I found a possible link to Server and Snides' Navis in Den Area 3. We're going to check it out tomorrow."
"You and Gutsman?" Saito hesitated, but shook the twinge of jealousy away. "I wish I could be in there helping you guys."
"It's OK, you and Meiru-chan are doing great! Um...how's Netto?"
"Still not talking to anybody."
"Sorry..." she apologized. "This must be really hard for you."
"Don't worry, we'll fix everything. Meiru-chan told me Hikari-san is doing a lot better, and we're closer to catching those loyalists now!"
"I have a lot of patience," Saito smiled. "But this is tough on me too. So many people have been hurt... because of us. We did what we thought was right, you know? And now I've lost my program, and Netto's depressed, and I'm in this unfamiliar body pretending to be someone I'm not..."
"...I miss you," he said finally, letting his fingertips softly brush the screen.
Roll clasped her hands together and smiled sadly. "I miss you too."
Saito longed to tell her just how difficult this was for him, but finding the words was twice as difficult knowing Netto was watching. It wasn't the same anyway, the boy she spoke to could be Hikari Netto or Hikari Saito, but it was no longer Rockman.EXE. Not with this face; this voice. Saito wondered what Roll thought about when she looked at him like that. Did she wonder if it really was the same Navi she'd known, under the chocolate-brown eyes?
He forced a smile and focused on her once again. "I should get to bed now. Can you tell Meiru that I'll be going to school tomorrow? I was hoping she'd come too."
"Okay." Roll looked a bit disappointed--because the earlier conversation had ended so abruptly?--and stepped back. "Then, good night!"
"Good night, Roll-chan."
She waved and linked out, and Saito slowly closed the program. The chat with Roll had only served to depress him more, when he was trying so hard to keep Netto afloat.
He lay down on the bed, focusing on the ceiling. "You know, Netto-kun, you're not the only one who has it hard lately... You could at least talk to me. Have you considered the fact that I miss Roll and Gutsman and Glyde? The only one I have left now is you."
The computer hummed softly on the desk.
"...If you disappear, what am I going to do?"
Shi-chan: My apologies to people who were enjoying the angst; I started listening to Brand New Way partway through the fic and my mood kinda reversed...
Seki: She does things like that from time to time. ^^;;
Shi-chan: Oh, look who finally shows up. AFTER the chapter is done.
Seki: Ya gotta think for yourself sometimes, Netto-kun.
Shi-chan: Don't you patronize me, you lazy muse!
Seki: Aren't you used to it now? :P *runs*
Shi-chan: Omae o korosu!
Making a quick note; Roll does call him 'Rock' in the Japanese version, and I'm trying my hardest to follow the continuity here. :)
January 4/03 - And I went back and fixed it in the other chapters too :P