|This Is Definitely Odd
Author: Sora G. Silverwind PM
Even after the events of episode 13, Barnaby still insists on maintaining a distance from Kotetsu. Kotetsu is determined to find out why, but the truth may be more than he can handle...Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Words: 6,343 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 1 - Published: 07-11-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7168210
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This Is Definitely Odd
by Sora G. Silverwind
Summary: Even after the events of episode 13, Barnaby still insists on maintaining a distance from Kotetsu. Kotetsu is determined to find out why, but the truth may be more than he can handle...
Rating: PG-13 for violence, language, and dark stuff.
Author's notes: My first fanfic for this fandom, written for the Tiger & Bunny anonmeme on LiveJournal. The original prompt read:
Barnaby's not a NEXT, he got his powers from making a contract with Kyubey. His black ring houses his soul gem.
Kotetsu finds out after wondering why Barnaby is so popular, but never seems to have any spare time? Or maybe Kotetsu tries to confess to him, and Barnaby rebuffs him for reasons similar to Sayaka?
So...yeah. Crack fic that somehow manages to not be funny. Fandom, I'm so sorry, and again, I'm sorry! Especially since this was initially intended to be humorous, but considering what I was crossing T&B with, I suppose Cerebus Syndrome was inevitable. I guess you could call this..."serious crack"? (Ba-dump-ching!)
And just so no one's disappointed later, I should mention that the original Madoka characters don't actually make an appearance until the end of the fic, and it's a super-short appearance to boot.
Also also, there are some minor conflicts between this and canon (aside from the whole "Barnaby as a Puella Magi" thing!), but whatever.
Disclaimer: I don't own Tiger and Bunny...but they can own ME anytime. Huminahuminahumina.
Kotetsu writes it off as simple assholishness at first, Barnaby's repeated refusals to join him and the rest of the heroes for post-mission drinks at a local watering hole.
"Probably thinks he's too good to be seen with the likes of us," he grumbles to Antonio one night at the bar, his hand clutched around a half-empty bottle of beer. "Gotta tell you, Bunny doesn't make it easy to be a nice person."
"Well, you don't make it easy to be a nice person, either," Antonio points out with a smirk.
Kotetsu promptly dumps the rest of his beer on Antonio's head.
But as the days and weeks pass, Kotetsu finds himself forced to revise his opinion of his partner. Not just because of things like partially-drunken-but-mostly-serious-late-night talks at Barnaby's flat, but over time Kotetsu notices a marked change in Barnaby's reaction to being invited out. If he isn't imagining things...it's almost as if Barnaby is disappointed that he's refusing.
"Hey," he says gently as Barnaby walks away from yetanother invitation. "You don't look like you really want to go wherever you're going. Why not spend just one night with us?"
Barnaby shakes his head without turning around. "I can't," he murmurs. "This isn't something I can just walk away from. Please understand that."
Kotetsu frowns and crosses his arms. "I don't think I can, if you won't explain what's going on."
"It's...complicated. You wouldn't understand."
He does a double-take. "H-hey, you're not calling me an idiot, are you? And didn't you just ask me to understand you? Make up your mind, Bunny, and tell me what's going on!"
And then Barnaby glances over his shoulder and looks Kotetsu straight in the eye. "Don't you trust me...Kotetsu-san?"
Reeling from the force of hearing Barnaby use his actual name with him, Kotetsu fumbles through his thoughts as the younger man slips away into the night. Of course he trusts Bunny (didn't he learn anything from their encounter of the Jake Martinez kind?), but surely a man is allowed to worry about his partner-friend-something-or-other. Even Barnaby's hair has started looking a little more depressed lately. Not that Kotetsu's been looking at it whenever he gets the chance or anything.
I'll follow him and see what he's up to, he decides.
Oh, yes, because that worked out so well the last time you did it, his wife's snarky voice points out in his head.
I'm not going to do anything this time, I swear! Kotetsu argues back. I just want to see what's going on so I can "understand", as he put it. He has no right to be mad at me if I'm doing exactly as he asked!
That's splitting hairs and you know it.
Pfft — I learned it from you, Tomoe-chan.
The voice leaves with a huff, and Kotetsu proceeds to ninja into the night.
Upon exiting the HeroTV building, Kotetsu spots Barnaby making a beeline for one of the seedier areas of the city. He begins to wonder what business his little Bunny has on the south side of Sternbild. Is he a secret druggie looking for his next fix? A messenger for the mafia reporting to his superior to receive his next assignment? A frequent visitor to brothels for dirty orgies? All three and then some?
Surely he — of all people — can't be doing superhero duty while not on camera, Kotetsu thinks incredulously. Prowling the night in search of criminals to arrest? Who does he think he is, the goddamn Batman?
But Barnaby passes by the dealers, and the abandoned buildings, and the pimps, and mysteriously enough, despite traveling through some very dangerous territory, he's not accosted by any of the shady-looking individuals he encounters, nor does he provoke them into attacking him. In fact, he doesn't seem to have much of a purpose in mind at all, unless that purpose is systematically walking every single city block and street. Once in a while Barnaby glances at something in his hand, but Kotetsu can't make out what it is. It's probably just his cell phone or something, though, since it seems to be glowing a bit.
This is stupid, Kotetsu thinks. He's spent at least an hour now following Barnaby (thank God for Ivan's lessons in stealth) and he still can't figure out what the guy is up to. Screw it, I'm going home. If Bunny wants to continue being a bastard, he can go be a bastard all by his damn self.
As he heads back towards the central part of the city, though, the annoyance surrenders to melancholy at the apparent reality of the situation, and his determinedly irritated gait slows to a shuffle. Even after all they'd gone through, Barnaby is still unwilling to spend any time with Kotetsu...er, with the rest of the heroes. Which includes Kotetsu.
All those things about how he trusted me, and that we were partners, and even calling me by my name for once...were they all lies? he wonders as he walks. Did Bunny tell me all those things just to get me off his back and stop bothering him? The thought of it depresses him more than it angers him. I guess I really am just a useless old man.
Maybe...I should stop being a bother to everyone else, too.
Before him looms Sternbild Bridge, its industrial silhouette slicing through the vibrant skyline lights of the city. He's not sure how he got here, since the bridge lies in the opposite direction of his apartment, but for some reason he's not perturbed by his unplanned detour. Idly, Kotetsu saunters over to the railing, and rests his elbows on it, gazing down at the inky blackness of the bay. The breeze coming in from across the water is blessedly cool and comforting in this humid night. He wonders if there's a way to get down to the water from here.
He could just jump, he realizes. That would be the simplest course of action. Jump in and be alone in the water, in the darkness, with no one bothering him, and him bothering no one, forever...
Kotetsu blinks as he suddenly notices he's leaning over the railing, with one foot braced to launch himself off.
"Gah!" He shoves himself away and falls backwards onto the concrete.
"Ow," he groans, rubbing his behind with a grimace. "Geez, what the hell was I thinking? And what am I even doing here anyway?" He blinks again as he glances around him. "And where the hell is 'here', anyway?"
Because suddenly Sternbild Bridge is gone, replaced by some eldritch abomination of a place that looks like the vomitous lovechild of M.C. Escher, Keith Haring, and artwork done on MS Paint by a five-year-old. Strange glyphs litter the scenery like errant sponsorship logos, and oddly two-dimensional critters skitter across the checkerboard ground and twisting staircases. The scent of cotton candy fills the air, sickeningly sweet.
"Well, this is definitely odd," Kotetsu mutters, and then lets out a laugh at how much he's understating things. This is likely the power of a NEXT, and whatever it is, it looks like a doozy. He swallows his unease and takes a moment to draw up a mental list of his options at this point. Much to his dismay, number one on the list seems to be "call Bunny." Forget that, he thinks, and instead whips out his cell phone to dial Antonio's number instead.
There's no reception.
"Dammit!" Frowning, Kotetsu slips the phone back into his pants pocket. If his cell phone isn't working, it's likely that his communicator isn't either. Now what should he do? He hates the thought of just waiting around, but at the same time it seems like the safest option, since he's not really sure what this NEXT power is or how it works. If he's hallucinating all of this, he runs the risk of potentially causing damage in the real world, and if he's going to be destroying things he may as well do it when someone else can pay for the damage costs. If it's something like warping the fabric of reality, though, anything could happen and there's no telling what it could be.
Guess there's only one way to find out, he thinks, and he steps onto the staircase closest to him.
The staircase lurches and proceeds to coil around him like a snake.
Kotetsu's eyes go wide. In a flash of neon blue, he activates his Hundred Power and leaps out of its clutches, somersaulting in mid-air before landing on his feet. He eyes the staircase warily, preparing for it to lash out at him again. But it appears to have lost interest, slinking away from him. Unfortunately, this seems to have been the signal for fecal matter to start crashing into the electronically-powered cooling device.
All around him, the staircases have begun to undulate rather disturbingly. Dissonant music box chimes echo through the place. Kotetsu shuffles backwards to avoid stepping on a couple of the paper cutout-like critters that are scuttling past him...and then he wishes that he had stepped on them, because now they're all merging and mutating into something that looks like a giant lady with a clock face. She's wearing a pink dress stamped with intricate blue patterns that resemble the designs on Tomoe's favorite china set. Her arms and legs morph into another set of oddly flexible staircases (with added bloodstains, because it's not like this place is creepy enough), and a few more sprout from beneath her skirt. To say that this is capital-B Bad News would be vastly understating things.
But at least this looks like bad news that Kotetsu can beat the crap out of.
And if there's something that this old man knows how to do, it's how to beat the crap out of stuff.
Kotetsu rushes towards the creature conglomerate. He ducks to avoid getting swiped at by one staircase-tentacle, then hops onto a second and runs up the steps for a bit before leaping to a third one and using it to launch himself at the monstrous clock face with a flying kick.
His foot goes right through the glass cover of the clock face, scattering shards everywhere...and buries itself almost up to his knee into the fleshy substance behind it.
"Crap!" Kotetsu braces himself and tries to wriggle out, yanking on his leg with his hands. But to his horror, his leg feels like its being actively sucked into the creature's body.
There's a mechanical whine as the minute hand and the hour hand of the clock swing towards him...from opposite directions.
"Nnnngh!" Kotetsu gives up on trying to free himself for the moment and instead devotes an arm and a leg to avoid being amputated by the hands of time. He keeps the minute hand at bay with a foot, and then slams a fist into the hour hand as it looms upon him (WHAM!), breaking it off and sending it flying away. With that done, he uses the countering force of the minute hand to finally gain enough leverage to pry himself away from the monster.
Then he realizes that he hadn't thought through what he was going to do after he broke free from it.
Kotetsu yelps as he tumbles backwards. He slams into his side on a swiftly rising staircase, and of course, since he's the universe's chewtoy, it has to be the side that took the most damage during the fight with Jake, which still hasn't fully healed.
He bounces along for a bit before slipping off completely. Luckily, he manages to recover enough of his wits to flip around and land more or less upright on another staircase, albeit a bit unsteadily. With a grimace of suppressed pain, Kotetsu begins to ascend the steps, using the momentum of his enhanced speed to keep himself anchored through the impossible twists and turns of the path that's taking him to almost level with the monster's head. He makes a superhuman leap to land on top of the giant clock face, and with a yell, slams his fist right into the metal beneath his feet.
"Eh?" Kotetsu stares in consternation; he's barely made a dent in the thing. "Son of a..." He goes in for a second punch (CLANGG!) and another one(WHAM!) and even attempts driving his foot into it (STOMP!), all to no avail. Frustrated at the lack of results, Kotetsu proceeds to do the only logical thing: more of the same.
CLANG! WHAM! WHAM! STOMP! CLANG! STOMP! STOMP!
Unfortunately, he's so preoccupied with trying to lay a beatdown on the monster that he doesn't notice the staircase-tentacle bearing down on him this very moment.
"Ugh!" Kotetsu goes sailing into the air, the breath completely knocked out of him. He crashes into one staircase, and then another in quick succession, bouncing back and forth between them before free-falling again. Stunned out of his wits, he can't do anything but close his eyes and brace for a rather painful blind date with the ground...
...a date which never comes because suddenly there's a very familiar warmth and a very familiar position and oh crap in the bay with mayonnaise on top there is only one person this could be...
"You know, you could've used the grappling line in your wristwatch," Barnaby deadpans.
Kotetsu starts to respond with a sarcastic retort to undo the indignity of being rescued with a princess carry again, but his words are promptly one-hit KO'd when he sees what Barnaby is wearing. "B-Bunny," he stammers, "what the hell are you — "
"We'll talk later," Barnaby says curtly, and the tone of his voice suggests that he's barely refraining from chewing Kotetsu out now. He lands lightly on the ground and sets the older man down before glaring at the monster some distance away from them. "First, I have to deal with that."
"In those clothes?"
Barnaby has a long pink tailcoat-like thing that flares from his hips and reaches down to mid-calf over a short red skirt with white ruffles on the hem. At the base of his throat is a large red bow with more ruffles and a black-mottled, rabbit-shaped magenta gem in the center. He's wearing a headband with two ribbons tied to it in a manner that resembles bunny ears. He sports a pair of long pink gloves and...jeweled brass knuckles? His calf-height boots look similarly blinged out as well.
"I'm the only one of us that can do any real damage to it," says Barnaby, as if that explains everything.
"B-but I still have at least three minutes of power left..." Kotetsu insists. "And you didn't answer my question about your clothes! And what the hell is that thing anyway?"
Barnaby has long since abandoned Kotetsu and his inquiries, rushing the monster instead. He's glowing blue with his NEXT power, but he's moving much faster than he should be able to with his ability, covering twice the amount of distance in less time; and jumping higher than he should, with a single leap taking him up to the monster's face level; and hitting harder than he should, because holy shit did he just kick that monster back at least fifty feet?
There's an inhuman screech as the thing thuds and skids across the ground. Barnaby's already waiting for it at the end of its involuntary trip, following up his ungodly punch with an equally ungodly kick that sends it sailing through the air in a graceful arc. And before it can plummet back down to earth, Barnaby intercepts the monster in mid-air, pummeling it with blue-glowing fists and feet.
WHAM! POW! SMASH!
With one last roundhouse kick, Barnaby slams it into the floor.
Its staircase appendages twitch limply; its clock head is missing chunks and its dress is torn.
Barnaby somersaults elegantly into a landing, his tailcoat swishing out behind him dramatically as he does so. He lets out a sigh — from fatigue or satisfaction or both, it isn't clear — and runs a hand through his hair, flipping it back in that practiced way of his. How he manages to still make it look cool while wearing a dress and bunny ears is beyond Kotetsu's comprehension.
"You're such a show-off!" Kotetsu yells out, but there's no real heat behind the remark.
The younger man doesn't answer that. He begins to make his way over to the monster's prone form...seemingly unaware of the black checkerboard pattern oozing off the floor and into more bad news.
Kotetsu swears. "Behind you!"
Barnaby whirls around to confront the new creature. Two well-placed kicks is enough to dispatch this one, scattering tiny black squares into the air. But more of them continue to sprout up around him.
That's it, I'm not sitting this one out. Bunny has clearly underestimated his ability to deal with this threat, so now it's up to his awesome (if slightly battered) partner to save the day. Kotetsu charges at the checkerboard creature nearest to him...
...and it's at that moment that his NEXT power decides to run out on him.
I must've been a bastard in another life to deserve luck like this, grumbles Kotetsu. At least his attacks seem to still be dealing damage, but they're definitely not as effective as he'd like. And without the adrenaline of his Hundred Power dulling the pain, his various injuries are sapping energy from him every time he moves.
Barnaby, of course, is wholly unappreciative of Kotetsu's heroic efforts. "Moron!" he hisses after planting a foot in one of the creatures to shove it backwards. "I can't protect you and go after the witch at the same time!"
"Then don't protect me!" Kotetsu retorts. He winces as he gets swiped in the arm with a serrated black appendage. Fortunately, it's just a scratch. "Go do whatever it is you're supposed to do! I'll hold these guys off!"
Barnaby doesn't look convinced at all, but he spins around and punches a path through a swarm of checkerboard creatures to create a clear line of sight to the "witch" (as he'd called it), which has since managed to pull itself together a bit. "Aren't you a stubborn one," he drones. His hands move in a tai chi-esque motion in front of him, tracing a large magic circle in the air before he steps back into a fighter stance. "I was hoping it wouldn't have to come to this, but...
He spins and lands a kick in the center of the circle, and a giant magical beam explodes forth from it.
The attack nails the witch dead-on, burning a hole right through its clock face. It screeches again in agony and disintegrates into winged puffs of pink cotton candy.
The nightmarish world around Kotetsu wavers before it melts away into the familiar sight of Sternbild Bridge and the city skyline. He sighs with relief, then panics as he realizes he's missing his hat. He relaxes again when he spots it on a nearby wooden bench. Smiling, he slips it back on — he got it as a present from Kaede some years back, so of course it's his favorite hat.
"Tch," he hears Barnaby mutter. "Figures it wouldn't drop a Grief Seed when I need it most. Must've been a familiar that mutated into a witch."
Kotetsu glances over. Barnaby's back in his more recognizable civilian clothes. He's staring morosely at an egg-shaped, gold-set magenta gem in his palm that would be beautiful if not for the inky stains that seem to swirl just beneath its surface. Before Kotetsu can ask about it, however, Barnaby pins him with a glare.
"You followed me," he accuses. "Again."
"What makes you think I — "
"You live on the opposite end from here," he says. "There's no reason for you to be in this part of Sternbild."
"And how do you know that?" Kotetsu shoots back.
Barnaby bares his teeth. "Because you're too nice for these parts."
Kotetsu's unnerved by his words, but he refuses to back down. "And you're not?"
Silence stretches out between the two men like a victim on the rack.
"What's wrong with you?" Barnaby whispers, the anger suddenly gone from his voice. His hand curls around the gem, and in a flash of colored light it changes into a familiar form: the black ring on his left index finger. "Why couldn't you leave this alone?"
"Because I didn't want to leave you alone," Kotetsu responds earnestly. "Bunny, what's going on? Why were you" — wearing that ridiculous outfit — "fighting something like that? That wasn't a NEXT, was it?"
Barnaby shakes his head. "That was...a witch. A manifestation of humanity's grief and hatred. They hide in interdimensional barriers that can trap unsuspecting people."
Yes, because that totally clears things up for Kotetsu. "And you were going after it because...?"
Barnaby glances away, appearing to retreat into himself. Kotetsu resists the urge to nag him for an answer, even though the only thing he wants to scream at the moment is I can't help you if you won't tell me what the problem is!
Have you considered that maybe he doesn't want the help of a washed-out old man like yourself? a voice in his head sneers.
What he wants might not be what he needs, Kotetsu thinks, though he doesn't sound convincing even to himself.
When Barnaby begins speaking again, it's in a desolate monotone that's even more wrenching than the preceding silence.
"Twenty years ago, I sold my soul to get my revenge on the person who killed my parents. And ever since then, I've been paying a price that I didn't realize I had to pay until it was too late.
"I wasn't born a NEXT, you know. I received these powers when I made the contract with Kyubey...the Incubator." He spits the last word out like a bug on his tongue. "At the time, I had it in my head that becoming a NEXT would help me get the justice I wanted. But I was just a kid; I didn't know a lot about the NEXT except for the glimpses I'd seen of them on HeroTV. So when Kyubey came to me in the aftermath of my parents' death, and offered me the chance to avenge them, I asked for the only NEXT power I remembered at the time: yours."
Kotetsu blinks, simultaneously horrified and flattered.
"I know...silly, isn't it? You'd think I could've at least come up with some brand new power. Or even skipped all that and wished for what I actually wanted: justice for my parents." A wan smile as Barnaby begins pacing, his hands clasped behind his back. "But I'm not nice like you, Kotetsu-san. I wanted the chance to get my own revenge on that bastard, to rip the life from his body with the power granted to me by the contract.
"So from the day I contracted with Kyubey, my life became devoted to two things. One was finding the man who murdered my parents and avenging their deaths. The other...was fighting witches as a Puella Magi."
"Y-you've been fighting things like that...ever since you were a kid?" Kotetsu ends up glossing over the question of what exactly a Puella Magi is (or, for that matter, who this Kyubey is and why the asshole is handing out contracts to little kids without a lawyer present) because he's more floored by the idea that Barnaby has been dealing with those terrifying things since childhood. He supposes that might partially explain Barnaby's top marks at the Hero Academy. When you're fighting unnatural creatures on a regular basis, ordinary criminals must seem like a cakewalk in comparison.
"Hardly the easiest path to travel, to be sure. The life of a Puella Magi is extremely difficult." He scowls. "But of course, Kyubey will never let you know about the finer details of that unless you actually ask him. So I didn't find out the truth until much later."
Barnaby stops pacing then and looks at Kotetsu, his gaze empty behind his glasses. "That Puellae Magi are meant to become witches in the end."
The implication slams Kotetsu with all of the grace and force of a tank.
"Y-you?" he sputters. "Become a...! But how?"
Barnaby turns his left hand palm-up, and his black ring morphs back into the gem he'd been holding earlier. "This is my Soul Gem," he says. "This is what allows me to...transform, for lack of a better term...into a Puella Magi.
"See the black inside it? That's corruption caused either by using too much magic, or by the Puella Magi losing hope. It can only be cleared by using Grief Seeds, which are sometimes dropped by witches when they're killed. What Kyubey conveniently neglected to tell me, and others like me, was that when a Soul Gem becomes too corrupted, it becomes a Grief Seed itself...and the Puella Magi transforms into a witch."
Barnaby's Soul Gem is almost completely black.
"The witch didn't drop a Grief Seed this time..." Kotetsu mutters, suddenly understanding the meaning of Barnaby's offhand comment from earlier.
A nod. "They haven't been. Not lately." The Soul Gem reverts to a ring, and Barnaby sighs. "And I wonder...whether that isn't some sort of sign."
"What do you mean?"
Barnaby takes off his glasses and runs a hand over his eyes. "I've been doing this for two decades already. That's almost four-fifths of my life, and much longer than most Puellae Magi hold out. The only thing that kept me going was the goal of avenging my parents." He slips his glasses back on. "And now that that's done with...I'm really, really tired."
Kotetsu's mood shifts from worried to pissed in less than a second. "You're seriously thinking about giving up now? After you've come this far?"
"As a matter of fact...yes."
For a moment, Kotetsu's stunned by the frank reply. He can't think of anything to say to something so raw and honest.
So he doesn't, and settles for something else.
Barnaby stumbles backwards. Wide-eyed, he looks up at Kotetsu, a hand rubbing his jaw where the older man has just punched him.
"Don't be so selfish!" Kotetsu scolds, his fists clenched at his sides. "If you turn into a witch, you're going to end up hurting people, aren't you? And if you're gone, who's going to protect Sternbild from other witches? Haven't you learned anything from being a hero?"
"I lost any delusions about heroism the moment I learned I was doomed to become the very thing I was fighting against."
Again, Kotetsu's at a loss for words. What can he say to any of this, really? Of all the things he'd imagined Bunny doing during his nights, being a magical warrior for great justice (a costumed one, at that) wasn't even on the list. He can hardly believe what he's been told about this other world of witches and Soul Gems and whatever — but make no mistake, Kotetsu does believe everything Barnaby's told him. How can he not, when he's witnessed most of it in the past hour or so?
How can he not...when he so clearly sees the scars of the truth on Barnaby's face?
"Then stay for me, at least," Kotetsu blurts out.
"What?" Barnaby blinks at him, bewildered.
"Stay for me," he repeats, as if to reassure himself that, yes, he did just say something as mooshy as that, and he might as well stick by it. "We're partners, aren't we? We can't be partners if you're gone."
"Do you even want to be partners with someone like me?"
Kotetsu tilts his head, perplexed. "Erm...why wouldn't I?"
A long pause.
"You should probably know," Barnaby says, his words dragging like a funeral dirge, "that I'm not even human anymore."
The egg-shaped jewel appears in Barnaby's hand again. "You know how I said this was my Soul Gem? That's literal, Kotetsu-san. This thing actually has my soul inside it. The person you see talking to you right now...that's just a shell being controlled by the gem. If you take it far enough away from me, I'm effectively dead until I get it back." He clasps his Soul Gem close to his chest, like he's afraid that Kotetsu's going to test the truth of that statement. "I didn't know that in order to fight monsters, I had to become one myself. And no matter what, in the end...I'll just become another one."
"Not if you just freakin' stay with me!" Kotetsu steps forward and places his hands on the younger man's shoulders. "Listen, I'm not buying that bullshit about you being a monster, because right now you're looking pretty damn human to me. And I don't care that you have to go out crossdressing every night to fight these witch things or whatever. But just talk to me about it."
"I can't," says Barnaby. "You wouldn't understand. Because you're not a Puella Magi."
No, he isn't, but so what? The more important matter, in Kotetsu's mind, is that this whole situation is something that is causing his arrogant, insufferable, but surprisingly fragile Bunny a significant amount of distress, and it needs to be dealt with somehow.
And suddenly Kotetsu knows just how to do it.
"Okay!" he declares. "If me not being a Puella Magi is an issue for you...then I'll just become one myself." A goofy grin. "I mean, I can do that, right?"
Barnaby's jaw practically crashes through the ground. "What? No! What are you — "
"The problem, as I'm seeing it," Kotetsu interrupts, holding Barnaby a little more firmly, "is that you're lacking a support system in fighting these witches. Since you and I are partners as heroes, it only makes sense that we should be partners as Puella Magis too." He makes a nonchalant gesture with a hand. "Sure, the outfit is a little weird, but we have to wear costumes anyway as heroes, I don't see why this is any diff — "
"Are you crazy?" Barnaby exclaims. "Have you even heard a single word I've been saying this whole time? You have no reason to be considering making a contract with Kyubey! Only people with nothing left to lose should become Puellae Magi, because the life demands everything from you. And did you forget about the fact that we turn into witches when everything's said and done?"
Kotetsu scratches his chin. "But that shouldn't happen as long as we keep getting enough Grief Seeds to clean our Soul Gems, yeah?" He eyes Barnaby speculatively. "Or as long as we have enough hope to hang on until we can find some Grief Seeds? I think that holding out for Grief Seeds will be easier if we can help each other out for it."
Barnaby stares at Kotetsu, unblinkingly, for at least a minute.
Then he starts laughing.
And it's not a happy sound at all.
"You're serious," he says in disbelief. "You're actually serious."
"Bunny, I'm just worried about you," Kotetsu says, more solemn now. "It's true that being a Puella Magi sounds a bit more dangerous than what we do as heroes, but it's basically the same thing, isn't it? So I don't see any problem in fighting alongside you as one."
Barnaby bows his head, his bangs obscuring his eyes. For a moment, it almost seems like he's going to close the distance between them (or is that just wishful thinking on Kotetsu's part?), but then he backs away.
"This was a mistake," he mumbles. His hands loosen a little, revealing the Soul Gem still nestled pitifully in his palms. "I shouldn't have told you anything. I thought...I thought if I did, you'd finally have enough common sense to stay away from me now on." A shuddering sigh. "But you don't have much common sense, do you? Not when it comes to trying to save people...especially if they can't be saved."
A burning chill prickles Kotetsu's skin. "H-hey..." he stammers, eyes darting downwards. "Your Soul Gem...it's..."
"I've doomed you." Barnaby's voice trembles violently, even as the rest of his body remains still as death. "I gave in and told you all of this because I thought that learning the truth might save you from it. But instead, I've just sealed your fate." He looks up then with a weak smile, and there are actually tears running down his face. "I'm so sorry, Kotetsu-san...
"I'm such a fool."
His Soul Gem shatters in a flash of black-splotched crimson.
Barnaby's eyes roll back into his head as he keels forward.
"Bunny!" Panicked, Kotetsu catches Barnaby before he can hit the ground, cradling his body in his arms. "Bunny, are you all right? Say something! Bunny?" He shakes him, his throat dry with dread. "Barnaby!"
As the world around them starts to warp in an ominously familiar way, Barnaby laughs sadly into Kotetsu's chest. "See you," he whispers.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away...
"...so if you feel like dying for this universe," Kyubey says, an impassive gaze settled on a despondent Madoka, "just call us. We'll be waiting!"
His ears suddenly perk up in curiosity, and he takes a moment to contemplate something.
"Ah!" he gasps. "I was wondering if that one was ever going to mature — it's been stewing for the past twenty years. The energy output from that will definitely fill my quota here." He tilts his head. "Though the resulting witch is probably going to take out a good chunk of the opposite hemisphere of this planet, if not more." He wags his tail. "I guess you don't have to sacrifice yourself after all, Madoka! Doesn't that make you happy?"
Nice job breaking it, Kotetsu! Your protective tendencies have resulted in the ultimate destruction of the earth. (Which I guess basically makes him Homura without the time-traveling powers, LOL.)
(...aaaaaand now I'm left wondering what Kotetsu's Puella Magi outfit would look like and what his powers would be.)
Anyway, because that ending was depressing as hell, y'all get a bonus sketch to cheer you up, of Puella Magi Barnaby trying his very hardest to look hardcore in a dress and bunny(-like) ears: http(:)/i (.)imgur(.)com/2mtfh(.)jpg (Remove the parentheses, obviously.)
Review if you will, flame if you must!
-Sora G. Silverwind
sweet raptured light, it ends here tonight