Title: The Hero's Guide to Domesticity
Author: Hikaru R. Kudou
Chapter: 4/4 - Never Go to Bed Mad
Fandom: Tiger & Bunny
Disclaimer: Standard disclaimers apply.
Summary: A fill for a prompt at LJ's t-and-b-anon, "Kotetsu (finally) quits his job and comes home... with Barnaby. Kaburagi family's reaction is priceless.
The walk home was silent, partly because the men did not want to excite Kaede more but mostly because both were uncertain as to how to react in view of the revelation. Kotetsu felt mad with himself, now regretting the fact that he should have just told Barnaby sooner and save them from all this predicament. Barnaby would accuse him of not trusting him, and honestly, Kotetsu had enough of that when they clashed during the Jake Martinez arc.
Kotetsu could not tell what Barnaby was thinking, but he would bet that it would not sound good.
Kotetsu spent the rest of the day avoiding Barnaby, because he still could not come up with a proper explanation for his hiding the truth. Barnaby, for the most part, stayed in Kotetsu's room, coming out when he was pretty sure Kotetsu was in the bathroom or locking himself up in the guest room.
By evening, even Anju saw that something was up. It was difficult to escape contact when dinnertime came, in any case. The table was quieter than usual, and even Kaede was focusing on her meal. There was no eye contact between the two men, and neither made any initiative to strike up a conversation.
Kotetsu excused himself as soon as he was done.
"No seconds?" asked Anju, curiously.
Kotetsu shook his head. "I need to…ah, take a rest. My body's getting old."
"I'm way older than you are, Kotetsu," she reminded him.
"Right, of course." Kotetsu forced himself to smile casually. "Thank you for the meal."
With that, he was gone. Barnaby did not turn to look at his former partner when he left.
Kotetsu turned the tap in the bathtub, gazing as water filled in. He leaned against the tub, and sighed heavily.
It was a good place to think in private. He just hoped nobody would demand the use of the bathroom while he was in.
He reflected back to when he and Barnaby were paired together, against their own will. Barnaby was a difficult person to approach, and it took a great deal of patience and optimism on Kotetsu's part to finally get through that thick wall around Barnaby that isolated him from the rest.
It must have been difficult thing on Barnaby's part to trail after Kotetsu back to his hometown as well, Kotetsu thought.
Kotetsu kicked the bathtub, feeling crossed with himself.
Maybe it was not just trust that was playing a role here, but something greater.
He should apologize to him, Kotetsu weighed in his mind. After all, Barnaby would be going back to Sternbild soon, so it was not like he had time to waste on a silly conflict like this.
Then he recalled that Barnaby never told him how long was he planning to visit. Kotetsu should have asked him outright, but he knew a part of him did not want to know the answer. That would mean they would soon become separated by distance.
Kotetsu hated that. As if his losing his powers was not enough to bring them apart.
Separation would take one heck of getting used to. Frankly, Kotetsu had enough when Tomoe was taken away from him.
He looked around the bathroom, and caught sight of the only electric toothbrush on the shelf near the sink. Barnaby's. Said toothbrush also happened to be lying in close proximity with his own.
He stopped the tap and sunk himself deeper into the water.
Kotetsu, having spent a longer time in the tub than was necessary, got out and dried himself. He wrapped a towel around his lower body, and suddenly realized that he needed a pair of clean change from his room.
He walked along the hallway, faintly hearing Kaede and Barnaby's voices from Kaede's room, and decided against checking on them. He should at least dress himself properly before anything else.
He let himself into his bedroom, saw that Barnaby had maintained its tidiness. Barnaby's jacket was folded nicely on the chair, and Barnaby did not move anything from its place. Kotetsu opened his cupboard, and began searching.
He froze when he heard the door being opened, and saw Barnaby standing there.
"I, uh…" Kotetsu looked down, and had sense to blush at his state of undress. "Clothes."
Barnaby stared at him a few seconds longer than necessary, but he said nothing. The door behind him was closing slowly. Barnaby eventually tilted his head, and the light reflected off his lenses, effectively shielding his eyes.
"Of course," Barnaby said slowly.
"Thanks." Kotetsu continued thumbing his clothes. "So…I heard you and Kaede talking. Is she asleep yet?"
"So…what were you two talking about?"
Barnaby left his spot near the door to sit on the bed. He continued to stare at Kotetsu's back. "She wanted to listen to our…adventures. Then we talked about her powers and what happened this afternoon."
"Ah." Kotetsu wanted to bang his forehead against the cupboard, cursing his sudden loss of proper speech.
For a moment neither spoke. Kotetsu could have forgotten about his clothes, for all he knew.
"When did it start?" asked Barnaby slowly.
Kotetsu gritted his teeth, knowing what his former partner was talking about. There was no escape now. "Around that time Blue Rose had that crazy stalker."
"It has been for some time, then." His voice was shaking slightly, as if he was trying hard not to burst into an angry tirade.
"Yeah." Kotetsu pulled out a pair of brown colored pants. He braced himself for Barnaby's inevitable question of "Why didn't you tell me?".
"Is that why you wanted to resign?"
Kotetsu spun around. It was time to be honest now - he owed Barnaby that much anyway. The latter, Kotetsu found, was frowning deeply, and the way his glasses gleamed in the light almost gave him a menacing look. "Bunny, I…"
"Answer my question, please." Barnaby was obviously trying to rein in his temper. Accusing Kotetsu would not be helpful in the least.
Pause. "Theoretically, if you weren't losing your powers now, you would still be working."
"Yes." Slightly hesitant, but Kotetsu had entertained the notion from the start, and it was an honest answer.
Barnaby's posture appeared to be relaxing bit by bit, even if it took great effort for him to do so. "Why didn't you tell me sooner, Kotetsu?" There was no anger in his voice, only a tinge of exasperation but more of sympathy.
"Because I…" Kotetsu sighed and approach the bed to sit next to his partner. "Because I've been trying to push it out of my mind, and bringing the matter up to you seems unfair."
"Unfair?" demanded Barnaby, his tone rising. "I'm your partner, for God's sake! I deserve to know before anyone else!"
"Yes, I know." Kotetsu's hand stole over Barnaby's shaking one. "But you were at the top of your game, and you were getting so good at it that you probably don't need me anymore and I frankly can't bear knowing that."
Barnaby's breathing was getting loud.
"And maybe it's something more. I want to leave you with the memory of a strong partner, Bunny, not a man who was merely a bumbling fool."
Barnaby winced. "You idiot. Idiot." He was getting all teary-eyed. Why did the old man always do this to him? Barnaby pulled his hand away roughly.
"Bunny, I'm really, really sorry." Kotetsu sighed. "I'm always giving you more problems. It's just who I am."
"Damn it, old man, will you please try to understand me for awhile?" Barnaby pulled Kotetsu to face him. "I don't care about that, powers or no powers. I just want you, and to know that you care for me as much as I do for you. I don't care if it's the plain Kotetsu or Wild Tiger, you're you and that's enough for me." He shook Kotetsu several times, paying no heed to the surprised look on the older man's face. "Why is it so hard for me?" He lowered his head, and gave up on holding back his tears.
"I do love you," said Kotetsu quietly. "That's why I didn't want to hurt you anymore."
"Has it ever occurred to you that your pushing me away is doing exactly that?" Barnaby sounded like he was whimpering. "Have you ever figured out that even after being the number one hero, it doesn't mean anything if I don't have you around?"
"Have you any idea how important you are to me? Do you, Kotetsu?"
That did it. Kotetsu brought Barnaby's face towards his, and gave him the answer that he needed. The kiss lasted for some time - time itself sounded so immaterial to them now - as Barnaby sobbed and then moaned something unintelligible. The tension in Barnaby's form now gone, Kotetsu broke the kiss, but his face hovered closely.
Barnaby's eyes were red and his face flushed, and his lips were trembling, as if there were so much that he wanted to say but he could not because his mind was incapable of being coherent. Kotetsu hated seeing him cry, and he had seen enough of that. The veteran pulled him closer, not wanting to see him so distraught. "I'm so sorry."
Kotetsu never left the room that night.
They laid on the bed, a half-sleeping Barnaby still pressed against Kotetsu's body, with the blanket shielding them away from the cold midnight air. Kotetsu, still wide awake, was stroking Barnaby's head absent-mindedly.
"Come back to Sternbild…"
Kotetsu paused. "But I…"
"…and move in with me." Barnaby raised his head to look straight at Kotetsu. "Bring Kaede too."
Kotetsu let a moment past before he responded, "What're you planning?"
Barnaby's voice was now steady, having regained his nerves after the episode of his almost-breakdown. "To be honest, I think Kaede's more suited for professional supervision. Hero Academy might be the solution to her problems."
"But I don't want her to become a Hero!"
Barnaby sighed impatiently. "I see your point, but the main issue now is she can't control her powers. Especially since her powers involve copying other powers, the possibilities of what she could achieve, be it destruction or for good, is endless. She said she'll think about it when I asked her to consider." Barnaby traced circles on Kotetsu's bare chest. "It's a perfect win-win situation, Kotetsu. She gets to handle her powers, you get to raise her properly, and I get you."
Kotetsu chuckled. "You're a sly one, you know."
"Just one of the many reasons you love me," he replied dryly. "But it's good that you want to spend more time with her. I know the pain of growing up without my parents, and I don't want her to experience anything like that. It'll ruin your reputation in her eyes." Barnaby snuggled closer. "Besides, even if I don't get to see you at work, you'll always be there when I come home, right? It's only fair, Kotetsu."
Barnaby's features were illuminated by the feeble light from outside, from the full moon in the dark sky, and Kotetsu liked the idea of seeing Barnaby this way, close to him, and whispering things that only he could hear, meant for him alone and not anyone else's. He enjoyed the way he was in Barnaby's personal space, and how insatiable each contact seemed to be.
"The offer does sound enticing," said Kotetsu, grinning slowly. "You're already using my toothpaste, after all."
Barnaby gave a puff. "I had a last minute train to catch, I was bound to forget-"
"Also, you're doing a good job as my mother's son-in-law, and Kaede warms up to you. If I don't be careful she'll choose you over me. And I must say I wouldn't object to having you cook for me every day."
Barnaby snorted in dry humor and poked his chest. "What am I to you, a housewife?"
"Good God, no." Kotetsu gave Barnaby an affectionate peck on his forehead. "My everything."
- - - - end - - - -
Notes: The full quote is "Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight" by Phyllis Diller.