or, How Netto Found Out. (EXE, Blues/Rockman)

Futurefic, set a few years post-canon (Netto's about 16 or 17), and potentially slightly AU since I've still not finished the series, sorry. This one jumped me and wouldn't let go...

"Rockman? Rockman!" Netto's indignant voice snapped him out of what had been a very nice daydream. "Rockman, wake up!"

"Ah! I'm awake, I'm awake, Netto-kun!" Rockman rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, trying not to blush too obviously. Usually Netto's programming classes were quite interesting, and he tried to pay attention, but all day he'd been unable to keep himself from zoning out, drifting off into blissful memories of the previous night.

"Could have fooled me," Netto muttered, eyeing him suspiciously. "You're not usually this out of it, Nii-san. And why do you have that goofy smile on your face?"

Rockman, who hadn't been aware that he was smiling at all, blushed and looked down at his hands. "Um, I do?" Thankfully, he was saved from further explanations by the chime of an incoming email; blinking himself back to business, he scanned the file.

"It's from Meijin-san," he opened the email for Netto to view. "He wants us to stop by HQ…"

"Alright!" Netto punched the air, thoroughly distracted from personal matters for the moment. Rockman sighed to himself in relief; it wasn't that he didn't want to share his news with his twin, but they were still in the school building, surrounded by people – and, he privately admitted, he wanted to keep this his for just a little while longer.

"Do you think it's a mission?" Netto asked excitedly, cramming his laptop into his backpack and unplugging the PET from his desk with a yank that made Rockman wince for the hardware.

"It's not marked Urgent, Netto-kun. It might just be paperwork – that report you submitted last week was kind of sloppy, you know."

"It was fine!" Netto slid the PET into its holder, slung his backpack over his shoulder, and left the room at a brisk jog, waving to friends that he passed in the hall. "All the important details were in there – and besides, I had that stupid project for History! So I didn't have time to mess about with it, big deal."

"That's why I told you to start the project earlier, Netto-kun." Rockman shook his head, sadly accustomed to his Operator's procrastination habit.

"Don't start that again!" Netto protested, shouldering through the main doors and out into the weak autumn sunlight. "C'mon, let's get a move on – if it is a mission, they'll need us."

"Okay. Do you want me to go on ahead?" Rockman asked, absently going over their chipset files and wondering which box Netto had packed that morning. There was a point when the advantage of always having all your battle chips available was outweighed by the sheer size of your collection. Not to mention that Netto was a bit of a packrat and could never be persuaded to part with anything, however useless – he said it was because they'd worked hard for their chips, but Rockman thought he was just being sentimental. Whichever way you looked at it, though, it was easier on them both to use a single case at a time, so they'd spent quite a bit of time working out the best combinations for various situations.

"Meijin-san's email doesn't sound like an emergency." Netto heaved a sigh, shrugging one shoulder. "Probably is paperwork. Ugh…"

Rockman smiled, shaking his head in sympathy as he tapped into the transport information system, scanning for the quickest route. "Netto-kun, quick; there's a bus coming!" Sure enough, as Netto cursed and bounced into a sprint towards the bus stop, a number 3 bus came into view around the corner.

"Thanks, Nii-san," Netto murmured as he joined the back of the queue, tapping the PET casing gently. Rockman smiled to himself, giving in to temptation and sending off a small, happy email to Blues' private inbox. He'd said Enzan-san's schedule was busy today, so Rockman knew they wouldn't be meeting at HQ, but he couldn't help wanting to share. Unlike humans and their subjective experiences, Navi perception of time was ruled by their internal clocks. He'd never imagined that a few hours could seem so long, but last night had changed a lot of things.

Last night had felt like forever. Rockman hummed contentedly, poking at Netto's schedule for the rest of the week and absently tallying it up with what he knew of Enzan's. Even if no missions came up, they were bound to see each other during patrol shifts, and Netto had been known to lie in wait for Enzan-san at HQ when they hadn't had a good battle for a while. Fighting Blues now – even just sparring – was an interesting proposition. Blues certainly wouldn't go easy on him just because...

Nii-san? Netto prodded him mentally, a flicker of curiosity threaded through his 'voice'. Rockman started guiltily, hastily pushing all thoughts of last night to the back of his mind along with the rest of his private things. Over the years, he and Netto had worked out a sort of ettiquette for their link, and unspoken understanding that what was kept private was not to be pried into.

Netto-kun? Rockman asked from his side of the link, patiently ignoring that niggle of curiosity he could feel from his Operator. What is it? They didn't often talk this way, after all, unless there was some reason not to be overheard.

You were humming, Netto pointed out. What's up?

Oops. Ah, I was just wondering when we'd get the chance to battle Enzan-san and Blues again, he replied, perfectly truthfully and even managing not to stumble over Blues' name. He wouldn't – couldn't – lie to Netto, but the full truth wasn't something he was ready to get into yet. Not to mention the unwanted data that might accidentally spill over the link... Flushing, Rockman sought to distract himself, tapping into the city's wireless network to check on virus activity before they arrived at HQ.

Unfortunately, he found some – it was obvious from the pixelation on the horizon and the streams of bad data jetting skywards that something was tearing up the network a few blocks ahead. Which, Rockman realised after cross-referencing with his map database, was only a few hundred metres from HQ itself.

Netto-kun! He backed out of the network, automatically booting up his pre-battle diagnostic and backup programs. All systems were running at one hundred percent. There's a virus causing trouble – get off at the next stop!

Got it! Netto grabbed the PET out of its holster, his other hand fumbling for his chip case. He leapt off the bus before the doors were even completely open, halting in the middle of an open public square and peering around. "This is the local government buildings – it is a virus or a rogue Navi, Rockman?"

"Virus," Rockman reported shortly. And indeed, as he spoke the fountain in the centre of the square, which had been calmly bubbling away to itself, suddenly released a violent jet of steam, startling people and scattering pigeons. The next moment, there were screams from within the government buildings and the crash of heavy furniture or machinery toppling. "Looks like it's unguided – plug me in, Netto-kun; the wireless won't stand up to much more of this."

"Okay!" Netto had been looking about for a port, and found one on the main gate panel. "Let's go – transmission!"

The first thing he saw on entering the network was the virus – an ugly grey lumbering thing with huge beast-like fists and a wickedly spiked tail. The second thing was the damage it was doing – trampling through files that should have been secure, leaving destruction and corrupted data in its wake. Bracing himself, Rockman took aim with his standard buster and fired off a few shots, enough to distract the virus from its depredations and turn its attention on him.

"Wow, nasty-looking," Netto-kun commented cheerfully. "Let's see how it likes this – Program Advance!" Rockman grinned in anticipation, accepting the three Sword chips as Netto fed them into the PET. "Dream Sword!"

For reasons that he'd never understood, he always felt faster, smarter, stronger in Advanced Program mode. Blues said it was just confidence. Rockman leapt, aiming a slash at the virus' unprotected back and then going for its throat when it reared up. Corrupted data fizzled and hissed from the wounds he opened, and the virus roared in anger, clawing the ground and swinging its spiked tail around. Rockman somersaulted out of the way, giving Netto time to slot in the next chip.

"Cannon!" Rockman tried a few shots, but they glanced harmlessly off the scales covering the virus' back.

"Netto-kun, this isn't working!"

"I can see that!" Netto yelled back, flicking quickly through his chips as Rockman dodged the virus' attack, aiming a few shots at its underbelly as he rolled underneath it. "Here, this'll help – battle chip: Blues Soul, slot in!"

Rockman barely had time to think Wait a second... before everything went fantastically, spectacularly wrong. Blues' data from the chip fed into his systems like any other upload, but instead of combining with his battle protocols to enhance his speed, abilities and armour, it flooded his entire being in a rush, paralysing him with memory.

Stumbling to his knees, Rockman gasped helplessly, for a few brief moments feeling every bit as surrounded by and one with Blues as he'd been last night. His systems went haywire; he cried out, shaking with tremors and tingling all over, completely caught up in whatever was happening to him.

"Rockman! Rockman!" Netto's terrified voice brought him out of the paralysis; he looked up just as the virus took advantage of his collapse and leapt.

There wasn't time to move, or even defend himself. Over a split second, even as Netto yanked out the chip and his systems began to stabilise, Rockman acknowledged and resigned himself to the fact that he was at the very least going to get pretty seriously mauled.

He wasn't expecting the flash of red and silver that exploded out of nowhere, hitting the virus mid-leap and slashing right through it in a single clean motion. For several moments as the shower of pixels cleared, Rockman just sat there, where he'd fallen, staring at his unanticipated (but not at all unwelcome) saviour and and wondering whether that had really happened.

"Blues?" Netto's astonished, relieved voice broke the spell, finally. Blushing furiously, Rockman wondered how he was going to explain this; the Navi in question just inclined his head in silent acknowledgement, sauntering over to offer Rockman his hand. Rockman stared up at him for a moment, wishing not for the first time that he could see through the visor, before taking it. Blues' fingers closed warm and solid around his, every bit as comforting and caring as an embrace, and he didn't immediately let go once Rockman had got to his feet. Which, really, was perfectly fine with Rockman.

"Are you all right?" Blues asked in a low voice, ignoring Netto's increasingly strident demands for information. Rockman nodded shyly, feeling like his face was on fire. Blues' thumb stroked over the back of his hand once, then he nodded and turned away, no doubt to return to Enzan's side. Rockman watched him go for a long moment, wondering whether he'd imagined that brief flicker of a smile, before turning his own attention back to Netto.

A very unhappy Netto, who was glaring down at the PET like it had personally offended him. "What," Rockman's brother and Operator demanded, with accompanying gestures, "was that?"

Oh dear. Rockman sighed.

"Resonance?" Netto looked back and forth between Rockman and the diagnostic he'd insisted on running. Rockman had managed to persuade him to wait until they were at HQ for his explanation; unfortunately, whatever work Meijin-san had had in mind for them seemed to have been superceded by the virus attack. "I don't get it. We've used that chip loads of times, even when we've worked with Enzan and Blues..."

"Um." Rockman fidgeted uncomfortably. "It has to do with – well, last night – um. Y-you see – Blues and I, well, we... um," he faltered, examining the backs of his gloved hands.

"Spit it out, Nii-san," Netto complained, looking just as confused as ever. Rockman squirmed.

"Well – some things happened -" He let me see who he really is. I kissed him. He kissed me back. "-and it turns out that we both l-like each other -" I knew I loved him, but to find out it was returned... "- and, well, things, um, sort of... progressed from there..." He trailed off again, smiling helplessly despite the furious heat in his face, lost in blissful memory.

"...You and Blues." Netto started after several long moments, sounding more than slightly incredulous. "You and Blues got together, finally, and you didn't tell me?"

"I was going to!" Rockman protested, hurt. "It just – there wasn't time!" He blinked, processing. "...what do you mean, finally?"

Netto rolled his eyes, grinning. "Nii-san, you had such a crush on him. It was obvious." He frowned suddenly, ignoring Rockman's embarrassed squeak. "That doesn't explain the whole, what did you call it, resonance thing, though."

"" Rockman studied the top of the screen, wondering how Netto could be so perceptive about some things and so oblivious about others. "That – well, if you hadn't slept in again this morning, Netto-kun, it wouldn't have been a problem!"

"Huh?" Netto blinked at him, and Rockman blushed further.

"I didn't get a chance to do system maintenance this morning, so the data from the chip resonated with cache data and caused, well, that." No doubt he'd have to thank Blues for the rescue, once he found out why Blues had been there in the first place. He couldn't have felt the effects of the resonance, could he? Netto hadn't seemed to...

"Oh." Netto frowned again. "But why do you have Blues' data in ca – oh. Oh." Rockman could feel the embarrassed comprehension filtering through the link as Netto turned scarlet. "Nii-san!"

Rockman crossed his arms defensively over his chest, studiously avoiding Netto's eyes. "Well," Netto proclaimed eventually, scratching the back of his head awkwardly but with genuine warmth in his voice. "I guess that explains why you've been spacing out all day with that goofy smile on your face, huh."

Rockman couldn't help but smile back at his twin, resting one hand on his side of the screen.

"Although -" Netto frowned mightily for a moment, then groaned, falling back in his chair and covering his eyes with an arm. "Oh, man. Now what the hell am I supposed to say to Enzan?!"