A note about the dates - While the show itself sets itself by one of Sunrise's wacky alternate calendars (New Century 1977, I believe. I might be off by a year), the pilot video has it set in 21XX. I'm doing a sort of a compromise by assuming that there was a calendar switch over sometime in the middle of 21st century and that the show takes place in the early 22nd century. Just figure I should put that out there so nobody's confused when Kotetsu mentions a calendar switch-over at the discovery of some pre-New Century films.
As for when this fic takes place. Maybe about a month or two after ep. 13, so Barnaby hasn't quite gotten over his tsundere tendencies. Old habits die hard.
Barnaby had begun hanging out with Kotetsu more often after Jake's defeat.
There wasn't any reasoning special behind it, really. Before, Barnaby spent nearly all of his free time hunting down his parents' killer for revenge. With his parents avenged now, he now had a lot more free time and not much to do with it. Since Kotetsu really was the closest thing he'd had to a friend in about twenty years, it was only natural that some of that free time would be spent on him. That was what Kotetsu figured, at least.
Right now they were chilling at Barnaby's absurdly empty flat. Kotetsu would have rather have done it in a place with more than one damned chair, but Barnaby refused to set foot in Kotetsu's place until the "pigsty" was cleaned up, so here they were. They talked some and they drank some. Barnaby told some stories about the weirder happenings he'd encountered in Hero Academy. Kotetsu countered with his own after school "Hero of Justice" antics.
Everything went as these kickbacks usually did until Kotetsu sat down on the floor too quickly and spilled most of his drink on his vest.
"Dammit." It was white wine instead of red, thankfully, but Kotetsu would still rather not spend the rest of the afternoon covered in alcohol. After not-so-smartly trying dry himself with his sleeve, he turned to Barnaby, who was also on the floor. "Hey, Bunny, do you have any towels in this place?"
Barnaby nodded and pointed towards the bedroom. "They should be in the cabinet right outside of the bathroom."
And so Kotetsu went on his daring quest for the towels, made slightly more difficult by Barnaby's failure to mention that there were, in fact, two cabinets beside the bathroom door. Kotetsu picked the one on the left, because left is perfectly serviceable direction.
No towels were inside the left cabinet, but Kotetsu was rather intrigued with what actually was.
There was a long line of old science fiction movies stacked up against each other. Very old science fiction movies. Kotetsu pulled one out and examined the date original release date: 1954. Not NC, but AD. That was nearly two hundred years ago, long before the switch over to the New Century calendar.
Replacing the film, Kotetsu took a look at what else was in the cabinet. There was a stack of old books – comic books, actually – to the side of the movies. They were collected trades instead of the old single issues (even someone with as much money as Barnaby would have trouble finding single issues nowadays), but they still looked rather old. They didn't look untouched, however. Kotetsu could see the wear and tear of hundreds of read-throughs on the pages of several of them.
As surprising as it was to discover that Barnaby actually had hobbies, however, neither the old movies nor the comic books were as fascinating as what Kotetsu discovered next: a Wild Tiger action figure.
An old Wild Tiger action figure, featuring him in the old, blue spandex costume that Lloyds forced Kotetsu to throw out.
It wasn't a cheap figure, but rather one of those fully articulated, thoroughly detailed ones that could cost a buyer upwards of fifty dollars. It was carefully posed, placed in a stance that looked quite similar to the one shown on Kotetsu's old trading cards.
It wasn't the only one there, however. There were two others Wild Tiger toys: a PVC figure geared towards collectors, and a cheaper-looking action figure for children. The latter looked thoroughly used and abused. Kotetsu could see the paint flaking off of parts, although there were also signs that someone recently tried to repair the damage. The PVC figure, on the other hand, looked pristine – not untouched, but as if it were regularly maintained by someone.
And, of course, the only someone who would regularly see the inside of those cabinets would be Barnaby.
With a smirk, Kotetsu grabbed the cheaper action figure from the cabinet and returned to the main room where Barnaby was waiting.
Barnaby lifted his head when Kotetsu walked in. "Did you find the towels?"
"Nope," said Kotetsu, "but I did find this guy while I was looking for them." He tossed the figure to Barnaby who caught in instinctively. "Handsome little fellow, don'cha think?"
Barnaby looked at Kotetsu blankly before glancing down to the Wild Tiger figure. When he looked back up to Kotetsu, he more resembled a deer before a car than he did the famous Barnaby Brooks Jr.
"So, you've been a Wild Tiger fan for long, Bunny?" Kotetsu asked, far too amused for his own good.
Barnaby stared at him for quite a bit before he actually spoke.
"I spotted them in a pawn shop about a week ago. I figured that they'd make good birthday presents for you."
It was the most painfully obvious lie Kotetsu had ever heard Barnaby tell. His expression let the younger hero know this know this.
Barnaby caved and let out an annoyed sigh. "I was a Wild Tiger fan when I was a teenager. About fourteen or fifteen." Past tense was deliberately emphasized to sting, but Kotetsu was too amused at the idea Barnaby being a giddy Wild Tiger fanboy in his youth to actually notice or care.
"Would you care to elaborate?" Kotetsu sat in the apartment's only chair, legs crossed and chin resting on his hand. He was grinning very widely.
Barnaby wasn't. "No."
"Aw, c'mon," Kotetsu pleaded. "There's no shame in it. You ever see my Mr. Legend collection? Now that's embarrassing."
"No." Barnaby's expression grew more annoyed.
"How much longer are you going to continue this?"
Kotetsu leaned back and folded his arms, still grinning. "For as long as it takes."
Barnaby groaned. "Fine, old man." Ouch. So much for calling him by his name from now on. "If stroking your ego will get you to stop, I'll tell you."
"Hey, I'm not the one who preens for fangirls here."
Kotetsu's counter was ignored. Instead, Barnaby finished the remainder of his wineglass and leaned back on one arm. He eyes started developing that glassy, dreamy sort of look he got when he was reminiscing.
"I started following HeroTV when I was about thirteen or so. Mr. Maverick had been suggesting that I should consider becoming a hero, so I wanted to see just what that entailed."
"Hmm. So who was your favorite hero? … Er, before me, of course."
"In all honesty, I wasn't really all that interested in any of them. Not at first."
Kotetsu raised an eyebrow "Why not? I saw the comic books. Some of those looked nearly twenty years old. It's not like you disliked heroes."
"That's the thing." Barnaby turned to Kotetsu. "I didn't really see them as heroes. Just... guys in costumes that pretended to be them. I only kept watching because it was Maverick's program, really. At least until you showed up."
Kotetsu leaned forward, face shining like a giddy child. Barnaby rolled his eyes.
"You're pathetic, you know that?" However, Barnaby's annoyed expression changed to a fond one as he continued. "Anyways, you show up, make top ranks in your first season, and something clicks. I don't see you as some guy who's paid to put on a costume and beat up bad guys. I see you as a hero – one of the real ones that cares more about saving people than the paycheck and fame. And you had the exact same NEXT abilities as me. Do you know what that's like for a fourteen-year-old?"
That... was actually rather adorable, really. Kotetsu was practically stunned. He had always hoped that he might inspire people through his actions, but to hear it from his own teammate – one who he had thought hated him at the start of their partnership – it was all just... just...
"Then I grew up, got some sense, and realized that you were barely more than a property-destroying old man with no sense of how reality works. And bad taste in costumes."
… Too good to be true.
Kotetsu gave Barnaby a sour look. "That was a bit below the belt, Bunny," he said, disappointed.
Barnaby chuckled. "You walked into that one. I wasn't exactly asking for your autograph when we were first paired together, remember?
"Hey, I'm allowed to hope that you were faking." Kotetsu leaned forward and looked at his watch. It was 11:32. "Hmm. Looks like story time's over." He stood up, but Barnaby spoke before he could start towards the door.
"You know, I don't mind if you crash here. It's probably safer than driving home with a few drinks in you. I'll take the floor."
Kotetsu paused. Then he blinked. Then he gave a relaxed smile. "You always get to be the responsible one, don't you?"
"Just living up to the magazine bios."
Kotetsu resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Sure, sure."
He moved for the bedroom door. Before he entered, however, a something came to him. He thought back to the Wild Tiger toys in Barnaby's cabinet. None of the figures looked to be carelessly stuffed away where no one could see him. They were posed. Clean. Repaired.
Quite a strange state for the action figures of a supposed ex-fan.
Kotetsu turned his head back. "Say, Bunny..."
Barnaby had begun picking up the bottles and glasses on the floor and table. Nonetheless, he responded to the nickname. "Mmhm?"
A smirk formed on Kotetsu's face "Who would you say is your favorite hero now?"
An empty wineglass dropped on the floor as Barnaby nearly stumbled over his own feet. His eyes widened. His glasses nearly dropped off his nose before he caught them with his free hand. "That's not your concern, old man," he sputtered defensively.
It was exactly the reaction Kotetsu was looking for. His smirk grew and he chuckled lightly. "You're right. G'night, Bunny," he said, closing the door. He didn't walk towards the bed, however. Instead, he let the door open just a crack so he could peer through it.
There was Barnaby: brushing off the small Wild Tiger toy and placing it carefully on the table so it would stay standing.
Kotetsu smiled. Closing the door fully this time, he headed to the bed. Before he drifted off to sleep, his last clear thoughts were these:
I wonder if I can get a discount on the newest figure for his Christmas present?