Notes: Written for a prompt on the Livejournal anon meme.

::The Way We Move::

When Barnaby came striding out of the building with a white slip of paper in one hand and looking frownier than usual, Kotetsu knew something was wrong.

Over the duration of their partnership, he'd become something of an expert on many nuances of Bunny-frowns, if only because most of them were directed at him. There was the mildly annoyed frown, the 'you're an idiot, Kotetsu' frown, the tired frown, the 'I'm frowning on the inside' smile (which was usually directed at sponsors, and counted as far as Kotetsu was concerned), the 'I'm not really angry, but I'm disapproving on principle' frown, and of course, the 'I'm frowning because I'm trying not to smile' frown. The last of which he was seeing more and more often these days.

Today he was sporting the severely annoyed model. "What's wrong?"

Barnaby didn't even look at him, just growled a little and thrust the paper in Kotetsu's direction. He took the note with a raised eyebrow, smoothing out the crumples a bit. It was an address, penned in Agnes' neat hand, under which was a short note. 'Charity Ball, 7pm tomorrow. MANDATORY!' the last was underlined several times, and then scrawled at the bottom, almost like an afterthought, was 'Tiger, too'."

Huh. The ball was an annual thing and usually a total snooze, but it was for charity, so Kotetsu felt obligated to attend. What he didn't get was why Bunny seemed so annoyed. "I don't get it. You do this PR stuff all the time. What's so bad about a charity ball?"

"Do you want a ride or not?" Barnaby snapped, already halfway to the parking lot and totally dodging the question.

"Yeah, yeah. I'm coming," he said, tucking the note into his pocket and trotting to catch up.

"I'm not going," Barnaby announced as they rolled to a stop in front of Kotetsu's place. "Tell Agnes I'm sick or something."

"What? Why?" He doubted Bunny cared for all of the publicity stuff, but Kotetsu had never seen him actively try to dodge it, either. Not unless there were criminals to be caught. His question was met with stony silence, and after a minute Kotetsu folded his arms and said, "I'm not going until you tell me why."

Bunny glowered at him, complete with a 'stop making things difficult, Kotetsu' frown. He didn't budge. One bonus of their partnership was that he was mostly immune to Bunny's foul moods by now.

The minutes ticked quietly by, and eventually Barnaby relented with a soft sigh. "I can't dance."

Kotetsu blinked. "That's it?" He'd expected something a little more... well, serious.

"That's it?" Bunny repeated incredulously. "It's a ball, old man. Dancing is the point. Not to mention Agnes is going to have a camera crew there. I have no intention of publicly embarrassing myself."

Kotetsu snorted. Hell, and here he'd been a little worried Bunny'd had a real problem. "Come on," he said, clambering out of the car. This was a situation he could do something about.

Bunny didn't immediately follow. "Why?"

"I'm going to teach you how to dance."

"…You can't be serious."


Even the sheer amount of annoyance Barnaby pumped into that single word couldn't stifle the overwhelming urge to grin at hearing his name out of his partner's mouth. Kotetsu supposed that he'd get used to it eventually and stop feeling like a giddy teenager every time he heard it, but that day was not today. "Barnaby," he mimicked. "Stop griping and help me move this table."

"This is stupid," Bunny protested, but complied, helping Kotetsu shift the table against the wall. "I've had dancing lessons before, you know, from people who are far more qualified to teach than you. It's just something I'm terrible at. I'm sure you know the feeling."

"Ouch, Bunny. Ouch. Cut me to the quick, why don't you?" Kotetsu went over to his stereo, flipping through his music collection in search of something appropriate. "Dancing isn't some sort of mystical, arcane art. If you can fight, you can dance."

He glanced over at Barnaby, who was watching him with folded arms, doubt written all over his face. "Dancing is like fighting?" He didn't sound convinced

"A bit, yeah." Kotestu found what he was looking for, and after a moment had soft, classical music pouring from the speakers. He grabbed Barnaby by the shoulders and steered him into the space he had cleared, holding out a hand. "You already know how to move your body."

Barnaby ignored the offered hand. "Everyone knows how to move," he argued.

"In the sense of basic mobility, sure, but that's not what I'm talking about." He waggled the fingers on his outstretched hand. "I know what I'm doing. Trust me."

"It's not an issue of trust," Barnaby muttered, but relented, taking Kotetsu's hand like he was handling a poisonous snake.

Kotetsu chuckled and pulled him closer, putting Barnaby's free hand on his shoulder before resting his own at his partner's waist. Bunny, if possible, looked even more dubious. "Why are you leading?"

"Because following is easier, and if you're as terrible as you say, it's probably a good idea to work from the bottom up. You said you took lessons before, right?" Barnaby nodded. "Okay, so just do what you'd normally do so I can get an idea of what I'm working with."

That said, he began to move. Kotetsu chose a simple set of movements, something even a beginner should have minimal trouble following, and quickly realized that Barnaby was every bit as terrible as he'd claimed. It was like dancing with a reluctant block of wood. Bunny was stiff as a board, standing as far away as Kotetsu's grip would allow, movements jerky and completely unnatural.

Kotetsu stopped. "Wow. You really are bad at this."

Bunny scowled and tried to pull away. "I told you this would be a waste of time. Let go, old man."

Kotetsu didn't let go. "It's not a waste of time, and if you don't at least try then I'm not going to cover for you." Barnaby didn't reply, but he did stop trying to pull away. Small victories. "Okay, first. You need to stand closer," he said, tugging his reluctant partner a step forward. "You can't expect to move smoothly if you're an arm's length away."

Kotetsu realized that this was probably the longest they'd ever spent in each other's personal space, and even though Bunny was vacillating between uncertainty and outright hostility it was... kinda nice. "And loosen up. Relax. Half of your stiffness is probably coming from being so tense. You wouldn't fight with your shoulders bunched up like that, so don't try to dance that way."

Bunny seemed to consider that for a moment before he closed his eyes, taking a deep, slow breath. His shoulders dropped and Kotetsu could practically feel the tension running out of him. When he opened his eyes again there was still a bit of an edge to the way he held himself, but it was a vast, vast improvement.

Kotetsu smiled. "Much better. Let's try that again."

Their second turn around the room was a big improvement, but that wasn't saying much. Bunny was staring at Kotetsu's feet with singular intent, trying to match his steps and failing miserably. He wasn't quite as stiff and jerky, but it still felt as though Kotetsu was fighting him for every step. "Not bad," he said as they came to a stop, and Bunny gave him an incredulous look. "Better than last time, anyway," he amended. "You need to stop watching my feet, though."

Barnaby sighed, and pulled his hands away. Kotetsu let him go this time, since it didn't look like he was going to make a run for it. "How am I supposed to follow your steps if I can't see them?"

Kotetsu considered how best to explain. Where Bunny was concerned, a practical demonstration would probably have the greatest impact.

So Kotetsu hit him.

Or tried to, at any rate. Barnaby blocked the punch easily, snatching Kotetsu's wrist and sending him stumbling across the room with a hard yank. "What are you doing?" He didn't look angry, just bewildered.

"Proving a point." Kotetsu rotated his shoulder gingerly, wincing a bit. Yeah, that was going to hurt in the morning. "Could have done without the dislocated shoulder though. I'm an old man," he whined, "be gentle with me."

Bunny snorted. "Stop being dramatic, you're fine. What point was that supposed to prove?"

Kotetsu perched on the end of the table, legs swinging. "How'd you know I was going to hit you?"

"You always drop your left shoulder before you throw a punch." The answer was immediate. Barnaby didn't even have to think about it.

"You- wait. I do?" He dropped his shoulder? "Since when?"

"Since always. I'm amazed you ever manage to land a hit the way you project your attacks." Bunny quirked an eyebrow, something almost like a smile hovering on his lips, and Kotetsu realized his partner was pulling his leg.

"You're jerking me around!" he accused. "I do not project."

The almost-smile became a real smile for a moment, and Barnaby shrugged. "You do drop your shoulder, though."

Huh. He'd have to work on that. "Anyway." Back to the task at hand. "My point was that you read my body language, right?"

"Right," Bunny agreed a little cautiously, as if he still wasn't sure where Kotetsu was going with this.

"That's dancing," Kotetsu said, sliding off the table. "Only, instead of working against your opponent, you're working with your partner."

Barnaby considered this. "That... seems logical," he agreed after a moment. A brief pause, and then Bunny nodded to himself like he'd decided something and marched up to Kotetsu, grabbing his hand and pulling him back into position. "Let's try again."

"Uh, right," Kotetsu said, startled by the sudden about-face. He settled his hand on Barnaby's waist, and his partner stepped in close of his own accord. Well. At least he seemed to be taking it seriously, now. "Close your eyes this time."

The comment earned him a peevish stare. "How am I supposed to read your body language if I can't see you?"

Kotetsu gave their joined hands a shake. "Touch."

"Right." He didn't sound convinced, but he did as Kotetsu asked, a tiny frown of concentration appearing as he closed his eyes.

Kotetsu moved and Barnaby followed with considerably more grace than their last two attempts. Kotetsu kept the dance simple, with slow, measured steps, and Bunny matched him easily. After a minute Kotetsu decided to give him a bit more of a challenge, choosing something a little more complicated; a little faster.

Barnaby's frown deepened, but he kept his eyes closed and compensated for the change of pace by moving closer, sliding his arm up Kotetsu's shoulder and around, resting fingers lightly on the back of his neck.

Kotetsu promptly tripped over his own feet, muttering a hasty apology as he got back into the rhythm and tried not to be so acutely aware of the soft touch on his neck. They were nearly chest to chest, Kotetsu's thoughts swimming in circles of he's half your age! and you're too old for a schoolgirl crush and maybe this was a bad idea.

Barnaby was doing fine, great even, but Kotetsu stopped, and this time he was the first to pull away. "That was really good," he said, and hoped his voice wasn't giving away how suddenly off-balance he felt. "I doubt you'll win any competitions, but I think I can declare you competent."

"One more time," Barnaby said, a determined set to his shoulders. He grabbed Kotetsu again before his partner could think of a way to wriggle out of it. "I doubt I'll be doing any following at the ball, but I want to make sure I've got the hang of it."

"Right," Kotetsu said, suddenly wishing he'd thought this 'teach Bunny to dance' plan through a bit more. "One more time."


He was thirsty. Yeah, thirsty. Kotetsu needed a quick break that had nothing to do with the phantom sensation of fingers on his neck or several months of thinking things about his partner that shouldn't be thought. Not even a little bit.

Right. So. Before they could start again, Kotetsu called for his break, sliding out of Bunny's grasp before he could reply and making a beeline for the kitchen. This was ridiculous. He was ridiculous, Kotetsu berated himself as he rummaged around in the fridge for two bottles of water. Sure maybe he liked Bunny a little more than Bunny liked him, and sure, maybe he was a little kinda-sorta attracted to him. Maybe. It didn't matter, because the whole notion of having some kind of thing for his partner was riddled with landmines labeled with neon lights screaming 'Bad Idea!' in harsh colors.

His 'thing' -Attraction? Something more? He was so not ready to open that can of worms- was usually easily shoved aside and ignored if favor of being, well, sane. Except, apparently, when Barnaby had his fingers on the back of his neck, because for such a simple touch it did things to him.

Christ, he was too old for this.


He started at the sound of his name, cracking his head on the freezer door and landing unceremoniously on his rump. Ow. He handed one of the bottles of water to Barnaby and pressed the other against his head. Yeah, that was going to leave a lump. Stupid fridge.

Bunny blinked down at him. "You had your head in there for almost five minutes. You okay?"

"What? Yeah, yeah," Kotetsu hauled himself off the floor and shut the fridge, feeling like an idiot. Taking the water from his head, he unscrewed the cap and took a long drink, doing his level best not to look at Bunny. "Mind was wandering I guess."

"Right," Barnaby was watching him through narrowed eyes and didn't look at all convinced.

The last thing he needed was Bunny getting all suspicious on him. That could only end badly. "Anyway, back to lessons!" He bounded out of the room with just a touch too much enthusiasm, and his head pounded harshly in response. Forget criminals; Wild Tiger was his own worst enemy.

Barnaby followed more sedately, still giving Kotetsu a suspicious stare, and he had to distract him before Bunny started asking awkward questions. Knowing himself as he did, such questions would probably make him blunder into far more awkward answers, and that was so not an option. "Right, so once more and then we'll have you lead."

Bunny set down his water bottle unopened. "You sure you're all right?"

Kotetsu waved a hand dismissively. "Fine, fine. Besides, this isn't just for you. If you skip out, who do you think Agnes is going to tear into for it?" He held out his hand. "Come on."

Barnaby shrugged and complied, subject dropped, and Kotetsu rejoiced for the space of a few heartbeats before Bunny stepped in just a little too close, hand going straight to the back of Kotetsu's neck this time, eyes already closed. "Try the harder one again."

Mighty proud that he didn't squeak, Kotetsu managed a strangled affirmative and thanked whatever deity happened to be listening that Bunny had his eyes closed. As hot as his face suddenly felt, Kotetsu was sure he was blushing up a storm. He didn't think he'd be able to explain that away.

He jerked into motion before Bunny could question why he was standing there like an idiot, and his partner frowned at the abruptness but didn't comment. Kotetsu knew he was being ridiculous. He hadn't been this flustered since... since... his heart made a stuttering somersault as Barnaby shifted, absently brushing fingers over the small hairs on Kotetsu's neck, and he almost tripped over his own feet, again.

Dammit, this was getting out of hand. The last time he'd felt so wildly out of sorts was when he'd been trying to work up the courage to ask Tomoe to marry him.

Which wasn't anything like the current situation. At all. Because Tomoe was one of the most wonderful people he'd ever had the fortune of knowing, and he'd loved her more than anything, and... and...

Oh, hell.

His thoughts were going to dangerous places, and Kotetsu stamped down on them hard. This wasn't the time or place to be tying himself into knots over Bunny. There would never be a time or a place, partially because it was suicidal, but mostly because it felt like a breach of what was still a very fragile trust.

That trust was more important to Kotetsu than any kind of physical or emotional idiocy, and he would never willingly put it at risk. Never.

"That's it," Barnaby snarled, jerking away from Kotetsu and pinning him with a glare. "You are going to tell me what's wrong, or I am going to hit you." His tone brooked no argument.

"Wrong? What makes you think there's something wrong?" For a crazy moment Kotetsu wondered if Bunny could read his mind, because if that was the case he was going to hide under a rock for the rest of his life. But no, he'd only ever met one NEXT who could do that, and that asshole didn't bear thinking about, ever.

"Because you were trying your best to break every bone in my hand, among other things," Bunny replied dryly, the burst of anger fading and leaving behind something very much like concern.

Kotetsu winced. He hadn't realized. "I'm sorry, Bunny. I've just got something on my mind, that's all."

The explanation was not enough to appease Barnaby. He quirked a brow. "And?"

"And it's personal," Kotetsu replied, a little exasperated. He was touched that his partner was worried about him, but this was quite possibly the last conversation he ever wanted to be having. Barnaby could be tenacious when he smelled a rat, which meant Kotetsu was either going to wind up making him angry, or he was going to have to invest in that under-rock real estate after all. Neither option was particularly appealing.

"You don't want to talk to me about it," Barnaby said, expression shuttered. Kotetsu could practically hear the you don't trust me beneath the words.

"It's not an issue of trust," he said, echoing Barnaby's words from earlier and addressing the underlying problem. His partner looked surprised, but Kotetsu ignored it. "This isn't something I want to talk about with anyone. I wasn't kidding when I said it was personal. If I change my mind though, you'll be the first to know." That, at least, he could promise with absolute sincerity.

Barnaby regarded him silently for a long, long moment, and Kotetsu resisted the urge to fidget, soft strains of classical music the only sound in the room. After what felt like forever, Bunny nodded once, sharply. "You were going to teach me to lead?" he asked, and Kotetsu couldn't help but feel like a man who'd been pardoned at the last moment.

"Yeah." He wiped his palms on his pants because his hands felt a little clammy, and he doubted Barnaby would appreciate it. "Thanks, Bunny."

His partner snorted and gestured impatiently. "You won't be thanking me when I'm stepping on your feet."

Kotetsu chuckled, feeling suddenly lighter. It wasn't in his nature to let things keep him down for long. Maybe this whole dancing business was forcing him to examine his feelings for his partner a little more closely than he'd like, but he'd manage. A few more turns around his makeshift dance floor, and Barnaby wouldn't feel the need to skip out, and Agnes wouldn't gut him. Wins all around. "You're actually pretty good at this, you know. I think you were just approaching it the wrong way."

Bunny hummed a little, not an agreement, but not a denial either. He took Kotetsu's hand and put the other at his waist, pulling him closer. Kotetsu tried to ignore the electric thrill that raced up his spine with somewhat dubious success, and couldn't help but think to himself that they fit better this way.

Barnaby didn't move, just stood there for a moment with his head cocked slightly, listening to the music. "I was taught the steps for several formal dances," he said finally, "but I never could execute them with much grace. I don't think reading body language is going to help me on this side."

True enough. "Maybe not, but you already know the steps, right? So focus less on putting your feet in the right spots, and more on moving in a way that feels natural. It's amazing how much easier it gets once you stop thinking in terms of individual steps and think more in terms of overall motion." It had taken Kotetsu forever to figure that out.

"Voice of experience?" Barnaby asked.

Kotetsu couldn't help but laugh. "You have no idea. If you think you're bad, you should have seen me trying to dance at your age. Someone once told me it was like watching a drunk stork trying to fight." He felt a little pang at that. Tomoe. The memory of her laughing at his attempts stirred a familiar, fond ache, that went as quickly as it came. She was the one who'd taught him to dance, all those years ago.

Bunny gave his hand a little squeeze, and Kotetsu realized something of his thoughts must have shown on his face. He smiled a little crookedly. "Go on, give it a shot."

The first few steps were slow and hesitant, more like walking in a pattern than dancing. Kotetsu didn't comment however, content to let Bunny find his own pace. He'd meant it when he said Barnaby was pretty good; he was learning fast, and Kotetsu suspected his difficulties stemmed from instruction that was a bad fit more than anything. He was certainly graceful enough in a fight; there was no reason he shouldn't be on the dance floor as well.

A muted growl of frustration from his partner, and Kotetsu couldn't help but chuckle. "You're thinking too hard," he chided. Bunny was always thinking too hard, and Kotetsu never enough. Maybe that was one of the reasons they balanced each other so well. It certainly contributed to the amount of bickering. "Here," he said, taking control for a moment. What had Tomoe called it? Backleading? Bunny relinquished the lead without a word, allowing Kotetsu to guide him through the motions.

"Stop getting hung up on specifics. Forget about your feet and worry about the whole. This is how it should feel; smooth and easy and loose. The more you think, the more you stiffen up, and the more you stiffen up, the worse you dance." Kotetsu stopped, giving Bunny the opportunity to take back the lead. "Less precision, more intuition." He didn't know how better to explain it.

"Oh, is that all?" A hint of sarcasm and Kotetsu grinned. Bunny sighed, pulled him closer, and Kotetsu squeaked before he could stifle it. Barnaby pretended not to notice, pulling them into motion once more. It started stiff and awkward, but smoothed out almost immediately, and Kotetsu couldn't help but be quietly jealous at how quickly his partner was picking this up. Previous lessons notwithstanding, it had taken Kotetsu weeks to get to this point, and that just wasn't fair. One of these days he was going to find something that he was better than Bunny at. One of these days.

Bunny found his rhythm and Kotetsu relaxed by inches, content to follow along and let his mind wander. It was a miracle, really. Things has started so badly between them, and yet here they were. What had started as a publicity stunt by Apollon Media had evolved into a true partnership. A friendship. One that was so, so important to him. Kotetsu had never once regretted becoming a hero, but it was often a solitary, lonely thing. Friends needed to be hoarded like the treasures they were. Yet here he was, putting something so important in jeopardy because of stupid emotions he couldn't control.

Kotetsu was painfully out of his depth. It wasn't as though he had a trail of old flames behind him from which to draw experience. Just Tomoe, and that courtship had turned into such a bumbling comedy of errors it was a miracle she'd ever married him. Not that he was planning on courting Bunny, because that would be a spectacularly bad idea. It would just... be nice to know how to deal with his feelings. To have a frame of reference to help put this all in perspective.

If the last few months had taught him anything, it was that no matter how much he tried to ignore it, this feeling he was so unwilling to label wasn't going away. Under different circumstances, he might go to Nathan for advice. The man liked to tease, but there was usually some pretty solid wisdom underneath. Plus he'd had more flings and love affairs than the rest of the heroes put together, so Kotetsu figured there was some good experience there.

Except Nathan was too perceptive, and Kotetsu was too obvious. He'd take one look at him and put two and two together, and while he didn't think Nathan would tell, he wasn't ready for anyone to know who he was... interested in.

Then there was Antonio. Who probably wouldn't guess and definitely wouldn't judge, who had been urging him to get back into the dating game for ages. He'd probably be thrilled that Kotetsu had taken an interest in someone, and maybe that was the problem there. Kotetsu was more nervously sick over the whole thing than anything, and Antonio's enthusiasm wouldn't really help.

The steady motion was lulling, leaving Kotetsu relaxed and thoughtful, which was his only excuse for what he said next. "Hey, Bunny?"


"What would you do if you fell in love with someone you shouldn't have?"

The dance stuttered to a stop, Barnaby staring at him in surprise. It took Kotetsu's brain a minute to catch up with his mouth, and when it did he wanted nothing more than to sink into the floor and disappear. "I mean, uh, I was just... it was a hypothetical question?" he frantically backpedaled, and oh God, he was as transparent as glass. He stared resolutely at nothing over Bunny's shoulder, because Kotetsu was certain that if he looked his partner in the eye right then, he'd die of mortification on the spot. What had he been thinking?

He hadn't been. It wasn't the first time his mouth had gone careening ahead of his brain, but Kotetsu was pretty damn sure that if every stupid thing he'd ever uttered got together and elected a grand-poobah of idiocy, this would be it.

"I thought you didn't want to talk about it," Bunny finally managed, sounding almost contemplative.

Kotetsu squirmed a bit, trying to pull away, but Barnaby wouldn't let him go. He gave up without much of a fight, sighing and still refusing to meet Bunny's eyes. "It's nothing, really," he managed, the protest sounding weak to own ears.

"I see. Well, if I were in this hypothetical situation," The way he said the word made it painfully obvious that he knew it was no such thing, and Kotetsu resisted the urge to cringe only just. "I suppose it would depend on the situation. Is the individual in question married?"

"No," Kotetsu muttered, covering his face with the hand Bunny didn't have captured, and dimly certain that he'd never been quite so mortified.

"A relative, then?"

"What? No!" Maybe if he wished it hard enough, someone would blow up his apartment and cut this conversation mercifully short. And maybe crack Barnaby on the head hard enough to make him forget this ever happened for good measure.

"In that case," Bunny's hand moved from Kotetsu's waist to his wrist, gently prying his hand away from his face. "I fail to see the problem."

"Married or related aren't the only possible issues," Kotetsu said with a shadow of humor. "Losing something good in the pursuit of something more is a pretty big risk."

And that was the crux of the problem. Falling in love with Barnaby -because hell, might as well own up to it in his own head- didn't guarantee anything. Pursuing a romantic relationship with his partner could potentially damage the one they already had beyond repair. And that relationship was far too precious to Kotetsu to risk. So he wouldn't. He could feel and flail and flutter, he could have all the embarrassing conversations in the world, he could chew quietly on unrequited love for the rest of his damned life if he had to. He would not, however, intentionally do anything that could potentially damage his relationship with Bunny. Not ever.

"You don't think the risk is worth the reward?" He didn't sound angry or embarrassed, just genuinely curious, and Kotetsu wondered if Bunny knew they were talking about him and not someone else.

He finally managed to bring himself to meet his partner's eyes, offering a tired, dejected grin. "No reward is worth that risk. You're too important to me."

Barnaby's eyes widened, and Kotetsu winced. God damn his mouth. "Uh, what I mean is-" he cut himself off, searching frantically for some excuse that Bunny would buy, but there were none, because the man wasn't an idiot, no, Kotetsu had the market cornered in the too stupid to live department and-

His panicked, rambling thoughts were cut short when Bunny tugged him sharply forward and kissed him. Firm pressure and soft lips moving against his, and Kotetsu made a sound low in his throat that would probably be embarrassing later. A ferocious wave of lovewantfear crashed through him, and he distantly thought that it was a good thing Bunny still had his wrists, otherwise Kotetsu wasn't sure he'd be able to hold himself up. His heart was pounding, his bones felt like jello, and it was over far too soon.

Bunny released his wrists, arms snaking around his waist instead, and Kotetsu leaned hard on his partner's shoulder, trying to remember how to breathe. Okay. That... had been unexpected. But amazing. But unexpected. It took him a moment to find his voice, and when he did it was breathless and thick. "What was that?"

Barnaby huffed out a laugh. "I think it was a kiss."

Kotetsu smacked him in the shoulder. Smartass. "Don't be a jerk. You know what I meant."

"That," he said, taking Kotetsu by the shoulders and pushing him back so he could look him in the eye, "was me taking the risk out of the equation."

Oh. That was... wow. Kotetsu felt warm and fluttery, and kind of happy-scared. Did that mean Bunny felt the same way about him? He must feel something, at least, because as big a jerk as his partner could sometimes be, playing with a guy's emotions wasn't really his style. He was too forthright for that. So there had to be something there. Which was pretty amazing and kind of unbelievable and Kotetsu had to resist the urge to pinch himself.

After Tomoe had died, he'd been pretty sure that was it, but here he was, falling in love all over again with what had to be the least likely person in the universe. It was too much to get his head around. Where did they even start? The notion of turning up on Bunny's doorstep for a dinner date, flowers in hand was hilariously ridiculous. Was it an 'I want to sleep with you' kiss, an 'I want to date you' kiss, an 'I want to spend the rest of my life with you' kiss?

Okay, maybe he was getting a little ahead of himself with that last one.

"So, what do we do next?" Kotetsu asked, because he honestly had no idea. Bunny quirked an eyebrow at that, amused smile pulling at his lips, and Kotetsu's face flamed. "That's not what I meant! Stop looking at me like that!" Was he doomed to live in a constant state of embarrassment for the rest of his days? Because it sure as hell felt like it.

Bunny had the good grace not to laugh. On the outside, anyway. Because he was obviously laughing on the inside. Jerk. "How about we just take it as it comes?"

Take it as it comes, huh? Kotetsu could do that. It was really the way they'd gotten to be friends in the first place, and maybe this was just the natural extension of that. He'd only just admitted to himself -and indirectly, Bunny- how he felt; there was no point in rushing things. Besides, it would give him time to feel out exactly where his partner stood. "Yeah, okay. Sounds good."

"Well then," Barnaby said briskly, shifting them back into a dancing pose. "Let's go again."

"More?" Kotetsu felt like he'd just gotten hit with the emotional equivalent of a train. He was completely exhausted, how did Bunny still have energy?

"Unless you want to deal with Agnes' wrath when I don't turn up?"

The urge to roll his eyes was strong. "You're such a brat. Fine, go."

Kotetsu suspected this last dance didn't have anything to do with practice, but he kept that to himself. Instead, he rested against his partner and closed his eyes, listening to soft music and Bunny's rhythmic breathing. The future was uncertain, but promising, and he was content to take it as it came.