Title: System Conflict.
Beta: lethe_loyd on LJ. Thanks a lot!! :D
Fandom: Rockman EXE (MMBN/MMNTW).
Genre: Humour. Romance. The usual mix of fluff and angst. :]
Word Count: 3770.
Characters: Rock, Blues, Netto.
Disclaimer: Rockman, its characters, places and themes belong to Capcom, Shogakukan, Keiji Inafune, ShoPro, TV Tokio, etc.. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: "You know how sometimes, two software inside a PC inexplicably get into conflict, and cause the system to crash? I… I think that's what happening to Blues and me."
* * * * *
The first time it happened, it had been nothing more than a weight in his chest.
They'd just successfully completed a mission – a daily round which had ended up in a seriously challenging bout of virus-busting. Rockman had been checking his internal files for damage, when Blues had brushed past him with an amused smirk, saying something or another about enjoying a good workout every now and then.
Immediately, something inside Rockman had gone 'twunk', as though a huge weight had been dropped inside his main processor and set a vibration inside him, like the ripples of a lake in which you've thrown a stone.
He'd quickly scanned his systems again; when he found them clear, he signed the whole thing off as a misreading.
Until it happened again.
Another mission, another crazed virus trying to get him, pinning him to the floor with claws as long as Rockman was tall, its swollen tongue dripping with poisoned drool as black as pitch. Rockman had struggled and shrieked – no shame in that – but the creature would not budge. Rockman had stiffened, feeling the cold, wet touch of fangs against his neck, and then Blues had burst from the shadows, his sword aglow, and neatly cut the virus in two like one would rip a paper figure.
Kneeling amidst the luminous shower of pixel, Blues had reached out and carefully touched Rockman's throat with his thumb and forefinger. As soon as they came into contact, the part of Rockman that had gone 'twunk' the previous time did so again, sinking lower into what felt like a warm, sticky liquid like honey or syrup. As he began to talk, he realized he was choking on the words.
Later, he could find no trace of anything funny in his daily log, as though it had all been a delusion of his stricken mind.
But it happened again, and it got worse.
When Blues helped him up after their sparring match two days later, the weight inside Rockman's chest grew into a sort of gaping hole, which seemed to suck him in from the inside out. His brain functions slowed, he felt feverish, and odd connections flared into life everywhere along his body, exploding like fireworks in his brain.
By the end of the month, being near Blues caused all kind of misreading to go off inside Rockman's core – two months, and his speech was impaired, his breathing became laboured, his internal temperature rose exponentially, his logical functions stuttered out like dying candles, his strength left him, to the point that if he was standing, his knees would buckle and he'd drop down like a stone, especially if Blues touched him, or got close enough for Rockman to feel him breathing.
There was only one logical explanation to this, and when Rockman decided to confess his plight to his Net-Op, he was so ashamed he was struggling not to cry.
"…you're allergic to Blues?" Netto repeated, thinking he might have misheard his Navi the first time around.
Rockman nodded his head meekly, then rubbed his face in an effort to keep the tears at bay.
"I'm sorry, Netto-kun." I ruined everything…
"You know how sometimes, two software inside a PC inexplicably get into conflict, and cause the system to crash?" he waited for Netto to nod. "I… I think that's what happening to Blues and me. We're growing… incompatible."
And it was awful, because they were the best Net-Navi team ever, and their joined efforts had saved countless lives, countless of times, and now — now, it would all end. There'd be no team any more, no 'us' to speak about, but only Blues and Rockman on their own, and they'd never be able to fight together, or just be together in the same room; suddenly their comradeship had shattered beyond repair, the legend of their strength would soon be nothing but a memory, and the whole of the Net would be in danger, programs and Navis and humans alike, because of something as stupid as an allergy.
Rockman didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but the urge to bawl overpowered the madcap laughter 10 to 1, and he bit his bottom lip to restrain himself.
"I'm sorry," he said again, and thought: It's over.
Obviously, Netto couldn't sit down and watch idly as the world came crashing onto himself and his Navi. Regardless of their rivalry, Netto knew that the two of them belonged onto the battlefield beside Enzan and Blues; the four of them were the ultimate, perfect team standing guard to the Cyberworld. Till the end and beyond! that's how it was and would always be for them. He'd be damned if he let something as petty as an allergy ruin what they had.
And so, Operation 'Let's Beat The Silly Allergy' began.
But hours turned into days, turned into weeks, turned into months, and Rockman's ailment only got worse, courtesy of Netto's odd tactics.
Phase 1 had been reasonable enough: Netto had run all kinds of tune-up and registry-cleaning utilities he knew, and installed the most up-to-date anti-spywares and firewalls, hoping to strengthen the foundations on which Rockman's program run – his PET. The effort resulted in both Net-Op and Navi losing many a night of sleep, either surfing the Net for the latest programs, or installing and running them for hours on end.
Phase 2 was a bit more bizarre, but still fairly sensible: meditation. Exercises to strengthen Rockman's soul, and steel his resolve. But poor Rockman was so tired after weeks of losing sleep during Phase 1, that he either fell asleep and dreamed instead than meditating, or ended up thinking so hard about Blues during these sessions, that he'd get into a crisis all of his own, shivering and finding it hard to breathe.
Phase 3: Navi customization. Which was, usually, the answer to each and any problem Rockman might experience while surfing the Net. Unfortunately, try as he might, Netto couldn't find an antihistaminic program no matter where he looked, so he was forced to skip this phase altogether.
Phase 4: the stroke of genius. Netto had heard, from the nurse at his school, of something called "allergy desensitization". It was a treatment in which the patient is vaccinated with progressively larger doses of the element they are sensitive to. Netto figured: if it worked for humans, why not for Navis?
And so it was that Rockman started to take larger doses of Blues at regular intervals. It meant nothing more than this: Rockman would stalk Blues, and touch him whenever he could get away with it without being caught.
For a solid month – I promise – whenever Blues wandered into Net City, he'd feel a tug on his hair. Twirling around he'd catch a glimpse of Rockman peeking, red-cheeked and short of breath, from behind a far, far wall, all the way across the street, fidgeting like a naughty child who'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
But you don't tug - repeatedly at that - on Blues's hair without facing the consequences. It's, like, an unwritten law of the Universe that Blues's hair is Holy and Untouchable (with capital H and U).
Consequences came in the form of an ambush, one winter day when Netto was holed home due to the flu, and snow had piled high on the streets outside, turning the city into an ice sculpture of itself.
Sneezing, Netto dragged himself out of his bed long enough to reach his PC and dropped onto the chair, cocooned under a thick wool quilt. He plugged Rockman into the system, wanting to send him out on the Net to get his daily dose of "vaccine". Rockman was hesitant, worried about leaving Netto alone and with no source of entertainment while sick. Netto waved off his concern, sneezed (again) and jacked Rockman into his PC. It's not like something bad would happen, right? Right?
Blues – or, the "vaccine" as he was referred as above – was waiting for them inside Netto's PC. Arms crossed imperiously across his chest, visor glinting, he cut quite the amazing (but scary as hell) figure, standing motionless in the dim digital light.
Rockman swallowed hard, feeling the usual hitch build up inside him; his skin crawled with chills, then prickled with needles of fire. Netto gaped helplessly from one to the other and back, trying to remember when he'd given Enzan the access code to his home page, and failing to fish up that particular memory from his brain.
Blues narrowed his eyes (allergy or not, they were so attuned Rockman could feel the glare even as the visor masked it) and lowered his chin.
"Any particular reason why you've taken to bugging me every single day of your life, lately?"
Rockman swallowed, thinking his tongue might have swelled, or his throat constricted, or both, and took an hesitant step back. What little was visible of Blues's face tightened, but he made no move to follow.
"I… I can explain," Rockman stuttered, once he'd reached safe-breathing distance.
Blues didn't sound mad, but he didn't sound all that pleased either. All in all, his voice was as dry and rough as sandpaper.
Rockman fidgeted for a moment or two, trying to think up something convincing, but lying was never his strong point. He began to talk several times ("You see… it happened… it's funny really… in fact… one day, I… uh… nice weather today, mh?"), his stuttering convoyed by small, jerky hand gestures, until he realized that Blues had somehow walked up to him without him noticing.
He let out a shrill, scared squeak – he and Netto both – and jumped away, feeling his face go from his usual pink-white to beetroot red. His lungs refused to do their work and, oh Lord, it was getting worse. Now that he was face to face with Blues after so many weeks, it felt like there were bugs crawling inside his stomach! Rockman fidgeted about, willing the damn bees or butterflies or whatever they were away from inside his midsection, and fought vainly for breath.
"Don't… don't come any closer," he said, eyes swimming with shame. "Please."
Blues's demeanour softened immediately, going from menacing to concerned in the blink of an eye. He retreated carefully, watching with growing confusion as Rockman's unease diminished with every backward step he took.
There followed a moment of silence; then, when Rockman had regained his breath, Blues inquired after his condition. Rockman put up a brave façade… but Netto crumbled under the joined effort of fever and tension, and wailed out the whole story, from A to Z.
"Blues, we're sorry, don't be mad at us, but it was the only way to cure Rock's allergy!"
"…tugging on my hair?"
"Touching you!" Netto explained, in a tone of voice that implied it was the most reasonable thing in the world.
Blues glanced at Rockman, who shifted his gaze down and away, then shook his head.
"I'm not quite following you. What allergy?"
"Rock was experiencing all kinds of system errors when he came close to you…"
"System errors? Caused by my…"
"…and so we had to find a way to stop them, I mean, they were so odd, and it was worrying, because, come on, it's not normal to get all hot…"
"That's not a system error," Blues pointed out, only to be ignored again.
"…and be unable to breath, and grow weak, and get goose bump, and go all shifty-eyed too, don't think I didn't notice that, Rock…"
"…and his logs registered all kind of odd things, sounds he didn't hear, touches he didn't get, crazy things like that, and he got tongue-tied too…"
"Netto-San, actually that's…"
"…and couldn't breathe, and I didn't think that Navi breathed, but that's what it happened, he couldn't breathe, and his core began to run at twice the normal speed…"
"Netto-san, if you'd let me…"
"…which obviously caused him to loose processing power, so when he was anywhere near you he couldn't even think without stuttering, and…"
"…I think I know what's…"
"…then the nurse at my school said that getting a daily dose of the thing you react badly to will cure your allergy in the long run, so I told Rock…"
"…why don't you try and touch Blues every chance you get, so that maybe you can grow used to the—WOAH!"
Netto blinked as one of Blues's logs was thrust in his face, taking up the whole of the monitor and obliterating all the rest. He couldn't help but scan the file through, and blinked again when the thing popped close, revealing a mortified Rockman (who'd grown steadily redder and redder as Netto spoke) and a rather annoyed Blues (who didn't take kindly to being ignored, and only missed the throbbing vein on his head to be the picture of rage).
"You experienced them too? The odd symptoms??"
"That's what I've been trying to tell you," Blues informed dryly.
Rockman perked up at that, thinking that Blues might have already found a way to deal with the allergy; but before he could voice his thoughts his hopeful look crumpled as quickly as it'd come, and he sagged into himself, releasing a sigh.
"Then there's no hope. I can't bear to be anywhere near you and you can't bear to be anywhere near me. It really is over. Our partnership…" he chewed on his bottom lip, telling himself over and over and over he should be glad that he could still be helpful to the Net and its inhabitants, even if he had to leave Blues's side for evermore. The thought didn't help with keeping the tears at bay, but it did a great deal to worsen the burning in his chest and throat.
Blues shook his head, silver hair dancing against his shoulders.
"Don't be silly. There's nothing wrong with either you or me, and I'll show you just that." Uncrossing his arms, Blues offered his hand to Rockman.
When the other Navi did nothing but eye it distrustfully, curling tighter into himself, Blues said:
And there was no way in all the Net that Rockman could've said no to that small smile, that coaxing, warm voice that seemed to ask: don't you trust me?
His hands contracted once; then, slowly, he reached out.
Their fingertips brushed, and then Blues was closing his hand about Rockman's own, tugging gently on it. Rockman went willingly, and before he knew it, he was being cradled against Blues's chest.
For a moment, he couldn't breathe, couldn't see, couldn't think. The heat in his stomach expanded – had he been human, Rockman knew his heart would be hammering against his chest, and his throat would be clogged – it filled the whole of him, bursting from every pore and then… stopped. Just like that.
The part inside him that usually went 'twunk' whenever Blues was touching him suddenly went 'click' instead, like a switch of sorts. The Navi Crests on their front came into contact and resonated, pulsing with light, and the gaping, hollowing sensation inside Rockman's chest was put to sleep.
If there'd been a storm inside him before – a storm complete with thunder and whirlwinds, raging across the ocean of his core and whipping up foam-capped waves like galloping horses – now all was quiet, the sun shone so white it almost looked blue, and the surface of the water barely stirred under a lazy, warm breeze.
Rockman wasted no time questioning the hows and whys the one thing that made him suffer was also his only cure. After months of torture, he was with Blues – touching him, feeling him, the steady thump of his core, the strength of his arms as they cradled him, the silkiness of his hair against his cheek — and nothing else mattered.
He threw his arms about Blues's neck, and clung to him as they sunk to the ground, entwined in such a way that Rockman was perched onto Blues's knee, with one of his own knees nestled between Blues's thighs. He burrowed his head in the hollow of Blues's neck, pushing so close to him you'd think he was trying to climb into Blues's armour with him, or skip that step and crawl straight under his skin. He might've started to purr right then and there, he looked so content.
Even as he began to rub circles across Rockman's back, Blues shot Netto a glare.
"Which one of you," he began, very slowly, "Came up with that allergy nonsense?"
Netto jabbed a finger towards Rockman at light speed. Unsurprised, Blues drew back enough to meet his eyes.
"Idiot," he related dryly. "Navis don't get allergies."
Rockman flushed, then went back to his so-far unsuccessful endeavours to become one with Blues by means of gluing themselves together.
"I know. But that was the easiest way to explain it to Netto."
"Explain what to Netto?"
"That our programs were getting into conflict, and we couldn't run inside the same system anymore. 'Allergy' seemed like the right parallel to use."
Blues's hand stilled against Rockman's back.
"…is that what you think it was?"
The younger Navi wriggled and writhed about, trying to get the soothing caress to start again, before the other's words actually registered with him.
"So it's not?" he blinked, his face a mixture of awe and hope. "We're not growing incompatible?"
Blues grinned down at him, and, uncharacteristic as it may sound, it was a rather wolfish grin, too.
"Oh, rather the opposite, I'd say."
Rockman tilted his head to a side, realized that brought him too far from Blues for his liking, and went to dig his chin on Blues's shoulder, all the while looking at him in the visor.
"Whenever we're near, you grow hot, and nervous. You get excited, and your thoughts spin out of control. You get butterflies in your stomach, blush like an apple and grow weak in the knees. Your core will start hammering in your chest, and you won't calm down unless you're in my arms. What does it sound like to you?"
Blues hands slid down, his fingers moving now with a different purpose, not soothing but exciting, gliding sensually across Rockman's back and to his sides, brushing against the small of his back before setting gently at his hips, drawing circles with his thumbs.
Rockman stiffened at the intimate caress, blushing as he shot straighter; but since his arms wouldn't move from around Blues's neck, he didn't go far. He only managed to press himself flush against Blues's chest, with their noses brushing together and their mouths barely an inch apart.
"Err… uh… it… it sounds like…"
Netto gaped as the two Navis drifted closer and closer, eyes slipping shut, heads tilting to a side as their lips parted. When their mouths were an hairsbreadth away, he snapped out of his stupor and shouted for everyone in a one-mile radius to hear:
"…you are CRUSHING on Blues?!"
Which caused Rockman to realize: a) the position he was in; b) that he had an audience; c) that said audience was damn right.
He blushed a shade or two darker, ducking his head in embarrassment.
Crushing, not crashing. He was crushing. On Blues. And… his feelings were returned? Dear Lord. He didn't know whether he should dig himself a hole and hide in there for the next century, or throw all caution to the wind, and take full advantage of the situation at hand.
The latter option won out, no surprise here, and he crawled even closer to Blues, wrapping his legs around his waist and clinging onto him for dear life. He muttered an affirmative response into Blues's hair, before trying to wriggle even more close to him, believe it or not. Looks like the poor thing was in withdrawal.
Netto introduced his forehead to his palm, he himself torn between two urges: to laugh in hysteric relief because nothing was wrong, and they were still a team, all four of them; or beat Rock senseless for making him worry needlessly.
He was also unsure which option appealed to him the most: leave the Navis some privacy, or watch them as they cuddled…?
He supposed some privacy was in order (and fascinating as his twin's love life might be, he wasn't that keen on yaoi anyway). He threw a longing glance at his bed, which looked far, far away due to the raging fever, which turned his sight blurry and his legs into mush. Sighing, he mentally readied himself for the long trek back to his nest of pillows. He was about to notify Rock of his decision, when he distinctly heard him giggle.
As in, little-schoolgirl kind of giggle.
Or better yet: boy-having-fun-with-his-boyfriend kind of giggle.
Netto stiffened, turning towards the monitor enough to catch a glimpse of the two. They were in the same position as before (not that it'd ever been a non-compromising position to start with), but now Rock had his hands buried in Blues's hair, and Blues was nuzzling Rockman's neck.
Squeaking, Netto made a dive for his bed – which suddenly didn't look that far anymore – and burrowed his head under the pillow.
"At least wait until I'm out of hearing range! Jeez!"
Rockman didn't seem to be about to answer, or even acknowledge him. In fact, he was making those delighted noises again. He giggled gently, cooed and gasped, laughing again after a second, sounding breathless; Blues murmured something in a warm, low voice, not sandpaper but velvet, the sound so intimate and pleasant that when Netto shivered, he wasn't completely sure it had been the fever.
The clock ticked on, quietly. The sun shone in mobile polls on the carpet, drew odd shadowy figures on the walls. The Navis were speaking quietly among themselves, their voices like a low buzz in the background, not quite noise, not quite music, but pleasant none the less.
It was a nice change, to see Rock so happy after weeks and months of alternating pained frowns and tears and sulking sessions, Netto thought.
He smiled, sleepily, realizing that a relationship between Blues and his twin might lead him and Enzan to have twice – no, ten times as many Net-battles as before, and it was a nice thought. A wonderful thought, because he lived for Net-battling, and no opponent was better than Enzan.
He was still smiling, and Rock was still laughing, when Netto slipped into a contented sleep.
Everything was right in their world again.
You must admit, Netto is the kind to approve of a yaoi relationship between Rock and Blues only just because it'd let him meet – and battle against – Enzan every single day of his life. XD;;