Kotetsu was staring at the sky with an almost dazed look in his eyes. He didn't notice the blood on the edges of his mouth that ran down to his chin nor the pain anymore. It was all somewhere far away as he stared up at the setting sun.
Barnaby was with him. He knew that as soon as watery green eyes appeared in his vision. He saw the blonde's mouth move but the words were so skewed it was only guess that it was his name. He willed himself to answer but he was just too tired. Too tired and too old for this.
Another trickle of blood slid down near his eye from his forehead. Ah, that's right. He'd been in a fight. A concussion maybe. That'd be the reason for the sharp white noise that he suddenly realized was there. It rose in pitch making him wince before he got the edge of what Barnaby was saying.
"-Up, Old man."
Old. Yes, he was old, wasn't he? Too old to be picking himself up from this. Too old for everything that weighed on his shoulders. Maybe that's why he couldn't get up now. Everything was just too heavy. He drew in a breath and let it out as a sigh. "... I need some advice."
Barnaby's eyebrows furrowed, "This... isn't the time or place." He commented trying to pick the older man up but he was waved away by a red stained hand.
"I don't know what to do..." Kotetsu muttered as if he hadn't heard, "There's just too many."
"Too many?" Barnaby asked confused and trying once again to pick his partner off the ground. He too was covered in blood, Kotetsu noticed and he tried to remember who the fight had been with.
"I promised Tomoe I would be always be a hero… I promised Kaede that I would come home and be a father… and then I promised you that I would stay by you side and help you through this." His dull hazel eyes were staring somewhere beyond Barnaby. He was disappointing them all.
Barnaby pulled back from him and he shifted his gaze back to him. There was an overwhelming sense of something that he couldn't quite register in the boy's eyes. He tried to move his head but his neck felt stiff and he gave up. He was only getting silence and decided that there was no advice to give. He had to complete all his promises somehow. He shut his eyes instead until Barnaby roughly grabbed his arm and jerked him back into the reality and toward a gaze full of fear. "…Kotetsu?"
"Hmm?" He managed not sure why the boy was so afraid. He was tired. He only wanted to sleep a little. Take a bit of a rest.
"… I need another promise." The blond stated turning to look at something Kotetsu couldn't see. He was staring at it pretty intensely too. Kotetsu tried to shift but Barnaby's arm was holding him down. A good thing too because his body wasn't really moving right. It just jerked instead of sitting him up. How badly could he be hurt if he couldn't feel the pain?
"What is it?" He asked relenting to just lay there amongst the piles of bricks he had collided into it. Clearly, Barnaby was unaware that he couldn't complete his promises if he wasn't standing and walking Bunny away from the mess they'd gotten into this time.
Barnaby must have gotten an affirmative from whatever he was staring at because he nodded and looked down at him. He was faking a smile. Bunny was never good at smiling to start with so it was easy to tell when he was just trying to hard. Especially with those tears slipping down his face. "I… We," He gestured behind him, "want you to promise to be selfish today."
"Selfish?" The word sounded foreign on his tongue. It must have come across because a hand went through his hair, ghosting through it and sending small tingles as though as his scalp had been asleep. "What do you mean?"
Bunny swallowed down an emotion so he could speak, "… You've always…well you've always tried to keep your promises. And you have kept a lot of them. You did help me and you've been a hero for Tomoe and even a dad for Kaede… She understands all this now." He gestured to the broken suit that lay around the other man. Kotetsu could see the fragments of his suit out of the corner of his eye. The fight was trying to resurface but he couldn't remember exactly how he ended up on the ground or who he was fighting.
"I don't understand…" He searched his partner's eyes and saw another flash of concern. His own voice was echoing in his head and that white noise was trying hard to make it back into his head. There was another tingle, his fingers he found out, as Barnaby lifted up his hand. He entined his fingers with Kotetsu's and he could see a streak of red escape from their clasped hands and followed it as far as he could down his arm. Oh.
The blond put his head against the hand and Kotetsu noted he didn't feel much of it at all even as blood stained the boy's hair red. "… Promise us you'll be selfish and you'll choose what you really want. You're so tired, old man. Don't you want to rest?"
Kotetsu let himself think about that. He was quiet as he saw more shadows gather around him and identified them as his friends one by one. Even his daughter was there. A little short shadow that came to stand by Barnaby-who himself had turned into a darkening pink outline of himself. Every part of him was exhausted in a way he never remembered feeling.
He did want to rest. He wanted to close his eyes and drift off to wherever that misty feeling was going to take him. He wanted to just lay down and for once not have to get up and face the weight of those promises. He wanted to let them go and know they would be alright without him for a while.
But he couldn't. He could never give up on what he said he would do. He tried again to sit up but this time it was Kaede who put a hand on his shoulder. His eyes refocused and he found himself staring up into innocent, loving, proud eyes. "Its OK, daddy." She reassured though her smile already faltering. "We'll be OK for a while."
Kotetsu blinked as though he was in slow motion and that's what the world felt like. His body was sinking and he couldn't do anything about it. He wasn't really that old, he realized as they ebbed out of his vision. Too young to be feeling like he couldn't get back up. But so many promises and so much abuse and so much loss… it had made him old.
He could fake a smile better then anyone else but he couldn't now. He couldn't get up for them. He did want it, he decided. He did want to be selfish right now and rest. He managed a weak nod. He was slipping. Slipping until the faint feeling of Barnaby's hand and Kaede's touch to his shoulder were merely memories.
They'd be all right. Barnaby and Kaede would be just fine. It was only a rest until he could see them again.
I left the idea of the fight up to the reader. If you've watched up to 22, you know who it could be. Or just a random baddy. I'll let you decide. I also let you decide if Kotetsu was alright or not. Take it as you will.
I don't own Tiger & Bunny, Sunrise does though.