Title: & Bunny – chapter one
Author/Artist: Cheza-chan
Pairing/Characters: Kaburagi Kotetsu/Barnaby Brooks Jr.
Rating: PG-15 (overall R)
Genre: Alternate Timeline; science-fiction; superheroes.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, and I definitely don't own the sponsors that they wear.
Summary/Notes:Taking Ben's advice, Kotetsu decides to separate himself from Hero TV and the Heroes of Sternbild (deviated from the original storyline after ep. 15; updated a bit after watching ep. 16).

Two figures exited the Apollon Media building, having met in the grand lobby after leaving from separate meetings.

"Ne… Do you ever hang out with people other than me?" Kaburagi Kotetsu glanced at the blond standing to his left.

"I don't hang out with old people, if that's what you're referring to."

He unlocked his fingers from where they'd been tucked behind his head and doubled forward, both hands pressed over his heart. "That hurt… It really did. I thought we were past that stage."

Barnaby adjusted his glasses, revealing a smile as he lowered his hand back to his side. "Why that question all of a sudden? You sound like you're trying to set me up on some kind of blind date."

"Nah. Doubt you'd like anybody I recommended. I was just curious. I wanted to make sure you had someone rather than something—your computer—to keep you company." Kotetsu hoped his smile was believable enough, directing it at the younger Hero. "Because I can finally take those vacation days those Ouroboros thugs interrupted when they tried to take over Sternbild." He chuckled softly, adjusting his hat; he tipped the headgear forward, hiding his lies from Barnaby's piercing gaze. He'd gotten in touch with Ben and invited his old friend back to the house. Over a bottle of Legend's Cola, he showed him the journal he'd been keeping, explaining his decreasing time. Ben was nothing but concerned for Kotetsu. It was because of his old friend that Kotetsu had found the strength to request a meeting with Apollon Media.

With no one in danger, and no call coming through on his PDA, Kotetsu had tested the limit of his Hundred Power one last time before leaving his house and found that it was only lasting just over a minute now. They had barely scraped by during their last encounter with Lunatic, and he didn't want to become a burden to anyone, especially the young man that had finally considered him a partner. He still hadn't told Barnaby about his disgraceful encounter with Benoit Depardieu—The Lady Killer—several nights ago, and he wouldn't. Like the pathetic "wild tiger" that he was, he'd crawled away, tail between his legs, to licks his wounds.

"Ah! Bunny-chan!" Kotetsu ducked his head, patting himself down to search for his phone.

In doing so, he missed the way the jade green eyes narrowed. Barnaby's glare was not out of irritation, but suspicion. The '-chan' to his nickname had returned, which, to him, felt like a barrier of sorts had suddenly been erected between them.

Kotetsu held his phone up with a triumphant grin. "I need you to do me a favor. My daughter's a fan of yours, because you rescued her… when we first paired up together." Cold fingers encircled Kotetsu's heart as he recalled the helplessness he'd felt, watching the garter beams and concrete fall, knowing he wouldn't be able to reach his daughter in time. "You probably don't remember, do you?"

Barnaby thought back to that moment. It was easy, now that his mind was much clearer. Ignoring the fact that he'd disliked Kotetsu at that time, and thought he was a naïve old man, he immediately remembered the first appearance of "Bunny-chan"; there was the NEXT child controlling the statues; a skating rink destroyed. And a young girl, dazed and unaware of her almost-demise. "That's why you thanked me," he murmured.

Kotetsu smiled. "Yeah. Thank you… again. I might not have been able to go on if I'd lost her that day."

"You're welcome," Barnaby replied, with all the sincerity he could muster.

The mood had grown heavy and Kotetsu waved his phone comically, returning them to the previous subject. "She hasn't like any of the present I've sent her so far. Do you think…? Can I take a picture of you to send to her?"

"Wouldn't it be better to use one of the hundreds of printed shots they have at the studio? I can sign it for her."

"Ah…" Kotetsu chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of his neck. "We could…"

"You really should think more logically, Kotetsu-san." Barnaby turned away from the veteran Hero, stopped from heading back into the building by another sudden exclamation. He glanced over his shoulder, but was overwhelmed when Kotetsu suddenly closed the short distance between them and wrapped an arm around his shoulder.

"I thought logically!"

"Really?" Barnaby hummed, eyes narrowing.

"I always do!" Kotetsu argued, showing the blond his frown. Barnaby merely rolled his eyes and awaited the 'logical' explanation. "An autograph is kinna outdated, don'cha think? But I'll still take it. If we take a photo together, I can show it to her, along with the autographed card. It'll be proof that I really do know you, and I didn't get some weirdo to make a fake signature. She won't think her Papa is lame anymore!" Kotetsu laughed, highly pleased with himself. He slid his arm from around the other, holding it up to the side of his face, fore- and middle fingers emulating a V.

Barnaby's hand covered his, lowering it from his face. He didn't let go right away, and Kotetsu could feel the callousness that came from years of clawing his way through endless darkness to find the light—to find the truth. His fingers brushed over the inside of Barnaby's wrist before their hands were separated, and he couldn't help but wonder if his hands felt the same way. They were perfect partners, and not because the media said so. It was because they shared similar hardships and struggles.

"You will never lose the title of 'lame' if you pose like that," Barnaby was saying, drawing Kotetsu from his thoughts. "Your dream is for your daughter to call you 'cool', remember?"

The brunet grinned sheepishly, lifting his phone as Barnaby's shoulder bumped his. "Smile, Bunny-chan!" Barnby felt displeasure at hearing the '-chan' once again, but covered it with a disarming smile—years of practice made it perfect—directed at the phone's viewfinder.

The button was depressed, the shot taken, and Kotetsu checked to see if it was of good quality. "Perfect," he murmured, a faraway look in his honey-colored eyes. This was his memory. He could make it his background and blame it on Fire Emblem. Kotetsu grinned at the thought, turning to face his companion. "Let's get that autograph."

x x x x x

Kotetsu was actually hoping for another explosion as he drove along with the traffic out of Sternbild. There was nothing, however, and soon he was in the Brox Industrial Area, where his mother and Kaede stayed. Behind him was Sternbild City, the place he'd called 'home' for thirty-odd years. The city 'Wild Tiger' had strived to protect with all his might.

Kotetsu lowered his gaze from the rearview mirror, focusing on what lay ahead of him: a new future, for Kaburagi T. Kotetsu. With a smile, he lifted his foot slightly from the brakes of the SUV, moving ahead once the light had turned green.

x x x x x

Standing in front of the large picture window located on the side of his apartment building, his arms crossed over his chest, Barnaby Brooks Jr. stared down at the shimmering city of Sternbild, a place built with money and power; the power of influence. He saw none of it. The only thing he could 'see' was the new leather band that decorated Kotetsu's right wrist as a replacement for the green and white PDA. Barnaby had almost missed it, since the accessory had been similar to the watch Kotetsu wore on his left wrist. Kotetsu's left shoulder had been pressed against his right, forcing the older man to use his right hand to take the picture. Barnaby caught the switch at that moment.

His attention was drawn to his own PDA and he raised his arm, accepting the call. Kotetsu's grinning face appeared and Barnaby felt a surge of relief. 'He still has it.'

"Bunny-chan," the brunet whispered. "I need your cell phone number. I did some more logical thinking—"

Barnaby's lips curled into a smile.

"—and realized that Kaede may want more proof. This is the only way we communicate—"

"So you want to use and exploit me?"

Kotetsu wrinkled his nose. "When you say it like that, it sounds bad, but… yeah!"

"Is she nearby?"

Kotetsu's grin withered and Barnaby could see the older man's hesitation and uncertainty. "I've been sitting in my car for hours now. I'm finally here… and I don't know what to do." He lifted his downcast gaze, eyes seeking guidance from the other Hero. "It's been over five years, but it feels like… forever."

"Kotetsu-san. I think seeing you will be the best present you can ever give her. Take this from a child… who lost everything to a madman."

Kotetsu was now wishing miles didn't separate them as he stared at the digital screen that linked them. Barnaby remained strong, like Kotetsu knew he was. There were no tears to be shed, but the sorrow could be seen in the depths of the jade green eyes. He felt a strong urge to comfort him. Maybe, a paternal instinct? "Barnaby…"

Barnaby's eyes widened, a smile slowly spreading across his face. A soft laugh escaped him. "I will honestly say that it sounds weird to hear you address me by name."

Kotetsu took strength from Barnaby's smile, his own grin returning. He nodded confidently. "Aa! You're right! But I still want your number." He inserted it into his phone after having it read off to him, automatically starting to save it in his contacts as 'Bunny'. Kotetsu chuckled softly before correcting the error. He set the phone onto his thigh, giving Barnaby his attention once more. "Expect a call tomorrow, 'kay?" Lifting a hand, he removed his hat, laying it in the passenger's seat. "I might just sleep here and make my appearance tomorrow morning."

"Kotetsu-san. Stop delaying the inevitable. You want to see your daughter's smile, don't you?"

'More than anything.'

Kotetsu's thoughts were written plainly across his face. Barnaby ended the call with a message: "I expect that call tonight. Either from you or from her."

Kotetsu lifted the quiet PDA to his lips, grinning against the device. "Bunny. Will you still be this kind when you realize… I'm not coming back?" Shaking his head, he reached across the middle console to reach the glove compartment. He placed the PDA in gently, closing the door afterwards. Looking towards the well-lit house, Kotetsu exhaled deeply. He lifted his phone from his thigh, sliding his finger across the screen to bring up the keypad. Kaede was his first speed dial.


Kaeda pulled her phone from the pocket of her shorts. She sighed softly after seeing that it was his father calling, but answered it nonetheless. "Hello?"

"Kaede!" Kotetsu laughed. "What's for dinner?"

"We just finished eating. Grandma made curry."

"She went traditional," Kotetsu groaned, his stomach letting him know his disappointment with a soft whine.

"Were you going to eat with us? I don't see how. You're not here." Kaede smiled at the older woman that peeked into the room, mouthing "Papa" as she pointed to the phone. Kotetsu's mother smiled, nodding.

"Kaede… How would you feel if I came home? And I mean… walk through the door."

"I'll believe it when it happens."

Kotetsu smiled, reaching into the backseat for the traveling bag he'd pack. He pulled it forward, climbing out of the car, and quietly closed the door behind him. He sighed dramatically into the phone he still held to his ear. "What am I going to eat? I've driven so far, for so long."

"We can order take-out for you," Kaede told him, moving through the house to the living room. No sooner had she dropped into the couch, the doorbell chimed. What made her eyes widen was the fact that the musical lilt echoed through her phone.

"Un." Kotetsu grinned. "That sounds good. I'll let you pick your favorite spot. Then… you could show me where your favorite spots are." He blinked when there was no response from his daughter. "Kaede? Kaede, did you hang up on me…" The door slowly opened. "…again?"

Kaburagi Kaede stared up at her father, eyes shimmering with tears. "You're… finally here. You're here, and it's so late. There's not even a special event going on…!"

With a smile, Kotetsu lowered himself to one knee, wrapping his arms around his daughter. His large hand cupped the back of her head, pressing it into his shoulder. "Kaede. I've missed you so much." The girl released a soft sob, desperately clinging to his frame. Though she cried, a large smile remained on her face. No Hundred Power was required to lift Kaede from the ground, and Kotetsu did so. He walked into the house, using his shoulder to close the door; his hands were full. He stared around at the quaint, comfortable surroundings. "I'm home…"

"Welcome back!" Kaede laughed into his neck, sniffling softly afterwards.

The older woman in the other room picked up her granddaughter's discarded phone, gently closing it.

A/N: I… change fandoms as fast as some people change boyfriends (and girlfriends). I haven't forgotten about my Bleach stuff; this… Kotetsu owns my soul at the moment *flutters away*