Author: streetlights and music PM
AU. Their relationship remains undefined throughout the course of winter. Netto doesn't know what to call Enzan, and he most certainly never expected this to happen when he asked for them to start over. Enzan/Netto. Fragile Heart Rewrite.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Friendship - Lan Hikari & Eugene Chaud - Chapters: 8 - Words: 28,319 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 10 - Follows: 11 - Updated: 07-22-12 - Published: 05-26-12 - id: 8152640
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Word Count: 4264
Note: Chapter written from Netto's and Rockman's perspective.
It's not like Netto is insecure or anything.
He knows who he is, and who he isn't. He knows what he can do.
It's just… when you are too used to doing some of the things you do, it almost becomes a part of who you are.
(It comes to the point where if you stopped doing these things, it almost feels like you're not being yourself.)
So, no, Netto isn't insecure. He knows (through years of experience) that it's sometimes better to let things work themselves out. To not do anything drastic, and just be there. Sometimes, he needs to let people work things out on their own. He doesn't have to be a hero all the time. He knows this. It's just...
He's just not used to it, that's all.
"Rockman, am I a horrible friend?"
The question takes Rockman off guard when he hears it for the first time. "A horrible friend? Where'd you get that from?"
Netto shrugs and leans back in his swivel chair, absently spinning around. He puts his hands behind his head and looks up at the ceiling, lost in thought. Often times, Rockman would associate that look to whenever Netto is coming up with a better algorithm for whatever new program they are working on. But rarely does he ever do that when he's thinking about personal problems.
(Then again, it's not like Netto has a lot of personal problems to deal with in the first place, seeing as how he's so full of cheer all the time.)
"Yeah," Netto says. Aside from the beeping of the computers and the rolling of the chair, the rest of the office is completely silent. "It's been a week since Ijuuin-san died, and Enzan isn't getting any better."
"Well, he is family," Rockman says slowly, looking away. He stops filing the neglected piles of scrap code (Netto likes to keep the codes that don't work in case he draws inspiration from them and revises them) and gives a contemplative look. "I don't think you can get over the death of a family member in just one week. And I don't think you're a horrible friend. The only thing we can do for Enzan is be there for him."
"You're right, I guess." Netto stops spinning his chair and looks at Rockman with a serious look. It's not a rare look on Netto's face, but it's one that doesn't come out so often because he's always smiling and laughing and making the world just a little bit brighter. Rockman immediately notes how much Netto is affected by the situation. He's completely bothered by it, almost to the point where he looks guilty. It's subtle, but Rockman knows just what to look for whenever he's reading Netto.
"It's just… I don't want to be just there, you know?" Netto continues. "I feel kind of useless because I can't do anything other than be there."
"You're not useless, Netto-kun. If anything, he's dealing with this a lot better than most people, and he has you to thank for. At least he's not getting worse, right?"
Netto frowns and throws his hands up in the air. "I know. But I've never felt being not useless. We're always doing something for someone, like saving the world, or rescuing princesses, or fighting dark navis, or fixing some aquarium or oven or space station or whatever. It just doesn't feel right that I can't do anything more than just be there when I've done a lot more than that."
He groans, and looks at Rockman in the eyes. "I don't like feeling useless, Rockman. That's just not me."
"Well, not everything can be solved by doing something, Netto-kun. Sometimes, less is more. Don't worry about it. Enzan just needs time," Rockman says. He blinks when Netto doesn't react to his words. Netto keeps furrowing his eyebrows like he's still deep in thought, and it worries Rockman. He knows there's something Netto isn't saying. "There's something else, isn't there?"
"You think so?"
"Call it a brother's instinct."
Netto leans back again, and instead of spinning the chair, he sways it a little from right to left so that his PET is still in view. "He said something about going behind his dad's back. That his dad never really wanted us to be together, and he listened, but then we still got back together anyways even if there was a four-year gap. Okay, so he didn't really go into detail about it, but you get the point."
Netto takes the Frappuccino off the desk and takes a sip from the straw, just to have his hands and lips doing something, and finds himself disappointed that his drink is no longer as cold as it was before. "I don't think they even talked before Ijuuin-san died, and Enzan's probably blaming himself for his death. But you know... I was the one who wanted to be on speaking terms with Enzan again, so it's technically my fault that we're back together. Sort of. Enzan feels guilty for getting back together with me, and he thinks it's one of the reasons his dad died. But really, I'm the one who got us back together. So it's really my fault. I don't know, I think I'm not making sense anymore."
He gives a frustrated sigh and puts his Frappuccino back on the table. "On a different note, I just know Laika will be showing up soon. I don't know what to do when that happens."
Rockman nods. "I get it," he says in that understanding tone of his. It has always soothed away some of Netto's worries in the past, and he's glad that it still does. "But a relationship is two-way. Both parties must be consenting to the relationship in order for it to exist. Enzan was willing to go through with the relationship, so I don't think you should take all the blame."
Then as an afterthought, he adds, "With Laika though, there's probably nothing we can do about that. We'll deal. Somehow."
A different beeping sound emits from the computer and cuts the conversation short. Rockman automatically switches to the computer through the link that connects it to the PET, and addresses the error. Netto puts his hands on the table and pulls the swivel chair in closer to take a look.
"There's something wrong starting from line 756," Rockman says, pointing to the particular part of the code. "Seems like just syntax error though. You forgot a few semicolons, and these should be double equal signs in the conditional statements. Oh! There's something wrong in here too. You put in a bunch of undeclared variables, and you forgot to comment out these lines too."
Netto nods and begins typing on the keyboard again. "Right," he mumbles. He takes another sip of his Frappuccino.
Rockman worriedly looks up at his Operator. He knows Netto can be forgetful a lot of times, and he often messes up when he's coding. But he's never been this careless. His eyes are starting to show signs of dark circles and tight skin, obviously from the lack of sleep. He is more bothered about the subject than he looks.
Netto notices Rockman's worried look, and gives a grin. It's barely forced, but it's an effort. It's the smile that can fool almost anyone to think that he's okay. "You know, I don't think I'll ever survive in the lab without you Rockman."
Rockman returns the smile, but he's obviously not convinced. "You may be a brilliant computer scientist, but you're terrible at syntax."
"Hey! I've got to learn a bunch of programming languages because the whole world won't pick just one universal language," Netto sticks his tongue out cheekily. "It gets confusing, y'know? Especially when you have to work with a hell lot of different developers. I was never good at grammar anyway. One day, I'm gonna make some international programming language that everyone would have to follow."
"Well, at least you didn't procrastinate this time," Rockman says in between chuckles. He finds it odd that Netto isn't procrastinating, but he's not going to complain.
"Work is a welcome distraction. And besides, this project is tons better than the usual stuff they make me do," Netto says as he finishes up the code and compiles the program again. He pushes the swivel chair back a little and looks back at Rockman. He smiles again to appease the concerned look on his navi's face. "Hey, don't look at me like that."
Almost against his will (not really), Rockman goes into mother mode. "Promise me you'll go to bed early this time, Netto. I know you care about Enzan, but you need to look after yourself too. You look like hell."
At this, Netto laughs. It's more sincere and less forceful than his smile, almost as if he really is amused by what Rockman said. "Yes, mom. I'll try," he says. Then his expression becomes more serious. "But, what you said earlier. You really think I'm not really in a relationship with Enzan?"
"What?" Rockman shakes his head. "No! I mean the exact opposite. While I'm not exactly sure what the nature of your relationship is, it does exist. So you can't just say everything is your fault when Enzan jumped into the relationship too. Willingly, might I add." The look Netto gives him makes him pause to collect his thoughts. "I know it sounds bad because it seems like Enzan really does have something to blame himself for, but that's the way I see it. He was willing to be in a relationship with you, whether or not that was against his father's orders. So you can't just take all the blame. And on that note, what are you two anyway?"
Netto takes a long sip of his Frappuccino before answering. He shrugs eventually. "I don't know. Friends, I guess? I mean, we're not exactly rivals anymore. Although I do miss competing with him. And we're not… lovers. Not exactly. I mean, yeah, we kissed a few times. But I don't think they really mean anything 'cause we seem to be doing that out of habit than anything else. And we kinda stopped doing that since the time he told me his dad died. I don't know! We're just trying to start over, you know?"
He huffs and takes another long sip. Rockman chuckles. "Besides, is it really a relationship if both parties consent to it?" Netto asks. "I mean, hypothetically, we can both be in a relationship and not know it, right? For example, I can probably see us as lovers. But he probably only sees us as friends. Or whatever. Does that mean we're lovers, or friends? If, hypothetically, we see the relationship in different ways, then what are we then?"
There is a short pause in the conversation. Rockman shrugs, because he honestly doesn't know what to answer. He finally settles on saying, "I think these are the things worth talking to Meiru about," because the pink-haired woman will probably have more to say to this than he.
Netto nods wholeheartedly. "Agreed. Huh, come to think of it, I haven't seen her in a while. I kinda miss her, even though she was a bit annoying when we were kids." He laughs lightly, and Rockman joins in, chuckling.
"You were pretty sarcastic to her back then, too. Especially when she'd walk you to school," Rockman says in between chuckles. Another beeping sound emits from the compuer. Rockman takes a look. "I think the program's ready, Netto-kun. Do you want to test it out with the Mettaurs?"
Netto shakes his head. He puts his nearly empty Frappuccino cup down, stretches his arms, and pulls the swivel chair back closer to the table. "Nah, that'd be boring. I'm kinda itching for a little battle. Wanna go for it, Rockman? She's been waiting for a while to fight you, you know. I could start up a simulation for you guys."
"You mean, we're acting as viruses now?" Rockman gives him an incredulous look, but the smile slowly creeps into his face. The idea of testing out the new weapon himself doesn't sound so bad. "Well, it's been a while since we battled. Enzan's battle sparked something in you, huh?"
"Don't pretend like you didn't miss net battling either, Rockman." Netto gathers his chips and throws Rockman a grin. "C'mon. It'll be fun! She'll give it all she's got."
Rockman shakes his head in amusement. Well, if Netto wants to indulge a little fun… "I never said no, Netto-kun. Alright, let's do it."
His grin grows wider, and Rockman smiles at that. The more Netto lets go of his stress, the better.
Netto didn't really go to bed early like Rockman asked.
Netto doesn't tell Enzan this, but he's been having bouts of insomnia since Enzan broke down.
(Well, it wasn't technically a break down, according to Enzan. But that's beside the point.)
He isn't sure why he couldn't sleep. All he knows is that it's getting difficult for him.
Maybe it's the bed. The bed in Enzan's guest room is just not as cozy as Netto's bed back at home. Maybe it's the pillow too, or perhaps the entire environment in general. The suburb Enzan lives in is too quiet; he can hear so much white noise because of it.
He's been living in an unfamiliar place for almost week now, and he's still not used to it. It feels so strange, like he's being watched. And it's pretty hard to fall asleep when you think someone's staring at you from behind some bushes or other. Who knows when some mad stalker or burglar might come in.
Virus busting is one thing. Self defense is a whole 'nother piece of cake.
It's not like Netto can't hold out on his own. He knows he can; he's been fighting bad guys and escaping traps since he was a kid. Not to mention how his body got accustomed to fighting during his Crossfusion days. So, Netto isn't worried about some physical threat. He'll hold out. And even if he couldn't (he's been stuck in a science lab for the past three years or so, so his body conditioning should have worsened considerably), he's too stubborn to run away anyway.
He's not a fighter, but he's strong-willed enough to have the spirit of one.
He can face life-and-death missions, ragnaroks, and psycho navis with the affinity for darkness. He can face Forte with Rockman again if he has to. He can face heartbreak; he already has.
But if there's one thing he's afraid of right now, it's that he isn't doing a good job of being a friend to Enzan.
(And also, in the back of his mind, like a small inkling, is the slowly creeping dread of inevitably confronting Laika.)
Shuuseki Ijuuin narrows his eyes. "What?" he asks again, quietly staring down at the boy.
"I said I love him," Netto says with all seriousness, willing all his emotions to get through the older man.
Shuuseki scoffs. "Don't joke around, boy." He almost moves past Netto when the brown haired boy stretches his arms out to block his way.
"I'm not joking!" Netto exclaims, his voice cracking. He feels angry and desperate because he'll do just about anything to get this man's approval. Anything. "You're the one forbidding me to see him!"
Shuuseki frowns. "And I have every right to do so," he says. He gives Netto a tired look, almost as if he's exhausted with the conversation already. "You're young; you're too easily fooled by romantic feelings. Until you can prove to me that you understand what my son truly needs, I will not allow you to see him."
Netto could almost break down."Not even as friends?"
"Show me that you care about him enough to be his friend."
It's not like Netto doesn't have faith in Enzan.
He knows that the other man will come around. He always does.
He has always been a strong individual. Like his father. Netto secretly admires them both for that.
No, it is more like Netto is unsure if he's doing a good job of being there for Enzan. If he's being a good enough friend, a good enough supporter.
If he's worth enough that he would have gotten Shuuseki Ijuuin's approval.
"So, what do you think?" Netto asks Enzan. They are eating out in Moonshine again, because Moonshine café is slowly becoming their secret hiding place. It's a niche in the city that they want to call theirs. Netto personally wouldn't hold it up against Maha Ichiban, but it's a cozy place. It doesn't have a lot of people, and it's closer to the suburbs, which Enzan really likes.
Plus, their banana split is divine.
"It's good," Enzan says, with more surprise than Netto expected. From the way Enzan's eyes widen just a little bit, he could tell that even Enzan himself was surprised by how delicious the treat is. Enzan takes another spoonful of the dessert. "Really good."
"I told you," Netto says, his grin wide as ever. He takes another bite himself, relishing the sweetness of the chocolate syrup, the bananas, the toppings, and of course, the ice cream. Outside, the sun is beginning to set, setting off an orange tint in the sky.
Enzan smiles at Netto, and Netto doesn't notice until he's had five more bites of sweet goodness. He looks up at Enzan, and he's not really sure why the other man is smiling at him like that. He hasn't done anything to warrant a smile from him (except, perhaps, introducing a very delicious dessert no man will ever forget), and as far as he remembers, the last time Enzan smiled at him like was after he held him in the park during his breakdown (which, as Enzan stubbornly supplies, isn't technically a breakdown). It's not weird per se, but it's strange enough seeing as the man keeps on brooding over his father.
"What?" he asks, his mouth still full of bananas and ice cream. He narrows his eyes. Then, in a more skeptical tone, he says, "You're not gonna snark about my appetite, are you? Or how I'm finishing off more than my share? I can order more if you want."
Enzan shakes his head, his shoulders shaking from trying to supress a laugh. "No," he says. "It's just… you've been doing a lot for me lately. I appreciate that."
"Well, you've been down lately, and that's understandable." Netto takes a rather large spoonful of ice cream and promptly shoves it into Enzan's mouth, much to the other man's (chagrin) surprise. He earns himself a glare from Enzan, but it looks more cute than menacing with the spoon hanging from his mouth. Netto laughs. "And you haven't been eating this week. At all. Blues has been harping on me about it lately 'cause you don't like my cooking. So eat."
Netto can hear Rockman laughing from the PET. He can just imagine the smirk Blues is most likely wearing.
Enzan swallows the ice cream. He removes the spoon from his mouth and grabs a napkin from the table to wipe off the excess ice cream smudged around from Netto's spoon attack. "Well, can you blame me? You're really horrible at cooking," he says bluntly. He stops Netto's hand before the other could even attempt to launch another ice cream-filled spoon into his mouth.
"Says you," Netto says grumpily. He shrugs Enzan's hand away and takes another bite of ice cream in contempt. "At least you're not getting stuffed with Chinese take-outs all the time. God knows how much Blues has been ranting about it lately. Saying it's unhealthy and all that shit."
Enzan takes another bite himself, then points his spoon at Netto. "But you like Chinese take outs."
"But Blues doesn't. He says it's not good for you or something. And I can't argue with Blues when it comes to you. You know that."
Enzan laughs. "True, true. I'm sorry, but you're still #2 when Blues is in the picture."
The laughter erupting from the PETs makes Netto roll his eyes and cross his arms, saying "I know, I know," in mock-disappointment. He smiles just seconds later though, because he's so happy to see Enzan in a good mood. He really looks like he's doing better, like he's really dealing with his father's death somehow.
Which is a good thing because Netto's not really sure how to be there for Enzan. Him losing Rockman isn't the same as Enzan losing his father. Rockman is a friend and a brother, and Netto can alway finds a way to bring him back from whatever danger he is facing. If Blues is in trouble, Netto knows they can find a way to bring him back too.
But Shuuseki Ijuuin is different, simply because you can't bring the dead back to life. No matter how good of a net battler you are, or how brilliant of a computer scientist you may be… none of that matters when you're facing the dead.
Netto doesn't know what it feels like to lose someone he's not sure he has ever loved. He's been hated before, but they were always from enemies and evil mafia leaders and dark navis. He doesn't know what it feels like to be distant from a family member that's supposed to love you.
He doesn't know, and that's why all he can do is to give support and make Enzan smile from time to time. It's what he's good at.
Enzan sets his spoon down and takes a sip of his coffee. "I'm going back to work tomorrow," he says offhandedly.
Netto raises an eyebrow. "Already?" he asks. Well, that was sudden.
(Though, in hindsight, it was to be expected. Heaven knows Enzan is a certified workaholic.)
"I would have gone earlier this week if you hadn't put me on house arrest," Enzan says dryly. "My vice must be frantic with all the work I'm dumping into his office because of my absence. We're still in the middle of development. I've already missed some important meetings already. Plus, we're trying to seal a deal with Terra Industries."
"It's only been a little over a week. You can still take a longer leave if you want," Netto says. Of course, he's pretty sure it's the exact opposite of what Enzan wants to do right now. Maybe he should enlist Blues' help with this one. Enzan can be pretty stubborn too, after all. "They'll understand."
Enzan sighs. "That's not how the business world works, Netto. You can't stop while you're still at the top of your game. It's a cutthroat world. I can't sacrifice the company's future, and by extension, the future of my employees, for the sake of personal closure… or whatever it is I'm supposed to be dealing with."
He puts his finger on the rim of the cup and absently traces the edge. It's a mannerism of his that Netto always found hard to ignore. Netto's eyes immediately draws their attention to his hand as Enzan continues. "My father is no longer the president, so his death shouldn't affect the future of the company. My personal life should be separate from my career. It's what he always taught me. It's what he would have wanted me to do as well."
Netto snaps his eyes away and looks at Enzan. "You sure? I mean, you look like you're dealing better, sure. But then, I wouldn't know if that's because you really are dealing, or if you're avoiding it altogether." He bites his tongue before he could cheekily say or maybe you're dealing because you have an awesome lover-friend to cheer you up. Because that really doesn't seem like the smart thing to say to the person whose father was opposed to such a relationship.
"I'm fine," Enzan says. The fluctuation in his voice says otherwise.
Netto crosses his arms. "You haven't even planned the funeral yet."
Enzan shrugs, not bothering to reply. He looks down. His finger keeps tracing the rim of his cup, now empty of the caffeinated drink he's addicted with. Netto looks away. The action is too distracting.
Enzan keeps quiet, and Netto doesn't really know what to say next. Mostly because he knows that, whatever he says, Enzan will still ignore him and go to work. He's stubborn that way. Aside from forgetting to eat and sleep, Netto's sure Enzan can handle himself. He's looking more and more composed each day.
"Blues?" Netto asks. Blues looks away, and Netto can tell that asking Blues for help would probably yield him nothing.
"I understand your concern, Netto-sama," Blues says. "But Enzan-sama also has duties he must attend to. I would also prefer if he would take things easy for a while, but the company needs him right now."
"Can't the vice president handle them for a while?" Rockman asks. "I mean, it's technically his job to take over when Enzan couldn't."
Enzan raises an eyebrow. "I am perfectly capable of handling things." Netto opens his mouth to speak, but Enzan cuts him off. "IPC can't seal the deal without me, so my presence is mandatory. I have to go."
"Must be tough being the president," Netto mutters. He sighs in defeat. He can never win with Enzan when he's being stubborn. In that way, they're pretty much alike. "Fine. I don't necessarily like it, but it's not like I can change your mind anyway. You're always pushing yourself to your limits, you know that?"
"So do you," Enzan says. He smiles, and takes Netto's hand in his. It feels warm. "Thank you, Netto."
If they were ever lovers, it is at this point that they would have shared a quick, chaste kiss. Netto doesn't even know why he's expecting one (since they're not exactly lovers to begin with), and he can't help but feel a small sting of disappointment when neither of them does anything.
(He almost would have, but he stops himself just before he could lean forward.)
The hand he's holding is warm though, and for the moment, it will do.
That night, Netto receives a call.
It's from Laika.
A/N: I'm sure some of you think that nothing significant happens in this chapter. Oh but little do you know how important the little things are.
Anyway. Thanks for the comments and reviews, by the way.
I'll be honest. I don't know jack about what IPC does. All I know right now is that they make PETs in the anime, since Enzan seems to have a commercial about that (which was pretty lolworthy in my opinion). I don't remember that context in the games though (was it even mentioned?) since Enzan seems to be more involved with Net Security than the corporate world.
And while I'm being honest now, I will also admit that I don't know much about business or management or whatever. I'm more comfortable writing about Netto's work than Enzan's. So if you see any inconsistencies with how a real CEO would act, do tell me. I have absolutely no idea.
Don't worry EnzettoFangirl, we will see more people in the next chapter. There will suddenly be an influx of characters. I might mention Meiru and friends, or even Laika. And more angst will come, 'cause next chapter is Enzan's chapter of funeral-aversion and other... aversions. Heee.
On a random and unrelated note, this week I've learned that I'm too much of a perfectionist. Hm, I have to learn that I cannot please everyone. I think this comes across my writing sometimes. Maybe this is why I don't like writing chapter-ed stories. Huh. Learned something new.