Title: & Kaede (one-shot)
Pairing/Characters: Kaburagi Kaede / Radboud Gustaaf
Genre: Alternate Timeline; science-fiction; superheroes.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, and I definitely don't own the sponsors that they wear.
Note(s): Written for Ash.
Hands shoved into the pockets of her denim shorts, Kaede wandered aimlessly around the Bronze Stage, no real destination in mind. Her CALL band remained blank, a nondescript black and white accessory. She found herself outside of her father's old home and took a seat on the step, knowing it was still empty. She checked the time and realized just an hour had passed.
"I'm surprised you circled this block three times without injury."
Kaede didn't bother smiling as she lifted her head to address the stranger speaking to her, flipping her hair over her shoulder. The man that smirked at her, however, was no stranger. Kaede's eyes widened, a grin splitting her face. Before she could stop herself, she was off the step and across the street, throwing herself at the auburn-haired man.
Radboud, startled, could only hold the young woman tightly while trying to keep his balance. His trademark sunglasses slipped down the bridge of his nose, revealing wide green eyes filled with surprise.
"I have no idea why I'm so happy to see you!" Kaede laughed, her arms still looped around the man's neck. She lowered her booted feet back onto the ground. They were almost the same height now, though he still had a few inches on her. "It's been slow… I guess the criminals finally realized their mistakes. That, or they're working underground now…" She shook her head. "Either way! Make something happen so I can have a reason to be a Hero!"
Radboud's eyes widened before he choked out a laugh. "Careful with that way of thinking. You'll make a better Maverick than Maverick."
Kaede looked horrified, letting her arms slip away as she stepped back. "I would never..." Three years ago, she developed a second power that coincided with her first; she was able to draw upon previous abilities without the need to make contact again. Maverick's ability was buried deep within, locked away so she would never have to think about it; she never thought about it, until now.
Radboud adjusted his shades, hiding behind the darkened glasses. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I didn't mean it... like that. You're Sternbild's Queen of Heroes."
Kaede rolled her eyes, the tension easing from her body. "I want to get rid of that title. I might have to retire and join my parents on their pleasure cruise."
Barnaby and Kotetsu were halfway around the world, probably making their way back, albeit very slowly. They had finally retired from the Hero business, deciding to give the Second Leaguers room to grow.
Twenty-three and in the First League since twenty, Kaede thinks she's grown enough already. "Can you believe they left me all alone?" she huffed, blowing her bangs out of her face.
Radboud bit back a laugh, "Sorry, but I think you're capable of handling yourself."
Kaede shot him a side glance, a delicate eyebrow arching. "Why are you here?" She crossed her arms over her chest. "Not that I don't enjoy the company..." The pieces clicked together almost instantly.
And Radboud watched as they did, impressed. "No wonder you're Sternbild's best," he chuckled. "I wasn't spying on you. I, myself, was a bit bored, so I decided to check on my old friends. Your father and his husband are having the time of their lives."
Kaede scoffed, looking at the ground beneath her boots. She smiled, "They deserve it, more than anyone else."
"Ster's great, Evelyn's great. Everyone's great, except little Kaede."
Kaede allowed a small smile to creep onto her face. Everyone was great. Emma traveled the world as a reporter and also a diplomat of sorts. There are still humans that dislike NEXTs, and vice versa, and she wanted to get everyone's side of the story. Tony was still a Hero like her, but Isaac occupied most of his free time. They were two dates shy of being married, and the former figure skater still hadn't gotten Tony to properly stand on ice.
Sky High and Antonio were still together, retired as well. She remembered Antonio telling her that he threatened to crush Sky High's suit if he even thought of doing a nightly patrol. Karina had given up the guns and finally reached the level of a professional and sought after performer. When she wasn't singing, she was seated behind the ebony and ivory keys of a grand piano. Dragon Kid and Origami Cyclone were still Heroes, but with the decline in crime, they were rarely on call, and both had flourishing personal lives. Fire Emblem was just Nathan Seymour, CEO of Helios Energy. Even Lunatic hadn't been seen for years; Yuri always greeted Kaede with a smirk and a nod whenever they crossed paths.
"Everyone's great," Kaede whispered, tucking her single braid she still kept behind her ear.
"You can travel, too, y'know," Radboud told her. "There was that teleporter you encountered several years ago..."
Kaede lifted her head, grinning at the man hidden behind the dark glasses. She reached out, slipping them from his face and onto hers. "You really are stalking me, Mr. Gustaaf."
Radboud couldn't hide the happiness he felt over the fact that she had remembered his full name without his eyewear. He also didn't deny the accusation.
"Take me somewhere then."
He'd almost missed the statement, given how softly she'd spoken. Kaede's smile was shy, her eyes sparkling over the top of the sunglasses she had tipped low. Radboud exhaled deeply; he'd never felt uncertain about his actions until crossing paths with the Kaburagi family. "I'm going to die..."
Kaede snagged his arm with both of hers, hugging it against her chest, which had filled out nicely, in her opinion. Radboud also thought it felt nice, but banished the thought quickly. "Don't worry," she giggled. "I'm a Hero. I'll protect you."
The atmosphere lifted as he joined her in laughing.
When Kaede wasn't brushing up on her studies, or apprehending bad guys that just wanted to scream "Copy Cat arrested me!" at the camera, Kaede found she spent an increasing amount of time with the man that had been ordered to kill her father so many years ago.
"What happened... to him?" she questioned hesitantly on their fifth date—was this a date?—at the sushi restaurant Karina had first introduced everyone to. Before, Radboud could never be found without the android. Now, the red-eyed being was nowhere to be found and not being mentioned at all, so of course curiosity had gotten the best of her, as it always did whenever they got together. Kaede had been working through dozens of questions in an attempt to know the man better. She'd learned of his sordid past, and what he had done to his parents—"I couldn't let them take Evy from me."; how he had stumbled across Maverick and was introduced to Ouroboros.
Radboud reached into the neck of his shirt and pulled out a silver chain. From the end of the chain hung a pendant designed like Wild Tiger's emblem. "It's a special chip I made," he explained. "His memories and AI are on it." Kaede banned him from wearing sunglasses whenever they met up, and she stared at the fond expression he wore as he moved the accessory over his fingers. "He realized that, even though he could think and act on his own, he would never be real, never grow old. He told me to stop making bodies for him... told me to me to scrap him." He lifted it to his lips, sighing softly. "I can't scrap you, idiot."
Kaede reached across the table, covering Radboud's free hand with her own. She gave it a gentle squeeze, smiling. "You have a good heart. No wonder you couldn't cut it as a bad guy."
"I couldn't cut it as a bad guy because you and your father are bad influences. You exude so much good..." Kaede laughed, leaving her hand where it rested; Radboud didn't want it gone either, but he also knew this—whatever the young woman was hoping for—could never be. "Are you certain about what you're doing? I don't want this to be a 'bad boy' phase."
Kaede pulled her hand away with a roll of her eyes, picking up her chopsticks to snag a piece of octopus off her plate. "I've had the bad boy type, and I'm positive they have nothing on you, or me." Kaede's first date was with Emma; Kotetsu couldn't wipe the grin from his face for the whole day after she announced it. They lasted a year before ending on mutual terms and their friendship still intact. "I enjoy spending time with you, so maybe this is just me seeking a friendship."
"Same." Radboud slipped the chain back inside of his shirt so it rested against his skin once again.
"But I don't want it to be just a friendship." Kaede had no idea who was speaking for her. The words were spoken with her voice, but had not gone through the thought-filter process.
"I'm older than you," Radboud offered as an argument to keep his ass from getting handed back to him by two former King of Heroes.
"My Dad's older than Barnaby," Kaede countered, growing bored with the current turn of conversation. Her band flashed and she reflexively covered it with her free hand as to not draw attention to herself.
"I can make you something more discreet and less obvious when alerting you." Radboud absently nodded at her hands.
Kaede smirked as she stood. She placed her share for the meal onto the table. "You know… You've been giving me gifts for years now. Maybe I'm finally realizing what it all means."
"I was trying to make nice with your dad, is all," he called after her, keeping his eyes above her waist and not on her behind. Kaede sauntered out of the restaurant, waving over her head. Radboud tilted his head back, laughing to himself.
X X X
"Do you think I like him?" Kaede was stretched out on the single lounge chair of Barnaby's apartment, having a hands-free conversation with Emma via the wall monitor.
Emma grinned down at her. "I think you're attracted to him. It's a rare thing for you. Given your childhood, you don't trust many. I'm happy I'm in the group of people you trust—"
"Love," Kaede corrected with a smile.
Emma laughed, the sound causing the Hero's heart to soar. "I love you, too, Kaede, but right now... you seem to have feelings for another." Emma's grin waned to a thoughtful look. "I'm sorry for suggesting this, but try to distance yourself from him. If you have to date someone, then do it. Spend time with Keith."
"I do miss him." Kaede drew a knee up, hooking her chin over it. She smiled up at her ex-girlfriend. "This is why I keep you around."
"Good to know," Emma laughed.
They talked a little longer, Kaede asking about Emma's travels, before parting ways. The young woman stretched out on the chair, her long legs reaching its end. "If you're listening, can I ask you to stop visiting me? I want to give you a proper answer." The monitor flashed to life, displaying a quick OK before going blank again. Kaede hugged her knees close, muffling her squeal against them.
Keith welcomed the young woman with open arms, laughing when she snuggled against his chest. Almost immediately, the apartment was filled with high-pitched barking and three puppies came rushing out to greet her. Kaede extracted herself from the blond's hold, sinking to her knees so she could scoop the animals into her arms. "You guys are getting bigger by the day, aren't you!"
Old age took John from them a few years ago. Keith had been unable to function for weeks, unwilling to accept that his only family had been taken from him. It was Origami Cyclone that convinced him it was time to start over. With Antonio, they went to a shelter to save a lost soul, and came home with three.
Kaede couldn't contain her laughter as the rough kisses continued. "I hardly come by—how can you love me this much!"
Keith smiled, sinking into a crouch beside her. One of the puppies wiggled over her arm, landed with a soft sound, and leapt at the blond. He accepted it. "It must be important... the reason you're here."
Kaede's grin dimmed to a smile and she tucked her face against a floppy ear. "I'm having a love crisis."
"And Fire Emblem—they would probably know better, but I came to you, Keith. You have... a pure love."
Keith chuckled, hugging the yipping animal close as he stood. "I am ecstatic that you think I'll be able to help in this crisis."
Kaede grinned up at him, before her thoughts presented themselves and reminded her of the current situation at hand. The puppies sensed her discontent and nuzzled against her hands, whining softly. She scooped them both up, heading further into the apartment to deposit them on the floor of the living room; there was more room for them to run freely and for Kaede to sink into the plush couch. "Is it possible to fall for someone you hardly spent time with?"
"Yes," Keith answered immediately, letting his puppy scamper free. He took a seat beside the young woman, studying her profile. "That's how it happens, I believe. For some, it's love at first sight, but others have to work on their relationship or let it go."
"Emma and I weren't love at first sight," Kaede whispered. "But I treasure her as much as I do you, and my father, and Bunny..."
"Maybe you treasure this person as well." Keith smiled, watching the tiny dogs tumble over each other playfully. "When we first met, it was not under the best of circumstances. Neither the first, nor second time. How many times did you encounter this person?"
The first time Kaede unofficially met Radboud was during the mistaken identity of her father and the android under Maverick's control. The second time had also been an unofficial meeting via radio, and it was after she had moved to Sternbild. In between those two events, however, had been their first face-to-face meeting—she hadn't even known who it was, though.
"He saved my life," Kaede whispered, unconsciously activating Origami Cyclone's ability as she regressed a few years to better experience the memory. She took on the appearance of the excited teen she was back then, eager to join her parents as Heroes. "I didn't know who he was then, but I remembered that bastard's smug smile. He makes me feel... calm." Kaede was able to better describe what she couldn't back then. Her appearance returned to normal as the light around her faded.
Keith smiled, placing a gentle hand to her shoulder. "Let's take these pups for a run in the park. Maybe it'll clear your head." Realizing they were once again the center of attention, the three tiny Retrievers came scurrying over, brushing against ankles and calves.
X X X
"You're still stalking her." Evelyn grinned at her brother's profile.
"'m not," Radboud muttered, trying not to focus too much on the woman that rolled around with the puppies without a care in the world. It was purely coincidence that he happened to be at the café across from the park where Keith brought his companions.
Evelyn leaned forward, forcing her brother to look at her across the table. "Do you like her?"
"She's an interesting individual."
"That's not what I asked."
Radboud pushed his sunglasses up onto the top of his head, glaring at his sister. Evelyn arched an eyebrow at him, waiting for her answer. "I was looking out for her, to make up for all the trouble I caused her family," Radboud started hesitantly. "But, just like her father, she became some extraordinary. I stopped looking after her and started… admiring her and her untamed spirit."
"If Ster could hear you now, she would ridicule you for your fanboy crush."
Radboud's glare became deadly, but Evelyn matched it. They had faced off several times. The first was when he tested his abilities against hers; the following times were arguments where they failed to agree to disagree. Each time ended in a draw.
Radboud flipped his shades back down over his eyes with a groan. "I'm too old to have a crush."
Evelyn giggled gleefully at her brother's turmoil. "You've finally become a real boy, that's what this is. I warn you, though... if you break her heart, you might doom this city and many others." She patted his hand consolingly. "I'll miss you."
Radboud smirked. "Yeah... I know."
It took Kaede three months and several failed dates before she finally reached a conclusion. "I want to date him," Kaede whispered to the empty apartment. She was hunched over her knees, her arms loosely wrapped around her ankles. Her parents hadn't returned yet, probably wouldn't return for a while.
"Kaede! We jumped ship!" Kotetsu laughed sheepishly at her from the wall monitor. "Bunny thought it was so beautiful out here, and... literally, activated his abilities, and jumped ship, minimum luggage included. The rest should be delivered already."
They had, and Kaede hadn't touched the boxes or suitcases, leaving them all at the entrance. She continued to stare at her father, rather bored with his tale. An idea formed in her head. She wasn't using him, just the fact that she'd made up her mind. "Radboud's back in Sternbild." Kotetsu was pushed aside, his face replaced with a glowering Barnaby. "I believe that it's my duty, as a Hero, to keep an eye on him."
"I forbid it," the blond ordered.
Kaede leaned forward, crossing one leg over the other, to brace her arms atop her knee. "Is that so?" she drawled with a cocky smile.
"Just because you're twenty-three doesn't mean I can't discipline you!"
"Bunny," Kotetsu whined in the background. "She just said she was going to keep an eye on him. What's the harm in that?" As they argued like the old married couple they are, Kaede whispered her goodbyes and ended the call.
Kaede drew herself upright, a determined gleam in her narrowed eyes.
Radboud's eyes widened, his body lighting up after feeling a shift in the pressure around him. His fight instincts diminished and he grinned, realizing he was being called out. There was only one other person he knew of that could alter gravity. What impressed him even more was the fact that she'd managed to sneak up on him.
Copy Cat stood in midair, waiting. She was making a public announcement, knowing there were citizens recording her appearance without the telltale HeroTV 'copter. She grinned, holding in her laughter when Range Rover—'Of course you'd still have that outfit'—appeared in full outfit shortly after she had declared her presence to the man in the apartment; the same apartment in the Silver Stage that she had visited countless times.
"One fight, one winner," she declared to her opponent. Copy Cat's exposed arm and leg burned orange and she charged at the rogue NEXT.
X X X
Kotetsu startled, following the broken glass to his life partner's empty hand. He glanced at Barnaby's profile and realized he was staring, appalled, at whatever the television behind the bar currently displayed. His eyes widened after seeing what Barnaby saw and Kotetsu was glad his glass was safely sitting on top of the bar.
The video, the caption read, was recorded by a passerby that saw the Queen of Heroes hovering midair. Copy Cat currently had someone pinned to the side of a building, both of them standing on the upper most level of a set of fire escape stairs. That was normal. What was not normal was the fact that she was kissing said person, very energetically—thank you, zoom function.
Kotetsu was out of his seat, pointing a shaky finger at the television. The bartender glanced at the screen and smirked. "Has our Queen finally found a King?"
"No," Kotetsu screeched, the sound feeble and broken. He tangled his fingers in his hair. "That's... Bunny, that's—is this what she meant when she said she'd keep an eye on him?!"
Barnaby quietly rose from his stool and wordlessly headed for the front door of the bar.
Kotetsu whipped around just in time to see his partner's body become outlined in blue. "Bunny...!"
X X X
Radboud chuckled breathlessly against Kaede's lips. "I take it you've made up your mind." He had lost fair and square in their duel, but winner and loser were both receiving spoils.
"Yeah." Kaede sounded just as winded. "Don't let anything change between us, other than the fact that you'll spend less time stalking me via camera and more time dating me."
"Promise." Radboud slipped his arms around her slender waist, tugging the young woman impossibly closer. "Since you wanted to spice HeroTV up a little… maybe we can make this routine. No one knows who I am." He could do as he pleased, since only three people knew of his old persona; one was currently in his arms.
Kaede pouted in thought, tilting her head back shortly after with a laugh as gentle lips tried to banish the frown. "I think I want to keep you for myself right now."
"I won't mind if you use me, like you're doing now." There was no accusation or malice in the man's words. "In return, please protect me against your younger father."
"Oh." Copy Cat wiggled around, taking a few seconds to wave at those still recording, before activating her goggles. There was a NEXT signature closing in fast. "Record timing!" Kaede covered Radboud's arms with hers, patting them reassuringly. "This is the first step we need to take so this can be a successful relationship."
Radboud whined softly in her ear.
Kaede grinned. She could tell her future would no longer be boring.
A/N: *sobs* …I don't know. I'm like Spongebob—I'm always crying! This… was surprisingly easy to write. Like I'm usually always feeling, I think it's rushed, but my editor says she likes it as is. Ash! Please, find this, and read this, and hopefully enjoy it~ (see, this is why I beg for reviews; I feed off them~ *inhales like a Dementor's Kiss*)