Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Certainly not Kingdom Hearts or Rockman.
Under Rock and Key
Wisps of darkness flew up all around him, hanging in the air for a few moments before disappearing. Sora turned around, his eyes darting this way and that, but no other Heartless attacked. He took a deep breath. Was it really over?
"Wow. You were right."
Sora glanced at the blue-clad boy next to him. Though Rockman seemed younger, he'd proven that he was just as capable a fighter as the Keyblade Master. That buster of his was deadly to Heartless and robots alike, and both were plentiful in this world.
"What do you mean?"
Rockman let his buster morph back into a hand. Sora still wondered how he did that, but hadn't ever asked. He'd come to accept that things just worked differently in other worlds. "What you said about Dr. Wily using the Heartless," the other boy said. "That Heartless. It wasn't just a Heartless. It was a robot, too, and definitely made by Dr. Wily. I recognized that design."
"That wasn't how I thought he'd used them. I thought he was just giving them orders." Sora mulled that over for a moment. "Huh. I guess that robot lost its heart."
That comment earned him a funny look. "What are you talking about, Sora? Robots don't have hearts."
"What?" Now Sora was the one who was confused. "But... but the Heartless have been chasing after you since before I even got here! You said you're a robot, right? And you sure don't act like you don't have a heart. If you don't have a heart, why would the Heartless even care?"
Rockman shrugged. "I dunno. But they were working for Wily and Wily's always wanted me dead. Maybe they were just doing the last thing he ordered before we captured him."
Sora opened his mouth to argue. Something about this didn't sit right. It didn't make sense.
But Rockman shook his head. "Come on. We can worry about that later. We need to find that keyhole so you can seal it before the Heartless destroy my world."
Reluctantly, Sora was forced to agree. Whatever mystery Rockman's heart, or lack thereof, held, it could wait until more pressing matters had been dealt with.
"You're right. Let's go find Donald and Goofy."
Several days later, Sora threw himself down on an empty bench. "Argh! This is so frustrating! We've never had this much trouble finding a keyhole!"
After finding a comfortable spot on the ground, Goofy scratched the back of his head. If he was at all discouraged by their lack of success, he didn't show it. Puzzled, maybe, but always optimistic. "Gawrsh, Sora. It is an awfully big world."
"Goofy's right," Donald grumbled. Their fine feathered friend certainly had no qualms about voicing his irritation. Frequently, loudly, and usually in Sora's direction. "There's still lots of places to look."
Sora scowled at the both of them. "I know that. But usually, once we beat the biggest Heartless, the keyhole's right there."
"That's because the Heartless are after the keyhole, too," Donald said.
"And if they don't find it first," Goofy chipped in, "they just follow us until we do."
"So maybe we just beat them before either of us found it." Sora sighed. He knew it was a possibility, but it still didn't feel right. There was something they were missing. But what could it be?
Robots don't have hearts.
For what seemed like the hundredth time since Rockman had told him that, the thought echoed in his mind. That was another thing that was frustrating him. How could someone who felt so alive be nothing more than a machine? Maybe all the other robots in this world didn't have hearts, but Rockman... Sora was certain that Rockman was different.
If he did have a heart, though, that begged another question.
How? How did machines become living beings? How did this one get a heart?
"You guys keep looking. I'm going to go talk to Dr. Light." The words were out of his mouth before he realized he'd said them, but when he thought about it, the idea felt right. Dr. Light might be able to help them.
And he also might be able to answer some questions.
Dr. Light shook his head. "I've taken readings of the energy that your Keyblade emits, Sora, but so far I haven't been able to find anything even remotely similar to it."
"What about opposite?" They all looked at the little blue robot. Rockman tilted his head. "It makes sense, doesn't it? Locks and keys. The lock has to match the key opposite for the key to work."
"Hmm." A thoughtful look crossed Dr. Light's face. "You may be right. Good thinking, Rock."
Rockman grinned, but it wasn't, as Sora thought, in response to the praise. His eyes glinted with laughter. "I may be right? I thought you were always right."
Dr. Light chuckled as though Rockman had told a joke. "You know what I mean."
Sora just looked confused. "Did I miss something?"
Robot and creator shared a look, both obviously still amused, before Rockman volunteered an explanation. "It's a pun," he said. "There's two languages in this world, and one of them has a hard time pronouncing 'l's. It usually uses an 'r' instead."
"Thus, Dr. Light becomes Dr. Right, which opens up all sorts of verbal opportunities." The bearded scientist smiled fondly and patted his creation on the head. "Of course, Rock never thinks to reverse the process on his own name."
"That's because puns on my name aren't nearly so fun."
Dr. Light snorted. "You just enjoy teasing an old man."
Rockman grinned broadly. "Maaybe."
"Lockman." They both turned to look at him. Sora felt like he'd been knocked out of breath. "That would make you Lockman."
"Yeah..." Rockman trailed off, puzzled by the look on Sora's face. "What about it?"
Sora didn't answer. Suddenly, it all made sense. The missing keyhole, the Heartless, the mystery of Rockman's heart - it was all right there.
Almost unbidden, the Keyblade appeared in his hand. "I've figured it out," he said. "I know where the keyhole is."
Rockman brightened at this announcement. "Really? Where is it? Is it- Whoa, hey! Watch where you're pointing that thing!" Wide eyed and startled, the blue bomber jerked away from Sora's Keyblade, which was suddenly leveled at his chest.
But Sora didn't lower his weapon. "You're the Lock," he said, sounding stunned. "The keyhole... It's in you. That's why the Heartless were after you. That's why we couldn't find it. You kept moving."
Rockman eyed the Keyblade warily, then gingerly pushed the thing aside. Sora made no move to resist him. "Is that even possible? I mean, I may not have a heart, but I'm still a person. You kind of gave me the impression that a keyhole had to be in a place."
"It usually is." Sora rubbed his chin, a look of thought on his face. "But actually, now that I think about it, there was one world where the keyhole was inside a talking doorknob. I'm pretty sure it didn't have a heart, but it definitely had a personality. If he could have a keyhole inside him, I think you can, too."
"If the keyhole is inside Rockman, what will happen to him if you seal it?" Dr. Light asked.
Sora hesitated. "I'm not sure. I mean, the doorknob was all right. He just yawned and went to sleep. But..."
"But this is a different world, and I'm not a doorknob," Rockman said wryly. He frowned as he thought the situation over. "Is there any way you can be sure that it's me?"
"I already am." With his free hand, Sora touched the left side of his chest. "Ever since I realized it was you, I've had this feeling in my heart. It's the feeling of a keyhole that's near. And the Keyblade- I wasn't controlling it when I pointed it at you. That was all its doing."
"Oh." Rockman bit his lip, and even knowing what he knew now, it was difficult for Sora to believe that this boy didn't have a heart. And yet, in a way, he did.
He had the world's heart.
It really does make sense.
Rockman looked up and met Sora's eyes. The doubt and indecision that had been on his face was gone now, replaced with something more solemn and determined. "Even if it's me," he said softly. "Even if sealing the keyhole kills me, it doesn't change anything." When Dr. Light opened his mouth, he shook his head, forestalling any protest. "Wily's not a problem anymore, but the Heartless are. They've got to be stopped."
A look of pain swept across the scientist's face, but he nodded. Taking a step forward, he rested a hand lightly on his creation's shoulder. "I understand." Something passed between the two of them then, something that couldn't be defined by words, but just watching it made Sora's heart ache.
Then it was over, and Rockman offered his creator a grin. "If something happens to me, I'm donating my body to science!"
The absurdity of this statement succeeded in breaking the tension, and all three laughed. After the laughter died down, Dr. Light removed his hand from Rockman's shoulder and stepped back. Rockman lifted his chin.
If it wasn't for the feeling that this was the right thing to do, Sora would have hesitated then. He liked the little robot and he didn't know what this would do to him. But the keyhole had to be sealed. Please, he thought as he lifted the Keyblade again. Let this all work out.
Whether or not anyone heard his plea, the Keyblade began to glow as energy gathered at its tip. Slowly but surely, an outline of a keyhole formed on Rockman's chest, glittering in response to the Keyblade's energy. With a sense of wonder in his wide eyes, the robot touched the place where his heart would be.
Light lanced out from the keyblade, striking the keyhole directly in its center. Something whispered in Sora's ear, a thought that didn't belong to him.
Maybe robots can have hearts.
Rockman looked at his creator and smiled. His lips moved.
I love you... Papa.
Then the light faded, the keyhole disappeared, and Rockman fell forward like a puppet without strings.
"It isn't as bad as it seems."
Sora looked up from where he'd been studying Rockman's body. Even after several hours, his heart still felt like it was stuck in his throat. "What do you mean?"
Dr. Light gave him a wan smile as he set a steaming mug of tea on his work table. "Robots aren't like humans. It's a lot more difficult for them to die."
"But the keyhole-"
"Merely allowed Rockman to grow beyond the restrictions of his programming. Without the keyhole, his body and his systems have shut down, unable to support his personality matrix, but that doesn't mean that he's not still there. He's merely... dormant, for lack of a better word."
Relief washed over Sora. Relief and hope. "So, you can fix him?"
Dr. Light pursed his lips. "I believe I can. I've been developing technology for the past several years to mimic what Rockman became, a robot that can think and feel and make its own decisions."
"In other words," Sora murmured, "a robot with a heart."
"Yes." And yet, Dr. Light still looked worried. "The catch is that it will be a very long time before Rockman wakes up, and I'm not entirely sure that his memories will be intact. I'll do my best, but..." He passed a hand across his face, rubbing away some of the fatigue. "I've never tried to transfer such a complex personality matrix before."
"You can do it," the Keyblade Master said confidently. "I know you can." The same way he knew where a keyhole was, the same way he knew that Rockman had a heart, he knew that he would see Rockman again. His heart twinged at the thought that the robot might not remember him, but... Sora shook his head. He had to think positively. "When he wakes up, if he doesn't remember anything, we'll just have to make new memories!"
Little as the encouragement was, the optimism was enough to make Dr. Light smile faintly. "Well, then. I suppose I ought to get to work."
Sora nodded. "And I better go find Donald and Goofy." He would have liked to stick around until Rockman woke up again, but there was still so much he had to do and Dr. Light had already said it would take a long time. He'd have to come back later.
The scientist took a sip of his tea, his eyes drifting to the robot on the table. Sora waited, sensing that there was more coming. After a few moments, his patience was rewarded.
"He'll look different, you know," Dr. Light mused. "A few years older. He should have a body that matches the growth of his soul. And I think a name change is in order, too. Solid and dependable, but with limitless potential..." His expression softened as he gently touched his creation's head.
"I think I'll call him Rockman X."
Sora considered that for a moment, then grinned at the old man. "I like that. I'll make sure I remember next time I see him." Straightening up, he gave a brief wave. "Well, see you later!" He waited just long enough for Dr. Light to return the goodbye, then headed for the door. It was time to go find his friends.
But someday, he'd be back. It's a promise. He touched his heart, remembering the feeling he'd felt when, just for that one moment, he and Rockman had been connected. He'd never forget that feeling, no matter how long he lived. After this is all over, I'll come back. We'll meet again... Rockman X.