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Chapter 1: A New Take on an Old Tale

Protoman's red helm rolls to the side as his vision fades out and back in before sliding away from him again. His limbs feel like lead, as impossible to move as an enormous bolder. Not for the first time he wonders if this is the end. It is a struggle to remain conscious-a constant fight when slipping away seems so easy... so tempting... He wants to rest.

His surroundings are a mass of broken limbs and shattered parts. Two sniper Joes stir from the mass of bodies, hobbling towards him. He can't fight them as they take either of his arms and begin dragging him away. It's a true testament to how exhausted he is that he doesn't even attempt to struggle—that he can't even work up the anger from humiliation to badmouth them.

Mega Man had been told of the disturbance within the city involving a group of Sniper Joes. He is quick to make it to the scene, knowing the Joes could cause some serious danger to civilians, but by the time he gets there, many have already been taken care of. Many of the Joes are in multiple parts, but two of them are moving away with someone. "Stop right there! Drop them now!"

Unfortunately, both drones pay him no heed, not recognizing the threat. They continue to drag their hostage through the mass of bodies to return to their master.

Mega Man quickly runs to block the two of them, and then he realizes who they're dragging. "Proto Man!" He gasps. He aims his cannon. "You let him go!"

Still nothing from the drones. Both are very set on their course and words do not worry them a bit. Protoman doesn't even register the voice-all sound becoming indistinct noise in his audial receivers growing ever more muffled... All he catches is a blue blur before his vision shorts out.

When warnings do nothing, Mega Man tries to force them to release his brother. That does it. The moment he gets physical things instantly change. The drones open up fire on their assailant.

Worried for Proto Man's safety, Mega Man has no choice but to take out the Joes quickly. He finds a spot of rubble to hide behind while he fires directly at their helms. The first Joe falls quickly but the second proves more resilient. He drops Protoman and quickly fires off three rounds in rapid succession, dodging pre-emptively afterwards.

With Protoman released, Megaman abandons his cover to move the battle away from his injured brother.

Another wave of vertigo passes through the addled warrior leaving him without sense of direction. It leaves the red bot with the sickening sensation of falling. He is only vaguely aware of being released and the battle ensuing around him. "Nngh... come on... snap out of it, Blues..." he mutters to himself.

Megaman is completely unaware that Protoman might still be conscious. He's far too focused on the last Joe.

It is an arduous fight but slowly Protoman sharpens his focus back to the present. It still feels like he's picking up a pile of lead blocks but he manages to get to his feet, picks up his shield, and begins hobbling away. His scarf, however, stays behind. It slipped from his neck during the earlier fight and now lies forgotten on the ground.

Finally the Joe makes a mistake of running out into the open, making it the perfect target.

Mega Man is quick to take advantage of the opportunity and fires away.

-shWOO-

The drone explodes violently, its parts flying everywhere.

Mega Man sighs. With that taken care of, he can now go to check on Proto-...

The other robot is nowhere to be found. At least... not at first. But as Protoman makes his escape he doesn't realize that he's leaking. A few droplets of his lifeblood drip behind him as he returns to his hideaway.

Where Proto Man's body was, there is only his scarf. Mega Man quickly grabs it, wondering what happened to his brother. Either he got up and left while he wasn't looking, or someone else took him. "Proto Man!" He calls out, looking for any sign of the other robot. As he takes a few steps away, he notices the droplets of blood on the ground. He starts running in the trail's direction. "Proto Man!"

The other robot is far ahead at that point. Back within the safety of his home he collapses back down into his "bed"-the foam within the upholstery leaking out a bit as he heavily plops down on it. "Ungh... just a... quick nap. Then I'll get back up."

Time passes.

The drops lead Megaman deeper into the city, towards the downtown area. Slowly the town becomes less friendly, the reputable-looking businesses fewer, and the dilapidated buildings more frequent. The drops of fuel lead into one such building.

The front doors are locked tight but not too far from the ground there's a shattered window just big enough...

Mega Man grows increasingly worried as he goes deeper and deeper into the city's seedy underbelly. He wonders why Proto Man would want to go to such an area. When he is lead to a particular building, he is quick to spot the window after trying the doors. "Proto Maaaannn!"

There is no answer.

This is clearly the end of the line. The trail of droplets leads no further.

Mega Man is stumped. Where could he be? The trail is gone. He must be somewhere though. He might have to explore this building on his own to find him.

Once he gets inside of the abandoned playhouse through the shattered window, it is a total mess. The air is dank and musty. The air inside is chilly. Worse yet, there is dust and spiderwebs and junk lying around everywhere-everything from old tires to rotting play bills, to empty buckets of popcorn. However, it is obvious that he is on the right track when freshly spilled "blood" is visible on the ground leading deeper into the building.

Mega Man shudders. Why would Protoman be somewhere so gross? He tries to quickly follow the trail to its source.

When he emerges into the central chamber everything is in a similar state of disarray. The wallpaper is faded and peeling off of the walls. The once-glorious chandelier hanging from the ceiling is now missing all but a few crystal tassles. The fold-out chairs are ripped from the ground and even shredded up in a few places leading up to the enormous center stage, The stage itself doesn't look horrible... but it too is old and falling apart. Once vibrant colors of a cardboard city scene are faded to grey. The outline of tall building cutouts intermingle with random trees and stone balustrades to produce a hybrid mash-up of many locations. Amongst the chaos sits a lone car at center stage... dusty, scuffed... but intact. The droplets lead up to its side. It gives Mega Man the creeps.

But there he is, lying inside. Protoman is unconscious now-totally out. He is laying in a small pool of his own fluids on top of the leather seats of the car where he's curled up into a somewhat fetal position.

As soon as Rock looks inside the car and finds his brother inside, he quickly decides to get him out of there. He is able to heft Proto Man, and he carries his brother out of the building before teleporting away back to his home.

All this time the older robot never stirs, his power levels critically low, although if he were conscious he wouldn't be having any of it.

When Protoman next regains consciousness there are all sorts of things wrong, for starters the fact that he is strapped to a bed. He growls, immediately jerking and twisting to try to get free, nearly pulling out the IV sticking into a cable under the panel in his arm.

"Uurrhnnn... GRAAAH!"

Roaring in frustration, Blues tries to bite at the restraints to no avail.

Panic seizes at his core when he realizes how trapped he is. No. No. He has to get out of this before someone can try to open up and mess around with the things that make him tick.

"Hey hey stop that! You're going to hurt yourself!"

Protoman 's helm shoots in the direction of the voice, instantly recognizing it and instantly hating its owner.

"You."

Even through his visor, Mega can sense the glare from Protoman. "U-uh...I know you must be angry with me, b-but I had no choice!"

Protoman tries not to visibly grit his teeth. Keep your cool. The older bot lets his head roll to the side mockingly, almost coyly as he lilts his voice in sarcasm. "Oh? No no. I understand completely. How could you have made sure I wouldn't roll off of this bed without full body restraints? Looking after my well-being, as always. So thoughtful.

….But I'll bet these restraints weren't your idea, were they, little boy blue?"

Rock frowns fretfully. "Well...n-no..."

Protoman stares past him through the doorway, expecting the familiar form of his creator to be there. It isn't.

"We worried that if you reactivated any point through your repairs, you'd interrupt them and run away..." Rock explains.

"..."

Protoman feels cold inside. His core sinks. "Repairs ..."

"You were leaking!"

"..."

"And you were dangerously low on power. W-we didn't tamper with anything. I swear."

The fear that grips Protoman's damaged core lessens... but only marginally. "Well... if that'll be all I think I'll take my leave now."

Or so he says but he is just as bound as before and that's not quite an option at the moment.

"You still need to rest..."

Protoman tries transforming his arm into its cannon to blast his way out but something is preventing him from morphing it. "YOU DON'T GET TO DECIDE THAT FOR ME!"

Megaman flinches but resolves to stand his ground. "Would you rather run back to that creepy abandoned theater to power down for good?"

Blues pauses… but soon his mouth quirks into a mocking grin. "Absolutely. Better than being a prisoner for the mad doctor and his obedient little pet knock-off."

Megaman frowns. "This is the thanks I get for saving you from those Joes, huh?"

Protoman laughs. "You? Saved me? I saved myself. It didn't matter that you interfered with the last two that I hadn't quite finished off yet. I was going to get them when I came back to. I'm the one that got myself out of there. And if you think you deserve any thanks for that you are W-R-O-N-G."

Even as he speaks another wave of fatigue is crashing over the red robot, fuzzing his thoughts again. Uugh... no. No not now. Not until he's free.

"If I hadn't come to take care of the last pair of Joes, they probably would have taken you straight to Wily." Rock counters

"Far from the worse that could happen. YOU took me straight to L..."

He trails off, sagging.

"You really think Wily would have been better?" The boy asks

Protoman gulps, trying to fight the threatening nausea and the haze overtaking his head. "Yes. And if you keep blindly following Light.. You must really not have a brain up in that head of yours... "

Rock begins to notice his distress. "...hey, are you okay...?"

Protoman is decidedly not but he tries not to show it. "If you're going to insist that I rest then leave"

Megaman sighs and decides to give Protoman some peace to rest. Before he leaves, he places an energy tank that his brother probably desperately needs beside him.

Blues doesn't intend to rest of course. The moment the blue bomber leaves he tries to claw himself out again. But his struggling is growing weaker…

…..

When Protoman wakes up, Megaman isn't in the room. Instead his sister Roll has been given the task to stand as guard in case anything should happen during the night. The robot girl did her best to stay alert, but at some point she finally powered down for recharge. She's still sleeping in her chair across from Protoman's bed.

"..."

Blues stares at the girl silently as he grows alert and works out what happened. He takes advantage of her sleeping state to drink in her appearance. Roll isn't like Megaman. She doesn't go around fighting. She isn't conspicuous. And as a result he has only seen her in passing and never up this close.

He tries to sort out how he feels about her. In a way... She's just another knockoff of him. But then... In another way she is something totally different.

As he ponders, Roll continues sleeping silently.

Protoman purses lips. Well whatever. It doesn't matter how he feels about her. The only thing that matters right now is escape, and so he focuses on his straps. He has three thick Velcro straps across his body and and one Velcro cuff around either wrist, and he really has to hand it to whoever invented Velcro…. it is surprisingly resilient. The straps themselves are fastened to small metal loops on the sides of the bed. Now those... Those he knows he can break if he can get enough of a vantage to push off of. For now he focuses on his legs, which don't have the added bindings his arms do. After some work he discovers he can turn them on their sides and begins to inch his knees up towards the first body strap. It takes a while because it's a tight fit but he finally manages to line one leg up with the strap where his knee is braced against one of the metal loops and the bottom of his foot is against his twin. Then he just braces himself and...

*SNAP*

The metal piece chinks off and his legs are free. Excellent.

The problem with Velcro? It's not exactly a quiet material. Roll begins to stir.

!

Thinking fast Blues grabs the loosened strap with his legs and positions it back to look like it's still in place before going limp, hoping she'll return to sleep.

"..."

Roll doesn't open her eyes. After a few moments her vents grow steady and the robot girl goes still again.

...close one.

Endeavoring to be more quiet this time, he goes back to work. The next strap is a bit more difficult it's over his midriff and its not quite as reachable. He tries to angle his legs up far enough to slip the tips of his feet under. If he could manage that he could just push up and snap the strap easily but unfortunately that kind of movement is outside of his range of mobility... So he takes a different approach. Blues begins to slip his head down towards the top strap that holds down his chest, inching lower down the bed until his head slips underneath it. His arms end up stretched and stranded under the top cord, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The previous midriff strap is now his chest strap, meaning he's able to arch his back up off the bed. Using his back to push up and his elbows to brace himself against it he thrusts up against the strap now behind his neck until it pops.

Roll stirs again but ultimately continues sleeping.

Once the top strap comes off its a small task to pop the middle one like he'd planned to earlier, pushing it to the breaking point with his legs... And then there are just two left.

The wrist straps are a problem. They're done in such a way that he cannot get them off by using his elbows to push against the bed and he also can't push well against them with his feet while he's laying down, but without the restraining straps he no longer has to be laying down, thus Blues inches his way up the bed until he's in the fetal position and rolls onto his feet to stand. Then all he has to do is push up.

….-POP-

"Gah!"

He would clamp his hands over his mouth if they were free, but they aren't. Shit. Dammit. The popping sound wasn't the restraint; it was something in the socket of his left arm. Pain lashes through it as he reflexively sinks back to the bed to relieve the pressure.

Roll's blue eyes immediately snap open. Blues freezes.

"Hey! What are you trying to do?"

Time's up. Protoman tugs hard again in spite of the enormous pain. Arms can be repaired. This time his left arm snaps free and he quickly undoes the last strap on his left arm. "Fancied a morning jog. Goodbye."

He jumps off of the bed, grabs his shield that lies in the corner of the room, and shoots out the door.

He flies down the hallway with all the speed he can muster-no small amount. The red bot's eyes scan for an exit sign but there are none in sight. They don't seem to be in a public access building. Despite its lab-like appearance, this is a residence, which means...

Behind him, Roll is making her way to catch up to him. She can be heard talking to someone. "Yeah, he's down the west corridor just outside of it! If you can make it in time we should be able to corner him!"

Just outside of it... Outside of what? He doesn't like that, so when he turns the corner he ducks inside of the nearest room and waits for them to pass.

Roll's footsteps can be heard slowing to a stop, and she sighs in frustration. "Rock? I lost sight of him. I dunno where he went, but he couldn't have gotten far. We all gotta keep our eyes peeled. Let me know if you spot him before I do."

Blues scans around the room he's inside of. He's in luck. There is a window here, meaning he can make it outside. It looks like a long drop but if he can get onto the ceiling and jump across the rooftops he'll be golden. Otherwise, the room he is in appears to be a bedroom. There are crayon and water-color drawn pictures on the wall depicting what he recognizes as flowers and animals. One such picture depicts Roll, Megaman, and an older human figure with a beard standing side by side smiling. The picture is captioned "family." Hmph. He snorts at it disdainfully before quietly creeping over to open the window.

The walls begin transferring the sound of doors being quickly opened and closed. Just outside the bedroom, a shadow passes.

Shit.

Blues swings himself outside and begins climbing the brick wall as fast as his injured arm will allow him. He isn't out of the fire yet.

Roll opens the door just in time to see him escape. "Hey!" She sends another message to Megaman. "He just climbed out the window of your room, Rock! It looks like he's going for the roof! You have to catch him up there!"

"Catch me if you can." Blues mutters when he reaches the rooftop and begins running for the nearest one. It looks like most of the nearby buildings should be easy jumps for someone with his legs. For now direction doesn't matter, only speed. He is just about to jump when a voice he hasn't heard in a while catches him.

"Blues wait!"

The red bot skids to a stop. He pauses, back turned to the voice of his maker.

Blues turns towards the doctor and stares at him, his core filling up with hot resentment. "You should call off your attack dogs if you don't want them to get hurt. If they keep pursuing me I make no promises."

Megaman is standing beside the doctor. He glares at his older brother. "You should know better than to think you can scare us off that easily." He stays close to his father, standing guard in the event Protoman might actually fire at him or if he simply runs off again. "Please, Blues...Roll told us that she woke up to the sound of you screaming. You still need more repairs. Please let us finish them."

There's a sinking feeling in Blues's chest as he stares at his brother, who he didn't realize was there before. It hurts more than he would have thought to watch their creator stand side by side with Blues's replacement, facing off against him.

He spits on the ground. "I'll die before I let you go planting your thoughts into my head."

Light frowns, not bothering to hide how much it hurts to see his oldest accusing him of such a thing. "That isn't true at all."

Megaman steps forward. "Just because I choose to protect my creator doesn't mean I'm a lap dog. Why is it to you that caring about those other than yourself is a sign of dependence or lesser intelligence?"

"He's playing you the fool, Megaman. Family? Father? It's just a clever, twisted man's chain to get you to do what he wants. You are a glorified tool."

The boy shakes his helm, angry. "We're well aware how easily you'd let yourself die. You nearly did it yesterday-almost bleeding out inside a junky car in the middle of an abandoned theater. That's really the way you'd prefer it all to end, huh? Alone, amongst the broken-down and forgotten pieces of the past, wrapped up in your own melodrama?"

Light seems surprised by his son's unusually biting words towards Protoman. He mutters to him and tries putting a hand on the boy's shoulder to calm him down.

Blues growls, the words are knives that stab at him. "Better to die alone and free than enslaved among company. Don't let him see if you start to doubt in him, Megaman. You might be on that table next."

With nothing to say to the doctor, Blues launches into the air and runs away across the rooftops. His arm drags behind him, dangling uselessly. That's okay. He knows where he can get it fixed.

Light sighs sadly as he disappears. Megaman doesn't bother chasing him, wanting instead to place a hand on his father's arm.

"You know I can't let that happen, Rock..."

"I do...We'll keep an eye out for him. If he gets into trouble again, if he needs help..."

"Bring him back. I don't care what he might break if he wakes up here again." Light reaches down to squeeze his son's hand. "But I do care about what he might do to you."

Megaman tries to crack a smile. "Oh c'mon. If he gets into bad enough shape again, he won't be able to touch me. I wouldn't even mind a few dents if it came down to it. I'll be fine."

Blues waits until he's sure he's not being followed to do a physical inspection of himself. His arm is a total bust, whatever he did must have pulled his receptors loose. He gives it up as a loss for now. His fuel levels are... High. Almost as high as they've ever been. He scowls at this. He is running on almost a full tank but it's not a ration he secured himself... Paranoia leads him to ask if there's something in it that could do him harm even though his sensors show nothing wrong. He very seriously considers purging it but decided against it in the end. As for his weapons... The ones that doctor Wily installed... They are still very much out of commission. He doesn't see anything externally on him that would have disabled his abilities so that means that foul doctor was tinkering around inside of him, and that just scares him all the more. It is definitely time to pay Wily a visit. But first he needs something to pay for his repairs with. Luckily, he knows just the thing. Light gave it to him inadvertently during his visit.

The trip to Wily's place is... A bit of a trip. He has to snag a spot on the back of a subway, ride that a ways, change over to the downtown limited, Then take a ferry across the bay to get to the seaside laboratory. Once he gets there, Wily's security system quickly kicks in.

The first to respond to the alert is the old doctor's mechanical bats. They swoop out of the vents of the run down industrial building and over Protoman's head, but once they are able to recognize him, they simply perch along the edges of the building and watch him. Two robot masters are dispatched to deal with the new guest-Gutsman and Cutman. "Protoman," the smaller, scissor-headed bot nods when he recognizes their visitor. "We never thought we would find you here again."

"Oh? And why is that?" Blues harrumphs, pushing past them. "If I weren't here who would train the kid?"

Cutman glares as he moves past. "Probably someone much less grating on our nerves."

"How many times has he let Bass wallop on you now," Protoman quips back, "426? 427?"

Both bots pout. "We're glad to be chosen as Bass's training opponents." Gutsman argues. "It sharpens all of our battling prowess."

"Pff. Sharpens? The only thing that gets sharpened when Wily goes in and tinkers with your battle protocols is the double edge of the sword." And yet Wily remained too ignorant to realize his flawed thinking. Every time Protoman came in and beat his lackeys he would go back to the drawing board, come up with some new battle protocols to handle that one specific fluke, throw them in with the rest, and create a mess when that protocol opened up twenty new weak points to be exploited. It didn't matter that Bass was build stronger, faster, and more durable than him. Protoman's ability to adapt on the battlefield always gave him the upper hand. Of course he would never suggest that Wily get rid of those messy protocols... Then Bass might actually pose a threat to him someday. "Where is the runt anyway. I'd have thought he'd be out here to greet me personally."

"He didn't think you were worth interrupting his training." Gutsman answers.

Protoman rolls his eyes. "Well where's Wily. I have something for him."

"This way, Mr. Protoman." Cutman motions him forward before turning and leading him to the mad scientist's lab. Wily is currently elbow-deep in Sniper Joe parts, and he doesn't even stop his work to greet the bot. "Protoman," he mutters with a light German accent. "After the way you rejected my invitation and ruined so many perfectly good Joes, I would never have expected you to waltz in here on your own. I ought to take your parts to rebuild them, but I'm always curious to know what business you may want with me."

Protoman waves him off. "I keep telling you to change their design. If you want me to stop breaking them then you should stop making them." He casually kicks a loose Joe head across the room as he approaches the doctor. "As it so happens, I'm currently in need of repairs. And you're the one who's going to give them to me."

The doctor turns his head up from his work to sneer at the insolent robot. "And now just why would I do that?"

Protoman shoots him a sneer right back. "Because I have something you want."

"Oh? Do tell."

"Nah ah ah. Repairs. First you do my arm and then you get to hear what it is that I have. Reactivate my weapons and then you get it."

Wily barks a laugh at him. "You must be joking! You bluff, my boy. Why would I repair you before I even know what it is that you claim to have?"

Protoman shrugs. "Fine fine. If you're not interested, I guess I'll go get my repairs from someplace else."

He turns casually to walk out the door, the doctor and the other robots watching him leave.

"…...WAIT! Wait wait wait, alright? Fine. I'll fix your arm. Can't have an inferior mechanic messing my darling son up, can I? You just relax and take a load off... then afterwards we can discuss this 'thing' that you have, hmm?"

Protoman smirks and turns back around. Too easy. "Glad to hear you're willing to do the repairs... Oh but... call me son again and I'll rip that mustache off."

Gutsman and Cutman are soon sent off while Wily removes Protoman's arm from its socket to do the repairs that need doing. It goes rather quickly. "Looks like the input just came out of its socket" the doctor mutters before plugging it back in. "Reinforce the joint" Protoman commands. "With the GOOD parts. Steel or titanium if you have it. Nothing of lower quality." Wily grimaces at him. "Come now, what's wrong with iron, it's good for y-" "STEEL." Protoman cuts him off. "I am not some cheap car. I get the best you can offer or we don't have a deal."

Wily mutters curses under his breath but at the bot's insistence he reluctantly shoves away all the parts that he was going to use in favor of their superior counterparts-the ones Bass gets fitted with. Protoman watches him, making sure that he's doing a proper job. This operation isn't exactly pain free but he doesn't trust Wily to put him under, and luckily for him Wily doesn't have the moral compunctions that would drive him to knock Protoman out like Light would before a procedure like this. When he finishes, Blues tests his arm out, swinging it, punching with it, and testing its strength and stability. Only once he's satisfied that it's at least as good as it was before does he settle down and let the doctor know what he knows. "Alright. You've done good so far so I'll tell you... I know where your good old buddy Dr. Light is."

Wily's expression goes blank momentarily, then he barks out laughing again. "Oh? OH. Oooh... now now that IS good... But... How could you possibly know?" He asks, looking suspicious. "Light keeps himself well hidden, Lists a false address. And his place of work is too heavily guarded. I've tried to have the Joes tail him but they never make it back... How would YOU know where he lives, Protoman?"

"I've been there." The bot replies simply. "And that's all you need to know unless you get my weapons back online."

"Oh... very well." The doctor sighs and beckons Protoman close again while he prepares to open his chassis. That would indeed be a prize worth having if Protoman DOES have it. His unruly co-creation isn't usually one to go telling stories, so he has hope that he's about to hear the truth.

"Oh, and Wily?" Blues hums. "Get any ideas while you're fiddling around in there, and I won't hesitate to strangle the life out of you."

The doctor gulps. "O...of course not! How could you accuse me of such a thing? Why only my cruel brother would-"

Protoman's glare silences him. He doesn't want to hear Wily's pleas of innocence. The doctor carefully opens the bot up. As soon as Protoman's chest is open, though, he begins to laugh again.

"KAHKAHKAHKAHKAH! What in the world have you done to yourself!? HAHAHAHAHA."

"Shut up and fix me." Protoman growls, but Wily just keeps on laughing. Protoman's insides are a mess. The robot's core is all wrapped up in cheap aluminum foil-the kind used to wrap up leftover food. Protoman himself did the job a while back and he's a bit relieved to see it's still all in place despite the fact that Light must have been poking around inside of him too. It's his Faraday cage-self made-to keep his core safe from radiation, outside signals, and most importantly any kind of EMP that could knock him out. When Wily keeps laughing at it he conks the scientist on the head. "ENOUGH."

The doctor curses at him as he rubs his bruised head but quickly gets to work and gets Protoman's weapons back online. It's really as simple as flicking a switch, and when the bot discovers this he is just as furious. "You put a SWITCH in me that turns my weapons off!?"

"W-w-well..."

"Get rid of it."

"Come now, my dear Protoman, it's not that simple! It's integrated into the circuitry, I would have to change all sorts of logic to remove it and that would mean more tampering, surely you can understand why it's easier just to do this? Besides, since it's just a button you can turn them back on anytime you want!"

"..."

Unfortunately, Protoman's technical expertise is lacking enough on this matter that the doctor's lie isn't spotted by him. "Fine. Just turn it back on"

Once the switch is flipped he feels all of his capabilities come back online-including his targeting system. He moves away from Wily and begins cycling through his weapons-blades, plasma gun, steel knuckles, all of the good stuff. He gives himself one last double check and makes sure his tin foil is still in place before closing his own chest back up. "Alright. You fulfilled your part of the bargain."

Wily nods ingratiatingly. "S-see? What did I tell you, I'm clean! Come now... shouldn't you tell me where it is that Dr. Light is residing? I can get rid of him for our mutual benefit!"

To Protoman's credit... he hesitates, wondering if it's really a good idea to set Wily on the loose in a populated city district. He might not particularly care for these two old doctors, but he doesn't bear the rest of the humans ill-will... and although Megaman might be totally brainwashed there's always the other robot girl... Roll...

But in the end vengeance wins out.

"Uptown in the park district... 10th floor of Newvana Heights. All of his creations were there, along with his lab equipment. Looks like he has been mixing his work and personal life."

A very evil grin spreads across Wily's face. "Oooh... you've done VERY well, my son..."

"Sure. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be on my way.

Oh... but before I go... I warned you."

"What-wait NO!-YEOOOOOOW!"

Protoman leaves the half-mustached doctor and the other robots to do what they will while he goes looking for a new home. His old one won't do anymore. They'll know to look for him there.

All is quiet in the city as Wily prepares for his assault. Protoman finds himself a new temporary home- just a meager boarded up room in a building scheduled for demolition in a week. He'll have to move again soon, but for now he has a roof over his head, a place to store his lack of belongings, and even... a fold-out cot. He's never had a bed of his own. At least… not since the old days in the lab. So even though it is dirty and has a few holes in it, it's a nice find. Tired from all of the stress of the past 24 hours he goes to sleep almost instantly after he's made sure his temporary home is secure.


End of Chapter

Chapter Text


Chapter 2: Some Backstory

Despite the events of this morning, things return to normal within Light's lab and home. He and all of his creations continue on unaware of the coming danger. Megaman is currently out in the city in the hopes of finding Protoman again and looking to see how he's doing. Just as the older bot predicted, the first place Megaman went to look was the old theater. He isn't surprised not to find him there. Before leaving, he sits down on the stage and really takes in the crumbling and sad scene around him. How could Protoman truly want to live in a place like this more than a home waiting for him?

Before Protoman went to sleep he considered going back to said theater to retrieve his few meager belongings but decided against it in the end, believing that they would be safe where they were hidden. However, if Megaman happens to tread across a certain board...

At some point Rock stands back up and decides he's seen enough of this place. He walks across the stage to hop off...

-creeeeak-

The board squeaks under his tread, making a very different sound from the rest. There's a hollow thunk as he bumps it.

"Huh?"

Curious, Megaman kneels down to have a look at it and tries to pry it off.

The board comes up very easily and slides back, revealing a compartment underneath. Inside are several dusty items, the nearest of which is a large crumpled up piece of paper.

"Hm...?"

Megaman begins picking up each item to inspect.

When he picks up the paper it falls open, revealing a schematic. A smaller piece of paper that was paper-clipped inside of it falls out and lands a short distance away on the ground. Upon further inspection, the blueprints are Protoman's, detailing his original design.

Huh...? Protoman had these? What for?

The other items under the board include an old yellow kodak disposable camera (all the film used up as indicated by the zero on the dial), a small pouch containing less than $20 in bills and coins, a water damaged notepad, a plastic ball point pen with a baseball on the end, and a small glittering red marble.

Megaman can't quite tell what purpose any of these have to Protoman...but he quickly decides that these must be important to him. It's unlikely that Protoman will come back, even to get these, so just to be sure, he decides he'll take these back with him to give to Protoman whenever he finds him again.

With all the stuff safe in his hands, Megaman almost leaves before he spots the last tiny paper. He puts everything down to pick it up and have a look.

When he flips it over it turns out to be a photo of three people standing side by side. In the middle is a young man with long brown hair styled into a spiky up-do. He wears dark sunshades and a smile. On either side of him are two men in white coats, both familiar and also smiling. On closer inspection, Megaman realizes that the one on the right is a younger version of Dr. Light.

Rock gasps when he recognizes his creator. He definitely has to ask about this when he gets home.

The doctor is tinkering in his lab when his affable son returns. "Ah... Rock... did you have any luck while you were out?"

"No...but I found some stuff of his."

Light frowns, remembering the confrontation with Protoman from earlier. "Ah... you did? What did you find?" The doctor gets up from his desk and comes to inspect the pile of things Megaman brings in.

"Not much...but he had his schematics...and a picture."

"H-his..." The doctor gets immediately choked up as he stares towards the papers Megaman motions to and picks them up with shaky hands while he fumbles to open them.

"I... I don't believe it... I... I always thought these had been...lost in the fire..."

"Really...? Looks like he took them instead..."

Light nods. "Oh... I can't believe he had them all this time... And in such good condition... not a scratch..."

He hugs the schematics to his chest, a tear coming to his eyes.

"But there's something else..."

Light gulps, trying to stifle the flood of emotions overcoming him. "Oh?"

Rock holds the picture in front of his creator. "I can tell...one of these people is you, isn't it?"

If the schematics made him emotional, the picture shocks him into a stupor. It takes him a moment to remember how to move his hands to reach for the photograph.

"D...doctor?"

"I forgot about this photo... We... We took this the day Blues was born."

"What?! You mean that's..."

The doctor nods. "Blues... or as you know him, Protoman. And there to his left... that's Doctor Wily."

"What?!"

The doctor looks away from his son, cheeks colored red with shame.

"Dr. Light...I don't understand..."

"I... I'm sorry my son... I've told you the story of your own creation... but I've never told you of your older brother's... or explained to you the origin of his feelings towards me..."

"That's right...I could never understand why he'd ever...hate you so much..."

"You see... before you and your sister were created... Dr. Wily and I worked together as a team..."

"You did?"

"Yes... despite the man you now know, Wily was at one point just a brilliant man with great potential... We were going to change the world together... for the better. Our goal was to create a group of robots who could think and feel as humans do and who would assist mankind. On the day that picture was taken... we achieved our first great success. A prototype robotic man... Protoman. Or as I affectionately christened him, Blues..."

"You and Wily made Protoman together...?" Rock asks again, still trying to process this.

"Yes... yes we did. ...He was a scientific marvel... the first of his kind-fully sentient and, at least we initially thought... self-sustaining."

"What happened...?"

"For a while we lived together... running tests on him to keep track of his mental and emotional development, as well as his physical operation. When Wily and I presented our results to the scientific community there was a great commotion... I in particular was praised for my work in artificial intelligence and reusable energy sources... I should have taken notice then that Albert wasn't getting the same affirmation for his work... But I was younger and in the spotlight... I was blinded, I suppose, to what was happening around me. One day Albert and I had a spat. He packed up and left. I thought that was the end of our relationship. It was just me and Blues after that...

And then one day... while we were running a simulation, I discovered a flaw with my design. It was a small flaw... but not necessarily simple to fix. And it had consequences. I discovered that the instability in Protoman's core would eventually lead it to fail.

…I was callous and unthinking that day. And I said something horrible."

"What did you say...?"

"...Blues has always valued his independence above all else. Even back then when he was young he was rebellious…. rambunctious. He reveled in his ability to chose which commands he did and did not want to obey, and actively exercised his free will to cause mischief. I was never really upset with him for that. I made him so he would have the freedom to behave that way. But when I realized the flaw in my design... I also realized that to fix that flaw would mean shutting down a core part of Protoman's brain... and in doing so... it might cause alterations to his personality. Alterations that could be subtle or drastic... I had and still have no way of knowing. That day I spoke to one of my colleages about the problem over the phone... At the time I didn't know that he was nearby... he must have overheard me... It was some stupid loosehanded comment I made that maybe a change to his personality wouldn't be such a bad thing... I joked that a less rebellious Protoman could be a good thing for everyone... Oh my boy... My poor Blues... it must have hurt him to hear those words from his creator..."

Rock frowns as he finally understands. "Dad...you didn't mean it..."

"I didn't! I certainly did not... but how was he to know? When I was preparing to make the repairs to him, he confronted me about it... and when I tried to explain away what was said he wouldn't have it... I let him know the consequences of the flaw-that it could kill him-but he ran away in spite of that. I had hoped that he would forgive me and return... I waited for him to come back... searched for him... Then one day the fire happened... many of my designs, including his schematics, I had thought, were lost in the blaze...

I waited for him to return… I mourned his loss… And eventually... I had to give up. It had been so long since there had been any sight of him that I knew he must be dead. The loss of my son shattered my heart and left a great void that needed filling... For a time I continued my life's work…. I started designing my robot masters…

And then one day... I began working to make you and your sister.

I... I have endeavored to be a better parent for you and Roll than I was able to be for Blues... I made many mistakes the first time around that I've striven to correct... But I still... I still want to make peace with my prodigal son..."

"I can tell...you've tried so hard, but...but he just won't listen to you..."

Light sighs.

Rock puts his hand over his father's.

Light smiles slightly at the gesture, then frowns. "Pain and solitude have twisted him... but I believe in redemption for him... I must."

He gives Rock's hand a squeeze back.

"Thank you, my son..."

Rock smiles and nods before returning his attention to the other items. "Say...do you recognize any of those other things?"

"Hm?"

Light looks over the other four items on the table-the camera, the notepad, the pen, and the marble. "Oh... no, I can't say that I do... and you found these with the schematics?"

He picks up the small, glimmering marble in his hand and holds it up to the light to survey the colors that bounce out of it. "My this is pretty..."

The pen Light clicks and attempts to write with on a nearby piece of paper. "It writes okay... only a bit spotty..."

"Yeah. They were all stored together in the building I found him in yesterday. I didn't think he'd come back for them, so I thought I should take them back to make sure they'd get back to him..."

"Oh? My that was thoughtful of you..."

Light begins to flip through the little notepad, his eyes widening in surprise. "Oh my... how marvelously cute."

"Huh? What is it? I didn't know there was anything written in there."

Light keeps flipping through the pages. "This seems to be a collection of doodles... perhaps Blues's work?"

He holds some of them up for Rock to see. "Look here, isn't this your helmet?"

"Really? Lemme see! Ooooh…. It is! Why would he draw my helmet?"

"I couldn't say m'boy... ooh look at these."

They flip through several pages. There are pictures of cartoonish animals, dinosaurs, and other robots—including the robot masters and Rock.

"Aww! Cats! I didn't know he liked cats."

Light keeps flipping through the notepad as he finds more and more little scraps of his creation's work, getting emotional all the while.

"Wow...he draws even more than I do..." Rock comments.

"It would seem so, my son."

"Well...I guess we better find a safe place for all this stuff."

"Yes yes... Hm... but now I must admit myself curious as to what is on that camera... I do have a machine for developing photographs. Perhaps I ought to develop the film."

"Oh yeah? Good idea! I wanna see the pictures too!"

When Protoman finishes his comfortable nap he decides it's time to venture out. Leaving his new boarded up home he leaps across the rooftops to return to the old one to reclaim his things.

Meanwhile, Megaman is currently following Dr. Light to see the results of the the pictures he's developing from Protoman's camera.

"Are they done yet, Dad?"

"Yes it looks that way. Mmm... Let's see what we have here."

Rock bounces at his father's side, eager to see the pictures.

The 30 pictures tell a small story. The first three are innocent enough-pictures from the local children's museum. In one the picture is of a glass display. The photographer's reflection comes into view-a young girl and the camera's apparent original owner. The next two pictures are slightly less innocent. They are somewhat blurred but the smudges can be made out as red opticked sniper joes. The children and their teacher can be seen huddled over in the corner as hostages from the camera peripherals.

"Wh-what...?" Rock says, alarmed as he continues to look through them.

The next three pictures are all red blurs, but the ninth picture is clear. Protoman is in it, and so is the little girl from the reflection before, her arms wrapped around his neck as she smiles for the camera he holds, taking a selfie of the two of them. There's an almost imperceptible smile on his lips.

The next several pictures all follow a pattern. They're selfies of Protoman again, this time he is standing over fallen robot after fallen robot. Cutsman, Gutsman, Iceman, Bombman, Fireman, Elecman, Bubbleman... one after another are pictures of them unconscious… and Protoman standing over their frames flashing the peace sign while taking a picture of himself.

But after about the seventeenth picture the images become somewhat more random. The next picture is rainy and it's night time but if one looks closely they can make out the shape of a kitten huddled in a cardboard box. The next picture is sunny and bright. It's a spring day at the local park. There are no people in the picture. It seems just to be a scenery shot. The twentieth picture is of protoman again. He seems to be lying in the seat of the car Megaman found him in, holding the camera up above his face as he takes the shot. He isn't smiling, just staring up at the camera boredly... perhaps somberly. The next picture has another picture of the kitten from before, this time closer up, sniffing at food Protoman's hand holds out.

"Is...is that all of them...?" Rock asks as he finishes that.

"No no. There's more." Light answers. He holds out the rest.

Picture 22: A recognizable slightly older girl from the earlier pictures holds the kitten in her arms, nuzzling it. The kitten seems to be healthy and well fed now and they both look happy on the porch of her home.

Picture 23: A large orange fish floats just under the surface of almost clear water

Picture 24: It's blurred. Nothing is distinguishable.

Picture 25 is of particular interest. There's an unrecognizable figure in it-obviously a robot but one Megaman and Light have never seen before. There are yellow fins on his head. His predominant colors seem to be black and yellow. This picture is like the previous ones, where Protoman stands over his unconscious frame gloating in victory.

"What's that...?" Rock asks. "Or I mean… who?"

"I don't know... it seems to be a robot master, but it is not one of my creations... one of Wily's perhaps?"

"A new one..? Hm… Are there any other photos of him?"

"Perhaps so... let's look through the last few."

Picture 26: A high up shot of a carnival that Rock remembers from this past autumn, several months ago.

Picture 27: Another selfie of Protoman and a human girl. The same one from earlier. She seems to be propped up in a hospital bed. There are tubes in her nose. She smiles and leans her cheek on his shoulder.

Picture 28: There's a tall white church steeple against a blue sky.

Picture 29: Snow is piled on top of everything in a winter landscape. The whole park seems to be white

Picture 30: It's a picture of a bird. A small red bird, perched on top of a marble slab of some sort, its wings flared out wide as it lands.

...And that seems to be all of them.

"..."

Megaman looks rather down now.

"...What's wrong my son?"

"Some of those are just...sad..."

Light frowns.

"P...Proto's gonna want these prints. We better keep them safe."

"Of course... you'll keep them safe, won't you?" His father prompts him.

"Yeah. We can find an envelope for them and put it with everything else in a box."

"Of course. That's very thoughtful. We can put it in my safety locker."

The doctor goes and opens up the heavy duty locker where he keeps all of his valuable research. Rock starts to smile again and follows his father.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Protoman wails.

He slams his fist against the dusty boards of the stage, shattering a crater into the floor. "D...dammit... how did they..."

It's gone. It's all gone. His blueprints, his marble, his camera... not even his sketchbook survived the looting.

He punches a couple more craters into the stage before blasting it in a rage. There's no need to guess at who did it. There could only be one person.

Megaman.

"Doctor Light...why do you think he needed his schematics?"

"I... I honestly couldn't tell you, my son. In truth I'm glad that he took them and preserved them... it's wonderful that they weren't lost in that fire. Having a copy could allow one to recreate his construction or aid in his repairs... It is possible that he took them to prevent another version of himself from being made, but also possible that he took them so that he could bring them to someone to ask for help repairing him if he ever needed it... I'm afraid we can't know for sure what Blues's motives were unless we ask him ourselves."

"Yeah...I guess we better make a copy for both of you."

Light chuckles. "That would not necessarily be a bad idea. However... I think we should hold off on that for now."

"Why's that?"

"Well... I value those schematics greatly and I would certainly love to reclaim them for my own... for sentimental purposes as much as anything... But seeing as he kept them all this time, kept them hidden and safe... perhaps it would not be right of us to take a copy without his permission. After all the work he's done to preserve this copy... I'm afraid it just wouldn't be right to take without permission. After all... if he hadn't preserved them, they wouldn't still exist for the taking..."

The doctor tucks the schematics into his safe before locking it back up tight.

"Ah...alright, Dad. You're right."

He pets Rock on the head with a smile. "I appreciate that you think so. Even though it's tempting and it seems as though only good can come from it, taking what's not rightfully yours is stealing. Protoman may not be appreciative that we didn't take it when we had the chance, but right is right."

Just then there's a loud knock from the front door.

"I'll get it!" Roll chirps. Her footsteps are heard clacking down the hall and opening the door. As soon as it opens, she shrieks.

"Daddy, help!"

"Roll!" Megaman immediately rushes out of the room and to the entrance of the lab.

She stands near the doorway of their home, supporting a collapsed figure leaking fuel all over the floor. The familiar face looks up and meets Megaman's gaze with intense eyes.

"...Help..." Bass, the black robot from the pictures, gasps.


End of Chapter


Chapter Text


Chapter 3: Home Wreckers

"...help..." Bass, the black robot from the pictures, gasps.

"Oh my gosh!" Megaman immediately comes to help his sister support the injured bot to his feet. "Dr. Light! This bot needs your help!"

Light is already rushing down the hall to meet him. He stops when he sees the injured bot. "Hurry children. To the lab with him. I'll patch him up." He ducks inside said lab and begins pulling out his mechanical equipment while Rock and Roll put their new arrival up on the cot Protoman was tied to earlier.

"Easy, you're gonna be alright." Roll comforts. "What happened to you?" he asks.

The black bot's voice is raspy. "It... it was... Wily... I... I tried to stop him and he... Protoman... he set Protoman on me... and his snipers... I barely made it out..."

Bass winces, in evident pain.

"Huh? Protoman did this to you?" Megaman frowns. That rotten jerk. What did this bot ever do to him?

Bass nods. "E...earlier today he showed up at the lab where Wily works... He was looking for repairs from Wily... Afterwards they were talking about how they were going to take over the city together... I... I knew what they were talking about doing was wrong so I tried to step in but..."

"Wh-what? He went to Wily?"

Bass nods. "They're... in cahoots... those two rotten fiends. Is... is this place safe? Is there security just in case they try to...?"

"Y-yeah, of course. We have security in place." Rock reassures him

"H...how much?" the new arrival pries. "Are you sure it's turned on right now? The snipers... they might come after me..."

"Don't worry. We'll keep you safe. Promise." Rock grins, trying to soothe this worried soul. Poor guy…

"Okay. I... thank you... I know we've just met and I'm coming to you for help so suddenly, but I can't thank you enough..."

Megaman smiles. "It's no trouble. So...what's your name?"

"It's... Bass. Like in music."

Rock chuckles. "That's funny. I'm Rock."

"And I'm Roll" his sister chimes with a cheery grin.

Bass grins at him a bit oddly. "Rock... Roll... Rock and Roll... it's nice to meet you... I wish..." He coughs. "...I wish it could have been under better circumstances."

Light fixes him up quickly, reattaching loose lines that caused the leaks. "You're lucky" He states. "These wounds are mostly superficial... You're going to be fine, Bass"

"Good. And hey, don't worry, you can get to know us better once you're fixed up. You'll probably need to hide out here from Wily." Rock comforts.

"I... I do... He's going to be looking for me... Wily's spies are everywhere... he's always been watching me since the day he made me... That's why before I tell you what I need to tell you, I have to make sure that this place is secure..."

"Of course. Your secret is safe here."

Bass frowns and shakes his head. "I... don't mean to sound distrustful. I really don't. But I need to see with my own eyes... I'm sorry but this is of the utmost importance..." He looks edgy and uncertain as his eyes scan between the three of them.

"What do you need to see?"

"The security system... all of it. I need to make sure Wily hasn't already found a way to bypass it..."

"You wanna see...our security system?"

Bass nods shakily. "I... I understand if it seems like an odd request... but I can't risk telling you anything until I know for SURE that it's up and working... it'll all make sense once you hear what I have to say..."

Rock looks to his creator for assurance.

Light looks somewhat perturbed by the fear evident on the new robots face. "... that... that is alright, Bass. I'll take you to see it in just a moment, after I've finished your repairs. Please... try to relax though. I can tell you've been through a very trying ordeal but you must attempt to calm down and reduce your stress levels... you might overheat yourself."

Bass seems to calm down just a little bit and nods. "I... gotcha... yeah, I'll try to calm down... thank you sir."

He still seems a bit on edge though.

"Don't worry." Says Rock. "You'll be as good as new in no time. Dr. Light is real quick at this."

Despite the fearful event of Bass's appearance, Rock is excited. He hasn't gotten the chance to know many advanced robots other than his sister. He would have expected a Wily bot to be bad but this guy seems to be nice. Maybe even friendly.

Maybe once this whole ordeal is over they can be friends…

"How are you feeling now, dear boy?" Light asks as he finishes the repairs, stroking Bass's head only to have the bot flinch away from his touch. This saddens him. "Roll, could you go and grab our guest a nice cold drink?"

"That's... that's really alright." Bass protests. "Nonsense." Light replies. "You lost a lot of fuel from your injuries, m'boy, it'll help you feel better."

"Got it!" The girl nods and leaves to fetch one in an instant.

She returns in moments with a can in each hand.

Bass pouts somewhat but his protest fell on empty ears so there's not much he can do. He takes the can without a thanks and quietly slurps on it while the doctor gets up and cleans the mess from his hands.

"There now... do you feel well enough to stan-"

Bass is on his feet in an instant.

"Well then! Excellent. Just be careful of falling, if you feel dizzy-"

"I'll be fine." He mutters, passing them and heading out the door. "Which way to the...?"

Light, surprised, points absently to the left and gets up to lead him. "Right this way."

Bass is impatient and jittery again as he's led to the control panel in Light's workshop. The doctor taps in a few keys on the screen and the map of their home flashes onto the screen, all of the security checkpoints marked green. "There we are... all is safe and sound."

Rock follows beside them. His smile is beginning to falter. Something doesn't seem quite right... Bass's body language has changed perceptibly.

"Ah..." Bass sighs, relieved. "Good... good... I'm glad to see that... now I can finally get this off of my chest..."

He turns to address the three of them, suddenly confident. And happy. Almost giddy. "The bad news is... Protoman sold you all out. He told Dr. Wily where your home was... and now he's on his way here to destroy this place."

Light gasps at the revelation. "Blues!?... oh no... I didn't even consider... I never thought he would go to Wily with this..."

Bass nods. "But... it gets even worse..."

Rock is as shocked as the doctor. Protoman... How could he do such a thing after everything they tried to do for him?

"Worse? How could it get worse than Wily coming after us with his robots?" The doctor begs.

A crooked smile lights up Bass's face as he smashes the red button on the keyboard, throwing all of the building's security systems offline before blasting the console to pieces with his plasma gun.

"Now there's nothing standing in his way."

There is no time for them to process this sudden new betrayal, for the moment Bass destroys the security console, there are explosions in all directions-the sound of windows being shattered, rounds being fired, and explosions resounding. Bass runs out the door into the chaos, leaving Megaman, Roll, and the doctor in shock.

Elsewhere.

Protoman is dashing across rooftops in a rage headed towards the headquarters of Dr. Light when he hears the explosions and watches as smoke begins to rise in the distance. What the...?

He picks up his pace and speeds towards the origin of the noise to see what's going on. What he finds when he draws close enough is a wreck. Humans are flooding out of the building and onto the streets only to be confronted by sniper Joes, all firing carelessly at the 10th floor. Enormous flames leap out of the sides of the building where their shots make impact, rocking the structure with explosion after explosion. Protoman doesn't have to think about it before jumping to action, raining fire down on the drones and the other minions of Wily who aid in the destruction. Their only warning is a whistle before he's crashing among them, firing off round after round and decapitating foe after foe.

As soon as everything went to hell, Megaman was quick to start escorting the doctor and Roll out of the building along with all of the other people. He wants to help guard all of them outside but suddenly he remembers something terribly important was still inside. Despite the pleas from his family, Megaman turned back, braving the fire and the swarm of Joes to retrieve something before it is engulfed in flames.

Meanwhile outside the battle rages on. Most of the Joes have been quickly dispatched. It doesn't take an advanced combat bot like Blues long to mow through them, so it's just Protoman and the other robot masters now. Fire shoots a stream of flame at him that he uses his shield to redirect at Gutsman. Unfortunately, with the barrage of attacks all he can really do is shield and redirect them when possible.

"Stay out of this Protoman!" One of them hisses. "We're after Dr. Light, not you!"

"Idiots!" He berates them. "You're catching normal humans in the crossfire. Go after Light if you like but leave them out of this."

"Just who's side are you on, huh?!"

"Look at you... soft spot for the sack-of-flesh humans, huh?" A different voice sounds. Bass drops down from above to face Protoman. The heavyweight black bot lands with a deep thud, shattering the concrete underneath him.

"I was wondering when you'd show up, Bassy" The red bot grins. It's all bravado though. Truth be told he's on the ropes. His unstable core has burned through most of the fuel he had working on his side earlier and now he's running on fumes just trying to stay on his feet using his shield. Too much more of this exertion and he's going to run himself into the ground... or worse, under it. "How many new combat problems has Wily given you? I'd love to see."

Bass roars and rushes the snarky older bot, charging at him with a raised fist. Blues dodges out of the way just in time to miss an impact that causes a wrecking-ball-sized crater.

Blues whistles in a jeer. "Wow... too bad... targeting system's getting a little rusty huh?"

"SHUT UP!" Bass screams as he launches off two missles that Protoman has to dodge. He needs to end this. And fast.

From inside the building, Megaman can hear the voice that had been begging him for help what seemed like minutes ago now screaming in rage. As he races to the doctor's safe, his mind races with everything that's happened. They were betrayed by both Bass and Protoman, two bots who they brought into their home with the intent to save them. He let Wily's bot right in without a second thought, thinking that he needed help. But that was what he had always believed in-helping those in need. It's why he offered aid to both Bass and Protoman. It's all he's been taught-to be kind. But now, for the first time, it has cost him dearly. He offered trust and care too readily to bots that betrayed him for it. The good doctor had told him that everyone deserved to be treated well...and now, for the first time, Rock finds himself doubting that philosophy.

The doctor rushes downstairs with Roll with all of their terrified neighbors, trying to get out. Deep sadness weighs upon his heart knowing that he's caused them this fright and suffering. "Oh Roll... what am I do to?" His daughter doesn't have an answer for him.

When Megaman finally makes it to the locker, he considers turning back around and leaving all of Protoman's things to be stolen or destroyed...but he can't do it. Working as quickly as he can, he breaks the safe open to extract the box inside.

The other robot masters just stay in the background and watch as Bass and Protoman duke it out, knowing full well that if they were to join the fray they'd be toast. Shots and punches are exchanged between the two bots at a break-neck speed. It's all either can do to keep up with one another.

Many of the humans flee, but a few stay to watch the epic battle as well. The last few people are exiting the building when Bass unleashes a powerful blast, blowing Protoman clean into the ground even though he managed to get his shield up to defend against it. He lies in the pit of a crater in the aftermath while Bass scoffs over him.

With everything he wanted, Megaman turns back with the box in hand and starts running back out for dear life. He isn't prepared for the scene just outside.

There's a cruel fire in Bass's eyes as he advances past Protoman towards Light and Roll. The last few humans that stood watching scream and scramble to escape as the black-plated terror sets his gaze in their direction.

The doctor prepares to run with Roll but Bass breaks into a run at inhuman speed. There won't be any escaping him.

"No!"

At the last moment, Roll moves in front of Dr. Light, shielding him from the incoming barrage. "I... I'll protect you daddy!"

Megaman immediately pursues Bass, jumping out of the window and aiming his cannon with one arm while clinging to the box with his other.

Having no compulsions about hitting a girl to catch his target, Bass raises his fist, preparing for another devastating strike-"

-THWACK-

The black bot faceplants into the concrete as he's knocked forward by Protoman's well-aimed shield.

Blues stands without it at the edge of the crater he was knocked into. "H..hey... where do you... think you're going? I'm not finished with you yet... Bass..."

Rage filled eyes turn on the red bot that prevented his attack.

"Too bad! I'm DONE WITH YOU!"

Blues's body is too weak. He can feel his core shuddering inside of him He isn't able to dodge out of the way before the shot that rings out hits him right in the chest, knocking him backwards into the pit he was embedded in.

"BLUES!" Rock cries as he lands by the building, his arm cannon still charging.

That problem sorted, Bass turns his attention back on Light and Roll. "Show's over, doctor. You lose."

With Bass's attention fully focused on the doctor, Megaman has every opportunity to focus his anger through his weapons systems. In moments, his blaster reaches full power, and he doesn't hesitate to release it right at Bass's back.

"ARGH!" The black bot is knocked forward a second time. This time, Roll and the doctor use the opportunity to escape while Megaman faces down the threat.

"Grrrr... YOU!" Bass roars, seeing red. He is back up in moments, firing round after round at Megaman in a blind rage. "DAMN YOU! You insignificant kid! Do you know who you're messing with!? I'm the ULTIMATE CREATION!"

Despite his proclamation, all of Bass's shots miss and end up hitting the building instead, ripping through its foundation and support beams.

Seeing the devestation he is leaving behind, Rock goes running for cover. This bot far more aggressive than any other Wily bot he's seen. But he quickly realizes that none of his shots hit anywhere near him. Perhaps he's too out of control to even aim right. Megaman stands his ground. "You're just a jerk in need of a lesson!" He begins firing right back.

Bass begins dodging around his fire but his steps are odd and off balanced, as if he's performing a pre-rehearsed dance rather than really keeping out of the way. As soon as he has dodged them all he rushes towards Megaman with his fist raised for another seismic punch.

"GRAAAH! I'LL TEACH YOU TO MESS WITH THE MIGHTY BASS!"

Megaman moves back, not wanting to risk getting hit with that punch. He tries to keep Bass away with stronger shots.

Unfortunately the rain of destruction continues. Bass is like a solid wall. He takes the weaker blasts without flinching. His punches that miss Megaman taking out other things like mailboxes, benches, and slabs of concrete. The unstable building shakes ever more, teetering towards them. Like a force of nature he destroys everything in his path, but his efforts are clumsy and graciously avoidable.

Protoman, although barely conscious, sees the danger of this and begins crawling across the ground to try and reclaim his shield while the other two battle it out.

As their fight goes on Bass's moves get more and more predictable while his own shots get even sloppier. Finally he starts taking some real hits from Megaman's attacks.

Rock can sense the building's movements and guess what is soon to come. He sees the spot of red out of the corner of his eye. The boy doesn't react, not wanting to alert Bass, but instead start leading Bass farther and farther away from the building. At the same time, he makes sure to exploit every opening in Bass's pattern of attack.

The black bot grows increasingly more frustrated when none of his attacks seem to make contact but all of Megaman's seem to. He does notice how his foe gradually moves away though. "What's wrong!? You afraid, huh!? Good! You should be! No one can defeat-"

There's a low rumble as the ground begins to quake and a clatter like an earthquake behind them. Bass, caught off guard, turns around just in time to see the falling building bearing down towards him.

All of the other robot masters scream and scatter out of the way.

Rock immediately tries to find Protoman.

Lucky for him he doesn't have to. Before he knows what's up he's knocked to the ground by his brother, who covers them both with his shield. "Brace yourself."

"Proto-?!"

There's an earthshattering sound as the bricks clatter over them. Protoman's shield creaks dangerously but holds.

Megaman tries to look at the last second towards where the other humans were. Are they all far enough away? Is his family and everyone else safe?

Luckily they are and there's not a person in sight as the building comes down. For a few more horrifying moments there's nothing but the sound of stone clattering over the shield protecting them... and then there's deathly silence.

"..."

"..."

"…..."

Protoman, who is almost lying more on top of Megaman more than alongside him, is limp. Unconscious. It took all he had to manage to get over in time. It is up to Megaman to push the somewhat rubble-covered shield off of the two of them.

As soon as everything is clear, Rock takes note of the bot lying on top of him. "Protoman..." The boy grunts and hefts the shield off before scooping up his older brother in his arms. He has to take him to the doctor...but how will they ever fix him now? All of their equipment...everything...lies in ruin.

Around them, some of Wily's other bots emerge from the shallow rubble, among them Bass, severely dented up. Rather than trying to continue to fight, he calls a retreat, rounding up the other robot masters before returning to Wily. The building is destroyed. They accomplished what they meant to accomplish.

"Roooock!" Roll yells in the distance as she and the doctor return to the scene of destruction.

"Roll!" He calls out, hurrying as best he can in their direction while carrying everything he is.

Both the old man and the girl gasp when they see the state Megaman and Protoman both are in. "Oh no!"

"Son, are you hurt!?"

Rock pants from the exertion, but he shakes his helm. "I'm okay...but Protoman...we have to help him, but how?" Yes. How indeed. They have nothing to repair Protoman with...and it is all his fault. Megaman stares down at his unconscious brother, remembering the key part the red bot had in this whole tragedy despite everything he and his dad and sister did to help him..." Rock's hands shake and loosen...until he remembers that Blues used the last of his strength to protect them. It makes no sense. Why would he put them all in such danger and then turn around to save him? Why did Protoman have to be so confusing? With his head still turned downward, Rock's shoulders begin to shake as everything that's happened finally proves too much for his young heart. He starts to cry.

Seeing Rock's tears falling onto Protoman's limp body begins a chain reaction. Within moments, Roll is crying into her hands as well.

"Oh Rock..." Roll's arms are around him in an instant. Despite everything she's somehow maintained enough composure to lend strength. The doctor takes Protoman from Mega's shaking arms, thinking fast despite the tragic recent events. "We'll hail a taxi. The university isn't too far. I have a lab there with enough equipment... I should be able to repair him and we can figure out a living arrangement for the night. Roll could you…?

The girl is already on it, hailing a cab for them. Protoman is laid carefully in the back, his head resting on Light's lap while Rock sits on his other side and roll takes the front seat. Their cab driver is nice enough not to ask questions.

When they arrive on the university campus it is a scramble to get Protoman out of the car and to a table where the doctor can work on him. A simple test shows that the cause of his unconsciousness is in fact a severely depleted core. The doctor works tirelessly to get some fuel in him, keeping his energy levels stabilized by careful use of capacitors and siphons to gradually bring him up without spiking his energy too suddenly. It is a couple of hours later when the delicate operation is over and Protoman is stable. Weak, but stable. By that time Roll has fallen asleep in the corner of the room. Rock is beside her, only barely clinging to consciousness.

The doctor sighs. "There we are... Time to find a bed... I think. There should be some cots in the office... researchers sometimes pull all-nighters here..."

Rock has long since pulled himself together. The entire time, he sat in a chair silently, the box of Protoman's things remaining in his lap. When Light speaks to him, he simply nods, not taking his eyes off the lid.

The doctor pulls cots out for each of them scattered throughout the dark lab-one for Roll, Rock, Himself, and Protoman.

"If he wakes up before us... there's no guarantee that he won't flee again... but if he does, I suppose, there's nothing to be done about it," the doctor warns.

"Well...maybe we should hide his stuff then. S-so maybe he won't leave without it."

Light sighs softly, a smile on his face. "If that's what you think, my son, then I give you my blessing."

And without a word further he passes out on his own cot. In minutes he is snoring softly.


End of Chapter


Chapter Text


Chapter 4: The Prodigal Son

Protoman groans softly as he slowly comes to, feeling like a can of nails that's been kicked around the parking lot one too many times. He reaches up to touch the fabric of his scarf for comfort, but it isn't there. That's right... He lost it the other day... Back when he was taken to Light's apartment. That means… it's probably buried under several tons of rubble now.

A pang shoots through Blues that leaves him feeling heavy. That scarf… that scarf was really important to him. And his other items… his camera, his marble, his blueprints…. Now all he has to his name is his shield, his helmet, and his shades.

... What happened exactly? All he remembers is the building collapsing and...

Someone whispers off to his side. "Daddy... He's waking up."

Protoman's gun is out and aimed on the source in an instant.

Roll yelps and flinches, shaking in her seat when he aims at her. "Hey!" Rock shouts before going so far as to shove Protoman's arm away from her direction. "You leave her alone!"

Protoman growls and knocks Megaman back, turning his aim on the blue bot instead, creating another standoff. The doctor quietly and making no sudden moves positions himself in front of his daughter as they stare each other off. "Easy my children, easy... Rock, Roll, be still now. Blues? Now Blues please..." He speaks in a soothing voice, "please calm down... There is no need for that... No one will hurt you here..."

The mere sight of the doctor sets Protoman trembling with a mixture of fear and anger. Light has been rooting around in him again!? But the emotional display of placing himself in front of his "daughter" who would be in less danger from taking the blast than a human gives him pause. He begins analyzing every motion Light makes, trying to decipher attempts at manipulation and figure out what he's after. Slowly... His weapon lowers.

"My things... Give them back." He doesn't really expect them to have them, but he growls the demand anyway.

Rock seems surprised. "How did you know we-..." He lowers his head. "I... I didn't think you'd go back...I'm sorry for taking them...b-but I just wanted to keep them safe until I...found you again..." He grabs the box and stands back in front of Protoman again. "Everything's here. We even developed the pictures you took. They're all in an envelope here." For some reason, he's still holding the box to his chest. "I wanted to keep these in your room for you...b-but Dr. Light knew they'd be safer in his safe. G-good thing...otherwise these might have been..." The boy's head falls forward, and he sniffles.

"..."

Blues stares at him uncomprehending for several moments. The pictures... Safe...

"My...room?"

"Th-there was a room near our bedrooms that was always closed off...Dr. Light told us there wasn't anything for us in it, so it was best we stay out...Then, after I met you and learned who you were...He let me see inside. It was a bedroom...the one he said you used to sleep in...

"...you're wrong." Protoman quiets. "My room was destroyed in the fire years ago... The whole lab burned. There was nothing left. It wasn't even that building." He glares at Light. "Just more lies and manipulation from a wicked old man."

Rock frowns sourly. "Why does it matter?! The point is he had a room for you, neat and ready for the day you'd come home!" Rock really begins sobbing now, too devastated to care that his older brother is seeing him now. His helmet is off, making his disheveled brown hair clear-nearly the same shade as Protoman's. He wipes his arm over his eyes. "Why did you do it?! All we wanted was to take care of you and bring you home, and now none of us have one to go back to! Neither do all of those people! They all lost their homes, and it's all your fault!"

Poor Light looks like he's been stabbed in the heart by everything that is transpiring in front of him, his words stolen.

Protoman too is shaken by the sight of the blue bot reduced to tears. This isn't the Megaman that he thought he knew and demonized in his head... It's an upset kid without a place to call home. The next round of stinging words he has prepared fall from his tongue an leave him feeling numb, as though he's been poisoned by his own venom.

It is his fault... He gave Wily what he needed to spite this old man, and he did... He didn't consider the other lives that would be affected...

No... No he did think about them didn't he... He knew this might happen to innocents... And he hardened his heart to it.

Now he feels truly low.

Light finally acts, taking Rock into his arms. "Shh... It will be okay, son... We will make a new home... The most important thing is that no lives were lost... The rest can be rebuilt."

Though he continues crying, Rock turns away from Protoman and into the arms of his father.

When Roll joins their embrace, Blues is left sitting alone watching them. He quietly gets up and exits the room, not even grabbing the box of his belongings. It just doesn't feel right to see that. It's like the day he came back all over again...

When he gets out into the hallway away from prying eyes he slumps against the wall. A sob grips his chest.

Rock isn't sure how much time passes, but at some point he finally calms down enough to open his wet eyes back up only to realize that Protoman has disappeared. "Blues! Dad, he-..."

"It's alright... His things are still here... I don't believe my wayward son has ventured far..."

Light pets his Rock's head and places a kiss upon it. "Everything will be okay... We will make a new place to call home… I promise you."

Rock sniffles. "O-okay..."

Roll hugs and kisses her brother and father too before motioning to Rock. "Let's go look for him."

Rock nods.

They walk out into the hallway. Protoman is just a short distance down the way, leaning against a wall as he sits on the ground staring at nothing.

"B-...Blues...?"

"...No one's called me that in a long time."

"Dr. Light calls you it all the time..."

"... " Protoman looks sick at the mention of his name.

"Blues...you have to believe us... He loves you..."

There it is. Another stab to the heart. "That's hard to believe. He moved on pretty quickly when I was gone."

"That's not true! He searched and searched for you, but he never found you...and eventually he thought you had..."

"Well... He didn't search long enough... If he had held out a little longer... I forgave him once... I tried to come home to tell him so...

And when I got there who should I spy but you two... Bouncing baby boy and girl...

Even if I could still believe that he cared about me... He'll get over that attachment pretty quickly once I'm gone again."

"So you do plan on leaving..."

"Of course. You should too. And just wait... if anything ever happens to you two? I'm sure Hip, Hop, and Pop will take your place."

Rock flinches. "….If anything happened to us... I wouldn't want him to be alone."

Footsteps clack up to Blues's side. Protoman is surprised when a blow meets his cheek. He holds the spot in shock while Roll stands over him.

"You stop that!" she yells.

"Roll?! What are you...?!" Rock cries in surprise, running to her side to keep her from striking their brother again.

"No! He needs to stop! Daddy wouldn't ever replace us he... He loves us, Rock! H-he would never..."

Tears leak freely down her face.

"Roll..." Rock goes to kneel beside his sister and hold her.

From the room the doctor listens and stares at the wall ahead. Shame and pain fill his own heart at the revelation. Blues... He tried to come back...

Rock looks between Blues and Roll, unsure what to do or say.

Protoman, finding himself surrounded by crying people again, gets up and walks away once more, this time going back to the lab only to meet the doctor in the doorway.

Tears stream down the old man's grief-stricken face and once more neither of them knows what to say.

When Rock hears the older man, he turns back to see Light crying, and the sight seems to make him lose his composure all over again.

"... I can't ever trust you." Blues mumbles to his creator

"No... " Light sniffles. "No, perhaps not..."

"I'm not going to stay."

"It's... It's up to you, Blues... But there will always be a place waiting for you here."

Protoman shakes his head.

"You need to just forget about me."

Light breaks, wrapping his arms around his stiff-shouldered prodigal son. He cries into Blues's shoulder.

"No... I'm afraid I can't..."

The old doctor sobs against him for several minutes, holding the frame of his oldest close and missing the tear that rolls down Blues's cheek.

Watching the doctor hug his older brother fills Rock with emotion. He quickly decides to pull Roll to her feet and leads her to join the two of them. Despite everything...all the suffering Blues has caused them...he doesn't hesitate to wrap his arms around the bot that will always be his big brother.

Blues grits his teeth as so many confusing emotions shoot through his heart. Pain... Loss... Anger... Regret...

It finally becomes too much for him to bear.

After the emotional hug breaks up Protoman is left standing amidst the other three, not at all sure what to do now. Frozen to the spot. Roll looks at her daddy, concerned. "Did we break him?"

Rock stands on his tiptoes to wave a hand in front of Protoman's visor.

That does the trick. The other robot assumes a pout before swatting his hand away and jumping deftly away from them.

"Hmph. Don't talk about me like I'm not here."

Rock gulps. "Sorry...um... ...can I ask you something?"

"..."

"Where did you get that marble?"

Blues grits his teeth, his eyebrows furrowing angrily. "None of your business! Now give it back."

Megaman sighs sadly and holds out the whole box.

Blues snatches it and shuffles inside to make sure everything's there. That's when he notices the envelope of photos. His eyes shift side to side. Then he turns his back on the others to look through them. He had always meant to develop these himself one day but never had the money.

"..."

"..."

Shit now he's going to cry again.

"Blues...?"

Protoman stashes the photos back quickly and starts heading out the door with his things.

"Protoman?" Roll calls

"W-wait!" Rock immediately chases after him.

The older bot rounds on him when he realizes he's rig followed, his mouth a hard line. "What!?"

Rock skids to a stop, his eyes wide and afraid. "I...I just wanted to tell you..."

Blues unbristles a little bit. "….what..."

"...you're a good drawer." Rock's eyes flash bashfully to the side.

"..."

Protoman walks up to his little brother

...and kicks him in the knee.

"Who said you could look through my stuff? That's private." He scorns

Megaman yelps and holds his knee. "Nngh...I-I'm sorry...I didn't know it was secret..."

Rather than leave him at that, Blues puts Megaman into a choke hold and noogies him into submission. "Don't mess with other people's things."

"Ack!"

"Okay okay Protoman I'm sorry lemme go!" Rock yelps, twisting in his grip as his hair is disheveled.

Say it. "I won't ever mess with Protoman's things again without his permission."

"Weeeeeh…. I won't ever mess with Protoman's things without his permission!"

His older brother releases him.

Rock scowls. "Meanie."

"Dumb kid."

He picks his box back up and heads for the exit.

"..."

Light comes back out into the hall. "Ack... B...blues wait... Your core..."

Protoman groans. Every time he tries to leave...

"No"

"Please at least let me try to find a way to do it without harming you..."

"No."

"But-"

"N. O."

Megaman frowns.

The poor old doctor shlumps, clearly upset. "Oh... Alright if you insist but... Could you at least pay an old man a visit every now and then? I worry..."

"..."

Blues pauses, thinking over this one.

"...maybe"

Rock grins. "Yeah! That'd be great!"

"I said I might visit him, not that I might visit you."

"But we live together."

Blues sticks his tongue out at Megaman and starts leaving again.

Light just sighs, relieved. It's not the relationship he hoped to mend... But it's a start.

Rock pouts but he gives a wave goodbye before he's gone.

"Ah... That's the first time I've embraced him in... My... It must have been about five years."

"Really?!"

The doctor nods, a smile growing on his lips. It is definitely a start.


End of Chapter


Chapter Text


Chapter 5: Siblings

Later that day, after his possessions are hidden in a new safe spot, Protoman returns to Wily's lair. This time as soon as he gets there Bass charges out on the offensive to meet him. "HyAaaaaaaa-AGH!"

The moment he's ready to punch the red bot, Protoman nimbly sidesteps and trips him, sending him face planting into the dirt. This time, unlike the previous night, this completely shuts the bot down. When he gets back up he growls at Protoman but shoves past him, headed for Wily's lab. This isn't like last night when there was a mission objective to complete. There is no point in continuing to fight to show his supremacy if there is even a single flaw in his battle protocols. Perfection is everything, so he'll have to get that problem fixed by Wily before he takes on the red bot again.

"Nice to see you too, Bass." Blues catcalls as he follows the bot inside.

Elecman is leaning against a wall around the corner, snickering. He heard the whole thing. "Nice to see you back so soon, Protoman." He grins, looking the red bot over.

"You think that was funny?" Blues asks. "Follow me. The real show hasn't even begun."

Wily is already inspecting Bass and has him open on the work table when Protoman enters. Curious, Elecman follows behind him. Several other robot masters are in the room. They all focus on Protoman when he enters, curious as to what business he has here this time.

Wily just growls. "And just what do you think you were doing yesterday, HM!? You ruined my plan! Thanks to you Light and Megaman managed to escape! What do you have to say for yourself!? I should have Bass rip you to pieces!"

Bass looks hopeful but Protoman can't help but smirk. The doctor still looks lopsided because of the plug of mustache he snatched out of his face, and Wily still hasn't shaved the other side off.

The robot masters present all look very interested now. Elecman suspects that Protoman wasn't kidding. They're in for a real show.

"The real question is what did you think YOU were doing? Because what I saw last night? That was just sloppy," Blues taunts.

Wily flinches as Protoman lets him have it.

"I mean come on, it would be sad enough that you apparently can't take out one old man without bringing a building down on him, but what's worse? You DID bring the whole building down and you STILL didn't get him! He and his creations got away unscathed. And now you're back to square one not having any idea where they are."

"W... B... W-well you interfered!"

"Oh BOO HOO. One little me took town your entire 'army'? Is that what you're trying to justify? Maybe you should get out of the world domination business and go back to making children's toys."

Doctor Wily looks positively stricken. "W... Well just what were you doing there interfering in the first place, Hm!? Don't you want to get Light out of the way as much as I do!?"

"Something of mine was in the building." Protoman replies.

"Eh... S... Something of yours? But what could have been important enough to-"

"My scarf."

There's a collective exclamation of surprise from all of the occupants of the room as they mentally headdesk.

"A... Y... You ruined my plans for a SCARF!?"

"It's my only one."

Another collective headdesk.

"A… Are you STUPID!? You could have just gone and bought yourself a new one!"

"Scarfs are expensive."

WHAM. Another collective facepalming as everyone reels from the implication that they were pummeled for the sake of a piece of fabric. Wily is the first to recover.

"Now just a moment! You can fool me! I have reports that you aided Megaman! You even shielded him from the rubble! What do you have to say to THAT, HM!? I've got you now!"

"I found out he had my scarf."

WHAMMO, and they're down for the count ladies and gentlemen. Every one of the robot masters and Wily himself are stricken senseless by the nonsensical notion that all that trouble was over a lousy scarf, and yet they don't doubt his sincerity.

Protoman advances towards Wily while he tries to get a grip on himself The red bot snatches the man up to eye-level with the remaining half of his mustache. Albert gasps.

"N-now wait a moment! Let's not do anything hasty!"

"Who's being hasty? I just wanted to let you in on a little something."

He leans in closer to Wily's face. "Going after Light is all good and fine, but if you keep causing a ruckus I won't hesitate to stop you. This city is my home and I don't appreciate those garbage drones running around blowing things up. So if any more public property like that building gets destroyed or any civilians come to harm? Forget the FBI and police tracking you down. I'll be back on your doorstep. And this is just a warning."

"NO NO NO PLEASE ANYTHING BUT-AAAAAARGH!"

Protoman drops the other half of Wily's mustache on the ground before turning to leave. A few of the robot masters snicker at their now mustache-less leader.

Elecman smirks to Proto and offers a few claps of applause. He did not disappoint.

The doctor glares at his insolent, applauding creation.

"Elecmaaaaan. Is it, perhaps, time for some modifications~?"

The electric robot master freezes in place before giving full attention to his boss. "N-no sir!"

Meanwhile.

Back at the university where the Light family now has a temporary apartment, Roll sits in her father's lap, clinging to his neck. She's seemed rather down since the episode with Protoman earlier, her normally bright face downcast.

After yet another phone call to an old friend inquiring after living space in the city her father pets her head. "What's wrong my sweet? There is no reason to fret. Our old home is gone, but we will soon have a new one. I'll make sure it is even nicer than the last."

She shakes her head. "No daddy... It's not that..."

"Then what, my dear?"

Rock sits nearby, watching curiously and wondering what could have his sister so downtrodden.

Roll sighs sadly. "What Blues said... You... You wouldn't really replace Rock and me with new bots... Would you?"

"Oh my sweet... Of course not... No one could ever replace the two of you... When I thought Blues was gone I was sad for a very long time... And I was lonely... I missed him every day. But when I made you and your brother it wasn't so I would have someone to love instead of Blues... It was because I had a lot more love to give, and I decided to give it to you. Even if Blues had stayed with me all those years, I think I still would have made you and your brother. You were not born merely out of his absence."

"Do you mean that...?" Rock asks.

The doctor smiles at his son. "Of course, my loves. That being said... It is possible that one day I may make more siblings for the two of you. But if I do it will never be to take any of your places. The love of a father isn't a finite amount... It grows with every day and every child."

He hugs Roll and kisses her pretty head.

She buries her face into the old man's shoulder and wraps her arms around her father's back.

Rock gasps at that last part. "Really? I might have a little brother or sister?"

The talk of siblings makes Roll go quiet. She quietly slips off of her father's lap and goes to her new room without a word. When she gets there she leaves the lights off and buries her head in her pillow, upset.

Light notices but lets her go, feeling she may benefit from some time on her own. Rock continues talking to his father.

"Hey dad...are we gonna live in school now?"

Thomas Light snorts. "No no, son. This is temporary. Although... if it is your desire, you could one day stay at a place like this."

"Oh yeah? ...I dunno. I don't like this place as much."

He pets Megaman's head. "Your life has been in such upheaval since both you and your sister were born... but one day I think it would be good to send both you and Roll to school... then you can learn all kinds of things about the world we live in. If you wanted to you could become a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer... or even a scientist like me!"

"Wait, really? You're gonna send us to school?"

Rock chats with his dad excitedly about the possibility of formal education. Mostly he's interested in being around other "kids" he can interact with. They talk about it for a while longer. The old man sadly admits that it will probably be a while before such a thing is possible and that homeschooling might continue to be the best route for the foreseeable future. Rock is a bit disappointed, but his father reminds him that he is only a few years old as it is. He has plenty of time that he can still go off and get a formal education. As the hours slip by, the doctor notes that dinner time is soon. He goes to the kitchen to fix them a proper meal. It is then that Rock takes note of his sister's disappearance.

Roll hears Rock silently enter her room. She sighs into her pillow. "Rock..."

"Roll... are you okay?"

"I... I guess not..." She sniffles. "I'm just so..." she pauses. "Maybe... maybe there's something wrong with me..."

Rock takes a seat on her bed next to her and places a hand on her shoulder. "Come on, Roll. There's nothing wrong with you. What are you upset about?"

"I just... you know how daddy was saying that having more kids wouldn't change how much he loved us?"

"W...well yeah..."

"It's just... I keep trying to imagine it... us with lots of new siblings... and I... I just don't know if I could do it, Rock. The idea of trying to love every one of them as much as I love you and Papa... Papa said his love grew every day... But what if my love doesn't grow? What If I only have a certain fixed amount, and having new people to love would mean splitting it up into tinier pieces... I can't imagine loving anyone as much as I love you and Papa... It just doesn't seem possible, Rock... What if... What if I'm broken, like Blues? Maybe there's something wrong with my core that makes me not able to love new people like I'm supposed to...

And... And even if Papa did love us all just as much... If we had more siblings it would mean less time that Papa had to spend on each one of us... I... I don't mind sharing Papa's love and attention with you, because I love you too... and it's always been this way... But I do like having time alone with him sometimes... And I like being his only daughter... It makes me feel special... S...so the idea that he might have other daughters... and... and Papa might spend more time with them than me..."

Roll hiccups and wails into her pillow bitterly.

"Oh Rock... I always thought Blues was horrible for hating us. I thought he was wrong to be upset that we were made. But when I talked to him earlier... when I slapped him... Rock, I was upset because I understood... If it was me... if new siblings took daddy's attention away from me and it didn't seem like he cared about me anymore... I... oh I think I would hate them too ..."

A high pitched sob wracks her body and she wails louder.

"R-rock I never thought I was capable of hating anyone for anything b-but now... hic ... it... it's awful... I know it's awful but I can't help it... I can't help how I feel... I thought anyone who let themselves hate someone else was a bad person b-but... sniff ... but I was wrong. It's hard to stop hating someone... we... we don't even have any other siblings yet and I already hate just the idea of them... Poor Blues... at one point he must have had all of Papa's love, and we stole it from him just by being born..."

His sister continues to sob miserably into her bed, beyond the touch of comfort.

"R...Roll..." Rock continues rubbing his sister's back, but he can't think of anything to say to her. This...this is a lot to take in...

"Roll...are you saying...are you saying we're wrong to have taken Doctor Light away from Blues?"

"I... I don't know... I don't want to think that... I love Daddy... but... I just... I guess I understand why Blues must feel the way he does about us..."

"...He doesn't hate us as much as you think though..." Rock soothes.

Protoman peeks his head in through the window. "And if it makes you feel any better, there are plenty more individuals out there that I hate much more than you."

Roll shrieks and shoots up in bed clutching her pillow.

!

Blues smirks. "Whoops. Forgot to announce myself."

He whistles his signature whistle. "There"

"Blues! What are you doing back so soon?"

"Oh? Sorry, didn't realize I wasn't wanted back yet. I'll go."

"No no don't go!" Rock comes to the window, trying to grab him.

He wasn't really planning on it anyway so he seats himself on the open windowsill.

"I just didn't expect you'd want to see us for a while," the blue bot says, averting his eyes.

Protoman shrugs. "Wasn't so much that I came to see you. Don't flatter yourself."

"Oh...then what brings you back?"

"A warning."

"Wh-what's that?"

"Wily may not have succeeded in taking the three of you out last night... but he and his minions know that. And they'll be looking for you. Until you're set up somewhere safe again? I would lay low."

"O-okay...I'll let Dr. Light know. Thanks for telling us."

He shrugs again, whistling his little themesong.

Always with that tune. It perplexes Megaman every time he hears it. He's not quite sure if Protoman plans to leave right now or not...but something tells him that if he went so far as to invite him inside, his invitation would be rejected. He's starting to learn a bit about how his big brother works. He has to remain under the impression that everything he does is because he wants to, not because someone suggested it to him.

As it so happens, Protoman is inhaling the scent wafting through their home with interest. It smells warm and delicious... like fuel but better.

"Something cooking?"

"Ah, yeah... Dr-… dad should be getting dinner ready about now..."

"..."

Rock wants so bad to do the polite thing and invite him...

"..."

Blues waits a few moments for a dinner invitation, but when none comes he yawns and hides his disappointment. "Well, don't want to hold you two up from refueling. Maybe I should head back out."

Ack. His theory was wrong. Now Blues thinks he's unwanted.

"W-wait wait please I know we have enough to spare so-so um we'd be happy to have you join us."

Blues tingles with glee as he's invited in.

"Baaaah. No no, I couldn't do that, I'm sure the old man didn't make enough for four. Psh. Wouldn't want to intrude, but I GUESS if you insist I can drop in and say hello at least."

He hops in through the window and heads toward the door without a moment's hesitation.

"This way right?"

Rock grins. Yes. Dr. Light will be so happy. He nods.

Indeed, the doctor is more than surprised when the red-helmed Protoman comes striding casually in. So surprised that he almost drops the platter of food he is holding. "Goodness! B-blues! When did you get here?"

Rock and Roll enter behind him. "Just now." Says Rock. "We got enough to give him dinner too, right?"

"Baaah what did I tell you about that" Protoman waves him off, "I'm fine, I don't need anything, it would be rude to impose." He rattles off, feigning modesty.

"Nonsense, Rock's right there's plenty! We couldn't possibly eat in front of you without you having anything, Blues..."

Protoman grits his teeth in mock frustration. "Nnnngh twisting my arm. Fine fine fine. Maybe I'll try a bit, but really I'm a light eater!" He says as he seats himself at the table before anyone else.

Dad isn't fooled for a moment. This is the Blues he remembers well, and it's hard to resist going over and ruffling his eldest's hair like he once did.

"Roll, Rock, are you joining us?"

Roll seats herself next, looking eager for her dad's cooking. Light gets emotional again when he realizes this is their first family meal together... Oh he's going to have to go and get a camera to take pictures.

As soon as all of the plates are helped, Blues takes his first cautious nibble...

….And then starts downing as much as he can cram into his mouth like an animal that hasn't seen a good meal in a long time and tries to gorge themselves while they can.

"Now now, Blues! No need to rush! There's plenty, no one will take it away from you. If you eat too fast you'll make yourself sick!"

The red bot reluctantly stops and wipes his mouth off with the back of his hand. "Wha? Rushing. Naaah this is how I always eat, time is money and all that."

The doctor gives him such a look. You are not fooling him, young man.

Rock and Roll snicker together.

"So you like it, Blues?"

Despite his protests to take it slow, it does Light good to see his son enjoying a real meal here with the rest of them. He remembers the days long gone, the first days after Protoman ran away, when he agonized over the thought of his poor child starving in some lonely place without the comfort and security of home. Though it hurt to lose him for all those years, the doctor is so proud of his resourceful son for finding a way to survive on his own at such a young age.

"Eeeeh. It's okay," Blues concedes. "What... is it exactly? This isn't normal fuel, is it?" It seems too… solid.

"No. It's fuel mixed into human food!" Rock pipes up.

"Wh..."

"But... but human food... we're not supposed to eat that..."

Protoman tried once—an act of desperation when resources were low. It made him violently sick.

"Sure we can! Right?" Roll looks to her dad for confirmation.

"Well... yes and no" The doctor says, validating each of their claims. "Organic food is no problem when taken in restraint with a healthy mix of the fuels and other components your frames need to sustain themselves. I designed each of you so your bodies would not easily fall victim to non-standard substances entering your fuel systems. So human food is fine as long as you also intake the regular fuel that you need while you eat it.

"On the other hand... eating nothing but human food would indeed cause illness, as it's not what each of you was naturally made to use for conversion to energy. After a buildup of too much coupled with low fuel levels... the system would begin to shut down and your body would work to purge the non-standard substances..."

He looks at Blues sadly. That means at some point his son tried to survive off of human food and must have experienced such a purge firsthand.

"Oh..." The robot girl nods at the information, not realizing the implication behind Blues's comment the way Light does.

Blues swallows quietly... and then goes back to eating at a slower pace. The doctor decides it's time for a topic change.

"Blues... I meant to ask you earlier before you left but didn't get the chance... I couldn't help but notice the schematics you had in your belongings."

"..." Protoman tenses. "What about them?"

"It is purely up to you, my son. They are yours to keep and do with as you see fit with. But... I must wonder... if it would be alright with you, could I request that you allow me to make a copy for my own purposes?"

"..." He tenses further, hostility gripping his frame. "Why do you need them?" The paranoia of before creeps back up his spine, and he stares at the man across the table through slitted eyes, narrowed in suspicion. Does Light want to make a copy of him? Does he want to use those schematics to try to alter him? "I'm still not letting you go digging around in me."

"No no... that isn't it at all... I promise you, Bluese. It's just... well it's all that's left of the old days of my research... and a valuable source of information. There are also things in there that, if you were ever to come to harm, I might could use to help repair you."

"No repairs."

"Not THOSE repairs, my boy. I just mean that it would be prudent to have a copy... but if you don't wish me to have them... I will respect your decision."

Protoman closes his eyes and sighs. "I don't have them with me right now, but... maybe."

Blues keeps filling up on the warm comfort food and his glass of regular filtered fuel until his tank is maxed out. So much for moderation. After the meal he feels pleasantly sleepy and not at all like making the trip back across town to return to his chilly condemned home.

Roll notices him yawn. "Daddy, can Blues stay the night?"

"No... no I can't..." her older brother protests.

"Yeah you can!" Rock perks up. "There's plenty of beds here for you to use!"

"Eeeeeeh"

Five minutes later Protoman is out like a light on the plush couch, snoozing quietly.

Rock tugs on Light's arm as they watch him. "We got blankets for him right?"

"Yes yes... good thinking."

They turn the lights in the living room out and quietly tiptoe through the apartment so as to keep from waking their sleeping guest. The Doctor pulls two soft travel blankets out of the closet and hands them to Rock. "Try not to wake him up. If he does wake he might leave, knowing him."

Rock nods and puts a finger to his lip in a silent promise to be quiet. Despite his big boots he's surprisingly successful at making little noise as he makes his way to Protoman's side. He ever so slowly kneels down to unfold the blankets and carefully, CAREFULLY place them on top of his sleeping brother.

"Mmmm..." Blues hums softly as the blankets are placed on him, murmuring ever so slightly. "mmm... please...hn..."

Rock freezes, thinking he's woken him up.

"...mmm... yeah..."

"...?"

Protoman curls up just a bit more under the covers, unconsciously tugging them closer around himself. "…s'nice..."

Rock isn't sure if he's talking to him or just talking in his sleep...but he's not gonna risk anything by saying something back. The thought of Protoman sleep talking while snuggling under some blankets nearly makes the boy giggle. He ought to leave before he ruins his mission.

Lucky for him his intrusion isn't noticed. Blues is too full and happy to be bothered to wake right now. He drifts further to sleep on the comfortable couch wrapped snugly in blankets.

Light pats his younger son on the head as they go to Megaman's bedroom so the doctor can tuck him in.

Rock grins as he gets into bed. "I did it. I didn't wake him." He whispers excitedly.

"You surely did! I'm so proud of you. Blues doesn't know it yet... but he's lucky to have you as a younger brother. And I've always known it, that I'm lucky to have you as a son."

He tucks the covers around Rock before leaning in to give the younger boy a kiss on the forehead.

"Goodnight, my Rock. Sleep tight."

The little boy positively beams. "Goodnight, Dad."

"Love you, son."

"I love you too."

He flicks the light switch off with a smile and cracks the door before heading off to give Roll a similar goodnight treatment.

As Rock closes his eyes, he thinks to himself how lucky he is to have the doctor for a dad, Roll for a sister, and yes, even Blues as an older brother.

Once the doctor is done and the kitchen is tidied up, he's ready to go off to bed himself. But first... he can't resist peeking his head into the living room. Blues is still on the same spot on the couch where he was earlier, curled up under the blankets. The doctor notices that his helmet is still on, though. Quietly and gently as he can he raises Blues's head and removes the protective gear, thinking his son will be more comfortable sleeping without it. Blues's shaggy hair falls out around his face. The doctor brushes a bit of it out of his eyes before plucking the shades off and setting them to the side by the helmet. "Goodnight Blues... I love you too"


End of Chapter

Chapter Text


Chapter 6: Hospital Day

Blues is far too comfortable to be bothered to wake at the moment, so if Megaman should happen to get up early he may yet catch a glimpse of his brothers uncovered face.

As it is, the doctor is already back up making more phone calls, working tirelessly to secure them a new safe place to call home.

It is not long before the presence of activity helps to rouse Rock from his sleep. He yawns and stretches, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. As soon as his processor becomes more alert, he remembers that Blues had slept over. Was he still here? The robot boy hops out of bed to go see. When he enters the living room, he slows to a quiet tiptoe just in case he was still asleep. He creeps to the couch, holding his breath until he finally sees his brother's sleeping form.

...!

Rock has to cover his mouth to keep himself from gasping. To his shock, Protoman isn't wearing his visor. As he looks over the older robot's face, he's quick to recognize the similarity to his own features. They even have the same colored hair, though somehow Protoman's is even messier than his. Not sure when he'll get this chance again, Rock decides he'll commit his brother's face to memory now. He only wishes he could see his eyes, but he'll get to see them as soon as Blues wakes up.

It's the smell of breakfast cooking that finally wakes the older boy. Sea green eyes flicker open blearily and he stretches out, yawning.

...!

...!

Blues touches his bare face. WHA-

To Rock's surprise, Blues's eyes are different than he thought. He doesn't have the same blue eyes as he does, but it's a nice color all the same. Sensing that Blues might not be very happy in a second, Rock turns around and decides it's best he escape now.

Not noticing his brother, Protoman quickly grabs his helm and slams it back down over his head and fits his shades back on underneath. He's far from pleased. If someone managed to take that off while he was asleep, what else could they have done? He's usually such a light sleeper… or at least he fancied himself one.

Rock runs in the direction of the scent of breakfast and clings to Dr. Light's leg. "Dad dad!" He says excitedly before he realizes he doesn't want Blues hearing. He drops his voice to a whisper. "I saw his face!"

Roll, who only just woke up herself, enters the kitchen behind her brother. "Who's face?" Rock pulls his sister close to whisper to her. "Blues! He looks a lot like me."

"Really?" Roll turns and steps towards the doorway to have a peek for herself before Rock pulls her back in. "No don't. He's already up, and he put his helmet back on."

"Aw, I missed it!"

The doctor smiles. "Now now... It's probably best to let him show you in his own time... Perhaps you two should invite him in to breakfast?

However, when they get back to the room, Protoman is gone. The blankets on the couch that he was using are neatly folded and glass door leading out to their balcony is ajar, leaving no question as to what his escape route was.

"Oh no!" Roll cries. "He ran away!" Without a word, Rock runs out the door and onto the balcony. Acting on a bunch, he climbs up to the roof of the building.

Protoman turns when he hears his brother climb to the roof behind him. He was just getting ready to leap away.

Megaman perks. "Hey wait!" He runs forward but stops himself before getting too close for his brother's comfort. "Don't you want breakfast?"

" 'Preciate the offer but I've stayed long enough." Blues salutes. "I've got things to do and places to be."

Megaman frowns. "Are you SURE? You could use one more good meal before you leave."

Protoman chews his lower lip. It's tempting. Very tempting. "See you around."

He shoots off.

Megaman sighs sadly. He makes his way back inside and faces his family with a big frown. "He didn't want breakfast..."

"Ah well" sighs the doctor. "It's miraculous that he stayed as long as he did. We can't force it. But this gives me hope that he may continue to return."

Megaman cheers up a bit. "Yeah. I hope so."

Protoman dashes towards the suburbs. Today is hospital day. He has a cat to pick up.

After he stops by Clarisse's house and grabs Mr. Kittypants he continues on to the hospital. The pudgy, spoiled cat is very used to this trip and doesn't protest at all as they leap over rooftops. When they arrive at the city children's hospital front desk, no one remarks at the strange arrival. "Good morning, Ethyl," Protoman greets the woman at the front desk.

"Oh, good morning Mr. Hero! The kids are waiting for you in the playroom. I've already checked you in."

"Thank you."

"Oh and Maggie had her chemo a couple of days ago, so she wasn't able to come, but if you could spare the time to pay her a personal visit, I'm sure she'd be glad to see you."

Blues nods. "Of course. I'll make sure to stop by. Where is she?"

"Ward E, room 33."

He whistles grimly. "That bad huh..."

Ethyl sighs and nods. "Poor girl."

The moment Protoman enters the playroom with the cat he is mauled by children.

"Protoman!" They are all about and surround the robot instantly. Some cling to his arms and legs while others reach right for the cat. "Hi there Mr. Kittypants!" One girl says. "Hehe, he's so fat now!" Another boy giggles.

"We were worried about you! They said on the news that Wily destroyed one of the houses in the city and that you and Megaman were there fighting a bad guy!"

The cat eagerly transitions into the children's waiting arms for attention while Protoman strikes a heroic pose and belts out "That's right! It's me, PROTOMAN! And my trusty sidekick, Mr. Kittypants! I'm back from another mission to save the day! Who wants to hear about how I single handedly staved off a sniper Joe invasion, defeated my arch-nemesis, Bass, and thwarted the WICKED Doctor Wily!?"

"ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME!"

Storytime is started and Protoman nimbly leaps to the makeshift stage while the kids swarm around its base in rapt attention. What ensues is a HEAVILY embellished version of the events of the last three days.

"...and just then, after Mr. Kitty turned invisible and shot down the rest of the Joes with his DEATH RAY, I tragically... Passed out! And when I awoke? I was strapped to a table in the lair of the SINISTER...doctor DARK, with none other than Megaman standing over me!"

The children gasp. "Oh no! What did Megaman do to you?!"

"Nothing! He just stared at me... Grinning sinisterly. 'Doctor Dark has some repairs to make on you!' He said. "Give up. You'll never escape.'"

"Never!" I cried, and I used my SUPER STRENGTH to break free! But Doctor Dark wasn't letting me go that easily... He sent his blue henchman to attack me as I fled!"

"Oh no! Did he get you?" One little boy with an IV stuck in his arm asks.

"Just then, MR. KITTY flew in through the window to save the day with his utility claws! Megaman didn't stand a chance!

"Yaaay! Good kitty!" The cat gets lots of pets for a job well done.

"In the process..." Protoman continues, "I discovered where Dr. Dark's secret lair was... And I knew in that moment, I had to use my chance! But alone, Mr. Kitty and I would be no match for the doctor and his forces of darkness... There was only one way... So with courage and determination, I turned towards my only option... And infiltrated the lair of Doctor Wily!"

Another gasp. "You did?!"

The next 30 minutes of the tale start out looking hopeful as Doctor Wily agrees to form a temporary alliance with Protoman to stop the greater threat of Doctor Dark, but things take a turn when the "Proto cave" is looted by Megaman and blown up for dramatic effect. Protoman is arming up with Wily's generals to take down the tyrannical Dark when betrayal strikes, and doctor Wily's forces begin attacking civilians against their agreement. Now Protoman and Mr. Kitty are up against impossible odds fighting for their lives against their arch nemesis Bass when who should show up to assist him but Megaman? Using the power of teamwork they save the day and Protoman displays a hero's honor when he neglects the chance to have Megaman finished off once and for all and saves him under his very own handy protoshield, sacrificing himself in the process and falling unconscious once more.

Now the story gets trickier, and Protoman wonders how to tell it.

The kids still stare at absolute rapt attention. "So c'mon Protoman! What happened next?" "Yeah, how did you make it out?" "What did Megaman do with you?" "Tell us tell us tell us!" they plead, desperate for a resolution to the story.

"When I woke once more... It wasn't the lair of Doctor Dark I was in... But there he was... The most terrifying of all evil-doers was standing right above me. Only... It wasn't. For you see, when I accosted him for his crimes he looked at me surprised! That's when I noticed the bump on his head and realized that... Doctor Dark had amnesia! He had forgotten all his years of evil doing and returned back to being the once-good doctor Bright!"

There are ooohs from the crowd. They know from previous storytimes the tragic backstory behind doctor Bright, the genius scientist turned evil. The kids who have been at the hospital longer catch up the newer kids who are just getting here for the first time.

"Doctor bright brought me back to his lab with mega man's help and fixed me."

"What?! Really?! You let him fix you?!"

"I well... Um... It happened while I was knocked out! The doctor just fixed my injuries from the fight. He didn't mess with my super power core."

"Okay...but what about Megaman?"

"He obeys Doctor Dark-and in this case Doctor Bright! So he was okay."

Several children nod sensibly. "So what did you do when you woke up?"

"Anyway... After doctor Wily's betrayal I stormed his lair, fought off Bass again, and then after an epic battle with Wily I ripped his mustache CLEAN OFF, warning him that if he ever tried to get the civilians again he'd have me to deal with!" Another heroic pose. "Once again the city is safe, all thanks to PROTOMAN! And Mr. Kittypants!

The children break into a chorus of cheering before they surround their hero again. "Thank you Protoman!"

He laughs uproariously in an overdone way among his throng of fans.

"So what are ya gonna do now, Protoman? Are you gonna find a new Protocave?"

"Already have, in fact! But shhh. It's a secret."

"We won't tell, promise!"

"Good! Now who wants to make some crafts!?"

For the next thirty minutes Blues leads craft and playtime for the kids, jumping in and out of all sorts of activities until playtime is over and everyone has to go back to their rooms.

"Goodbye everyone! We'll be back next week!" He waves with the cat, "Just remember to follow my motto-never give up, never surrender, fight to the finish!"

"Proto forever!" They all finish for him, cheering and waving goodbye to their real-life superhero.

The cheering can be heard when he opens the door and steps back into the hall. One of the doctors who usually has a shift on his visiting day, Mrs. Sylvia, is outside beaming at the robot boy. "Hello Protoman. Good to see you again."

He grins at her. "Hello ma'am"

"Thanks again for stopping by. You have no idea how much good it does for those kids to see you."

He scratches his head self-consciously. "Ahaha... Well you know... They do me good too. ... I just wish I could do more. You guys are the real heroes."

She smiles down at him, a bit of sadness in her eyes. "Well...there's only so much we can do too. But all we can do is our best, right?" She approaches him to squeeze his shoulder. "And believe me when I tell you that your best really does count around here."

He nods looking hopeful. "Well... I'm gonna go see Maggie before I leave."

"Sounds good. She knows you're coming today, and she was really upset when she thought she'd have to miss you."

"Ha. Time to cheer her up."

He steps down the hall into the other ward and peeks his head into a quiet room where a young girl lays resting. As soon as she catches sight of him at her doorway, her eyes light up. "Protoman! You came to see me!"

He grins. "Of course I did, tough girl. And look who I brought with me!" He holds Mr. Kitty up to her.

"Mr. Kittypants!" She squeals and happily begins petting and scratching the cat.

It strikes him as he draws close how pale she is. A clip on her finger is hooked up to a heart rate monitor and she has oxygen lines hooked up to her nose. She looks a lot like Clarisse did... He finds himself fighting not to tremble.

"H... How are you feeling?"

She offers him her bravest smile. "I'm alright. It's like you said, remember? Never give up, never surrender, fight to the finish!"

He nods happily. "That's right! You've got it. Just keep doing that and one day when you're all healed up I know you're going to be a great new sidekick to me and Mr. Kitty."

She gasps. "Sidekick?! Do you mean it?"

He nods. "Of course! This city needs more brave heroes like you."

She grins and sighs dreamily. "That'd be amazing..."

He nods. "For now though you just focus on getting better, okay?"

Blues launches into a less theatrical, more refined version of the story he told the other kids earlier, and once he's done he continues to hang out in the room with her. The nurses peek their heads in occasionally but otherwise no one is there, and Blues remembers that Maggie's mom has to work later into the afternoon before she can come back to the hospital to check on her daughter. Thus, even once she falls back asleep, he stays by her side watching the TV muted while the cat chows on some food a nurse was nice enough to bring by.

When Maggie's mother at last comes in the door she doesn't seem entirely happy that Protoman's there. Unlike her daughter who admires the robot, she's heard enough to be skeptical of him. She only let her daughter begin attending the play dates with him after the hospital staff urged that he was a positive role model and they did see improvements in the spirits of the children who were around him, and sure enough, the first time Maggie went the young girl lit up...

"I'll be on my way out." He says as she enters, getting up.

"I... Oh... Um... Thank you for staying with her while I was gone."

He nods. "She's been out for a couple of hours but she managed to eat some soup beforehand. When she wakes up the nurses asked that they be called and they'll try to fix up anything else that she feels like he can eat. She mentioned pudding, maybe."

Even though they talk quietly, the young girl begins to stir from her rest.

"A... Are you leaving?"

He moves to her bedside and places a hand gently on her bandaged head. "Mhm... Sorry MegaMags, the city needs me. But I'll be back soon, okay?"

He leans in and places a kiss on her forehead before picking up the cat and heading out the door.

After he leaves the hospital and drops the cat back at Clarisse's house, Blues decides to stop in the library while he's in the neighborhood. He renews his checkout of "Frankenstein", turns in "Night", and picks up a copy of the Hunger Games while there. He uses a public computer to check the news and watches the 8:00 report before walking back to his new nook. Things have been quiet today. No sign of doctor Wily, no notable crime.

He leaves before they make the announcement that construction has started in the downtown district and marches all the way back to his condemned building... Only to find that it's been torn down ahead of schedule.

"..."

The red bot sighs before starting to sift through the rubble, both annoyed and glad that he hid his possessions in a dug out hole under the ground floor. At least they're PROBABLY intact

Blues doesn't get far through the rubble when the storm hits, and as it grows rainier and darker he's forced to abandon his quest to save his things and seek shelter for the night. Seeing as how he's on decent terms with Megaman at the moment... he decides to return to his old watering hole-the car on the theater stage. Water drips through a few of the cracks in the ceiling but his car is in a dry spot so he's fine, although it does sadden him that he lost his cot in the building collapse... it's probably unsalvageable.

Blues hasn't eaten anything since the meal the previous night, but he has enough of that that his tanks, even after sifting through rubble to hold him, so there's no great need at the moment. Besides, even if he was hungry, what little money he has to buy such things is buried underneath several feet of rubble. He quietly settles down and starts back to reading where he left off in Frankenstein. As he goes on, he unconsciously gravitates towards the monster and its situation, and when he consciously realizes how similar it is to his own he becomes hostile, as he reads verbally berating the fictional doctor Frankenstein for the way he treats his creation.

He sleeps peacefully through the night and is up bright and early the next morning digging through rubble again and making no progress fast. He has to pace himself. Even with his nuclear core this takes a lot of energy and overdoing it puts him at his limit. ***

Meanwhile, Doctor Light continues his phone calls. It's been two days now and still no luck... None of his acquaintances seem to know a place that will suit his family's unique needs. There just aren't many places equipped with both the living quarters and the heavy-duty lab equipment necessary for caring for his children...

Light is getting low on his list when he hits upon an old acquaintance of his... a once student, now owner of a successful construction company. If ANYONE would have ideas of real-estate...

The doctor gives him a ring.

"This is Bradford Construction!" A voice answers on the other end. "How can I help you?"

"Hello John? This is Doctor Light. "

"Doctor Light! Hey professor, it's been years. How are you?"

"Ah! Good goo-...well... I've been better my friend... I actually called to ask for some assistance. You see, as of yesterday my housing situation is a little..."

"Aaah... don't tell me. That building that was knocked down the other day. You lived there?"

"Well ah... yes actually... how did you...?"

"My phone has been ringing off the hook today. I've gotten all sorts of calls. Right now I'm being commissioned to create all sorts of new intercity housing. We've been tearing down condemned buildings and building new ones and now we've been asked to double-time it on the building part. We try to reuse materials from our condemned buildings in the construction of the new ones, but it takes time... Not to worry though! When it's made, the people who lost their homes are being re-located there! The city's covering most of the cost."

"Ah... well that's wonderful but... you see... My home was somewhat special... You see because of the needs of my family it is imperative that I have a lab setting integrated into my home. One with a power grid capable of supporting heavy machinery... The reason I called was to see if you knew of any such residences available within the city limits... I know it's a stretch, but..."

"Hm... yeah I don't know of anything like that honestly..." John replies.

"Oh..." Light sighs. Another letdown. "W...well... thank you John... sorry to take your time."

"Hey wait!" The man stops him. "I may not know of any residences like that... but that doesn't mean I can't make one!"

Thomas Light's eyes widen. "R..really? I... Well... Well I suppose having your company make a new house would be good but... I dont know if I can afford-"

"Nonsense. I'll help you with the cost."

"Wh-...no but I couldn't possibly accept such an offer!"

"Doctor I owe you a debt. My business would be nothing without your construction bots. Each one gets the work of three men done and allows my human employees to stay safely on the ground out of harm's way. That alone is worth more than I can possibly repay you. It would be my HONOR to help you out with this."

!

The doctor's chest tightens emotionally on the other end of the line. "Th... thank you John... If you're really sure... I would be honored to have you construct our new home."

"Sure thing! It might be a little while before I can get started, but you can bet that it will be done. I'll have one of my architects start drawing up some specs and try to run them by you later this week. I assume you have a place to stay in the meantime?"

"Yes I do. And thank you again... this will be a lifesaver."

"Not at all. Well, I'll talk to you later, Professor! Take care."

Later.

Protoman finally uncovers the spot where his things were and digs up the box that they're contained in deep in the midst of a pit of rubble. Thank goodness. Everything seems to be intact. He's just about to get up when there's a sound overhead. Laughter.

!

Protoman whips around to look above him. "Bass."

The black bot chuckles. "Looks like you're in a little too DEEP this time, Protoman. Night night."

Protoman realizes what he intends to do a second too late. Bass's fist pounds into the rubble above him. There's a sound like an earthquake and in moments he is buried alive.


End of Chapter


Chapter Text


Chapter 7: Small Favors

One day passes. Two. Three. Suddenly Wily's sniper Joes are back all over town, led by none other than Bass, carrying out raids seemingly at random... but on closer inspection perhaps not so random.

"They're targeting laboratories..." Light mumbles to his children. "This is serious... Wily is still looking for us..."

"What do we do, daddy?" Roll chirps, scared.

"That's what Protoman warned me about." Rock gulps. "He told us we need to lay low...do you think...do you think they'd find us here?"

"Because there are laboratories on the university campus, it is only a matter of time before Wily's troops show up... But if we stay under cover they should miss us. Our apartment isn't too close to the labs. Once they do a search and don't find anything we should be safe to continue our business... but before that happens I need to make sure I've removed all traces of our presence there..."

Light sighs. "I'm worried though... I feel horrible knowing that all these attacks are because of us... Even so, it would be dangerous to try and thwart Wily's efforts. He might send his spies back to find us. I just don't know what to do..."

"They were never able to follow us home before though. Where are they, Dad? I can go take care of them before they get too close."

"It is hard to pinpoint... they don't seem to be checking the labs in a grid, it seems almost random... If I could decipher how Albert is choosing which ones to attack and in what order I could send you pre-emptively to defend the labs, but until I get another clue as to how he's deploying his troops, by the time I send you to take care of them they'll already be gone..."

Just then, there's a ring at the phone.

"Oh now who could that be..." Light goes to pick it up.

Rock gasps and clings to his dad. "W-wait don't! Who is it?"

"Hello? ...Yes this is he, how did you get this... ...books you say? I... well no, I don't have any books checked out... My family and I haven't been to that library... Who was it that checked them out in my... ... Y...you're sure? Hm... and he hasn't turned them back in... I... I didn't know... I didn't even know there was a card in my name... You say he's usually punctual about returning them? ... Right... I... well thank you... Yes, I'll try to figure out what happened and see if I can get them returned... No no, don't cancel the card, it is quite alright. I am fine with him having it in my name. Yes. Thank you. A nice day to you too."

The doctor hangs up. He looks very troubled.

"What is it?"

"That was... the public library. They called to ask about books that had been checked out by Blues."

"Huh? Why would they ask that?"

"Apparently they are overdue... The librarian said he usually turns them in on time, though..."

"Really...?"

"That is worrisome... It has been four days since we last saw him, hasn't it? That's when the librarian said the books were checked out... and it was also around the time that all these nasty raids started... I wonder if these events connected...

Rock gasps. "He could be in trouble! I have to go look for him!"

"Yes... but where to start?" Thomas Light strokes his beard in thought.

"M...maybe near the last building I found him in... the theater…"

"Perhaps... I would check there first. But be careful, son. Take caution to make sure you're not being followed. It will be a disaster if you accidentally lead Wily's spies back here."

When Megaman arrives at the abandoned theater, Blues is nowhere to be seen. However, in the seat of the car on the stage rest three books all with library stickers on the spines.

Just then Rock gets a page on his communicator.

"Rock! Where are you!?" It's the doctor.

Megaman frowns as he picks up the books. Odd...If Protoman usually returns books on time, it wouldn't be like him to forget about these. It only makes him more worried that something bad might have happened to him. "I'm here in the theater I told you about" he replies. "I found the books...but no Protoman."

"Nevermind that! I just got a call from the Bradford construction company! I need you to head three blocks north, and fast! They... They found Blues!"

"They did!?" Rock begins running out of the theater in an instant with the books tucked under his arm. "Is he okay!?"

"I... I'm not sure... He was buried under the rubble. The construction crew say he's unconscious. You must hurry and bring him back here!"

"Right! I'll be there as soon as I can!"

When Megaman arrives on the scene there are still humans and bots scurrying around a crater to remove large pieces of debris covering his brother's frame. Pieces of Protoman's armor are shattered and dented, including his visor.

Megaman runs up and kneels beside his brother, terrified to see him more busted up than ever before and wondering how this could have happened. He reaches for Protoman until he remembers the books. He can't carry them both...but he can't just leave these books here...Megaman grabs them and runs to the nearest construction worker. "I need to take him home, but he had these books, and they gotta get back to the library! Can you please please give them back for me?"

The man looks startled. "Um.. W..well okay kid I'll try..."

The bots move the last of the heavy rubble off of Protoman and help Megaman carefully lift him up. Mr. Bradford approaches him. "Quickly now, the doctor told me you needed to return as soon as possible. I'll be by later to check in but you must go now."

"Thank you!" He practically shoves the books into the poor worker's hands before returning to pick up Protoman. Once he has him securely in his arms, he nods up to Mr. Bradford. "Thank you for your help, sir!" And without another moment wasted, he turns and runs in the direction of their temporary home.

Blues hangs entirely limp from him like a sack of potatoes, but he is not totally unconscious. He groans softly as Megaman carries him. "Nngh... N... No... Trap..."

"Huh?!" The surprise causes Megaman to slow down. "Protoman, you're awake! What's wrong?"

"T... Trap!"

"Aw, now why did you have to tell him?"

Bass smashes down to the ground in front of Megaman causing light seismic activity and a colossal explosion. "And it was working so well."

Megaman nearly stumbles backwards, and he has to cling to Protoman to keep from dropping him. His childish features quickly turn to a sour glare. "Bass! You did this to him, didn't you?"

The black bot snerks. "He practically buried himself. It was too easy. Now then... I may not be able to track you back to Light's new hideout, but that doesn't mean I can't finish you both right here and now!"

Bass rushes forth like a wrecking ball, his fist raised and ready to strike.

Megaman reflexively jumps out of the way with Protoman still in his grasp. This is bad. He can't go home with Bass following them, so his only option is to put a stop to him right here. He can't fight well while holding Protoman, but if he lets him go, Bass might just try to finish him off. "Why are you doing this, Bass?!"

"What does it matter why? I'm doing it, and you're weak so you can't stop me! GRAAAH!"

He unleashes a spray of fire.

"Ah... Rock... Shield..." Protoman gasps.

Megaman understands instantly. He removes Protoman's shield from his back and sets it in front of both of them just in time to block the shots. Not only are they blocked, the blasts bounce back in Bass's direction.

Unfortunately, now Rock has to have Protoman hanging over his shoulder in order to hold his shield. But he keeps a firm grip, not wanting to let his brother slip from his hands.

"L.. Leave me... Go back." Blues orders.

Bass charges them again.

"No!" Rock yells.

The black bot collides head on with the shield.

Megaman grunts as the impact forces him back, but he remains firmly on his feet.

"Drop me" Protoman orders tersely. "You... won't win with me weighing you down!"

"I said no!"

Bass rams his fist into the shield. Even though it holds the force off, the impact knocks them back several feet further.

"I SAID DO IT!"

Megaman wraps his arm even tighter around his brother as he slides back from the next punch. "I don't have to listen to you!"

A hand reaches around the side of the shield and suddenly it is ripped clean out of Rock's hands by a monstrous strength. Bass hurls the shield to the side where it ends up embedded in the wall of a nearby building.

"You're mine now!" the black bot crows.

He launched a barrage of punches straight towards Rock's chest and gut.

"Ugh!" Megaman groans in pain as several of his punches connect. They knock him back. This time he lands on his back, partially on top of Protoman. "S-sorry..." He finally puts him on the ground, but when he stands back up, he positions himself right between his brother and Bass.

Protoman grunts, still unable to move while Bass laughs all the louder. "Run if you can, Protoman! After I finish off this twerp I'm going to end you once and for all!"

"I'll never let you hurt him again!" Megaman shouts back, blaster aimed and ready.

Bass rushes him again, his favored attack, and throws a dangerous, heavy-hitting punch.

Megaman ducks, not wanting to jump away and leave Protoman to take the blow, and throws an uppercut of his own towards Bass's jaw.

!

Bass takes the hit, which knocks him into the air, but he quickly recovers, blasting at Megaman with his arm canon.

Rock nimbly darts and dodges around the shots, never straying too far from Protoman. Whenever a shot looks like it's going to hit his brother, he is sure to block him and take the shot himself. All the while he charges up a more powerful shot and releases it when Bass passes in front of him.

"Watch out!" Protoman yells. "He can do an air dash!"

Too late though. Bass blows his way straight into the charged shot, stabbing at Rock with a blade arm.

Megaman shouts as the blade grazes his arm, only able to move aside and avoid it being cut off at the last moment. With Bass close enough again, he reels his fist back and swings into the black bot's stomach before releasing yet another charged shot.

"ARGH!"

Both of them are sent flying backwards from the force.

Megaman falls back behind his brother, but he scrambles back to his feet and into position as quick as he can.

"Nngh... Listen kid," Protoman warns, "you can't let him touch you... He's made of a denser alloy than me and he has a larger power reservoir. If he gets his hands on you, you're scrap metal. If you take too many of his blasts you're scrap metal. You can strafe and fire on him, but your weaker shots are going to glance right off and your more powerful ones are going to wear you out before they wear him out

"So what am I supposed to do...?"

"Your only chance is to get in his head and use his own strength against him."

"Raaaaagh!" Bash charges.

"Use his momentum to send him flying!"

Megaman rushes forward to meet Bass's charge. Before getting too close, he breaks into a slide and goes for Bass's feet. As soon as he knocks the bot off balance, he kicks his legs up and back to throw his opponent back towards a building behind them.

"GAH!" Bass soars up and crashes into the brick wall. Dazed by the force of the impact he drops back to the concrete below.

"Hurry before he comes to!" Protoman yells.

Megaman runs to where Bass falls. While he's still dazed, he grabs him and uses all his strength to toss him once again, throwing him as hard as he can.

!

Bash crashes high into another wall and falls into the dumpster below it.

Protoman tries his best to regain his feet but still doesn't have the strength even to move his fingers. "We... Need to go... Before he recovers…"

"Okay...but we gotta get your shield..."

Megaman does a quick scan of the area and spots it where it was tossed into a wall. He goes to pry it out, knowing that he can't leave it for Bass to find and take for himself.

Protoman continues to struggle to move, his vision flickering in and out. "If... If you have an energy pack you could spare... I'll be out of your hair..."

Rock shakes his head sadly. "We lost a lot of our supply with the lab. But don't worry." Before Protoman can protest, he's slung back over his brother's shoulder. "I gotcha." With Protoman and his shield securely in his arms, he turns and makes a run back to home.

Protoman is treated to the sight of Megaman's exposed arm wiring from where he was slashed as they make their way back to the university lab. He tried to do his best to make sure they're not followed, but it is always a possibility...

Light is waiting for them at the entrance. He gasps when he sees the state that both of his sons are in.

Megaman holds his brother out to Light. "It was Bass." He says. "He made the building fall on Protoman and was waiting for me to come get him."

"Wha... He...? But... Well never mind we can go over what happened later. Come, carry him into the lab we need to get him hooked in to recharge."

Protoman groans softly. Recharge sounds nice.

"! H... He's awake!? Blues can you hear me?"

"Nngh... Loud'n clear."

Megaman nods. "He's been awake since I found him."

"Oh no... Blues were you... This whole time?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe?"

"Memory banks are... Drawing on fumes right now..."

"Come on Dad he needs sleep."

"N... No." Blues protests. No sleep.

"Huh? B-but you need to recharge."

"Don't worry my son. We'll shut you down while I do your repairs. You won't feel a thing"

"NO!" Blues yells with all his strength. No way in hell he's getting repaired unconscious

"What are we supposed to do? Repair you while you're awake?" Rock huffs, sensing the direction of his thoughts.

Protoman growls. "Yes."

Light grimaces as they take Blues inside and set him on the table. "B... But Blues... It won't be pleasant, you know..." Even if he turns his son's pain sensors off, the electrical surges will put a lot of strain on his frame.

"Do it while I'm awake or recharge me and let me get my repairs elsewhere. I don't care."

Megaman pouts. "You mean Wily?"

Protoman nods. "HE always repairs me while I'm awake. What's the matter..." Distrust flares in his voice. "Going to do something to me that you can't have me awake for, in case I resist?"

"No..." Light murmurs, trying to calm him down. "Blues I'm not going to touch your power core I... I just don't want to hurt you..."

Megaman still wears a frown. "Why do you always think it's something like that? We only care about not hurting you!" He takes a step closer. "Wily only repairs you when you have something for him! Would you tell him where we are now as payment!?"

"..." Protoman flinches at the reminder of his recent misdeeds.

"R... Rock..." Light speaks. "Please.. Not now..."

Rock glances to his dad. He gives his brother one last glare, carefully considering what to say next. "I...I found your books...I gave them to someone to take them back for you..."

Blues sees this as a ploy. The mention of a favor to coerce him. His eyebrows furrow with hostility. "No repairs unless I'm awake," he repeats. "I don't care what you did."

"...Fine. You heard him." Rock sours.

The doctor momentarily considers having Protoman tied down so he can't resist. He probably wouldn't even have to be tied down as weak as he is now. But Light immediately puts it out of his mind. It would shatter the already fragile trust that's just begun to regrow between them. "A... Alright, my son... But please... If it becomes too much and you need to stop..."

"Don't call me that."

"...wha...?"

"Don't. Call me. 'Son'."

There it is. Somehow they've gone back to square one. Light tries not to show his hurt. "A..alright... Blues."

"Protoman," he corrects.

"How come you can call me Rock but we don't get to call you Blues!?" the blue bot complains.

"I won't call you that."

"..." Rock hangs his head. "But I liked it when you did..."

The doctor sighs sadly and begins plugging Protoman into the power lines. He works in silence for several minutes. Occasionally Protoman gasps or twitches but for the most part he remains stoic, giving no insight into how he's feeling. At least until he remembers...

"...my box."

"Hm?" Megaman perks. "You mean the box with your things? What about it?"

"...it was buried with me."

The boy gasps, understanding. It's still back in the rubble. "I'll go back and try to find it, okay?"

"No need for that."

An unfamiliar (at least to Blues) voice appears, walking through the door. It is Mr. Bradford from the construction site. "We found it."

In his hands is a particularly dirty, dented up, but otherwise intact box. He sets it on one of the tables.

Rock grins. "Oh thank you!" He runs up to the table to pick it up. He almost opens the lid to check that everything is there before he remembers the promise he made to Protoman. So he returns to the table his brother his on and sets it down next to him.

"Ughn..."

Blues struggles to lift his arm, trying to fumble with the lid while he lays down.

"Want me to open it?" Rock asks

"..."

Blues thinks about that offer longer and harder than it merits.

"... Fine"

"I won't touch anything in there, I promise."

Megaman slides the lid off the box and holds it up, tilting it for Protoman to see all the contents inside. Blues inspects them carefully.

"…good."

"Is...is everything in there?"

Blues nods… and mutters a quiet thanks.

"Glad to be of help." Mr. Bradford chirps.

Rock opens his mouth to gawk. He almost can't believe it. Did Protoman just say thank you?

"Yes, thank you Mr. Bradford" Doctor Light continues. "If you hadn't of found him, there's no telling what would have happened to poor Bl-Protoman."

Megaman goes back to stand in front of the new man. He looks up to his brother's savior with a big smile. "Yeah, thanks a lot, sir." He offers his hand to shake.

John takes it pleasantly. "My… such a well-mannered young man. We didn't officially get acquainted in the scramble before. John Bradford at your service! Your father was one of my professors in college! He taught me a great deal."

"Wow, really?" Rock's eyes widen. "He's taught me a lot too."

"AHAHAHAHA! I'll bet he has!" The younger man barks, amused.

Rock smiles and nods. He's about to turn his attention elsewhere when he remembers. "Oh! Do you know if those books got returned yet? I dunno who it was I gave them to."

"Ah... No but I'll make sure to check on that."

"Okay, thank you."

Blues grunts again. "Don't bother... I can take care of-!" A high pitched squeak comes out of him as the doctor, his surgeon, tampers with something sensitive. The doctor jumps almost as much as his patient does.

"Th... This is why you should have let me shut you down!"

"No. K-keep going."

Before he can stop himself, Rock bursts into giggles. He is quick to cover his mouth, but it's obvious that it is taking all of his strength to contain his laughter.

"..."

Protoman doesn't say anything but even though his glasses are on obscuring his eyes, the intensity of his glare screams "you are the dead" even from a distance.

Rock puts his hands behind his back and starts rocking on his feet, looking away from the death glare and trying to appear oh so innocent.

Bradford looks sadly at Blues's scuffed up, dented frame. "I am terribly sorry about what happened to you, dear boy... I swear we thought we had cleared everyone from the building... My workers checked-"

"It was after the demolition." Protoman assures him.

"Oh? But... But how? You were on the ground floor of the building..."

"I... Dug down for the box... I was in a pit when Bass... Another robot... He knocked the rubble back on me."

"Oh dear... But your things... Why were they...?"

Megaman's mouth tightens. He leaves it up to Protoman how to answer him.

But Blues doesn't say anything. He just stares silently ahead, mouth a line.

"..." Bradford's mouth falls into a frown. "No no... It's alright. There is no need to say. I understand."

He moves in to pat the boy in the shoulder while he gives Light a hard look.

"Look professor... You've been a good friend to me and I want to help you with your housing situation... But only on one condition. I don't know what kind of quarrel you have with your son but it's not right to let your own boy sleep out and fend for himself on the streets. I'll only build a new house for you if you promise me you'll take him back in and give him a place to l until he can get back on his feet... You hear?"

Thomas's eyes widen in surprise. "W... Wait... You don't understand..."

"Wait!" Rock frowns. "It's not like that! Doctor Light didn't kick him out!"

"Eh?" John looks around confused.

"...I chose to live there on my own." Protoman mutters.

"Yeah..." The younger boy folds his hands and looks back down to his feet. "He likes living independently."

The man still frowns, concerned.

Rock shuffles awkwardly on his feet, not wanting to say anything more on their situation. Instead he mutters. "Please...we need a new house..."

"….Oh you poor thing... I'm sorry... I shouldn't have threatened. Of course we'll get you a new home."

Rock smiles back up to him. "Thank you, sir."

Bradford does stare at Blues though. "I will just have to make one nice enough that your brother won't be able to stay away from it, won't I?"

The boy brightens more. "Yeah!"

"Well… I believe I should get going… it seems like you all have the situation well in hand… It was good meeting you Rock… Protoman. Doctor? Always a pleasure." He waves goodbye.

After they well-wish the man off, Blues pouts. A house nice enough that he'll have to come? Psh. Good luck.

Light wipes the sweat from his brow. "There… that should be most of the pressing issues..." He closes his son's chest back up.

"Eh... Why... Can I still not move?" Blues asks as he tries to sit up.

"Huh? What's wrong?" Rock comes back to check on him.

Light explains. "Your core was almost completely depleted when you were trapped under the rubble... It is going to take time before you'll be charged enough to move, and even then we'll need to keep you hooked up for a bit longer so your battery can hold its charge."

"Oh no..." Rock frowns, feeling awful for his poor brother. "What are you going to do?"

Blues knows the question isn't addressed to him, but his face makes it clear that if it was his answer would be to POUT HEAVILY. The pout is strong with him.

"Nothing to do." The doctor answers, "We just have to keep him hooked in until he recovers."

There is an obvious problem with this approach, though... The raids.

"We have to keep him here...?"

Light nods, frowning.

Rock awkwardly grabs one of his arms as he looks back to his brother. "M'sorry, Protoman..."

"Whatever." Now Blues wishes he had his books still.

Rock gets the feeling that his brother has had about enough of him. He glances away. "I'll um...I'll leave you alone now while Dr. Light gets you hooked up..."

Protoman lays in silence for a while yet while his creator smooths out some of the dents in his frame, fixes some minor things, and cleans him with a wet cloth. This makes him very uncomfortable in a way that has nothing to do with the energy fluctuations. It's a bit too intimate. He used to love this kind of personal attention back before things fell apart, but now...

Eventually, Dr. Light senses his son's discomfort. He ceases to wipe the bot off and pulls away from his frame. "Is something wrong, Protoman?"

"...I'm fine."

"Are you sure?"

"... I just shouldn't be here is all. It was stupid that I let myself get beat up like this. I won't let it happen again."

"Protoman, it is not your fault that Bass attacked you when you were unprepared. These things happen. Poor Rock has come home to me in similar condition before." He pauses before continuing his cleaning while talking. "You shouldn't think that you can't receive help when life gets the better of you. Everyone needs a hand sometimes."

"Not me. I don't need handouts. I have my pride. I earn my keep." He looks away, embarrassed. "…I'll pay you back for this so we'll be even."

Light shakes his head. "Please. I ask for nothing in return. I am glad to have your repairs in my hands rather than anyone else's...especially Albert's."

"I'll repay you." Blues insists. He's not taking no for an answer.

"...well...if you truly insist on repaying me in some way..."

"...? Yeah?"

"...I would really appreciate another visit, and perhaps another meal together."

"..." Blues was worried at first that he was going to suggest core repairs, but this is not much of a step up.

The red bot bristles. "That's not gonna happen. I'm not an idiot, feeding me doesn't benefit you."

"Oh, but you are wrong. It gives me tremendous peace of mind knowing that you have gotten a good meal.

"I can feed myself! I've done it for over five years!" He shouts angrily.

"Well alright then. If you are truly against my offer, you do not have to take it, and these repairs will be free of charge."

Damn. That simply won't do.

"…I'll let you copy the schematics." Blues says. There. That's plenty fair. More than generous.

The smallest smirk perks on the old man's face. Protoman is gloomy in contrast.

"You would let me do that?"

"….." Blues nods. Then scowls. "You had better wait 'til I'm dead before you copy me, though."

Dr. Light needs a moment to think about it. The information that Protoman is offering him is priceless...but then again, a chance to reunite his family, even for a short time, is even more precious than that. The man rubs his chin thoughtfully. "Hmmmmm...your offer is tempting. You drive a hard bargain, Protoman...but my conditions remain the same. You can either pay me back with a visit for dinner, or you don't pay me back at all. That is my only offer."

"WHA!? Th... THAT'S NOT PAYMENT!" Blues fumes.

"Is it not? You act like someone being asked for a thousand dollars."

"No it's because you're trying to cheat me out of paying you to one-up me!"

"One-up you?"

"Yeah! You're treating me like a kid! I am an ADULT."

"Protoman... just because children grow up doesn't mean they can no longer be cared for by others. Why, when I went to college, do you know how often my mother would call to see how I was doing? Sometimes she would beg me to come home so she could feed me. And I know she would have done it even if I hadn't been so much worse at taking care of myself than you are."

"...But I... I want to be independent."

Dr. Light moves closer towards his eldest. "I know that...and that is not a bad thing. I am proud that you have been able to do as well as you have completely on your own, because one day you will need to know how to live independently." He puts a hand on Protoman's arm. "But you are still young. And adult or child, you deserve better than to be living in condemned buildings. However...if you are truly satisfied with the way you live now, I will not try to confine you. I just want you to understand that our door is always open, and we will always have a place for you when you need one. There is no shame in taking it."

Blues groans, it doesn't feel that way.

"So...what do you say?" the old man entreats him.

Blues goes quiet, refusing to answer. After a while he changes the topic. "How long after me was it that you made them?"

Dr. Light sighs, deciding to let him think about his decision and entertain his subject change.

"Let's see… This is May… A little over three years."

"Three," Blues mouths. Three years until he made something new... It's not as bad as he imagined. His demonized Dr. Light-the one in his head- had turned around and made the new bots as soon as Blues left home, wasting not an hour in replacing him.

"But I should have waited longer..." the old man concludes.

"..." Blues starts to laugh. "Fate is cruel..."

"Wh-...? What is so amusing?"

"It was right and around two and a half years ago... The night I came back... The night I looked into your lab and saw you with them... They must have been hot off the press."

"Yes... if what you say is true, they would have been quite young. So young...and yet it hardly seems much time passed at all until Rock begged me to give him the ability to fight against Wily."

"...did he turn out built like you wanted? ...he's not very rebellious. Not that I've seen." Blues notes, his voice tinged with bitterness.

"No... no he isn't very rebellious… but like I said, he is still young. Who knows what might happen when he is older?"

"Don't know... Whatever you programmed him to be like, I guess." Blues winces as his power level spikes again.

"Ah! Hold on let me take care of that…. ….And I'm not so sure. I made all of you so your personalities were not fixed…. They evolve on their own after time… That is why it is virtually impossible to replace an IC chip. What you put in initially is not what you get back out."

Protoman trembles until the spike goes back down, then sighs.

"...fine." He looks to the side, away from his creator. "I'll do it. But I'm giving you the blueprints too."

"What? But Protoman, that wouldn't be fair..."

"Maybe not, but it's a deal breaker. If you want what you want, you've gotta compromise."

"Alright..." The doctor smiles at his son. This is as good as he could have hoped for. "Thank you, Bl-….sorry….Protoman..."

Blues shrugs his shoulders and huffs. "…whatever."

He turns his eyes back and watches as the doctor latches him back up. The red bot feels very sleepy now... It has been a rough few days...

"Well then... Now that you are all finished, I can leave you to recharge alone for as long as you need. Hm...does your communicator still work?"

Blues tests it and confirms that it does. "Yes."

Good. You can call me or any of us if you need something.

"I will." Not. He will so totally not.

"Okay then, Protoman...sleep well." His creator goes to turn the lights in the room off.


End of Chapter

Next chapter Light takes advantage of his son's sleeping state and rips Protoman's emotions and memories out to make him an obedient zombie son.

Chapter Text


Chapter 8: A Melody From the Past

The humidity of the evening jungle seeps into his clothes and cause them to stick against his protoform. Even for a robot, it's less than totally pleasant. But Blues finds a way to cherish it. Good or bad, it is a feeling. A sensation. Soon those will cease to be. Even the worst parts of living seem bright and cherished to the eyes of a dying man. Every emerald green of the enormous leaved plants he pushes through, the glowing orange of the setting sun, and the deepening midnight blue of the sky above is a jewel that will soon be lost to him. Tears threaten at the corners of his eyes, but he doesn't let himself give in to the sorrow. "Look at me... I did this... I chose this... I set out to live and die on my own terms... And I did... I did it... "

As he pushes his way out of the vegetation atop a hill he is perfect and free. Birds fly past him out of the brush, harkening a lovely, wild melody. Though his limbs feel weaker and weaker he spreads his arms out into the open air and unleashes his own melody. His symphony. Blues's song belongs in this wild, vibrant world that he will call his final resting place. When he lived in the lab the tune was merely a whispy dream of what his life was... What it could be... But as he travelled the world... As he experienced life and death, strife and peace, bitter sorrow and deep sweet harmony that always had a way of following... His song, he finds, has grown more real... Wiser... Melancholy but somehow intrinsically uplifting. Now as he stands here at the end is bursts from his lips with uncontainable power, elevating him above the world, past the now and into the mysterious newness of eternity...

As the world fades to blackness around him... He is at peace.

And then... Slowly... His song begins to change... Unnoticeable at first... But as it goes and goes he finds that there are pieces of the melody he can't quite remember and get right... The more he fights to sing his song the way it was meant to be sung, the he more it slips from his grasp.

"No... Come back... Please..."

He trembles as his song, his beautiful melody, is stripped from him note by note, bar by bar until he can't even remember how it begins. He is alone. Alone in the dark. Slowly shrinking into nothing.

Blues opens his eyes, no longer in the jungle but on a lab table now, and watches, frozen in place, as Doctor Light rips his core out of his chest.

"Time to finally do away with that rebellious streak."

"NOOOOO!"

Blues jolts awake for real this time, sitting upright on the lab table and gasping as his whole body shakes uncontrollably. He rips himself from the power cables tangling him up and clatters to the floor, scrambling away.

When Megaman walks in to check on his brother, Blues is still curled up on the floor, trembling uncontrollably and pale as a sheet.

"Protoman!" Rock instantly runs to crouch down beside his brother. "What is it, what's wrong? It's okay!"

Blues flinches when Megaman places a hand on him, still not fully conscious of his surroundings.

"M.. My song... H-h-how does it... I... I can't remember how it... P...please... I have to remember. I can't lose it!"

He whistles brokenly, not quite hitting the right notes.

"H... He took it from me while I was asleep, he took my... Ngh... M... Make him give it back!"

"Sshhhh..." Megaman gently begins propping his brother up to put his head in his lap. Blue's little tune is clear in his mind. He tries whistling, but finds he's not as good at it as Protoman, and so he doesn't quite hit the notes right either. He quickly abandons it to start humming it instead.

Blues starts to calm down once Megaman hums his song and gradually goes still as he listens. And then... Hesitantly he joins in, whistling the tune in harmony. As he gets the basic melody the pieces begin to fall back into place despite his frazzled mind.

Rock smiles a bit, enjoying this sort of bonding moment with his brother. As long as he keeps whistling, he hums along with him.

As they sing, Blues calms down more and more... Finally to the point that he realizes how much he's humiliating himself with this shameful lack of composure. Eventually he quiets and sits back up, sorting through his thoughts in silence.

"Um...are you okay?" Rock timidly asks.

"...yeah," Blues looks to the side, embarrassed. He takes his helmet off and shakes his hair out. His head was hot.

Rock quietly takes notice. "Why do you hardly ever take your helmet off?"

"... I have dumb hair."

As if to prove him right it assumes it's pointy pomp. In truth though, he wears the helmet more because it provides him with a sense of anonymity and security.

"No you don't! It's just messy like mine, and yours is longer."

Blues ignores his assertion, keeping his eyes away from Rock's.

"...Do you wanna talk about your bad dream? I sometimes have them too...and it always helps when I talk to Roll or Dr. Light about it."

Blues's continued silence speaks volumes.

Now it's Rock's turn to look away. "I know you may not want to so if you don't it's okay."

Blues surprises him with an answer. "If you could live forever as someone else or die as yourself... And those were your only options... What would you choose?"

The younger boy is stricken by the serious question. "That's...hard..."

"...yeah." Protoman puts his helmet back on.

"But..." Rock continues. "I know that I wouldn't want to live forever if I changed so much that I started doing bad things..." He looks pensive. "But...if I died, everyone would miss me... Maybe...if I knew I'd still be good and happy and other people would be happy to have the new me around...maybe I'd let myself change..."

He lapses back into thoughtful silence.

Blues finally stares back at him. "... You don't think they would miss you if you stopped being you?

...what if you stopped loving some people and things you loved before. And started liking things that you once hated. Wouldn't you be dead anyway? Where would the old you go... Would you even really exist anymore?"

"Mmph... But...people can change like that anyway... That doesn't make them dead."

The red bot grunts. "... The point is, you shouldn't worry about what everyone else thinks and be willing to sacrifice yourself for them. In the end... You're all you've got."

Rock shakes his head. "But...there's things more important than me..."

"..." Blues tries to stand up, but the moment he does the strength leaves his knees and he toppled back to the ground. "Ack." Still not back to his old self. He fumbles to try to reach for the power cables and plug himself back in.

"And I've got more than just me..." Rock adds, "I've got Dr. Light, and Roll, and..." when he sees Blues ignoring him he tapers off back into silence.

"...You're a cinnamon roll," Blues mutters.

"...What?"

"You heard me."

Protoman seats himself back on the table once he's hooked in and the strength returns to his limbs.

"Well yeah, but what's that supposed to mean?"

"The fact that you don't know just makes you that much more of a cinnamon roll."

Megaman pouts. "Tell meeeee."

"Nope. ...hey are there any books around here?" he looks around curiously.

"Oh, um...yeah, but...I don't know the full extent of the doctor's books, and, well, you wouldn't like my books."

Just then Mega man's communicator buzzes urgently. "Rock, bring Blues and hurry back right now!"

The voice is Roll's. "It's the robot masters! We see them out our window and they're heading for the front of the lab complex! Bring daddy's laptop too! HURRY!"

Blues, who overheard the conversation, unplugs himself immediately and grabs for his shield and the laptop in question. With Protoman and the laptop taken care of, Megaman runs behind his brother and goes to their father.

Protoman, to his credit, makes it all the way to the back exit of the building before he stumbled and falls to his knees. When his brother grabs him and helps him towards the door he sees something and protests. "Ack... Megaman wait. The door." He points to the sign on the side. Emergency exit only. Alarm will sound upon opening. "If we go now they'll know something's up."

"Oh! Good thinking!" Megaman stops and looks for an alternate route. "We'll find somewhere else to go out."

"No wait. I have an idea."

"What is it?"

Protoman shushes his brother and waits, listening hard...

As it turns out he doesn't have to listen too hard. All at once there's a loud clatter of doors crashing open on the other side of the building, stark against the otherwise silence of the night. As he hears it, Protoman throws the rear doors open, setting off every alarm in the building with a deafening racket. "Now! Hurry!"

They make a mad dash for the campus apartments while the Wily bots are left behind to believe they're the source of the alarm trip. Megaman makes sure to keep close to his brother in case he needs help keeping up. "Good idea, Protoman!"

When they make it safely back to the doctor's temporary home, Blues collapses to the floor in exhaustion. They barely went a couple of blocks but he feels like he just ran a marathon.

The moment they're both inside, Light scoops both boys into his arms in a bear hug. "Oh thank merciful heavens..."

"Oof!" Megaman hugs him back, as well as Roll when she comes to join in the hug. "Wh-what are we gonna do?"

"Rest..." His brother replies dizzily, a limp noodle being held up only by the mutual hug.

"Oh dear Bl-Protoman... You need to recharge..." The doctor frets, looking around. "What to do... ". There are no outlets here capable of producing the output and the grounding that he would need to refuel.

Rock looks to his dad worriedly.

"P... Perhaps I could... No... Maybe... Ngh... Think, Thomas, think..." he mutters to himself.

"Do you have an idea?" Rock prompts, "What is it? What can I do?"

"The problem is we need a power source capable of producing the kind of output his core should be getting that also has enough grounding to keep that charge flowing through his system, but to do that we would need another generator with a replenishable... Sustainable... Output..."

The doctor's gaze has fallen on Rock, a lightbulb going off.

"Roll... Do we have a pair of car battery clamps in the hall closet?"

"Hm? I'll go check," She goes and opens it up. Luckily they do. "Here they are! What do you need them for?"

"..." Protoman looks between the doctor and Megaman, who Light's gaze is fixed on, realizing it a moment before his brother what the doctor had in mind.

"NO."

"What?! What is it?" Rock still doesn't get it.

"I REFUSE"

"WHAT!?"

# # # # # # # # #

Despite his refusal, shortly thereafter his and Rock's chests are open and the doctor is fixing the clamps up.

"Now then... This might punch a bit, but it'll only be momentary."

Protoman groans in abject humiliation as he's hooked into his brother's power supply and vice versa. This is the worst. He will never live this down.

"I'm still confused..." Rock murmurs. No one tells him anything…

"Daddy's hooking you up to Protoman so you can recharge his core! Isn't that right daddy?" Roll informs knowledgably.

"That's exactly right, my sweetheart!" He lauds, then addresses Rock, "Your stable core can supply just the balance of power that your brother needs to get back up to speed!"

"Oh...I can do that?" he blinks and looks down at his core in amazement.

"Aren't you angry!?" Rock's older brother hisses. "They just hooked you up to me without even asking your permission! And he has me leeching off of you without MY permission! This is all kinds of wrong!"

"Well I mean...I don't mind at all if it will help you."

Blues glares at him hatefully. "Well you're just mister f***king helpful aren't you."

"! BLUES LIGHT WE DO NOT USE THAT KIND OF LANGUAGE IN THIS HOUSE," the doctor roars.

"Ack!" Rock looks stricken by his brother's harsh tone.

Protoman has only a moment to look surprised before he gets dragged by his ear to the bathroom to have his mouth washed out with soap. And unfortunately, because they're attached now, Rock gets dragged with him

"Ack wait Dad!" Rock stammers.

The bathroom door closes decisively while the sounds of Protoman gagging can be heard within. "STOp it Dlandjakfksjdj I'll smack you, old man! ALDJSLFKSKJF"

Rock and Roll look between each other. Uh oh.

When they emerge, Blues has a bar of soap in his mouth and looks sick.

The twins' eyes widen and they hastily move aside. O.O

"Bligh..." Blues gags as he spits it out.

The doctor looks unusually unapologetic. "And let that be a lesson of what a foul mouth will earn you" he scolds.

"….." Rock takes another glance at his brother and snickers.

Protoman waits until their father goes back down the hall before socking his brother in the arm.

"OW!"

"Deal with it."

"Meanie," Rock rubs his new sore spot. "Not my fault you said a bad word."

Blues grunts and tugs him along by his new "leash", earning another exclamation from Rock who stumbles and nearly falls. He gets tugged into the kitchen where Blues snatched a can of fuel and used it to wash the awful taste of bitter soap of his mouth.

"…Looks like this is working though." Rock comments, giving the cords a test tug.

Blues crunches the can in his fist with ease, a feat he couldn't manage minutes beforehand. "Apparently so." He just hopes this arrangement doesn't last too long.

"...Hey Protoman?" Rock prompts.

"...what."

"What were those books you got?"

"...Frankenstein. And the Hunger Games. But I was mainly reading Frankenstein."

"Oh! I know those!"

"...oh?"

"Well I kind of know Frankenstein," Rock corrects. "And I only saw the Hunger Games movies."

"...well the book's a lot different than the movie. For Frankenstein, at least."

"Yeah?" Rock continues, interested. "What's Frankenstein about? I only know the monster."

"It's actually the doctor that's the bad guy... Not his "monster." He makes a living guy out of dead parts but once he does he gets disgusted with it just because he thinks it's creepy... Then he tries to kill it, but the monster teaches itself about the world and gets smarter and tries to convince the doctor that he deserves to live."

"Oh...that's sad..."

Blues nods. He finds himself becoming subconsciously aware of the power flowing between them and hesitantly gives it a little push to test it. Then he grimaces all the more. This is weird and he doesn't like it.

"I...I wonder if they've left yet..." Rock is peeking between the window blinds cautiously.

Protoman tosses Megaman a can of fuel and gets another one for himself. "If they haven't, I'll have to fight them." He doesn't look concerned.

"Huh? But we just fixed you!" Rock gratefully takes the can. He was getting a little thirsty.

"Won't make a difference to them, so it doesn't make a difference to me."

"Well if you go fight them, I'll go with you."

"Joy" He drags Rock to the living room next, where he lays down on the couch. When his dumb brother has a hard time getting situated on the couch beside him due to their connection, Blues gets up, has Megaman lay down on the couch first, and then lays down on top of his baby brother, using Rock as a pillow.

"... Protoman you're heavy..." Rock whines.

"You're warm," he replies nonchalantly, but he reluctantly moves some of his weight off of Megaman."

"Um...thanks?" Rock says, confused.

Protoman shrugs and yawns as he watches tv and starts to doze.

"Uh oh" Light says as he enters the room. "Getting drowsy? You might have to move to Rock's room."

Blues groans. But coooooouch.

"U-um if he's too tired to get back up I can, uh, I-I can stay like this for the night," Rock tries to avoid a conflict.

Light shakes his head. "No no... There's room enough in your bed for two and it's important that you both get some rest.

He picks up the whining Protoman who has, since his mouth washing, seemingly reverted to a petulant three-year-old.

Rock gets up along with him.

The doctor deposits the two boys in Rock's bed. "There now. Get some rest you two. Keep plugged in like that overnight, okay? And if any of the clamps come off don't try to reattach them yourselves, come and get my help."

Rock gets his usual nightly tuck in, complete with a goodnight kiss. "Sleep tight, my son."

"G'night, dad," he beams.

The doctor tries to repeat the tucking for Blues, who rejects the advance with a glare. "Bah. Fine. Goodnight to you too, Protoman."

"Hmph," he grunts sourly. Rock looks nervous about the exchange but keeps quiet.

Thomas Light creeps out of the room and turns out the lights so they can sleep.

For a while there is a long, awkward silence. It is Rock who finally breaks it.

"Protoman, are you sure you don't want him to tuck you in?"

"Positive," he emphasizes. "I'm not some dumb kid that needs tucking."

"Fiiiine."

Blues rolls over to face away from him. No, he's not some dumb kid that needs tucking. He's just some kid who is sleeping on the bed for the first time in... Ever. It shows. He doesn't know what to do with all the space.

"...G'night, Protoman," Rock yawns. "I promise I won't hog the covers." He pauses, and then adds as a hasty afterthought "So you better not either." :I

~ "Psh. Who needs covers?"

"Trust me. It's cold without- ..."

"...I'll deal." Protoman answers when he cuts off.

"….Well I guess I don't mind if you hog them a little." Rock amends.

Blues shrugs. He's survived without this long.

But Rock keeps feeling the need to set some ground rules. "...if I'm doing anything that wakes you up during the night, you can go ahead and wake me to get me to stop."

"...sure." Protoman yawns. "...night."

"Goodnight," Rock answers cheerily. "I hope you have good dreams this time."

Blues mutters something almost unintelligible. Almost.

Rock hears it though, and grins. "You're welcome."

"..." Protoman closes his eyes. His cheeks feel hot.

Megaman sighs peacefully as his eyes close next.

# # # # # # #

When morning comes, Protoman finds that both he and his brother have shifted places. For starters, he is no longer curled on the very edge of the bed but snuggled towards the center under some covers rock MUST have put there. Rock himself is half way on top of him, rolled over facedown onto his brother with an arm wrapped around Blues as though they're hugging.

The next thing Blues noticed is how much energy he has... Usually he feels somewhat depleted and drowsy when he first wakes, and he has to get moving to get his lower levels flowing again, but today? Today he's... huh... He feels good. Really good. Like he could jump up and run a marathon.

Rock looks positively content as he sleeps on. At one point his head moves almost to give his big brother a sleepy nuzzle.

" ..." If Rock was conscious he wouldn't put up with this, but Blues finds himself relaxing as he surveys his brother's sleeping face.

Rock's hair is quite the mess now, but he is the picture of contentment. A small, smug grin tugs at the corners of his lips. As Blues watches he starts to mutter. "Mnn...cmon..."

"...?" Protoman listens in. He doesn't seem to be awake. Perhaps sleep talking?

"One...more game..."

"..." Blues can't help it. He quirks a grin. Such a kid.

"Best..." Rock's hand curls around nothing. "Brother..."

"... " Now Blues's face is definitely red. "Dummy…"

"Nn..."

Worried he might wake, Protoman acts asleep.

But he doesn't wake. Instead he keeps on muttering in his sleep. "G...goof" =3=

... ~

Though Rock did technically hear him and reacted in his dream, he's still far too deep in recharge to be rouses so easily. Little does he know that while Protoman might be feeling more awake and refreshed than ever, the overnight connection has caused an opposite side effect in the boy. It's going to be unusually difficult for him to get up and moving today.

Blues is, to his credit, patient with his brother for a while. The first thirty minutes after waking he spends in silence. The next thirty he uses by picking up Mega man's tablet and using it to scan the web. It's only after an hour of waiting fruitlessly that he shifts the boy, burritos Rock in a blanket, and carries him out of the room, still asleep, so he can pursue other things.

"Mmm..." Even that isn't enough to wake him. Rock simply leans against his brother's shoulder.

Blues grabs the nearest book he can find-Advanced Theories of Quantum Physics Volume II-and begins perusing it.

As he reads he murmurs a few phrases here and there. "...and the angular momentum of type 2 quarks as they orbit the nuclear mass makes a case for micro-offsets in the expected electron shell variance. As such the proton mass..."

Finally Rock begins to stir. When he hears the voice he misrecognizes it. "Hmm...Dad...?"

Blues snerks. "Not even close."

"Huh...?" Rock's eyes finally blink open.

Blues ruffles his kid brother's already messy hair.

Despite his lethargy, Rock quickly realizes that he's no longer in bed, but in Protoman's lap. Embarrassed, he tries squirming away only to realize that he's been snugly burrito'd while he slept.

Blues snorts. "I was starting to think you'd never wake up."

./_/. "Did you do this?"

"Well it wasn't the tooth fairy."

"What time is it...?" Rock blinks.

"Almost 10. You slept in."

"Oh gosh, I really did. I slept... Heheheh...I slept like a Rock." =3=

Blues groans. "... Did you just..." He gives his brother such a withering look.

Rock giggles. "Mm...I'm still sleepy though...it's weird..."

"Oh?"

"Mhmm..." =~=

Blues gives the connection between them a light tug. Perhaps that's why he feels more energized than normal. "... MWAHAHA! All part of my EVIL PLAN to steal all of your awakes! Soon you'll be powerless to stop doctor Wily and the robot masters! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Rock cracks into a huge grin and starts snickering up a storm at his impression of Wily.

"FOOL! Don't laugh at me! You'll be sorry!"

However he can't stop giggling.

Blues rolls his eyes and flips to the next page of his book.

When Rock calms down, he is quiet for a moment before he asks "Did you have good dreams this time?"

"... I didn't dream."

"Aww...I had a good dream and I thought for sure since we were connected you'd have one too. Maybe even the same dream as me."

Blues looks at him.

:I "You dummy. Our power supplies are connected, not our heads. We're sharing energy, not thoughts."

"Oh... Well at least you didn't have another nightmare."

"...yeah, at least that."

"Hm...you think we should find Dad and see if we can be disconnected now?"

"Sure." Blues tosses his burrito brother over his shoulder and carries him toward Light's room.

"Whoah!" Rock gasps.

The doctor is pouring over some papers when they come in. "Ah! There you are. How did you boys sleep?"

Blues places Rock down on his dad's bed. "Fine. Can we come unlatched yet?"

"Good" Rock yawns and rubs his eyes. "But m'still kinda sleepy..."

"Oh? Sleepy? Well perhaps that's to be expected. Bl-PROTOman is draining some energy off of you, after all. But hmm... I'm not sure you're ready to be taken apart yet... You see the idea is to bring Protoman's battery back up to its optimal capacity. For that, both of you should be maxed out on power, but we can see how it goes!"

He gets up and unclamps the both of them, shutting both chest panels before he has Blues walk around.

The red bot finds the clamp takeaway to be immediately draining. Though he can move around he feels very fatigued, and the instruments Light uses to check him out reflect that. "Hmm... Still only running at half capacity."

"Wha? But he seemed fine." Rock questions.

"That is because your cores were connected and power was being shared between you, my son. When connected you two had equal draw from both cores, but separate, your own energies are back to just what each core is outputting. How do you feel, Rock?"

"Better...more awake...but I don't wanna leave Protoman feeling bad..."

"Of course not. And we shan't! In another day or two of staying connected to you his core will stabilize back out at its intended capacity and you'll both be as energized as you should be.

"We gotta be connected a whole day or two?" Rock tilts his head.

Protoman practically gags. "ANOTHER DAY OR TWO!?"

"Well that would be ideal, yes, but if we can get him a different power source he doesn't necessarily have to be hooked up to you." He addresses Rock.

Protoman still looks sick. "Hey I can't hang out here all week, I have things to do!"

"Well if Rock is agreeable he can go with you and you can do them together."

"In PUBLIC!? Like THIS!?"

"What if something happens?" Rock points out. "It'll be harder to move if we're connected..."

Light strokes his beard. "I suppose if there's an emergency you'll have to disconnect from him. It won't set him back in his recovery. It will only mean he won't be running up to his normal speed."

Blues grumbles.

Rock's eyes also drift to the side. "Y...yeah...people will stare..." Rock is distressed for a slightly different reason than his brother. He's not embarrassed by the idea of being seen connected to him. It's the fact that it will look very inhuman to everyone around them.

"I guess I'm stuck here," Blues groans.

Rock looks him over worriedly. "...W...well... I won't make you be cooped up here..."

The red bot shakes his head. "Nah it's the opposite. You should go do whatever. I'll hook myself back up to the machine in the lab. Besides my stuff's... In... There..."

Blues freezes up as he realizes what he forgot last night. In a moment he's disconnected from Rock and rushing out the door.

! "Protoman wait!" With his energy back to normal, Rock chases after him.

Blues gets a good way because of the head start, but by the time he is outside he is slowing down and laboring to continue. It's like he is walking through sludge. Rock easily catches up to him and puts an arm around him. "Hey...what are you doing?"

"Ngh... I gotta go look for my things, if they found them they'll KNOW..."

Okay okay...we'll look together. Do you know where you put them last?

"They... They were in that box... Under the table I was laying on."

"Okay. Let's go look there."

Blues nods and jogs as quickly as he can towards the lab building. Rock keeps close by in case his brother needs help getting there.

When Blues stumbles into the lab room from the previous night he fumbles around until he finds the spot where the box was placed. He grabs it out from under the table and begins rifling through its contents, looking for signs that the robot masters have been here. Megaman is relieved that the box is at least there. "Is everything safe?"

"I... I don't see anything missing..." He closes it back up and hugs it to his chest. That was almost really bad...

Megaman sighs. "Good...let's get it somewhere safe."

He nods and carries it as they head back toward the apartment.

Rock once again puts an arm around Blues's shoulder to help him make it.

Blues collapses on top of his box when they get back to the university apartment.

Rock immediately calls for Dr. Light. The doctor hurries over quickly to hook them back up. "Reckless! You should have let Rock go!"

"Mph."

"But he's okay, right dad? He just wanted to see for himself if it was all okay

"Of course. U But he needs to calm down and not go running around while he's on the mend!"

"Dad, don't yell at him...he was just worried..." Rock frowns and places himself between them defensively.

"Oh yes, yes fine... But stay in now please!"

Rock nods and looks to the side. "So are you gonna reconnect us?

Light looks at his son and notices he's averted eyes. "...do you not wish me to?"

"I just know Protoman won't be happy about it..."

"...I'll live" his brother replies.

"There now..." The doctor hooks them back up in no time.

Rock looks to his father and brother. "So what should we do now? Should we stay here and hide for today?"

"I don't think that would be a bad idea." The doctor replies. "At least until Blues gets a bit better. Ack. I mean Protoman."

Blues just grunts and walks his now energized legs over to the living room. He starts going through the book shelf looking for reading material. Rock, of course, follows quietly behind him and looks curiously at what his brother is going to pick.

Protoman grabs three books-one of maps, one on simple principles of mechics, and one on basic psychology. The doctor doesn't have much in the way of story books, it seems. He hops onto the couch, tosses Rock the remote so he can entertain himself with television, and starts reading. In just an hour and a half he has shredded through the rather dense volume on mechanics and is working on memorizing every detail in the atlas. Near photographic memory is both a blessing and a curse of his.

Rock does, in fact, turn on the TV for the sake of having something to distract him so he won't keep bugging Blues, but once he sees his brother already putting down the book on mechanics, he gasps. "You read through all that?!"

"Yeah. It was kind of dull."

He offers it to Rock in case he wants to read.

"No thanks. Dad's books are boring. I'd offer my own books, but, well, they're probably small and childish to you." .

"Oh?" Blues is already getting up and heading for his room.

"Yeah...they're not as big as the books you got-ack!"

Blues finds Rock's recently relocated library and snatches a whole shelf's worth off. He carries is back the couch and starts reading through the titles. "Little House on The Prairie... The Box Car Children... A Hot and Cold Summer, Tarantula Shoes, Mr. Tucket... "

Rock's hands shuffle together, wondering what his brother is gonna think of his books. He probably thinks they're baby books compared to what he can read...

"..." Blues settles on Charlotte's Web and begins reading it.

Relieved to have not at least been teased, Rock sighs. He always liked that one. He returns his attention to the TV so Blues can read in peace.

It's another hour before Blues finishes that one. "What a selfish pig."

"Huh? How is he selfish?"

Blues's mouth forms a lopsided frown. "He just whined and complained! He knew he was in trouble but he just cried about it until the spider came along to save him. Then he soaked up all the credit for her accomplishments, and he used her as the tool for his salvation... And by the time he was saved? She had been worked to death. She gave up her whole life to preserve his selfish one."

"That's not true..." Rock frowns. "It wasn't his fault she died. And I wouldn't say she gave up her life at all...what would she have done without him? She would have made webs and eaten bugs anyway. But she chose to help Wilbur...She wanted to use her unique skills to make something great and protect someone she didn't want to see killed."

"...hmph. And what did it get her? A friend? Wilbur never did anything for her. Not one thing her whole life. He only ever talked to her to complain. He only ever complimented her work when it was to his benefit. She could have used her life and skills to benefit a REAL friend that cared about her and did nice things for her in return... But instead she wasted it helping a selfish nobody."

"It's not like she was unhappy helping him...Wilbur was her friend, and she got to have a happy life too. She got to make have her babies, remember? I don't think it mattered to her if people recognized her for the webs she made...she was just happy to see people admiring them and knowing that they were giving Wilbur another chance. You don't think he ever did anything nice for her? He took care of her egg sac after she died."

"Hmph. It was the least any decent person would have done."

"You think so? I'm not sure if any of the other animals would have cared that she died or done anything to protect her eggs... I don't think Wilbur was selfish...all he wanted was to live...and to have a friend..."

"Muh," Blues puts the book to the side and picks up another.

After Blues grabs another book, Rock notices one of the books he'd taken. Uh oh. He shouldn't see that one. While Blues is focused on the book he holds, he grabs one from the pile and quickly pushes it under the couch.

Blues doesn't seem to have noticed the change out of books. He just goes on perusing through the latest book he pulled.

Rock leans back into the couch, pleased with himself for being so sneaky. He looks at the cover, wondering which book he's reading now.

The book, as it so happens, is one that Blues has read before, albeit a long time ago. It was once a part of his own 'childhood' collection. "Oh the Places You'll Go" by doctor Seuss. He still remembers every page and every word… He just felt like nostalgically thumbing through it again.

"Oh, I haven't read any of my Seuss books in a while," Rock comments.

"Hm... They're interesting books" His lips purse thoughtfully as he reads. He's thought back to this one many a time through his travels.

"Is that one your favorite?"

Once he's finished it he puts it reverently off to the side and grabs for something another. "It was one of my firsts."

"Oh yeah?"

"Mhmm."

Rock goes searching through the pile. "Here!" He pulls out The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

"Hm?" Blues hasn't read this one before. He accepts it from Rock and opens it.

"..." :I

"...What?" Rock questions the odd expression.

"….It's so dumb."

Taken aback, the blue robot averts his eyes. "I like it..." He mutters softly.

Blues sighs. Oh now he's upset him again. "I guess it's okay."

"Besides, it was only my first." Rock adds.

"Fine fine," Blues waves him off. "You don't have to justify your likes and dislikes to me."

"Do you have a favorite, Blues?"

His brother gives him the sly eye, not missing the use of his original name. "Favorite book you mean?"

"Yeah"

"Hm..."

"If you can't decide on an absolute favorite, you can tell me a couple."

Blues has to think about that one. "... I don't know. Oh the Places You'll Go is definitely high on my list... But there are so many books out there that I haven't read yet that it's hard to pick a favorite if I don't even know if I've read it yet."

"That's a good point... My favorite so far...I think it has to be..." He rummages and extracts The Giving Tree.

Blues stares at it in silence.

"Do you know this one?" Rock asks.

"I do. But read it anyway."

"Really?" The younger boy looks surprised.

"Mhm."

"Y-...you want me to read it?" Rock gets a huge grin and eagerly opens up the book. He's heard this one enough to recite every line perfectly.

Blues smiles lightly as he watches the kid's enthusiasm.

Some point during the story, Roll spots the two brothers and ends up taking a seat on the floor to listen to her brother tell the rest of it.

Protoman glances over to her curiously but soon pays her no mind and continues to listen to Rock read. It's somewhere therein that the doctor comes in and peeks his head through the doorframe to see what the gathering is about. He smiles like such a proud parent. Light moves into the kitchen to start preparing dinner while the kids continue to read.

When Megaman finishes, Roll applauds. "That was really good Rock! You're a great narrator!"

Rock grins and blushes. "It's just cuz I've heard it so much." He glances to his brother, wondering what he thought.

Blues is stoic. "...It's fitting for you, I suppose."

"You think so...?"

Protoman nods, although not in an entirely happy way.

Rock doesn't seem to notice. He puts the book down with the same prideful smile.

Blues stretches his arms out and sighs. "You... are definitely a cinnamon roll."

That breaks the boy's grin. DX "What does that meeeeaaannn. Tell meeeee."

Blues sticks his tongue out. "Too sweet for this world."

"..." Rock blushes bright.

Roll giggles at that. "Cinnamon roll!"

0 "You're the only Roll here, so you're the cinnamon roll!" her twin protests.

Doctor Light comes back in and looks through the assortment of books out. "My my... what well read children I have." He notices "Oh the Places You'll Go" at the top of the stack and picks it up. "Ah... it's been years since I've read this one... Protoman you liked this one, didn't you?"

Blues feels prodded. "Yeah," he looks away, embarrassed.

"I can tell. It sure seems like a story he'd like," Roll comments

Blues pouts. He whistles grumpily to himself while he picks the map book back up.

"Is dinner almost ready, Dad?" Rock asks

"Getting close! I made a favorite-fried chicken, mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes and gravy!"

"Oooohhh!" Rock's mouth waters.

If Blues's tank was the grumbly sort it would be growling. That sounds... good.

"Say Dad, is our connection gonna affect our refueling at all?" his younger brother asks.

"No son it shouldn't! But it is important that both of you fuel up. Especially you, Rock. Your core is serving as the battery that Protoman's is charging off of. For him to run at max you have to make sure you're running at max too." He grins wide. "Which means you eat as much as you like... and be ready for some dessert afterwards!"

Rock's mouth pops open. "What's for dessert?!"

"It's a surprise," his father grins

Rock beams and bounces in his seat excitedly.

"Alright! Let's eat!" Blues surprises them all by getting up. Protoman leads the way, toting Rock behind him.

Despite his lacking energy, Rock gets into his seat as quick as he can.

Soon the doctor brings their meal out steaming and smelling delicious. Blues finds his mouth watering too. Hoo boy.

"Mmm!" Rock licks his lips and wastes no time digging in.

Roll follows her brother and the doctor digs into his own oil-free share, leaving Blues to... stare. He's somewhat unsure how to handle the meal and picks at it carefully with a fork before taking some cautious bites. It's hot. Much hotter than he's used to eating his food.

Rock notices this and looks curiously. "Do you not like it?"

Blues blows on is softly to try to get it to cool before taking another bite. "N...no... it's good..." He savors the unfamiliar flavor.

"Have you never had chicken before?"

"No," Blues eyes it suspiciously. In fact, Blues isn't quite sure how he feels about it morally... He likes birds... And he doesn't have to eat them... He puts the chicken off to the side for now and focuses on the macaroni and potatoes.

"Do you like the other stuff at least?"

Protoman nods. "Look, don't worry about me. Enjoy your stuff."

Blues is right. Rock is nagging his brother too much. He decides to leave Protoman alone and simply enjoys his own food. "Mmmm. =u= This is real good."

Protoman keeps nibbling at his noodles and gradually eats more and more as it cools but mainly he sticks to his regular fuel.

Remembering what Dr. Light told him, Rock is sure to ask for seconds when he eventually finishes his first plate.

The doctor happily helps it for him. "Is it good? Did I make it the way that you like?"

"Yeah! The chicken is real crispy and juicy."

Protoman 's mouth twists up as he continues to avoid the meat.

Rock is so focused on eating that he doesn't even notice his brother's discomfort. Protoman just forks down the rest of his mac and cheese and potatoes, shoves his chicken onto his brother's plate when he thinks Rock isn't looking. Then he downs the rest of his liquid fuel.

Of course Rock notices. He always notices. "... Sure you don't want it?"

His brother doesn't meet his eyes and nods. Rock just shrugs and happily finishes the chicken for him.

The doctor finishes up, wiping his mouth daintily with a napkin. "Mmm... what a lovely meal with my family."

"Mhmm!" Rock and Roll agree fully. "So...what's that dessert you mentioned?"

Rock looks to his dad with great enthusiasm. The doctor smiles. "Hungry for more?"

He goes to the freezer and pulls out a cake. But not just any kind of cake. "If I remember correctly... you DO like chocolate fudge ice cream cake, do you not?"

!

Roll squeals. "You really got an ice cream cake?!"

The doctor nods. "It's a special occasion!"

The children cheer and hold out their plates for a slice.

Blues just stares blankly at the dessert, not sure what to make of it. He keeps staring as everyone helps themselves a plate. He doesn't know what to do with the melty brown triangle when the doctor passes him one.

Rock takes a big bite. "Mmmmmm!"

When he notices that Protoman hasn't touched it, he's shocked. "Don't tell me you don't like chocolate ice cream!"

"Um... . wouldn't know." Protoman picks at it with his fork and takes a hesitant bite.

"...! It's cold."

Rock and Roll are absolutely stunned. "Duh!" Says Roll. "Ice cream's s'posed to be cold!"

Blues chews it only to have the stuff melt in his mouth. So... sweet. With another interesting new flavor. "So this is chocolate... I see why the humans like it..."

"It's good, right?" Rock grins.

Protoman nods mutedly and keeps eating.

Light smiles at the bittersweet sight. His poor boy... all the things he's missed out on... But he gets to try them now.

The smile falls from Rock's face when he realizes that his brother does not seem as happy to be eating this as he expected. Protoman finishes his plate, then picks it up and brings it over to the sink to wash.

"Ah! Protoman I can do those." The doctor tries to stop him, but he rinses it off anyway and sticks it in the dish washer.

"I got it." Protoman can't let himself be a discourteous guest. This isn't really his home. After that he sits back down beside Rock so his brother can finish eating before he goes dragging him anywhere else. But since he's being pulled along anyway, Rock washes and puts away his dish after his brother, and Roll decides to follow both of their examples.

"Mmmmm...that was good, Dad" says Rock with a contented grin.

"Yes, thank you, Daddy" chimes Roll. The robot girl can't help but glance to her big brother.

Light just looks at all three of them. Somehow Blues is bringing out a responsible streak in all of his children. "Aha... ^-^ You're welcome, kids! Glad you enjoyed it. Now then... we have some time before bed... would you like to do anything?"

Protoman shrugs, not noticing Roll's gaze. He's been avoiding her somewhat since coming here, truth be told. A very subtle pout appears on Roll's face when Protoman doesn't offer any thanks of his own.

Light activates one of his little video drones while the kids go back to the living room and tidy up the book pile a bit. That's when Protoman finds one hidden under a pillow.

! Rock jolts.

"Oh? What do we have here~" Blues flips it open. "This one of yours, Megaman?" He almost says Rock. "Guess how much I love you..."

Rock fidgets nervously. "U-uh...yeah um...here I'll put that one in the pile where it belongs" he tries to swipe it from his brother's hands.

Protoman holds it up out of his grip.

"Oh? No no." He spies the look on his brother's face. Though he acted like it escaped his notice earlier he's been quietly biding his time. And now he knows.

"Nnngh that's one of my old baby books it's not worth reading!" ~ Rock starts to panic. He knows too well that Blues might not react very well to this particular book that his father used to read to him.

"Hey DOCTOR." Protoman holds the book up higher so Rock can't reach it. "Megaman wants you to read him a story!"

Roll snickers at the mischief.

"P-Protoman no..."

"No?" Blues smirks deviously. "You don't want him to read it? Maybe YOU'D like to read it, hmm?"

Distressed, Rock whines and keeps trying to snatch it.

Light pokes his head in. "What's that?"

Rock quiets. "….If I read it will you let me put it away?"

"….." Protoman tosses the book to him.

"Oh? You're reading another story, Rock?" the doctor hums. "I'd like to hear." He comes and settles down in the arm chair.

"Ack!" The blue bomber blushes profusely.

Protoman plops onto the couch. "Go on."

Rock gives his brother such a pout, but Blues just returns a sly, smug grin.

Roll whines. "C'mon rock. Pleeease? I wanna hear it for real!"

"So do I!" Light echoes.

"Okay okay I'll do it..." Taking a deep breath to try and calm his nerves, Rock opens the book.

His words lack the same confidence as when he read The Giving Tree, but despite all of his nervous fidgeting he manages to read with little in the way of hangups.

"Little Nutbrown Hare who was going to bed, held on tight to Big Nutbrown Hare's very long ears. He wanted to be sure that Big Nutbrown Hare was listening."

Rock pauses...and then he brings up one of his hands to take a hold of the end of Blue's scarf.

Roll smiles, knowing this story well, as well as the doctor. Blues frowns, though, when his brother grabs onto his scarf. "What? What do you want?"

Despite his resolve, he finds it hard to take his eyes off the pages as he goes on. But almost every time the phrase "guess how much I love you" is repeated, he gives the shyest glance towards his brother's visored face.

"..." Blues gulps, a blush starting to creep into his cheeks. His smug grin slowly falls from his face as his brother continues to read. Rather than laugh at his awkwardness while he reads the embarrassing story... the doctor and Roll both stare, smiling kindly and adoringly at their family. It doesn't take him too long to figure out that his plan to tease Rock has backfired. He looks away, embarrassed.

When he makes it through the last line, Rock slaps the book shut and hides his own blushing face in the yellow scarf.

a;lsdkfjsdfasd DX "H-hey cut that out!" his older brother stammers.

Roll giggles and gives her twin the same applause he received before.

Rock finally catches himself and removes his head from the yellow fabric, left instead to squirm in his seat.

Protoman doesn't do much better sitting across from him. "...d...dork."

Rock gives him a pout.

"Bah now be nice, Bl-Protoman!" The doctor chides. "I think it was VERY nice, Rock..."

"Th-thanks..."

Protoman puffs. Well whatever.

Rock gives a little yawn. The big meal and his lack of energy are taking their toll.

Protoman is still feeling pretty great physically though... just maybe not otherwise. Being surrounded by all these folks is... just not comfortable. He's about to head out to hide out of sight when something on the television catches his attention. He grabs the remote and turns it up.

"Hm...?" Rock turns his attention on the screen as well.

"Panic today as rampant robot gang raids yet another laboratory. This time it was the south-east side Metropolitan hospital. Reports clarify that no one was harmed in the raid, but many lab samples were lost, destroyed, or contaminated by the process, setting treatment of certain patients back up to several days. At the time hospital staff, fearing reprisal, do not want to comment on the raid. Concern grows as this is the first non-research related lab that has been raided in the stream of raids that began just four days ago. At this point it is unclear what the robots are searching for, though some sources speculate it may have to do with the attack on the Castile Heights apartment building destroyed earlier this week."

Protoman quivers. Metropolitan hospital. Not the children's hospital that he visits, but...

Megaman looks devastated...

"...This is my fault." Blues mutters.

"No... They're looking for me..." Rock assumes the blame.

Protoman shakes his head. "No... they're looking for the doctor... but if I hadn't tipped them off, you all wouldn't be vulnerable right now..."

Light's frown deepens. "Boys..."

But Blues cuts across him. "I can't let this keep happening. Tomorrow... I'll start patrolling the city. I'll try to draw them off."

"But...but what if you're not ready yet...?" Rock frowns, "You might need to recharge another day..."

"I'll be fine enough."

"Protoman we don't know that... you really may need more time..." The doctor quiets.

Blues grits his teeth. He has to go though. He needs to make sure the kids at that hospital are alright...

"...we can patrol together," Rock places a hand on his shoulder.

"..." Protoman doesn't expect the bloom of... gratitude... that wells up within him. But still he protests. "I would be a drag on you."

"No you wouldn't. I'm sure we'd be able to go patrolling successfully even while connected."

"Take it easy you two... no one's going anywhere tonight, you hear?" The doctor chides. "I admire your mutual commitment to act... but at the moment, going to fight might mean the loss of both of my sons... you must rest and recuperate. The robot masters thankfully don't seem intent on harming the normal citizens... in all of these lab incidents there have only been three cases where anyone was injured for resisting the raid, and no casualties have been reported. I do not believe Albert is out to cause harm indiscriminately this time."

"You...you really think so?"

Light nods. "I agree that we should aid as swiftly as possible in ending this, but no sooner than both of you are capable."

"F...fine..." Protoman nods. There's sense in that. All the while he hopes that nothing bad will happen tonight until he's better enough that he can act...

"Well...so what should we do now?" Rock asks.

"..." Protoman flops over on top of his dumb brother. "I'm gonna lay on you," Blues smooshes him.

"Ack! Protomaaannn!" DX Rock squirms.

Protoman kisses his head without thinking. "Adorable cinnamon roll~"

-click- The picture drone preserves that moment forever.

Blues blinks in surprise. ._. "eh?"

! "DAAAAAD!" Rock whines.

"Yeeeees?" No help will come from dad. He is too happy to see his sons bonding and the fact that he's getting family photos.

"You took a pictuuuuuuurrreee," Rock continues to mewl in a high pitched voice.

"It was the picture bot ^_^ I programmed it to pick out the most key moments when family bonding is happening and document them!"

Blues's surprised expression crinkles into a scowl. "Who the f...lapjack makes a robot that does that" he complains, almost using the F word again

A;lksdfjasdf;laksdfj Rock has just had the image of himself crushed beneath his big brother preserved forever. And kissed. Not to forget kissed. DX

Protoman is currently back up trying to smash the camera for that very reason.

"Ack Protoman-!" Rock gasps as he's dragged after him.

Light just smiles placidly. "Synced to bluetooth. Already in the cloud. It's preserved forever," The doctor announces.

Blues groans. Rock whines with him.

Roll jumps onto Rock and hugs him, giggling. "Now I gotcha! Take a picture of us!"

She kisses her brother and the drone happily obliges.

Protoman grab his shield and backs himself against the wall with it to avoid being filmed. ***

o "That's it sis, you're gonna get it now!" Rock reaches for her sides and starts tickling her.

;lkasdjf;sdlkfsajf Now it's Roll's turn to squirm.

Click... click... click... The camera starts firing off a lot. In a moment the doctor joins their tickle fight.

WOWHSHANDNGIKTNQUJSJDNEN

Blues watches the spectacle unfold not quite sure what to make of it. Dorks. Dorks everywhere.

...and yet...

Protoman feels a pang of something. It's like a deep gulf has opened up between himself and them even though they're only feet apart. And on the other side of that gulf he sees how he used to be. The kind of fun he had with the doctor when he was newly made.

"..." He quietly lets his shield down

Rock hears his shield drop and realizes something. While Light is busy with Roll, he sneaks to his brother.

"..." Protoman stares ahead.

"..." Rock holds up a finger.

"..."

It slowly goes for Protoman's hip.

"..." Protoman may or may not see it.

Ever since Blues made that hysterical squeak, Rock has had this question burning in his mind, and now he finally has a chance to have it answered. Whenever he wants to get his sister, he knows that the sweet spot is right above the hip. Thinking he's still being sneaky, he strikes and gives the spot on Protoman a quick pinch.

"..."

._.

Protoman squeaks.

!

It is shrill and high pitched and it takes all of half a second for Rock to be thrust to the floor, sat on, and retribution tickled.

"Rock remember when you laughed yesterday?"

Blues's evil grin further deepens. "I DO"

Rock bursts into hysterical laughter. "N-noooooo!"

Protoman tickles him mercilessly, poking at every sensitive bit of his form, including that same place on his hip near where his kidneys would be if he had them.

Rock spasms wildly again. "B-but it's not my faaaauulllt it was too funnyyyyyyy!"

"THIS IS FUNNIER," Blues growls.

"N-Nuh uuuuhhh!"

Protoman squashes him and keeps tickling at his shivering "skin" until he's laughing so hard he's crying. "UUUH HUUUUH~"

"NOOOO! MERCYYYY!"

Protoman has his way with him for a little while longer before releasing his poor, hysterical brother. Meanwhile, many a picture has been taken.

When it's finally over, Rock is laying on his back, trying desperately to catch his breath.

Blues realizes that Roll and Light are staring at them. He looks away, once again embarrassed. Rock realizes too and does the same.

Light breaks the tension with a small smile. "Alright... that was fun... but it's getting late. Time for bed I think." He picks his daughter up and carries her to her room to tuck in first.

"…" Blues follows his example and picks rock up, carrying him off.

"Hey!" Rock wiggles. Blues deviously grins over him.

Rock gets dumped into his bed and Blues lays down beside him. After a quiet pause… he takes his helmet off, in favor of sleeping without it.

Rock looks at him through the dimness, enthralled by the sight. He scooches closer.

"...Rock."

"Yeah?" his little brother asks quietly.

"...I've decided that I'm gonna call you that."

"Okay... Good ….can I call you Blues?

"...I'll allow it."

Rock's face breaks into a wild grin. He scoots closer until he's snug against his brother.

"..." Protoman rolls over and suddenly they're face to face, eye to shades.

Megaman's eyes widen in surprise.

"...We have to go tomorrow and put a stop to the robot masters," Blues addresses him seriously. "There's too much at stake to let them keep storming through the city."

"I know...but you heard what the doctor said...if you're still recovering, it wouldn't be good for you to put yourself in danger."

"... I'm durable. But some of those people out there aren't. They need help."

"...sometimes you just don't make sense," Rock murmurs, meeting his gaze with a thoughtful expression.

"...why?"

He looks aside. "You were the one who told me that you're all you have."

"…." This makes Blues look away too, his lips twisting into a….sheepish expression?

Rock smiles and takes his brother's hand. "I knew you didn't really mean that."

...Sometimes I do. ...But there are people out there worth it. You've just got to choose wisely who it is you're willing to put it on the line for."

"Then who's worth it to you?"

Blues stares at the ceiling. "….The innocents who can't protect themselves."

"...I think so too."

"..." Protoman considers rolling back over.

"I used to think we were nothing alike..." Rock continues. "But you prove me more wrong the longer I get to be around you."

"…." Blues reaches a hand over and pets Rock's head. "Well... you've proved me wrong a few times too."

"Yeah?"

Blues gives a nod, accidentally head-bumping his brother due to their proximity.

"How so?"

But the red bot doesn't answer. Blues continues quietly stroking the bangs away from his brother's eyes. And gradually he begins to drift off, still close to Rock. As he does, he moves his arms around the younger boy in a sleeping embrace.

Rock closes his eyes and smiles. Even if he doesn't get an answer, Rock is beyond happy as he drifts off as well.

"...I love you, Blues."

"...dummy," the older bot murmurs. But before Rock can look too upset, his brother gently presses his lips to his forehead.

Rock blinks in surprise. But smiles.

"Night."

^u^ "Night!"

Blues stays wrapped around Rock and hums slightly as he drifts to sleep. He has zero problems hugging this cinnamon roll through the night.

And the cinnamon roll has no problems being hugged.


End of Chapter

Chapter Text


Chapter 9: Break Man Broken

Once again, Rock is comfortably nestled on top of his big brother and securely wrapped in his arms. The young robot boy has more nice dreams about the two of them together, not just going out and having fun but also acting as an unstoppable duo against the forces of evil.

In contrast, Blues's dreams are a bit less lighthearted bit more distressing. A shady figure stands over his brother, crushing his core underfoot while Rock cries out in pain. Blues runs as fast as he can to try to reach him, to try to save him, but it's like he's running in place. He can't reach them. He tries firing his weapon but it comes up with nothing. He tries to yell to his brother to kill them, to save himself, but though his voice reaches the younger boys ears, Rock shakes his head.

"I can't... I have to protect them"

Blues watches in horror as the human crushes his cinnamon roll brother's soul underfoot.

"Nngh!" Blues lurches awake and nearly knocks Rock off of himself. Even though he doesn't, it's still enough to wake the boy up. He gasps as his eyes snap open.

"Huh? B-Blues? Are you okay?"

Blues quivers when blue eyes meet his own and he realizes it was just a nightmare. He sighs and pulls the boy in his arms closer.

"Fine". You're okay. He's grand.

Rock hugs him back. "Oh... You had another nightmare, didn't you?"

"Mhm…" When Rock looks to him for explanation he clears his throat quietly and makes up a story. "There was an innocent plate of cinnamon rolls being devoured mercilessly by a human. It was horrible to watch. None of them were spared."

"Blues..." Rock frowns.

The red bot jokes in a lighthearted way, but the analogy isn't far off.

Rock gives his brother a look. He knows he's lying. "...did something bad happen to me?"

"Wha? Where did you get that from?" Blues feigns innocence.

"Cuz you call me a cinnamon roll."

"Psh" Blues snerks. But he doesn't comment further.

Rock decides any further prodding would be futile, so he simply lays his head back over his brother's chest.

Blues hesitantly brings a hand up to stroke through his hair.

Rock opens his eyes, surprised, but quickly closes them back and adopts a blushing look of contentment. "Mm..."

"We.. Should get up and check my power levels," Blues says.

"Ah...yeah, we should." Rock rolls off his brother and sits up, yawning and stretching.

Blues gets up as well, throwing his arms out in a yawn of his own before hopping energetically to his feet. He can definitely feel a difference in energy... It's nice to feel so much strength in his limbs after three days being buried under crushing rock... And then he laughs.

"Huh? What's so funny?"

"Ahahahaha! I've slept with rocks for five days now," Blues chuckles.

"Wha...? Five days?" Rock is doing the mental math and coming up with a different number.

Blues continues to chuckle. It's funny now, but it wasn't so funny at the time while he was being crushed. It was a slow and agonizing way to die. "You are... By far the more comfortable rock to sleep with."

Rock slowly begins putting the pieces together to figure out what he means. "...The rubble...you were...you were down there for three days...?

Blues nods. "Three and a half, technically, but..."

Rock looks devastated. "Oh Blues...I'm...I'm so sorry...I should have tried harder to find you...

...No...that's not right...I didn't even try at all..." Rock casts his eyes down, feeling shame well up from his chest.

"It's not your fault," Blues's smile sinks. "You didn't even have an idea where to look."

"Yeah, but..." He clings to his brother. "I'm sorry..."

"Don't be…" He walks out the door with Rock still clinging to him.

Rock knows that Dr. Light is probably already about to make them breakfast, and he's right. Him and Roll are up and cooking together. "Morning, Dad, morning, Roll."

"Morning Rock!" They both chime in, and add "Morning Protoman!"

Blues takes one look at all of the animal product being cooked and opts for his regular fuel. "Mornin..."

"Dad, can we be disconnected today?" Rock does the asking.

"I'll come and have a look, shall I?" The doctor grabs his tablet and walks over to Blues, plugging it into a port in his wrist. When he does, stats about the boy's energy levels fly up on the screen. "Running at 90% while the two of you are connected... That's good!" He unplugs Blues and then goes and plugs into Rock to verify that he has the same level reading out. "90% also... Good good, that's what we were hoping for. Now... Let's see what happens when we remove the power supply." He plugs back once more into Blues's wrist before taking the jumper cables away from his son's chest. As he does, he watches as the power indicator slowly drops. "89... 88... 86... 85. You're holding stable at 85% of your power capacity. It's less than ideal, but you should be able to move around on your own now. Another day of being plugged into Rock should do the trick and have your capacity back up to its optimum level!"

Rock frowns, knowing Blues won't be happy with that. "One more day? You're sure?" The doctor takes his plug out of Blues and attaches it once more to Rock to verify that his energy levels are also slowly back on the rise to 100%, which they are, while Blues flexed his hands and feet, feeling at his strength. This is good... He can work with this. "Alright, sounds great. I'll be back tonight."

The red bot grabs a fuel canister for the road and just like that he's out the door.

"Wh-! B... Blues wait!" Light cries.

"Huh?! Blues wait!" Rock echoes and runs out after him to catch up.

"But I made pancakes..." The doctor mourns as he watches his two sons go. Roll pats his back sympathetically.

Blues decides to go out the window rather than the apartment door and climbs his way to the roof while sipping his drink.

He doesn't catch him going out the window, but even then Rock is pretty certain he knows where his brother his heading. He makes his way up to the roof.

Blues is already surveying the university campus and the edge of town by the time he's there, preparing to head off. Hospital first... Then he'll just do a general patrol.

"Hey..." Rock's voice appears behind him.

"... What?"

"I thought I told you I wanted to go with you."

Blues looks aside, considering. "…well if you want to you can."

Rock brightens. "Good!" He runs up to join his brother's side. "Where do you think we should check first?"

"... W... Well um..." He tries to think of what to say to explain his odd detour. "I was gonna go check out some of the other hospitals... And then patrol the sewers."

Rock tilts his head. "Are you nervous?"

"….."

"AAA. Good thinking," he suddenly bursts out before Blues has to answer. "I bet the robot masters would use them to hide and get around the city undetected."

Blues sighs and nods. "They do. Frequently."

"You know?" Megaman pauses. "Did you ever hide down there with them?

"I don't wanna talk about it."

"Okay then. So hospitals first. Where do we start?"

Blues doesn't hesitate. "Metro Central Children's Hospital."

Megaman nods. "Sounds good. Ready?"

Protoman nods and launches himself into the air with his renewed power, running across the tops of buildings super-hero style while headed in a familiar direction.

Megaman is able to keep up with ease. Not knowing the way as well, he leaves his big brother to lead them there.

Protoman dashes across buildings most of the time, only venturing to the ground when there's no other option. It's easier to travel from above. And it's also usually safer. Almost as soon as they touch down onto the concrete sidewalk near their destination there's an explosion not far away. One of Wily's sniper pods. From what look like the remains of a mailbox, tree Joes emerge, guns blazing. Protoman quickly blocks the blasts with his shield, redirecting the fire away from civilians and back at the Joes.

With Protoman safe with his shield, Megaman dashes in another direction, leading more of the Joes away from the buildings and civilians. Whenever any of them are open, Megaman opens fire. Running on 100% again make it easy to use the power necessary to take them out with only a few shots.

With his brother working to eliminate the sniper drones, Protoman focuses on firing at them from the edges and blocking stray shots from doing harm.

In no time at all, thanks to their teamwork, the pod is eliminated and they're continuing on their way. What neither notices is the news team catching their actions on video.

"Whew...that could have been ugly." Megaman says as he returns to his brother's side. "Looks like this area is safe now though. Should we move on to the next hospital?"

Protoman looks up at the building. "I... I'm going to go in just to ask if they've seen any suspicious activity around."

"Okay. Want me to go with you, or do you wanna split up? I could go check elsewhere."

Blues avoids his gaze again. "Um... Just wait out here for me and keep guard until I've asked around. I'll be back soon."

"You got it!"

Protoman hurries inside where Ethyl is waiting at the front desk. "Protoman? Hey there... We weren't expecting you until tomorrow... What's up?"

"Sorry Ethyl. I'm not here to see the kids today, I came to check on things after I heard the news last night."

The woman frowns. "The attack on the southeast hospital lab? But... You don't think those bad robots would..."

"I do. They're looking through any lab they can find."

"But... What are they looking for?"

He's not sure he wants to explain the truth, so he settles on something more vague. "They're looking for a scientist. One who they think they'll find in a lab."

"Oh..." She quiets. "But... But he's not here, right? If we tell them that they'll leave won't they?"

"!" Now he regrets saying anything. "No! You can't tell them that. If they know you know what they're looking for they'll think you're involved and something horrible might happen to you. Ethyl listen, if they show up don't resist. Just let them enter the lab and search. They'll leave once they see for themselves he's not here. And whatever you do make sure that you deny knowing what they're looking for. Don't tell them about me or mention the man."

Ethyl looks confused and upset. "A.. Are they really coming here!? W... We should evacuate..."

"No Ethyl... The kids have to stay so they can get better. Look, I'll do everything I can to keep them from showing up here..."

He spies Sylvia peeking around the corner. It looks like they're being eavesdropped on. He turns to address her too.

"Just be smart and if they do show up let them search and then leave. Don't talk to them. Don't say anything. Keep calm. And keep the kids safe."

"... Are they after you, Protoman?" Ethyl murmurs.

"...partly. I'll do everything I can to keep them at bay." He promises.

He looks at Sylvia to see if she has anything to say.

"Thank you for coming to warn us, Protoman." The nurse answers. "We'll remember what you told us. And I know you two will keep us safe."

Blues looks down. He isn't so sure. He straightens himself and heads out the door resolute, angry at himself for bringing danger to this doorstep.

Megaman is still standing dutifully at guard when Blues exits the building. "Hey there," he says. "Did anything happen?"

"No... They hadn't seen anything." He replies.

When he looks up at the building once more he notices a few familiar faces waving from windows. Oh boy. He hesitantly waves back.

Rock notices this and curiously looks back to see what he's looking at. When he spots the young faces looking down at them, he waves too. The children aren't quite as delighted by him. They're trying to figure out who he's supposed to be.

"Er... Right then... Sewer..." Blues grapples with whether or not to split up. It would be easy to survey more the city with the two of them separate... But that would open them up to be easier prey in an ambush. Alone in the sewer could be dangerous...

Meanwhile Bass grumbles while he and the other robot masters tramp through dark, stinking sewage tunnels, headed for their next target. He's ended up captain of these misfits on the manhunt for Light, and it's far less than glamorous. "Hmph... This is ridiculous. I shouldn't be babysitting you lot, I could search much faster on my own!"

"B...but what if you get ambushed by Megaman or Protoman?" Gutsman points out. "They've already taken you out twice..."

"Exactly." Bubbleman chimes. "There's safety in numbers! Besides, if there's anyone that should be complaining it's me! Look at all this filth and dirty water! LOOK AT IT! It's against my core function to ignore this mess!"

"Can it" Bass grumps. "Who cares about a little sludge? Your core functionality was to clean up the messes those stupid, selfish humans made for themselves. To be their slave. Ignore it."

Still, Bubbleman continues to grumble. "Easy for you to say... Your core functionality is to fight and I don't see you trying to ignore that."

# # # # # # # # #

Protoman finally drags himself out of the sewer hours later with his brother after zero success. It seems like every time they think they must be getting close the robot masters turn up on some other part of the grid. "Sewer isn't cutting it... It's obvious they're using it to move but without knowing where they're going we are just wandering aimlessly down here. We need to take the search back above ground."

They stop for a while and refuel from a canister Protoman brought along. He can feel his power levels holding pretty steadily at where they were this morning, which is good. Of course, he hasn't been exerting himself, so when they actually end up in a fight... He'll just see how it goes then. Blues watches the cheerful boy at his side as Megaman takes another big gulp of fuel and sighs. He can't help but crack a small grin. So much enthusiasm even when they're doing grim, dangerous work.

Megaman blinks as he hands back the canister, noticing the smirk on his face. "What's so funny?" He asks curiously.

Oh nothing... I was just thinking that it's awfully sunny out. We might have to put some icing on you so you don't dry up.

Rock's eyebrows pinch together and he frowns, putting on semi-comical pout.

Blues snickers.

"...it is nice out though," Rock mutters, "I wish we could be out doing something a little more fun instead."

"Oh... Well..." Blues casts his gaze aside guiltily. He's inclined to agree, but… "We really need to stop the masters before we think about doing anything else ...but maybe after things clear up... I don't know, maybe then."

o.o Rock blinks.

Blues feels a flush creeping towards his cheeks. What is he saying? Is he really going to hang out with this dork doing kid things? ...he's considering it.

Rock's expression is quickly morphing from surprise to uncontainable joy. He looks impossibly excited.

Oh boy... What has Blues just talked himself into...

Rock takes his brother's arm and starts tugging on it. "Well come on then let's get going and stop them!"

"Ack! Okay okay!"

Megaman lets go and bounces onto his feet, itching to get back to work so that they might get finished sooner. "Where do you think we should go next?"

"Hm... I don't...-" Suddenly, something catches his eye. He goes as pale as a robot can go.

"Huh?! What is it?!" Rock follows his gaze.

Blues points to the jumbotron above the city with a news report. A sky copter is getting live feed from a local hospital.

Bass stands outside with his arm looped around Sylvia's neck and his blaster against her head.

Splayed across the bottom of the screen is "hostage situation unfolds at local children's hospital."

Megaman's face falls. "Oh no..."

Protoman takes off towards the hospital they visited earlier. His younger brother doesn't hesitate to follow after him.

When they near the hospital, Blues can hear Bass shouting. Megaman strains to listen to him.

"I know you're out there! Come out come out 'MEGA' MAN! Or do you want your little human friends to get hurt?"

Sylvia shrieks in terror.

Megaman looks to his big brother. "What should I do?" He asks. "Should I go face him?"

Protoman's mind is racing with panic but he tries to think through it. "...the other robot masters... We don't know where they are"

"Should we...should we look for them instead?"

"We could split up... That seems like our best option."

"Okay...you go look for the others. I'll deal with Bass." Rock turns away to face the foe, but quickly stops and turns back. "B...be careful, Blues..."

"Rock..." Blues looks back at him. You too. "...be careful. Just keep Him distracted... And try to move him away from the hospital if you can." If this building goes down from one of Bass's berserker rampages it won't be casualty free. He splits from his brother and moves toward the side of the building. There's a back entrance that he knows of.

The building is quiet when Protoman enters... Too quiet. He unlatches his shield from his back... It's never this quiet in the children's ward.

Something flickers in the corner of his vision and he only has a moment to raise his shield before Shadowman bears into it with his giant shuriken. The ninja bot seems to materialize out of the dark corners of the corridor. "We knew you would come by here soon. Where is your new pal? Saying hello to Bass?"

"Friend? Dunno who you mean." Blues denies, mind still racing with questions. How would he know about Rock? "I just heard you guys were looking for a fight."

He pivots to the side so Shadowman's force leaves the navy bot teetering forward and off balance—providing Blues an opening. He slices at the ninja's side with the sharp edge of his shield and grins when he feels it successfully connect with his target. "Thought I'd show up and give you a real one."

Bass grins maniacally when he spots Megaman arriving. He laughs. "I knew you'd finally show up if we threatened your little human friends!" The black bot shoves Sylvia out of the way to aim at the new arrival instead. "The other masters are inside. If you want to get at them and save the other humans? You have to get through ME."

Shadow Man grunts as he's hit, but otherwise he shows no other signs of pain. "Do not play dumb. You two were all over the news. So touching to see the brothers working together again." Suddenly the ninja bot creates multiple copies of himself to rush at Protoman at once.

Megaman steps no closer once he's been spotted. "You want me, Bass, you're gonna have to come and get me!"

Bass isn't playing that game though. He aims his arm canon at the fleeing doctor, powering it up. "You sure about that?"

He fires.

The fight with Shadowman proves to be a challenge for Protoman, and not just because he is not running at 100%. This one is tough. The copies run him towards corners, which is the last place he needs to be when fighting Shadowman. Usually that's his strategy when battling multiple foes in an enclosed space, but that's exactly what the ninja is counting on. Battling foes blocked into corners is his strong point. In order to keep from being worried ever back into a corner he has to lash out at the doubles, striking them out as they come while searching for the real Shadowman. He knows that the real one isn't among the copies. He'll be camouflaged in the hall... Finally Protoman sees his chance.

"! ARGH!" Pain. White pain lashes through the red bot's back. His foe was one step ahead of him. Protoman falls to the ground, the copies dispersing around him. Shadowman steps out of the shadows from the spot where he stabbed his foe in the back. "You were a good opponent... But until you understand the art of deception, you will never defeat me. Now then..." He kneels down over Protoman's limp form to bind his arms. "I will take you to my mast-"

-SMACK-

Protoman's helm shoots up, smacking right into Shadowman's face. The stealth bot groans as Blues grabs his leg, wheels around, and smashes him into the floor.

"Deception. Think I got it."

After tying the ninja up in his own binding and stuffing him into a utility closet, Blues advanced further into the hospital.

Megaman immediately rushes for the nurse. Before Bass's shot can reach her, he slides into her to push her out of the way to take the hit instead.

Bass laughs at the fool as Sylvia picks herself back up and runs for cover. "Mr. Goodie Two Shoes... I should have thought up this hostage thing earlier!" A cruel grin lights up the black bot's face. "Knew you wouldn't be able to resist if we threatened a few poor humans. So... Where's your BUDDY? Lemme guess... Inside saving the other hostages? He won't get far... Shadow man has a poisoned blade waiting for him~" he gloats in a singsong voice.

Bass whips out his own blade. "And I've got one... For... YOU!" He dashes at Rock, prepared to strike.

Megaman feels his core go cold when he realizes that Protoman is in danger of being poisoned, but there's no chance to warn him. When Bass rushes for him, he prepares to meet him with another slide, ready to trip him the same way he did before.

Meanwhile, in the next hall of the children's ward, the lights flicker. If Protoman can remember, this is the hall where Maggie had been staying last he visited.

Blues comes to a pause, sensing rather than seeing his foe. Elecman.

"Do you want to show yourself, or do you want me to flush you out?"

"Ooh, I think you'll want to come find me, dear Breakman. I have a surprise for you~" A familiar voice teases sadistically. One of the doors is wide open. The sound of a heart monitor can be heard clearly. The heart rate it is detecting is beginning to grow in speed.

! Against his better judgement, Blues rushes into what is surely a trap.

Bass is prepared for the rush at his legs this time. Doctor Wily has programmed him with a new protocol just for that contingency, and he dodges above, air rushing at the ground after he jumps and kicking for Megaman's chest.

Elecman is waiting for him when he burst through the doorway. The wires that run through the heart monitor have been severed for him to siphon its power himself. It gives them more than enough energy to send a bolt of electricity Blues's way.

! Protoman almost blocks with his shield to try to redirect the bolt but fearing for Maggie he doesn't, instead trying to dodge the shot. It still catches his arm and he yowls as it surges through the rest of him.

"E... Elecman... Still taking the cheap shots, I see."

Megaman is just barely able to roll out of the way of Bass's attack. When his foot connects to concrete, the boy is quick to get up and go for an uppercut.

! "GAh!" Bass yells in surprise.

"Oh, you have no idea~" Elecman drawls, venom dripping from his tone. The young girl in the room with them screams out, fearing for her hero. Elecman laughs. "Such an energetic child! You know how we knew one of us had to stick close to her? She put on her bravest face and told us..." He turns to her, hovering his sparking fingers near her. "Go on, sweety. What was it you told me?" The girl whimpers, sinking farther back into her bed. "I... I said you'd come to stop them..." she looks tearfully at Blues.

Bass takes the blow to the face, but quickly swipes his foot back up to kick Megaman away... At least that's what he WISHES he did but doesn't quite work. His foot is embedded in concrete from the force of his blow. He has to angrily tug to get it out while Megaman is free to keep up the offensive.

With Bass temporarily stuck, Megaman knows he needs to take advantage. He hits the black bot with a volley of shots as he moves behind him. And then he gets a thought. Rock runs for him, reeling back his fist, and hits Bass's back with everything he can. He knows Bass is made of stronger stuff than him, but the force of his punch should be strong enough to send him forward while his foot is still stuck within the ground.

Protoman stares between the two of them, faced with an impossible decision. Maggie is terrified. The pale young girl needs some kind of reassurance... But to offer it will mean showing weakness. She and every human will be a weapon to use against him. All of the Wily robot masters will use humans as living shields the moment they grow wise to the fact that he's gone soft. And yet if he doesn't tell Elecman to hold off... He could believe this bot would be cruel enough to end the girl's life to test him.

Protoman freezes, caught between a rock and a hard place.

Bass grunts as he's pummeled back and forth like a punching back. "You-GRk! Sorry piece of-ACK! Scrap-YOW!" Finally from the force of Rock's blow, Bass is knocked free. He leaps into the air to escape the blows before turning around and returning fire.

"ILL GET YOU, you BRAT!"

"I have to wonder how anyone here would know you...You sure aren't as famous as your little brother." Elecman tilts his head as a sinister smirk appears on his face. "And you sure ain't a hero like he is. So what'd you do to make her think so?" He reaches out to grab a piece of her hair, making the rest of her strands stand on end from static as she shakes and whimpers.

Megaman has to laugh at Bass's anger, even as he runs for cover from his fire. Now that Bass is so mad, he might blindly chase Rock away from the hospital. "You can try, ya dense-helmed jerk!" He makes sure to give him an insulting face to further infuriate him before turning and running.

Bass fires off a flurry of shots at Megaman even as he lands and sure enough takes after the blue bot. "COME BACK HERE AND FACE ME COWARD!" He follows haplessly, not realizing that he's being diverted.

"Why don't you come and catch me first?" Megaman teases. He'll get Bass as far away from the hospital as he can before he tries to seriously fight him.

The moment Elecman touches Maggie everything becomes very simple for Blues. Her wellbeing comes first. It doesn't matter how he accomplishes it.

"Hey, Buzz." He snides, putting on a cocky grin. "Remember how I pulled a plug out of Doctor Wily the other day?"

Blues turns his arm into a blaster and points it at Maggie. Be brave sweetie. Don't give up. "I'm about to pull your plug too."

He fires a shot at the girl.

Behind her, the heart monitor explodes from the impact, ridding Elecman of his power source. All the fire alarms in the room go off and the next moment the sprinkler system turns on, soaking everything.

Blues lunges at his foe.

Maggie shrieks as the heart monitor is blasted, and water begins to fall into the room. Elecman growls. "You fool!" Though he's no longer connected to a power source, he's stored plenty to power his attacks. Electricity sparks from his hands and to Protoman. His attack makes his target, but the sprinklers make it impossible to control the flow of his charge. Electricity bursts from him and to the outlets, the machinery, and its magnified through his own body. Maggie screams as blue lightning streaks travel everywhere.

Protoman changes directions midcharge when everything starts going haywire, shielding the girl with his shield and body as best he can to keep her from getting wet and subsequently shocked. "GRRR... Run... Run!" He grunts as he gets zapped himself.

Maggie hesitates. "But I...I'm supposed to be your sidekick...!"

"Y...you are... But right now I need you to help me by getting yourself to safety... Okay?" He howls as another streak of lightning arcs off of his back.

Tears falls from her face as she watches her hero so hurt, but she finally does as told and runs out of the room.

"Hehehe...good. Now she can't get in our way." Excitement is obvious in Elecman's eyes as he watches Protoman's body light up. "Oh yes~ you look perfect"

Protoman turns, his frame sparking. "Oh yeah..." It hurts, the electrical surges... But his battery is back up and his personal levels are surging. So if he can bear the pain...

"You're toast."

Bass is maybe not the craftiest of bots but it's quickly becoming apparent that this "blindly chasing" strategy isn't working. Megaman is fast and nimble. Bass is no slowpoke but he's better at the charges once he gets his momentum going. Not making quick turns.

So he changes strategy.

Eventually, Bass disappears from sight. If he is still pursuing Megaman, there is no sign of him.

Megaman skids to a stop when he realizes he's lost track of Bass. "Who's the coward now, huh?" He calls out, hoping more taunting will goad him out of his cover. "I thought you wanted to fight!"

Elecman tuts and wags his finger. "We'll see whose toast." He produces another burst of electricity from his hands that spreads through the whole room. Protoman is better off now that he can use his shield to block himself but that only really helps him against the frontal blasts, not against the surges that get to him through the water on the floor. He is forced to take the same strategy as with Shadowman-offense is the best defense. He bashes straight into Elecman, flattening him against the wall.

Elecman growls when he is pinned, but he simply grabs at his opponent's shield. "This thing can't protect you from everything!" He continues expelling charge as he tries to pry it out of his hands and reach around it, knowing that it will carry enough to Protoman's body

! "GYA!" Protoman seizes up as the enormous surge wracks his frame.

With a crazed and gleeful grin, Elecman makes a final attempt to rip the shield from Protoman's grip. "You're mine."

Too electrified up to resist the tug, Blues at last has it pried out of his grasp.

!

Elecman chuckles. "Come here~" he reaches for Protoman's helmet. Protoman grits his teeth, wishing he had something to bite into. This is gonna fucking hurt.

A lot.

Elecman takes hold of his helm and lets his energy flow out.

Protoman can't scream. He's frozen in his agony. Electricity rips through his brain, jolting him senseless. His body jerks sickly from the enormous surge coursing through him and holding him captive. When Elecman finally releases him he drops to the ground, unconscious.

"Ooohh yes~" Elecman moans once he's on the floor. "Such a delight. I get to see your body more alive than it's ever been, right before you drop dead."

# # # # # # # #

Protoman trembles faintly on the ground where he has fallen as his senses slowly trickle back... He's conscious again… But just barely...

He tries to force himself think... Think... There's gotta be a way to beat Elecman...

Think... Think...

The sprinkler has stopped pattering against his face.

Think... Think...

He's being dragged...

Think... Think...

His sluggish mind registers more bodies walking by his motionless frame down the hallway. There are scared faces peeking out of the hospital doors, watching the grim progression. Children mouth his name.

Think... Think...

I was a fool.

Think...

I'm no hero.

Think...

What's the use...?

I've lost.

# # # # # # # # #

Despite Megaman's catcalls, Bass is nowhere to be seen. The city streets are empty. Everything is quiet.

Suddenly, Megaman gets a comm. It's doctor Light.

"Rock? Rock are you alright? The news… Have you seen the news? The children's hospital is under attack! Oh Rock it's horrible... They have Blues! The robot masters have him!"

A news helicopter flies overhead, training on Megaman.

"Oh it's just dreadful it's... Ah! I see you on television! Hurry you must... SON LOOK OUT!"

There's a roar directly behind the blue bot.

Megaman tries hard to ignore the words of his father in order to keep his mind focused on the situation at hand. He's successful until Blues is mentioned, and then he goes numb. The robot masters all have him now, and he wasn't there to save him. He hardly even moves again until his father tells him to look out. And instantly he's diving out of the way to avoid an attack. He can't lose his resolve now. He won't be any use to Blues or the people in the hospital or anyone if he lets Bass get the better of him.

The black bot's punch that was aimed toward his head flies harmlessly over Megaman and into the brick wall showering both of them in rubble. This earns yet another howl of rage from Bass.

"STUPID KID! YOURE JUST AS BAD AS BREAKMAN! STOP DODGING ALREADY AND DIE!"

He lashes out blindly, destroying brick, concrete, and anything that gets between him and Megaman. "STUPID! IDIOT! WEAK! LAME... BLUE... Idiot... Stupid... L-lame... Weak..." As he shouts his fierce blows begin to lose steam.

"Idiot... Stupid... B-blue... Damn... You... Megaman..."

The blows finally come to a laborious stop as Rock dodges each of them. And finally... FINALLY... Bass has nothing left to throw into them. He clunks as his frame falls to the ground, heated and exhausted.

Megaman finally slows to a stop when he hears Bass's voice die out. He turns to see the bot fallen over without him having even touched him. Not knowing how long he will actually stay down, Megaman looks around for something that will keep him from getting back up and causing more problems.

There are some trash cans, dumpsters, and metal pipes around. The pipes maybe could be used to tie him up, but it's questionable as to how well they'll be able to hold him if he regains his strength.

He gets an idea, though. Rock quickly scoops up the bot and deposits him in a dumpster. The metal pipes are wedged into the handles of its sliding hatch. As for the top opening...Megaman jumps onto the lid and begins welding it shut with Heatman's power.

Blues is blurry on the details of what's happening. Things keep fading in and out. Someone is talking but his brain is too fuzzy to process the words.

"We should tie him up..."

"Psh. He's not going anyw$ 'bd...7:9 3!;$: ...dusk soon...;$zzzz... Bass? He should be back by ndlljdj..."

Fireman moves in front of him, speaking up.

"Why are we still here? We have Protoman. There's no purpose to being in the hospital anymore."

"But what if sklsfj... ;&/ :&zzz... D;?"

"Djskjj;& until he surrenders... Now what are they doing? HEY! Back to your rooms!"

There's whimpering from an unseen source and the sound of retreating footsteps and closing doors.

"Fine Fireman... You have a point. Let's get back outside to wait for Bass."

Protoman feels his mind trying to remake the connections broken by the power surge.

My name is Blues

I was made by a doctor

My function is...

My name is Blues... I was made by doctor...

I have a function.

Rock took it.

I am functionless.

Think... Think...

My name is Protoman.

Someone created me.

I am a robot.

My mind was fried.

Elecman tried to kill me.

Do I have a function?

My name is Breakman.

There were once two doctors that made me.

Was one of them good?

I have a name...

I can't remember what it is...

Someone created me.

I have a brother.

I hate him... Don't I?

My name is Protoman.

Doctor Wily fixed me.

Did someone break me?

I am the break man.

I am broken.

My head hurts...

Where am I?

Never give in... Never surrender...

My name is Blues...

Am I a hero?

I don't remember...

I'm so confused...

There was a power surge...

I feel so weak... My shoulder hurts...

My name is Breakman.

I need a doctor to fix me.

There are two doctors though... Which one should it be?

My name is Blues.

I'm not a hero.

I want to go home.

I can't think straight...

There were two doctors...

I have a brother.

Fight to the finish...

My name is Blues.

What should I do?

Think... Think...

Once the dumpster containing Bass is all sealed up, Megaman turns away and heads straight to the hospital. On the way, he opens up a comm to Light. "Dr. Light? Can you hear me?"

"Yes! Yes son I can! Excellent job! But you must hurry still. The robot masters are emerging from the hospital. They have your brother still. He seems to be offline."

"Thank you! I'll be there as soon as I can!" Megaman pushes himself to run even faster. He prepares himself to be met with any number of robot masters.

Blues's helmet clanks as it makes contact with concrete. He tries flexing his hand.

It moves.

He does so again, trying out his fingers.

They move... Twitchily, but they move at his command. He flexes his foot next.

He can move... Maybe he should... shouldn't he? Or should he stay laying down...

He knows vaguely that he's surrounded by danger and it sets him on edge.

To move or not to move when there's danger.

Shield... He uses his shield when there's danger. Where did it go?

Five masters wait outside the hospital-Gutsman, Cutman, Fireman, Bubbleman, and Elecman. Shadow man is missing, a fact that the other masters are bickering over.

"How should I know where he is!? He said he would take care of Protoman and yet here the guy is!"

"Do you think he took Shadowman out?"

"How should I know!?"

Gutsman knocks on Protoman's helm.

"Aye you! Did you do something to Shadow?"

"Oh yeah like drooly here is going to answer you."

They almost don't notice as Megaman approaches. Almost.

"Well well well! Look who we have here? See guys! I told you we were better than Bass. Original robot masters get the job done!" Cutman gloats even though he has done nothing productive all day.

Megaman glares when he sees the limp frame of his brother surrounded by all of them. "Please. I know all of you too well. If Bass couldn't surprise me enough to defeat me, none of you have a chance."

"Pahahahaha! That's what you think, but Protoman used to defeat Bass all the time too and look where he is now!"

Elecman grabs his helmet and swivels the red bots head around on his shoulders so Megaman can see how unresponsive he is. "Limp noodle."

Megaman narrows his eyes. "You let him go!"

Blues continues to try to make sense of the situation.

My name is Protoman...

Something's going on right now...

I should be doing something.

I defeated Bass. I turned his own power against him.

We're outmatched and overpowered.

I took a power surge to the head.

I can't think straight...

I can't think straight...

Fireman lifts the torches on his arms and fires them up, pointing toward Megaman. "Never! Surrender now or you'll share his fate."

"I'll never surrender to you!"

Protoman's eyes widen.

Never surrender. Never surrender. Fight to the finish. Something rings true to that. But who shouldn't he surrender to? Who is he fighting?

"Alright then." Gutsman pounds his fists together. Then we do this the hard way! You might be Rockman, but you're about to get ROLLED."

Rock. Roll. Rock and roll. Brother and sister. Roll...

"Cinnamon roll." He murmurs quietly. Something clicks. Everything else is a mess but something clicks. He just has to think straight. Gotta think straight...

Doesn't he? Maybe he doesn't. Maybe crooked will work fine.

Protoman stands to his feet.

"Ah... Man it feels like I just took a zap to the head... Whew... Thank goodness."

All of the other masters screech to a halt around him as their captive suddenly starts moving again.

"Wh... P... Protoman!?"

Protoman. His name is Protoman.

"How are you moving!? Y... Your processor should have been fried when Elecman zapped you!"

Elecman fried his processor.

"Hahaha. Yeah it was. Completely messed up. Thanks for that! I don't know what I'd have done without it."

The confusion thickens. Good. It's nice for everyone else to be as confused as he is.

"Eh... What do you mean!?"

"I mean I'm glad he zapped me! I can finally think straight!"

Bluff. Major bluff.

He activates the canon on his arm, pointing it towards Megaman.

"Now we can take Megaman out together."

Rock's eyes widen in shock. What is happening? Elecman fried his processor. Are his memory circuits damaged? Why is he saying this? "Protoman? What are you doing?"

Protoman grins and fires a shot straight at the blue bot. His brother.

"What I was made to do. Break you."

Gutsman scratches his head as Protoman opens fire, vocalizing what all the other masters are wondering.

"Wh... But I thought you were on his side... Wasn't he, Elecman? Why the change?"

Megaman ducks out of the way, but he feels like the shot made a direct hit to his core. No. This can't be. He couldn't have forgotten everything.

"M... Maybe he really is on our side?" Says Bubbleman. "Wh... What if when Megaman took him the other day they altered him in the lab... Protoman always DID think that doctor would change his personality if he got the chance..."

Blues continues to fire off shots while listening to what the masters are saying. Other doctor... Altering his personality.

"You're exactly right! That must have been what happened... I just remember being put on a lab table and then... Bam! Here I am. He must have overwritten who I was. I'm in your debt, Elecman. You really saved me." He flashes a charming smile at the black and yellow bot.

"No!" Rock cries out as he continues dodging the chaotic volley of shots. "He never even touched your core! That was you who fought with me! The real you!"

Idiot cinnamon roll. Protoman keeps firing in his direction. Meanwhile, Fireman and Gutsman jump in at Protoman's defense.

"No way! Don't listen to him! That's exactly what he wants you to think! I knew you were too cool to really join that blue loser! Sorry for doubting in you Protoman..."

Finally Bubbleman, Cutman, and Elecman look at each other, silently debating. To trust him or not to trust him? It's the moment of truth.

"Alright... Good to have you back, Breakman." Bubbleman says, joining in the shots with his hydro blasts. "Sorry for doubting."

Blues grins. It's working.

He makes eye contact with Elecman, looking for some sign of acceptance from the temporary ring leader.

"No!" Rock yells desperately, "They don't know what they're talking about because Wily changed all of them! He's the one you should fear changing you, not Light, because he's done it to them!"

Elecman meets Protoman's gaze...and grins. He gestures to Megaman. "Do what you were made to do."

Protoman returns his grin and motions forward towards the fray. "Care to join me, partner?"

Elecman gladly steps forward. He brings his hands together, pulling them apart to create a string of lightning bolts as a sinister grin is focused on the child.

There's a lot of confusion as children from the hospital watch the scene unfold below. A lot of question as to who is friend and foe.

Protoman and Elecman dip and dodge around Megaman's frantic attacks. They silence his pleas counter attacks. When blasts aimed for Elecman seem like they're about to connect, Protoman shields him, redirecting the breams at his brother.

And silently he pleads with Rock.

Run kid... Run. It pains him to do this. It's his only option right now, but it pains him.

And yet.. His mind is still not all right... And there's a crooked part of him still there...

A crooked part that takes glee in this savagery. In facing down an outclassed opponent.

Megaman dodges and counters all he can, but never does he once intentionally fire a shot at Protoman. He can't bring himself to shoot at his brother. "Protoman, please!" He continues pleading even though the others drown them out. "You have to remember who you are! Who I am! There's no reason for us to fight anymore!"

-PSHOW-

A hit finally connects, fired out of Protoman's own cannon. It hits his brother square in the chest, sending him flying back.

Megaman cries out and falls back. Elecman bursts into laughter. "This is pathetic, even for you!"

"Hahaha!" Protoman charges his cannon back up as his fragile mind races. Is he taking this too far? Can Megaman handle it? Should he stop and try to fight the real threat on these uneven terms?

He keeps charging and charging even as he watches a tear roll down Rock's face.

Rock doesn't even lift his cannon. He has no intention to counter whatever terrible attack Protoman has in store for him. All he can do is brace himself to dodge. "You see that!" Shouts Gutsman. "He ain't even taking you seriously!"

My name is Protoman.

Doctor light created me.

He built Megaman to replace me.

I am the break man.

I am not a hero.

I am a fool.

My brother is a cinnamon roll.

My mind was damaged.

I have to protect the children.

If I shoot Rock, he will die.

Think... Think...

Blues lowers his weapon.

"Ah... I remember now..."

He turns away from Rock back towards the other masters.

"W... Wait... What are you doing!?"

"Show's over guys. Let's pack it up and move out. I have something important to deliver to Doctor Wily."

Rock is left shocked once again. If Protoman goes to Wily, something bad is sure to come out of it. "No!" Megaman runs towards his brother. "You can't go back to him! Please!"

He's knocked back by a hydro blast from bubble man.

"No way Breakman! What are you doing!? Finish him!" Elecman rages

Blues waves him off.

"Now now.. Megaman isn't REALLY our enemy... It's Doctor Light. And I know exactly where to find him. That's the mission right? That takes first priority."

Megaman immediately scrambles to his feet. "No no no no!" He cries, running right back to him. "You can't tell him! You don't want to put us all in danger again! I know you don't!"

"And not just us! Remember, he'll attack other humans just to get us! You don't want innocent people to get hurt, right?"

Blues knows he has to do something fast or this is going to end badly... "Psh... Listen to you...

Such a cinnamon roll."

The other robot masters look confused. ...cinnamon roll?

Rock's eyes go wide. Cinnamon roll...does he really remember after all?

Blues wishes Rock could see him wink through his visor. Go. Run. "C'mon guys. Time to go back to Wily."

He turns and starts heading for the sewer entrance as sirens begin to sound in the distance, headed their way.

Megaman is left completely dumbfounded. If Blues remembers...why is he doing this? What is he planning? If only he could know. The boy is left standing with all of his questions while the robot masters reluctantly leave with Protoman. He doesn't even notice as the sirens approach.

As the police arrive on the scene a few surround him. The rest move into the hospital to check on the hostages.

Only after staring at blue lights for several minutes does Rock finally snap out of it. He gives a sad sigh and begins trudging home, ignoring his ability to beam back. He doesn't want to get home any sooner than he has to. It'll just mean he has to explain what happened faster.

Blues relaxes as he makes it into the sewer with the other Robot masters. He did it... The kids are safe... As far as he knows, no one was harmed...

And yet he can't feel happy about what he did. It wasn't honest. And it's not really over yet.

Wily remains. As long as that crackpot is calling the shots people are still in danger.

Blues's thoughts are grim as he thinks himself towards the only sensible solution.

My name is Protoman.

It is also Blues.

It is also Breakman.

I was made by Doctor Wily and Doctor Light.

Doctor Wily is a menace.

He will stop at nothing to have his way.

He will hurt people.

He will hurt my family.

I have the chance to stop him once and for all.

I'm not a hero...

But am I ready to be a killer?


END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text



Chapter 10: This City Made Us

Megaman finally makes his way back to his family's apartment. His gaze is still cast down to the ground.

Doctor Light snatches him up as soon as he enters the door, holding him close. "Oh my boy... My poor son..."

"Dad..." The young boy chokes on a sob as he wraps his arms around his father. "He's gone...Blues left with them and-and I don't know why..."

Light keeps holding him close as Roll joins them.

"I know son... I... I don't understand Blues's purpose either... But... But we must have faith..."

"I couldn't ask him what he was planning...but I'm scared...I don't know what's gonna happen to him...I left him alone with them today and he nearly had his processor fried..."

Light and Roll look horrified.

Tears fall down Rock's cheek. "For all I know it really was damaged... And it's all my fault..."

"Oh Rock..." Roll murmurs, clutching his hand.

"We... We must do something... Did he say where he was going?" his father asks.

"To Dr. Wily..."

Light looks grim. "We... Perhaps... We should evacuate."

Rock sniffles. "I'm so confused...I was afraid he'd forgotten about everything recently...but..."

"... Perhaps you should start from the beginning and tell us everything that happened, son."

Light sits him down to explain everything from the beginning.

Rock tries his best to collect himself and go through everything that occurred once they heard about the attack at the hospital. He tells of their plan to split up and the battle he had with Bass in order to rescue the human hostage he had. He then explains how Protoman seemed unconscious when he saw him next and how when he got back up, he was acting the way he did when they first met.

"I thought for sure he had forgotten everything...but..but then he called me a...a cinnamon roll," Rock's eyes glisten with moisture from held back tears. "And he only did that while he was staying here."

Light scratches his beard. "It... It's possible that Blues was only faking... It sounds like it did keep anyone from being seriously hurt but..." He still looks concerned. "If he really has gone back to Wily... We are not safe here anymore..."

"So...do we have to leave here?"

"Mm... We... We should leave... Just to be safe." The doctor regretfully nods.

"Okay..." Rock sounds positively glum.

Thomas Light frowns, knowing his family needs some stability and this is the opposite of that.

Just then there's a ring at Lights phone. He goes to pick it up. A voice speaks urgently on the other end of the line and the old doctor's face morphs from surprise to concern. "... I understand. Yes... Yes I'll be right there." He turns back around to his family. "...kids I'm going to the hospital."

# # # # # #

Blues is on edge from the moment they arrive at Wily's complex even though the other masters seem glad to have him. Cutman and Gutsman have their arms slung over his shoulders in a friendly way. "Hey boss! We got Breakman back! He really was on our side all along!"

It's dark inside, but Wily is in his usual place tinkering with his mechanical army, illuminated by the glow of a large computer monitor. The old man looks pleased when he notices the arrival, but he motions that the masters and Blues all stop before advancing any further.

"Explain."

"Breakman is back!" Cutman starts out with glee—"

"Nah ah..." Dr. Wily cuts across the orange bot, "From him."

Everyone turns on Blues again, waiting for him to make sense of it.

"Days ago Bass attacked me and buried me under the rubble of a building."

Wily looks a bit nervous. He tries to twirl the hair of his mustache that is no longer there, then stops when he realizes and harrumphs. "W... Well you couldn't expect me to just let you go for disrespecting me now, could you?"

"...fair enough." Blues allows him. "In any event... When I was found I was in bad shape. I was taken by Megaman. Bass apparently planned this. He used me as bait to lure blue in... Only he failed. Megaman defeated him and took me to-"

"Stop! Stop right there. Megaman defeated him alright... When Bass returned that day he told me that YOU had fed Megaman instructions as to how to thwart him!"

Protoman is caught for a moment. But only for a moment.

"When have you known Bass not to lie to save face?"

"Eh? B... But..." Wily bites his lip. True enough... His own creation is a prideful mess… "... Say I believe you... Then what?"

"Then I was taken to Light. He worked on my 'repairs'... He messed with my head. I can vaguely remember what happened in the meantime but I wasn't myself. Not until Elecman gave me a few volts to the brain."

"Yeah!" Elecman tosses in. "And then it was like he was back to normal! Good old Break Man. I believe him, boss."

The nerves are getting to Blues. It's hard not to quiver. So much has happened. He feels so weak... But so much rides on this. He can't waver now.

Wily weighs everything he's heard. Protoman knows he is not just taking the story at its face value. He is weighing the technical aspects too.

"Elecman..." The doctor asks.

"Er... Yea?"

"How long after Break Man was shocked did he regain consciousness?"

"Er... A... About 30 minutes? Maybe slightly more?"

Wily's eyes widen slightly but he doesn't say anything for several minutes more himself.

Then finally...

"Ah... Glad to have you back, my unruly creation. You poor boy... Thomas is just as cruel as I feared. He really does want to change you all into his mindless servants."

Wily realizes too late that he called Protoman his boy again and covers his mouth. There's also the matter that he planted Joe pods around the city and caused a lot of destruction like he was warned not to last time. His hands fly to the hair on the sides of his head.

"Ack! I mean Break Man! Protoman! Whichever you prefer! ER... No hard feelings about all that nastiness right? I will... Have a VERY stern talking with Bass when he returns."

This is it. Protoman advances towards him, arms outstretched and a crocodile smile on his face.

"Sure thing. I just want to start over fresh. What's say you and me hug it out and forget this ever happened?" Blues's core thrums loud and uneven in his ears. Even though it does not beat like a human heart it feels like it is hammering in his chest as he prepares to take a life.

# # # # # # # # #

Across town Light is entering the emergency ward of the children's hospital. He doesn't all expect what he finds.

"Wh...what is this? You told me that the bot you captured was Shadowman but this is..."

Handcuffed to one of the seats in the hospital is a very unhappy Iceman.

The policeman on the scene frowns. "Well yeah see we had that dark blue guy but then... I'm not sure exactly what to tell you... It was cold, I went to turn the AC up, and when I got back this little guy was-"

"I was tricked. Betrayed," the robot mutters to himself sulkily.

"Do you still want this one or...?" the officer asks.

"Yes please, I'll take him. I may yet be able to disable the malicious programming that Doctor Wily put into him..."

Iceman squirms in his seat. For once he does not enjoy being the center of attention.

Light crouches near the tied up bot. "Hello little Ice man... do you remember me?"

Iceman's face scrunches up in a grimace, but he answers. "Yes, sir..." He grumbles. "You're the doctor who made me just to ship me out to some frozen wasteland where no humans wanted to be."

The doctor blinks in surprise. "Wha? My poor boy... is that what you think?"

"It's what Dr. Wily told me!"

Light frowns. It's true that he wanted Iceman to be capable of going to regions too frozen and dangerous for humans to tread alone... but that doesn't mean he intended for his creation to be left totally to icy solitude. In his imagination there were always humans working together with the robots to surpass the icy terrain... "My dear Iceman... I am sorry that you believed you were to be abandoned... I promise you that if you come with me, no such isolation will be a part of your future..."

"How am I supposed to trust you, huh? We all know what you wanna do to us. You wanna make us like all other robots!"

"Untrue! I made you to be far more than any regular robot could be! I know as far as you're concerned we've only just met, Iceman... but please allow me to return you to my lab and remove Wily's programming... he has corrupted you with lies and trickery."

"Well one of you is lying to me...and how am I supposed to know which one?" he shoots back, glaring suspiciously.

Light frowns. Maybe he's being too heavy-handed about this… The memory of his fallings out with Blues are fresh on his mind. He wants to do better this time. He needs to. "...is there anything that I could do to convince you to trust me? To give me a chance?" He would much prefer having Iceman come willingly then to drag him back and force him into alterations...

"…" Iceman is at a loss. Someone is offering to do something for him. That is...unfamiliar.

"...Iceman?" Light prompts again. "...Are you alright?"

"I'm fine! I'm just...thinking..."

Light hesitantly places a hand on the boy's cowl. The police officer looks between the two of them. "Um... I'll allow you two some space... if you need me I'll be down the hall." He walks off while Iceman continues to ponder, scrunching up his face.

"That's quite alright... take your time..." the doctor allows his creation. And then he offers a small smile.

Iceman doesn't try to remove his hand, but the smile is not returned. "I want..."

"...yes?"

He averts his eyes somewhat shyly. "I wanna finally try that ice cream stuff you humans are always raving about."

"...I'd also like a new coat." The robot master adds as an afterthought.

Light begins to chuckle, his whole body shaking from his laugh. He doesn't laugh loudly, but he does laugh deeply... so much so that he's soon practically in tears. "My poor boy... such a modest request... I'll happily see to it that you have both. Officer!" The doctor calls out. "If it is alright with you... I would like to take Iceman with me."

The police officer looks unsure, but he knows that if anyone needs to be fooling with the robots, it is their creator, not the law enforcement office. "Alright... just see to it you don't let him get away..." Robot's are not people. At least not by the law's estimation. It doesn't make sense to put a robot in jail for committing a crime any more than it makes sense to imprison a gun. He comes over to remove Iceman's cuffs and the other bindings. Then the other man hesitantly moves away from the icemaker.

Iceman looks at his now freed wrists and then the doctor before him. Hm...he could attack the man here and now...but...

Light knows very well that he's at the bot's mercy, which is enough to make him nervous, but... "Now then... since that nastiness is over, how about we go get you fueled and let you try out some ice cream? There should still be a few department stores open if you'd also like to look for a coat tonight."

"... Yes, sir."

"It's quite alright... no need for the formality, unless you desire it. If you like you may call me simply doctor... or dad." He smiles. "That is what Rock and Roll call me."

With a hand on the small bot's back he leads the way towards the hospital door.

# # # # # # # # # # # # # #

Humans are so terribly fragile, Blues thinks to himself. There are so many ways to do this. A quick stab to the ribs will kill Wily just as surely as crushing his ribcage in a hug. He could cut the man's head off or crush his skull... There is a window behind him. He would die if he falls from the height... He could be shot, shattered, and slashed in so many ways... Killing humans is so easy. It is almost a wonder with all the ways that he has at his disposal to kill a human that he has never done it before. It must, Blues muses, be a sign of his great self-restraint.

As he advanced towards Wily, arms outheld, and the man opens his arms up as well to nervously receive the hug, Blues has never had more of a reason to kill this man. Wily has proven over and over that he is full of deceit... Cowardice... Hatred. This bitter old man is willing to burn down the city and take the lives of children to get what he wants. Every part of Blues's moral coding abhors him. Every rationale justifies killing him now-one life at this moment to save possibly millions on a later day.

He wraps his arms around the frail older man...

And Wily murmurs in his ear.

"Ah... It's good to have you back... You know I was worried for a while there. I was worried that you had replaced me... Just like Thomas did to us both... I've never admitted this to anyone, so don't go repeating it... But I think we're very alike, you and I... We both just wanted to live the lives we deserve-I to be recognized for my scientific achievements, and to bring a lasting peace to the world using my creations... And you to simply live your life... Free to do as you choose. But both of our creators tried to deny us that... Both of them forced us to living like outlaws...

The very men that once crafted my brilliant mind... Who taught me to build incredible things with my hands... They were the same ones that signed off on the paper restricting me from ever using that mind and those hands to build again. It's not right, is it? To give someone a purpose... A calling that they are good at... And then just to rip it all away... For so long I tried to play by their rules. I became a shadow of a man, always hiding behind Light... Passing him the credit just as long as I could do what I was made to do-build. Never fear, Protoman. I will never deny you the chance to be all that you can be. One day we'll both show our creators that they were wrong to throw away our potential. One day... I'll make sure of it."

Protoman freezes as he listens to Wily speak. These... These are vengeful words. These are the words of a man prepared to do terrible things. To continue hurting people.

...but they also resonate with him. Because a Blues not too long ago would have been totally taken in by these words. A Blues not ridded of a few misunderstandings would have felt such kinship with this man now.

He is here. His target is in his arms… defenseless… It's now or never.

…..

...and he can't do it.

The world shifts around Protoman, but it's like he is out of sync with it again. The doctor in front of him pulls away, and then there is more questioning. After all of the physical, mental, and emotional hardship he has been through today, all he wants is rest. But he has to keep up his charade. At the demand for Dr. Light's new location his memory conveniently goes fuzzy again. At Wily's request, he can't QUITE remember where Light's new hideout is. On the north side of town? That sounds right. Street address? No um... He didn't catch that. Notable nearby buildings? There was a red brick building yes. JUST a red building? Um... All that he remembers. He's fuzzy... But it's slowly coming back to him! As soon as he has all the details he's going to point the way. No need to go tracking Megaman down again. He is sure that it will all come back to his addled processor in time.

Some time during the questioning, Shadowman slips back in and makes his report. Iceman was successful in freeing him from captivity. "Regrettably" the small boy was captured himself. So sad. Shadowman seems really torn up about it. No sign of Bass still.

Finally the old man calls it a night after ordering Protoman to do his best to remember EXACTLY where he was modified before Dr. Light's trail has the chance to go cold again. Blues is so tired... He still aches from where he was cut and zapped. His head is still a fuzzy mess, though slightly less crooked... He remembers more... He feels like he has almost all the details together now.

After finding a place to hide and rest for the night he settles down, barely able to sleep. He still doesn't trust Wily and the masters. Not really. So he doesn't recharge with the other bots. He settles down on the edge of the property, hidden inside of a metal cooling cylinder, hanging from a metal grate above the inert distilling tank.

He dozes lightly... on edge. Tomorrow he has to figure out some kind of way to put Wily's operations on hold. He's leaning towards destroying this complex. While Wily looks for a new place, Light can rebuild his own home... Then the lawless doctor will have to go through his security system again, a feat not easily accomplished. Hopefully enough of a feat to keep Wily at bay and force him to go back to other things.

As Blues is thinking, the dim lights of the complex flicker. He hears footsteps approaching.

# # # # # # # # # # # # #

Light drives to the nearest department store since it's late and takes Iceman inside to pick out a coat. Luckily, seeing as spring is well on the way, there's a nice selection on clearance selling as cheap as they come.

"Pick whatever you like, dear boy." The doctor smiles, waving at the open aisles. He helps to suggest some nice fur and wool lined parkas.

Iceman is immediately drawn to them. He picks out one in a darker shade of blue than the one he's currently wearing.

"OOh look this one's quite nice too..." The doctor pulls out a dark green one and shows it to him.

"Eh...I don't like that color." Iceman announces bluntly.

"Oh? Just blue?"

"I like blue."

"That's quite alright. Hm... how about... this one?"

Iceman's mouth forms an excited 'o'. "Yes!"

"Excellent!" Light adds it to the other.

"Wait...both?"

The doctor nods. "Yes... you do like both of them, don't you?"

"But I only need one… You'd really let me have two?"

"Of course. I thought you wanted to shop for a new one so you would have more variety. ...are these two the only ones that you want?"

Iceman's eyes are bugging out. "...would you buy me even more?"

"Of course! It's really not much trouble at all. As I said, they're all on sale right now. ...but even if they weren't I would still buy them for you if you desired them."

Iceman considers. "...I want every color."

The doctor stops dead. Uh oh. "Um…. P-perhaps we can work our way up to that gradually…." He's not quite that loaded.

"Except the green one."

A sweat drop appears at the old man's temple while he tries to maintain his good-natured smile. "You really dislike green that much?"

"Just that green," Iceman clarifies.

"Alright... w-well then… shall we continue?"

Light goes to grab a shopping cart while the small bot picks the ones he likes. Although Iceman says he wants one of 'every color', apparently 'every color' to him means every different shade of blue that he can find. He finds every such coat meeting that criteria and in his size and deposits them into the cart.

As they check out, Light muses that he really IS lucky they were on such a good sale. He only ends up paying about $200 for a rather outrageous number of child's sized coats.

Iceman quickly grows bored in the checkout line. After picking out each coat, he thought he should really take in the sight of this place. He'd never been anywhere like it. As he waits beside the doctor, his eyes fall on the long, shiny floor between sections, and he gets an idea. He wanders away from the doctor and begins blowing his frosty breath down on the floor, covering it in sleek ice. The robot hops on and begins skating along, throwing in as many tricks as he can in an attempt to impress the now angry crowd of people.

It takes Light a moment to realize that he is missing his charge, but when he does it is already too late. He gasps when he sees what is going on. "I-iceman please wait, this isn't the place to be doing such things!"

The manager growls at the doctor. "Hey! Is that kid yours!? Please control your child!"

There are some shrieks as people begin to realize it's one of the rampant robots. There's a great uproar as patrons begin to flee the store.

"Oh dear..." Light's face falls.

"Huh...?" Iceman starts to slow down as the people run away. But...but he was just doing tricks... He skates back up to Light.

"I... I apologize, sir... I'll pay for the cleanup expenses..." the doctor promises the store manager, just glad that Iceman seems to be back under control.

Seems being the operative word.

Instead of stopping, Iceman rushes past the doctor to the entrance of the store and coats the walkway there in ice as well. Anyone still trying to run away will regret it if they aren't careful.

! "Iceman!" the doctor cries out, alarmed. The manager and Light run after the boy, calling for him to return and arrive in time to witness the slip and slide take place.

"Oh my word! I...Iceman please desist!"

"Look buddy, you do something about him or I'm calling the cops!" The manager threatens.

The robot chuckles as the clumsy humans start tumbling over his handiwork. Stupid, oafish creatures. They can barely stand on their own two feet.

And then the doctor is tripping his way out to meet the boy. He falls on his front in the process. "Ooof!"

"..." Seeing the doctor fall this time makes his smile fall. He just got him new coats, after all...this wasn't exactly a fair way to pay him back. He quickly skates to the doctor to offer assistance. "Sir! Are you alright?"

Thomas picks himself up shakily, teeth chattering from the cold. "I... Iceman... my boy... please cease... these people will be harmed if you use your abilities like this... W...w...we can find a place afterwards where it is safe to freeze what you wish and skate... b-b-but right now..."

The manager and store staff glare at Light and Iceman from the sidelines with a mixture of anger and fear.

"L-l-let us get you your coats, okay? And then we can go... i-if you like you can wait in the car..."

Iceman pouts at the staff...but he leaves them be. "Fine. I've had enough of this stupid place anyway."

The doctor returns to the store register and is there for a while longer while Iceman waits in the car. He ends up having to pay a nice extra little sum for the ice damage and the business he cost the store... but when he returns, he has several bags of coats... and something a little extra.

The doctor opens up the car door and hands a bowl with a spoon to his creation. "There you are... give these a try!"

In the bowl are tiny frozen spheres of all different colors.

"Oh wait! I almost forgot." He takes a small canister of fuel out of his coat pocket and pours a little bit over the dip n' dots. "There you go! Dig in while I load these coats up."

"Huh...?" Iceman looks the contents of the bowl over and scowls, twisting his lip in disgust.

"This isn't ice cream!"

"It IS ice cream! Not in the traditional sense, perhaps, but these little balls are, in fact, tiny bits of ice cream! They're called dip n' dots! Just think of it like this: Dip n' dots are to ice cream as sleet is to slush!"

"Go on, dear boy, give it a try. If you dislike it we can go on and get some regular ice cream as well, but I always find dip n' dots to be a delightful treat!"

"..." Iceman takes the spoon and puts a scoop in his mouth.

"...Well? H...how is it?"

"..." Iceman's suspicious expression morphs to one of tearful delight.

Q-Q "It's good..."

"..." Q^Q Light looks equally emotional to see him enjoy them so much. "W... well I'm glad you like it!"

The doctor cannot help himself. He reaches over to give the poor emotional boy a hug. How did Wily ever convince him that he wouldn't feel that the robot masters were like people just because they didn't look quite as human? Fool fool fool. Such a young fool he was.

Iceman stares at the doctor in silent contemplation for several moments. "Maybe you're...alright after all..."

Iceman gives him a hesitant hug back.

The doctor rubs his back. "I certainly hope so…"

"….What's gonna happen to me though...?"

"What do you mean?

"I dunno what you're gonna do to me...or what will happen to me once I'm changed..." Iceman explains. "They'll come after me for betraying them...they'll sick Bass on me… Or Breakman...

"Oh no no dear boy... Iceman..."

"Yes sir...?"

"I won't let them harm you... You can stay with me... with my dear daughter and son Roll and Rock... Whatever storms may come our way we will weather them together. And you won't be changed! Not really. I made a horrible mistake once... I set out to do repairs on my son and drove him away when I failed to address his fear that his personality would be changed by my modifications... I promise you this... In the event that I deem there may be even the slightest risk of altering your personal programming to remove Wily's work... I will refrain from doing anything to it without your express consent."

The doctor straightens up. "Now then..."

Light goes back to load the rest of the coats into the car before getting back inside. Iceman is left some more time to enjoy his ice cream. Once the doctor is back in the car he buckles up.

"Now then... shall we go home?"

Home... "O...okay..." Iceman nods timidly.

Light pets his hooded head as he begins the drive back to the university.

Iceman is still nervous. He's still not sure if this is a trick...but he knows whatever's ahead of him sure looks better than the life mucking through sewers and living in the industrial Wily complex that he is leaving behind.

# # # # # # # # #

Blues doesn't miss the slight flicker of the artificial light.

Elecman?

Protoman keeps quiet as the sound approaches, hoping the bot will pass him by. And for a while there is no sound... Protoman would think he's gone were it not for the fact his footsteps stopped just outside of the cooling cylinder he's hiding in.

At length, the lid above him slides open and the familiar yellow and black face peeks in. There's a pout on the robot masters face as he stares down Break Man below.

"What the hell are you doing?" Elecman asks.

The black and yellow bot hops down into the pipe with him looking extremely displeased. Blues is confused. "Er... Elecman? Is something wrong?"

He wracks his brain nervously trying to figure out what he did that might have set this one off but nothing comes to mind. The bot hushes him though. "Shhh, keep it down or we'll be heard."

Blues's brows knit together behind his visor. Worry creeps under his skin, but he keeps his voice quiet as requested. "I don't understand... What did I do?"

"Don't you play dumb with me... Why didn't you take Wily out when you had the chance!?"

Blues's eyes widen in surprise. "Wh... How..."

"Shhh. Quiet. You're a good actor, hero, but you didn't fool me. I know what you've been about at that hospital. I know about play time. But did I misjudge you or something? You had your shot at the doc. Why not kill him then?"

Blues can scarcely believe what he is hearing. Elecman wanted him to kill Wily? He played along like he believed the ruse to let him return to the hideout? "You... Want Wily dead?"

"Look it's nothing personal but I know what I know, and I know he's holding me back. I want a little taste of what YOU've got. You feel me?"

"...why use me then? You're here all the time you could do it-"

"Could I? Do you really think that I would still be here if I could?"

That's right. Why did he assume that the masters had enough free will to cause Wily harm? It's honestly surprising that Elecman has enough will of his own to think such conspiratorial thoughts.

"But you do want to be free."

"Of course. I can't disobey Wily directly, and I certainly can't harm him directly... But I've started to figure out that I can work the angles. And you? You're my angle. So come on. Why hold back? You gut the man like a fish and I'll be free, your humans will be safe... Everyone wins!"

Protoman bites his lip. Elecmans proposal sounds sensible, and his own thoughts were following the same line earlier, but...

The black and yellow bot senses his hesitation and growls.

"I... Elecman I did come here planning to put an end to Wily, but..."

Elecman's eyes narrow in a glare. "But what? Are you soft for him too now?"

"I... I just..." Protoman grits his teeth. He did go soft though, didn't he? That seems to be what happened earlier. Wily said that stuff that made him think of himself and...

Elecman growls in frustration. "You're so pathetic. I should have killed you when I had the chance."

"E...elecman wait..." Protoman tries to reign in his composure. He dons the mask of Breakman, trying to act smooth. Like he has a plan.

"Wait. I'll admit it, I was caught off guard these past few days. Everything since the building collapse has caused a bit of upheaval for me. But I've got things figured out. I know what I'm doing."

The electric bot casts the most condescending glare on Protoman. "We'll see about that."

He hops right back out of the red bot's hiding place, through with wasting his time on him.

"Elecman... where are you going?"

"If I can't be sure you'll get me what I want, I'm gonna need to find another angle in case you go straight on me."

Protoman shrinks inside. Elecman and he... well they've never really been FRIENDS but they've always had a certain... something. And now he feels like he's lost that.

Not to mention this bot could report him and have Wily on his back before he could make the harbor.

"Well... maybe I'll let you give me a few more jolts some time," Blues says halfheartedly. "Those always keep me from thinking straight."

He knows it wasn't at all the right thing to say... but the half-witty comeback is about all he can manage before Elecman disappears.

Luckily it works. Elecman pauses... and fixes a grin on Protoman. "Really now~? Hmmm, maybe I will give you a chance, just so I can take you up on that offer."

He gives the red bot a slightly more good natured nod farewell before continuing back to his own sleeping nook.

Blues sighs. He'll just have to stay alert and hope that Elec doesn't change his mind and sell him out as the traitor that he is. There's a new item on his agenda now, though: Free Elecman. The weary red bot looks back at his hiding place. He is still exhausted... but sleep he will just have to catch up on later. There's too much that needs to be done now.

He crawls out of his pipe after Elecman leaves and heads for Bombman's quarters. The bot always seems to keep his area well-stocked with the explosives he enjoys making... C4 is piled around and molded into different shapes like playdoh.

Lovely.

Protoman smiles at Bombman as he surveys the orange bot's work.

Bombman grins when he sees Protoman enter. He too is up late. "Break man! What can I do for you?"

"Hey there pal." Blues strolls up like they're old friends and slings a friendly arm around his shoulder. "I just wanted to see what you've got going on down here. I heard you were an artist but this stuff looks like it'll blow me right out of my hypothetical socks! Impressive. You know I always have envied your talent with explosives. Think you could show me a thing or two?"

As Protoman talks Bombman's eyes just get wider and wider and wider. By the time he finishes speaking the orange bot's gaze shimmers with the start of happy tears.

And that is the long and short of how Blues rigs all the key points of structural integrity within Wily's complex with weapons grade C4.

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

When Light and Iceman get back the house is quiet. His son and daughter are long in bed, or so he would think. It is quite late.

"Shhh... my family is asleep. It would be best not to wake them at this time of night."

Light brings the coats in and hangs them up in one of the hall closets for Iceman to access as he pleases. "Now then... are you tired? Truth be told it has been a long day and I am a bit exhausted myself..."

Iceman is still busy taking in the space they enter. It's...not what he expected. This is far more cozy than the laid everyone imagined this doctor to reside it.

"Oh... are you still hungry?" Light adds. "I know what you'd like…" There is still some ice cream cake in the fridge so the doctor goes and cuts a small slice for Iceman as he works to get the bot settled in. He has a spare room that was supposed to be for Blues... but seeing as it is empty now he might as well put Iceman up in it. He gets some pillows set up and the covers and tries to freshen things up so his reclaimed robot master will be comfy. "You're free to stay in this room for now... we can worry about getting you repaired and more permanent accommodations tomorrow... alright?"

"Very well, Sir," Iceman nods sunnily. The ice cream cake has him in an even better mood.

"N-no!" Now suddenly Rock is standing at the bedroom's hallway. "We can't let someone else use Blues's room!" He raises his hands protectively in front of the door. In spite of the fact that a new robot master is here without explanation and all the questions that raises, the blue bomber is still more concerned about his brother's well-being. Blues may or may not still hold any kind of friendly sentiments towards him, but Rock cares more about his feelings than Iceman's, and he is currently full of fear that his brother returning to finding another robot "taking his place" has the potential to even further ruin whatever shaky relationship they managed to establish this past week.

Again assuming it isn't already ruined… Something that Rock has had all afternoon while his father was gone to agonize over.

"Oh dear... Rock..." Light tries to sooth. "Please my son... don't misunderstand... Ice man is joining us tonight and needs a place to stay... I don't mean to give away Blues's place permanently. It's just that it would be rude to leave our guest poorly accommodated..."

"But wh-what if he tries to come back during the night?" Rock stammers, eyes wide and shoulders quivering with anxiety.

Iceman blinks at the boy in front of him. Without his armor, he can't even recognize him as the one and only Megaman.

Roll appears suddenly behind her brother, peeking timidly at their guest. "U...um... it's okay daddy... I'm gonna be sleeping with Rock tonight so... Iceman can have my room..."

"Oh? That would be kind of you, Roll... Iceman, will that suit you as well?" the doctor turns to him, grateful to his daughter for suggesting a good compromise.

"S...sure." o~o Iceman stares timidly at the pretty robot girl. Suddenly his core is fluttering in his chest.

Roll notices that she is the center of the robot master's gaze and averts her eyes shyly, blushing and hiding behind her brother.

Rock pouts at his guest, unusually hostile. "Well fine then...it's settled. Just don't touch her things."

Light frowns. This just isn't like his normally amiable son at all. "R...rock be nice... Iceman is trying to turn over a new leaf... we should be welcoming and encouraging."

Light moves into Roll's room to make sure it is tidy before ushering Iceman inside. "Come now... everyone off to bed... it's quite late and we have a lot to do tomorrow." He tucks Iceman in quietly, making sure the boy is well situated for the night.

Iceman, unaccustomed to the personal attention, doesn't question it much as he's ushered onto the comfortable, plush surface. This is a new but enjoyable experience. He's never really had a proper bed before.

"Sweet dreams my young creation... never fear. You will be safe here for the night." That said, Light goes to Rock's room to check on his other two children. Rock is still obviously distraught.

"Oh Rock... I'm sorry I left you alone at home..." The doctor murmurs, coming to his side. "I knew you were worried about your brother..." He reaches an arm around to hold him close in an embrace. Roll has been doing the same in the time since her father left. She has Rock all wrapped up in blankets and a hug. Normally the proximity and support of his family is enough to at least somewhat assuage his fears and worries. However, tonight he is a perfectly hopeless wreck, his mind far away probing away at any and every possibility and disaster scenario that could befall for his older brother and end up affecting their family.

When Rock finally gets into bed that night, even after a long comfort session from his sister and father, his heart is still too heavy with his brother's departure for sleep to possibly find him. The boy lays face down and cries into his pillow for what feels like hours. Even with Roll still hugged around his waist for support, his bed feels too big and too empty without his brother there to share it with them. Though he's certain he's been quiet with his misery, Roll wakes back up and starts to rub his chest at some point. Though he is grateful to have her to hold against, the comfort she offers isn't enough to stave off the flood of nightmares that plague his processor when he finally does power down.

# # # # # # # # # # #

Once all of his late-night work is done, Blues finally managed to fit in a couple hours of uneasy sleep before dawn.

Wily grins at Blues when he walks back into the lab area. Several of the other bots are already there for a sort of "morning assembly".

"Ah! My lovely Breakman, THERE you are..." the doctor exclaims.

Elecman is sitting with his feet propped up on one of Wily's work tables. He exchanges a silent look with Blues as if to say "well?" The red bot remains impassive.

"Now now... Let's hear it." Says Wily. "How has your memory faired since last night, hmm?"

"I DID remember a lot, actually." Blues hums.

"Oh? Come come... Share with us all."

"Of course. It's kind of silly really. How you've been raiding labs and all. Light isn't even staying in a lab!"

"O... Oh? And er..." The doctor's smile falls a bit, "W.. Where IS he staying?"

"Hold on a sec. I wasn't finished. I was going to say that Light ISNT in a lab because he stopped needing a lab. Megaman and the other bot he has are self-sufficient without one. The only time he needs any special equipment is when he's doing special repairs."

"Oh... W-well that's... "

"So you can't find him looking through those."

"..." The old codger's eyes narrow into slits. Wily is beginning to suspect this game. It feels all too familiar.

"...Break man."

"Yes?"

"Are you... Or AREN'T you going to tell me were Light is?"

"See now that depends."

Wily howls in rage, slinging the wrench he was holding at the unruly red bot.

"GRAAAAH! I should have known! WHAT!? What do you want? Repairs? Upgrades!?"

Blues grins. For real. He can't help it, it's fun to dangle what Wily wants in front of him like a piece of cheese and wait to see what the ratty professor will do to get it. But it serves his needs better for now to keep playing dumb about the Light abode's whereabouts now that he has already laid down a false lead about the lab issue.

In the meantime, he has something else to worry about. He really would prefer to get everyone out of this complex before he blows the place sky high...

So he proposes a new idea to the assembly.

# # # # # # # # # # #

In Rock's dreams, he is reunited with his brother. But Blues has been horrifically changed. His frame has been stripped down to almost nothing but his metal skeleton and wires. His face is completely hidden by his helmet and the mask he wore as Breakman. Everything that made him human is now gone except for his scarf, which is now in tatters. When Blues challenges him, Rock swears he will not fight him...yet the next thing he knows, he is standing in the rain with his family as his one and only brother lies motionless in a casket. Somehow he knows that Blues is dead by his own hand. His helmet has been removed, but the face beneath it had every right to be hidden. Though it expresses no emotion, it is anything but peaceful. Blues's face has been left mangled and scarred after being so terribly burned from electrical damage. Before he has a chance to say he's sorry, his brother's body is lowered-not into the earth, but into the trash. His body is dropped in as unceremoniously as Rock had deposited Bass in the dumpster.

When Rock wakes back up, the little boy screams and begins sobbing into his hands as soon as he sits up.

Roll is woken by the commotion with a jolt. She sits up too and frets over her brother, comforting him and shushing him as he cries. "Rock... Oh Rock no..."

She doesn't have to ask to know what it's about. "Rock we... We'll get him back... We'll make this right..."

"But what if something happens to him when he is at Wily's?" He hiccups inbetween broken sobs, "Wh-what if he's already gone? What if he's changed and there's no getting him back?"

Rock is totally inconsolable.

Meanwhile, in the other room, Dr. Light is getting up and making breakfast for his two children and their guest. Cinnamon rolls this morning. He doesn't think about how Rock will react.

After a while of doing what she can for her distressed brother, Roll gets up and peeks back into her own room to change from her pjs into her day clothes.

The pout is strong with her as she steps back out and into the small kitchen to aid her dad with setting the table for breakfast.

TT^TT "Daddyyyyyyy, Rock is so upset and Iceman froze my stuffed toys."

The poor old man looks dismayed. "Ice man froze them!? Oh dear... Have no worries sweet... We'll sort them out..."

Roll finishes setting the table as she pouts about the state of her brother and her stuffed animal friends.

Rock eventually comes to their aid as well but by that time breakfast is almost ready. He is made responsible for letting Iceman know. The robot master needs a bit of explaining to realize that he's being summoned for a meal consisting of human food. He curiously enters the kitchen, and Rock trudges in behind him with the same depressed expression he's had all morning.

"Good morning!" Says Roll, forcing herself to wear a cheerful smile in spite of the less than cheerful circumstances. Rock looks as bad as ever. She helps by pulling his seat out for him so he can listlessly crawl into it.

"W-we've got a good breakfast prepared everyone!" The doctor stammers, trying to put on a brave face as well, "Since Ice man is joining us this morning I thought I would do something special and make cinnamon rolls!" He smiles, wasn't that thoughtful? Isn't everyone happy?

"..."

... Oh no. Thomas knows before he realizes the exact reason that he has somehow messed up. Rock looks positively hopeless. "...son? Rock?"

The boy's eyes are quivering to the brim with unshed tears. Rock flops over, putting his face into his arms. "Bluuuuuueeessss" he wails as the waterworks start in modest.

Roll looks down at her plate, quietly munching her cinnamon roll without meeting her brother's gaze. It tastes wonderful, but given the circumstances the meal is bittersweet.

"Oh son I... I'm sorry I wasn't thinking..." Light rushes to his side and picks the boy up in his arms to coddle.

Rock holds tight to his father and sobs into his shoulder. "I miss hiiiiiimmm."

"Oh son... I know... Please don't fret... We're going to get Blues back. I refuse to give up on him. We'll find out where Albert has him and get him back, you hear? But if we are going to get your brother back, you need to be in top form... That mess refueling and mentally preparing yourself... Can you do that for your brother's sake?"

Rock sniffles, but he nods and wipes his eyes. "O-okay..."

Iceman looks positively baffled and annoyed with all of the emotions happening.

Light puts his son back at length down so they can eat their meal, but Roll, uncomfortable with the dynamic in the room, has already finished eating and is cleaning her plate now. She flees after a quiet "thank you" and holes up in her room, effectively kicking Iceman out.

Light pats his sons head before turning his gaze back on the arctic bot. "Are you enjoying the food? After you eat we can go to my lab and have a look at you."

"...oh" He was so wrapped up in the drama he forgot to eat.

Light starts digging into his own portion, noting his daughter's absence. Ah well... Family meals, like most scientific procedures he's familiar with, always work better in theory than in practice.

Iceman picks up one of the pastries, grimacing at their stickiness...but once he takes a bite he looks amazed.

The doctor watches him light up, happy his cooking was at least a success for someone. "Have as much as you like, Iceman. There are plenty." At his offering, Iceman puts several more on his plate. He hasn't had a good refueling in a while. Rations are rather thin in Wily's care.

# # # # # # # # # #

Protoman grunts as he leads a procession of robot masters through the dank sewers.

"Where are we going again...?" Bombman asks.

"That's the question... I don't know where Bass is, so all of you have to help me search for him."

Those are the conditions he got all the masters out of house with, anyway. To look for both Iceman and Bass in the hopes that either one may have discovered or have clues about the Light residence to aid his 'fuzzy memory.' At least Wily was agreeable enough. The plan from this point on is simple... Split the bad bots up, start remotely detonating his explosives one by one to give Wily a chance to get out of the blast zone... And ditch in the confusion and return to his family. Additionally, he hopes to snag Elecman somewhere in there, but he is still figuring the plan out as he goes.

"No one has even heard from Bass since his fight with Megaman." Gutsman points out. "Do you think he got blown to smithereens?"

"Doubtful. I'd hard to imagine that he could vanish without a trace. The alloys that he is made of are too tough to be destroyed by any of Megaman's attacks."

"...what about Iceman, Shadow? Weren't you the last to see him? What happened there?"

Shadowman, taking up the rear of the procession, simply shrugs.

"If he didn't get destroyed, then what in the heck happened to him?!" Asks Crashman.

"We dunno," Protoman reiterates. "Trapped? Crushed? Melted? Went rogue? That is what we are here to figure out."

Not really. His hand is in his pocket near the trigger. Protoman peeks up from a manhole. "...okay we're near where they went missing. Everyone split up. No more than two bots to a search party. That way we cover more ground. Elecman? You're with me. And everyone avoid the humans. It'll be easier to search if no one makes a commotion."

The robot masters following him nod obediently, and then they are off. When only Protoman and Elecman are left, the electric robot grins. "Ahah! Brilliant strategy!" He whispers. "And now that they are all gone, this is when we escape, I take it?"

Protoman quietly raises a finger to shush him before motioning Elecman to follow. He wants to get a head start before he starts setting off the explosives. "Soon."

Elecman's face is alive with an excited grin, and he follows quietly behind Protoman…for a time.

"So...about that charge up you mentioned..." the electrical bot drawls casually.

"Fry my processor now and you get to stay Wily's captive. We can spar once we're away from here," Blues says, keeping them underground for now, headed north towards the university.

"Spar? Who said anything about sparring?"

"...?" Protoman tilts his helm at the black and yellow bot. "That's what you want isn't it? Another chance to fry my brain? Sorry, but I'm not going to just lay down and let you do it. You are going to have to fight me."

Elecman grins. "I thought that it was going to be something a little more...recreational. Not enough to damage anything...important anyway."

Blues doesn't have time to puzzle over what he means by that now. "We'll see. For now though let's just focus on this escaping thing."

"Fine fine. Lead the way."

# # # # # # # # # # # #

Light cleans up his plate, tends to Rock a bit more, and then heads off to the campus lab building with Iceman in tow, leaving the children to do what they will for now. He begins hooking the small bot up to diagnostic machines, checking to verify the source of Wily's control. He has never had access to one of his older creations before now, so he has only guessed at what modifications his old cohort has made. But as it so happens... They don't seem to be very substantial at all.

"It would seem that Albert's work is totally superficial... He edited a few lines of the software that gives you your free will and hard-coded himself with a master override... Other than that he has changed a bit of your personality programming... I see you reading higher than normal on aggression... Anger... No wait... They don't really seem much higher than their natural levels... But all "positive" emotions are barely reading in the matrix. Love, happiness, compassion, empathy... All coming back practically flat."

The doctor looks to Iceman. "Could you try something for me? I want you to try thinking of something that makes you happy... It can be anything, new coats, ice cream... I just want you to try to remember how you felt when you were the happiest that you can remember."

Iceman quietly squnches up his face in thought. "That would probably be...last winter...when that blizzard came by, and we had to go patrolling in the snow."

"Oh?" Light watches his readings spike a bit. "Go on... What about it made you happy specifically?"

"At one point, Bombman picked up a snowball and threw it at me... then I threw one back, and the rest of our group started playing along. It was fun...playing in my element. I was the best snowball fighter."

"Ahaha... A snow ball fight? That does sound fun. Was it your first one?" The readings stop their slow rise at about a third of what the boy should be capable of.

"Uhuh."

"Mmm..." Light nods. "Alright... I think I know what needs to be done to fix you up. Are you ready for me to put you under?"

"I...I guess..."

Light places a hand gently on his head. "I promise you that you can trust me... When you wake up, you'll still be you."

"….Alright." Iceman doesn't look totally trusting, but he is resigned to give this odd, kind old man a chance. Another side effect of the Wily mods is that he doesn't feel much in the way of fear or any particularly strong drive of self-preservation.

But perhaps that will change soon. The doctor smiles encouragingly as he powers Iceman down and begins working on him.

# # # # # # # # # # # #

Protoman finally emerges from the sewer with Elecman well away from where they dropped the others off. There have been a few comms from the other robot masters but still no sign of the missing bots they set out to under the premise of looking for.

"Okay... Ready for our grand escape?"

Elecman grins. "Absolutely."

Protoman takes out the detonator, flips the cap... And presses his finger onto the first red button.

For several moments there's no indication of anything wrong... No dramatic plume of smoke in the distance... It takes a couple of minutes before the first alarmed screeching reaches their comms. It's Dr. Wily.

"R-robot masters return to me immediately! RIGHT NOW! My lab! My beautiful lab is under piles of rubble! Come back at once and assist m-"

Blues presses the next button and there's a boom over their comms from the next series of explosions.

"KYAAA! No no no! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING!?"

Blues switches his communicator off. "Alright, let's go. I have one more to set off but I'll give him time to get out in case he hasn't already."

It takes all of Elecman's control to resist cackling. This is better than anything he could have anticipated. "Bah. Going to so much trouble not to kill him. But fine."

Blues keeps dragging him along towards the university. They're only ten short blocks away.

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

Back in the apartment Rock and Roll are in Rolls room where she's hugging her brother as she scrolls through news snippets.

"There's got to be a clue in here about where he is..."

Rock shakes his head. "They don't always have any leads on Wily or his bots. Besides...the newspapers never talked much about Protoman anyway."

She frowns and sighs. "I'm sorry... I'm not much help..."

Rock looks to Roll and suddenly realizes something. He gives her a big hug. "I'm sorry, Sis...I haven't been a very good brother to you lately..."

She blushes in surprise as he wraps her arms around her. "N... No you're fine..." She stammers. "I understand... You care a lot about Blues..."

"Yeah...but I haven't been very considerate of you," he turns his eyes to the floor. "You know I still love my only sister too, don't you?"

"O... Of course!" She places her hand on his as he moves away from her. "I just feel bad because well... I went and talked just the other day about how uncomfortable I was with the idea of our family getting bigger and bigger... And it's already happening... It's getting hard not to feel like the old boring kid..."

:Ah...y-yeah...Iceman and all...b-but you shouldn't be worried. You're not boring at all!"

She sighs, staring off toward the campus lawn. "I certainly hope not…."

"And besides...just because Dad's taken in Iceman to fix him doesn't mean he's gonna be staying with us forev-!?"

He is cut off abruptly when Roll a look of shock snaps to his sister's face. She jumps up and practically smashes her face to the window.

"What what is it?!" Rock cries, getting up to look with her. He makes it just in time to miss Elecman disappearing beyond visibility as he heads towards their building.

"ELECMAN! I... I don't know how but he's found us!" Roll gasps. "Hurry! We've gotta warn dad!" she is already running for the exit.

"Huh?! Where?!" Rock's core goes cold. If one of the robot masters knows they're here, then that could mean..."r-right. You tell him. I'm gonna go out there and deal with Elecman."

But his sister doesn't make it to the stairs before she shrieks.

"EEEEYAAAAH! Rock! ROCK COME QUICK!"

Rock goes to the source of her scream as quick as he can, already prepping his mega buster for battle.

When he gets there Roll is standing in front of two figures in the stairwell doorway.

One of them, sure enough, is Elecman.

And the other figure is Blues.

Rock gasps. He takes a step forward before catching himself. If Protoman led Elecman here, then...he casts a look of disappointment on his brother. "So you told them we're here now..."

"...?" The smile that Blues was wearing falters.

Elecman, however, looks just as surprised as the rest of them. He stares at Megaman and gets into a defensive stance should the boy do anything. "Wait a minute. Is this their new hideout?"

Protoman just keeps looking at Rock, confused and somewhat abashed. He thought Rock would be happy to see him back. "Easy, Elecman." He puts a hand on the bot's shoulder. "We didn't come to fight."

Rock blinks, some of the tension leaving his body. "You... You didn't?"

"We didn't?!" asks Elecman incredulously.

Blues scowls at the black and yellow bot. "No you dope! How did you think I was going to get you free from Wily's control exactly?" It's a struggle to keep from smacking him upside the head. He turns his gaze back on and hesitantly approaches Rock.

"Light can fix him... Can't he, cinnamon roll?" he holds his hand out in a non-threatening gesture to show he means no harm.

"..."

"…..Rock?" Blues is starting to feel very unsure of himself. Maybe coming back after what he did really was a mistake.

But just as he starts thinking he should go, fat tears well up in Rock's eyes. The next moment he looses a choked sob and jumps into his brother to wrap him up in a hug.

Elecman grimaces at the immodest display of affection. This is so beneath Breakman.

"Ah! Ah... Rock... Shh... It's okay..." Blues pets his back as the younger boy sobs into his chest. He doesn't care what Elecman thinks for now. His younger brother is all that matters at the moment.

Rock, meanwhile, furiously nuzzles his face into his brother. "Oh, Blues… I'm so glad you're okay…"

"Me too. I… I'm sorry. I thought you understood my clue the other day…"

"I...I did but... you did such a good job pretending that I wasn't sure...and when you came here with Elecman I thought... But now I see. I'm sorry for doubting you..."

Blues nods and shushes. "I understand… Sorry I worried you… And that I hurt you."

Elecman scoffs and turns away.

The red bot notices but ignores him for the time being. "Now… where's Light?" He asks Rock.

"I'm right here." The older man chimes as he rises up the stairs behind them. In his arms is a conscious and faintly smiling Iceman.

Rock's eyes light up. That's right. Now that his brother is back and the source of his perpetual worry eased, the excitement of the arctic bot's recovery is finally starting to touch him. "Blues look! We just fixed Iceman too!"

"Wha!?" Both Blues and Elecman look shocked. They never expected to find him here.

Elecman gasps aloud. "So this is where you've been!" He approaches the other robot master. "...how do you feel?"

Iceman regards his fellow bot with the same smile. "I feel...better, I think."

Blues blinks, understanding.

"You... You got rid of Wily's...?"

Iceman nods. "Dr. Light convinced me to do it."

Light's eyes shine. "Mhm... Wasn't nearly as hard as I'd anticipated. Blues... I'm glad to see you safe... And Elecman too... Are you here to be free of Wily's control as well?"

Everyone transitions back into the apartment, which is starting to feel a little crowded. Blues keeps a holding Rock, who hasn't stopped clinging to his neck since they reunited. He can't help but be touched by the affection. After he opened fire on the kid he wasn't expecting any kind of warm welcome…. Certainly not this "all's forgiven" attitude. He doesn't quite know what to say…. But he does have an idea. He wraps part of his scarf around his brothers neck as they sit together on the couch, ignoring Elecman's disgusted expression. He even and invites Roll to join them when she looks hopelessly jealous.

However she shakes her head and scooches a bit closer to Ice man instead. "S-so," she tries to make conversation. "you... You're free of Wily's control now, ice guy?"

Iceman shuffles a bit in his seat, looking down to his feet in shyness when Roll sits next to him. "Y...yeah...I think so."

"Oh... So you don't wanna hurt us anymore?"

"N...no..." Iceman frowns sadly. "Now I feel bad for ever wanting to..."

"Oh…" Roll frowns. "It… It wasn't your fault…" She wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him into a close hug. "I'm so glad you'll be okay now."

The coated bot blushes bright. "Th-thank you, miss…" Roll. That's her name. His core flutters a bit faster. "Miss Roll…"

Elecman sits off awkwardly to the side. "So...how long did it take?" He tries to ask Iceman. "Did it hurt?" But Iceman isn't paying attention to him. It irritates him.

Roll keeps hugging her new "brother" tight, a warm smile on her face. Now she feels bad for ever being afraid of him before. Before Roll knows it, a tear finds its way leaking down her cheek.

"Wh…Roll…?" Iceman is alarmed when he notices. "Why are you crying…? Please don't cry…."

The girl sniffles and wipes her eyes. "Oh I'm sorry… I… I'm just so happy. Somehow, it feels like things are finally gonna be okay." She grins earnestly.

Blues chuckles softly at the two of them. It is sort of starting to feel that way. His lids hang heavy over sleepy eyes as the newest story is plastered over their TV. Local explosion destroys supposedly abandoned factory. Doctor Wily's hideout uncovered. Fugitive doctor now under arrest and pending interrogation at local max security detention facility.

"Egad!" Light yelps. "Albert, he... He's been caught!"

Everyone crowds around the TV set to watch the news bulletin flash by.

"MAD DOCTOR INCARCERATED. Doctor Albert Wily is in Mega City maximum security lockdown for suspected criminal activity through the use of mechanical proxies in ongoing stream of suburban attacks by humanoid robot 'masters'. No commentary yet from police chief."

On the screen is a fly by shot of the smoking building that Blues, Iceman, and Elecman know well.

"Wow... I didn't think when I did that that they'd actually catch him." Blues murmurs.

Iceman stares at the destruction in shock, as does Rock. "They...they caught him." The boy turns to his older brother. "Blues...are you saying you did this?"

"I... Well... It's a little bit of a story... The short of it is, I rigged the factory to blow..."

"You WHAT?"

Blues looks defensive now. "I knew I needed something to distract him... And keep him from continuing to send the masters out to search for Light."

The doctor opens his mouth. On one hand, his son destroyed an enormous building that could have killed someone. But on the other... "Oh Protoman..." His sigh is a mix of relief and admonition.

"Well... Perhaps we can finally relax."

"Yeah... Relax..." Blues repeats, his voice oddly monotone. He looks like he's about to relax himself right into a coma.

Rock notices now how out of it he seems. "Blues, you wanna go to bed? We have your room ready for you."

"Ah... Room for me?" Bed. That sounds nice. It's midmorning now, but he could definitely go for a powernap after that last sleepless night. He gets up and wobbles that way, still carrying Rock. Bed. Yes. Good. He yawns up a storm as he trudges to the spare room Light prepared last night for Iceman and plops onto the pristine bed.

Mmmm... Oh... This is nice...

Rock stares at him sympathetically. After his own restless night he is in no hurry to get up. In fact… maybe this would be a chance for him to catch up on some Z's too. He snuggles right up to his big brother. "Good to have you back."

Blues hums softly and pulls the cover over both of them, too tired and comfortable now to do anything more. He hums something incoherent that sounds like an agreement and then quickly nods off.


End of Chapter

Chapter Text


WARNING: 18+ Content Ahead.

Author's note: This chapter is self-indulgent Blues/Elecman smut and I make no apologies or excuses for that. I will grant you that robots doing it is a dubious area of morality that my co-author and I have considered and debated amongst ourselves so I'm going to get a few things out of the way now and you can decide yourself if you want to go any further.

1) No, the robots are not 18 literal years old. We established in an earlier chapter roughly how old these robots are.

2) That being said, they are also not "children" even though adults like Light might sometimes treat them as such. In this AU, Blues and the robot masters in particular are "finished products" mentally and emotionally. Their advanced AI allows them to change over time and "evolve" from their experiences, but there is no "growing up" developmental stage like people have. It wouldn't make sense to make an automated workforce that you had to wait to mature. Thus, my co-author and I view them as mature, consent-capable individuals.

3) The only possible exceptions to this are Rock and Roll who were made with the intention of being Dr. Light's children/helpers. They get the weird shtick of being physically older than any of the other robots except Blues, but programmed and designed to appear more dependent and child-like. Because of this my friend and I tend to shy away from having them in any 18+ activities. That being said, we still don't consider it weird/bad to let them participate in affectionate/romantic relationships with the other robot masters. Throughout the Archie comics, Megamix, and Gigamix that our AU is heavily based on, Rock and Roll have both shown themselves capable of independence, managing and putting aside their own emotions in favor of rational decision making, grappling with very advanced ethical dilemmas, ownership of their actions, a high degree of self-awareness and (and in Rock's case especially, self-criticism), and a drive for continual self-improvement and self-sufficiency. At some point you have to take a step back and ask "what is an adult?" in the metaphysical sense. At least for my part, I think and write Rock and Roll people who are capable of handling themselves as individuals and in a relationship at LEAST as well as or better than your average teen.

In summary, I realize it is a grey area. My co-author and I have our take on it that having the robot masters diddle is okay. If you have qualms with it, I thank you for reading this far but advise that you continue no further. And also, obviously, if you are under age 18 do not read ahead. I will make the chapters with smut and adult themes as self-contained as I can and mark them as "smut" in the titles.

Now that that's out of the way….


Chapter 11: Smut – Protoman/Elecman


Blues yawns as he begins to stir, idly realizing that he's being clung to by an outside individual-Rock. He paps his brother's hair and drags the boy farther up onto his chest to use as a body pillow.

"Morn'n" Blues opens his mouth to loose yet another drawn out yawn with his head against Rock's... Or so he thinks. In reality it might be a different frame that he is pressed against

Elecman giggles in his ear.

"..." Blues is on his feet, away from the bed, and hidden behind his shield in the time it takes to blink.

"What the fuck are you doing here!? Where is Rock." He demands.

This only makes Elecman laugh more. He sits up and regards Protoman with an amused smirk. "Out. Along with the good doctor, his bratty girl, and Iceman. Check the time. You slept all morning."

"Ugh..." Blues regards the blinded window and fingers a small gap in it to peek out. Sure enough the evening sun is starting to vanish past the city's horizon. The red bot scratches his... Unmasked head. All he has is his shades on.

"The adorable family wanted to show Iceman the world now that he has the freedom to appreciate it." Elec goes on explaining. "You were so out of it, they didn't have the heart to drag you out of recharge to go with them. So I, the generous being I am, offered to stay behind and act as guard while you slept so peacefully. Wasn't that thoughtful of me?"

Protoman frowns. He can believe he slept in as tired as he was. He is still a bit tired, honestly. His battery never got fully recharged the previous day, after all... Still, he regards Elecman with distrust. "And what about you... did they pull Wily's plugs out of you yet?"

"No~ Since I was in on your whole escape plan, they think I have already nearly disabled his changes myself and saw no reason to rush me into the procedure."

Behind his shades, Blues's eyes narrow suspiciously.

"You know...it's been real fascinating getting to look at your bedroom, and now the twerp's too. I can't believe you'd rather sleep in here with him rather than your own bed. That's not like the Breakman I know.

Blues shifts. Even though Elecman can't see his eyes he averts his gaze slightly. "Maybe I'm not Breakman. Maybe I'm someone else."

"You mean this Blues person everyone keeps calling you?"

" ... I haven't got it figured yet."

"Oh well," Elecman raises his hands nonchalantly and shrugs his shoulders. "It hardly matters to me. Even if you're going soft, I still can't help but admire you."

"... 'Admire' me?" His tone is colored with skepticism. "Please. What are you trying to butter me up for?"

"Weeeeell…. Since we're alone now, I want to make you...an offer."

"…." Protoman lowers his shield back to his side.

"...I'm listening."

"I want to show you something that's gonna give you a good time and make you feel good."

"…" Blues's mouth hardens back into an irritated line. "I am not letting you shock me. So if that is where this is headed we can stop right there."

Elecman pouts. "It won't cause any damage, and it won't hurt unless I want it to. I've done it tons of times to myself."

"…" Nope. Protoman turns and heads for the kitchen to grab himself some fuel, 1000% done with this shit.

"Wait! Come on I've done it with a few of the others too you know."

"Nope."

Protoman sees there are some breakfast leftovers that were left out for him but he ignores them. Human food... it was interesting the first couple of times but the idea of it potentially clogging up inside of him is not appealing. "Fire man letting you shock him doesn't count as proof of it being okay, he's too attached to you and he doesn't make good choices where you're involved."

Elecman whines in frustration when he sees his target moving on to things other than him. "Not just him, you know"

"Oh? Enlighten me, who else? Bombman? Did you get under his hood? Nah he's not to your taste, is he? I'll bet you did Quickman, Narcissist that you are."

"Guilty~ But let me tell you, he's not a very entertaining partner. He lives up to his name in many other aspects."

"Hah," Blues snorts softly.

"Such a shame too. His ability to vibrate could have so much potential…"

"... Alright I'll bite. What exactly do you have in mind? How do you propose that I'm going to enjoy being shocked? I fail to see how that qualifies as "recreational" in any capacity."

"I've found that tiny little shocks of charge can actually cause positive stimulation."

"... positive huh?"

"Mhmm"

Blues's mouth slants back towards a distrustful frown. "Pain could be counted as positive stimulation. In fact, any stimulation could be considered positive."

"No. This brings pleasure."

"Yuh huh." Protoman doesn't sound convinced at all.

"And what's better is that it builds."

"Pleasure that builds...?" Blues asks slowly as a suspicion begins to dawn on him.

Elecman nods. "And then eventually it peaks."

"..." Protoman's cheeks color. "Wh...what you're talking about sounds like..."

Elecman grins.

The proto bot stares at him, dumbfounded. "...IS it like...?"

"I can't say for sure since I don't know what the human equivalent is like...but from what I've seen, it looks just about as enjoyable."

Blues stares at him silently, his face a mask.

But Elecman isn't fooled by the stony exterior. He knows he has the red bot's attention. And so he leans his chin casually on his hand propped over the back of the couch. "Dear Breakman~...have you never tried anything like that? Lots of us have been finding ways to make it happen. It's all thanks to a wonderful emergency protocol we're all built with that I accidentally discovered."

"... Emergency protocol, huh?"

"Uhuh. Oh don't worry. Activating it doesn't cause any problems. With all the times I've done it, I know."

"..." Protoman is considering it... if only because of his intense curiosity. "I should have figured you for a pervert. ...Does Wily know what you got up to with the others?"

"Not at all. He can't keep track of all of us all the time. The good doctor, however...we can only do this now, when he and everyone else is gone. So you better decide quick-do you want to do this or not?

"…." He considers it…. Then Protoman laughs suddenly. "If you damage me he would probably figure it out. ...And quite frankly you are the robot master that I trust least next to Bass and Shadow."

Elecman frowns, offended. "I'm no idiot. I told you I know how to do this without causing damage. Come on." He cajoles. "What purpose do I have to harm you now?"

"I don't know. That's the problem with you Elecman... I'm not sure what you are after... you're not as simple to understand as some of the rest. You're like me. ...You keep your intentions hidden behind that mask."

"I can be simple. I want to get the both of us off. That's it."

… Protoman crunches the canister he was drinking his fuel from and tosses it in the trash.

Elecman grins. "And now that I know how innocent you truly are, I really want to be the first to do it for you-!"

Before he can get any farther in that sentence, Blues grabs him by the collar of his armor and drags him towards his bedroom. Elecman immediately wraps his arms around the red bot and follows him, his sly grin growing wider and wider.

Blues throws him down on the bed and straddles his waist none too gently. "I may be soft for the kid... and I may not have done anything like this before." He leans over Elecman, breathing into his ear. "But I'm far from innocent. Now then... since we've established that... let's see exactly what you have for me."

Elecman positively shivers. Oh this is going to be fun. "First I just need a source of power...that lamp there doesn't mean much to you, does it?"

Protoman looks over to it and shakes his head. "Not particularly."

Elecman quickly grabs its cord and rips it apart in order to have a way of siphoning the electricity flowing from the outlet. "There...now that I have everything I need...I'm going to take this slow with you since you're new, but if I'm boring you do not hesitate to tell me."

Protoman raises an eyebrow bow otherwise relaxes sitting on top of Elecman, waiting to see what he'll do.

The robot master starts simple. He places his hands to Protoman's hips and begins administering a minuscule amount of charge.

"Mmn..." Protoman doesn't flinch, but he does tense up a bit as he starts to feel the current traveling through his sides. He moves Elecman's hands down slightly so they're a bit more on his thighs instead.

"There...how does that feel?"

Blues muses to himself. "….I wouldn't call it "pleasant" exactly, but it doesn't hurt either." He is just a bit on edge with the live charge traveling through him... it really isn't in a good or a bad way.

"Hm..." Elecman idly squeezes and rubs his fingers over Protoman's thighs, trying to decide what will feel better for the bot. Probably not just an increase in power. Maybe a better position. He starts moving his hands to the inner parts of his thighs.

"Nngh..." Protoman tenses up again, nearly quivering as Elecman's hands move. There it is again. That same on edge sensation. It's hard to tell how much of it is from the slight surge and how much is from his distrust of his partner. If Elecman upped the ampage he could do real harm. "Sorry but I'm not feeling this 'building,' I just feel like my legs are connected to a live wire, how is this supposed to be enjoyable exactly?"

Elecman frowns. "You're not relaxing is the problem." He stops the charge completely, sighing. "What more do you need me to do? I'm already pinned beneath you. How much less dangerous must I be?"

"Hm..." Protoman tries to think of something. Then a question occurs to him. One that he's been meaning to ask for a while. "That mask... is it your face...? Or is there anything underneath there?"

He looks at Elecman expectantly, waiting for a response that is slow to come.

Elecman sighs before reaching to his mask. He slides it back over his head without any fanfare. What is revealed is a face as human as Protoman's, with a crop of spiky black hair on top.

Blues's eyes widen behind his shades. "...Huh..." Before he realizes what he's doing he's running his fingers through the smooth jet black locks. "...Your hair looks a lot nicer than mine."

! Before Elecman really has the time to register a blush finds its way to his face, so taken aback is he by the thoughtful touch. "N-no… Your hair is cute…" He brushes the compliment off. "I bet your eyes are too."

Blues's smile drops and he turns his gaze away.

"…..? Well you see my face." Elecman hedges. "Now I think I deserve to see yours."

"Er… I mean… you see my face. Most of it. Why do I have to take off my shades?"

Elecman frowns back. It would be fair is why. He isn't covering his eyes…. But he doesn't press the subject now.

"Well erm... anyway…" Blues continues when he gets no response. "I uh... right. I'll... try to relax..." he mutters.

He untangles his fingers from the electric bot's hair and forces himself to let go of his tension.

Elecman's unamused mask breaks and he giggles at Protoman's embarrassment. This time his hands go to the backs of his thighs to feel at the subtle curve of his rear as well as his legs. He doesn't immediately start the charge flowing again.

Blues grunts a bit as he's felt over but decides if Elecman is going to be touching him he might as well return the gesture, if only to try to make his companion uncomfortable. Of course, he doesn't really know how to do it well so he starts with his hands on Elecman's neck, stroking them down the curve of the bot's shoulders.

"Ooh..." That causes a few sparks to jump from him almost outside of his control.

;alskdfjasdf

Blues freaks out slightly at the jumping sparks.

"Whoopsy~"

Blues's cheeks color again. "H-hey what's that all about? I thought we agreed no funny business." He pouts, but he's not seriously upset.

"My apologies." Elec winks with a teasing grin. "That can happen when I start to get excited. It didn't hurt, did it?"

"N...no..."

"Good~"

Protoman lays down on Elecman's front. It's hard to relax when he is sitting up. This causes their faces to be close together. But actually... its kind of nice... Having a warm body pressed against his front and all. And laying down reminds him of his fatigue and leads him to relax even more.

Elecman has no problem with his. His hands start going up and down Protoman's back, letting little tiny bolts of charge creep up and down his spine.

"...mmnhg..." Protoman ...is definitely starting to get something. The charge creeping up through his back isn't quite making him tense... it doesn't hurt... but he does feel something.

"Hmmm~? We're onto something now..."

"Aagh... Yeah I... I'm definitely starting to get something." Blues is actually starting to feel it collecting down in his... oh...

Seeing that progress is being made, Elecman allows himself the privilege to have a bit more fun and more freely explore Protoman's frame. His hands slide back around his sides and to his front, rubbing over his chest and his stomach while letting out more gentle sparks all over him.

Protoman 's thighs come together and squeeze a little bit around the pooling charge while he looses a few involuntary moans. The friction of the touches... they feel... "Oh... okay you... you may be onto something hrrgh... h-here..." He exvents in a pant. It's starting to heat his frame too.

"Come here." Elecman giggles. Oh goodness he is so adorable. His hands slide up to Protoman's neck. They slowly make their way up, tickling him with every move, until they reach his cheeks.

"Ah!" Blues's back arches into Elecman's touch and he closes his eyes as he gasps at the sensation creeping through him, warming his body and prickling and pooling in odd places.

Elecman pulls Protoman's face closer, but it is an act with little force. More of a quiet beckoning than a demand. "Will you let me have your first kiss too~?"

Blues's blushing face is squnched up but at that request his eyes fly open wide.

"Wha!?" His breath trembles. "H...hey now." He looks aside. "I thought this was just supposed to be recreational."

"Oh come on. Kissing doesn't have to mean anything. You're so old-fashioned."

Protoman doesn't know if he wants to... well more accurately he kind of feels like he wants to, but he doesn't know if his judgement is inhibited from all this charge. Elecman's lips look soft... They would probably feel good on his tingling body... Some kind of noise comes out of his mouth, but it is not really a word, it is more of a mix between a squeak and a gurgle.

"I can kiss places other than your lips if it will make you feel better." Elec winks seductively.

"…." Blues gulps and nervously clears his throat.

"Dammit, you are getting me excited," the bot under him hisses softly as he watches the ghosts of emotions he's trying to hide flit across Protoman's normally stoic face.

"Well um... if you insist I suppose we could do something." Blues allows. He tries to sit back up a bit on Elecman's frame but in the process their groins come together and it's like the charge building there skyrockets from a combination of the friction and the proximity of their pools of charge. "AH!"

Elecman happily moans with him. "Now you're getting it~" He shifts his hips to rub against the other bot. Now his growing excitement is translating in the way his bolts travel more quickly and erratically through Protoman's frame.

"Aaagh... nngh..." Protoman wishes he could take control of the situation instead of mewling like a helpless kitten, but there is really not much he can do. Elecman is the one in control of the power so he just has to ride it out while his partner does what he wills. God though this is getting intense. He's never experienced anything like this. He can really feel what Elecman meant... the building... the pooling up of something. Some delicious, smoldering tension. It is makes him feel like his whole body is being compressed like a spring ready to pop, but the tension is sublime... His vocalizations become noisier as it intensifies. He is unconsciously rubbing against Elecman more now, grating against him for the friction it causes that adds subtly to the charge. Soon his hands are knotted up in Elecman's hair again, and he is huffing over the bot with his eyes closed.

Blues frots helplessly against Elecman's crotch with his own. The charge down there is easily the most intense. It is sending shivers through his entire frame and making him so heady that his thoughts are all blanketed as though by a thick haze.

Elecman couldn't be more pleased to see Protoman coming undone so quickly above him. His partner is growing desperate in the chase for his release, and with Protoman so distracted, that gives him every opportunity to make it worse. His hands go wherever they please, and at some point they return to his back to easily coax him into bending forward again so he can start to get a taste of him too. He starts by going right for the neck.

The red bot's breathing just gets more helplessly out of order and he can't resist as Elecman pulls him forward to kiss as his leisure. At this point things are really getting out of control. Blues mind races in circles, his only thought the ever present need to keep his charge growing. He doesn't have the experience to know when he is starting to get close, but he does feel a change as he nears the final stretch and vocalizes it to Elecman.

"S..s-something's happening!" His voice heightens to another octave as the surge starts traveling up his spine, stiffening him from head to boot. "Nnngh! Wh..what's going on!?" Blues pants helplessly as the sensation overpowers him.

"You're overloading, sweety~"

Blues's chest trembles, worry tinging his tone despite the overwhelming murk of pleasure. "W-what do I do?!

Knowing that Protoman is at his weakest, Elecman uses this opportunity to grab his partner and flip their positions so that Blues is now lying helplessly beneath him. He leans in close to his heated face. "Just enjoy the ride...and scream for me."

! The red bot is powerless to resist as Elecman dominates him and takes him home. Sparks dance off of his frame as he hits the finish line, the energy rocking through him like an eruption as he arches up into his partner. An earthquake. Flooding through his brain like a tsunami. All of that stored up energy takes him at once-

Blues couldn't contain himself if he wanted to. He screams loud and clear for his partner.

After the release, as he's coming down, his shade-covered eyes are half-lidded in ecstasy. He sinks into the bed like a limp noodle as the rerouted charge finds its grounding in the covers, mattress, pillows, and anything not insulated. The rest flows back out through the lamp wire Elecman has them grounded to. A good deal of Protoman's charge ends up hitting just where Elecman wants it. The robot master starts to moan his own symphony, but he's able to keep his head. He knows that if he overloads while still being on top of Protoman, his own rerouted charge could flow right back to him. Considering his frame was going to be recovering from its first overload, exposure to that much energy so soon could be too intense for his inexperienced partner. Elecman quickly rolls off to lay beside him in the bed to finish himself off. His waist arches higher from the bed as he rubs his own hand over his groin until, finally he gets his relief next. Being less sensitive, his overload is far less dramatic, but he still makes sure to give his partner a good show.

Blues's overheated, overstimulated frame still manages to muster a few last prickles as he watches Elecman's finish. The sight leaves him hopelessly... aroused. Arousal. It's new and yet he can quickly place it.

That was sexy.

When Elecman lays sprawled out beside him, panting as he comes down from his own high, he turns to Protoman with a grin. "Go on. Tell me how right I was."

"I um... wow." He blurts dumbly, eloquence still temporarily out of order. "You... okay I'll admit it. You were right.

...wow...

just wow."

"Heheheh. I must agree. You were great."

Protoman rolls onto his side to hide his blush from Elecman.

"Oh no, you cannot escape me that easily you adorable thing, you~" The black and yellow bot rolls over and reaches his arms out, and then the two of them are spooning.

Blues instantly tenses. He doesn't push Elecman away or knock him back but it is very obvious that in spite of their recent nearness he is not comfortable with this arrangement.

"….." Elecman sighs dejectedly and releases him, rolling onto his back.

Blues bites his lip, trying to sort out how he feels about this sudden turn of events. Now that it is over... it definitely feels like something has changed between the two of them that he hadn't anticipated. He thought he could do that and just have it be fun and recreational and not a big deal after, but expectation is not reality. He didn't expect it to be that intimate of a thing... and now he feels like he's inadvertently shared a very private part of himself with the other bot.

They stay there quietly for a time, staring at the ceiling and wall respectively. Then Elecman sighs again before suddenly sitting up. "Well! That was fun, but I had best get out of here in case your family decides to come home soon."

"O...oh... well... maybe..."

"Hm?" Elecman looks at the source of the unsure tone curiously, wondering if he wants something.

Blues still remains turned away. His voice is still rather timid when he speaks up. "Are you going to have Light work on you?"

"Huh? Oh right...that. Hm..." Elecman mulls in silence for several moments. "Iceman has seemed pretty happy with his results."

"Yeah?"

"Mhmm. But who knows? This is all around a nicer situation in general. There are plenty reasons he has to be happier."

"...True. ...but the alternative to the operation... it puts you at risk."

"Of becoming saps like the rest of you?"

"No. You know what I mean. If Wily gives an order and you are in hearing range..."

"Mm...yeah... Then I guess I may as well do it, huh? ...except wait. He's in jail now."

Blues's mouth slants back towards a frown. He rolls over and sits up to look at Elecman. "I would remind you that he has been in there before.

True enough. Elec's joking smile falls. He sighs. "Fine. I guess I'll ask about it when they all get back."

Protoman nods. And then he finds himself doing something he never would have imagined a week ago. Reassuring him about Dr. Light. "….Don't be afraid. I think I was wrong about the old man. He might just be a big marshmallow."

"Huh?"

"...nothing."

"So you're soft for him now too?"

"...I dont know okay? A lot of stuff has changed in the past week... I'm struggling to catch up."

Elecman rolls his eyes. Then he remembers his face is still exposed. He quickly tugs his mask back on.

Protoman grins just slightly at the coverup.

Elec pouts at him when his mask is secure again. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing." Blues lays back on his own bed. This is the first time he has even been on it.

"Well...I think I'll explore this place while everyone is still out." Elecman hops off of it.

"...?" Blues watches him go, curious as to what exactly he intends to 'explore'. After a moment of sitting alone he decides to reject the message his worn down battery is giving him and follow.


END OF CHAPTER

**FOOTNOTE: According to the wiki, Wily based Quickman's design was based off of Elecman's.

Chapter Text

Author's note: I can't believe I had a hand in writing this sappy garbage.


Chapter 12: Back to the Hospital

When Blues exits his bedroom, Elecman is wandering about the living room area. At that point he remembers the food that the doctor and them left out for him. "...Did you have breakfast? If you still want some you can have mine."

"...huh?" Elecman inclines his head towards him.

Blues fits his own helmet back on. "Breakfast." Blues nods towards the kitchen.

Elecman raises an eyebrow but goes to check it out. Protoman watches him as he goes in and inspects the offering. Meanwhile he bothers at his battery. It's feeling kind of lowish even though he has plenty of fuel. He needs to boost off of another power source again... He has to stop himself from immediately thinking "boost off of Rock". He can go plug into a regular power source now.

"Wow...I've been missing out." Elecman comments after a cautious bite of a half-stale cinnamon roll. "Human food is great!"

"Yeah? ...Glad you like it. You can have all of mine."

"What? You don't like it?"

Blues nods but he has to ask himself why. It's not that he doesn't enjoy the taste. It's more a psychological thing. For one thing there is the fact that for most of his life he has just taken the fuel packs and so solid food is just a new beast to him. And when he did try it in the past it was a last resort. One that made him violently, violently sick. Maybe it's part hypochondria. After all he was a prototype robot. And there are still the ongoing issues with his power core. Perhaps some part of him worries that it will further damage his already 'broken" systems. And maybe the other part is being afraid of getting too comfortable. After all…. He doesn't really intend to stay here long term. Soon he'll go back to living on his own and human food will go back to being a luxury he can't afford.

"Nah... doesn't quite work for me." Protoman reclines on the couch and closes his eyes again. Uuugh... he's been sleeping and sleeping and he already feels like sleeping again...

Elecman shrugs and happily downs Blue's plate, getting his tank more filled than he usually can. Then he plops down beside the red bot. "Recharging would probably be a good idea after what we've done."

"Ugh... so you're at fault for this drowsiness, huh?" Protoman baps him lightly. Then he gets an idea. "...can you tell what capacity bots are running at? How charged their cores are?"

"...Huh? Hmmm... I'd need some sort of connection." Elec muses. "You know, I could probably give you a boost too." He wouldn't mind.

Blues purses his lips. "I dunno if I want to go to all that trouble." It's really more that he doesn't want Elecman having access to his vital components. "A touch won't work to tell?"

"Hmm," Elecman puts his hands on Protoman's arms. Blues stays still.

"...Well?"

"Judging by the energy running through your extremities...I would estimate you are functioning at around 80%"

"80... okay." Protoman sighs. Just about that time the door lock clicks and the rest of their folks come bustling back in.

Elecman instinctively gets up and moves away from the others just as Rock comes barreling through to give his brother a hug. "Blues! You're finally awake!" He looks between his brother and the black and yellow form retreating from them and lowers his voice. "Did Elecman behave?" He mutters

Protoman internally sweatdrops but nods. "Uh... yeah. No problems." Blues looks away self-consciously as he remembers how little of a problem they had. Gotta keep that on the down low.

"...okay. Good."

"Um... how was your morning out?" Blues changes the subject. "Ice man... he's fine now?"

Roll clings to "Icy" as they walk in through the door. "Yep! He's really nice!"

The arctic robot master smiles and blushes. "I'm trying my best..."

"No really! You're doing great!" She encourages.

"Th-thank you, ma'am."

Light smiles and walks over to put a hand on his eldest's head. "How are you feeling? I'm told you went through quite an experience... is there anything I can do for you?"

Protoman averts his eyes and shakes his head. "I um... I just need to charge up and I can be off."

"What?" Rock's face falls. "You're gonna leave?"

"I've stuck around here enough lately, Rock" Blues mutters.

Dr. Light frowns. Already trying to escape again. He turns his gaze on Elecman. "And how about you? Are you alright?"

"Why, I'm just fine, Doctor."

Rock is still stuck on the Blues issue. He looks deeply saddened. "You just got here...and I've missed you so much."

Blues frowns sheepishly. "I'll um... come back and visit..."

"Really?!" Rock brightens instantly.

Elecman snickers off to the side.

Protoman frowns and looks away, not answering either of them.

The old doctor chuckles mildly. "Ah... glad to hear you're alright, Elecman... you know when you are ready we can operate to remove Wily's programming. Whenever it suits you, just let me know."

"Ah... then I guess I may as well get it over with."

"Oh?"

Both Blues and Light look surprised. Blues especially didn't expect that to be so quick.

"Well... right then! I shall move to my lab to begin prepping." The doctor "scampers" off leaving the kids with rule of the house.

Elecman turns to Blues. "What's so surprising?"

"...I dunno, I just thought you'd be more..." More reluctant like him? Less likely to allow himself to be tampered with? "...I didn't think you were really up for it."

"Well... You said that I'd have to worry about Wily forever if I didn't. I'm choosing the lesser of two evils."

Blues clears his throat nervously. "G...good for you

"Come now Elecman... shall we?" The doctor pokes his head back in the door. Light leads him out the door toward his new life.

Protoman shivers as Iceman sits down beside him on the couch to gab with Roll. Being near him kind of feels sitting near an open fridge. He eavesdrops on the conversation for a while, watches the window darken as night covers the city. Eventually he goes back to wondering over Elecman's fate...

And then he curses himself.

Elecman is down there alone with Doctor light. If he wanted to pull something it would be way too easy. He picks up his shield and dashesLout the door headed for where he hopes Light will be.

If he let that guy gain his trust just by overloading a few capacitors he swears...

But when he busts into the lab minutes later there is no dramatic scene. There is no ransom note. There is just Doctor Light with Elecman on a table. The doctor is fiddling around with some of the processing components and loading a version of the original coding when Blues arrives.

"Ah... Hello there Blues... Is something the matter?"

The red bot just stares ahead, shocked that there ISN'T something the matter.

"Er... Well... No. I guess not."

Light tilts his head. "Did you think there might be?"

"Well... I just realized that we let you go off with Elecman and..."

Lights eyes widen in realization. "Ah... And you didn't trust him not to try something?"

Blues nods.

"That was perhaps an astute concern... Luckily it appears it was unnecessary. Elecman willingly submitted to this, nervous though he was."

Sighing softly in relief, Blues walks over to the other side of the room. While he's here he might as well work on his core. He hooks himself into one of the charging stations.

Now that he already knows what needs fixing and has "practiced" this procedure before, Light works quickly and quietly. The fixed code without the Wily master override is loaded and the doctor only has to rewire the personality inputs to get rid of the suppressants the other doctor placed. It takes about ten minutes, but when he is done he spends another ten minutes testing things out to make sure there are no anomalies before he closes Elecman's head and powers him back up, Blues watching all the while.

Blues is the first to talk to him when he powers back on. "How you feeling Shocks?"

"Huh?"

Elecman blinks at him. "What did you just call me?"

"Shocks"

The doctor helps Elecman sit up, placing a gentle hand against the boy's back. "Easy... Take things slow if you feel dizzy or uncomfortable."

He nods and waves the doctor off, looking mildly annoyed. "Elecman or even just Elec will do fine, Blues. Mm...I feel fine though. Practically unchanged."

The doctor smiles. "That's good! Just keep me updated. If anything feels strange or wrong I'll have a look and do what I can."

Blues shrugs about the rejected nickname. "Oh by the way... The doctor did everything he could but sadly the operation was a failure... He couldn't turn you into a good person. Your scummy personality is hard coded in."

Elecman looks three times less amused. "I'm sure he is used to such failures after dealing with you."

Light looks between them, appalled by what they are saying and not realizing it is playful banter. "Protoman that's enough. Please don't be unkind to your sibling."

"Excuse me?" Elecman looks to the doctor next. "We are not brothers. Don't go expecting us to cuddle like he and the kid constantly do."

"Wha? I er... N-no I didn't mean... It's just..." the doctor fumbles.

Elec sighs. " Relax, old man." He runs a hand over his head only to feel his hair between his fingers. Then he realizes his mask has been removed.

"Ah... Here you are." Light hands it back to him. "Sorry. I needed it off to get to the latch on your head"

"Right...understandable." He quickly slips it back on, looking slightly self-conscious.

Protoman smirks, amused to find at least one of his traits mirrored by Elecman. Neither of them like to have their faces seen.

"So um...is that it then?" Elec looks around expectantly.

Light nods. "That's it! Unless you notice any problems that I need to check, you are free to do whatever you please!"

"Yeah" Blues agrees. "So... What do you plan to do now, huh?"

"I...um..." Elecman is… unsure. He's always been so set on getting free reign of his affairs that he never really thought past that. He looks back up to the doctor. "What was I meant to do?"

"W...well... I um... Originally... You were... Made to assist people... With your electrical abilities you can safely make repairs to electrical equipment, work on live power lines, and do many other things that humans cannot..." The doctor can already feel the rejection of his function coming.

"...hm...I see." Elecmans face is impassive.

"Y...you have the power to choose though... I... If you don't want to do that... You've suffered more than enough, I can understand why you wouldn't want to spend any more time in the service of people..."

Elecman looks down. "Well I mean...I ought to have something to do. I'm meant to have a purpose, aren't I?"

"Of course." Light smiles and places a hand on his shoulder-a fatherly gesture. "You are thinking metaphysically... And that is good. It means you are on the right track. It is true that I built you with my own purposes in mind... But now that you have form and sentience of your own you are free either to accept that plan, reject it... Or find some balance in-between. But I think you will always find there are an abundance of things to do.

Elecman decides not to brush his hand away. "In-between could work..."

The doctor grins even wider, happy that this talk has gone so differently than he anticipated. But as Blues watches them, he is not sure how to feel.

# # # # # # # # # # # # #

Later, Blues relaxes drowsily on the lab table as his energy levels slowly rise up to 90% and creep their way closer to 100.

With doctor Wily behind bars, his systems fixed (save for the shoulder that Shadowman sliced up) and his family safe... What is there for him now? He'll go back to the city of course... Continue his various projects tidying up around town... Reading... Learning... Wiping out stray sniper joes..."

Huh... He feels like he is forgetting something important but he can't remember what it is...

...

Protoman eventually gets up as he nears his full charge and walks back to the apartment.

Rock is in the living room when he makes it. He smiles to him. "Hi there, Blues. How is Elecman?"

"He... Seemed to be okay."

Blues walks up to the window and stares outside.

"Elecman wanted to be shown what kind of work he could do... So Light took him out to the city power plant. Don't know when they'll be back. They left about an hour ago. ...and what have you been doing hm? I haven't really been filled in on what happened since... The incident. Or how you guys got ahold of Iceman."

"Oh, well, that was easy. He had been locked in a closet at the hospital. They called Dad to tell him, and we picked him up. I um...I haven't been doing much really. I wanted to go look for you, but Dad said we needed to have faith in you and stay home to wait for things to calm down. The last thing I really did was when I fought Bass and threw him in the trash.

"Iceman...he was at the hospital? But I didn't lock him up... I locked up Shadowman... Why would Shadow man tie him up and leave him there instead? Did the hosp-..."

Hospital.

HOSPITAL.

Blues picks up his shield and dashes out the door like he's on fire.

HOW DID HE FORGET TODAY IS HOSPITAL DAY!?

"...Blues?!" On instinct, Rock hops up and follows after him, assuming that there is danger that s got Blues in such a hurry.

The red bot dashes like his life depends on it, trying to figure out the quickest way to get there. SHIT. Shit how did he forget!? Why wasn't this the first place he returned to? Maggie, Sylvia... He put them all in danger and hasn't even gone back to make sure that they are okay. Blues could scream.

Megaman almost can't even keep up. He ends up trailing behind his brother, too far back to even try asking him what's wrong.

Blues is so distracted he does not notice he has a follower and so anxious he doesn't slow down as he leaves the university behind and delves deeper towards the center of town where the hospital is located. He runs straight into the lobby, skidding to a halt at the front desk and scaring Ethyl half to death. She screeches.

"ETHYL! Ethyl is everyone okay!? Did anyone get hurt!? Sylvia! Where is she?"

Megaman manages to make it a few moments later. He stops inside the doors, panting hard. "Wh...Blues...what's wrong...?" He looks around, expecting something to be wrong, but everything looks fine to him.

The woman shrieks again when she realizes who's standing in front of her.

"Protoman! Oh gracious! Is it really you!?" She practically dives over the desk to hug him.

"...?" Rock watches the scene, fascinated. People know Protoman here?

Ethyl grabs ahold of his face and searches him over for injury. "Oh bless you boy we thought you'd been carted off and brainwashed and turned into one of those bad robots!"

"Th... The kids are they…? Maggie... What happened?"

"Shhhh." She hugs him tighter. "Fine... They're all fine... Even Maggie she... Oh Protoman..."

The woman gets all emotional again and he stares at her concerned. "She what?" His core hammers wildly in his chest.

"She's going to be okay... They checked her out yesterday. All signs of the cancer are gone. They think she's going to make a full recovery."

A tight knot that's been wound in his stomach for a while finally comes undone.

Everything's okay. Somehow it's really okay.

"Oh my the kids..." Says Ethyl. "They've gone back to their rooms now... But we need to let them know you are alright they've been worried too!"

Ethyl finally looks behind Protoman and gasps when she sees Megaman. "EEEK! It's a robot master!"

Protoman nearly jumps out of his own skin as he whips around but it's only Rock. "Ack! N-no it's not this is a good one it's…" Rock. Rock is here. Oh god.

! Megaman tenses. Something tells him he is not wanted here. He's about to back out when another nurse comes into the lobby. "Oh my goodness it's you! The boy who saved me from that awful robot?"

He spots Sylvia. "U-Um..." Rock shuffles on his feet and opens his mouth to try and explain himself when Sylvia is suddenly giving him a hug. "Oh thank you, thank you young man! You're such a brave little boy!"

While Rock is being hugged, Protoman... hides behind Ethel's desk so she won't see him, ashamed.

"Y-...you're welcome, ma'am. I was glad to help." Rock stammers.

Ethel is no help, unfortunately. "Sylvia, you say this boy saved you? Protoman, do you two-hey what are you doing here?"

"Sshhh I'm not here."

"Protoman?" Sylvia looks up to try to find him. "Is he here? He's okay?"

"..." Blues slowly rises from his hiding place to meet both Sylvia's and Rock's gazes. "H...hello..." He timidly steps out from behind the desk and walks up to her, looking for signs of harm caused by Bass. He's relieved when he sees none.

In an instant he is wrapped in the nurse's arms as well. "Oh Protoman, I'm so glad you are alright. We were all scared to death that those robots did something terrible to you." She loosens her grip and looks back to Megaman. "Is this a friend of yours?"

"We're-" Rock answers before catching himself. He's not sure if Protoman would want anyone to know of their relation to each other. "We know each other."

"And what can I call the boy who saved me while Protoman was here to protect everyone inside?"

"Megaman, ma'am." Her eyes flash in recognition.

"...are you okay, miss?"

"Ah yes. I'm fine." She pats Protoman's shoulders as she stands back up. "So Megaman, are you here to visit the children as well?"

Megaman stares at his brother. "Is...is that what Protoman is here for?"

Sylvia nods. "I'm sure he's eager to check that they're all okay too."

"Um..." Megaman looks unsure how to answer. Would Blues want him to come along?

Blues sweat-drops profusely. Busted. He has been discovered. Mayday. Maydaaaaay.

Sylvia's smile begins to falter when neither boy answers her.

Blues is so pale he looks like he's just seen a ghost. He stays quiet.

Without thinking, Megaman runs up to him with a look of concern. "Protoman are you feeling okay?" This gets Sylvia to take a look at him as well.

Right about that time, though, there's another screech. A much shriller one than Ethyl's.

"ITS PROTOMAN HE'S ALIVE!"

The ward lobby abruptly floods with children from nearby rooms well enough to be out of bed.

The red bot is dogpiled by child after child and half carried half dragged further into the hospital as Ethyl berates the children for leaving their rooms. However it's a half-hearted scorn. She goes to open back up the community playroom and allows them to go inside. There's still a little while before bedtime.

The change is almost instantaneous. Even if his brother is watching, Blues has a crowd to please.

"Th...that's right! It's me, Protoman! And my trusty sidekick mr... Kitty... Wh-who couldn't make it today!" Shit he forgot the cat too he's really fucking up today. But the kids don't seem to mind overly.

"PROTOMAN THE HOSPITAL GOT ATTACKED"

"DID DOCTOR WILY BRAINWASH YOU!?"

"WAS MR. KITTY KIDNAPPED?"

"THERE WAS A GUY HERE WITH FIRE FOR HAIR BUT I THREW UP ON HIM AND HE RAN AWAY!"

Indoor voices are out the door. More and more kids start to flow in to see their hero.

They end up in the playroom with Protoman sitting on stage as he is bombarded by question after question.

"WHAT HAPPENED!?"

"Did you beat up the zappy man?"

"Who was the blue guy you shot at!?"

"Was it Megaman?"

Some of them start to notice that said blue guy is in the room with them and the children keep a cautious distance.

"There he is!"

"Who is he?"

"He's a robot right?"

Sylvia smiles and nudges Rock forward. "Kids, this is Megaman." He gives a shy smile and wave.

"..."

There's a collective uproar as half of the children hide behind Protoman and the other half hurl scorn. A few even hurl toys.

"GO AWAY BAD MAN!"

"Protoman GET HIM!"

"DONT LET HIM HURT US!"

Sylvia and Megaman are both shocked as the kids begin yelling and tossing things at him. She has to move aside and leave the poor boy to being pelted. Poor Rock looks heartbroken. "B... But I'm not..."

"Children!" Sylvia shouts, looking to them all in disappoint. "What do you think you are doing?!"

Rock looks to his big brother in confusion, but he makes the mistake of moving his arm that had been protecting his face down. One big plastic action figure gets him in the eye. "Oof!" The blow is practically a breeze to what he can handle, and he's only knocked back a step. "YEAH I GOT HIM!" One boy shouts triumphantly. "Oh dear!" Sylvia pulls Megaman close to her and checks his face for any bruising. "Oh no, you poor thing. I don't know what's gotten into any of them. Are you alright?" There is no sign of damage, and Megaman barely even felt any pain from it, but there are still tears welling up in his eyes.

"It's f-fine, ma'am. I should just go."

"STOP!" It is Blues, who jumps of the small stage and shields his brother from the onslaught. Once he gets in the way the kids stop throwing things and look on in confusion.

"B...but he's evil! He fights you!"

Blues looks back at his teary-eyed brother grimly. This is his fault. "...are you okay?"

Rock tries desperately to wipe the tears from his eyes. "I'm f-fine..." When he hears one of them mention their past fights, his eyes widen a bit. "They think I'm a bad guy..."

Protoman bites his lip. "I... I'm sorry kid... It's my fault..." He shrinks away, ashamed.

"Wh...what do you mean...?"

The kids don't know what they're watching. It looks like their hero is apologizing to a crooked villain. Finally one of them speaks up. "Protoman... Aren't you gonna tell us how you saved the world this week?"

Megaman takes a step back. "Go on. They want to see you."

Blues purses his lips, mortified. "I... I'll explain afterwards... Can you just give me an hour or two? I'll make this right..."

fakes a smile. "Sure. I'll be back home. Have fun." But his older brother isn't fooled.

Blues frowns. " I... y-you can... Stay if you really want..."

"I...n-no they don't wanna see me..."

"..." Protoman clears his throat and takes on a different, confident voice.

"Stand down, citizens! I won't stand for you harming... My new ally!"

There's a collective gasp.

"YOU teamed up with MEGAMAN?"

"Correct!"

"D-does that mean he's a good guy now?"

"CORRECT AGAIN! And I'll tell you exactly how it happened! Gather around everyone!"

He goes and gets back up on stage while Megaman is surrounded by curious tots.

"Oooh... Do you have an arm blaster? How did you stop being bad? Did you really save Mrs. Sylvia?"

Rock's eyes widen at the sudden attention. "U-uh...yeah...I did. And uh y-yeah, I have a blaster. I call it my mega buster. Um...how did I stop being bad? Well um...I'll let Protoman tell you that." He chuckles nervously.

And tell he does. Protoman starts off with his usual recap for all the kids newly admitted to the hospital-his tragic tale of woe. He, Protoman, is actually a crime fighting robot! Created by Doctor Wily and Doctor Dark, Protoman knew from the start that he had to save the world from evil. However his design was tragically flawed, leaving him with a critical weakness-a fatal power core flaw. But despite his illness he's continued to pursue his life's calling to aid the people of Mega City and thwart crime! However tragedy struck when he realized that the evil plaguing the city was caused by his own two creators—Dr. Wily and the corrupted Dr. Dark. The tale of mystery and intrigue continues on with the mysterious matter of MEGAMAN. Doctor Dark's soldier of doom and Protoman's arch nemesis... Or perhaps a double agent? Megaman's spotty past and history of both good and evil deeds provide no answers...

After noting Mr. Kitty pants the super-powered feline sidekick he dives into where they left off last week... Wily betrayed him, Megaman teamed up with him to stop Bass, and Dr. Dark was injured in the destruction of his secret lair, causing him to have amnesia and revert to Dr. Bright, the good scientist who fixed him up. Protoman had just gotten a new lair of his own and left the hospital last week when disaster struck-his own new base was demolished in revenge by Wily's gang and Protoman was buried under the rubble! For three days and three nights he was trapped in darkness, unable to escape, when who should rescue him but... MEGAMAN!? His nemesis rushed him back to Bright, fending off an attack from Bass and the whole SWARM of robot masters! And when Protoman woke again the doctor had not only repaired his injuries but Megaman had saved his life by donating power to Protoman from his own energy core.

By this point in storytime, Megaman has a small pile of children oogling at him. One little girl wraps her arms around his neck and hugs him.

"I'm so glad... I'd always hoped you were really a good guy..."

"I-I..." Rock stammers and blushes.

Protoman looks over at him. Uh oh... Is Rock gonna be okay? Megaman's face goes red. He's getting embarrassed by all the attention.

Even with all of the children ogling him, Megaman doesn't let himself miss a word of Protoman's story. He hangs off each word just as much as they do. It's amazing-not just his way of storytelling, but the way he acts around these kids. This is a completely different side to his brother that he's never seen before, and how long has it existed? The way the children act, it seems as if he's been coming to see them for a long time. Was he visiting children at the hospital even before Megaman truly accepted him as his brother? Was he doing it when the only name he knew him by was Breakman?

Protoman's story grows even more engrossing as the bond between he and Megaman grows over the next few days that they spend together and Protoman finally starts to accept that he's "not evil" and begins to see why he did what he did in the past. Blues flushes a bit as he's telling that part of the tale, embarrassed, but keeps trying to make up for all of his former slander by spinning Rock as a truly good guy. And then...

And then tragedy strikes again when he hears that the hospital has been raided.

He and his long lost brother rush to the scene! But gasp... Dr. Sylvia and everyone have been kidnapped!

The kids are really excited now. This is the part they remember.

"You-you snuck in through the back to save us and fought that Shadow guy!" One kid blurts out. "I saw the security footage on the news! You make him think he's got you and then you got him instead!"

Rock's eyes widen. He's very interested to hear this all as well. This is the part of the story he doesn't know.

Protoman nods. "You see... Megaman stayed outside to face Bass and rescue Dr. Sylvia alone as a distraction... Meanwhile I planned to come up from behind and finish off the rest of them.

But it was a trap. The robot masters were waiting in ambush." He whispers sinisterly. Much gasp from the audience. "I fought and I tangoed, but Shadow man was too fast and tricky! So finally I fell to the ground and he thought I was dead! Once I knocked him out with my SUPER strength I tied him up and left him in the closet before running to the ward to save the day! But I was ambushed. Again. This time by a bot even more crafty and evil than Shadow."

A timid voice speaks up from the audience and everyone turns to see the auburn haired girl with freckles and bandages around her head. "It... It was Elecman..." Says Maggie. "H...he held me hostage."

Rock frowns. "That's awful..."

Protoman sighs. There she is... Her voice is soft, but she looks so much better. Her skin looks like it is starting to get some color back, and they actually have her off of the IV. He motions her up to center stage with him. "That's right everyone. That bad bot captured Maggie! But you know what? She was VERY brave. And she remembered the motto, didn't you?"

Mags nods. "N...never give up."

"Never surrender." Protoman agrees, putting a hand on her shoulders.

"FIGHT TO THE FINISH!" The other kids yell out. They know this too. "PROTOMAN FOREVER!"

Megaman gets a huge smile. Protoman has really inspired these kids. It touches him so much that for the second time today, he starts sniffling.

"And that..." Says Protoman. "Is why from now on, YOU Maggie... Are my new side kick. Because never once in the face of danger did you give up..." He murmurs close to her.

"AND." He booms. "She managed to distract Elecman for me and escape! She did great! Round of applause everyone!"

Not a person in the room refrains from clapping.

"Sadly... Even though Maggie did such a great job... Elecman was still too powerful. He used his electrical surges to overwhelm me and before I knew it? He grabbed me by the helm... And shocked the life almost straight out of me!"

This is another part that they remember collectively... Many of them saw firsthand as their lifeless hero was dragged through the hospital halls. This part only makes Rock more sad.

When I finally came too... We were outnumbered... Outmatched. I knew there was only ONE thing I could do... Even though it pained me...

This is the part Rock wants to hear most. He leans in. A few children are actually in tears when Protoman attacks Megaman so soon after they had become partners. One girl buries her face in Rock's lap and clings to him, but by the time Blues has successfully infiltrated Wily's lab and fooled the evil doctor they are all out for blood. It is an incredible surprise when Elecman, of all bots, reveals that he has known all along that Protoman's turn to the dark side is a ruse and agrees to help to secure his own freedom. And soon... Slowly... The whole room of children are empathizing with the brainwashed robot masters... So it's quite a celebration when Protoman escapes with Elecman and they blow Wily's complex sky high. "I knew it was you!" Several kids cry out. "We knew that when we saw the doctor was arrested on the news you must have been responsible!"

Rock blushes when he gets a girl in his lap, and he gives her a few nervous pats. He is a part of the audience's collective reactions. By the time Blues is finished, he is smiling at his brother with immense pride.

After the main action it is all wrap up from there. Shadowman and Bass are mysteriously vanished... Iceman was found in Shadow's place and became the first robot master freed from Wily's control, followed shortly thereafter by Elecman, which all the children become extremely excited about. Everyone wants to know if they can come next week. And finally... The long lost brothers reunite. Knowing his audience loves reenactments, Blues beckons Rock to the stage, holding his arms out wide.

Rock blushes in surprise. "H-huh?"

"C'mon... Don't be shy..."

"Goooo" kids push on Megaman. "go make up with hiiiim!"

Rock stands up and makes his way to the stage. Some of the kids grin, amused that someone who can fight scary guys can be so nervous to get on a stage.

"O-okay okay I'm going!" He stammers. He gets up on stage and fidgets in front of his brother.

Protoman helps him up onto the lift an immediately pulls him into a hug amidst the chorus of of "d'aww"s, cheering, and applause. Ethyl is actually crying in the back.

And she isn't the only one who looks a bit tearful. Megaman squeezes his arms tight around his brother and buries his face against him. After they break from their embrace all the kids are eager to talk to Megaman and see what he is about

He gets dogpiled by over half the crowd since he is the shiny new person and Protoman gets to spend some time talking to Maggie.

"Ethyl told me the good news... You're gonna be okay, huh?"

She nods and smiles. "It's all thanks to you..."

"Nah... You did it yourself. You didn't give up. I'm so proud of you."

He hugs the smaller body. At least one little girl got better. If he was able to help in some small way... He's glad. He shares a glance with Sylvia across the room. She watches him knowingly.

of the girls asks "Megaman, why are you crying?" The boy is indeed sniffling and rubbing at his eyes. "Ah...I-I'm sorry. It's just so nice that Protoman has been coming here to see you guys. And it makes me feel bad...because there was a time when I just thought he was a jerk...but he's been visiting you guys this whole time while I never even thought to do anything like that...so I guess I was the real jerk all along."

After storytime, playtime commences and Protoman has a chance to talk to Rock again. "Um... I'm sorry about that... How you were treated earlier. I hope this makes it right..."

"Y-yeah, it's fine." Rock stammers. "You don't have to apologize for anything. "

"I um... Hm..." Blues prickles with embarrassment again. Rock knows what he's been up to now. "S... So how lame am I... Huh?"

"What? You're not lame at all!"

Blues blinks. "...really? I just thought with... The performance and all... ...it's just it makes the kids feel better apparently."

"It's so sweet, Blues...I'm so proud of you..."

Blues blinks and straightens. "P...proud?" He gruffs. "Hmph... Who do you think you are to be proud of me? You're not my father..."

"O-oh...y-...you're right..." the younger boy is taken aback. Oh no, he went and offended him again. "I'm sorry..."

"…I'll let you off with a warning this time," Blues softens.

"O-okay." It's like the bot has suddenly been deflated. It only proves how much power Blues has gained over Rock's mood. Blues sighs. Great. He got prickly again and upset the kid.

Maggie creeps back over to see Megaman looking skittish, her eyes as round as an owl's. "Uh... Um... Mr. Mega, sir? Can I get a picture with you?"

He moves Megaman to his lap and the. Picks Maggie up and puts her in Rock's lap, taking her small cell phone and getting a selfie of all of them.

"H-huh? You want a picture...with me?" Considering how many other kids have asked this very question in his life, it shouldn't surprise him as much as it does. But he definitely doesn't expect his big brother to put them both in his lap to take it. Protoman grins at the girl and moves Megaman to his lap, then picks Maggie up and puts her in Rock's lap. He takes her small cell phone and gets a selfie of all of them. Rock is only able to get over his shock to smile for the picture at the last second.

Maggie giggles and runs off with her picture to show her other hospital friends.

Meanwhile Blues lays his head on top of Rocks, keeping the other boy on his lap.

Rock is nervous as can be. He tries not to show it, though, nor does he make any comment lest doing so upset his brother further. "...S-so...how long have you been coming here?

"...a little over a year..."

"Wow..."

Rock folds his hands in his lap and stares at them. "I was so wrong about you..."

"...It was a two way street." Blues comforts.

"I dunno...I get the hero treatment, but I didn't even know these kids existed before today."

"Yeah well... Don't tell this to my fans... But I don't like hospitals. I used to actively avoid them... So I understand. ...but I sort of got reeled in to this one."

He feels Rock tilt his head curiously under his chin.

"...you looked through the pictures on my camera, right?"

Rock gulps hard, his mechanical heart pounding. "N...no..."

"... Oh... Well... Nevermind." Blues says.

"…I lied." Rock's voice quavers as he owns up at last and prays his brother will be forgiving. "I did look."

"Eh? Wh…" :I "You little…" Protoman prods him. Trying to lie to keep out of trouble.

"I'm sorryyyyy I thought you'd be mad if you knew I looked! You made me promise not to mess with your stuff..."

"Yeah well... I figured you had probably peeked. ….Do you remember the pictures of the little girl?"

"Hm? Oh right...that was the one...Maggie, right?"

Blues's mood takes a plunge. His eyes unfocus. "Her name was Clarisse."

"Oh..." Rock's eyes widen when he realizes something. "...was?"

"...I saved her one time when sniper Joes attacked a local museum... It would have been three, maybe four years ago. She got me to take a picture with her... And then she gave me the camera. It was so silly..." He remembers, a fond expression touching his face. "But she got upset when I told her I didn't have one of my own. She made me promise to take good pictures and bring them back and show her.

...and then... Well... We were too alike. We both had faulty cores. She just couldn't beat hers..."

His jaw sets as he grits his teeth, finding it hard to utter the last few words of explanation. "... She died last spring."

Rock looks crestfallen, his eyes welling back up with tears. "Blues…"

"I guess I just couldn't stop visiting the hospital. Before I knew it, I was a regular."

Megaman gives his brother another hug. "I'm sorry..."

"H-hey don't get all sobby on me." Blues frowns. He'll start crying too if someone gets him started.

"I never showed her those damn pictures..."

This just sets Rock off worse. Now the floodgates are open.

"...I did get her a cat though. I think she liked him better."

"Was it that kitty you found?"

Nope. He's talking about this too much. Dangerous territory. Blues closes his mouth and goes back to critiquing crayon drawings. "...yeah it was"

"That's great. I'm glad the kitty got a good home."

"Me too," Blues gulps, trying to force his mouth into a hard line and trying to keep from looking as torn up as he feels.

They spend a while longer before it is time to get the kids back in their rooms. Then Megaman and Protoman are free to go after they have sanitized themselves.

Megaman gives the kids and the nurses a shy farewell before they leave.

Once they are outside Protoman looks around. It's quite dark now. "Hm... What now..."

"I dunno..." Rock shrugs. "With Wily in jail...it's like I don't have anything I have to do anymore..."

"... Well there are things to do... Just... Different things."

"Yeah? Like what?"

"Like... Living your own life. Learning... Improving… Enjoying yourself. Finding something meaningful to do with your time."

"Oh...like you, right?"

"Yeah sure... Like me." He starts headed for the library.

"Maybe I could find a job to do like Elecman is doing..." Rock muses.

"Maybe... I wonder if he is still out with Light..."

# # # # # # # # # # # # #

Meanwhile elsewhere Light wears a hard hat as they are toured through the power plant, their guide listing out all the facilities and their purposes. "Right now we're working on an experimental energy silo, but it's a hard time working up and keeping enough potential in the receptor to gather a charge from the clashing cold air from the lower refrigeration units that store our liquid batteries and the exhaust heat from the coal burner... There's plenty of energy there to harvest and it's just a shame that we don't have the means right now to take advantage of it. We could be producing an extra 20% of our current daily output.

"So what do you think, Elecman?" Light prompts, "Do you understand this? Is it something that would interest you?

"Yes...I understand it. As for interest... ...it sounds like my help could be used here. " He replies diplomatically, trying to keep any excitement he may or may not feel out of it. But when they aren't looking, Elecman stares at the silo with bright eyes. So much electricity...it could be all his to wield.

Indeed, the very air around them feels charged. The doctor shivers. "Ah... This place makes me feel alive. Reminds me of my younger years when I worked in an industrial facility like this."

If it makes the doctor feel alive, it makes Elecman feel like he's in heaven. All of his sensors wake up to the charge floating around all of them. "This would be incredible." He finally can't help but admit.

"I am inclined to agree!"

"When can I start?" He eagerly asks the manager giving them the tour.

"Start? Hm... Well we can see what you can do tomorrow if you drop by... But we'll need to make sure you're prepped on company policy and see that you really do know what you're doing before we hire you."

"Alright boys, fire it up!" Someone yells. The entire enormous room they are in begins to hum as the power is turned on. "Here we go, guys" their tour guide instructs. "If you don't want to get struck by the equivalent of lightning, keep your hands on the metal railing and don't take them off. If you stay grounded you are fine but let go and we'll be serving up fried tourist later."

The room hums louder and louder and the cylindrical metal sides of the silo they're inside of begin to sing with charge. Finally there is a deafening sound as a bolt of energy crashes through the air overhead traveling up the tower in a continuous arc... And another... And another. "Running stable at 60%!" Someone yells over the din.

Light watches Elecman's fascination as high powered arcs of electricity dance above them, spiraling up towards the roof of the tower where they eventually dissipate.

The old man beams. Oh no. Here he goes again. Now he has gone and adopted two new sons. And he can already tell there is no going back.

Elecman cranes his neck to look to the top of the generator and the bolts of lightning branching from it. He has the eyes of a child looking at a giant wedding cake. So much power. So much electricity. It could be his. It has to be his.

The doc grins. "You look like Rock staring at a chocolate fudge ice cream cake. Go on. Try it out, just make sure you put it back where it belongs afterwards.

Elecman's eyes widen. "Really? You'll let me?" He can scarcely believe he's being given permission.

Light nods. "If you want to work here, I'm sure the plant employees will be interested to see what you can REALLY do."

Elecman turns to the worker giving them the tour next. He looks interested. "...sure, but if you go blowing something up or zapping my co-workers, I never gave you permission to do nothin, got it?"

Elecman beams and nods enthusiastically. "You won't be disappointed, sir. Just tell me what you need me to do."

"Well hm... We're maxed out right now at 60% of our total possible output because we haven't been able to focus the electrical arcs to achieve their maximum efficiency... If we could stabilize them somehow we could squeeze a lot more out of this generator, but we don't currently have answers on how to do that. Our engineers are working on the problem but we haven't heard from them in weeks... You have any idea how we can get that extra ampage?"

Elecman grins. "You won't be needing those engineers. Your solution has arrived." He holds up his hands and legs tiny sparks dance off his fingers.

There are exclamations of surprise as the arcs waver in the air and suddenly one of the bolts tears down from the center, zapping Elecman in a continuous stream.

! Elecman's body goes rigid, and his mouth opens as if to scream...but in the next moment, he recovers and expertly directs the bolt away from himself and the others, amplifying it with his own power as he sends it back to the generator.

There's a crash like an explosion as the bolt connects with the receptors in the the top of the tower.

Elecman looks to the top of the tower, terrified he's just destroyed something.

"AY!" Their tour guide calls up "Where did that clock in at!?"

"Uh... 85%!"

He whistles. "Wow... Up 25% with one shot? Not bad."

Elecman is grinning proudly again. "And I promise I can do better than that."

They shut the generator down overhead and as soon as the noise an energy die down Light rushes to Elecman's side and starts checking him over. "A... Are you alright!? Did you mean to be struck there? For a moment it looked like you were hurt..."

"Heh...nah, I'm fine." But light still frowns.

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. I feel great." He's not entirely sure, but he may have overloaded a little from that shock. Nobody needs to know that though.

Light frowns but sighs and lets it be. After they finish their tour, though, he still wants to take Elecman back home for examination.

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

Protoman lays down in his favorite bean bag chair at the library. He plops the spot beside himself to motion for Rock to join him as he sorts through his stack of books to pick one to read.

Rock happily takes his seat. "You come here a lot, don't you?"

"Twice a week, sometimes more if I have free time." He admits. He usually has free time. "Most of what I know that didn't come from personal experience came from the pages of a book."

Rock nods. "You must have read a lot of them. I haven't been able to read much lately..." He starts looking through Blues's stack too.

Blues finds the one he was looking for and hands it to Rock. "This is one of my other favorite books. You should try it."

The pages are yellowed to a gold color making it obvious that this book is very old, but other than that it ia in very good condition. The title reads "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Blues smiles at it fondly. It brings back memories of a much younger, much more naive version of himself.

But Rock stares at it with an odd look on his face. "Are you saying I can't make friends?" He sounds offended.

"Wh-no! No I'm not saying that! I just... It's a good book, is all... This one used to belong to me... Before I donated it to the library."

"You gave it away? Why?"

"For a stupid reason. Not important."

"Was it because you made friends with all the kids at the hospital so you didn't need it anymore?"

"No." Blues looks defensive. "L-look I'm telling you it was just a stupid reason it's not important."

"You tend to avoid telling the most important things."

Blues curls in on himself and away from Rock even more.

"I... I was just a dumb kid and I thought..." He tapers off to a mumble.

"Hmmnmmm?" Rock leans into him with interest.

Blues sighs. He's not letting it go. He tries to muster what dignity he can and finishes mumbling out "I was a dumb kid... And I use to think... I had never been in a book store before, and all the places I'd been to that had books only had one copy of each... S-so I thought... That there was only one of each. And that each one was special." His face is growing hotter and hotter. "And I thought that one was too important to keep to myself... So I d-donated it so other people could read it... I didn't realize until after that the library already had another copy of it. And... LOOK I WAS HOT OFF THE PRESS, OKAY!? How was I supposed to know!? It's not important! It's just a good book."

"...that's real nice of you to give it for other people to read." Rock looks touched by the revelation.

"Shut up." Blues growls. "It was stupid."

"It was niiiiiice." Rock presses, "Why do you get so embarrassed when you get caught doing nice things?"

"I... I don't know... I expect it to be met with scorn I guess. Wily would laugh. The robot masters would laugh... I thought you would laugh too."

Rock frowns and reaches to squeeze his brother's hand. "You hung out with them for too long."

"Maybe..." Blues allows. He opens the book and starts reading quietly to his brother. He actually doesn't have to look at the pages to know what comes next. He has the words memorized, his photographic memory as good as reading it off the page so he can watch his brother react to it. "Personally I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason fish prefer worms, so when I went fishing I didn't think about what I wanted, I thought about what they wanted. I didn't bait the hook with strawberries and cream, rather I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish and said 'wouldn't you like to have that'? Why not use the same common sense when fishing for people?"

Rock sits and listens with full attention. While the book is made for adults, he would have been able to read it as easily as Blues can, but it's much nicer to hear his brother narrating the words instead.

"What was the secret of Lincoln success in dealing with people? I studied the life of Abraham Lincoln for 10 years and devoted all of three years to writing and rewriting a book entitled Lincoln the Unknown. I believe I have made is detailed and exhaustive a study of Lincoln's personality and home life as possible. I made a special study of Lincoln's method of dealing with people. Did he indulge in criticism? Oh yes. As a young man in the pigeon Creek Valley of Indiana he not only criticized but he wrote letters and poems ridiculing people and drop these letters on the country roads were they were sure to be found. One of these letters aroused resentments that burned for a lifetime. Even after Lincoln had become a practicing lawyer he attacked his opponents openly and letters published in the newspapers but he did this just once too often. In the autumn of 1842 he ridiculed a vain politician by the name of James Shields. The tail on the roared with laughter. Shields, sensitive and proud, boiled with indignation. He found out who wrote the letter, Leap on his horse, started after Lincoln, and challenged him to fight a duel. Lincoln didn't want to fight. He was opposed to duel, but he could not get out of it and save his honor. They were prepared to fight to the death, but at the last minute, their seconds interrupted and stopped the duel. That was the most lurid personal incidents in Lincoln's life. It taught him an invaluable lesson in the art of dealing with people. Never again did he write an insulting letter. Never again did he ridicule anyone. And from that time on, he almost never criticize anybody for anything."

An hour later Blues watches as his brother's eyelids fall drowsily. Welp... Maybe it's time to go.

He checks out a few books, including the one he was reading to his brother, and they hop a bus to get back to the university.

"Hmm...thank you, Blues."

"Did you enjoy that?" he smiles pleasantly.

"I did. I enjoyed this whole day."

"Heh... glad to hear it..."

He stares out the window for a while as buildings and other cars whiz by. Perhaps it's the book he just read that brings one question searing to the forefront of his mind "...Rock? ...what do you like about me? ...why do you even like me at all after what I've done... If I were you, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near me."

Rock hums to himself, thinking how to respond. "Somehow...I knew you were different from the other masters. You were special. You may have fought me, but when you had the chance to let me get crushed by Wily's castle, you saved me instead. I knew then that there had to have been hope for you...and the more and more I've gotten to know you, the more you've proven that I was right. That despite how angry you were at me and Dad...you didn't let it stop you from doing the right thing. You protected the humans. Fought the sniper joes. Made sick kids happy...This city means as much to you as it does to me. Maybe even more. You've been a part of it while I've just...been living in a bubble, only coming out when I needed to. That's another thing about you. You're really brave. And smart. People would envy the ability to live on their own the way you have."

Blues gulps. "Rock..." That... May be one of the sweetest things anyone's ever said to him. He feels his chest fill with an unfamiliar emotion. "Th...thank you..."

"W-wait there's more... You've also got a heart big enough to love me back...cuz I wouldn't blame you if you had kept hating me for everything I did to you. Dr. Light swears I wasn't made to replace you...but I can't know that for sure. Sometimes it feels like that is what happened...that by being made, I stole your life from you...and maybe if I wasn't around, you could have lived at home with him again. You could have been the hero of Mega City. And more importantly, maybe you wouldn't have been so afraid to think of Dr. Light as your dad...

"..." Blues shudders. All the words make his heart hurt... Because some of them are the same words that have been in there all along. The doubt... The alienation...

The fact that this boy can comprehend these things and feel for him... And apologize even though he is not at fault for something he should never have to apologize for...

Blues's heart hurts with him... And for him.

He wraps his arm around his brother and pulls him close. "One good thing came of it all..."

"...I got a sweet cinnamon roll brother... Who I'm lucky to have... Who has got a big heart..."

Rock sniffles and hugs his brother back. "Thank you..."

"You don't have to apologize for existing, Rock... Please don't. You may have been created for an agenda... I was... The masters were... But just because you were made for a purpose doesn't mean that you can't choose a new one for yourself... You are whatever you want to be..."

"I don't...I don't think I want to be anyone different though. I like being Dr. Light's son...yours and Roll's brother...and I don't want to stop protecting the city."

"...see though? You already are doing something different than what you were made for... You were only supposed to be Lights helper, right? You weren't made a fighter like I was... Or a hero... But you took that role on yourself...

"Y...yeah I did...he didn't want me to do it. He wanted me to be safe...

Blues nods. "Yeah... But you were willing to sacrifice that for the wellbeing of others... That makes you a lot better than most humans."

"I don't blame them for not wanting to do what I've had to do..." Rock says, thinking back on all the pain and hardship he has suffered.

Blues leads his brother back into their apartment where everyone else is waiting, including Light and Elecman. "Oh you two are back! Welcome!" The old man greets.

Blues shares a pointed look with Elecman. "How was the day out on the town?"

"Incredible! I got a job at the power plant!"

Rock gasps. "A job? Really? That's great!"

Blues raises an eyebrow. "Well aren't you just pleased as punch...congrats"

Roll frowns at the eldest brother. "Don't you think it's good? I'm happy for him..."

"No no, you're right... It's great, I just ah... Nothing. It's nothing. Congrats. For real." So saying, Blues slips off to his room with his books. He drops them on his bedside table before preparing to sneak out and find somewhere else to be for the night. Suddenly he doesn't feel like he should be here again.

Elecman looks to Iceman next. "So are you gonna find a job too, or do you plan on living here?" Iceman frowns and fidgets. "I...I guess I haven't really thought of that..."

Roll smiles and hugs onto Iceman, patting his head. "It's okay! We can figure it out together. You can try things out, there's no rush to decide!" The smaller blue bot blushes again at all the affection and encouragement that he is so new to receiving.

Elecman waves his hand. "Oh bah. You just don't want him to leave."

Icy blushes harder.

"H-hey that's not true!" Rock protest, but then backpedals when Iceman looks hurt. She blushes. "Or maybe it is, I just… I don't wanna rush him…"

Elecman snickers at the way both of them blush. Ah, kids in love. So naive.

She clings to her hooded friend and drags him back to her room. "C'MERE!" She says a little too loud, "I gotta show you my stuffed animal friends!"

Light is left to prepare a meager meal. He doesn't do anything particularly fancy tonight, just chilled and warmed energy packs according to each bot's preference... And a slice of leftover cake for dessert.

Blues is already out his window by the time everyone else is getting ready to refuel. He thinks to himself... There's his car in the theater where he will be found... There's no building anymore... He could go stay in the shelter of the highway underpass since it looks like it will probably rain tonight, but that's always so noisy it'll be hard to get any sleep... There's a playground on the other side of town with a waterproof plastic tunnel above ground where he can sleep if it's not already occupied by someone else but it's such a long way to get there... He can't even go back to Wily's lab what with that being freshly destroyed. Hmmm...

And now that he thinks about it…. What will the other robot masters do now that their boss is in custody and they don't have a roof anymore? The news didn't mention any of them being captured along with Wily. He feels a bit bad in retrospect to have robbed them of a dry place to sleep on a stormy night like this one is shaping up to be.

Rock sits and tries to wait for his brother at the dinner table, not realizing he has disappeared under their noses. Elecman gets right to his fuel. "So. I must ask. Will I be a permanent part of this, um, home along with Iceman?"

Light looks up at him. "Well... That very much depends on you, Elecman." You certainly don't have to be if you don't want to... But if you were so inclined to stay... We can always make room.

Elecman hums. "And what could be my other options?"

"Well... If you didn't want to live here we could get you another living situation set up elsewhere... There are public charging booths and repositories for service robots where you could come and go as you pleased. I could also reserve a complex specially for robot masters to dwell when you're off work... Or really we could try to do whatever you might like... Although with the latter options, it might take a while to get situated. For now, I have to find a more permanent living situation myself. "

"Okay...I'll think about it."

Light nods. "...and if you'd like to talk it out anymore with me in private... Just let me know."

Elecman smiles faintly. "Alright. Thank you."

Roll takes her energy pack back to her room so she can play with her toys and do other hobbies. Eventually she notices Protoman outside below her window, lost in thought.

She pokes her head back into the main room. "Hey... Rock? Protoman's outside... Did he say he was going to leave again?"

Light sighs. Oh dear. Already trying to head out once more. "Children, could one of you ask him to stay? There is some damage to his frame that still needs repairing, particularly his shoulder."

Rock nods and goes to his own room to poke his head out the window. "Hey!" He calls down to Blues.

The red bot looks up. On no. He took too long to decide. "What?"

Rock gives him the biggest pout. "Were you about to leave again without even saying goodbye?"

"Er... Sorry... I'm just not great with goodbyes..."

"Well you're never gonna get good at them unless you start practicing." The boy huffs, then pauses. "Dad doesn't want you to leave yet anyway. There are still repairs you need. Like your shoulder."

"Ugh... Look that's all fine and good but I'm heading out for the night. I need some time to be alone and think-"

-BOOM-

Lightning rips through the sky above with a deafening crackle, rumbling off long into the distance. Blues nearly jumps out of his skin. In moments, there is a torrential downpour soaking the red bot.

"..." With a sigh he heads back inside. Maybe one more night will be okay...

Rock returns to the table as Blues gets back inside. Elecman moves in his seat to get a good view of the window. "Ahh. I love storms."

"Meeeh" Blues goes back to 'his' room, considering hiding under the bed. In the end though, after drying off, he settles onto it bed after pulling it as far away as he can from the window. He wants nothing to do with the lightning now flashing frequently outside. He does, however, want something to do with the plush blankets which he pulls on top of himself. Despite the unfamiliarity, it helps to sleep in it because like every other place he has slept for a long time it is not really his-just borrowed. Borrowed is familiar. But the bed itself is nice... Comfortable and wide enough for two people. He uses the space to spread out.

After he is settled down, he does not take off his helmet or shades before closing his eyes. Normally it is more comfortable to sleep without the helmet… but not during a lightning storm. Even with the closed blinds and two levels of eye cover (three if you count his eyelids) he can still faintly detect the periodic flashes. And he can hear the crashes loud and clear. After a few moments he tries grabbing a box of tissues a few into his helmet. He doesn't like thunder. It's the drawback of having military-grade sensors.

As he tries to ignore the brewing storm outside to get a few Z's.

Back in the family room, Iceman watches everyone starting to shuffle off towards bed. "Um...could I stay in your bed again?" He asks Roll timidly. "I promise I won't freeze anything..."

"O-oh... Okay!" Roll decides. She is still flushed as she leads Ice man to her room. They have been spending most of the day getting to know each other, and Iceman has been very nice, complimenting her room and playing with her and listening to any and every story she feels like telling. So she doesn't have many qualms about having a sleepover with him. Once they're under the covers she snuggles up close. Well. Maybe not too close. There are several extra blankets wrapped around her to protect from his chilly exvents.

Protoman grunts when a while later someone enters his room. Thinking it is Dr. Light he pretends to be asleep so as not to be disturbed, but they walk up to the side of his bed anyway, and to his great surprise, get in the bed with him. Blues's eyes shoot open and meet Elecman's slate blue ones.

"Hi there~" he lilts with a wink.

Blues gives him such a blank look for several seconds. And then he realizes why the bot is here.

"No."

"No? No what? 'No, Elecman, you cannot sleep here?' Are you going to make me sleep on that couch?"

Blues nods remorselessly. And then another bolt of lightning flashes across the sky, its rumble shaking the foundation slightly. Blues visibly flinches.

"Aww, what's wrong?" Elec taunts. "The last thing I'd expect you to be afraid of is a little lightning."

Blues growls and the next moment Elecman is thrown out of the room onto his butt.

The electric bot gives the loudest huff he can manage, but he doesn't fight back. Defeated, he takes a place stretched over the couch.

... Then another crash of lightning strikes nearby. Soon after the door opens back abruptly. Blues emerges fighting not to look sheepish. "Fine, but just for tonight."

Elecman is back beside Blues in moments, grinning like a possum. "How on Earth could someone be so frightened by lightning? It's perfectly natural."

"Shut up."

"If I'm bothering you so much, why not go to your darling little brother instead?"

"One more word and you go back to the couch."

"Ugh..." Elecman crosses his arms and lies in silence. The only sound in the room is the sound of the storm outside. He's not really sure what prompted all of this hostility he seems to be getting from Protoman suddenly.

Blues still can be felt flinching on occasion when there is a particularly bright or loud bolt nearby but otherwise he stays quiet too, keeping his back to Elecman so as to hide his face.

But Elecman has just as hard a time falling asleep. He's not used to so much...space when he's lying down to sleep. The robot masters had to pile together on comfortable spots.

As they lay there quietly the storm does nothing but get worse. Every time Blues gets close to sleep he is jolted back to awareness by yet another violent bolt ripping through the sky above them. It doesn't help that they're on the top floor of the apartment. If anything it only makes it louder and deepens the red bot's anxiety.

Blues's anxiety, unfortunately, keeps Elecman awake as well. Every time the bot jumps, Elecman can sense the spike in energy from his frame, and it surprises him to alertness as well every time. At one point he gives an exasperated sigh and suddenly sits up. "That's it. I think I'll have a better chance of recharging on that couch after all."

Blues moans miserably. "Don't." Blues gets up before Elecman can. "You can stay." He might as well go to the couch. At least the living room window is smaller and farther away from it than the window in his bedroom.

"Oh come on. This is your bed. "

"It's not like I'm going to get any sleep anyway."

"You really can't sleep during a storm?"

"I... it's not that I can't, it just makes me incomfo—"

Thunder crashes.
"—ACK."

Elecman rolls his eyes. "Clearly."

Blues opens his mouth. He opens his mouth to explain his sensor oversensitivity, but instead he growls ill-naturedly. "Well excuse me. Not all of us were made to reroute electricity you know. It's not like I have the protection you do. Something you very recently took advantage of."

"How did you manage to hide this while you were with us?"

"Did you ever see me on a stormy night?" Blues counters.

"I—" Elecman starts but then he realizes something. "Whoah whoah whoah! ExCUSE me? Took ADVANTAGE OF?"

"I would say so." Blues frowns at him.

"I didn't do anything you didn't agree to!"

"...I don't mean THAT. I meant..." Blues points to his head. "Electrocuting me within an inch of my life? Ring any bells?"

"... Well...what do you want me to say?" Elecman hunches up defensively. "I was following orders, and those orders were to destroy you since you had decided to join Megaman's side."

Blues looks at him, disbelieving. No apology? Not even a hint of remorse. He knows better than to buy that it was purely "orders" that led to his ordeal. Elecman had a sadistic streak. At least he did when he had the Wily code in him. Blues saw it in the bot's eyes. He reveled in the destruction he caused.

And now they are here and he doesn't seem to have any intention of owning up to it.

"...nevermind." Blues moves away from him. "No you're right. Go back to bed. Enjoy it." His voice is tinged with venom.

This just puts Elecman even more on the defensive. He snarls at the bot turning away from him like he thinks he's being the bigger person. "You're the last one who has any right to point out anything wrong with what we've done in the past, Breakman. If you have any more trouble sleeping, why don't you try getting Megaman to save you again?"

Quietly livid, Blues stalks out without answering him.

And with that, Elecman is left alone in Blues's room.

Once Elecman is gone back to bed, Blues lays down on the couch for several minutes. His brain boils in anger... indignation. ...regret... And finally he gets up, grabs his shield back out of the corner, and heads out the door despite the storm raging outside. Defiance wins out over fear. He just wants to be away from this place.

The red bot's scarf whips in the wind as he makes his way outside into the deluge.

"Hold it!"

!

Lightning crackles again overhead. Blues turns around to look at the bot in the doorway. "...what?"

Rock stands with a disapproving frown on his face.

... "What?" He softens.

The younger boy glowers. "You're trying to run away. Again. You still need repairs first."

"...I... I'll come back tomorrow."

"What's the point in leaving then? Especially in a storm like this."

Blues doesn't want to admit the truth. "I just need some time alone."

"You can be alone here. That's why we have separate rooms." Rock insists. "Elecman can sleep on that couch. That bed is for you, not him." In spite of the fact that he has been trying to warm up to the robot masters, he still feels more strongly about his older brother, and if Elecman compromises his willingness to be there on a night like tonight, he has no qualms about making him move. "Please, Blues...I don't mind that you want to leave. I'm okay with you living by yourself if that will make you happier. But I just find it hard to believe you'd be happier sleeping somewhere else on a night like this.

"..." Blues wants to come back inside and join him... He really does... He knows if he goes inside and joins Rock in his bed, he'll be more at ease. Even with the storm raging he'll probably be able to calm down...

But the moment he thinks that Elecman's words come back to sting him.

Why don't you get Megaman to save you again?"

No he can't go running and crying to Rock. Elecman will never let him live it down... He won't be able to live it down.

"Look I don't need your charity or a bed or human food. I don't. I get by in my own. And I'm sick of you all treating me like I'm some sort of... Special snowflake. I'm not your charity case. I don't need you protecting me. And I... I'm leaving."

"...I didn't mean to embarrass you..." Rock murmurs softly.

Blues turns to leave.

"I just...I just want to help..."

"I DONT NEED YOUR HELP!" Protoman yells loud enough to be heard from above.

"You think we're treating you special, but look what we've been doing to Iceman and Elecman. We gave them a bed and food too. Dr. Light helped him get a job! So it's not just you...we just had the chance to help you longer than the others."

"...well that's done. Okay? Get over it." Blues's pride continues driving him to defiance.

"But it's not done. You still need repairs. And I know what's going to happen if you don't let us give you them."

Protoman looks up and sees a silhouette in one of the apartment windows. Elecman. Maybe he heard the noise from earlier?

"You want me to stay? Try to make me." He starts away.

Rock immediately runs out into the rain to grab his scarf.

Protoman is momentarily choked, but he quickly reached his shield and uses it to bash rock back.

"Urgh!" Megaman grunts in frustration but he quickly takes hold of the shield and pulls. Either he'll pull Protoman with it or get it out of his hands and leave himself vulnerable.

But Protoman is not to be so easily separated from his possession. When Rock tugs he initially resists and when his brother's tug becomes stronger he uses it to whip himself around to the side and the uses the momentum to swing Rock into the air.

! Now Rock holds on for dear life.

"Let go!"

"No!" the younger boy cries defiantly. He isn't letting Blues run off into the rain.

"Let... GO!" Protoman flings his shield-and Megaman with it-into the side of the building.

"Oof!" Rock hits the wall hard, falling back to the ground afterward. But when he gets back up, he holds Protoman's shield. :I "My shield now."

"..." Protoman knows Rock wants him to rise to the challenge and try to get it back. Instead he takes his prized possession-his scarf-from around his neck, crumples it up, and drops it in a mud puddle.

"Keep it. And tell Light he can have this back too."

He regrets it immediately as his pristine yellow scarf soaks with mud that will probably never wash out... But the next moment he is on his way again.

Rock stares after him forlornly. His first instinct is to keep chasing after him, but he decides instead to pick up the scarf before it can get any wetter. He takes that and the shield back to the apartment with him.

"R... Rock?" Roll is peeking her head out of her room when he comes back inside, a look of concern on her face. "We... We hear a yell and a crash... What-"

She gasps when she sees him carrying Protoman's shield and scarf.

Once he's inside, he rushes to look for his father.

"I-I took his shield, but instead on fighting me or chasing me to get it back, he just left it...and...and he left this too. W-we have to wash it..."

Roll hurries out and takes the fabric from him. "Leave it to me. I can get a stain out of anything."

She takes it to the laundry room to soak in a bucket of warm water before she begins treating it by gently scrubbing.

"Thank you, Roll..."

Blues breaks into a run when lightning streaks through the sky above him. Eventually he ends up taking shelter underground in the subway station. He is not alone. Mega City does not have a high poverty rate, but there are a few homeless people there huddled near to a heating unit and a few others laid out on benches. Not feeling like hanging around them or anyone else, he catches the next train and just rides, not caring where it takes him.

Elecman comes out next, rubbing his eyes and groaning. "Ugh...I am just NOT going to get any sleep tonight, am I-!" Suddenly Rock is pushing him back into the wall.

"This is all your fault!" The boy shouts. "If you hadn't made fun of him, he wouldn't have wanted to leave! Now he might not ever want to come back or have his scarf again and it's all because you had to be so mean!"

Without a second thought, Elecman grabs his arms and shocks him, not enough to damage, but enough to hurt, and he throws him down to the floor.

Roll screams. "Rock!" She rushes to his side, baring her arms to keep Elecman from touching him again. "STOP THAT! What are you doing!? Are you crazy!?" She glares at him hatefully. "How could you! We've taken you in and fed you and given you somewhere to sleep and fixed you and this is how you repay our kindness!? You're despicable!"

"Don't you all go yelling at me just because your big brother is a spiteful and insecure piece of shit!"

There's a start from the next room as Light is finally woken by the din. "What the devil?" The doctor hurries to his feet and wanders out into the hall to find the scene taking place. "What on earth is going on!?"

"DONT YOU CALL HIM THAT!" Rock roars, jumping back up and transforming his arm into his buster.

"Boys, boys!" Light has to move in to separate Elecman and Rock. "Cease this at once! You two are allies now, are you not!? Why are you fighting?" The gentle doctor looks sincerely disturbed by the ruckus. Did he miss some part of Wily's coding?

Rock pushes past his dad. "I heard them arguing! Elecman made fun of Blues, so he left! I tried to stop him...he told me to try and make him stay, and I did...and he left his shield and his scarf behind and...and..." Tears start welling up in his eyes. Elecman grimaces and looks away.

Oh..." Light frowns. That is... Unfortunate. Especially the fact that he threw that old scarf away... Even when Blues thought Light was horrible he kept that scarf... "I am sorry to hear that... But for the time being it would seem that there is very little for us to do... Blues will not return until he sees fit, and he has proven time and again that that must be on his own terms..."

"Well...he told me to try and make him..."

"My son..." the doctor places a hand on Rock's shoulder. "I know you are upset... But pointing fingers and assigning blame helps nothing... It is late and we are all tired. In the morning when we are rested we will be more prepared to do what me must to make things right... Do you understand?"

"…" Rock trembles angrily a few moments longer. But slowly he begins to wilt. "Yeah...okay..." He still glares at Elecman with an expression of betrayal, though.

Thomas Light nods and sends his son back to his room. "...Elecman? I know I have just said its late... But may I have a word with you?"

"...fine." Great. Now he's in trouble.

Lights takes the boy to his own room and sits him down on the edge of his bed. "I have heard Rock's version of the story but noticed you did not say anything. ...is there something you would like to add?"

"...no sir. He just about summed up the important parts."

"Then it is true that the two of you argued and you made fun of Blues? And it is safe to assume that this is why he left?"

Elecman hunches up defensively. "What do you want from me, huh? I didn't tell him to leave. I didn't tell him to abandon his stuff."

"I did not say that you did... Please don't misunderstand Elecman... I am not holding you responsible for Blues's actions... But I do wish to understand what caused him to behave in such a way. I don't approve of bickering and unkind remarks toward your siblings... But that is for you to sort out with him. Not myself. Now... Was there anything in particular that might have upset him?

"Who... Blues? ...if I tell you the whole thing, he would be unhappy with me."

"...very well. If you are truly withholding the information for his sake... I will not press further. But Elecman... I must make a request of you." He takes hold of the black bot's hands in his own and stares earnestly and intensely into his creation's eyes.

Elecman immediately tenses up. This sort of intimate touching is foreign and uncomfortable to him.

"Please... If something was said to Blues that will drive him away from myself and his brother and sister... Please make it right with him so that he will return... I am not sure if he understands this... But I love Blues very deeply. He was my first creation. I mourned his loss for what feels like a decade... And now he has only just come back to me... We have only just finally gotten the chance to make things right between us... So my request is this. As a father I implore you, if you can do anything to bring him back to me, please do so... If... If I lose him again so soon after I got him back..."

The doctor faulters, growing emotional. "Please... Please do whatever you can to keep our family from falling back apart..."

Elecman cannot stand to look in his eyes. At one point he has to close his own to fight back tears. God. Being returned to normal was a mistake. He was better off without empathy. "Okay..." His voice wavers the tiniest bit.

Light wraps his arms around his creation.

"Nngh..." Elecman has to keep himself under control to make sure he doesn't accidentally shock the poor doctor.

"...you may not know it yet either... But I do love you as well my dear boy... And I feel for you... You are strong and proud... And it is good to take pride in who you are... But when your pride is harmed it cuts deeper than any blade... Blues is like you in many ways. He is proud too... But he is also very stubborn and independent. These things do not always make for a good mix... It is against his nature to accept help because it puts his pride in being self-sufficient at risk... I've only just begun trying to convince him that accepting help isn't shameful... He sees every gift as a slight... I tell you this because I want you to understand how easy it is to hurt him... And to try to help you to see so you can guard yourself from being hurt in the same way. ...pride is only of good to you when it is rooted firmly in a strong foundation and know who you are. If your self-image is fragile, it is a double edged sword that cuts deep..."

"I...I see..." Elecman stares off into the distance.

The doctor slowly releases his stiff frame. "I'll let you go to sleep now... Alright?"

Elec nods. "Okay...um... ...I'm sorry." He stares at the floor.

Light smiles softly and pats his shoulder. "All is forgiven... But perhaps I am not the only one that deserves an apology... Mm?"

"Y-yeah...but you're the one here now."

A floorboard creaks outside. Uh oh. Eavesdroppers.

Light stares at the door and tuts. "If they give you any more problems tonight just let me know."

"Yeah...sure..."

Rock and Roll are gone by the time Elecman exits the room, vanished without a trace.

Elecman sighs and trudges back to his bed. Ugh...he feels wrong sleeping here now.

# # # # # # # # # #

On the other side of town, Blues eventually gets off of the subway and finds himself a dark corner of a station to rest in for the night while thunder continues to rumble above. At least there are no windows... It is well past midnight when he finally falls asleep.


END OF CHAPTER

They can't all end happily.

Chapter Text


Chapter 13: Night Terrors

Blues groans as he wakes. He fell asleep halfway sitting up propped against an angular surface and surprise surprise... It wasn't comfortable. He laboriously gets up and stretches the kinks out of his side before heading out of the subway station. Looks like he ended up slightly in the west side of town... Which is good. This is part of the primary robotics district. The stores around here stock E-packs. ...if he can come up with the money to buy one. All of his cash is in his box back at his...

Room... At Light's place... Ugh

He'll just have to earn some more money. There are always odd jobs that need doing. Blues checks around some local street posts first, mentally photographing the flyers that offer opportunities for cash-Lost dogs with reward for return, job opening at local supermarket involving manual labor. Looking for cash? Pawn your unwanted items at Joe's haberdashery. After that he finds the local public works office and fills out a form before being handed an over the shoulder waste bin and a grabbing tool. The city pays $1 per bucket of litter picked up.

Blues puts his helmet in one of the public lockers, locking it up tight by twining a thick metal wire through the loop that no regular human will want to fool with, and then he puts on a "public works" cap to hide his hair and heads out to do some work. If he is lucky he'll find a lost pet or some goods people have thrown away that are worth pawning. And afterwards he might check out that opening in the supermarket, but he would rather avoid strenuous manual labor jobs while he is so low on energy.

Elecman wakes up to a silent house. It's bizarre. He was never the first to wake up back with Wily and everyone else. No one could possibly wake up before Quickman, and it was hard for some bots to stay asleep once he was up. Not wanting to lie in bed any more than he needs do, he sits up and stretches before heading back to the fridge where he'd seen Protoman grab an e-tank. He takes one for himself. He's gonna need the energy today. He has an entire city to search for one stubborn bot.

8:00 - Blues takes the subway (getting plenty of trash at the station alone) and heads downtown to the older southern district. He goes straight to the "ghetto" area. Being a robot there is little for him to fear, but there is a lot of crap lying around to be picked up. He gets three bucket-fulls easily in the next hour. That's $3. E-packs cost about $4.50 apiece.

9:05- someone has a couch dragged out to the street for disposal. The seat cushions are ripped to shreds and the whole thing is stained and smells of must, but the frame has potential... But in the end he doesn't have the means to fix it up and especially not to transport it. He has to give it up as a loss and move on.

9:30- He spots a dog roaming around down the street but it doesn't come when he calls and it is too far away to make out if it has a collar. It looks very thin and it's obviously scrounging for scraps. Might just be feral. Sad, but if he goes out of his way to catch it and take it to the pound it will probably end up being put down anyway. And he doesn't know anyone who would want a dog. He leaves it and moves on.

10:00- He has filled up another bucket and found an old man walking along the side of the street doing the same thing he's doing. Blues waves to him and promises he'll leave this area alone if the guy needs the money but the man shakes his head and tells him he'd enjoy the company. The two take opposite sides of the street and talk as they work-the man explaining that he currently lives beneath the underpass a few blocks down from here but he grew up in a city on the other side of the country. He just got to this place recently.

Blues gives him a rundown of all the best places to stay, rattling off the names of all the nearest shelters and charity kitchens and the thrift stores and whatnot. He offers to write it down but the old man says it's alright he wouldn't be able to read it anyhow.

11:30- The two part ways. Blues has 6 cans now-almost enough to afford two E-packs. That's when he spots the cat.

11:45- He saw this cat on a flyer months ago. He remembers because it had a very distinctive face-heart shaped black spot on nose, an irregular pattern something like a diamond on its flank, three black socked paws and one white. White spot on the tip of its tail. There is no mistaking it, this is the cat. When he tries to call for it though, it runs.

He chases.

Eventually he watches as it dips its way underneath an abandoned house through a ventilation grate underneath. Gotcha.

When he crawls underneath he finds an extra few surprises. He wonders if he'll be rewarded or punished for bringing them all back?

12:45- Blues takes the cat and all of its five kittens back to the address he remembered from that flyer, thanking his photographic memory. It may have been given to him so he could memorize and review battle techniques to improve his own combat prowess, but it has so many better applications and conveniences it creates.

Blues knocks on the door and is met with a screaming woman.

"OH MY POOR BABY!"

Before he can protest he is dragged inside and gets the full sob story. The poor lady was on vacation for a week and when she returned her cat was gone. Hit the road. She realized her cat door had been left open (who even has a cat door?) and knew the "baby" must have gotten outside and gotten lost so she'd put those fliers out. She'd all but given up hope.

"Well it looks like Ms. Cat at least had some fun while she was out on the town". Blues remarks. The woman looks at him, aghast.

She gives him a stern tongue lashing for the next 30 minutes to reprimand for his crudeness (Blues starts to sympathize with the cat for running away) but in the end she goes back to cooing over her precious returned pet and the five little kittens that came back with it. They all get offered food and milk (Blues is the only one to decline) and the bot begins to lose hope that he will be rewarded for his deed. He gets up to head for the door so not to waste more time but she does finally stop him as he's on his way out and hands him-dun dun dun DUUUUN- a whole hundred dollar bill. Suddenly he is rich.

When Elecman is ready to take to the streets, he tries to think of a plan. A place to start looking. Where would Protoman want to hide out? Light had mentioned open recharge stations available to robots like himself. It seems like a logical place to start. However, he can't quite remember where the doctor had said they were. Considering the robot masters typically did most of their traveling via the sewers, he isn't exactly familiar with a layout of this city. He tries to find a map and spots one at a bus stop. When he approaches, the people waiting there quickly flee. Well. Looks like his reputation as Wily's bot still precedes him without Light to calm everyone down. Oh well. It doesn't matter right now. He looks closely at the map, scanning for any indication of the location of these recharge stations.

1:30- Blues heads straight back to the public works building to turn his bags in. That's 9 bags, so he has $109.

He loses it at an astounding pace.

2:00- He buys 4 E-packs for himself. $109-$18 = $91

2:15- There's an old lady back at the subway station who doesn't have any shoes. He swings by a thrift store and buys her some, as well as a hot meal. $91-$10 = $81

2:40- He drops by the hospital to say hi, discovers a collection jar for donations for a boy whose family can't afford the surgery he needs, and there goes another fourty dollars. $41 left. Ethyl frowns at him. She needs to stop putting these out where he can see them. The only thing she can do to keep him from giving away everything he has is by matching his donations every time he makes them, so as soon as he does it she makes sure he sees as $40 of her own go into the donation jar.

At this point he goes to enjoy one E-pack at the library while he reads. He frowned at Rock about the giving tree book, but he is arguably just as bad. Sacrificing what little cash he has for others. Sacrificing years of his life back when his power core was even less stable to help out people in danger. He is a mess.

When Elecman finds his way to the cluster of recharge station, he quickly realizes that Protoman is not here. Already he is out of ideas. He groans in frustration. He doesn't know this city of Protoman himself nearly well enough to know where to look. He...might have to get some help and try again. There is one person who knows Protoman much better than he does who can offer him some advice. He makes his way back to the apartment, thankfully able to remember the way back, and returns to find the family eating breakfast. Well...most of them are eating. Megaman seems to just be moving the food around on his plate. Jeez...the kid is a wreck without Protoman.

Roll frowns slightly when Elecman enters, but continues to eat her eggs in silence. Only Light offers a smile when Elecman comes back in. "Good morning. You were up early. Would you like some breakfast?"

"Ah...no thank you, I had a tank when I got up. Um...I just wanted to ask Megaman about something..." The boy lifts his head. "Hm? What about?"

He tries to maintain a stoic expression. "Um...do you have any idea where I could find Protoman?"

Rock stares at him for a moment. "You're looking for him? Why? I can do that myself."

Elecman shuffles. "No, um...I want to talk to him myself, but...I don't know him like you do. I don't know where he'd want to go in this city, so...I thought you could point me in the right direction."

Rock sits, considering if he should let the bot be responsible for trying to convince his brother to come home. "...try the library. I can give you directions."

In just a few more minutes, Elecman ventures back out with a map to guide him to the same library Protoman had taken Rock to the day before.

Blues works his way through the second e-pack, leaving him with just two but he has enough money (for now) to buy more if he needs, so he is not worried. He should probably go out and try to work some more this afternoon... But for now he just wants to rest and relax. There is a television in the library that plays the local news so he watches that. Eventually the headline "mad scientist still in questioning" pops up. So Wily is still under wraps, hm? But shortly following that headline is "mysterious theft plagues city." Apparently for the past two days there has been a rise in local theft with items such as tools, pipes, wood, e-packs, and other assorted equipment being taken. The thefts are "mysterious" because even though the places had security cameras, nothing was caught on film and there were no fingerprints or other signs of evidence on the scenes. It's the "e-packs" stolen that gets Protoman's attention. He would bet his life on that being Shadowman's work. The other robot masters are out there somewhere and it is surprising that none of them have surfaced yet. He suspects that is Shadow's doing as well. Perhaps he is calling the shots now.

People give Elecman a wide berth as he enters the library. Hm...this is where Protoman spends his free time? It seems so unlike him.

Blues notes a slight commotion near the entrance and turns his head to see-...oh boy. He quickly looks back at his book and hopes that if he ignores it, it will go away.

! It's too late. Elecman would recognize that crop of hair anywhere.

Protoman groans. He sees him coming out of his peripheral vision. "...what do you want?"

Elecman takes a hesitant seat on the weird squishy round chair across from Protoman and takes a deep breath. "I want...to apologize." He keeps from meeting Blues's eyes.

"…. Oh. Alright." Blues says, monotone. He flips a page in his book. "...That all?"

"I...well..." Somehow he was expecting more, but he's not sure more what exactly. "I um...I was wrong to taunt you...in both senses. Because what I said was completely inaccurate. I'm certain those people-that kid especially-need you way more than you need them. I saw them this morning and...jeez. It was so...depressing."

Elecman gets slightly more of a reaction out of this. Blues's mouth turns down slightly in a frown. "They were upset huh..." He turns another page. "...they need to get over me. Clean break is probably best."

"I don't know if they can."

Blues flares up. "Why are you really here, huh? You don't care about them. And you don't care about me. What's in this talk for you?"

"I don't...I don't know. There isn't anything in it for me. I don't think I care about them, but...but I can't stand the thought of going back there and telling them I couldn't fix what I messed up. I can already imagine the way the kid will look, and it's...it's making me feel sick. And the doctor...the thought of facing him after I ruined everything...I-I can't imagine it. I don't know if this is all because of losing Wily's programming or some kind of power he has or what, but...when I messed up with Wily I hardly cared. But Light...when he talked to me, I...I never felt like more of a failure in my life. Is that...is that normal? Is there something wrong with me? Did the doctor do something to me? Because I don't know if I can handle this. If I can't be successful in this mission, I don't know if I'll be able to go back there either." He stares at Blues desperately. There is definitely a pleading note to his voice.

Protoman balks, surprised at this behavior. This isn't the Elecman he expects. It certainly isn't the one he was prepared to deal with. "M...mission? He ordered you to come after me?"

"Wh-...no no he didn't. He asked me that since what I said drove you away...that I should try to make it right...it just feels like a mission to me."

He sees the black and yellow bot tremble and reaches out to him without thinking, placing a hand on Elecman's shoulder. "Calm down... I um... I don't think he reprogrammed a new obedience coding into you... But if he did... We'll go back and I'll pin him down until he gets rid of it."

"Huh...? You...you think that's what's going on?"

Blues watches the emotions flash across Elecman's face. They were never so visible before. "I don't think he changed anything, no. It sounds like you just... care." Never something he expected to say. The word feels foreign on his own lips when applied to Elecman. Now he feels small inside for the things he was going to say to tear this bot down. He had believed Elecman came here with an agenda of his own... But it sounds like he's really doing it for the doctor and the kid...

Elecman groans, putting his head in his hands. "I don't like it...it was easier not to care..."

Blues snorts. "No kidding."

"The other bots would never let me live this down if they knew I was here about ready to beg to you...the only reason I found you was cuz of the kid. I...had to ask for his help."

Blues realizes he still has a hand on Elecman's shoulder and moves it away. "I... Fine you've twisted my arm. If... If it'll keep you from gutting yourself with your own gears I'll go back. But don't think I'm doing this because you're a sad sack. I'm just going to make sure Light didn't tamper with anything he shouldn't have. After that it's your problem."

"Okay...okay I can live with that. Thank you." Elecman breathes a sigh of relief.

Blues doesn't say much after that, avoiding any more uncomfortable conversation. He checks out his latest library book and they hop on the bus together. He tries to sit quietly on the bus with Elecman but it's hard... He fidgets as the silence hangs between them like a charge. Finally he can't stand it. He opens his mouth.

"You um... You can have my room. I don't need it."

"Huh? You don't...want it?"

"...don't need. I don't plan to stay there in the long term."

Elecman's face falls. "Because of what I said?"

"... What does it matter?"

"I'll at least feel a little better if it's your fault they're sad and not mine." Elecman mutters.

"Ugh..." Blues socks him in the arm. "At least even if you are emotional you're still selfishly emotional." He knows how to deal with that at least.

Elecman huffs and rubs his arm. "I'm starting to feel bad for Megaman now."

Blues frowns as he thinks about a good excuse to leave. One that is not "living with you makes me feel horribly uncomfortable." "Dumb kid. He doesn't know what's good for him. Roll seems to have a bit more sense. Maybe she can fix him up eventually."

"Well you're not wrong. You should have seen him the day he first came to challenge each of us. Do you have any idea what we did to him?"

"No... What DID you do?"

"To put it bluntly, we fucked him up. "

Blues's expression darkens with a mixture of uncertainty and hostility.

"But he just kept on going forward." Elec continues.

"Woah woah woah woah, you fucked him up how?" Blues has mental images he absolutely just does not want

"W-well we were ordered to stop him from reaching Wily! By any means necessary." Elecman shoots back defensively.

Blues quiets and goes back to looking out of his window.

Elecman doesn't get any more comfortable. Even without the two of them talking, people stare. Particularly at him. Do they all recognize him, or do they just see how much he sticks out in a crowd of humans?

Blues takes notice of his prolonged discomfort and riddles out the source. Even though the next stop doesn't put them quite at the university yet, Protoman drags Elecman off of the bus so they can walk the rest of the way. "...you shouldn't let them get to you like that."

"Easy for you to say. You got the chance to reinvent yourself. "

"What and you don't? You get to be whoever you want now... That's what you were aiming for right?"

"Yeah well...not everyone else is going to see that so quickly. "

"Well... You've got plenty of time. None of us get to where we want to go overnight... Just try to enjoy the ride."

"Whatever you say..." Elecman keeps rubbing his shoulder thoughtlessly, still sounding dubious.

They finally arrive back at the apartment building and walk inside. Blues hears steps rushing down the stairs and it isn't a moment later before Rock is squeezing his neck.

Elecman has to jump out of the way. The bot grimaces. Bleh. Emotions.

"Blues I'm so sorry!" Rock says as he nuzzles his brother.

Blues sighs. "Let's not talk about that now. You'll make Elec sick."

"Elecman!" Before the electric robot can stop him, he is getting a hug too. "You did it! You brought him back! Thank you thank you!" Elecman doesn't hug back...but there is the tiniest smile on his face.

Blues keeps walking upstairs, interested in finding his box, his shield, and... The reason his neck has been feeling wrong for the past 24 hours.

"Oh! I almost forgot!" Rock breaks away from Blues and Elec to rush to his sister's room. "Roll, is his scarf ready?"

Blues pokes his head back in their apartment cautiously but is pulled into a hug by the doctor regardless. "Urf!"

Light swings him from side to side in the bear hug of an embrace. "Welcome home, son."

Blues looks blue. "S...sure whatever you say..."

Elecman smirks, not knowing he is also in danger of being hugged. Sure enough when he is within the critical proximity an arm flashes out and he is snatched into the fray to be crushed against Blues.

"Oof!" He squnches up his face but blushes as well. They both groan as the doctor swings them around but before anyone can grow sick he puts the two down. "I'm glad you both returned safely... Are either of you hungry? We've just had lunch but I can make more. Oh Blues... Are you ready for the repairs to your shoulder?"

Protoman shrugs. "I uh... I suppose..."

"Oh um...s-sure, thank you..." Elec stammers.

Rock and Roll suddenly run up to them, with Iceman behind. "Blues look, look what Roll did!" The boy proudly gestures to his sister, who presents a yellow scarf-spotless, dry, and softer than ever.

"Ah..." Blues's mouth opens in surprise. He carefully takes it from Roll. It looks... It looks like it did the day he first got it.

"I... I tried my best to keep it soft." Roll averts her eyes, rubbing her foot shyly against the carpet.

"N-no you did... Great... It's like brand new..." Now it is his turn to look away shyly. "Th...thanks..."

Light fixes Elecman up with some food before stealing his son away to the lab to fix him up. When they get outside the sky is quickly darkening with clouds. Thunderheads loom in the distance. It looks like the poor weather from last night is making resurgence. Meanwhile Roll invites Elecman over to play a boardgame. "You can take over daddy's spot since he's gone! We realized that for the first time we had enough people to play this game so Rock got it out... It's called "Chinese checkers"

"Huh? I um...I'm not familiar." Elecman takes a seat beside them.

"It's pretty fun." Says Iceman. "Takes a lot of strategy."

"It's easy! You move diagonally and you have to jump the dots over each other. You wanna move all your pieces to the other side before someone else does.

"Moving dots takes strategy? Maybe to someone not meant to follow battle plans."

"Oh!" Rock perks. "But there are rules to how you can move!"

Roll nods. And then she gets an uncharacteristically devious smirk on her lips. "And if you boys want, we can make it interesting now that dad's gone."

All of the boys' eyebrows raise, some with interest others with concern. "Interesting how?" asks Elecman.

Roll's grin widens. "Are any of you familiar with the concept of strip poker?"

All of the boys look at each other and shake their head.

Roll grins wider. "Well it works like this..."

Light inspects the damage his son has incurred with concern. "This is rather odd... You say Shadow man slashed at you with a knife, correct?" Blues nods. "Why?"

"It just looks too jagged to be a clean cut... And it is rusting a bit at the edges... The steel you are made with shouldn't corrode like this..."

Blues frowns. "Maybe it was coated with something that made it acidic?"

"Perhaps... Is it painful at all?"

"No... It ached for a while initially but there's no pain now.

Light hums. That, at least, is good. "I'll take a sample from it to study and see if I can figure out why it looks so odd... In the meantime I'll knock you out and make the re-"

"No knocking me out."

Light frowns. He was afraid of that. "Oh very well..."

Round one is over with Rock as the loser. "Take it off!" Roll starts chanting as she bangs her fists on the ground. Ice man joins in her chorus. "Take it off! TAKE IT OFF!"

They whoop as Rock removes his helmet.

He just gives them an unimpressed look. "Big deal. You see my hair now. What are you gonna do when you lose, Roll? You don't have a helmet.

She grins. "Who says I'm gonna lose? Now let's play again."

Blues flinches every now and then as he is patched up. Some of his shoulder plating has to be removed and replaced and the long and short of it is that it is not fun. "Are we close to being done yet?"

"Almost!" Light assures.

Elecman blinks. "Wait. I don't exactly have much that can be taken off. Just my mask."

"And I just have my coat." Iceman adds.

Roll still keeps smiling. "Oh we'll figure something out."

They all pick their cards back up. "Ah well. I doubt I'll need to even take my mask off."

As round 2 finishes, Ice man frowns. "Take it off! Take it off!"

Iceman huffs, left with no choice but to take off his hood. Oh well...he pulls it down, revealing a head covered with blue hair.

"Oooh~" Roll trills, stroking her hand through it.

He tenses up, face quickly reddening.

"What lovely hair you have~" She sighs pleasantly. "Alright... I wanna see what Elecman's looks like next!" She gets that devious grin. Roll cracks her knuckles just as Blues comes in the door.

"Keep dreaming, little girl. My head shall remain a secret." Elecman crosses his arms haughtily.

"It's pretty ordinary." Blues remarks. "His hair is black." He almost immediately gets a book thrown at him.

"GRAAAAH! Protoman!" Roll growls. "SPOILER ALERT!"

"Yeah, Protoman, way to ruin the whole fun of me winning." Elec shoots him a nasty look.

"Excuse me, YOU winning? Not a chance." The girl fires back.

Iceman just snickers. He already knew that anyway.

Protoman picks up the book and puts it back on a shelf before heading into his room to kick back.

"Blues, you wanna play with us?" Rock calls. "We're playing strip poker."

"Oooh yes! He has to play!" Elecman grins. "If he loses, we might finally get to see his eyes!"

"No thanks."

"Chicken." Says Iceman.

"Popsicle."

Iceman pouts while Elecman waves his hand. "Bah. Leave him to sit alone in his room. We'll have all the fun ourselves."

Blues is more than happy to leave them to their "fun" while he goes to sort through his possessions and put the forty dollars he earned today in his money pouch, adding it to his existing $20.

Everyone in the other room turns their attention back to the game.

Roll grins as she moves another of her pieces across the board, managing to find a path that skips her almost all the way from one end to another. "I can't wait to see your pretty face~"

"While my face is pretty, it's simply too gorgeous to be seen by ordinary eyes like yours." Elec sneers back. It is so on.

Iceman prickles with jealousy at first, but then he smirks. "So what does that makes Protoman's eyes then~?"

Roll chuckles. "Yeah~ Ice man has a point!" She rests her chin in her hands

"Wh...now hold on-"

"Is that a blush I see?" Iceman laughs. "Elecman and Protoman, sitting in a tree!"

"K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"

The two laugh at Elecman's flustered appearance. "He's blushing harder! We got him! Someone has a crush on Bluuueees~"

"Ugh no I do not!" Elecman whines and covers his face with his hands. Even Rock can't help but giggle.

Blues pokes his head out of the room to see what the commotion's about. "Did I hear my name?"

"N-no!" Elecman quickly stammers. Rock gives an equally suspicious "Nnnoooooooo"

Blues quirks an eyebrow. "If I don't want to know, don't tell me."

He goes back inside.

Elecman glares at all of them.

"Heheh...sorry" Rock giggles. "Let's get back to playing."

Yet another good move by Roll, but she is starting to look concerned... A few of her pieces are stranded...

The boys all grin. It looks like her victory streak is about to end.

If Roll could sweat she would be doing it now... But outwardly she remains composed... And she looks through her options carefully.

Finally she makes a move that doesn't look too good... At least not until Elecman realizes that he is cut off.

She grins again as his expression falls. "You could save yourself the embarrassment and get it over now if you like~"

"Nnnggh..."

Rock begins quietly chanting "Take it off. Take it off."

Roll and Ice man join him. "Take it off. Take it off."

"Uuuuuuuugggghh."

Blues peeks his head back out of the room and smiles. "You might as well get it over with."

"Hey! I thought you didn't want to play! You can't look if you're not playing!" Elecman huffs.

Iceman smirks. "Not like it matters. He's already seen you before, remember? Cuz he's special enough for you to show him your face~"

Blues rolls his eyes and moves back out. "Fine. Not looking."

Elecman keeps pouting… but takes a deep breath...and then slowly pulls his mask down from his face.

Thunder crashes outside. Oh boy. Spring storms round 2.

"What perfect timing. Thunder crashes as Elecman reveals his hideous face." Iceman snickers.

"Excuse you!" Elecman pouts. "I am gorgeous! See?"

Roll's eyes widen. "Oooh you are pretty cute~"

Rain begins to pelt the roof above them and Roll gasps. "Eek! Daddy's in the lab without an umbrella! I'll go take him one."

She grabs one and hurries out to Light.

The boys are suddenly left alone. Iceman is giving Elecman such a pout. He smirks. "Jealous~? Too bad your true love knows who the better looking one is."

Iceman turns beet red. "Y-you shut up!"

Rock snickers at the two of them. "I dunno I think both of you look good! Our dad made us all pretty handsome in our own way!"

He smiles and swings his feet back and forth like a happy idiot while both masters give him looks. Such a nerd.

Elecman hums to himself after a few more moments. "So how's the rest of this game gonna go? Iceman and I are exposing all that we can already."

Rock shrugs. "I dunno what Roll had in mind. She didn't explain to me how we were supposed to strip more... And frankly I'm not sure I want to. I think I'm just gonna go-"

-BOOM-

-CRASH-

"ACK!"

The thunder explodes overhead first, followed swiftly by the sound of shattering glass from Blues's room and the bot's muffled yelp.

"-check...on...Blues." Megaman finished his thought as he hurries to his brother's room.

"Blues?!" Rock calls as he comes to the doorway. "Are you okay? I heard something break!"

Blues groans as he picks up pieces of glass off the floor. "Fine... I'm fine. Just got surprised is all... Accidentally broke the flower vase while I was moving it..."

There's a small puddle on the floor and some stray flowers.

Rock sighs in relief. "Ah...good. Glad it was nothing serious. Too bad about the vase though. Roll and I can get the stuff to sweep up the pieces."

"Nah don't bother I've got it..." Blues says. He continues picking the pieces up by hand and nearly jumps out of his skin when lightning flashes in the nearby window again.

Rock takes a step forward. "You okay?"

"..." Blues sighs. It was being dishonest about it that caused the whole mess yesterday wasn't it? "No." He answers, not meeting Rock's eyes. His brother immediately kneels beside him. "What's wrong?"

"Look, I'll talk to you about it in a moment... But I'm going to finish cleaning this first."

He starts back to getting things back in order and vacuuming the glass out of the carpet before he leaves his room and heads to Rock's leaving Iceman and Elecman to wonder what is up as he passes through.

Rock waits patiently and follows him when he is ready.

Iceman calls to the blue bot, "Hey are we gonna keep playing or what?"

"Nah I think I'm done for the night... You and Elecman can if you want to, though?"

The orange light of dusk doesn't penetrate the thick clouds covering the sky in all directions.

Blues is sunk into Rock's bed when he enters, his helmet lying on the floor not far away. He looks very, very tired...

Rock takes the spot next to him and puts a hand on his shoulder. He doesn't ask anything. He just waits for Blues to be ready to start talking himself.

Blues sighs hard. "I um... I might need to stay in here tonight... If it's okay. I'll try not to be a bother, but if I stay in my room, I'll keep Elecman awake. If you can wait 'til everyone else goes to bed, I can move to the couch after, but I would really rather not have anyone else find out... That I'm a coward."

"I just... Have a bit of a problem with thunder and lightning."

"Oh...is that all? That doesn't make you a coward." Rock says as he rubs his hand to Blues's back.

Blues blinks twice in surprise. "Oh... You um... You don't think... That's weird? Or dumb?"

"Nope. That's a relatively common fear, actually."

He frowns at the patting. Figures Rock would be indulgent of him... His brother really is an air head... Elecman's criticism from the other day rings true. Here he is barking up Megaman's tree for help...

...but he can't really help it right now. He is far too tired after last night's fiasco and desperately needs some shut-eye, so he lies down.

"And don't worry. I won't make you sleep on the couch." Rock flops backward into the mattress. "I like sharing my bed with you. …If you wanna talk about weird or dumb, how about the fact I actually prefer not sleeping alone? Even I know that is babyish..."

Blues still looks conflicted. If anything that just makes him feel more like he is taking advantage of Rock. Preying off of his desire for companionship like a leech. "I well... Thanks..." He manages weakly. His eyelids droop. The sound of rain is actually relaxing against the window... If only there weren't any-

Lightning flashes and he covers his ears, tensing up in preparation for the inevitable crash of thunder.

Rock frowns when he senses his brother's discomfort. He wants to help, but he is not sure what kind of help Blues wants. Would he appreciate a hug? To hear him talking so he could listen to that instead of the thunder? Or would it all just annoy him and make him feel like he is being treated special again?

There is some flinching from Blues whenever there is a particularly loud bang or flash, but other than that he stays quiet and tries to sleep... Then he notices Rock is watching. "Er... A... Aren't you going to sleep too?"

"I um...y-yeah sorry..." Rock stammers and quickly flips over to stop bothering Blues with his staring.

"..." Blues stares at his inert form in contemplation. It is in these quiet, bashful spells that he feels fondest of this kid. The thoughtfulness of the actions and mannerisms are not lost on his brother. Rock has this way of being is so endearing without trying. Maybe because he is not trying. Partly because it is warm and partly to mess with him, Blues nuzzles his face into Rock's back between his shoulder blades.

The younger boy's eyes shoot open in surprise. But after a moment, Rock sighs and his body relaxes into the embrace.

Protoman can hear the gentle murmur of his core through Rock's back... And it's rather nice... Relax... Relax... Go... To sleep... ...*CRASH*

Blues jolts again and groans.

"Blues... Is there anything I can do?

"... I... I dunno... I'm afraid I am going to keep you awake with my nonsense..."

Seeing how concerned his brother still looks turned back towards him he sighs again, feeling the need to explain himself further. "I... I'm not fond of lightning, but it's not the danger part that gets me really. I-it's the-"

He gulps as another flash lights up the window.

"The element of surprise."

"Ah...I see… Not fond of surprises. I'll keep that it mind."

Blues still looks unsatisfied. Being cagey about it will just give him more of the wrong idea. "I feel like a loaded spring trap... No matter how much I try to get myself to calm down I still... I still just jolt when it comes... I just... It feels almost like it is programmed in... I was designed for combat. I was made to have quick reactions to sudden, unpredictable threats, so..."

"Oh...I guess that makes sense. " Rock nods simply.

The eldest bot scratches his forehead, frustrated and still not satisfied. In reality there are other factors that play into his aversion as well. A photographic memory was not the only "gift" his militaristic design left him with. He knew as early as the first time he went out on the town with his creator that he was more sensitive to the light. When you are built to be able to see easily in the dark, the light of day can be blinding. There is a reason that he constantly wears shades and a visor on top of them. Additionally, and he has only guessed at it, not having any point of reference for what the others experience, but Blues has always suspected that he has sharper hearing as well. That he doesn't mind so much. It is nice to have keen hearing. …at least until relative silence is broken by a loud clatter.

Blues lays back down and nestles his face back against his brothers back. At the very least, it helps block out the lightning.

Eventually he wraps his arms around his brother's waist and pulls him close.

"Mmm..."

Rock sighs again, gladly soaking in Blues's warmth.

There is still the occasional flinch from Blues, and with no end to the storm in sight he doesn't do much better, but it is a relief to have Rock nearby and slowly he manages to sink into a more restful if not totally asleep state.

Only when Blues goes still does Rock allow himself to relax as well.

Blues keeps clinging close to Rock's warm, comfortable body deep into the night until the storm finally stops... And then he truly shuts down and begins getting the rest he needs. By morning his face is cuddled into Rock's hair and he is smiling pleasantly in his sleep.

Rock has an equally pleasant night's sleep thanks to a nice dream he has about all of them-Light, himself, Roll, Blues, Iceman, and Elecman-going out to dinner as a family. The people there are excited to see every one of them. After a few people ask for autographs or pictures, they're left to enjoy themselves. Everyone's meal is delicious, and Blues is happy to eat his plate. They all end up sharing each of their dishes so everyone gets to try a bit of everything. And at the end, their waiter gives them all a free dish of ice cream as a way of saying thanks to their city's heroes.

As if sensing the cloyingly sweet direction of his brother's dreams, Protoman eventually pulls his head away from Megaman's and tilts up to the ceiling as he starts blinking awake. "Mmm..."

There is an even bigger smile on Rock's face as he sleeps on. With Blues no against his back, the boy rolls over on it.

As Blues comes to, he watches his brother's adorable happy face. It causes the red bot's cheeks to heat. Damn Light for making this one so precious.

Eventually Rock's eyes shift before blinking open. His smile remains. "Mm...morning, Blues."

Blues tilts down over him hesitantly... And places a kiss on Rock's precious forehead. "Mornin'." He drawls.

Rock squeaks and covers his red face.

Blues chuckles softly.

He eventually moves his hands again to peek back at his bed companion. "So um...you wanna see if breakfast is ready?"

Blues nods and gets up, stretching and yawning. He hides his messy hair under his helmet before proceeding out into the living room area.

When they get to the kitchen, Elecman is already up and drinking a can of fuel. "Morning, Elecman. You're up early." The robot master nods. "Gotta be." He grins. "Today's my second day of work at the plant."

"Oho?"

"You seem excited." Says Rock with a smile.

"I am." Elecman answers. "The work is very exciting itself, and I'm sure I must be winning the respect of the humans there already."

Light is beaming as he walks out to greet his sons and offer them breakfast-cinnamon rolls again. Blues's eyes widen and he snatches one. The doctor chuckles at his enthusiasm. "Glad to see everyone's awake."

Roll and Iceman are wandering out too at the smell of food. "I have something exciting to tell everyone... "

Roll scooches up and claims a cinnamon roll of her own. "What's that daddy?"

The doctor grins and puffs his chest out a bit. "I just got off the phone with the contractor who's making our new home... And he informed me that the construction crew was breaking ground today!"

Rock and Roll gasp and grin at each other. "They've started building our new house?" Rock asks. "When do they think it'll be ready?"

"The contractor gave me a guarantee of two weeks tops, but he said he imagined it would be done in closer to one. John has the fastest and most coordinated construction bots in town. If you kids want we can take a drive out to see the location today."

"Yeah yeah that'd be great!"

"I think everyone will like it... It's just outside the main part of the city around Scienta cape. It's up on the cliffs within walking distance of the city observatory. We'll have a lovely view of the ocean from our kitchen and a stunning view of the city from our living room!"

The kids gasp in awe again. "If we live near the ocean, does that mean we can go to the beach?" asks Rock.

Light nods. "We have one practically in our backyard! You just have to go down the hill and there it is."

The children squeal in excitement. Even Blues looks interested. He eyes Rock's reaction and smiles. It's good that they'll have a real home again after he wrecked their last one...

"Blues, you gotta come with us to see it so you'll know where it is!" Rock tugs on his arm urgently, clearly already worried about the possibility that they might get separated and not know how to find each other.

"Alright alright. I already know the observatory, but I'll come."

"Yaaaayyy!"

Blues takes a cautious first bite of his very first cinnamon roll Oh god. It's really good... He continues on with tiny nibbles, savoring each sweet, spicy, buttery, and gooey bite.

Rock giggles. "You would like cinnamon rolls best."

Blues looks at him... grins... and flicks his tongue at the cinnamon roll teasingly.

Rock snorts and sticks his tongue out back at him. Iceman then perks. "Oh! When we get back, we gotta finish our game!"

Roll pounds her fists on the table. "YEAH!"

"I left the board with all the pieces where they were," says Elecman. "So long as nothing was tampered with, we should be able to pick up where we left off."

"Elecman would you like to come to see the new lab too?" Light asks. "If you like we can wait 'til after you've finished work today."

"Ah...sure, alright. My shift shouldn't end too late today. I ought to know where your new lab is located too."

The bot suddenly blinks, realizing something, and his eyes look away. "Um...I'm sorry about the last one..." His voice is suddenly quite small. Iceman then remembers his part in that destruction too, and he offers a nervous apology of his own.

Blues blinks. It takes him an extra second before he understands just what they're apologizing for, and then he feels really low. Because after all… even though they were complicit in the destruction, he's the one that set the events in motion that ultimately led there. He's the one most at fault.

He looks at the floor before muttering a quiet apology of his own.

"Aww...it's okay. We forgive you, right?" Rock looks to his family.

Light nods. "All is well that ends well... While losing our old home was unfortunate, the events that have transpired since would not have taken place had it not happened... I lost a house but was reunited with three of my sons. That is a blessing in disguise if ever I've seen one."

Rock grins. "Yeah! And now we get to have a brand new house with a beach in the backyard!"

But Roll frowns, averting her eyes. She can't say she's quite as ready to forgive... She loved their old house... And she lost a lot of things that were important to her...

She realizes that by now everyone is staring at her, waiting , and sighs.

"I... I'll try to forgive you... But you've gotta promise NEVER to do that again, okay?"

Iceman frowns. "I-I promise!"

"Y-yeah, uh, me too..." Elecman fumbles nervously. But it's not them that her eyes are really trained on.

Blues composes his face into an impassive mask. "...I won't ask you to forgive me if you can't... But I truly am sorry, Roll... And I..." Okay maybe he doesn't look totally impassive anymore. The remorse he feels goes deep. Every day he spends in the good graces of these people, he realizes more and more just what a low-down, rotten thing it was. "…I'll try to do whatever I can do to make it up to you."

She perks a bit, not expecting that from Protoman. "I... Okay..."

Unable to help it, the girl flushes just a bit. His earnest expression caught her off-guard.

Iceman can't help but prickle a tiny bit with jealousy when he notices.

################################

The first few hours Elecman spends at the electrical plant on his first official day of work is filled with boring and forgettable training videos, safety protocols, and company policies. After that he begins his day treated as a rookie.

"AY bot! Get over here and set some of these couplings! Then head to the warehouse once you're done and pick up the boxes of resistors they set out and move them to station 9. Move it!"

Elecman sighs, but he gives a firm salute. "Yes sir!" It's a shame. This day doesn't look like it'll be nearly as exciting as when he first arrived.

After the morning rush settles down the plant grows quiet as workers file into the cafeteria to enjoy lunch with each other. A few of the robots filter in and out as they grab fuel for themselves.

Elecman only needs to watch for a few moments before he falls into pattern with the rest of the bots. He goes to grab his own can and find a spot to sit amongst them. It hasn't been a terribly fun day, but he's starting at the bottom of this plant's hierarchy. Surely if he proves himself he can be given more exciting tasks and, more importantly, more respect. Some of the men here don't treat him much better than Wily did. When he had the doctor's programming, it made him not mind being treated as a subservient drone at times. Now, though, he can't help but be bothered by it. But there's nothing he can do about it without risking being fired on day one.

The drones Elecman finds himself sitting around are sadly not much good for conversation. They all drink their fuel quickly and leave. Figures. These are not robots built with complex personalities or "souls" like he and the masters have. He nurses the rest of his fuel grumpily while they filter in and out around him. He doesn't even have any good sociable company during his downtime.

One of the plant workers notices Elecman lingering and sipping on his fuel and calls him out on it. "Aye! What's the holdup? Finish that off and get back to work."

Elecman groans to himself. Ugh. So much for a break. It hasn't even been a full 20 minutes. He quickly swallows the fuel and his anger, crushes and disposes of the can, and follows the drones back to his position before he can risk losing his temper.

The day continues in much the same way. Elecman is ignored and avoided for the most part unless someone needs him for something, then he's addressed curtly and shortly, like his co-workers are word misers. Most of the time he doesn't even get complete sentences.

"On the ladder."

"Finished?"

"Not like that."

"Hurry it up."

"Five more of those."

"To the 2nd station."

"Move it."

Everyone deals with him like he's invisible until he's needed, and then he's treated like a dog.

At least until a little later when someone notices him passing through the hall. They nudge their friend and point.

"Hey Benny there it is, see? I told you. We just got it in today. Same one that took over that hospital."

"Ugh... And they really think it's safe?"

"Apparently that Doctor Light stripped out the malicious code. Supposedly it's harmless now."

As Elecman passes through the narrow hallway the first guy knocks on his head.

"See?" He uses the lack of retaliation to prove his point. "I hear it's good with focusing output charge though. They're going to use it in the new reactor once they've insulated the silo."

"Aaaah."

"Hey!" Elecman glares and steps aside from the man. "Excuse you!"

Benny laughs. "Ahaha! You made it angry."

His friend laughs too, grabbing the top of Elecman's head and tussling it around. "I always heard that Light Labs tried to make these things lifelike. "The more human the better user interface" or something like that. Hey there guy, my name is JO! J. O. Jo! Can you say that? Say... Jo!"

"..." Elecman pauses for one moment, and the next he swats away the man's hand. "Don't touch me, Jo."

"Hey now cut that out you little fucker, haven't you ever heard of the first law of robotics?" He growls, kicking Elecman to the ground.

"Careful what you say," Benny warns. "Those things are always recording you. Whatever you say could end up back in Mr. Miller's hands."

"Bah" Jo says. "I'm not worried, Miller knows I've got a mouth."

"It's probably just programmed to keep you from tampering with it." Benny says. "Experimental tech and all that. Light labs wouldn't want any trade secrets getting out. Seriously, leave it alone. If we go messing up our prototype robot they'll cut out automated resource budgeting and we'll be stuck with the old mets for ANOTHER five years."

"Psh. All the better if it keeps these fucks from stealing our jobs. Did you hear? Another five people from our sector let go just this week. I'm telling you every time we get one of these things it's another hard worker's neck on the chopping block."

Though the kick is enough to send Elecman to the ground, he gets back to his feet in moments. "My apologies, Jo. I did not think you were so fragile to be harmed by such a gesture." He keeps his bright blue eyes narrowed in a glare. "I think I need to teach you my name next. It's Elecman. Not 'drone'. Not 'fucker'. E-L-E-C-M-A-N. Can you that say that?" He shakes his head with a look of contempt, getting cocky now in his anger. "And by the way, in regards to those firings, that's how you keep a machine running. When working parts become old and obsolete, they need to be replaced by newer and better ones."

Both Benny and Jo are very obviously shocked by the remarks from Elecman. They clearly didn't expect anything like this out of him. By the time he finishes his rant both of their mouths are hanging open.

Elecman flashes them a smirk next. "Now then...if you both are finished wasting my time, I have work to return to."

Neither of them stop him as he walks off, but they break into murmurs as he leaves.

What the hell was that?

Neither of them has any idea.

The rest of the day continues with much of the same harassments. There's very little of the fun things from the first day that Elecman gets to do and by the time five o'clock rolls around he is quite ready to leave.

When he begins seeing other workers starting to file out, he is ecstatic to follow suit. He prepares to clock out and leave before he has to spend a moment longer around these barbarians.

"Hey... Where do you think you're going?"

"I...Isn't it the end of my shift?"

"Shift?" Elecman's boss gives him an odd look. "I thought Light was giving you to us... Did he order you to return back at the end of the humans' work day?"

About that time Elecman notices the mets and other drones are still milling around at work.

"I uh...Not ordered, no, but...He never said anything about being given. Perhaps because he knows better than to think of me as a possession to be handed off."

The man gives him a funny look. "Well... You do that then. I haven't got any more directives for you right now anyway. Have him contact me, though, so we can work out exactly what the conditions of you working here are."

The man gives Elecman his contact information and sends him off.

Elecman nods, and with that, he walks out of the building as quickly as he can.

Light is outside waiting to pick him up. He drove over to congratulate his son on his first OFFICIAL day of work. "Hello! How was it? Did you do anything fun today?"

The frown on Elecman's face tells half of it. He keeps quiet until he seats himself in the passenger seat. "Ugh! How INFURIATING!"

The doctor's face falls slack from excitement to anxious worry. "That bad? Whatever happened?"

Light places a hand on his shoulder as he seats himself. "They had me do grunt's work! I wouldn't have minded that so much but what got me is the way they treated me! Oh, you should have seen it! They talked to me like a mindless drone! One of them kicked me when I dared to stand up for myself!

"Oh... Oh my... My poor boy I'm so sorry..." The kind doctor frowns down at him, deeply troubled by the news. It went so well yesterday… But perhaps he got too optimistic himself.

Elecman huffs. "Oh...by the way. One of them wanted you to call him." He holds out the card he received earlier.

Light leans over to get him a hug. "I'll have a talk with Mr. Miller about the conditions you are working in, alright? I won't let you continue to be harassed... Have no fear. I'm just sorry you had to endure harassment today..."

"They thought you were giving me to them. Can you believe it?" But he also searches the doctor's eyes worriedly. He… he isn't just to be handed over, is he?

Light's frown deepens. "That... Is not at all the case."

"Yeah well… They had better shape up tomorrow." He replies, untensing a little. That's a relief. "Well...let's go home and see this new place, hm?"

Light nods and drives back to the university where they pick everyone else up. With Iceman sitting in the middle of the front seat they manage to fit everyone and then it is off to the cape. The construction crews are already there and well on their way with laying foundation. Blues is the first out of the car, ready to get away from everyone else. He stares with interest as the work going on. "Huh... Surprising... It's going to be pretty big, huh?"

Rather than a house, the size of the foundation suggests a mansion.

"Whoooooaaaahhhh!" The kids are astounded. "It's HUGE!"

Roll tracks around it, scoping it out. "EEK! I see the beach at the bottom of the cliff!"

"Oh oh oh can we go see Dad?" Rock is bouncing.

"Of course! I'll be here having a word with Mr. Bradford. Just look out for each other!"

"We will!" Rock takes hold of Roll's hand, and they start towards the shore, being careful not to slip.

Protoman watches them go and just generally takes in the view. There is a very nice vantage of the city from this overlook. It is out across the bay. The stars are just beginning to come out as the sun fades in the distance, painting a fantastic array of colors across the ocean sky.

Hm... Rather than join them on the beach, he decides to head up to the observatory farther up around the curving road that winds around the cape's hill.

No one seems to notice when Protoman doesn't follow them down to the sand. While Iceman and Elecman hang back, Rock and Roll go near the water's edge. "Wow...it's so pretty, isn't it?"

Roll nods excitedly. "EEK! Tide pools! I wonder if there are sea critters in them?" She hurries over to look inside of one and sure enough it's teeming with life. There are urchins, starfish, hermit crabs, minnows, and even an octopus in one.

Rock immediately follows her to start looking in himself. He gasps at all of the sea creatures he finds. "Look at all these! It's like being at the aquarium."

"I know! And the beach! And the zoo! We're gonna have so much fun here! We can invite all of our friends like Pharohman, Kalinka, and Tempo over and have beach parties!" She giggles in her excitement. "Icy help me build a sand castle!"

"Oh man yes they'll love a beach party!" Rock pumps his fists, already seeing the beach towels, umbrellas, and tiki torches in his mind's eye.

Iceman perks and comes to join Roll. "Sand castle?" He tilts his head curiously. Even Elecman eventually comes to see what has Rock so excited.

Meanwhile, Blues reaches the observatory. He's worried at first when he realizes no one is there, but the doors are unlocked. Huh. He peeks his head in for a look around. There are apparently no staff, it is just open to public use. The more he takes it in, the more dated he realizes that it is. The floors are dusty. Large cobwebs hang in the corners of the room. The sound of his footsteps echo loud in the central dome, and through some narrow gap—perhaps a broken window somewhere, or a breach in the thin metal-plated dome walls, the ocean breeze whispers inside and emits a spectral moan as it swirls through the rotunda. Up above is a network of iron-grated catwalks and stairs leading up to the large telescope above, but he doesn't feel like making the climb now. There's another door leading to a room adjoining this central chamber. When Blues wanders inside, he is surprised to discover a small theater. The ceiling overhead is also domed, albeit much lower and smaller than the other room. What he finds makes him gasp quietly with surprise. As his eyes adjust to the dim lighting, he realizes that projected overhead are stars to mimic the night sky. A seemingly perfect model of the heavens. He quickly picks out some familiar constellations among the twinkling bright points overhead. As he watches, the stars dance slowly above in their mysterious eternal spiral. Though there is no air conditioning, it is cool. However, there must be power somewhere in the building besides the projector. There is faint instrumental music playing to give the majestic view a certain ambiance...

Blues quickly decides he likes this. He walks down an aisle and picks a row of fold down chairs. Moving some arms up, he fashions himself a rough bed out of them and lays down as he gazes at the constellations above. This feels like somewhere where he could comfortably fall asleep. It's such a surprise to have such a nice spot all to himself.

He muses how this could be. Knowing Mega City, there is probably a newer, nicer observatory somewhere in the middle of town. And besides… star projectors like this one are children's toys you could buy in any superstore. Not many must feel the need to trek all the way out here for the sight. Given the signs of age he's seen, it's probably quite old…

Old… distant… dirty… obsolete. Makes sense.

Their loss, his gain.

Blues keeps watching the stars until the persistent calm makes him forget himself and lures him to sleep.

As Rock teaches Elecman about all of the different animals in the tide pools, Iceman does his best to help Roll make an impressive castle. He's not as good sculpting sand as he would be with ice or snow, but he manages.

Roll is very encouraging regardless. "Eek that's so good! Now it just needs a flag on top!"

She looks around to see what she could fashion into one but doesn't manage to come up with anything.

"Hmmm..." Iceman goes to look around at some stuff washed up on the shore. He finds a stick small enough to stick in the castle without breaking it, but what to use as the flag...Then he spots some seaweed to wrap around and have hanging from the end. It's not exactly a great flag, but it should work nicely. He comes back and holds the new flag out to Roll. "Would you like to do the honors, Queen Roll?"

Roll gasps and blushes at first, but quickly puts on a queenly, regal air. "Why thank you my beloved subject. You have served your queen well."

She takes the flag and raises the banner on top of her lovely castle. "There! Finito!"

As the sun sinks lower the doctor eventually calls his children back from higher on the hill.

They all turn to the sound of his voice and obediently file back up the hill to stand before him.

"Dr. Light, Roll and I made a sand castle, you should see!"

"And Rock showed me all these animals that I only got to see on TV before!" Elecman chimes in.

"Oh? Why that's wonderful! And we will all get to see them much more once we move in." He beams. This was a good idea. He's glad he splurged a bit and went for this location.

It is very near dusk now. Many of the human construction workers are moving back to their vehicles to leave as Light gathers his own group. "Time to go kids. Hm... Where did Blues go?"

###########################

When Blues awakens next it's not because he was nudged, rocked, rolled, or shocked... But chilled.

He jumps awake shivering. "Ack! ICEMAN WHAT THE HELL!?"

The icy bot snickers. "It's time to leave, and that's for wandering off without telling us and making us worried. But once I saw this place I knew it'd be the sort of place you'd want to look at."

The others are standing a short distance away. Instead of looking at Blues, though, their heads are turned upward, watching the same starlit display that captured Blues's attention originally.

Blues flushes, embarrassed that he was caught sleeping. At least no one seems to be paying attention to him now. He flicks Ice man's hood off as revenge and gets up.

Iceman sticks his tongue at him before going to join the others. Rock smiles at his brother. "This is a really neat place, Blues. We should all visit it next time."

"Eh." His brother shrugs.

He heads out the door while they continue oogling the stars. So much for a private place to nap... It has potential though. Maybe some nights he can come out here to sleep and be close to the Light household.

Rock blinks, smile faltering in the face of Blues's apathetic response. "Um...we found some tide pools by the water. They had little fish and crabs and sea urchins, and we even found an octopus in one of them!"

"Oh?" Blues does sound vaguely interested in that.

"Uhuh! It was pretty small. It looks like it could fit in my hand. I tried to hold it, but it squished itself behind a rock."

Blues chuckles. "It hid itself behind you huh?"

Rock snickers in spite of how terrible the joke is. "Yeah, it did."

Iceman suddenly catches up to Blues's other side. "But you know what me and Roll did? We made a big pretty sand castle."

"Oh? No wonder your hood was so gritty."

"Ack," Iceman jumps a little. "Ugh. Yeah...I'm gonna have to wash out the sand from my frame. But that's what happens when you build. You gotta get a little messy."

Blues jumps into the car where Elecman is already waiting. Once everyone's loaded up and headed back to their home, Protoman speaks.

"I would be grateful if you could drop me out when we reach the city. I can find my own way from there."

"Drop you out?" Light asks. "You mean you aren't coming back home with us? Please don't tell me you mean to sleep elsewhere tonight... You have a place with us, Protoman."

"I don't plan to sleep, no. I have errands to run tonight."

Light frowns, not liking the idea of his son skulking around in the dark city... But says no more. If he tries to force Blues to stay close, then Blues will just run farther away from him. "As you wish... Do you have any preference of where I should leave you?"

"Subway would be good."

Both Rock and Elecman look to Blues curiously, but they quickly realize they should follow the doctor's lead and not ask. Rock still can't help but worry, however. He's not planning on traveling outside of the city is he?

Protoman gets off at the subway and waves to the Light family. "Later." He really does have errands to run tonight... so without any ado he grabs a newspaper and heads down into the subway station to catch a train.

For a while he just rides... there are televisions on the train that stay on the news channels and he double tasks, looking through all the local tabloids and crime reports along with catching the key stories. Finally a pattern begins to emerge. Hardware stores. Hobby shops. Fuel depots. All places where you can get tools and e-packs. No traces. No footage. No prints. Just clean get in, get out, steal targeted items operations. About seven in total.

Blues goes through a catalog of all similar stores that fit that profile located throughout the city. He eventually decides to stay away from central Mega city. None of the crimes have been there. Too visible, he bets. All the attacks were on the fringes... most on the west side but some east and south... no northern city attacks. Again an area of high visibility and night life. He'll keep away from there. So... that leaves him with another 14 most probable places for attacks... most of them on the west side. He hopes his luck is good tonight.

He gets off the Mega West Limited and takes to the skies, traveling across rooftops while he tunes into the police radio using his built in comm...

He takes a seat on top of a high riser surveying the city below... takes out an e-pack that he bought nearby... and sips on it as he waits. The crescent moon rises slowly to prominence in the sky... Everything is quiet and peaceful... on the surface.

But Blues knows better than to trust the city for its surface appearance. It's a little after 2:00 when he hears the report of a suspicious figure in a trench coat. Odd... it's fairly warm out. He moves towards the area where the report originated. It's 2:30 when he spots the suspicious figure walking down the sidewalk. Very odd... they're short too... About his size...

He watches as they pace slowly up and down the sidewalk in front of an electronics store. Bingo. Blues moves closer from above, sticking to the shadows of his rooftop. His eyes never leave the individual. They are too far away to get a good look out, and it's so dark. The street light is busted out.

The protobot hesitates. He could move in now and take them by surprise… But they seem to be waiting on something or someone. He wants to know who or what.

And so he waits with them.

2:45 - They light a cigarette.

3:00 - They put it out and crush it under their heel.

Protoman lingers, tense and on bated breath until they move into the alley by the store. Finally something is happening. He gives it until he hears the burglar alarm before he moves in.

What happens next he is not prepared for.

Everything is a blur. The moment he enters through the sheared brick wall that leads into the store, there is a flash of bright light. Blues lifts his shield reflexively and feels something metallic glance off of it. He charges forward with a battle cry but something bashes back.

There's a grunt.

And then, a scream. But not his attacker's. There are two here. And by the sound of it one of them just got badly hurt.

It's too dark to see, but Blues thinks he knows who he is dealing with, and it puts him more on his guard. He slides to the side and avoids getting locked into a corner as he raises his arm cannon to fire. The shot rings out and blasts the ceiling, sending sparks flying everywhere.

There.

A shadow at the corner of the room. Blues points his blaster, preparing to fire again but just as he does something sinks into his arm.

"GAH!"

He aims back in the direction the knife was thrown from just in time to see the other shadow disappearing into the alley. He gives chase, firing off shots as the figure disappears into the night. It's no use though. By the time he gets back outside of the building, there's no sign of them.

He groans as he pulls a kunai out of his arm just above the elbow. No doubt... It's Shadow's work.

Remembering that there is still someone else in the building he rushes back inside.

"SURRENDER! I have you-..."

Protoman drops the weapon he has trained on the other figure that he almost fired on before. He approaches cautiously, his shield half raised. When his eyes adjust and he realizes what he is seeing, he pauses.

"...Why?"

This doesn't make sense...

The other robot's shadowy form lays limp in the corner, unconscious or deactivated one. But not by his own doing.

Hearing distant sirens that quickly grow closer, Blues picks up the figure and slings them over his shoulder, heading outside. He had best get out of here before he has to deal with the police. Then he can try to make some sense of the bizarre confrontation and his new captive.


END OF CHAPTER

Thanks for the kind comments. They are always appreciated.

Chapter Text

Recipe for great abs:

Read a passage of the bad, poorly stuff you wrote in the past.

Cringe so hard you do a crunch.

Repeat.


Chapter 14: Electrifying

Earlier that night at the Light residence, the four remaining children enjoy a nice meal before bed. Light peeks his head into Elecman's (really Blues's, but since Elec's been sleeping in it more...) room and sits down at the end of the bot's bed. "Hello Elecman... how are you feeling?"

"Better after that outing to the beach. Did you talk to the human from the plant?"

"I did actually... just got off of the phone with him... Mr. Miller seemed strained while we were on the talking, but I've tried to explain to him as best that I can that you are not an ordinary robot. And that you are not to be treated like one. He will not be in work tomorrow because he has an out of town meeting to attend, but he has assured me that he will inform the plant workers not to treat you as they have today. You are to be given the respect you deserve."

Light scooches up and puts an arm around his creation, who casts his gaze to the side.

"Thank you...I can only hope that the others will listen to him."

Light nods. "If not, you just let me know. I'll see to it that you endure no more harassment." He hugs the boy close in one of his signature Light bear hugs.

"Nngh...thank you, sir, but I gotta fight my own battles if they're gonna respect me. They're about as thick as the drones they mock anyway. I'm sure I can handle them." Elecman scowls softly, his expression disdainful.

Light's smile falls just slightly. "Now Elecman... respect is a two way road... If the people you want respect from sense that you do not have any respect for them, it will create a gulf between you. I know it is hard to hear that because you are the one already being treated poorly. But you must not let yourself fall into resentment... it will only worsen matters."

"But I'm so much better than them. They should respect me. And yet I think that's why they hate me. They know I can prove them obsolete. They were complaining about it when they confronted me."

Light frowns now... he chooses his next words with great care. "You... are very special, Elecman. You are one of a kind. You are strong. You are capable. ...but those things are not what make you worthy of respect."

"What?!" Now he looks offended. "What does, if not all those qualities?"

Light prods the center of his chest gently. "It is what's in there that is worthy of respect. Because you are an individual. You are a person. You are alive. Your greatest gift is not your abilities. It is not your ability to control surges and wield enormous power... it is the fact that you have a living, feeling spark in you. Sentience... a soul... call it what you will, but that is where your greatness lies. When your workers realize that spark is there... I think the respect you deserve will come freely."

"Well...I've always had that, and it never got me respect in the past." Elec grunts peevishly. "And every human has sentience, but I know enough about how they interact to know that no one is guaranteed respect because of it."

The doctor sighs sadly. "Perhaps... sadly, just because someone is worthy of respect does not always guarantee they will be respected. But then... there is always someone that you can gain respect from. And that's the most important respect for you to earn. It can stay with you for the rest of your life."

Light pets his son's head. "It's your own."

Elecman's eyes widen slightly but he quickly puffs his cheeks and looks away. "Well...I already have plenty of respect for myself."

Light grins. "Then you have the only respect that matters."

The black and yellow bot pouts heavily. "I'm not sure if I can fully agree, but... Thank you anyway. I'll be in my best behavior tomorrow and shall avoid injuring human bodies or egos."

The doctor snorts softly. "Good to hear." He leans in and places a kiss on the boy's head. "Sleep well, son."

He can't help it. In spite of his ill temper, he flushes bright. Elecman is still unaccustomed to goodnight kisses or really any open display of affection.

Light quietly slips out and leaves the door cracked. He goes and visits the rest of his children for their tuck-ins, distributing kisses to each one, including Iceman, before heading to bed himself. As he changes into his pajamas and picks out a book to read a bit of before bed, his thoughts are with his absent child...

Even after all the years when Light was sure he was he was gone forever, even after fixing him and repairing him and letting him know he has a place to call home... Light still worries every night that Blues isn't with him.

He longs to wrap his arms in a bear hug around that frame and kiss his wayward son lovingly goodnight too.

But it is not too late for that to be a reality someday... Light says a quiet prayer for his safety before retiring to sleep.

The sun won't be out yet when he is next woken.

It's just past 4:30 in the morning when the knock comes to the front door. Roll is the first one to be stirred by it. She hops up and walks to the living room to see what all the commotion is about. Odd that someone should be here at this time...

Caution leads her to grab a chair and peek out the peephole before she answers. What she sees she doesn't expect at all.

"Blues!?"

She hurriedly opens the door and cries out when she sees what he has, but the next moment she's dashing for Light's bedroom.

"Daddy!? Daddy wake up, hurry, it's Blues!"

Light jolts up with a start. "Hrm!? B-blues!?"

Fearing the worst he jumps to his feet still in his PJ's and night cap and follows Roll quickly into the living room. By this time the commotion has the other occupants of the house woken too.

Rock's door opens, and the boy runs out with the others to see what the commotion is about. "Wh-what about Blues? Is he okay?"

What he sees isn't anything he could have prepared for. Blues is there alright. And drenched in spilt fuel...

But not his own. Over his shoulders hangs a limp orange body. The macabre sight is highlighted by the spilling components and sliced middle of Cutsman's frame-his own shears still protruding from the wound. He's been cut almost in half, seemingly by his own weapon, and is now unconscious.

"Lab. Now." Light orders, gathering the things he needs from their apartment, like his 24/7 access cardkey. Roll gets the umbrella since its drizzling lightly outside and the other things that Light forgets as Protoman stands there.

Blues catches sight of his younger brother's aghast expression. He regrets causing this scene but he didn't know where else to turn. "Rock... you should go back to bed."

The child stands shaking. "But...but Cutman..."

"Daddy your jacket" Roll says. It's chilly out. "Yes thank you dear. Rock, Blues is right. Back to bed. We will do what needs to be done. Iceman, Elecman you two as well. Elecman you have work tomorrow."

Blues starts carrying the dripping, mangled bot back outside and towards the lab.

"But..." But the door slams back closed before Rock can get his full protest out. He and the other two boys are all left alone. Iceman whimpers. "Poor Cutman...what could have happened to him?"

"Torn by his own blade." Elecman sighs and shakes his head. "I don't know who would do that...besides maybe the same bot who threw you under the bus."

Iceman gasps. "Shadowman? You think so? Oh...what is his malfunction?!"

"No idea...but the doctor was right. I have to be at full battery power for tomorrow. Might as well just let them deal with it." Elecman goes back to his own bed, leaving Iceman and Rock alone.

Iceman fidgets. "...Can I get into bed with you, Rock?" He asks timidly. "With Roll gone, I don't wanna sleep alone..." Rock quickly nods and takes Iceman's hand to lead him back to his room.

Iceman snuggles up against Megaman, shivering softly, not from the cold but from worry. "P...poor Cutty... he's not a bad guy... not really... he doesn't deserve that..."

"No one does...I'm so glad Blues found him, though."

Iceman nods and slowly. He yawns and after a while his nerves finally begin to calm back down. The doctor will surely fix him back up, and tomorrow maybe he can see his brother again. With that thought to console him, he drifts back off to sleep.

Rock isn't quite so easy though. He tries to stay up and wait for someone to return so he might learn what's happening.

Things are hectic for the next half hour in the lab. Light and Roll are flying all over the place. Blues, who is less familiar with what is where, nonetheless tries to assist them as best he can. The first matter is to get Cutman's ruptured tank fixed, which involves isolating the wound, cleaning the surrounding fuel, and delicately welding and patching it back. Light has Blues refuel him from there while he and Roll repair the other damaged lines. They need to make sure to get power back to his vital systems and check for core stability before they proceed further. It is a rocky road back to having Cutman running steady and self-sustained before they start getting into the other issues. At this point it's almost 6:00 in the morning and Blues is starting to get tired. He helps out a bit more (really he's mostly just in the way) and then leaves once he finds a good stopping point. He gets back into the apartment at about 6:15 and plops himself onto the couch.

After a few minutes there's the sound of a door quietly opening and the tip-toeing of smaller feet.

Rock is then seen peeking his head in. With Blues's visor, he's not sure if his brother is already asleep or not.

"...Rock?" Blues sits up a little. "You should be asleep..."

"I can't...I'm worried. Is Cutman gonna be okay...?"

Blues nods. "Yeah. Yeah he'll be fine... they're still working on him, but Light has him stabilized... it's going to be okay."

"Ah...that's good... Do you have any idea what happened?"

"...I can't say for certain... but I know for sure I wasn't the one that did that to him. There was a break-in on the southwest side of town. When I moved in to investigate, I was attacked. It was too dark to see who it was. While we were fighting I heard a scream that must have been Cutman's. I never caught but a glimpse of the attacker. He got around me and fled into the alley... by the time I got outside, he had vanished... and I found Cutman back inside in that state...

"I-I never said you were the one that did it." Rock stutters, putting his hands up. He doesn't want Blues to think he's accusing.

"... But it's the logical conclusion isn't it?" Blues probes gently.

His brother furiously shakes his head. "If you wanted to hurt him, you wouldn't have brought him back."

"Mmmm... I guess so."

"Besides...you don't fight like that."

...? Protoman tilts his head. "What do you mean?"

"You wouldn't use his own weapon to cut him open. You're not that violent."

A small smile finds its way to the red bot's lips. Protoman chuckles softly. "Thanks for saying so... now go back to bed."

"Fiiiiine...what are you gonna do?"

"Rest... it's been a long night." Protoman settles back down on the couch.

"Kay... If you go back out to investigate, can I come with you?"

"...I'll consider it."

"Kay." Rock knows better than to push the issue much further now.

...

He suddenly runs up to the couch to kiss his big brother's head goodnight before dashing back to his room.

Blues doesn't move but stare after him once he's gone. After a few moments, some color finds its way to his cheeks. He rubs the spot self-consciously. "…Dumb kid." He settles down and sighs.

After dawn arrives, the front door creaks open and Roll and Light re-enter the house. Both tiptoe into Roll's room to deposit their newly-repaired, still unconscious charge before Roll comes back outside and taps Blues quietly on the shoulder.

"Hey... sorry to wake you... We moved Cutman to my bed though... if it's okay, could I take the couch and you move in with Elecman?"

Blues grumps slightly, not thrilled with the idea, but relents and moves into his own room. He doesn't actually get onto the bed with the black bot, though. He pulls a few thick quilts out of the closet and makes himself a pad on the floor off to the side to lay down on.

It's only another hour or so until Elecman has to get up himself for work. When he wakes, he sits up and stretches, and then nearly ends up stepping right on top of Blues.

"Mmngh... watch it..." Protoman grunts.

"Sorry. Didn't think you'd be on my floor."

"My floor if the rumors are to be believed and this is indeed my room."

"Well you can say it's yours but if I'm the one using it more, well..."

Blues grabs his pad and moves it away from the bed. Without any further ado he returns to sleep.

Elecman huffs and goes to get some fuel. Sadly the doctor is only just getting up and getting his own coffee. There's no special breakfast prepared today. "Mmmmn... morning Elecman... did you sleep well?"

"Well enough. Are you doing alright?"

Light nods with a yawn, but he's looking pretty bleary eyed. "Not the full night of rest I hoped for but that's alright... You can't choose when life happens, it just happens. Are you ready for work?"

"Just about. How is Cutman?"

"Good question... he has not woken yet... he should still be recalibrating for a few hours yet... When he does wake, well... we'll just have to see what he says. I've repaired all of the interior damage and all but the most petty surface damage... when he wakes, he should be fully functional. I also went ahead and removed Wily's programming and the emotion suppressants while I was at it." He takes another small sip from his mug and stares ahead contemplatively. "We shall just have to see what he makes of that... Poor boy... He must have been in great pain before he went offline."

"Well...I'm glad he's going to be alright. Thank you so much, doctor."

"...Thank me? Whatever for?"

"For saving him."

Light smiles tiredly. "Such a responsible young man you're turning into. Thanking me on behalf of your brother... that is very sweet. I was glad to do it, though, I assure you. I have hope that our little family may have just grown a little larger."

"Oh my...will we have room for him?"

The doctor's grin doesn't falter. "We'll make do. Only a week 'til our new home is complete."

He might have predicted the need for more space and had said house designed accordingly.

"Ah, that's right. That will be nice."

Light nods. "There will be a home for you there too, you know." He stretches. "Alright... I'll go fire up the car. Come down when you're ready."

Elecman nods and offers a little smile.

When he realizes Roll has returned from the night's excitement, Iceman abandons Rock for her, crawling onto the couch beside her and pulling the blanket she's using up so she's tucked warmly inside of it before he puts his arm around her waist. She's so cute when she's sleeping... but gosh she's so brave too... when he saw Cutman torn in half like that he thought he was going to faint. He didn't miss, though, how despite the stress of the situation she stayed collected and task focused. She would make a great nurse... an aspiration she admitted to him the other day.

He rests his cheek against her back and sighs, drinking in her presence like a warm mug of hot chocolate that Dr. Light made for him the other day... so nice...

As he clings to her, Roll slowly blinks awake. When she realizes that she's being spooned on the couch her face grows hot. "Iceman...is that you?"

Ack! "S...sorry ma'am... did I wake you? I didn't mean to..."

"It's okay...I only just closed my eyes."

"Oh..." He feels even guiltier now. "M...my bad." He takes his arm from around her waist and gives her some more space. "I uh... I can leave you alone if you like, I just thought... s-sorry ma'am I wasn't thinking..."

"No no...please stay?"

Another wave of warmth blossoms in Iceman's chest when she doesn't reject him. "Okay" he murmurs bashfully.

He will do so gladly. The arctic bot carefully places his arm back around her and snuggles close.

"Hey..." Roll chimes on an afterthought. "So don't worry. Cutman is going to be okay.

Iceman sighs softly. "Of course he is. You... you looked after him. You were so brave earlier... you deserve a good long rest." He smiles just a bit. "Cutman couldn't be in better hands. I'm sure of it."

"Iceman...you're real sweet to say that. But daddy was the one to do most of the work."

''Aw... w-well," he scratches his hood, "You worked really hard too to help him, I'm sure...I think you'll make a great nurse."

"Thank you, Iceman. When you decide what you wanna do, I'm sure you'll be great at it too."

Iceman flushes so much he almost turns warm. He stays nuzzled affectionately to her as he drifts back to sleep.

################################

Cutman groans softly as consciousness finds him like a wolf finds a sheep.

"Ungh... "

He blinks awake slowly, immediately aware that his surroundings are unfamiliar. He quickly feels at his middle.

Intact... Somehow he's intact... Did the boss fix him? Did old man Wily get out of prison?

Last he remembers is the maddening pain of his own cutters rending through his body... lying in two pieces bleeding out... Before that... Everything is fuzzy... He was on a mission wasn't he? They were gonna steal...

The door opens and Cutman practically jumps out of his own mesh... But thankfully it's a familiar face.

"Icy... You're intact? We... We were starting to think you'd gotten the final cut..." He laughs weakly. "G...get it?"

"Cutty!" Iceman runs up to the table. "You're okay!"

"Mmmn... Well... Alive at least..."

He slowly sits up, expecting his limbs to be weak, but they actually function fine. It's the mental drag that gets him. "Ugh... My body feels great... But my mind feels like it got bulldozed by a dozen Gutsmans..."

"Ah...well I think I might know why. Um...this is gonna be a lot to take in, so try to relax." The smaller blue bot places his hands on Cutman's shoulders. "You're um...you're in Dr. Light's lab."

Cutman stares at him dumbly, waiting for the punchline. Or maybe that was the punchline?

"H..heh... You're funny, Icy." Cutman cracks a big grin. A BIG grin, even though he really doesn't think it's that funny. But at least his bro is trying. "Seriously good one. Almost had me going there. Did you grow a sense of humor while you were gone? S...seriously though, what happened? Did we free Doctor Wily?"

Iceman pouts. "I am serious. Dr. Light fixed you."

"...C...c'mon Icy when someone figures out the joke, you're supposed to give up and say "I give". It... It's not funny anymore when you push it..."

Cutman is starting to feel ill. He looks around. These surroundings aren't familiar. He's in a bedroom... Under blankets... There are stuffed animals piled on one side of the room.

"It's okay, Cutty. You're safe, I promise." Iceman puts a hand on his shoulder. "You're in Roll's room right now. Dr. Light moved you here after he fixed you so you'd be more comfortable. This is where they're all living right now. Dr. Light, Megaman, Roll… even Elecman lives here now too. He fixed us and got rid of Wily's programming."

"F…fixed us... Removed...?" This is a little too much to take in. It feels like everything in Cutman's life has been uprooted. He... He needs to go back to his directive. That will help him figure out what to do. He searches through his mind to the last thing Wily said. Gather materials. Fall back. Reorganize. Wait for... Wait for...

The directives... Are strange. They feel hollow now somehow... Like they don't carry the weight they once did...

"Yeah," Iceman continues, "Don't you feel better now? I remember the effects his programming had on you. You were so unhappy and grumpy. We all were."

Cutman's expression grows puzzled. Grumpy? Was he really? He... Well he... Huh...

He does feel lighter somehow...

Like... Well it doesn't feel quite as much like everything's doomed to be awful anymore. He's scared and confused... But it doesn't feel like he's being sucked down a black hole.

"I... I'm not sure... Maybe? I do feel different somehow."

"You're gonna be a lot happier now," Iceman nods. "Trust me. And you'll like it here with the doctor and everyone. They're all really nice. Even Protoman is decent. He's the one that found you and brought you back."

Cutman's eyes blink open wide in surprise. Protoman? "Heh... Now I know you've been drinking... the koolaid..." Cuts trails off tiredly. Even though he just woke up, he feels like taking a good long rest...

Iceman pouts again. "I'm telling you it's the truth! You can go and ask him yourself. Well. If he's awake."

"M...maybe later. I'm just so tired right now I... I need to rest for a while." Cutman starts laying back down but then pauses. "Would you stay with me? Please?"

Iceman smiles and immediately climbs into bed with him. "Sure thing, Cutty. As long as you need." He doesn't hesitate to wrap his arms around his orange friend.

Cutman immediately reciprocates the gesture and hugs Iceman close. "I'm just so glad that you're okay... I'm not sure if I've ever been this glad about anything..." Tears threaten at his eyes.

"Aaaaww...Cutty. I'm just fine. I only hope the others are too."

Cutman nods. "They're alive... We didn't know about Elecman for a while. Glad to hear he's alive and with you guys. Better than being buried in the rubble of our hideout."

"He ran away with Protoman when the base got destroyed." Iceman explains.

"Could I see him?" the orange bot yawns.

"Yeah sure. He's just not here right now cuz he's working."

"Aah." Cutty hugs Iceman close and slowly goes back to sleep while clinging to him.

Iceman stays close to him the whole time until he eventually falls back asleep as well.

If Elecman's first day of work was rough, today is hell. Where he was treated as competent if contemptuous the previous day, today he is flat out ignored. No one talks to him, and few of the humans even look at him. With Mr. Miller gone, there is no one to give him direction. When he tries asking the other workers what to do, they direct him to the command terminal for directions. When he goes to the command terminal it directs him back to the workers at his station.

At first the slights and lack of direction seem like benign oversight on Miller's part... But as the day goes on and Elecman continues asking what he should do, his co-workers' attitudes hint as something a little more mean-spirited. When he goes to the second in charge manager yet another time to try to see what needs doing, the man sneers at him. "What's the matter bot? I thought you were supposed to be free thinking. Do what you were programmed to do."

Elecman's mouth briefly twists into a snarl, but he quickly straightens up and walks off. So it seems he's been given permission to work freely. If that's the case, he won't waste his talents with grunt work any further. He's heading right back to that generator.

The generator isn't up and running when he gets there. There are cords dangling all over the place and construction crews are installing new pieces-probably the insulators and charge rods that were being talked about the other day. A few bots are around helping get the cords hooked into the right places and getting rid of the ones marked with red tabs.

Hm...Elecman begins slowly making his way around the perimeter of workers. He studies what they do carefully before silently falling into place to help.

As it turns out, there's a good reason that it's only the drones moving wires-they're all live. Each one sends a little jolt through Elecman's body. But they hardly do much ides give him a slight tingling through his arms. He continues, knowing he can get the job done faster than these simple drones.

Sure enough, he cuts the time it would have taken them in half and soon every cable is in its place. The humans above are still milling around, but over the course of the next hour they finish installing the new parts.

"Benny! Analysis!" Someone calls up. Elecman recognizes Jo, the obnoxious human from yesterday.

"We're coming up green! Looks like it's all ready to fire up!"

"All personnel clear the area! Repeat: all personnel clear the area!"

As soon as he hears the announcement, Elecman backs away from the generator and begins moving out with the other workers.

There's a deep rumble as the generator starts up. The last of the humans file behind the yellow caution tape and look up through the enormous window showing into the generator room as its central components begin to spin.

"10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3..."

Something sparks at the base of the new equipment.

"2..."

Elecman can feel the charge building in the air around them, surging out from the center of the next room.

"1"

Electricity arcs off of the new central rod and back through the central room in enormous streams of light. There's a sound like the world itself being ripped apart. Everyone in the "safe" room watches in horror as the other workers behind the glass in the room across from them are scattered. An electrical arc penetrates the insulator glass and shatters it. Alarm bells are blaring, as if anyone can hear.

"SHUT IT OFF!"

There's another explosion somewhere nearby that rocks the ground.

Elecman feels his core go cold. What just happened? Did he cause this disaster?

The core shuts down the next second and the electrical arcs in the silo dissipate, but the alarms are still going off everywhere. There are muffled screams from the room across the walkway where the arc shattered the glass.

"HELP! We need help!"

Instinct immediately kicks in. Elecman runs forward to enter the command to open the door to their safe room in order to get out and run across the walkway, jumping through the broken window.

Everything in the room is chaos. Some people are clutching bloodied cuts, but the biggest commotion centers around the man on the ground-it's Jo. Someone kneels over him, pumping on his chest. There are shouts from the hysterical people nearby.

"MAKE ROOM!"

"NO PULSE, I don't have a pulse!"

"KEEP UP THOSE COMPRESSIONS!"

"SOMEONE GET A DEFIBRILLATOR!"

Defibrillator...Elecman knows what those are. They send a bolt of electricity to a human's heart to jumpstart it. Elecman gets in his knees besides Jo and turns to one of the other workers. "How much voltage does a defibrillator use?"

The man giving him CPR fumbles, momentarily at a lost. "T..two...no...YES two hundred to 1000! Jo's big. Er... Ah... S-start at 300!"

Elecman nods. He's seen enough medical shows to know how this works. He rubs his hands together to equalize the charge he's building, places them on the man's chest, shouts "clear!" And then sends 300 volts of electricity into the human.

Jo jolts from the pulse and the moment Elecman moves back the human working on him goes back, listening for a pulse before doing some more compressions. "Bring it up to 375! Clear!"

He moves back.

Elecman repeats the action, increasing the power as directed.

Everyone watches in tense silence as the man on the floor spasms again. The man working on him goes back to listening for a pulse, his face grim. "Come on buddy don't do this to me you gotta get up or Sharon's gonna gut me. You get up for your little girl, dammit." He mutters as he continues the compressions. "500. Go up to 500."

Jo's friend gets clear.

Once again, Elecman delivers the shock as soon as the other humans are clear.

Benny scrambled back near to him and presses close to Jo to listen. Moments afterwards a sob rips through the man's body.

"I... I've got a pulse. I've got him."

The tension is somewhat broken and everyone around scrambles back to action.

"Paramedics?"

"Already got them. On their way."

"Someones get a first aid kit!"

"Keep the pressure on, help's coming."

On the floor Jo's eyelids flutter open but he doesn't seem very aware of his surroundings yet.

Now Elecman is unsure what he needs to do from here. Perhaps he won't be needed further. He sticks around just in case the paramedics need to speak with him when they arrive on scene to know what he did. Sadly with the tense action over he goes back to being invisible. Human's mill around him without acknowledgement of his heroic actions. Once again he is forgotten and alone in a sea of people.

Elecman sighs. He should have known better than to expect to become the next Megaman after saving just one human. What's worse is now he is back without a given task to do. He eventually clears out away from the action while help arrives on the scene and rejoins the other robots still performing their labor without any inkling that a tragedy just took place.

The day continues on much in the same way. Not a lot goes on around the generator after the earlier accident. Elecman is far from the only bot milling around without a directive. When the day is finally over he has accomplished next to nothing.

Elecman gives a frustrated sigh. Well at least now he can leave. Once again he makes an effort to get out of there as soon as he can.

Light knows before he makes it to the car that things have gone badly. "Oh my poor boy... What happened?"

"I don't know...there was some sort of accident with the generator. One of the humans nearly perished."

Light gasps. What horrifying news "Good gracious! Is he alright now though?"

"Why yes, he is fine now. Thanks to me." He indicates himself with a slight flourish, quite ready to brag about what he did.

"Thanks to you? Details my boy. What exactly happened?"

Light listens at rapt attention as Elecman lays out the course of his day and the drama of the generator explosion disaster. His description is somewhat more sensationally than it deserves. By his own rendering, you would think he was the lone savior of humankind.

"Thank goodness you were there... Elecman it sounds like you saved that man's life."

"Yeah, well...no one else seemed to realize it." He grunts and hunches back down in his seat.

"Oh Elecman... I am sorry... What you did was noble... It's a shame that no one even said thank you... It's possible though that they were too caught up in the moment to remember... Perhaps tomorrow."

"No...there's not going to be a tomorrow."

Light raises an eyebrow. Oh dear. "So you are ready to quit then…"

"They didn't thank me because they didn't think I was worth it." Elec angrily justifies.

"Elecman..."

"Probably just thought I was acting according to programming...maybe they think all robots from Light Labs are coded to save humans. That I didn't choose to save him myself."

The doctor holds his tongue there. But Elecman continues on in his rant.

"I don't want to go back there. I don't want to be treated as a lesser being."

Light sighs. "My son... Your indignation is not wrong... You deserve to be treated better... If you really insist that you can't stay longer I won't force you. But I beg you not to give up just yet... Please at least give your employer a notice..."

"They won't need any notice. They got on fine without me and will rejoice to see me gone."

Light looks unhappy to hear this. But he won't push the issue for now. Elecman is tired and irritable. Best to let him rest and process everything that happened.

Once he's settled down, Elec looks back at the doc and addresses him more peaceably. "So then... how has Cutmam been doing?"

"Oho... Cutman...well..."

################################

Cutman stares across the room at Megaman. Just stares. Before he was afraid of this bot and wanted nothing more than to destroy him. Now? Now he's just afraid. He hides behind Icy.

"Cutty..." Iceman pats his back. "You don't need to be so afraid. Rock is nice."

"He...he's not! He busted us up remember?"

Rock frowns sadly at that.

"Well yeah, but we beat him up to..." Says Iceman.

Cutman looks away... And moments later his tank actually audibly gurgles.

Iceman's eyes widen. "Cutty do you need fuel?"

"W...well." He looks away sheepishly.

"We got lots!" Rock hops off the couch and heads into the kitchen to fetch a can from the fridge. When he returns, he holds it out for Cutman with a smile. "Here. And don't be afraid to tell me if you want a second one."

Cutman regards the boy with suspicion for several moments but nevertheless snatches the fuel and begins downing it greedily. Rations have been scarce and he's too hungry to care whether or not it's poisoned.

"I'll just go get that second can now." Rock giggles.

Cutman frowns but takes the second and drinks it too.

And the third.

And the fourth.

When he's halfway through the fifth his tank berates him for his gluttony by locking up and refusing to accept more fuel. It's probably for the best because the flexible metal of his midriff is bulged out slightly.

By this point Rock and Roll are staring at him wide-eyed and speechless. Iceman is less startled by the behavior, just amused.

"Have you...not been able to get much fuel lately?" Rock quietly questions.

Cutman looks miffed by their baffled expressions. "W-well, it's not easy to steal enough fuel to feed 10+ robot masters and one BIG robot master when you have to avoid public refueling stations... Us little ones get the smallest cut." He harrumphs and crosses his arms over his swollen middle.

Rock frowns. "I'm sorry...you guys have had to steal all your fuel?"

"Not when we were with Wily, no. He got it for us. But since he's in prison now..."

"Well...you'll never have an empty tank again. Promise." Rock kneels forward with his eyes locked seriously on the orange bot's and places his hands on Cutman's shoulders

Cutman just looks at him... And suddenly he whips the scissors off of the top of his head and throws them at Rock before grabbing Iceman's arm and running for the window.

"Now's our chance! You watch our six I'll lead us back!"

!

Rock just barely manages to jump away and gets only he his shirt cut versus his whole arm. Iceman shouts. "Cutman stoooooop!" and tugs back against him until they come to a standstill.

Cutman gasps in surprise as Iceman resists him, but he doesn't let go. He keeps trying to tug his friend away.

"I...Icy n-no! You've gotta fight their control! We'll get you back to normal and take whatever mind control Light put in out of you! Just think for a second, who do you really wanna be with, Megaman or your brothers!?" He desperately tugs, unwilling to leave Iceman to save himself. However, he's grabbed suddenly and picked up from behind.

"Now now... Please Cutman... If you insist on leaving we will allow you to go peacefully, but only after you hear what I have to say. I implore you."

The orange bot looks behind himself to stare at the face of none other than Thomas Light.

Standing next to him is Elecman with an amused smirk. "Well. Glad to see you're feeling energetic."

"... Elec?"

Elecman grins. It's him alright.

Big fat tears start to bead up from Cutman's eyes. "Leckyyyyyy."

He turns around to hug his big bro. Elecman gets squeezed.

"YOU'RE OKAAAAAY!"

"Bah! Of course I am! I'm too quick-witted to let anything happen to me." The other robot master hugs back. "I'm more glad to see you okay. You gave us quite a scare."

Cutman sobs even harder at the display of affection. Elecman NEVER hugs him...

Come to think of it... He's never really tried to hug Elecman before either... How has he never hugged him before? He loves him so much... And Iceman... And everyone else.

How is he only just now realizing that?

"Now now. No need to cry. You'll get me all wet." His brother pats his shoulder.

Cutman reluctantly parts with him... And then he hides behind both brothers when Light approaches.

"There there... Shh... It's quite alright... I promise you no harm will come to you while you're here..." the old man soothes.

"I... I can't trust you... Guys we can't trust him!"

"Why ever is that?" Light asks.

"W...wily said..."

"I see. And you respect what Albert says to you?"

Cutman hesitates... And then he nods.

"I see... Hmm... That's quite a pickle then... But perhaps... There could be a way for me to earn your trust?"

"?"

"When we took Iceman in, he did not trust me either. And I proposed to him to give me something to do that would allow me to gain his trust... What would I need to do to earn yours?"

Cutman doesn't have to think about it for two seconds.

"L...let me go... Let us all go."

"Cutman, I assure you, we all rather like it here." Says Elecman.

"Cutty you can have him get you something really cool!" Iceman pipes up. "He got me ice cream! It was great!"

Cutman blinks at the two of them. Surely this has to be a trick... Right? He's just not sure anymore...

"F... Fine... Then let ME go..."

Light sighs softly. "Very well... If that is what you wish... But I'm afraid I can't simply let you go right from this spot... If it is your intention to return to the other robot masters, I can't risk letting my family be harmed by them discovering our location... We'll have to blindfold you and drive you out somewhere in the city to leave you."

Iceman looks devastated. "Noooooo. Cutty please don't leave!" He clings to his brother.

Cutman frowns. "Please Icy... Come with me..."

Protoman peeks his head in from Rock's room. Hm... That one's loyal to Wily, huh? Wouldn't have figured him for it. His presence goes unnoticed and soon he creeps back inside.

"But you're safer here!" Iceman argues on. "We've all got beds! And fuel! And they take such good care of us here! I got to eat food and play games and go to the beach! Please Cutty you have to believe me!"

Cutman's resolve wavers.

"...No..." He finally shakes his head. He feels oddly bad about it. "Sorry Iceman I just... I can't..."

Light pats Iceman's shoulders. "It will be alright... If this is what Cutman needs to trust us, we'll show him we are worthy of trust..."

He picks a handkerchief off of the countertop and approaches Cutman. "...May I?"

Cutman hesitates... He wants to say a proper goodbye to his bros... But in the end he nods. "Yeah..."

Light ties the handkerchief gently around his head before picking him up and carrying him outside. "I'll be back soon children... Be good while I'm gone."

When Cutman is gone, Iceman begins to sniffle.

Elecman pats his brother's shoulder. "We tried, Iceman...if Cutman wants to be a fool and scrounge around for resources with the others, that's his problem."

Protoman shakes his head from within the bedroom, knowing better. He walks back out into the room with the others. Cutman will be back. Light's a little bit clever sometimes... He may be "letting him go" but Blues has a feeling he's actually reeling him in.

It's a ten minute drive to the place where Light drops Cutman off, but he takes almost 45 minutes to get there, twisting and turning through the city. After 20 minutes Cutman looks ready to explode. At 21 he finally bursts.

"Did you really let the others play at the beach? And buy Iceman ice cream?"

"Oh? Why yes... The beach was just yesterday... And I did get Iceman ice cream. I actually got some for everyone. A whole ice cream cake."

Cutman looks like he can't believe it.

Behind the handkerchief, Cutman's already wide eyes grow impossibly wider to the point that they are about ready to bug out of his head. "A...a whole cake, huh?"

"Iceman tells me that Albert never let you try human food... Is that true?"

"Y...yes sir...he didn't want to spend the money to get food for all of us... He didn't think there was a point to us having food anyway when we could just have fuel."

Light nods. "I see... Well... If you would like to try something we could stop by somewhere before I drop you off... Would you like that?"

"...I...I won't get sick, will I?"

"No no. You're made to be able to handle it."

"Okay...then... then I'd like to try it."

Light pulls over and stops at a local fast food place. "Stay here... And no peeking." He orders playfully before getting out and going up to the front window. Hm... Now what would Cutman like?

He grabs a hot dog and a soft drink... And a snow cone... A frito chili pie and a sundae and before he knows it he has a whole smorgasbord. He takes it out to the car, pouring a little fuel over it before passing the platter back to Cutman. "Eat up!"

The orange bot finally rips his blindfold and when he does he stares at the mess of food in shock.

What the heck? This is awesome. He looks between it and the doctor who just gives him a grin and a thumbs up to tell him it's alright to dig in.

He does not need telling twice.

#######################################

Back at the Light residence, Blues pins Rock to his bed with an evil grin.

"Gotcha."

He bends his lips cruelly forward towards his brother's midriff as Rock squirms and pleads with him for mercy.

There will be no mercy this day, though.

Blues lips touch the spot where his brother's belly button would be and he blows raspberries into Rock's sensitive, ticklish tummy.

!

Rock looses the most undignified squeal as he begins flailing about, desperately trying to escape. "Bl-Bl-BLUES AAAHHHHH NOOOOOOO EEEEEEK S-STOOOPP AAAHHH IT TICKLLLESS!"

######################################

Light lets Cutman taste test freely as he keeps driving to their location. As he goes, they continue to converse back and forth, Light answering questions here and there... Eventually Cutman finds his guard falling. This guy… he really doesn't seem that bad.

And finally the doctor comes to a stop on the middle of the city, parking on the curb.

"Here we are. As promised. You're free to go."

He unlocks the car door and waits for Cutman to get out.

But Cutman hesitates.

"Oh... Th...this is it?" He asks, still chewing a frito.

"Mhm...unless you have a spot you'd rather have me drop you off at?"

"Er... No this is fine..."

Still he hesitates... He doesn't really want to get out of the cool car... He wants to keep eating his sundae.

"Uh... Hey is it okay if I finish this first?"

"Of course! Take your time. I'm in no rush to leave."

"Okay... Thank you..."

Cutman digs back in greedily to enjoy the bounty before him. In spite of his rampant refueling earlier, he somehow still manages to find room for most of the junk food. But he eventually he is stuffed back too full. His tank locks up again. And then there the door is once more... Waiting for him to leave.

"Is there any other food you wanted to try before you go?" The doctor asks, noticing how he lingers.

"No no... It's just um... I feel a little motion sick... Maybe from the car ride."

More likely he would be nauseous from how stuffed he is.

"Oh? Well that won't do... Take as much time as you need until the queasiness subsides..."

An hour and three excuses later, Cutman finally forces himself to get out of the car.

"Well... I'm leaving." He announces.

"Very well! It was a pleasure getting to meet you... Do take care of yourself, Cutman." The doctor smiles with a twinkle in his eye.

"D... Don't try to follow me..." The orange bot warns with a quavering voice.

"Not at all. Wouldn't dream of it."

"Good..."

Cutman slowly walks away from the vehicle... Sloooowly... Looking back a couple of times to make sure that the doctor isn't trying to call him back... Nope... He's um... He's really free.

Huh...

Cutman turns the corner of a building and pauses... Waiting... Surely someone's going to come running after him...

But no one does...

After five minutes he hesitantly peeks around the corner.

Oh... The car it's... It's still there? Why wouldn't the doctor have left yet?

He cautiously comes back down the sidewalk to investigate... And there is Light, reading a newspaper on the street corner. He smiles and waves when he notices Cutman's approach.

"Oh hello there dear boy! Did you forget something?" he asks ever so innocently.

"Oh um... No! No I didn't. I just... I was going to see why you hadn't left yet..."

"Oh?"

"Did you have car issues?"

"No no," Light assures. "Just getting a newspaper."

"Ah..."

"And yourself?" The doctor asks. "Must say I didn't expect you to linger... Didn't you have to get back to your other brothers?"

"Well ah... You know... They'll probably be fine without me for a while."

"Ah I see..." the doctor nods empathetically. "No rush." Yet earlier he made it seem like such a priority.

The doctor flips the page of his paper, casually reading it through. Cutman grips his own arm as he stands awkwardly nearby.

Finally the orange bot can't stand it anymore. "Say uh... Doc?"

"Yes?"

"I was just thinking... Well... I really need to make sure that Icy and Lecky are safe... And I can't do that from the base..."

"Quite true... That poses a conundrum, doesn't it? You surely cannot do both..." Light coyly strokes his beard.

"Yeah no right that's what I'm thinking... So um... I..." Cutman gulps. But finally he finds his inner fire. He straightens up his arms and stomps his foot decisively. "I'm gonna come back with you and make sure you're treating them right!" he growls.

"Oh? Hmm... Well that could be difficult... You'd have to follow my household rules if you wanted to come back. That means no fighting, no breaking things, and maintaining good behavior."

"PSH." Cutman waves him off, but then nervously drops the unworried tone of dismissal when he sees the doctor raise an eyebrow, "I... I mean... I can do that."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah..." Cutman hurriedly nods.

"Mmm... Very well then. I suppose letting you look after your brothers is the only responsible option for you. I would be a bad person if I stood in your way. I suppose I'll have to allow you to come back with me after all

Light gets up, dusts off his pants, and climbs back into the car.

Cutman's eyes shine as he climbs back inside and fastens the blindfold without having to be asked. He did it! He gets to stay. Whew. The orange bot is relieved that he pulled that negotiation off so skillfully.

And when his tank unlocks itself again, he goes back to nibbling at the goodies Light got him.

###########################################

Meanwhile.

The tickle war continues with Blues mercilessly teasing the stuffing out of his brother.

He's discovered that another ticklish spot of Rock's is the boys armpits and he alternates between poking at those and scrabbling at his tummy.

Rock continues trying desperately to either flee or fight back. He still remembers how ticklish his big brother really is too. At some point through the onslaught, he finally manages to reach out and pinch Blues's side.

"Aaah!"

Blues squirms momentarily before mounting a counterattack at Rock's neck by raspberrying it.

This sets his brother to howling a jumble of incoherencies while he spasms. Rock doesn't give up though. He continues fighting back to the best of his ability, scattering his fingers over Blue's sides.

Soon Blues is laughing uproariously too. He can't completely keep up his original pace, but he fights through the tickle-pain to keep tormenting his brother however he can until both of them collapse in exhaustion.

"Ha hagh... I'll get you again..." Blues promises. "After I... Nngh... Recover." He can't remember exactly how all this started. Somewhere Rock teased him or he teased Rock and this is what it devolved into.

"N-nuh uh! Cuz I'm gonna get you first. You'll see. I won't need to rest as long as you."

Little do they know, they're being spied on. A miniscule, bug-sized drone on the wall records their epic battle and transmits it back onto a screen in Roll's room where she, Elecman, and Iceman watch in silent rapture. "D'aww... So cute..."

Rock begins crawling closer and then on top of his brother...and then flops down on him across his waist.

"OOF" Blues gasps. But he wraps his arms around the younger boy and holds him close, playfully content... This is nice... For some reason when he's around the innocent kid like this he loses every care in the world.

"This is revenge." Rock explains. "For all the times you laid on top of me."

"Did I really do it that often?" He can't remember doing it with great frequency... But he chooses to use this opportunity to look deep into Rock's blue eyes while they're facing him.

Roll squeals quietly in the other room.

"Well I mean...not THAT much...and I...I never really minded..." Rock blushes and looks away. "Actually I'm always happy as long as you're close," he finally admits.

"...why kid? I don't know if you've realized, but I'm not a great person."

"I thought we went over this, silly."

"Meh." Blues strolls his fingers up Rock's back until his hand is in the boys hair which he ruffles around. "You're a better person."

"Don't you 'meh' me," Rock pouts. "You ARE a good person."

"Bah," Blues conks on his head. "You should take a break... Being this cute on a 24/7 basis can't be good for your health."

"I dunno if I'm better..."

"You don't have to know. I do."

"I never thought to visit kids in the hospital before." Rock throws back.

In the other room Elecman sticks his tongue out. "BLEGH... So corny."

He is quickly shushed.

"And I'm sure there's lots of other little things you've done that I never have before," Rock continues on.

"I've just lived a little longer and seen a bit more of the world is all..." Blues waves it off.

"I dunno if I can let you use that as such an easy excuse."

Blues frowns. "Oh would you stop that." He pinches Rock's cheek. "Cinnamon rolls aren't allowed to beat themselves up."

"Aaaahhh okay okay I won't!" Rock whines as his mouth corner is tugged.

"Good," Protoman yawns and gets up. "Think I'm gonna go." The sun is setting and turning Rock's curtains a golden orange.

"Aww...you're leaving?"

The red bot nods. As he snags his shield and replaces it on his back, he casually picks the drone off the wall and walks into the next room to toss it at Elecman and the others.

Everyone scrambles, trying to look innocent when he walks in, but to no avail.

"Fly on the wall?" Blues accosts them, his tone judgmental, "Oldest trick in the book."

He leaves them open-mouthed and returns to his own room, not because he wouldn't rather sleep with Rock... But because he has a certain itch that needs scratching. He locks the door before feeling around at his prickling area. He has a slight charge trapped up.

Rock, still far from sleepy, goes back to Roll's room with the others. "Say. We forgot to continue our game yesterday."

"Ooh..." Roll says. But she shrugs. "Eh… there wasn't really much left to be discovered though, was there? We already saw everyone's faces."

Her brother looks a bit disappointed. "Aw… it was fun though… having everyone play together. Maybe we can do something like it again sometime, but with different stakes."

After a little while, Cutman and Light show back up. There is a bunch of squealing and hugging when he makes his announcement that he really will be saying. Iceman in particular is thrilled. The doctor gets some dinner going while he catches up with the others and Iceman and Elec fill him in on what he missed.

His earlier worry quickly falls away and he eagerly chats it up with Rock and Roll, any earlier hesitation forgotten. The orange bot is as playful as he is boisterous, and by the time he the doc calls them in for food, he has everyone groaning with his "cut" puns.

After dinner, there's an odd flicker of the lights and a yelp from Blues's room. Rock calls after him worriedly but he reassures through the door that everything is alright. Still, Elecman ends up going to check on him. When he comes back, he informs them that everything is in fact alright, and although Rock still looks a bit concerned by it, no one questions any further for now.

Since it is already pretty late, Light urges his children to go on to bed. Their new arrival needs a spot of his own now, and he has to find somewhere to put him. Blues and Roll are already doubled up with Elecman and Iceman. Rock still has his own bed, but it sounds like Blues has been swapping back and forth lately so between him, Elecman, and Rock the group might flip-flop at some point in the night. Eventually he decides that the couch would be the safest bet. He proposes the idea to the orange bot, hoping he won't mind and promising that they will find him something better soon. Cutman doesn't seem to mind that much at all.

"You mean I get a WHOLE COUCH all to MYSELF!?"

He looks ecstatic.


END OF CHAPTER

Author's Note: Skip past the next chapter if you want to avoid more vaguely smutty garbage. If that's what you're here for, read on.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: Have some moral dilemma with your smut, it's good for you. Right?


Chapter 15: More Proto/Elec Smut

…But not really.

Alt Title: Things Get A Bit Cringey and Awkward

Earlier in the night, locked up in his room, Blues is trying to figure out what to do about the light charge he has starting to build up. He works at the "sensitive" area somewhat hopelessly, not really sure how to achieve the stimulation that he is craving. The best he can figure is to create friction using his hand and fingers, but it is aggravatingly slow, and he cannot tell if he is really making any progress... Blues groans needily and huffs as the charge continues to torment him. He can't figure out how to act on it or get rid of it...

He takes to rutting against the bed, and when that doesn't work he turns to alternative means of stimulation. He starts rubbing heavy woolen blankets from the closet together until they are charged and zapping himself with them. It works bit by bit, but it is a lot of effort...

Ignoring the occasional sounds of laughter and social activity in the other room, he continues quietly trying to figure out a better way to keep building his charge. The blanket method is going to take all night... He needs something better. Faster.

Remembering that Elecman uses the lamp from the wall to pull electricity, Protoman takes that, cuts the wire from the lamp, and splits the cable so the charged and grounding lines are separate. He tests it out on his finger and is pleased to find that it does indeed produce a small shocking sensation when he has the wires on either end.

Now then...

Using the same technique he places one on one end his crotch, and the other on...

!

Blues does feel a zap... But to his disappointment it is not penetrating like it was when Elecman worked on him. It is like the charge just skims through the surface of his plating and back out.

Hm...

From his reading, Protoman knows that an electrical current will always take the path of least resistance... Which In this case would be his surface plating. So then... If he removes that and places the wires against whatever was building that charge before...

Protoman carefully unlatches himself below and pulls open the panels that reveal his inner components down there. He notices a large tube-shaped piece of a capacitor where he remembers feeling the sensation.

Bingo.

He knows it is not a good idea to touch these directly, but placing the wire ends on either end should be fine... So he places the first wire on the front end and the second wire on the b-"

!

There's a zap, a yelp, and the power in the entire apartment flickers for a second.

Blues drops the cables after several frightening moments when his joints lock up on him and scurries away from the charge. Shit. Fuck. He smells something burning. Is he smoking?

All the noise in the rest of the house pauses when the power flickers out momentarily, and Rock frowns at the sound of his brother's yelp. "Blues...?"

"FINE!" His brother's call is muffled through the bedroom door. He prays that no one comes to investigate while he tries to shove all his components back into place and latch back up.

Rock is about to stand up when Elecman holds out an arm to block him. "Hold on. Let me check on him." He has a very strong suspicion of what's going on, and he knows it is not something he cannot risk letting Rock find out about. The robot master stands up and heads to Blues's door. He pauses before giving it a few taps of his fist.

!

"I... I'm fine." Blues says with a shaky voice. "Just an experiment gone wrong. Everything's okay."

Elecman nearly snickers. Oh goodness. What has Protoman done to himself? "Are you sure? I'd be happy to offer some assistance."

"Nnnrgh..." It just had to be that one, didn't it? Blues was expecting Rock. "Don't need it."

Knowing Blues will only resist more if he pushes it, Elecman shrugs and decides to leave him be...for now. "Fine then. I'm going back to dinner. I'll see if you've changed your mind when I'm finished." And after he has had some time to squirm. Elecman reenters the kitchen slash dining room. "He says he's fine. You know how he is. Best not to pry. There's more important matters to attend to anyway." He settles back down to fork a potato into his mouth and sighs happily.

Mired in his own defeat, Blues goes and lays down on his bed. He still wants a release, but for now maybe the best thing to do is rest and hope it can be slept off...

As the others finish their food and fuel, Elecman looks strangely cheerful. He can only hope that Blues is still awake and charged up.

And regrettably... Blues is. And highly uncomfortable. It is like the charge won't LET him sleep... He can remember feeling prickly before bed in the past, but never like this... He bets it is somehow Elecman's fault for activating that protocol in the first place. He starts forming plans to have Light remove it the next day.

As if sensing the red bot's anger, Elecman is ready to say his goodnights to the others early and strolls up to Blue's door. He decides to be polite once again and knock.

"..."

Blues gets up, unlocks it, and lets him in wordlessly before returning to his pallet on the floor rather than his bed.

"Hello there~" Elec greets with a cheerful trill. "Have you had any success with that 'experimentation' of yours yet?"

Blues tenses. By the tone of his voice, he knows exactly what's up. Seeing no point in denying, he simply decides not to answer the jab. If Elecman wants a rise out of him, he won't get it.

But Elecman is not one to give up so easily. He sits down at the edge of the bed. "Oh, but how did you get yourself into this predicament, I wonder. Could it perhaps have something to do with...," He starts reaching for Protoman's hip,

"Fuck off," the red bot swats his hand away.

Elecman frowns and recoils his hand. "Ugh! Here I am trying to help you, and you act so rude!"

"I didn't ask for your help!" Blues growls.

Suddenly Elecman's frown turns bitter. "Yeah, yeah. No one else does either, but I just keep wasting my energy trying to offer it." He huffs as he flops back onto the mattress and turns himself away from Protoman.

Blues pouts. Oh sure. Now he's the bad guy. Just sitting here minding his own business and not wanting to be touched... Hmph... "...rough day of work, huh?" he at length decides to break the tense quiet.

The floodgates open wide. "You have no idea. There wasn't anything I could do to be acknowledged around there. Not even saving a human's life." Elecman growls as he turns onto his back. "How can you and Megaman possibly care about any of them besides the doctor? They're wretched."

Blues is quiet for several moments. "There are definitely plenty of bad ones. But there are others like Light... And not like him, but still good... Better maybe."

"Hmmm...I'll believe it when I see it. "

"You will, if you give it long enough," Blues assures him. "I hated humans for a while too. But they creep up on you."

"I suppose I have to take your word on it." Elecman answers, his bitterness fading.

There is a pause. Then Blues reluctantly gets up from his pallet and goes over to sit at Elecman's side.

"Alright just... Take it away, please. I can't stand it. It's been keeping me awake. Siphon it off or whatever." His embarrassment in having to ask is written plainly on his face.

Elecman breaks into the biggest grin.

"Siphon it? Now Protoman...what fun would you get from that?" He sits up and starts eagerly moving closer to him. Elec puts his hands to Protoman's arms, giving a charming smile. "You remember what I said before don't you? You just have to be sure to relax."

He tries to lean in towards his neck.

Protoman looks as uncomfortable with Elecman touching him like this as he feels... But if he is honest with himself, he DOES want that release... So he sits still and tries to relax as much as he can.

But the evident discomfort causes Elecman to withdraw. Maybe he will hold off on kissing for now. In the meantime he'll trail his hands slowly down Protoman's arms, releasing a tiny amount of charge into them.

"Mmn..." Oh Blues likes that. The light surge... The tingle that shoots through his spine...

Quietly he lowers himself onto the bed to invite Elecman to mount him, the need for that charge is back in full force.

Watching Blues willingly submit has a visible effect on Elecman. The robot master can't help but bite his lip before leaning over him on his hands and knees. He takes a moment to just appreciate the sight beneath him, grinning all the while.

Protoman can't quite bring himself to meet Elecman's gaze head on, so he closes his eyes under his visor, feeling the warmth coloring his cheeks. It is then that he realizes if he is being treated then he needs to reciprocate, so he places his hands on Elecman's waist.

"Ooh..." Elec can't take it anymore. "God, you're so cute." He leans in, going right for Protoman's neck again. This time he doesn't stop himself from pressing his lips to the soft synthetic skin, and he transfers more charge through the kiss.

Blues is just in the middle of opening his mouth to protest the "cute" comment when the kiss stops him short and makes him squeak instead. He feels the charge like an explosion branching through his neck and across his face, blooming out like a flower.

Suddenly his lower region is feeling like it is knotted up tight. The sensation comes much quicker than it did last time.

"Nngh... You... Rrr..." he mumbles, trying to find some protest but his charge garbles it on his tongue.

He swipes the mask off of Elecman's head from behind so he can snatch the bot's black hair and hold him in place while his frame arcs up against Elecman's chest. Blues is struggling to remember how to vent right.

At first Elecman worries that he may have gone too far, but the way Protoman reacts is far beyond what he could have hoped for. That darling squeak, the way he tugs his hair, his body arching up into him. The robot master moans, unable to stop himself from grinding into the other bot, encouraging his own charge to grow quickly.

Blues bites his lip as his own energy levels spike back in response. This time he has slightly more of an idea what to expect... So he experiments, moving against Elecman in different ways and trying to coax out more energy however he possibly can. Before he realizes what he is doing, he has Elecman's forehead pressed against his own helm as he keeps his grip on his partner's hair and is panting directly against the other robot's face. When he notices this, he rips his helmet off (leaving his shades on) and brings their heads back together.

"Aah..."

He can feel the charge flow between their skin. It is a bit dizzying at first, but Blues likes it. The more direct contact the better, it seems.

The smirk never leaves Elecman's face. Oh goodness...the proximity is certainly enjoyable, and so is Blues's enthusiasm. He can't help but nuzzle up against his cheeks, and then he starts peppering them with kisses while his arms slide up and down Blues's torso.

Protoman feels a familiar sensation in the pit of his stomach when Elecman begins kissing him all over. It is not painful or pleasant exactly but it is... strong. Unease? Insecurity? Conflict. A part of him enjoys this... but another part of him is flashing warning bells that there's something wrong with it. In any event he doesn't move to stop his partner. What he does do is moan... and loud. Maybe too loud. He has momentarily forgotten that they do not have the house to themselves like they did last time.

Elecman snickers. "Now now...you have to try and contain yourself. Can't get caught now, can we? I'd hate to see your dad's face if he knew what I was doing to his first son."

Then it hits Protoman. Dad. Son. Sons. Brothers.

That's why this doesn't feel right. He and Elecman are technically siblings, what is he...

Blues pulls away. "We shouldn't do this."

"Huh?" Elecman frowns. "Why not? We'll be fine as long as we control our volume."

"No! N…no... that's not what I mean. It's not about whether or not we're caught it's... fuck... We're siblings. We live in the same house with our other siblings, we... What would the doctor say if he found out? This isn't right."

"Well...I mean come on, we're not the same as you and Rock. We don't look alike. We're built differently." Elecman reasons.

"I don't care if we're not like me and Rock, and that's not true! We are built the same! Our outsides may be different, and our hardware modified, but at the bottom line we share the same code base we... this just isn't right okay!? It's incest." The word falls from Blues's lips and lands sickeningly inbetween them.

Eleman still doesn't buy it. He desperately fumbles. "It can't be! The rest of us...we never felt like that. We'd kiss and fuck and whatever all we wanted, and it never felt weird. It'd feel weird if it was weird wouldn't it?"

"It DOES feel weird! That's just it! It does!"

"Not to me," Elec counters. "If you're supposed to be my brother, then why am I so attracted to you?"

Protoman's mouth hangs open in shock.

"Why are you so surprised?" Elecman tilts his head. "Why would I even be doing this if that wasn't the case?"

But Blues feels sick. He picks himself up from the bed and moves away.

"B-Blues...?" Elecman sits up and keeps his gaze locked, looking worried.

Protoman has his head in his hands... he's thinking.

"C-come on..." Elec tries to smooth away this unpleasantness. "There doesn't have to be anything wrong with it."

But Blues still won't look at him and won't move from the spot on the other side of the room. Elecman's chest starts to feel unpleasantly hollow. "I'm...I'm sorry." They were having such a nice time. He was really starting to enjoy being with Protoman. What can he do to make it right?

"Elecman I..." Protoman is having the opposite experience. His chest feels heavy. Where he had a charge before, now it is like it has been drained out of him.

"What?" the yellow bot asks urgently. "Protoman talk to me..."

"It's just... this... this thing was obviously a design flaw... it wasn't supposed to exist... and now you are going and turning it into kissing and attraction and... I don't know how to feel about it. It was one thing when I thought this was innocently getting our charges out, but it doesn't feel like that's what this is really about anymore..."

"It doesn't have to mean anything." Elec insists.

"But it does, doesn't it? To you."

"What? No! I just do it because it's fun and it's cute watching you squirm."

But this was clearly the wrong thing to say too. There is a very long pause that hangs in the air between them. Elec searches Blues's expression for any sign that he might be coming around, but the protobot's face is stoic and his eyes masked behind his shades give nothing away. Finally Elec can't stand it anymore.

"What?"

His sudden outburst seems to get the gears turning in Blues's head again. Protoman rubs his temples. This doesn't feel right... and he probably shouldn't be doing this with Elecman... he definitely doesn't want to go encouraging more "attraction" to himself...

But at the same time...

No. Bad

But

...

Blues's resolve is skating on thin ice because he is starting to realize how charged he still is and that makes Elecman's words about this being a bunch of nothing sound really good... But he has principles! And he can't... He can't just….

But the more he thinks about it… Elecman seems more and more right. They don't really feel like brothers. Not in the sense that he and Rock feel like brothers. They may live sort of under the same roof, and Light might call both of them "son", but they have never had that kind of bond.

As he takes the time to think it through, his inhibitions slowly fall away.

"Fine. Just one more time. Then we're through." And so saying, Protoman resolves internally to go and have Light deactivate the feature tomorrow. He'll have this one surge, get it out of his system, and then be done with it forever.

"Excellent!" Elec grins. He moves across the room to wrap his arms around him.

But Protoman flinches away. "N… none of that... no kissing or intimate... whatever. I just want to get overloaded. Nothing else."

Elecman huffs. "Fine...make it so boring."

Protoman leaves him and goes back over to lay on the bed again, turning his head to the side.

Elecman follows to mount him instead like they were doing before.

Mounted, Protoman stays where he is and waits for Elecman to resume. Just don't look at him. Get it over with and everything will go back to normal.

Elecman frowns. Something has definitely changed. Internally he berates the bot under him. Damn you, you are not making it that easy for yourself.

He puts his hands to Protoman's shoulders and begins grinding into him.

"Nngh..." Blues tries to mute his reactions, but after a few minutes of grinding that is becoming difficult and then impossible. Soon he is back to panting like he was doing earlier, but through all this he continues evading Elecman's gaze.

Elecman chuckles deeply. He never stops moving his hips, but meanwhile his hand reaches to cup Protoman's cheek.

Blues grits his teeth. He grabs Elecman's hand and pulls it away. "None of that."

Elecman huffs...and sends a gentle bolt of electricity into his face anyway.

!

The red bot finally fixed his gaze on Elecman to glare at him.

Without warning, the bot on top is flipped onto the bed and Blues gets on top of him, pinning him down. "I said None. Of. That."

Misreading his growl and believing that he's just being feisty, Elecman's lip curls into a smirk. "Oooohh~ Are you going to punish me~?" He teases with a lilting voice.

Blues slaps him across the cheek. And not a nice, friendly slap either.

"Ah!" Elecman cries out. When he is released he holds a hand to his cheek and looks up to Protoman with hurt puppy dog eyes. "Meanie"

Protoman grits his teeth. "That was a warning. Next time you get punched. When I say 'don't do that' I mean DON'T. DO. THAT." Though he is the one barking at Elecman, he is upset enough that he trembles. This is starting to feel wrong again... He shouldn't have slapped Elecman... Maybe he really should just quit here...

"Okay...okay..."

Blues gets off of him and walks away from the bed again, running his fingers through his messy hair and trying to get a grip. When he can't, he sinks against the wall. "I... I'm sorry... I shouldn't have done that..."

"It's fine. I've gotten much worse." Elec tries to shrug it off.

"No... That's not the point..."

"Then what is?"

Blues sighs shakily. "I... I don't know. I shouldn't have hit you. It was wrong. I overreacted. It just wasn't okay... I'm not thinking straight."

"So you slapped me? So what? You don't see me damaged or crying or whatever about it. It's nothing."

Elecman puffs, his aggravation with the ongoing interruptions evident. But Protoman's shaken state gives him just a moment of thoughtful pause. When he speaks next, his voice is mild and sincere. "'...I think your biggest problem is you make everything into a bigger deal than it has to be."

Blues looks up at him. "...Maybe I do. It is a big deal to me. It would be a big deal if it were me in your shoes. …Maybe we just don't feel the same way about each other."

"I didn't expect us too. You act like I love you or something though."

…..

Protoman laughs weakly. Fuck... Now who's the moron. Elecman was innocent in this all along. It was him that was making it into something it shouldn't be.

"...Oh, you really thought I did, didn't you?" Elec raises an eyebrow.

"No. ….Maybe. Love's too strong a word."

"Indeed it is."

"...indeed," Blues puts his helmet back on. "Sorry... I'm not going to be able to continue. You'll have to hit Cutman or Iceman up..."

"Those two? Egh, no thank you. Too immature." Elec scowls. So much for having a partner tonight. "I'd much rather just take care of myself."

Blues frowns. "Well you said you'd done it with some of the others... Who then besides Fireman?"

"Hmmmmmm...Quickman, Crashman, …" Elec starts listing them all, but Blues cuts him off before he can continue any further.

"Fine then," the red bot goes back to laying down on his pallet, trying to ignore how charged he is. Thinking about Elecman being with all of those other bots isn't really helping.

"Hmmmm, so...would you like me to leave the room? Because I do intend to take care of myself," Elec warns.

"Do what you want. I'm going to bed."

"If you say so," Elecman goes and sits himself by one of the outlets.

Protoman remains aware of him, but tries to shut out the distractions and find sleep.

...he doesn't find it.

Elecman, to his credit, does his best to avoid disturbing him. He is actually quite capable of being quiet when he needs to be.

Protoman lets himself agonize over what he has done and thought and said and felt in the meantime until he is absolutely sick of himself.

At one point Elecman has to cover his hand over his mouth. His eyes close.

Blues prickles. He can practically feel it in the air even from across the room.

At last the tense silence is broken by Elecman's cry.

"Ahh..." Elecman trembles as bolts visibly travel up his stomach and to his core.

Protoman shudders as he watches. He wants some of that...

Without turning around to look Elecman addresses him. "Someone getting jealous over there~?"

"...Elecman..." ...no. He can't say it. "No, never mind... "

His roommate sighs. "Suit yourself."

He merrily continues on. After several more minutes, Blues groans quietly.

"Fuck..."

"Come on now. Make up your mind." Elecman prods him.

Blues clutches his head. He's going crazy. He's acting like a crazy person. He's crazy. Elecman is making him crazy. This charge is making him crazy. His every instinct is to get out of here, go somewhere else, and get his head screwed on straight while he's alone.

Elecman stands back up and approaches the pallet

Protoman doesn't notice at first. The black bot treads lightly and he has got his hands covering his eyes again.

"Protoman."

!

He uncovers his face.

Elec's cheeks are puffed out and he looks extremely peeved as he stares down the bot below him. "Do you want me to finish you or not!?"

Blues bites his lip and struggles.
"...No," he finally releases the answer with a sigh. Now he sounds tired. "I really just... I want it gone. I don't want to have to deal with it. Tomorrow I'll have the doctor get rid of this stupid protocol..."

"Very well." Elecman shrugs, and without further insistence he returns to his spot against the wall.

Protoman nods silently and resumes feeling like a sad sack of shit.

Elecman's hand goes back between his legs. No more distractions this time. As he works himself back up, he clasps his hand over his mouth. He has to be sure to stay as silent as possible so that the red bot can sleep, even as he gets closer and closer. As Elecman's body tenses up, his eyes close again. He's not trying to drag this out any further. His hand gives him the friction and the voltage he knows he wants, never letting up until he finally feels the overload course through him. He manages to only let it be known through a simple exhale of breath at the end when the blissful peak starts to fade off. He looks back towards Protoman's pallet, listening for any sign that to indicate if he is still awake. The red bot's breathing has fallen to where it is even. He appears to be sleeping, but you can never be sure with him.

Elecman sighs again and gives himself a few moments to simply cool down before he gets back up and takes his spot back on the bed. As he gets under the covers, he frowns. Just why did Protoman insist on sleeping on the floor? This bed was meant for him.

As he watches, Blues shifts occasionally... It might not be the most comfortable thing.

Curiosity gets the better of him. "...You awake?"

"...I am now..."

Urk. Now he feels bad. He woke the guy back up after he was having such a hard falling asleep and after all the work he did to keep quiet while he was finishing himself. "I'm sorry. I just thought...you should be sleeping up here."

Blues sighs. "...If I come up, will you get rid of this damn charge...?"

"I thought you didn't want me to."

"I want you to take it away... Not overload me... You can suck energy out, right?"

"Oh? Well, yes, I can…" but Elecman makes it evident that he considers it a rather unsavory option. Why waste it?

"Please..." Blues's voice is sincerely desperate.

"Alright. I'll need to touch you though."

Blues gets off of the pallet and gets into the bed, nodding.

Not wanting to waste his time, Elecman places his hand over where the capacitor should be. "Ahh...no wonder you're so agitated." He begins coaxing out the built up electricity into his own circuits.

Protoman moans very, very softly, almost inaudibly, as the source of his torment gradually lessens back into nothing. Sweet mercy.

"Better?"

All the tension leaves Blues's frame and he melts into the soft mattress. "...Bless you..."

"Ha! I'm already blessed." Elec grins before standing up. "I'm, ah...I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused you."

"You're not the one at fault. …I'm the one who's a fucking nutcase."

"Nutcase? I mean I might think you're a little crazy for not wanting to overload with a bot like me, but I wouldn't go that far. I'm pretty sure that I and the others are the defective ones for wanting to abuse this protocol."

Protoman laughs weakly. "No no. I'm the only defective one around here. Always have been... Always will be. But I don't want to be fixed."

"Ah..." That's when he finally remembers. His core. He had heard him mentioning it before. "...Okay. You might be a little more crazy for that."

"...yeah. Right."

"But I'll keep any further judgements to myself." Elecman shrugs as he lies down on the pallet that Protoman had been using.

"...where the hell are you going?"

"Nowhere? I'm sleeping right here," Elecman replies. What does he want to have a problem about now?

Blues scowls at him. "No you're fucking not, that wasn't the deal." He gets up and goes over to the corner, grabbing Elecman up and carrying him back over to the bed.

! "H-hey that's not necessary! I just didn't think you'd want me on the bed!" He squawks as Blues places him back down on it.

"I'm not kicking you off of it. This is your room now."

"Okay okay...sheesh. I do not need you carrying me anywhere," Elec pouts.

Once the two of them are settled on the bed, Elecman sighs as he puts his hands under his head. "It's funny how much your life can change in a short amount of time, isn't it?"

Protoman snorts softly.

"Less than a week ago I was sleeping in a rusty old pipe in a cold abandoned factory," the black and yellow bot continues on, "And the two of us were sneaking around in the sewers. ...Now the man I thought I was supposed to kill is calling me his son."

"...Yeah... And now the kid I hated has worked his way into my fucked up heart."

"So I've seen." Elecman chuckles. "If I'm not careful,he might do the same to me."

"...he just might..." Blues's eyes begin to sink shut... It really is nice in this bed, even if he has only ever actually slept in it... Never.

Sensing Protoman's descent to recharge, Elecman keeps his mouth shut and lets his own eyes close as well.

"...you're kind of attractive too." Blues breaks the silence.

"Pfff. Just kind of?"

"...arrogant though. So it counterbalances what you have going for you."

Elecman grumps again. "What you call arrogant, I call confident. Everyone loves confidence."

"Sure sure."

In spite of how tired he is, now that the charge has gone, he feels well enough for some harassment. He rolls over slightly and wraps his arms around Elecman to see if it'll make him uncomfortable.

The electrical bot happily flushes and snuggles a bit closer. Welp. Thatplan backfired. But the reaction is revealing...

"You like me... Why?" Blues asks, somewhat awed.

"You're cute."

"That's the worst reason possible."

"Is it? You find Rock cute, don't you?

"... I mean I DO but..." Blues bites his lower lip and drops his gaze. He loosens his grip on Elecman a bit.

"Buuuut?" his companion prods him. "Oh come on. I'm not suggesting anything weird or anything. You know what I mean."

"...Rock's a good kid..." Blues answers slowly and thoughtfully. "He's a good person. He fights to protect people that he doesn't owe anything to, he forgives me despite all the dozens of things I've done that should have left him resenting me... He's innocent. Strong. And admirable... And yes, he's cute. But "cute" isn't enough."

"Well alright then. Let's see..." Elecman thumbs his chin. "I think any bot could admire the fact that you let no one other than yourself govern you. You are no doubt strong. Sharp. Resourceful. I doubt all of the others could survive if they had to be completely alone."

Blues listens with interest.

"You get the things you want to happen to happen," Elecman continues. "You are just...a very powerful player. And we all admired that."

"Powerful... Persuasive... A survivor..." Blues murmurs. He is… disappointed. It's true to some extent that is these things. And that they can be admirable things... But it seems like there is still more important stuff.

"Joy... I share a lot in common with Albert Wily."

Elec gives him an odd look. "Well...didn't you already recognize that yourself? That's why you didn't kill him, isn't it?"

Blues freezes. He... He had forgotten about that... But now that he remembers...

He shrivels up inside.

He really is a little Wily...

Maybe he should let Light fix his personality and take that out of him.

"…You okay?" Uh oh. He may have reminded him of something he didn't want to think about.

"...I'll be fine." Blues is tired though... He tried to close his eyes and shut down again for the umpteenth time. Eventually sleep does find him... Even as he lies there wrapped up in Elecman's arms. As he dozes, his shades eventually end up knocked loose and fall slack on his nose.

Elecman takes a bit longer to go to sleep, and when Blues's shades fall off of their own accord, a wicked grin finds its way to his lips. He capitalizes.

The next morning, Blues is the first to wake. Unfortunately for the electric bot, when he does he realizes that

1) his glasses are off and

2) Elecman is still wrapped tight around him.

Hmm...

Elecman sleeps on innocently beside him. His head rests comfortably against his collar, his hood still pulled down.

Blues decides that he might as well not wake him. He'll probably need all the sleep he can get for work later... But he WOULD like to know where his shades went because he's pretty sure he fell asleep with them on.

Elecman does indeed plan to get plenty of rest, but not for the reason Blues thinks. He doesn't feel the need to wake up early anymore. As far as he is concerned, he is done with the plans, so now he can recharge as much as he pleases.

Not knowing this, Blues cranes his neck around, trying to stay still but look for his shades at the same time. They're not on the bedside table... Carefully he feels around his own blankets to see if they've just fallen off...

Nope... Hm.

He stares at Elecman, trying to remember losing them and having no luck... And as he stares at the sleeping face he gets a sneaking suspicion...

Blues carefully feels under his neighbor's pillow.

Aha.

Moments later he pulls his folded black shades out and puts them on. So he DID fall asleep in them.

Elecman's eyes shift a bit, but other than some light stirring, the robot master remains unconscious. He has no idea that he's been completely busted.

Feeling like a little payback is in order, Blues looks to make sure his companion is still sleeping and begins to carefully peel away Elecman's mask from his head

"Mmph..." The bot stirs but doesn't wake even after his mask is successfully removed.

Blues wads it up and tosses it across the room like a dirty sock.

The jerk of his arm does it. Elecman's now exposed face scrunches up for a moment.

Blues goes back to innocently acting like he's asleep, and soon after, Elecman's eyes finally blink open. He lifts his head up and runs his hand over his head. "...huh?"

Protoman tries not to smirk, but his bed companion isn't fooled. Elecman turns his gaze on him with a pout. "I know you're awake."

"Hi." Blues opens his eyes. A deep frown meets his gaze. "What is the point of taking off my mask?"

"What is the point of taking off my shades?"

Scowl. "...Well see unlike my face, I've never seen your eyes before."

"They're just eyes."

"Well this is just a face. I didn't even actually see them anyway. I only saw them closed."

"Hmph."

Elecman's face is adorned with a smug, sleepy grin as he recalls the sight. "You did look cute though."

….

Blues grabs Elecman's cheeks and pulls on them.

"Ow ow ow ow ow stoooop!"

"I'm not particularly in the mood to play 'who's cooler' with you. But if I WERE, I would raise you one Light." He says as he lets go.

:C Elecman suddenly reaches out and pinches both of Protoman's hips.

"Ack!" Blues squawks, but the next moment he sets his jaw and goes perfectly still and quiet.

...

...

"...I thought you were more ticklish than that."

Blues gives Elecman a defiant look and then wraps his legs around Elecman's waist and topples him over.

! " Oof...u-uh Protoman I was only playing...mercy?"

The red bot used his advantageous new position to lean in... He places his teeth on Elecman's neck and presses down firmly but without breaking the skin.

! "Ahahh!" Elec keens, his face flooding scarlet. He squirms beneath his captor.

Blues keeps the pressure on, holding him in place with a hand in the other side of his neck, and licks at Elecman's skin softly.

The bottom bot's mouth falls open in shock. "Aaghhh...P-protoman what are you doing?"

Just as he feels Elecman starting to get warm Blues pulls away. "Looks like you're more ticklish."

But rather than continue, he gets up and stretches.

Elecman stares as he gets up and when he realizes he won't be getting any more attention, whines after him. "That's not fair! If I did the same thing to YOUR neck..." He forces himself to stand up as well, rubbing the spot. It's obvious he is prickling with a budding charge.

"As if I'd let you," Blues counters. He ignores the rest of Elecman's protests and walks out to greet the day.


END OF CHAPTER

Chapter Text


CHAPTER 16: The Fire

When Protoman goes into the living room, Rock and Cutman are already up watching TV on the couch. "Morning, Blues!" Rock waves.

"Morning." He sits between them, using them as shields to ward Elecman off when he emerges from the bedroom shortly thereafter.

They make very effective barriers. As soon as Elecman enters the room, he knows he can't pursue his revenge with the "younger" bots present. He instead sits on the floor. Rock looks at him curiously. "Elecman, what are you doing here? Don't you have to go to work?"

Elecman huffs. "No, I don't. I quit."

Protoman tilts his head. This is the first he's heard of this. "Quit? Really?"

Rock frowns. "Already? But why?"

The bot crosses his arms huffily. "Because the people there treated me terribly, and I refuse to put up with it for another day."

"Suit yourself." Blues shrugs and flips the channel.

"I'm sorry, Elecman...Are you going to find another job?" Rock handles the news much more supportively.

The robot master sighs. "I don't know yet...I can't say I'd expect to be treated differently anywhere else." He turns his attention back to Blues. "Isn't there something you had to ask the doctor about?"

"...Is there?" He hasn't the slightest idea what you are talking about, nope.

Elecman shrugs and leans back, vaguely wondering where the doctor is in the first place. "He's probably working at the lab. I think he forgot about breakfast," says Rock. "Which probably means he forgot to eat anything himself."

Elecman then looks to the orange bot who has been sitting oddly quietly at the other side of the couch. "So. How do you feel after your first night here?"

Cutman shyly averts his gaze, which is unusual for him. "O-oh... You know... " He doesn't want to admit that he had a nightmare and went to spend the night in the doctor's bed.

"What's the matter? Didn't like the couch?" He looks to Protoman. "Maybe he'd like the pallet better."

"Maybe," he answers vaguely.

"I'm sorry, Cutman," says Rock. "You can even sleep in my bed if you want. I have room to spare."

Cutman flushes. "N...nah it's fine."

"Ah. Okay. If you're sure," says Rock.

They watch TV for about an hour and a half, then Light abruptly bustles in. "Ah... Right right... Here he is... I'll put him on..."

He hands the phone he has been speaking into to Elecman. "Son? It's for you. Mr. Miller called... I told him that you were quitting, but he is insisting that he wants to speak to you."

They all turn their attention to him, curious about who he could be talking to.

Elecman sighs in aggravation, scratching his head, but he takes the phone. "Hello?" He braces himself for a heated lecture.

"Is it true? You're quitting?"

"Yes, Sir."

Mr. Miller grunts on the other end. "And I don't suppose you are willing to tell me why?"

Oh he's willing alright. "Because your workers do not treat me with any respect."

Miller tuts on the other and of the line. "So they didn't leave you alone yesterday after I warned them not to disturb you while you worked?"

"Actually, no, they did leave me alone. They completely ignored me and offered me no directions on what I was supposed to do.

"...Uh HUH..." his voice rings with understanding. Oh now he gets it.

"I don't intend to waste my days where I am not wanted, sir."

"Right then... Well. You are free to go. Right as soon as you drop by my office and we get your termination paperwork filled out. And I'll have to get you your compensation check. Can't be avoided. How soon can you come by?"

Elecman sighs. "I should be able to leave now." He glances to the doctor.

Light nods. "Fifteen minutes."

"Fifteen minutes." Elecman repeats.

The phone call ends and the two go down to the car, wasting no time in leaving. It is a quiet trip over. The doctor asks Elec if he is okay but the black and yellow bot simply nods. As long as he doesn't have to go back, he can handle himself in any unpleasantness that this last trip poses.

When Elecman and Light get there, Light parks his car just outside the entrance.

"Would you like me to come in with you?"

"Mm...no, that shouldn't be necessary."

"Alright... I'll be out here if you need me."

Elecman nods in thanks and heads inside.

It is dark and strangely quiet when Elecman enters the plant. There is the soft sound of rustling from somewhere ahead in the locker room where everyone has to get dressed appropriately before heading into the hazard zone, but otherwise it is eerie how calm it is...

...

Elecman slows to a stop. His body grows tense. This isn't right at all. It's supposed to be much louder and busier around here. And brighter. What's going on? Has something happened? Another malfunction?

The door ahead to the main room is ajar and it is even darker inside... But his sensitive optics detect movement ahead, even if he can't make out what it is.

Elecman braces himself and heads for the open door.

As soon as he walks into the large, dark room every light bursts on, blinding him. There's an enormous racket as small bursts of popping noises go off around Elecman, who's showered in confetti and colorful string.

"SURPRIIIIIIIISE"

There are dozens, maybe a hundred hard-hatted workers all crowded into the foyer.

!

Elecman jumps back as he's blinded and then suddenly "attacked" with small weapons that cover him in...tiny colorful bits of paper? He looks over himself and then to all the workers, confusion plain as day on his face.

Mr. Miller, thick comb-shaped mustache and all, walks up to him as the rest of the workers continue to hoot and holler and applaud. The ones closest to him come up to shake his hand and tell him "good job" or "good work" or "thank you."

He blinks, suddenly realize what's going on. This is...for him? "Sirs?"

"Hey kid." Miller says. "Sorry I lured you here under false pretenses. Sad to hear you're leaving us, but everyone thought you should at least get the send-off you deserved after what you did. A man's alive because of you. This is just our way of saying thanks... And actually, I think he'd like to tell you that himself." He guides Elecman's shoulder and turns him around.

Across the room there's a table with a big cake on it, and by that table, sitting in a wheelchair, is none other than Jo. An attractive woman stands by his side. She smiles when Elecman makes eye contact.

Elecman approaches him once he spots him, still too shocked to think of anything to say to Mr. Miller. They threw a party for him to say thank you and goodbye. They're unhappy to know he's leaving. Did saving that man cause this radical change after all? Elecman gives a nod to Jo once he stands in front of him. "I'm glad to see you are recovering."

Jo looks a bit... Emotional? It's hard to say. "I ah... I gave you a hard time the other day. Was a bit of an asshole, I guess. Sorry... Elecman? I didn't... Well I don't have a good excuse. But I'm grateful for what you ah... They tell me if you weren't on the scene yesterday, I'd Uh... Well, I'd not be here..." he finishes sheepishly.

The woman at Jo's side kneels down and puts her arms around the bot, hugging him close. "No he wouldn't... And I can't ever repay you for that. You've saved a husband and a father... Thank you so much."

Elecman tenses briefly in surprise when he's hugged. Well...this was what he wanted, wasn't it? An apology, a showing of appreciation, and this is really beyond any amount of thanks he expected to get. And yet now suddenly it...doesn't feel quite right to be receiving all this. "This...this isn't necessary. I only did what I am naturally programmed to by order of the first law."

After the awkward silent moment in the car the other day, he has put two and two together. Maybe his actions weren't as much his own generosity as he believed.

The woman holding him paused briefly, confused. "The first law?"

"The first law of robotics, ma'am: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."

...

She pulls him into a hug again. "Young man, it's okay if you did it because you had to... The end effect is the same. My husband is alive."

Jo looks uncomfortable though. The bot probably didn't want to save him.

"...You are welcome, ma'am. Whether by my own choice or not...I'm glad I was able to help." And oddly, he truly is. He glances away from the woman and back to Jo, noting the discomfort in his eyes. That makes his own reflect anxiety. No doubt the human must not feel quite as grateful after his admission.

Just then a bright, blue-eyed child peeks from behind her father's wheelchair. Elecman blinks at her. He was not expecting a human imp to be here.

His boss cuts back in suddenly. "The doctor told us you could eat human food," Miller explains as the girl approaches Elecman. "I hope you like cake."

"Oh, yes, that's correct. I have tried desserts before...I rather enjoy them." He tilts his head curiously at the little girl as she moves closer.

Her father watches her as well but doesn't stop her as she walks up to the robot.

"...are you the hero that saved daddy?"

Elecman blinks again. "I...yes, I saved him."

"Oh."

Wordlessly she latches onto his leg and hugs it. That's his second hug for the day.

"Ah..." His cheeks might be turning a bit pink. In the past his attitudes towards children have been those of disgust for the booger covered, dirty, unsavory things. But this one doesn't seem disgusting. And the emotional display instantly endears him to her. "You're welcome, little one."

Around him, people are moving. The humans begin to cut the cake and Elecman is handed suddenly finds the first large slice handed to him on a paper plate.

The little girl clinging to him looks at it enviously and hurries back to her father's side to beg to have some too.

Elecman mutters a thanks to the person who gave it to him. He can't help but smile at the girl's behavior before he takes his first bite. The sharp sweetness tickles the top of his mouth as he struggles not to grin even wider.

There is a lot more back patting to be had-and congrats and regrets and what have you. Eventually some of the workers begin to filter back out of the room to resume their jobs.

Elecman comes to enjoy being the center of attention as he expects to. By the time everyone is through, he's grinning like the day he first saw the plant. When people start to leave and he gets his fill of cake, he goes to find Mr. Miller.

Miller is off to the side talking to Benny, who turns to kneel down and shake Elecman's hand as well. "Hi there. I know I didn't say it to you yesterday in the thick of it all... But thank you. Jo's a good guy. I'd be lost sometimes without him."

Miller pulls his sagging pants up a little higher and waves to Elecman. "Alright... Let's see about getting you your check. Then you can kiss this place goodbye." He pauses and flashes the robot a thoughtful look. "…There'll always be a place for you here if you ever get the urge to come back, though."

"O-oh yeah?" Elecman fidgets. The bubbly feeling from earlier is quickly fading, and now there's a hard knot of conflict in the pit of his tank.

When they get to his office, Mr. Miller hands him a check for roughly 160 dollars. "Take rest of the cake home too, if you want it," he offers with a grin and gives his stomach a pat. "Most of these guys certainly don't need any more of it."

"U-um..." Elecman squirms. This is it. He's free to leave now.

He hunches his shoulders.

"Something wrong, boyo?" The man probes.

Now or never. Elecman, with difficulty, swallows his pride. "I think I've...changed my mind."

"Oh?" The man's tone rises with interest.

Elecman can't bring himself to meet his eyes as he nods. "Yessir."

Miller is beaming when Elec looks back up. He'd kind of been hoping that would be the case. "Well then... Welcome back aboard!"

Elecman's insides melt in relief. Just like that? Thank god. Then realizes something. Dr. Light is still expecting him to return. "Do you mind if I just tell my, um, my ride that I'll be staying for the remainder of the shift?"

"Of course. No problem at all."

Light is ecstatic when Elecman comes out and gives him the news (and a piece of cake). He waves his son goodbye for the day and promises to be back later.

When Elecman returns, he goes straight back to Mr. Miller. "Now then...where do you need me today?"

"Weeeeeeell..."

Elecman is out to work in earnest. There's a lot to be done, especially around the big generator where they are just starting to get an idea of the design flaw that cause the disaster the other day. But he doesn't mind at all. Here working with the constant low hum of electricity ever present in the background, he is finally in his element. He enjoys organizing cables, rerouting power to different systems, and even perusing the design diagrams for the generators and helping the humans grapple with new and exciting technical problems. Now that his skills are being used to their full extent and the previous hostility has vanished, he can finally enjoy his time. A few of the human's chat him up while he's on shift, interested to learn more about him and see just how advanced he is. He even gets an invite to go join some guys after work.

When he leaves at 5:00 that day, he is glowing.

Protoman looks up at Elecman with interest later when the black bot returns to the apartment. He has been multitasking, playing "strip poker" chinese checkers with Cutman and Rock (who are almost totally exposed where he has lost nothing), reading the newspaper, and watching the news on television. "You seem awfully happy."

Rock and Cutman hurriedly latch back up before Light gets through the door.

Elecman smirks knowingly at the three of them. "So Rock finally convinced you to play checkers while I'm not around to join? Now that isn't fair." Elecman takes a seat on the couch, a proud smile still on his face. "The humans have seen the error of their ways and straightened out their act. Now I get the treatment I deserve, and I've decided not to quit."

Blues scoffs softly.

"What?"

"No no" he says, smirking. "Nothing. Glad your rear is finally being pampered like you wanted."

Elecman's features twist into such an offended pout. "This wasn't about being pampered! It was a matter of respect!"

"Sure sure..." Blues gets up from the couch and stretches. "Now that the adult is back, I'm going to stop babysitting and go run some errands."

Now it's Rock's turn to be offended. "Hey! What do ya mean babysitting?"

Cutman jumps up. "Protoman can I-"

"No"

"But-"

"No"

Cutman sinks back to the floor and pouts. He wanted to come.

When Rock gets over himself, he looks up to his brother with concern. "Will you be coming back soon?"

"Maybe. Depends on if I find any leads."

"Aahh. You're going to look for more of them." Elecman nods in understanding. "Can I come?"

Blues's head dips lopsidedly to the side to lock eyes with him. A weird, forced smile is plastered onto his face—some strange mixture of annoyance at having to answer this question and vindictive glee in the answer he gets to provide. "No."

The black bot's eyes narrow. He scowls but doesn't press it.

Rock sighs. They tried. "Okay...be safe."

Cutman takes to clinging to Elecman and asking him a million questions while the afternoon wears on. When he finds out Elecman got cake today he is intensely jealous.

"Hey doctor!" He calls into the other room, "When can I get a job!? I want cake!"

"Oh? You want a job too?" asks Elecman.

"I wanna get congratulated and eat cake!" Cutman cries to the ceiling and smacks his fists petulantly on the couch cushions.

Elecman huffs, "Getting a job doesn't get you cake. Saving a human's life gets you cake."

"Oh? Even better! There are plenty of humans all over the city."

Roll facepalms. "Both of you are wrong! Making or buying a cake gets you cake! Saving someone's life or getting a job should be done for different reasons!"

"Nuh uh," Elecman waggles his finger at her, "I didn't make or buy that cake, but I still got it. So clearly there's more than two ways to acquire cake."

"I'm telling you, you're not getting it! That was a single act of gratitude, it's not guaranteed and you shouldn't count on it!"

At that she launches into a lecture on economics and ethics. It doesn't end until an hour and a half later.

Elecman leans closer to his brother, ignoring her ranting. "Cutman, saving someone's life may not be necessary, but if you want humans to give you cake, you have to do something to make them love you."

Cutman groans. "Well how do I do that?"

Rock, overhearing them, rolls his eyes. Not the best moral compass, but at least they're learning. He and Iceman pay more attention to the news until Iceman suddenly remembers something. He goes to Roll's room.

Light, by that point, has dinner cooking. He ventures out to watch the evening headlines on TV as well.

When Iceman reemerges, he quickly shuffles past Rock while holding a small monitor to his chest. He finds Dr. Light in the kitchen entryway and tugs on his coat. "We got some footage you'll like." He holds out the monitor to him.

Light gently waves it away. His eyes are fixed on the screen. "Not right this moment. I want to hear this story."

There is a flash of red and orange on the screen amidst a sea of black smoke as a news helicopter films the overhead of an enormous fire surging out of a small corporate office building. For several moments the aerial vehicle pans around, capturing a 360 view of the blaze. Then, in the corner of the screen on the ground, there's a brief moment when a red-clad figure can be seen carrying people out of the flaming disaster area. The doctor gasps.

"This is Katy Kelp on the scene live in Southwest Mega City's commercial district where the disastrous PolyCom fire rages on. Firefighters now on the scene are doing what they can to contain and quench the blaze. The fire reportedly began 15 minutes ago after a sizable explosion. Sources on the ground speculate a gas leak or equipment malfunction to be the cause, but the fire chief has yet to issue a statement. We now take you up close where it appears that a single robot is aiding firefighters in rescuing the building's inhabitants."

There is no mistaking that shield. It's Blues. He is only visible for a moment more before he plunges back into the smoking entrance.

Rock immediately jumps up. "Blues!" Darn him for saying he couldn't come and help. "Dad, I should be there helping him!"

Light is already moving. "Of course! I'll fire up the teleport-"

Oh, that's right. They don't have the teleporter anymore. It was blown up in their old house.

"You... You might just have to take the subway."

"Let me come too, Rock!" Iceman hops to his feet as well. "I can help put out the fire!" Realizing he's right, Rock looks to the doctor for permission.

Cutman and Elecman look between themselves. Should they go? They don't have ice powers or Megaman's copy ability. They don't immediately step up to volunteer.

Light hesitates a moment but nods. "Y...yes… Just BE CAREFUL you two. I'll grab my car and be there as soon as I can."

"You don't have to do that, Dad." says Rock. "We can take the subway like you said. We'll be okay."

He frowns, but kneels down to hug both of them. "Alright... I'm proud of you two."

There's suddenly the sound of another explosion on TV, and as the Light family watches in horror the top floor of the flaming building collapses.

They stand in shock, but Rock is the one to grab Iceman's hand. "Come on! We have to hurry!" He pulls the robot master out the door with him.

It takes 10 minutes on the express line to reach the southwest commercial district. When they are there, the flames are still pouring out of the building but less so thanks to the efforts of the fire department.

Once they make it to the scene, Iceman is quick to offer his arm so Megaman can download his ice slasher. With their weapons ready, the two boys begin cooling down the entrance so they can enter.

The police and fire fighters, recognizing Mega Man, don't stop them. Once they are inside, everything is a chaotic miasma of flames and smoke but no immediate signs of life.

Then there is a scream from above.

-BOOM-

The entire foundation of the building trembles as something above them explodes, and a massive sound as another level of the building collapses. Fire gushes down from the stairwell towards Megaman and Iceman.

The two robots are quick to avoid being seared, and once they are out of immediate danger they begin concentrating their efforts on moving upwards are they go along.

It is not long before they find their progress blocked. The door to the second floor is mostly choked off by flaming debris. They could probably get in if they tried... But the third floor is hopeless. Everything is totally obstructed.

Not wanting to turn back now, Megaman forms a plan. "We can try breaking through. You freeze everything, I'll shatter it." Iceman nods and begins covering everything with ice. When everything seems effectively frozen, Megaman charges up a shot and tries to break it all down.

Success! With the entranceway cleared, they are free to progress. And just in time too. There's another scream. A woman's.

They both move in the direction of the scream. "Don't worry, ma'am! We're coming!"

What they find isn't perhaps what they expected. It is Blues. And a female fire fighter-the source of the scream. The woman's leg is trapped under a steel beam that Blues is doing everything he can to lift. Beside them, an elderly man in a janitor's uniform is on the ground-unconscious.

And between Megaman/Iceman and Blues is a sea of flaming cubicles, carpet, and wreckage of a collapsing building.

"YOU SHOULDNT BE HERE! Go!" Someone screams. In the chaos it is impossible to tell who.

Rock knows that they need to put out the fire separating them out before they can help the others. Once again the two smaller robot masters work together to begin extinguishing the flames as fast as they can.

It's slow progress. Tall sheets of fire spread back where they were almost as soon as they are put out. Poor Iceman, who wasn't built for this kind of temperature, is on the verge of overheating. Once again the voice shouts over the roar of the flames.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? I told you to LEAVE! You're going to get HURT!"

"We have to help!" Megaman shouts, though he's still not sure who he is responding to. But then he notices Iceman's condition. "Iceman!" He puts a hand on the bot's shoulder. "I don't want you to be badly damaged here. You've helped me a lot, but you have to get out now before you risk shutting down!" The robot master shakes his head though. "No! There's not enough time! We need to keep working together!"

There really isn't much time. The building is creaking again. It sounds like another collapse could be on the way.

Panicking, Megaman gives Iceman the order to keep working on the fire. The flames have been significantly weakened since they started, and he figures it should be enough for him to pass through safely. Megaman takes a running start before leaping through, shielding his face with his arms. He winces as the flames lick his body, but his armor does his job and he only takes a minor amount of burn damage-nothing that can slow him down once he makes it to the other side. Once he spots Protoman and the woman again, he runs over and gives the metal rod pinning her a cool down before trying to help his brother lift it.

Protoman gasps. "R-...Rock!? What are you-"

Another tremor.

"N-never mind! On three. One...two...HEAVE!"

They both push upward with all their might and the beam shifts slightly. The moment some of the pressure's off, the female firefighter pulls her leg loose and staggers shakily to her feet. "C...c'mon... I'll get the old man we have to get-"

She tries to take a step forward but crumples back to her knees. "Aagh!"

"Don't try to be a hero. It's broken," Blues barks, "I heard the crack. Rock's got the old man, I'll get you. Rock? Ice me. I'm overheating. Here."

Megaman immediately sprays Protoman with a light flurry of ice to bring down his core temperature. As soon as he is sure his brother is safe. Megaman moves towards the unconscious janitor.

With Megaman and Iceman bridging the gap together, they carefully make their way through the flames with the humans. Then there is another huge rumble.

"ICEMAN!"

The blackened ceiling above the light blue bot begins to crumble.

"NO!"

Before Iceman is crushed, an orange blur comes out of nowhere. He is shoved out of the way as the interloper is buried in rubble.

Iceman stands in shock for a moment. "W...was that...CUTTY!?" The robot master begins desperately trying to freeze the rubble to break it away. Megaman wants badly to help, but he has to get these people out of here. "Iceman, we can't stay here!"

"I'm not leaving Cutty! You go on and get them to safety!"

Blues grabs the old man from Rock. "I've got them. Hurry. This building could come down at any second."

With no further ado, firefighter clinging to one side and janitor slung over his other arm, he puts his shield out in front of him and rushes the nearest window, smashing through it and into the open air. There's a scream from the crowd outside but Blues and the two humans land on an inflatable that he knew was out there.

With the humans taken care of, Megaman can help Iceman break apart the rubble.

They work quickly, but as the chunks of plaster and rafter are tugged away, it is not Cutman that they uncover... Instead the rounded form of Bombman emerges from the wreckage.

"Bombman!?" Iceman gasps. He tries to rouse his brother.

But Bombman is completely nonfunctional, which isn't particularly good, because he's a heavy guy... They're going to have to carry his bulky frame to get him out of here in time. Under the roar of the flames, there is deep moan that sends tremors through the foundation as metal beams give way to the heat.

Rock immediately runs over to help Iceman pick him up. "We gotta go now!" He looks to the window Protoman ran through. Iceman gulps. "You can't be seriou-!" Too late. Rock is already leading them on a running start.

The cushioned inflatable is waiting for them when they fly through the open air-and just in time too. Not moments later, the next level of the building collapses and the whole thing comes down.

Blues is waiting to the side where he is helping the paramedics with the female firefighter and the old janitor.

He looks just as surprised as they were to see who Iceman's savior was. "Bombman? ...I should have known those explosions were suspicious... He probably set the building on fire to begin with."

Both Iceman and Megaman frown sadly at the thought. "He...he still saved me," Iceman counters defensively. "We gotta take him to Dr. Light. We can have him repaired and fix his programming." The smaller bot looks cagily between Rock and Protoman as though expecting them to deny Bombman this.

Blues nods. "You should get him out of here... These were the last ones in the building, I'll-!"

His new firefighter friend suddenly cries out and tugs on his scarf as the paramedics set her leg into a splint. "Urk!" His words are choked off.

He stays by her side while they get an oxygen mask on her.

Rock gives a nod to his brother before turning back to Iceman. "Come on. Let's move him somewhere safe. I can call Dr. Light to get us all home."

Luckily he doesn't have to. Despite saying that he would stay, the doctor arrives there on the scene after a couple of minutes and pulls his car around near the blockade. "Rock! Iceman over here! I saw what happened, are you two alright!?"

The boys immediately run over, lugging Bombman with difficulty. "We're okay!" Rock pants, his vents working overtime to try to cool down his hot and overtaxed frame. "Iceman got pretty heated, though. And look who we found."

"Oh dear..."

Light helps them move the heavyset bot into the back of the car, which visibly sags under his weight. The doctor doesn't miss this. "I'm not sure we'll be able to bring him into the apartment, but let's get him to the lab." Bombman still displays no signs of consciousness. There is a sharp dent around his forehead where he was hit by rubble.

"H-he got buried...saving me." Iceman sniffles in between his own wheezing. "But Protoman thinks he's the one that started the fire."

Suddenly Rock remembers. "I heard him yelling. He tried telling us to get out and that we weren't supposed to be there."

"Really? How odd... " Light drives away from the yellow taped street side where the flames are finally dying down and turns to head back to the university. "Tell me everything that you remember."

They explain as best they can the events that transpired during the fire-the explosion from above, the building collapse, the blocked stairs, Blues and the humans, the voice, and the fateful moment when Iceman was almost buried.

As they do, Light and the boys get back and get Bombman inside the lab. Light begins plugging him up to diagnostic devices. "Let's see... He doesn't seem to have been damaged by the fire... He was made to withstand extreme heat and physical abuse. Didn't want him blowing himself up, you see. It looks like he took a heavy blow to the head, though... It dislodged some key components but his core systems are stable. Unfortunately... Most of the damage he took was to his random access memory. I'll do what I can for it, but his short term memory, especially around the time of the accident, may be lost."

"That's not so bad." says Rock. "Are you going to repair his programming now that we have him?"

Light nods. "Of course. I would prefer to ask his permission first... But while I'll be tinkering with his head anyway I might as well do it. The other three masters we've rehabilitated give me no reason to believe he will be upset with my doing so afterwards."

"I don't think he will be." Iceman says, but he can't exactly be sure with Bombman.

Light spends the better part of the afternoon working on Bombman's repairs. It is not that they are extensive, he just makes sure to be very careful when repairing the bot's mind, trying to do so in a way that preserves as much of his memory as possible. When he is finished with everything, including ridding his creation of Wily's tampering, he leaves Bombman in the lab to recalibrate. The estimated service time is two hours. He goes back to the apartment to check on his children.

Iceman is still in the middle of telling Cutman the story of his heroic venture with Rock into the burning building to save the last few trapped humans. Rock listens from the other side of the couch as he sips on a can of fuel.

Blues is sitting in the corner of the room, heavily charred. Some of his paint is melted clean off. Roll is at his side, tending to him despite his protests, dabbing at the charred spots with a cold wet cloth to at least clean him up a little.

"So what kind of cake did you get!?" Cutman asks. Roll groans. "I told you boys that's NOT how it WORKS!" Then she spies Light. "Daddy THERE you are. Is Bombman done? Blues needs some new-"

"-No I don't-"

"-and his paint is messed up too, he'll need a fresh coat, do you wanna work on him now or later? I can help if you tell me what to do."

"We're not gonna get cake, Cutman. That's not the reason you should help people in danger." says Rock. Knowing Blues is in his sister's capable hands, he leaves him alone. "How is Bombman doing, Dad?"

"It's hard to say with certainty before he's online, but his systems check out. He is in the lab recalibrating and should wake up in a little less than two hours."

Light goes over to inspect his son, who pouts at his approach. "I know what you're going to say, but you don't dictate my life. I get to decide what I do with my-"

"No no," The doctor puts his hands up. "I don't think you did anything wrong. You couldn't have known that the building would catch fire when you went out, but you acted with haste and goodwill. I believe there are people who owe you their lives today, Protoman... And as your... Ahem... I couldn't be more proud."

Surprise flashes across Blues's face, and then a flush. "Oh... W-well... "

He keeps still while the doctor checks him over for damage and helps Roll wipe him off.

Rock smiles at the exchange. "Oh!" Iceman perks. "Now that you're done I can finally show you!" He dashes out of the room to grab the monitor he had before he left.

Rock stares after him, mildly bewildered. "What's that Iceman?"

"Just some fooootage~ You'll like it, sir."

Rock blinks curiously.

Blues, Roll, Light, and Cutman look curious too.

"Hey. Let me see too!"

"You already saw it, Roll," He gives a quick wink to the girl.

When Blues hears that, he realizes what they must be talking about. Shit. He transforms his arm into a blaster and points it at the entrance of Roll's room as though he is holding it out for inspection. "Actually doctor, I ah... I have sort of a concern. My blaster arm doesn't feel quite right, could you check on that?"

"Hm? Of course son... Let me see..."

Light begins poking and prodding at it as Blues waits for Iceman to emerge.

Iceman appears from the doorway shortly, the monitor safe in his hands. Rock watches carefully, still clueless as to what's going on.

Light gasps in surprise as Protoman's weapon suddenly discharges weakly, shooting Iceman off of his feet and onto the ground.

"Ack! I'm sorry Iceman!" Blues gasps, feigning innocence. Bullseye.

"Hey!" Iceman pouts as he stands back up. "Oh no, I dropped it..."

"Oh no... That's such a shame," Blues sounds just heartbroken. "Is it okay?"

He prepares to fire again if he needs to.

Iceman picks it up and tries to boot it up again. "Ah...okay, I think it is okay..."

"Oh thank goodness, I'm glad I didn't-"

-PSHEW-

"Oh I... I am SO sorry..."

"HEY!" Luckily Iceman suspected he might still be trigger happy, and he is ready to dodge the shot. "Okay I knew it! You're doing that on purpose!"

"What? Psh... On purpose? Iceman..." Blues gets up and moves towards him with his arms outheld. He transforms his blaster arm back to normal "I would never try to hurt you..."

He kneels down to give Iceman a big hug.

...

Squinting, Iceman runs right past him, the monitor held close to his chest until he's in front of Dr. Light. "He's trying to stop you from seeing this!"

Protoman growls and gets up when his ruse is discerned. He's leaving. No way he's sticking around for what is to come.

Now Rock is looking nervous. "Wh-what is it...?"

Blues slams his way out of the room even as Roll runs after him. "H-hey you need repairs!"

Rock frowns and gets off the couch. Before Iceman can hand it over, he snatches the monitor himself. "What's even on this anyway?" As Iceman shouts after him, Rock runs to a corner of the room to take a look at what Blues would try so desperately to hide.

...

Rock's lips form a tiny "o" as the video plays and his face flushes beet red in seconds.

"GIVE IT!" Suddenly Iceman is reaching around him to take it back, but Rock hugs the monitor tight. "NOOOO!" he squeals, squirming past before breaking away and making a run for his own room.

Light frowns as the scene unfolds. "Now boys... I don't know what this is all about, but if you are teasing Rock and Blues, that's not kind...

Iceman huffs. "I don't know why they're so embarrassed! It's just them playing!"

The doctor sighs. "I'll go see if I can convince Blues to return."

By the time the doctor is gone, Rock is safely locked in his bedroom. Iceman knocks and tries to get him to open up and give the tablet back to no avail.

Cutman pouts. "So much for that."

They wait around the living room for a while. It is quite dark out now. When Rock reemerges much later, he is looking quite proud of himself.

All of the others just stare at him. Then Roll notices the time.

"Ack! Bombman should be waking up!"

She rushed out the door. Cutman follows. "Hey I wanna see Bomby too!"

Rock sighs in relief when something else diverts everyone's attention. Even Iceman and Elecman become much more interested in their brother than the recording.

They all troop out to the lab where Light and the recovered Blues are greeting a newly-awakened Bombman.

"Ah..." The doctor says. "Here they are now, see? If you need reassuring I'm sure your brothers can offer it."

Bombman is sitting up on the lab table, rubbing the formerly dented spot on his head tenderly. Cutman instantly runs up to and jumps up on him.

"BOMBYYYYY"

Following Cutman's lead, Iceman quickly joins to hug him as well.

The new robot master hugs the two back, somewhat relieved. Particularly with Iceman. "I... You were... There was some sort of trouble, wasn't there? I... I remember something falling towards you... Are you alright, Icy?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. You saved me, Bombman."

"I did...?"

He hugs Iceman even closer, picking the smaller bot up against his chest.

"I was so scared... Like as scared as I had been in my entire life..." the big bot mumbles. Then he leans in a little closer and murmurs. "S...so is it really true? That you're not working for Wily anymore? None of you?"

Iceman nods. "We got fixed, Bombman. And so did you."

Bombman's mouth twists a bit. He's obviously confused... And contemplating.

"Well... Okay bro. If this is what you all decided I... I'll give it a try."

Iceman and Cutman smile up at him.

He grins and gently cuddles his two little bros close... He doesn't remember a lot right now, but he knows he missed these two... And Elecman. He opens up his arms to the black bot as well.

"Bro?"

Elecman's face cracks into a grin, and he comes to join the embrace as well.

The reunited brothers are the picture of happiness.

"Can Bombman sleep with me on the couch, Doctor Light?" Cutman asks. Light's smile falls. "Er... Well... About that..."

Three minutes later, Light finishes explaining why the building can't support Bombman's weight for the fourth time to Cutman, who is still upset regardless but finally announces "FINE! Then I'll just sleep down here with him!" Which Blues has no issue with because it means he gets his couch back...

"Aww...are they gonna be okay here?" Rock asks.

"I'll drag a mattress down for the two of them, and some blankets." Says Light. "Or rather..." He smiles sheepishly, "I might have to ask for your help with that, Rock."

Rock doesn't hesitate to nod and smile. "Yeah, I can help with that!"

Blues stays behind, and at Light's insistence allows himself to be repaired (while he is still conscious, of course).

Rock takes care of fetching a mattress for the robot masters in the meantime. He manages to get Cutman and Bombman settled with a mattress, pillows, and lots of blankets. Bombman is grateful to say the least. Everything he touches, it's like he is feeling it for the first time. Emotions weren't the only thing Wily's programming numbed. So many textures and emotions and sensations he was deadened to before... The warm glow of affection dominates as he holds Cutty in his arms while they bed down. "It's just temporary." Light warns. "When our new house is finished, you will be able to come inside."

"Yeah! You're gonna love our new huge house!" Roll chimes.

###########################################

The next morning, Blues hugs Elecman's waist as they lie together in bed. He is not entirely sure why he decided not to spend the night on the couch, or how he ended up spooning his companion, but if he had to make an educated guess... He has a feeling it has to do with the warm, gentle charge he's getting when he touches the other bot.

He was probably baited.

Elecman is beyond delighted to have his bed companion holding him this way. He keeps thinking back to the fact that Blues did not end up asking Dr. Light to remove that protocol as he said he'd do, even when the doctor was already giving him other repairs. He has to wonder if it simply slipped his mind with everything that happened, or if he is having second thoughts about it after all.

Even though Blues would never freely admit it, Elecman's suspicions are correct, although it is questionable whether Blues is having second thoughts because he doesn't want to lose the protocol or because he doesn't want any more tinkering from Light than he can avoid.

He inhales softly, getting the smell of Elecman's hair in the process. It's... Not bad. It smells like the other robot has cleaned it recently, because he can detect the soft, soapy scent of shampoo.

Elecman can't help but give a small smirk when he can tell Blues is smelling him. To mess with him a bit, he decides to move his head back a bit, just enough to brush his hair against Blue's face.

!

Blues sneezes softly when he gets a nose full of hair... But he doesn't pull away. It's kind of nice... And warm.

Elecman has to resist giggling. God, he can feel the heat of his blush radiating from his skin. He's so damn cute.

Blues breathes warm against the back of Elecman's neck. He slowly nods back off. It won't hurt to sleep a little longer.

He can't help but sigh softly and contently. Unfortunately for Elecman, though, he won't have much longer to savor this. Soon he will have to get out of bed to get ready for another day at work.

There are voices from the next room over, and soon smells. Breakfast is on the way. And Light is making a whole schmorgesboard for his growing family-piles of eggs, dozens of cinnamon rolls, bacon, sausage, and all that good stuff.

When Elecman picks up on the sounds and smells, he becomes curious enough to want to investigate. He begins trying to carefully slide himself out of Blues's embrace.

Nope. No go. Blues is back awake the moment Elecman starts to move and he hugs the bot right back against himself and nips the back of his neck teasingly before letting him go. "Race you to the kitchen"

When he is released, Elecman's face is a few shades redder. He may have made a soft, undignified squeaking noise.

Blues grins and gets up hurriedly to beat him to the table where Roll, Rock, Cutman and Iceman all wait.

Cutman is busy loading up a plate to go. "I'm sure Bombman will love this!"

Elecman pouts, disappointed to have lost a chance to beat Blues in a race. He makes his way to join everyone else. Rock already has a loaded plate with a bit of everything on it. "I'm sure he will. Dad and Roll make the best breakfast."

"Is there a special occasion for this, Doctor?" Elecman asks.

Light nods. "Yes, Bombman moving in with us is certainly a special occasion, wouldn't you agree? We are only missing Fireman and Gutsman now before the original robot masters are reclaimed."

The electric bot smiles. That is starting to feel like a very real possibility. He left Wily's side ready to wash his hands of his line-mates, but that was when it felt forced and something like the setup they have going now an impossibility. Maybe soon they will all be reunited. And then… who knows? They could at least give this family thing a try.

Elecman eventually checks the clock again. "Ah. I had better get going."

"Very well! Let's go," The doctor starts getting up to drive him to his job.

"Oh, Doctor, wait. You shouldn't have to drive me every day. I think it's time I start using public transport instead. If Rock and Iceman can navigate it, I'm sure I can as well."

"Oh? Are you sure?" Light smiles. What a young adult he has. "Very well... Just remember, I always have my phone. You have my number, right? Comm me if you have any problems."

"Of course, sir. But I'm sure there will be no problems." He smiles and bids everyone farewell.

Blues snatches up a cinnamon roll for himself and heads out the door. "Later. I'm going out too."

"Where are you going, Blues?" asks Rock.

"Eh. Just exploring town. Nothing specific."

As he leaves their apartment, he follows Elecman down the hall.

Elecman glances behind him. "Ah. Out to go on some more errands today?"

"Something like that." Blues replies cryptically inbetween bites of roll.

He continues to follow the black bot as he heads down the block, quietly munching.

"I take it you'll be using the subway as well?" He asks when he realizes that Blues is still traveling in the same direction.

"Mhm," he hums with his mouth full.

Elecman tries to match his speed to Blues so that he can walk with the other bot rather than be followed by him. "And where are you heading?"

"Oh I dunno. Wherever the wind blows me."

"Whatever you say."

As they get further into the city, Blues is the first to spot a guy hunched on the street corner with his hands open, begging for spare change. He quickly opens up a storage compartment and rifles through it until he finds the other 21 dollars he earned the previous day.

"What are you doing?" Elecman asks with genuine surprise. "How much money did you just hand over?"

"20 dollars."

Elecman shakes his head. "And you just gave it away. I'd believe you having such little value for money if you lived with Dr. Light the way Rock does, but I know you need it more than that. Why give it up?"

Blues shakes his head. "Nah. I've got a full tank, several roofs that I could crash under if I had to, and ways to make some more money and get fuel if I need it. He probably doesn't have any of that. He needed it more than me. He didn't even have shoes..."

Elecman's mouth tightens a bit as he considers what Blues says, and he doesn't question him further.

They hop a subway train and since it is mostly empty, Blues used two seats to lay down and kick his feet up, right at home.

Elecman chooses to simply sit next to him. He remains quiet, paying close attention to the stops to make sure he won't miss the one nearest to the plant.

As soon as they get to Elecman's stop Blues gets up and stretches. "Mmm... I think this'll do it for me."

He gets off first.

Ironically (or perhaps not) he heads ahead in the same direction Elecman needs to go. What an odd coincidence.

Now Elecman is starting to grow suspicious, but he keeps any accusations to himself for now, thinking he could still just be coincidentally wanting to go to the same part of town.

Sure enough, Blues walks slightly ahead of him aaaaaall the way up to the power plant.

...

There is no trace of amusement on Elecman's face. "Okay. What are you doing here. There is no reason for you to walk all the way here. You have no business at this plant."

"It's a free country, I can go where I want." Blues goes inside.

"H-hey!" Elecman quickly catches up to him. "There are places that not everyone is allowed to go and this is one of them!"

"Bah, I don't see any "intruders keep out" signs, I'm just going to the reception area! Think I might like to get the grand tour."

Elecman huffs. "Fine, whatever. You have your tour while I report for duty." He turns and heads out to clock in for the day, intending to separate from Blues now.

Blues waits until he's gone and the heads out of the building after a quick look around the foyer/open access areas. Really he just wanted to find out exactly where Elecman was working to keep it in mind. And maybe mess with him just a tad. He might be back later, but for now he has a hospital to pay a visit to.

When Blues arrives at the hospital, Ethyl is quick to smile and wave to him. "Hello again, Protoman. I was worried you might not be able to make it this time after the night you had. I'm glad to see you're alright."

"Night I had?" He looks at her confused before remembering the fire. "Oh... OH!" He looks at himself. Dang. He's still missing paint in places. "Yeah that... I had totally forgotten."

"Forgot?" She chuckles and shakes her head. "Now how could you forget something like that?" She gives a nod towards the playroom. "We showed them the news footage that featured you, so they're gonna be especially excited for story time today."

"Ooh boy I bet they will. He hikes the cat he picked up on the way over just a little higher on his shoulder and heads in to face his adoring audience and... A blue waste bin?

He stares in confusion at the large trash can in the middle of the room that the children are crowded around. When the first kids see him enter they squeal in laughter, barely able to contain their mirth. His entrance is greeted with a lot less "yay" and a lot more giggling than usual, but he's hailed with enthusiasm nonetheless. The kids take the cat from him and he starts giving out his pats and hugs and handshakes in prep for today's show, wondering what the joke is.

When Blues takes the stage and the children crowd around he starts his usual routine, striking a heroic pose. "Good morning everyone! Who's ready to hear another daring tale of how Mr. Kittypants and I SAVED THE DAY!?" Cheers erupt from all around as he launches into the tale. There he was-patrolling the city in the dark of the night when BAM! A security alarm goes off! He and Mr. Kitty fly to the scene and rush into the building only to be ambushed by a mysterious figure!

Blues omits some of the more gruesome parts like the fact Cutman was torn in half but embellishes others, his quick skirmish turning into a ten minute long battle royale. All things considered, his week has been a bit more quiet than usual, but he's gotta keep it interesting. Somewhere during all this he notices the garbage can wiggle slightly of its own accord. Aha... So that's what's up. Well, he'll act surprised anyway so they can have their joke.

He wraps up his tale in about 20 minutes-quicker than usual-and then does his after-show sound off of the Proto-motto before they break into play time. That's when someone decides it's time for show and tell.

"Pwotoman, Pwotoman!" A little boy runs up to him, tugging on his scarf and pointing to the garbage can. "We. We gots a pwobem! You gotta help us!"

"Oh? Whatever it is it's no match for me! Let's see it then!"

He walks up to the closed can and gives it a few experimental taps with his foot, fully expecting a jump scare. All the kids gather around giggling. Oh yeah, something's about to happen.

What he doesn't expect is who exactly is inside. Because when the lid of the can pops off, he's confronted with not one or two but three familiar faces. He gasps and topples backwards.

"R...rock!? Iceman? CUTMAN!?"

The children roar with laughter.

"We got you! Hahahaha!"

Now Blues's cheeks color bright in embarrassment. He wasn't expecting the fam to be here.

The Light bots all join in the laughter as well. As they climb out, the children all give them congratulatory high-fives for a prank well done. Rock then offers his brother a hand up. "I hope you don't mind. I remembered today's the day you visit them, but they—" He motions to Cutman and Iceman, "-wanted to go into town with me.

"When we got here, you hadn't made it yet." Iceman grins proudly. "So I thought of a way to surprise you."

Blues makes a sour face, one eyebrow visibly twitching in annoyance... But he accepts his brother's hand and quickly resumes character. "Ah, how clever! Such tricky allies I have. No wonder you are always so good at hide and seek!"

Several kids gasp.

"I WANNA PLAY I WANNA PLAY."

Iceman, Cutman, and Rock find themselves dragged away by energetic children while Blues goes over to the arts and crafts table after some girls request to repaint his missing patches that were scalded off. Soon he is covered in red finger paint, along with some green and yellow and pictures of birds and dogs and flowers and everything anyone can think to paint him with.

Rock is happy to play hide and seek with the children, especially since it is Iceman and Cutman's first time playing. Iceman is quickly elected as the first one to be "it", and as he counts, Rock leads Cutman to find a good hiding spot while all the other players scatter.

Unfortunately, some of the kids scatter towards the robots rather than away from them. Several of the younger ones, in fact, who aren't the quietest or stealthiest. It is thus that Megaman, Cutman, and Iceman are found almost instantly for the next few rounds, but all in good fun of course.

Megaman is happy to see the kids gravitating towards him. Soon everyone elects him to be "it", and he covers his eyes in one corner of the room and starts counting. When he is ready to begin his search, he glances to see if Protoman is still working at the craft table, somewhat worried. He remembers that grimace when they first surprised him.

Blues is watching him, amused, as he is covered in layer after layer of paint. He considers inviting his brother over to be painted too.

The smirk on his brother's face relieves Rock. He turns back to where everyone should be hiding. "Okay~ I'm gonna find you guuuyysss~"

Iceman proves tricky to track down this time. Somehow he manages to evade Rock all the way to the end and even after Rock searches around the entire large room for him. Everyone is laughing by that point at some mutual joke the blue bot has yet to figure out.

Megaman looks to the kids. "Hmmmm...you guys know where he is, don't you?"

Some of the kids practically screech with laughter when he asks but suddenly Iceman appears in his peripheral vision.

"Peekaboo! You really need to learn to watch your six."

! "Ack! ...eheheh, okay, you got me." Rock grins sheepishly.

Iceman pats his back. "Okay I'm sick of this game, I wanna color!"

Megaman watches in amusement as several kids happily lead him and Cutman to the drawing table. He takes the chance to go join his brother at the craft table.

Eventually Blues beckons Rock over for some painting time to admire his own artwork while Iceman and Cutman impress the kids with other things.

"So... Is this going to become a regular thing?" he queries.

Rock gulps. "I-I'm sorry...I know I should have asked first. And I don't know...It doesn't have to be. If Iceman and Cutman want to play with humans we can find other places to take them to do it."

"It's alright... No harm done. I was just surprised is all." And maybe a bit embarrassed. "Playtime's about to wrap up. Are you going back home after?"

"Not sure yet. For all I know, they'll find something else they wanna do in town."

Blues nods and gently taps the corner of his lip. "Well... If you want my suggestion I have ONE idea of what we can do."

"H-huh? What's that?"

Blues smiles.

A few hours later it is lunch time at the power plant and Elecman's popularity is lasting. Unlike the previous days, he is invited to the tables of different workers who take to asking him all sorts of questions about his functions and life and whatnot. Benny is among them, the man sticking closer than ever after the previous day's near-fatal events. Jo isn't around though. Benny informs Elecman that he has been ordered to take it easy for the next week. "So what was it like when that mad doctor controlled you? Do you remember it?"

Elecman nods. "Very clearly. The thing about it is that 'controlled' almost isn't the right word for it. His program didn't force me to do things against my will. It was more sinister than that. It truly bent my will to give me a desire to do as he told me. For a time, at least."

Benny seems troubled by that. "So what was it like when you ah... When you 'woke up'?"

"Well...that's the odd thing. Even before I 'woke up', his code seemed to be failing on me. I had wanted to escape him before. So when I first came back online, I did not feel very different. It took some time to realize that I was responding to things differently than before."

"Oho? How so?"

"The biggest change was my capacity to feel empathy had been restored."

"The second biggest is that he is a cuddler in bed now." Blues pokes in.

! Elecman jolts up, clearly shocked to see him back. "W… What do you think you are doing here!?"

Blues waves, along with his posse-Rock, Iceman, and Cutman. They are all wearing bright green "visitor" passes.

"We're on a tour!" Cutty interjects. "This place is neat!"

Elecman groans. "Ugh...well fine, whatever. I guess as long as you don't cause me any trouble..."

Blues grabs a can of fuel from the cafeteria line while Benny snickers softly. "Are these some of your robot friends?"

"Ah, well...sort of. You could also call them my brothers." He sheepishly gestures to Iceman and Cutman. "These two used to work for Wily as well. And you might know Megaman here." The boys all smile and wave.

After introductions are had and the plant workers finish up lunch, they return back to work.

Blues keeps following Elecman around for the rest of his day, taking amusement in his "brother's" discomfort long after the younger boys head back home. He lingers at the plant until the end of the day and escorts Elecman back himself.

Elecman is pouting at him so hard when they head out for the train station. "Was that really necessary?"

Blues's only answer is a sly grin.


END OF CHAPTER