Disclaimer: I do not own Megaman Legends, not that those who own it are doing anything productive with the rights...
Megaman Legends: Love Heist
Legends Arc Four: Wild Heart
[ Episode Twenty: Six Months II ]
"Isn't this just swell?" Tron Bonne, mechanical genius of the Bonne family felt a bout of pessimism coming on as she struck a lone pebble with the tip of her boot. The swift kick launched the small stone far off the edge of the cliff she had been standing on, traveling downward in a smooth arc until it was but a speck swallowed up by the large body of water that stretched far past what the eye could see. She turned on her heel after venting some of her frustration to look upon her crashed airship being tended to by her band of dutiful servbots, partly buried in the sand on the beach shore that her perch overlooked, and growled through her teeth.
"What did I do to deserve this?" In retrospect Tron found that she needn't dig deep into her memories to find more than her fair share of answers to that oft asked question, however, she wasn't one to sweat the little details. To always look to the past would blind her from reaping the opportunities of the future. Okay, maybe I'm not the right person to be asking that question, but how was crashing my precious airship rightly deserved? I mean, c'mon! It's not like I kidnapped Megaman! It was a mutual agreement that he join me!
The lovely pirate gathered both hands to her chest in tight fists with a rising growl from the back of her throat and cried out throwing both hands down at her sides, "How would she like it if I messed around with her stupid ship, huh?!" Her unanswered question was met with another question. The question was not directed at her, however; it was for Bon, actually. Not that it was the first (Or the last); these questions had been coming and going for a while now, down below her.
She carefully stepped down from the top of the overlooking cliff to get back on the beach where her two brothers were bickering over whether to blame Megaman for their misfortune or pass it off as an isolated attack by Roll Caskett to cause trouble for their sister. To any other person it would have appeared more as a one sided exchange since Teisel was doing most of the talking (coupled with wildly animated arm waves and hand gestures), with Bon doing the occasional gesture accompanied by a punctuated "Babuuu" that changed in tone and delivery based on what the toddler felt about what his older brother had to say, or rather it would have seemed one sided because the average person would not be capable of comprehending what Bon had to say on any sort of subject matter.
"How did she get onto the ship anyway?" Teisel wondered aloud just as Tron walked within earshot, shaking her head at her older brother's insistence of bouncing question after question off their baby brother. The imposing mechanical toddler had long ago stopped making an effort to humor his big brother with probable explanations for their misfortune and had opted for noncommittal responses to stall for time until their sister could put a stop to Teisel's paranoia.
"We should be worrying about other things right now, Teisel." Tron cut into their conversation, stopping between the two with her hands on her hips. She tossed her chin in the direction of their grounded airship to the background, with no sign of the situation improving despite the tireless efforts of her children. "Like how to get her back into the air, for one."
Teisel cocked his head to the side. Seeing the normally temperamental Tron take this all in so coolly was almost disconcerting in a way. "Wow, Tron!" The older pirate wanted to kick himself for allowing that exclamation to slip through as it wasn't his intention to make his shock obvious, but he continued anyway. "You're not as affected by this as I thought you'd be!"
Tron's eyes scrutinized him as she asked, "Whaddya mean, Teisel?" Would he have rather appreciated that she tear through the beach throwing fistfuls of sand in the air, howling at the sun like an uncultured dolt? Sure, it would make her feel a little better, but it wouldn't get them any closer to getting off the island.
Feeling the ground beneath him become surprisingly brittle under his younger sister's unsettling stare, Teisel spoke carefully. "I mean, Roll coming in to sabotage the ship after the blue boy left was awfully suspicious, wasn't it?"
"Megaman had no personal involvement with that." Again, Tron's response was awfully cool, though her eyes did narrow somewhat as she replied, "That guy...who knows how involved he was with any one of us..." Their talks together, the dinners they shared, his sit ins while she went about her business in her work garage; somehow they all felt so inconsequential now. It was like peering at a silhouette, backlit at the end of a dark tunnel, and realizing that it was nothing more than a trick of the light upon coming to the exit.
"Babuuu?" Bon felt a wall falling between them and Tron. Their sister was angry without a doubt, but he got the feeling that it had less to do with the current state of their airship and more to do with the blue one called Megaman...Trigger?
"It's nothing, Bon." Tron dismissed her baby brother's concern, waving him back with one hand before he could grip her shoulder with one of his enormous, mechanical hands. "Let's try to keep our attention on what really matters, huh? The ship isn't going to-"
"But Tron, we're really worried here." Teisel protested over her dismissive response, put off by their sister's odd aloofness. Tron's boy problems were a relatively new issue to deal with in Teisel's list of things to look out for as the oldest sibling (You know, seeing as how she didn't care a lick for the opposite sex until Megaman showed up) so he was still learning the cues to pick up on when she was in a particularly prickly mood regarding said issues. "Don't act like that and not expect us to be concerned about you!"
"I'm absolutely peachy, Teisel! Quit asking me about it!" The irritable young woman cried out, shaking both of her fists in the air with dramatic effect. The only reason Teisel immediately dropped the subject instead of persisting had much to do with the glaze over her eyes as she retorted, the telltale of unshed tears that would have been the signal for any other sensible man to relent. "I'm going to get inside and see if the Bruno set will help, okay?" Her voice slightly cracked.
"Yeah..." Teisel replied in a resigned voice, trying on his best smile in an effort to play along. "Alright, sis. Bon and I will head over to the nearest town to see if we can stock up on some of the important supplies."
Tron shot him a thumbs up as she walked off toward the crashed airship. "That's more like it guys." She stopped to look over her shoulder. "Oh, try to get something for lunch too, Teisel. It might take us a while to get off the ground again."
Need that much time alone, huh? Teisel grind the back of his heel into the ground just thinking of what she was going to do as soon as she was sure that they were far away and out of earshot, but he answered with a goofy grin that was practiced to perfection. "Yeah, we'll do that! I'll be sure to get you something extra special, so...it might take us a while to get back!" I reckon enough time for the redness in your eyes to go away.
"As long as you two get back before the moon is over our heads, that's fine." She told them, still facing the other way. "Try not to attract too much attention!"
"Yeah, yeah!" Teisel waved her off dismissively before heading off in the other direction with Bon, which made the whole thing a tad bit ironic when you pulled back a moment to consider that a giant, mechanized toddler wasn't exactly ideal accompaniment for one that wanted to remain inconspicuous, so that sort of thing would have been inevitable, but Teisel was the sort of man that stuffed his face full of pizza just after feeling a strange pinch in his chest that would have left most other people rethinking their dietary lifestyle.
Tron harbored no small hope of their departure from the island being a quiet affair, so perhaps it was curious to see how she hadn't objected to her older brother's idea of having Bon tag along in the procurement process, but then her head wasn't exactly in the right place right now. Instead of pouring all of her focus into devising a way to dig her airship out of the sand, which would have been most helpful, she was more preoccupied with the fact that Megaman was somehow, yet again, responsible for her wings getting clipped. Sure, he wasn't directly responsible for the current state of her precious airship, but the fact remained that she was suffering as a result of her admittedly illogical desire to be near him.
"And for what?" Tron asked bitterly, kicking at a half chipped shell that just happened to be jutting out of the ground in her walking path. The hermit crab cursed her existence from the depths of its immortal soul, clinging tightly to its home as it went soaring in a tight arc, and some of the less diligent servbots dropped what they were doing to follow the crustacean with their eyes as it bounced and tumbled through the sand.
"That person I brought onto the ship technically wasn't even Megaman, and even if I did somehow manage to restore his memories," She took that moment to roll her eyes at an unseen audience, "Who am I fooling? He was going to just pick up and return to that blonde and the old man anyway." The pirate brought her hands to the back of her head and raked her fingers through her hair in frustration. "UUURGH! I just hate it!"
One of the servbots stopped its activities when it noticed her coming past its group, scurrying over to her with a cry of, "Miss Tron, are you alright?!" Unknown to her, there were tears rolling down her cheek and her face was turning a furious shade of red that complimented the makeshift horns of her hairstyle perhaps a little too well.
"He's no good for the family–all he is is constant trouble, so why can't I just hate him?!" She threw her hands up with a cry. "Why can't I just get over his stupid face?" She stomped the ground, kicking up a dust cloud of sand. "That–that stupid smile of his or that look he gets on his stupid face whenever he sees someone in trouble! It just makes me so friggin angry!" The tears rolled down faster and her voice gradually began to crack. "I just want to punch him!" She swung at the air with all of her might, throwing herself off balance with her sloppy form. A few servbots flinched toward her with their stubby arms held out to catch her, thinking for sure that she would fall.
"Miss Tron!" A few of them cried out in distress, eyes closed tightly shut as a few of them tried to follow after her. Her long legs carried her across the beach far easily than their own ever could. "Please calm down!"
"Where is the justice, huh?!" Tron cried out skyward as if calling out to some higher power. "I've sacrificed just as much as she has to get him back! I've pooled in most of my savings," She whipped out one hand to the side, "All of my resources," She whipped out her out hand, "I stuck my neck out to get him back!" She slapped a hand around her neck and gripped it for emphasis. "And–and first he's in a friggin coma," Her words were almost incoherent now as her throat began to choke, "Then he wakes up and no one bothers to seek me out and tell me, so...so the first person he probably saw was her!" The thought of Roll meeting Megaman at his bedside without her was like a slap in the face. "Even as an amnesiac he feels so much closer to her then he'll ever be to me! So tell me, am I a fool for feeling this way about that damn idiot? Will I ever get the payoff I've worked so hard for?!"
The vast ocean swallowed Tron Bonne's sound plight, leaving the young woman to kneel there on the beach with only her children to comfort her, however, unknown to her, many miles across the ocean under the very same sun, Megaman Volnutt held her close in his thoughts while he struggled to combat his own insecurities about himself, and the fight wasn't getting any easier. Contrary to the best intentions of his friends and family, returning to Kattelox three days ago for a reunion didn't help lighten the impact of the disturbing revelations that were imparted to him that morning when he had awoken from his coma. Sitting through that recording of Trigger's exploits in his own body left Megaman with feelings of inadequacy, and more questions to clutter his already taxed mind.
Now he remained in the privacy of his room waiting for the next docking, out of sight and, he prayed, out of mind. (So far no one had come knocking on his door, Data included). He understood that Barrel and Roll were only concerned for him and that their reasons for approaching him time and time again to inquire about how he was coping with his return was due to that very concern, but after the fourth or fifth time of him going through the increasingly difficult task of thinking up a convincing response that would put their minds at ease so that they would leave him to his thoughts once more, it had begun to grate his nerves and all he really desired right now was time alone to come to his own conclusions. He passed the time in his bed with a pensive look in his green eyes, one hand tucked behind his brown mane of unruly hair while his other hand kept busy tossing and catching a tennis ball he bounced off the wall facing his bed.
"This is driving me nuts." Megaman shot the ball across the room into the wall, catching it with a practiced hand when it bounced back; he'd been at it for so long now that he just naturally caught the ball without the need for him to keep visual track of its course. "If I don't get back out on the field soon I'm going to get depressed. I just know it." He tossed the ball harder and it returned to him with just as much force, smacking into his palm with a loud impact. "Where are we heading anyway? It feels like we've been in the air for a while now."
As if summoned by the inquiry a knock came to his door not a moment later, stirring the young man out of his thoughts.
Megaman set the tennis ball on the bed beside him and propped himself up on his elbows to get a better look at the door. "Come in." He answered and the door promptly came ajar with Roll Caskett popping her head through the crack like a roused gopher, silent at first as she stared. The usually chipper engineer appeared slightly annoyed with him as she stepped into the room, but she tried her best to mask those feelings when she spoke to him.
"We're here, Megaman." She announced to him, the unmistakable edge of sarcasm present in her voice like the tangy taste of cranberries in a strong body of red wine. The girl rest a hand on her hip, her red cap tipping slightly with her posture like an empathic accessory. "We've been docked for a good twenty minutes, you know. Maybe if you'd spent the trip keeping me company in the pilot cabin you'd have known that much without the need for me to come here and fetch you myself." She did away with the subtlety that time.
It was slowly coming to the young hero's notice that Roll's character had become slightly more assertive over the time of his absence. She had become more vocal about her personal feelings as of late as opposed to her old way of keeping them hidden away in her diary pages, and the night before when he accidentally opened the bathroom door while she had been undressing for her shower she kicked the door closed faster than he could utter a word of apology. He blanched at the thought of how this shift may affect the expenses of her weapon crafting.
"Sorry, Roll." Megaman apologized to her, kicking his feet off to the side of his mattress to get into a sitting position. "I've been thinking so hard lately that time has just been passing me by." He managed a grin despite himself, running a hand to the back of his head to scratch at it with a chuckle. "I'll be growing white hairs by the end of the week at this rate!"
Roll sighed, dropping down on the bed to take a seat beside him. "No, I'm the one who should be sorry, Megaman." She reached up to remove her hat, resting it on her lap. "Maybe you would have been better off if I hadn't mentioned anything to you about Trigger."
He shook his head. "That isn't true. I'd rather hear the truth out of your mouth instead of having to go through the trouble of piecing things together myself. I'm not built for that." He heaved a sigh. "Besides...if you hadn't told me yourself, someone else was eventually going to break the news to me at some point." He thought back to Mayor Amelia's innocent little misstep back at Kattelox. Lord knows she meant well by it, but he wasn't as thrilled by the footage as she was when it was done playing. "It is on television, after all. There's really no way to escape it unless I hide myself from the rest of the world."
Roll snorted, pressing her knuckles together sheepishly. "And that would be pretty extreme, to say the least." The blonde girl couldn't shake off her grandfather's words to her about being too overprotective of her best friend. When Megaman put it that way, it stung more than she imagined it would. She felt like a fool for overreacting.
"Yeah..." Megaman nodded in reflection. "But to think that the truth has been living inside me all this time. When I started getting the hints that there was more to me than I realized, I never imagined that..."
Roll inclined her head toward him. "Imagined what?"
"That I was just a bystander in the end." He finished hesitantly. "I never expected to find out that I wasn't even Trigger to begin with, and what makes it worse is that I don't even understand what that implies. Like, what does that make me? A separate personality cast off from the original?"
"Are you afraid that you might disappear again?"
Megaman paused, swallowing. "It does cross my mind sometimes." He admitted. "Even worse when I think about how I wasn't even conscious when he took over. What guarantees that I'll be the person to wake up tomorrow?"
"Would it..." Roll hesitated to say further, her fingers digging into her hat like hooks. She kept on returning to these crossroads whenever she thought of how Trigger's death might have impacted Yuna; no, she would have had to been dense to think that Yuna wasn't hurting right now, even if the mother unit insisted that it wasn't the case. There was no questioning that Roll was overjoyed to have Megaman back, however, fully embracing that feeling of joy after realizing that Trigger was honestly never returning was...difficult. He wasn't an unpleasant fellow; quite the opposite actually, and the night she spent watching the stars with him atop of the Flutter was still so fresh in her mind that it almost felt to her as though she had lost someone she could have been genuine friends with.
Those feelings held her tongue. She wanted to ask Megaman if the fact that Trigger wasn't ever coming back to reclaim his body would set his mind at ease, but now it just felt cruel to even think about it, and really, she wasn't sure just what was going through her best friend's head right now. Megaman could have been feeling anything from relief at being back to, possibly, guilt at having taken away Trigger's second chance at living, and perhaps hearing that Trigger willingly sacrificed himself to hand over ownership of the body didn't make him feel better at all. Maybe it made him feel angry because he would never be able to repay that selfless kindness, or maybe there were much darker feelings brewing in the young man's heart. Roll didn't want to think on it any longer.
"Roll, you were saying?" Megaman nudged her arm with his elbow to snap her out of it. "You didn't finish."
Roll feigned forgetfulness, bringing a hand to the back of her head with a forced giggle. "You know, I completely forgot what I was about to say. Weird." She stood from the bed and took a few steps toward the door, stopping with her back to him when he asked her to wait.
The young man regarded her back with suspicion, not entirely convinced by her act to let it just slide by. "You sure? The way you were acting made it seem like you were about to say something important."
"We're docked in Yosyonke right now." Roll took a half turn to stare at him from her side. "Yuna brought my mother back to me when you three returned from the colony. She's been staying at the town hospital ever since."
That bit of information made him perk up. "That's right..." He came face to face with Yuna twice, but it was only just now that he realized she had been in possession of her own body when he did. That would obviously mean that Matilda's body was no longer under the mother unit's control; it would have also meant that Sera was walking around in her own body. That shadowy figure from his memory wasn't just a hallucination after all. "How is she?"
"You're going to be coming with me to visit her, so you'll find out soon." Roll told him with a small smile. This would technically be the second time that they visited her mother together, but this time would surely be more enjoyable for her now that it actually was her best friend coming with her. "She's an affectionate person so try not to get too worked up of she touches your face or anything. Also, try not to mention anything to her about how young she looks."
When the hospital personnel that were attending to her found out that Matilda was, indeed, Roll's mother and not an older sister, they made quite a buzz about it. The elder Caskett had become noticeably uncomfortable about the subject afterward whenever it got brought up by some of the more recently informed nurses.
Roll continued after receiving a nod from Megaman, "When Yuna accidentally took her body, her nano machines did something to affect her aging, which is kind of a relief because–"
"Waking up with an older body after being unconscious for sixteen straight years probably wouldn't have been easy for her to take." Megaman finished for her, getting a nod from his best friend. "Still, it must be weird for you." The first time Yuna made her appearance in Matilda's body even he found it hard to believe that the lovely blonde was Roll's long absent mother. Women would fight tooth and nail for the secrets to her youthfulness, though all jokes aside, it must have been a hard pill for her to swallow. Waking up after a long slumber to see that the adorable toddler you had been cradling in your arms the 'night before' was now a blossoming young woman had to be a real slap to the face.
"I won't pretend that its not. Getting my mom back wasn't something I ever imagined happening until just recently, and to get her back looking just as young as she did in my old photographs of her is really...surreal to be honest. Still, having her back isn't something I'm going to take for granted, and I want to make her as comfortable as I can while she takes the time to adjust to all of these changes."
"I get you." Megaman told her with a look of understanding. "Let's not waste any more time here then. I'm actually kind of excited to see what kind of person your mom is." He cracked an uncertain smile when he felt a twist in his stomach. "Maybe even a little nervous. My stomach is starting to feel weird just thinking about how I'm going to introduce myself to her. Heh, heh." He placed a hand on his stomach, gripping it gingerly.
Roll blinked. "Nervous? Why's that?"
Megaman seemed a bit put on the spot by her question, his body visibly tensing up as his eyes widened just slightly. After taking a moment to consider his response he just shrugged his shoulders. "I don't really know." He answered her honestly, looking a bit lost in his own reasoning. "...But she's your mom...so should I think of her in the same way, or would that come off as weird?"
That question brought a queer look to the blonde engineer's face once the unfortunate implications of positively confirming it became clear. It was the result of a cross between embarrassment at once again being pushed by him (albeit, unintentionally) to confront her own feelings for him, and hesitation at being unsure of how a straight answer would affect their relationship, but the young hero wasn't sure why she would feel hesitant to answer that question because his mindset was far from that sort of subject matter, as usual. In the end Roll could only respond with, "That's a really complex question..."
Megaman stepped off the Flutter in his iconic, blue digging armor instead of following his best friend's suggestion to walk the town in casual clothes and a heavy jacket for the cold weather that Yosyonke dealt with all year round. He hoped that doing so would place the subconscious thought in her mind to consider setting up another dig in the near future (Like tomorrow, maybe), but the young woman seemed to go out of her way to overlook his choice of attire during their walk to the hospital, neglecting to comment on his decision to do the opposite of what she had suggested and instead speaking to him at length of her ideas in regard to Matilda's future living arrangements. It might have just been his imagination; either way, it was discouraging.
"As much as I'd like to have mom stay on the Flutter with us, I think it would be better for her if she had her own place to live." The lovely engineer explained to him as they passed through the main entrance of the town, which drew no shortage of long held stares from fans of the blue hero that happened to spot the pair coming through. "It would be healthier for her to have more contact with other people, too. I don't want to suffocate her, or come off as needy, you know?"
"Give her more space, you mean." Megaman concurred. "I guess that sounds good, but where do you have in mind? Housing isn't cheap." He would know since he had a hell of a time raising funds to build and repair residential complexes on more than one occasion. Thinking back on it now, he must have brought a lot of grief to those reaverbots in the ruins of Kattelox to fix all of the damage he and Tron had dealt upon the island in their messy confrontations. The way he hunted down refractors, spare parts and scrap metal to accumulate such enviable wealth; it was as if a tireless demon had taken possession of him in those long days past. There were days when they fell on hard times that he wondered if he had it in him to go through all of that again.
Roll looked to him, looking partly ashamed of herself for even considering what she was about to suggest. "I kind of figured that we could ask Mayor Amelia to help us out with that. You know, maybe get mom a place on Kattelox for a decent price. I like the community, and the weather is nice." After suggesting it, her faith in her own plans appeared to damper a bit. Asking favors of others wasn't something she was entirely comfortable with, nor was it something she wanted to make a habit of doing. "Or do you figure that would be asking too much?"
"Are you kidding me?" Megaman told her with an assuring smile to lift her spirits. "I'm sure she'd be glad to help us out with something like that." Sensing the perfect opportunity to slip his own ulterior motives into suggestion undetected, the blue hero went on, "And if not, I'll work that much harder in future digs to make things easier financially." He could only employ subtlety for so long before his patience wore thin in the face of Roll's stoicism.
Roll frowned, not so easily swayed by his reply. "You're really eager to get back to work, huh?" She finally gave him a scrutinizing look over, making a conscious effort to wrinkle her nose and crinkle her eyes in distaste at every visible imperfection she spotted on the faded, blue coat of metal. Every facial expression she made was like a punctuated poke to his chest. "It's no wonder that you came off the Flutter in that."
"This?" Megaman was insulted that she would refer to his dependable digging armor in such a condemnable way. Sure, it was about time he got a replacement; constant maintenance could only take a coat of armor so far before it was completely worn to ruin, but he was quite attached to this particular coat. Unlike the one that that purple haired psycho had completely thrashed like a glorified trash can on his misguided exploration of the main gate, this one weathered an entire, ferocious encounter with a mother unit...in space (Neglecting to include the abuse it withstood in Trigger's possession). "I'll have you know that this armor is sturdier than most of the newer models they have on sale." He banged on the chest piece for emphasis, ignoring the little dent that was left behind. Irony had taken a liking to him as of late.
"Those newer models on the market don't have me holding it together." Roll retorted with a mocking quirk of her brow. "And that's getting harder to maintain every time you bring it back to me in a battered mess." Which had become an alarmingly frequent occurrence before he had embarked for Elysium with Yuna. That it survived the encounter on the space colony was miraculous, not that she was ungrateful for it.
"Not gonna deny that." Megaman admitted, folding his hands behind his head as he walked, letting out perhaps the first genuine laugh since he had returned. The familiar sound was nostalgic to Roll's ears, like listening to a song on the radio from simpler times. "This armor could be torn to pieces of scrap and I'd be able to replace it with time, but if you were to be taken away from me..." He trailed off, and the humor in his smile cracked momentarily like a flickering desert mirage. "Well, that would be the sort of injury that no coat of armor could save me from."
Owing to the unforeseen lapse in fluid control of the motor functions in her legs at hearing such disarming words, the front end of Roll's left boot snagged against a stubbornly rooted rock in the ground after taking a halfhearted step, almost depositing her flat on her face in the powdery white snow. Megaman caught her by the elbow before she completely lost her footing, and she thanked him for it, hiding her embarrassment with a slight turn of her head and a tip of her red cap.
"Geez, Megaman. Sometimes you get me when I least expect it." While they always did share a close bond, lines like the one he just dropped on her now weren't spoken out of habit, and speaking from past experiences together, Roll placed as much expectation in hearing him say things like that as she did in witnessing every coming solar eclipse, however, she understood that, emotionally, things were going to change from this point forward. This Megaman wasn't the same young man that stepped onto that shuttle for Elysium after all; he'd experienced something profound when he sacrificed himself to Sera on Elysium, and she doubted it would be easy for him to brush all of the information he was bombarded with by Yuna under the rug easily, if ever. It was going to have lasting effects on his character. Now, as for whether those effects would be for better or worse in the long run, Roll didn't think herself the best person to pass evaluation.
Matilda was already up and about in her room, near the window, when the pair arrived at the hospital, turning away from the view of the snow covered mountains to eye Megaman with mild interest when he walked through the door with her daughter, and the blue hero was ever so aware of the older Caskett's appraising eyes when they came upon him, feeling timid under her gaze. It was a strange hunch, he had to admit, but even though he had not yet received a word of greeting from the older woman, he could already tell that she was going to be tricky to deal with. There was an air of mischief exuding from her that made him feel the need to exercise caution with his tongue otherwise he feared she would toy with him like a feline batting around a helpless mouse. She gave off a distinctively different vibe from the handful of women he'd personally dealt with before, and her being older placed her even farther out of his range of familiarity.
Megaman spoke out before Roll could start the introductions between them, with an awkwardly blurted, "Hello!" At detecting the slight upturn in the left corner of Matilda's full lips, he wanted to kick himself for anxiously jumping at the opportunity to break the silence. The giggle that escaped from Roll's mouth was no companion in helping him recover from the embarrassment, however, with the older Caskett looking at him with such expectation he felt that it would have been cowardly of him to back down at that point. "I'm Megaman Volnutt." He continued with a little more dignity. "And, well..." Blood pressure rising, capillaries opening, leg muscles becoming wobbly. "Barrel took me in as a baby, and...um..."
"It's alright, Megaman." Roll told him with a pat on the arm to calm him down before his skin could take on a dramatically contrasting color to his blue armor. "I already explained everything about you to mom a while ago."
"Oh," The pent up steam he'd been holding in up to that point blew out of his ears, cooling him down to the advised body temperature. "You did? That's a load off." Although now he wondered why he was so nervous about divulging it in the first place. As far as first impressions he was doing a spectacular job of presenting himself to Roll's mother as a spineless neurotic. He felt the need to apologize for himself. "I'm sorry."
"Why?" Matilda finally spoke, her voice lacking the inner warmth he was accustomed to hearing out of her mouth without Yuna possessing her body. At the same time, despite possessing a somewhat husky quality, her voice didn't hold the same gravitas that Amelia enforced when she spoke hinting at how much younger the older Caskett was in contrast to the lovely mayor. Matilda was still physically and mentally in her mid-twenties whereas Amelia was approaching her mid-thirties with the life experiences to temper her strong mentality.
This is much weirder than I thought it'd be. Megaman tried his best not to let the mystification show on his face as his eyes wandered to Matilda's bizarrely youthful features. The term 'mother' would have been a far more believable fit for her had Roll not been the daughter at present, and letting that weigh his perceptions was doing wonderful things for his willing suspension of disbelief in this case. He snapped himself out of it, realizing that Matilda was patiently awaiting a response from him.
"I'm making this meeting awkward, aren't I?" The young man replied resignedly, gripping the back of his neck with a steady hand to calm his nerves. "I just don't know what to say, you know?"
"It's fine." Matilda approached him after she said that, stopping when they were eye to eye. For a tense few seconds she did nothing aside from stare into his trepid green orbs until finally she raised a hand to the side of his face and caressed it, stroking a thumb against his skin with the sort of touch that could only come from maternal instincts. Megaman suddenly felt like a little boy in her hands, feeling all of his troublesome thoughts melt away in her caress as though she were carrying them on her own shoulders in his stead.
"Wow..." The blue bomber felt his eyes stinging for some unexplainable reason. "That feels…different." He could feel himself smiling.
Matilda didn't smile back, instead removing her hand from his face to his disappointment and taking a step back to get a fuller view of his face. "You really aren't the same young man that I met the first time Roll brought you to me. He had a different look in his eyes when ours eyes met just like this, the sort that made me feel like an innocent child in comparison. It feels much different now; you still have your innocence intact, as you should, and I'm just a woman looking into the eyes of a boy." Then she smiled. "That's too bad. I really wanted to meet his eyes again." Her smile was a hint melancholic as she went on. "At the same time I suppose that I'm relieved that I missed that opportunity."
Megaman shook off his initial feelings at hearing her disappointment, asking, "Why's that?"
She giggled mysteriously, raising the hairs on the nape of his neck. "He had the kind of eyes that urged women to comfort him, you might say." Matilda brought a hand to the side of her face, blushing like a school girl and for a moment she really did look less like a woman and more like Roll's older sister. "It's a strangely giddy feeling. Hee, hee!"
"And moving on!" Roll hurried the conversation in another direction before Megaman to ask her mother to elaborate on that thread, as he appeared ever so ready to open his mouth and do so. Bless his innocent heart.
"Yes, yes. Now I'm making it awkward, aren't I?" The older Caskett laughed, crossing her arms beneath her chest once she settled down. "I'm honored to finally meet the actual you, Megaman. From all of the stories that I've heard from Roll and Barrel it really feels like I'm meeting a bonafide hero."
"Hero?" Megaman's shoulders hopped up at the title, his eyes becoming slightly wide before returning to their normal size. "I just happened to be at the wrong places at the right times." He denied any glory that she might shower him with. "I'm just looking out for the best interests of the family."
His response impressed Matilda. "Well, that just proves their stories true, doesn't it? Roll is very fortunate to have had you by her side all of her life. You've been more of a family to her than I've ever been."
"You had no control over that, mom!" Roll interjected quickly. "I don't think of you as anything less than my mother for it!" Her declaration drew a smile from her mother, however, not for the reasons she intended. It held a sad quality the contradicted its presence on her lovely lips.
"That's what I mean, Roll." Said the older woman with a chuckle. "You feel no resentment toward me because my absence has never been so painful that you could think of nothing else but of how I abandoned you. You've had Megaman and your grandfather to fill that gap in your heart, and they've done a commendable job." She turned her head to the side to wipe a tear from her right eye before it could come rolling down her cheek. "And I'm more grateful for that than I should ever think to be proud of. It just makes the fact that I chose the possibility of discovering the motherlode over the guarantee of raising my daughter that much easier for you to forgive me for, but...that's something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life." Once again she raised a hand to cup her own cheek, but this time it wasn't out of cheer. "And I don't even know how long that cliché line implies."
"Don't let that keep you from finding happiness."
"...What?" Matilda looked to the blue bomber when he uttered such a brave statement.
"It might be hypocritical of me to say something like that. After all, I'm still caught up in my own insecurities, but for the sake of your own future with Roll you shouldn't allow your guilt to keep you from seizing this opportunity to make up for lost time." He frowned, more for himself than for her. "She's still willing to accept you as her mother. There's nothing noble in depriving yourself of another chance."
For a time both Casketts could only manage to gape while they allowed his words to soak in. After what he had told her on their way to the hospital earlier Roll had assumed that her friend had exhausted his stash of surprises for the day, but here he was again leaving her too stunned to even comment on what had left his mouth. Matilda's surprise wasn't as arresting, however. The older blonde still had wit in her yet, recovering before her daughter could.
"I was partly wrong to call you a boy." Matilda said in apology of her earlier claim, taking a step toward him once more to examine the look in his eyes. "You may have more in common with that young man than I initially believed." Her hand found itself upon his cheek again, this time with newfound affection for him. "If it doesn't bother you I'd like to make a selfish request."
With no reason to deny her, Megaman replied, "No problem." His lack of hesitation left a dreadful feeling in the pit of Roll's stomach. The way he so willingly lent himself to others, it was as frightening as it was endearing, and she didn't doubt the inconveniences it would burden him with in the future as a result of his unflinching kindness.
"Wonderful!" Matilda removed her hand from his cheek to clasp it together with her other hand in a shameless display of delight toward his response. "Roll," She turned to regard her daughter. "Could you, maybe, leave the room for a little bit?"
Roll responded with a flat "What", looking between Megaman and Matilda in an attempt to figure out what she had missed. "Leave?" The younger woman quirked a brow, not sure how to take her sudden dismissal. "Erm, why?" Her eyes shifted between her best friend and her mother a second time.
"I want to talk with him privately. That's all." Matilda said simply. "So, if you could just go for a little bit..."
"You guys can't just discuss this in front of me?" Roll protested mildly. She didn't want to show her mother any disrespect, but she just wasn't comfortable with leaving them alone together; not for the reason you might assume, of course.
"No." Her mother answered patiently. "Go, please."
Roll's leg took a reluctant step from the spot she was rooted in, her personal feelings making it hard for her to give in to her mother's insistence. "But..."
"Roll." Matilda directed a stolid stare at the girl and the blonde engineer removed herself from the room, sparing a glance over her shoulder at Megaman before she disappeared around the corner of the doorway. Matilda shut the door after her daughter and turned to lean her back against it as if barring the way.
"Was that necessary?" asked Megaman. The hospital room felt much bigger now that his best friend had taken her leave.
"I just threw my daughter out of the room." Matilda replied, directing a look at him that made him feel silly for allowing the question to slip from his mouth. The lovely young woman approached the window and turned her back against it to face him, planting both hands on the window sill to lean back against it. "Like I said before, Roll has already spoken to me about you at great length, and that in itself is probably an understatement. She's told me about your adventures together in the past, all of the good times and the bad. Not that I'm complaining; hearing about your triumphs underground has been inspirational, but the girl was always so busy talking about your end that she never stopped to tell me more about herself."
Megaman crossed his arms. "I'd be happy to fill in the blanks for you."
"Good." The elder Caskett was pleased with his response. "You may not look it at a glance, but you can be perceptive." She moved away from the window and sat on the bed, patting the open spot beside her for him to take a seat. "I love my father, honestly I do, but listening to him go on and on during his visits wear me out. He starts at one end of the conversation and never finds his way back to the original topic. Trying to get him to slip me juicy information about her is like trying to interrogate a professional spy in his prime." She joked, smiling to Megaman once he dropped down beside her. "And really, I just get the feeling that Roll lets her guard down around you more than anyone else in the world."
"Think so?" The blue hero asked doubtfully. "I'm not so sure."
"Well, maybe you're not that perceptive."
To Be Continued
Chapter Twenty-One: The Rekindling
Legends Arc Four: Wild Heart