Vegetable Juice
o9: Love & Joy~


"Look at that! Don't you think it's awesome?"

"...It's impractical, certainly."

"Aww, c'monnn, Bunny. You're no fun!"

"No. I just have slightly more mature tastes than you when it comes to entertainment."

Kotetsu stuck his tongue out childishly, swiping the bowl of popcorn off the table and onto his lap as he did so. "Well, fine then. Be an elitist snob if it makes you happy- but don't think you're getting anymore popcorn."

"That's fine. I don't like popcorn anyway."

Kotetsu raised a brow. "Oh, oh, lemme guess- you're too mature for it?"

"No. I merely have no desire to eat a food that contains more fat than two steak dinners combined. It's disgusting. You're effectively poisoning your own body."

"But it'd be a really tasty, buttery death! Hey…" Kotetsu paused. "Tasty, Buttery Death… That sounds like it could be the name of a heavy metal band, ihihi."

Barnaby sighed. "Well, I wouldn't know anything about that kind of music. And popcorn is still disgusting."

"Urgh. You really are a cynical, joyless person," Kotetsu said, chomping kernels of popcorn as he spoke. "I bet you don't like jell-o, either- and that's the most amazingfood that's ever been created; even more amazing than sliced bread! I mean, it's a solid anda liquid at the same time, but it's not disgusting like custard! Truly, amazing, I tell you."

Barnaby tilted his head to one side, slightly unsure of how to respond to that bizarre comment. Who'd get that excited about jell-o, other than a sugar-high five year old at a birthday party?

Then again...

That was just Kotetsu.

"No..." Barnaby said softly; voice almost indistinct above the sound of various explosions and insanity emitting from the TV. "Jell-o is fine. I like that."

Kotetsu looked at Barnaby, eyes wide. He might as well have said he liked eating babies, for the emoticon-esque stare of disbelief he received.

"You like food like that?"

"I don't mind it. Is that so surprising?"

"Well... yeah. I thought you'd be all elitist and say 'oh, I only eat cavier plated in gold sprinkled with diamante quails' eggs' or something!"

"Hn- you mean the jell-o wasn't coated in gold dust to begin with? Now I'm disappointed, old man."

Kotetsu's eyes widened even further at that, to the point where Barnaby wondered whether they'd fall out of his skull. That'd be a waste, because Kotetsu had such nice eyes.

His laugh was nicer, though.

"Ahaha!~ You know, you really shouldn't make jokes with a straight face like that! I might start to believe you!"

Unwittingly, Barnaby found himself smiling softly, too- though he tried to hide it by covering his mouth behind the captive cushion he held in his arms. Of course, Kotetsu had found it hilarious- and slightly endearing- Barnaby had snagged a cushion from the couch to hug as he watched a movie, but Barnaby couldn't really help it. He had to have something to keep his hands occupied, or his fingers would've started to twitch indecisively, unsure where to put them.

And why was Barnaby at Kotetsu apartment, anyway?

…Truth be told, it was something Barnaby was pondering himself, because he wasn't entirely sure. Kotetsu had suggested though, so it was all his fault- as most things were.

"It's pretty dark outside, and I don't want you walking back by yourself," Kotetsu had said, smiling a little awkwardly; seemingly unsure how, exactly, to word his concerns without sounding overly reciprocal of Barnaby's sudden, blurted out confession.

That awkwardness had been a little jarring, but Barnaby didn't mind. It was only to be expected.

It was his fault, after all.

"I'm not a teenager, Kotetsu. I'll be perfectly fine going home in the dark. Besides, I could always call a cab."

"Ahaha, yeah, I know... but..." A sheepish grin. "Well, I can't help it. Father's instinct? I know I wouldn't Kaede going out in the dark at this time- and I know you're wayolder than her, and a hero who is obviously soperfect nobody would ever dare lay a finger on you, etcetera, etcetera, but you're as important to me as Kaede is and I... wouldn't feel comfortable... if you left now. If that makes sense."

"K-kotetsu..."

"Mm, and... well... I don't want anything to be weird between us, okay? There's nothing wrong with asking you to stay over, is there? It's not like anything will happen or anything because I, well... um..."

Kotetsu broke off. He had looked a little abashed at that- silencing himself quickly, but Barnaby was able to fill in the blanks.

He didn't really like what Kotetsu was insinuating.

"It's fine," Barnaby had said, voice a little colder than usual because, really, that botched, messy refusal from Kotetsu had been quite hurtful. "Just because I'm attracted you, it doesn't mean I'm going to force myself on you. Don't flatter yourself."

Kotetsu had winced visibly at that.

"I-I'm sorry, I said something dumb. Or… implied it. I'm just not used to this, you know, it's-"

"Weird?"

"Different. I don't think you're 'weird'. I mean, yeah..." He broke off, correcting himself with a small smile. "I've always thought you were weird, what with your fluffy hair and that really cute personality you keep hidden from everybody because you want them all to hate you or something, and you actually like reading Russianliterature and opera, which no human being in the world truly appreciates but you, but, apart from that... Well, you're a complete freak, but your feelings are fine."

"Hn?" Barnaby had raised a brow. It was a perfect 'better than thou' subtle shift in his expression that could make even Agnes flinch. "You think I'm a freak? How charming."

"Well, you are."

"And you're a fully grown man that still wears Mr. Legend socks and watches cartoons."

"Ihihi, well, who doesn't love Mr. Legend?" Kotetsu beamed brightly; smiling just a small child- and when he did that, it was impossible for Barnaby to remain upset or annoyed- completely impossible.

Damn Kotetsu.

That smile should have been illegal.

He had to stop doing that. It was... making his heart melt...

"Honestly, Bunny."

Barnaby started as he felt a light pressure on his shoulder. Kotetsu was touching him.

"Don't look so sad. I might have said something stupid, but... I know how you feel doesn't change youas a person. I'd never think you'd try to... attack me, or whatever. You're not like that. I'm just bad with this whole 'love' thing. I guess it's your bad luck you fell for such a useless idiot," Kotetsu's voice was soft and serious; a more adult tone that made Barnaby shiver slightly. It was so rare for Kotetsu to display that side of his character sometimes he forgot it even existed. "Your feelings don't bother me at all, okay? No matter what happens, you're still my partner, and you're still my friend. So... let's act just as normal- at least... until I've figured out how I feel. Okay?"

Barnaby paused, biting down on his lower lip. He could feel his heart beat a little faster in his chest and his face was warm. For perhaps the first time, he felt truly aware he was a lot younger than Kotetsu. Kotetsu was pretty mature, Mr. Legend socks or not. He'd already been married once, and he had a child, and he might have acted clueless, but he knew a lot more about human relationships than Barnaby did.

Kotetsu might have been irresponsible when it came to tidying up his apartment, but he always put his heart into comforting others- 110% andmore.

That was why he was such a good hero.

That was why Barnaby respected him so much.

It was why...

Face still flushed, Barnaby had muttered- trying to retain his icy, outward persona- "You know... Kaede would think you're cool if she ever heard you talk like that."

"Wow." Kotetsu's eyes widened; a wide, silly smile splitting across his face. "You think?"

"I'm sure."

"And do youthink I'm cool, Bunny?"

Barnaby glared, folding his arms. "Absolutely not. Don't put words into my mouth I didn't say."

"Sure, sure. I'm sorry~ Sooo..."

"So?"

Kotetsu smiled. "You wanna stay over and watch a movie with me?"

Barnaby wasn't sure how they'd moved from the topic of his hopeless love life (not that it really had a 'life' at all) to movies, but he didn't say anything. In truth, he wanted to spend time with Kotetsu- even if he didn't feel the same about him.

It was preferable to being in his empty, lonely apartment.

And that was how Barnaby had ended up seated on Kotetsu's couch, legs folded underneath him with a squishy pillow hugged tightly to his chest, whilst he watched some... truly bizarre movie about God only knew what with Kotetsu by his side, discussing the pros and cons of the movie's special effects and whether popcorn was better than jell-o.

It was one of the stranger nights of Barnaby's life.

"Look!" Kotetsu suddenly exclaimed, making Barnaby jump slightly.

"What is it, old man? Are you having a mid-life crisis?"

"I might, with a friend like you. No- look, look!" Kotetsu continued, enthusiastically pointing a finger at the TV screen. "Isn't that awesome?"

Barnaby stared at the screen in concentration, eyes narrowed. Some woman in a black bikini was... throwing a spear attached to a bowling bowl at a lump of cardboard? And... explosions?

...

Did that even constitute as a movie? It seemed more like a group of people dressed up in weird outfits running around a set shouting at each other. It was the perfect definition of chaos; and why did that man in the terrible dragon costume keep doing backflips whilst giggling maniacally to itself?

This was... really, really stupid.

Of course Kotetsu would love it.

"Awesome? Mm, well, it's inspiring feelings of awe," said Barnaby dryly. "I'm sure if it's a good thing, though- hey!"

Kotetsu had just prodded Barnaby in the side.

"Don't say cruel things about this amazing cinematic masterpiece, Bunny! This was my favorite movie when I was, like, seven! I watched it at the theater three, four... five times!"

Barnaby smirked, flipping strands of his hair behind one shoulder. "Then you're a bigger idiot than I thought."

Kotetsu glowered. "I'm going to make you eat those words, Lil' Bunny!"

"And how do you propose to do that?"

"Like this!"

"H-hey, Kotet- mppghhh...!"

But Barnaby couldn't complete his sentence.

Mainly because Kotetsu had just shoved a fistful of popcorn into his open mouth.

As Barnaby spat the kernels out into his cupped hands, a disgusting mix of soggy food and spit pooling against the palms of his hands, he gave Kotetsu a truly venomous death glare. Kotetsu, meanwhile, was laughing; clutching his stomach as though it would tear apart.

"You think wasting food is funny, old man?"

"No- it's the expression on your face! Pfft...! You look so adorable!"

"Don't call me that! I really think you should eat this, given it's your food! You're disgusting and you need to be taught a lesson!" Barnaby said hotly, shoving the handful of popcorn and spit (not a good combination) before Kotetsu's face.

"Uh-uh! I'm not eating that! It's been in your mouth!"

"You putitthere!"

"Yeah, but I don't wanna to eat your spit, Bunny! I mean, I like you an' all, but that's going too far, even for me! I don't want any indirect kisses!"

"You're such a child! You really believe in that stuff?"

"I believe I don't want to get a disease from eating that."

"I-it's not like I have rabies anything!" Scowling, Barnaby fell against the back of the couch, fingers still sticky with a handful of disgusting cardboardy congealing popcorn. "You're so immature. Gosh, I think myIQ's beginning to drop just sitting here..."

Kotetsu tilted his head to one side. Then, he began to grin.

"'Gosh'?"

"What's wrong with it...?"

"That's something people say in really old Victorian books, isn't it- with all the 'thee's and 'thou's and stuff! You know, I think those books'd be a hell of a lot better if stuff exploded halfway through; you get sick of all that 'nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility' trash."

"You know Austen?"

"I had to read it at school." Kotetsu pulled a face. "I didn't like it very much."

"No... Of course you didn't," said Baranby tiredly. "And 'thee' and 'thou' aren't Victorian, by the way. You're off by a few centuries there. Besides, there's nothing wrong with how I talk; you'rethe uncivilized, uncultured one."

"Ahahaha- 'gosh', that's priceless..." Kotetsu continued to snigger. "Next you'll be going 'Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy!' and telling me to fetch the smelling salts!"

As Kotetsu spoke, adopting a truly awfulBritish accent that sounded more like Irish and Scottish being put in a blender, with a heavy dose of Japanese layered on top, a loud explosion from the TV played in the background. That weird dragon-bug thing was still laughing maniacally.

Barnaby glared.

"You know, what Kotetsu? You can just shut up."

And, in so saying, Kotetsu soon found himself assaulted by the same handful of popcorn he'd shoved into Barnaby's mouth mere minutes ago.

Revenge was sweet, buttery and heart-attack inducing.


Kotetsu's proposed movie night ("Ahaha, maybe we can paint our nails and do each other's hair just like in other sleepovers!~" "Shut up or I'll hit you.") had ended up lasting a lot longer than either of them planned. Kotetsu had forced terrible movie after terrible movie upon Barnaby, who'd only managed to survive the immense stupidity by keeping up a deadpan audio commentary inside his head. He should have expected Kotetsu would be a fan of cheesy monster movies from about one hundred years ago, where the audio was all grainy, the special effects laughable and the plots completely nonsensical. As long as things exploded and buildings got destroyed, Kotetsu didn't seem to care about niggling little details like 'believable characters' or 'continuity'.

The movie industry must've loved people like Kotetsu. They'd watch anything.

As the night wore on, breaking into the very early hours of next morning, Barnaby felt himself tire slowly. No longer was he bickering pointlessly with Kotetsu whilst the movie played in the background. Instead, he was struggling to keep his eyes open. It wouldn't look good if he fell asleep before that old man.

Unfortunately, trying to stay awake was a losing battle.

As it always is, Barnaby didn't know exactly when he fell asleep. It was impossible to tell. For Kotetsu, however, he noticed right away- and that was because Barnaby's head fell against his shoulder. The cushion fell from Barnaby's hands and hit the floor with a soft thwump.

Kotetsu turned to look at Barnaby's sleeping form, smiling a little to himself. He really did look like a different person when he was asleep- so unguarded, just like a small child.

He'd... been pretty truthful before, though, hadn't he?

When he confessed how he felt, it had been... maybe not entirely unexpected, because Kotetsu had been sure there was a spark of something else there when Barnaby showed his softer side to him; just like how Tomoe had been when she started using his first name; "I-I just thought it was easier than saying your last one! It doesn't mean anything!"

Ha. Barnaby and Tomoe were pretty similar. Kotetsu had been completely helpless with Tomoe, but now he had some experience, maybe he'd be able to not mess things up immensely with Barnaby. Dating Tomoe had been one giant string of disasters after another, a whole comedy of errors, and thinking about some of the things that had happened made Kotetsu wince even now.

It was a miracle she'd ended up marrying him, at all. He was happily oblivious, sometimes unintentionally cruel, and he wasn't an eloquent speaker and he tended to mess up a lot. What had Tomoe had seen in him?

What did Barnabysee in him?

And... what did he think about Barnaby?

He was a lot like Tomoe- and Kotetsu had loved Tomoe; he really had, even if he hadn't been all that good at showing it. He could still remember the time he'd try to give her a bouquet of flowers (under Antonio's excellent advice of 'girls love presents!'), and it turned out she'd been allergic to the pollen and keep coughing for a whole day with a runny nose. That had been pretty awkward.

They laughed about it afterwards, though.

But, no matter how similar Barnaby was to Tomoe, he wasn'this wife, and though Kotetsu had loved her- he still didlove her- he wasn't sure how he felt about lil' Bunny. It wasn't because he was male, or anything like that; Kotetsu had been friends with Nathan far too long to find feelings like that 'strange', and plus, society had moved on quite a lot in the past few years. It was because Barnaby was his partner, and he cared about him- he cared about him so much- and the thought of hurting Barnaby's feelings or making his miserable because he didn't know what he was doing hurt.

Kotetsu didn't want to blunder into a relationship with no idea what he was doing and upset lil' Bunny. No matter how cold or aloof Barnaby acted, he was… a lot more fragile than it appeared.

Kotetsu had to be sure of how he felt before he did anything stupid.

But, still...

Kotetsu's fingers idly threaded in Barnaby's hair- and, even though he teased him over his appearance, Kotetsu couldn't deny he was handsome. Nathan's nickname was well-deserved. No wonder he was so popular with the ladies.

Ha…

If Barnaby's female fans knew about this relationship, they'd probably try and lynch Kotetsu for 'defiling their Barnaby'.

That... was kind of scary.

Kotetsu smiled as Barnaby made a small noise in his sleep, shifting slightly; pressing against the side of his body. Too close, a littttle too close. Barnaby would be mortified he woke up to find himself in such a position.

Poor lil' bunny.

It would have been so much easier if he fell in love with somebody else.

"Hey..." Kotetsu muttered softly, still tugging gently at Barnaby's curls, watching with some interest as they springed back into their near-perfect state when he let go. "You say I'm stupid, but... you're the real idiot. You really like make life complicated for yourself, huh?"

Kotetsu sighed.

The dim light from the TV screen flickered across the room; catching the wedding ring on Kotetsu's finger and making it glow.

Tomoe... If you're still there, floating around in the ether or the lifestream or something, then...

Please, tell me what to do.


The following day, in the Apollon Media building...

"Wow!~ I just discovered something incredible."

"Hn? What is it?"

"This," said Nathan, holding up his shiny new cell phone up for Kotetsu to inspect. His fingers, tipped with long, magenta-pink nails, held the cell tightly. "Come and look, Tiger, dear- don't be bashful!~ This really is quitethe story!"

Kotetsu grinned. "Is it even more 'amazing' than that article a couple of months ago that said Origami was actually a girl in disguise?"

"Ahh, well... maybe it's not quitethat imaginative, but it's still pretty interesting. Take a read. Oh, but don't drop it in a tank of goldfish like last time, hon."

"That only happened once."

"You are exceptionally clumsy, though, Crusher for Justice~ Just let it be known." Nathan's eyes narrowed. "If you ruin my phone, I'll claw your eyes out. Haha~"

"I've got it. I'll be careful. Geez, I'm not thatbad."

Laughing, Kotetsu took Nathan's cell from his magenta-pink grip and scanned the screen quickly.

After reading the short, speculative forum post on HeroWatch (a site for fans to discuss their favorite heroes, talk about the things they would do to them if they had them to themselves that were probably illegal, etc, etc), Kotetsu decided he'd had quiteenough. His face burning light pink, he shoved Nathan's cell back into his friend's hands. Kotetsu very nearly put his eyes in jeopardy, as he almost dropped the cell phone in the process.

To be fair, though, it wasn't his fault he was shaking so much. It was that stupid website.

"M-man, people really have too much free time on their hands, don't they! T-that's pretty funny, really- ahahaha!" Kotetsu said, desperately trying to affect an air of calm.

It wasn't working.

Kotetsu looked about as 'calm' as a gerbil that had been fed a concoction of battery acid and energy drinks, then put on a hamster wheel and zapped with electricity.

In other words, he was trembling.

He was trembling, and he just couldn't stop.

The weird strangled laughter wasn't helping, either.

Nathan smiled, resting a hand on Kotetsu's shoulder. The slight motion was enough to make Kotetsu jump.

"There, there, Tiger," Nathan cooed, a devious smile on his glossy, raspberry-flavored (according to the lipstick he'd put on that morning) lips. "It's fine, really. We've all suspected it for a while- it's only natural the fans would catch on, too. I can't believe you, though; having a heart-felt conversation with Handsome like that in the middle of the street yesterday! Of course somebody would notice!"

"Y-you mean somebody heard us talking?"

"Of course they did. Several 'somebodies', in fact~ There are clips of it on the internet. I imagine that's where this rumor started. Silly Tiger~" Nathan scolded, wagging a finger in Kotetsu's direction. "You should've expected this. Why Barnaby, Sternbild's famous stoic hero, say things like 'I really like you!' in public, it's obviousit's going to get around. Gossip spreads~ Even better than smooth peanut butter."

"N-ngh..." Kotetsu groaned. "D-damnit... I hatethe internet. Can't they keep their noses out of my business?"

"Mm, quite~ But, then again, you and Handsome were inviting people to speculate there... You're not very good at being subtle, are you?"

"No. That's never been my strong point," Kotetsu admitted, a small smile quirking on his lips. " Being the 'Crusher of Justice' an' all."

"I'm surprised at Handsome, though, being so open about his feelings. Usually, he acts like he has the emotional capacity of a particularly dense cucumber. I mean, it's understandable, given the poor thing's past, but..." A pout. "I didn't expect him to warm up to you so much, Tiger! He's nowhere near that sociablewith me! What did you say to him?"

"I don't really, know to be honest. It just sort of... happened. I think he was having a pretty rough day and then he kind of exploded," said Kotetsu. "I'm not really in a position to talk about Bunny's feelings behind his back, though; it's kind of underhanded. And don't let him hear you calling him a 'poor kid'."

"My!" Nathan's eyes widened in surprise. He clapped his hands together in excitement. "You really are acting mature about this, Tiger! I'm surprised at you! What could be the source of this sudden maturity, I wonder? Are you Handsome sharing a newfound bond?"

"A 'bond'...? W-what are you implying, exactly?"

"You know what I'm talking about, you sly old tomcat!~ Did something happen between you two!"

Kotetsu's face flushed. "W-what? U-um, no; nothing, apart from talking about jell-o and watching monster movies, ahahaha! Nothing like 'that' happened at all- n-not what you're implying, anyway! I mean, this is Bunny we're talking about. W-why are you even interested?"

"Well~ I must say, even I'm a little intrigued at the rumors circling round on the web."

"You can't really trust what the fans say, you know... They get a little bit out of control sometimes, I think..."

"That's why they're called 'fanatics' in the first place, Tiger."

"Ahaha, yeah, that's true..."

"So!" Eyes lighting up, Nathan clasped his hands in Kotetsu's, bringing their faces inches apart. "If nothing 'like that' happened, what didhappen?"

"N-nothing, seriously!"

"Aww, c'mon, don't be like that~ We're friends, aren't we?"

Kotetsu ducked under Nathan's almost stifling grip, backing away slowly. The smile on his face looked painted on, awkward.

"Y-yeah, we are friends, true- but Bunny's my friend, too, and I really can't talk about this any further without his knowledge. That'd be pretty low. I really don't want to hurt his feelings like that..."

"Hmn..."

Nathan frowned, deep in thought, as he placed his thumb and forefinger under his chin. Kotetsu really was being very adult about this- whatever 'this' was. Kotetsu claimed nothing had happened, but... why was he being so defensive over Barnaby? And what about that video recording?

'I really like you, Kotetsu!'

To be honest, Nathan was a little jealous at how close Barnaby and Kotetsu were. It just wasn't fair! Why did Handsome talk to Kotetsu so easily, but nobody else?

Aaah well. It didn't really matter. Nathan only wanted them to be happy.

It looked like something about their relationship had shifted. That was plain to see.

Maybe Barnaby had confessed his real feelings... and Kotetsu didn't know how to react?

That seemed incredibly likely.

Nathan grinned.

"Ah, alright, alright- I can see when I'm not wanted! You don't want to talk to me? Fine! But..." Nathan smiled. "If you're having trouble with your love life, the best person to discuss matters with would definitely be a smart, mature woman."

"A woman...?"

"Yes! Romance is a delicate situation that definitely requires a young lady's touch."

Kotetsu paused. Then... he smiled.

"I'll keep that in mind. That'll be pretty helpful."

"Helpful?"

"N-not to me, of course! T-to a friend of a friend, obviously- and not one of my friends! But, um, yeah..." Kotetsu tried to mask his embarrassment with laughter, pulling his hat down over his eyes. "T-thanks. Thanks a lot. I'll... I guess I could try that out."

"For your friend?~" Nathan asked innocently.

"F-for my friend of a friend!"

And, face flushed brick red, Kotetsu turned around and walked away.

As Nathan watched his retreating back, a sudden thought struck him, just like a bolt of lightening.

"Oh no! I forgot to tell him that other rumor about us collaborating with that cute new idol girl with the green hair..."

Then, Nathan shrugged.

"Oh well~ I guess this is a lot more important, anyway."


Lunch time at Asterismus High School was a peaceful affair. Students had pushed their desks together so they could talk with their friends… to the immense irritation of the teachers, who would have to order them to push the desks back into their normal place when the next lesson started. The sky outside the window was light blue, studded with cotton candy white clouds, and beams of sunlight lit up the faces of the cheerful students. It only added to the happy, light-hearted, slice of life kind of atmosphere about the place.

The peace didn't last for long, though.

"Uwahhh! N-no way!"

A very loud shout split the relative silence like a gunshot, making students jump- and one hapless girl very nearly fall out of her chair.

That hapless girl was none other than the adorable Scarf-tan, infamous amongst her classmates for wearing that gift from her boyfriend even in the summer. As such, she had no other name. Not even the teachers knew her by her real title anymore.

"W-what's wrong, Jessica?" Scarf-tan asked in alarm, turning to look at her blonde school friend. "A-are you okay? D-do you want me to take you to the school nurse?"

But Jessica's sickness was not one of the body.

It was one of the heart.

Jessica was staring at her cell phone in horror. As her fingers shook, the golden butterfly strap attached to it trembled, as though in flight.

Then, she turned to stare at Scarf-tan sadly with watery eyes.

"T-the really awesome rumor I started about Miku-Miku teaming up with the heroes was totallyignored! Look, look!"

And with that, Jessica shoved her cell phone into Scarf-tan's face.

The screen showed a forum post with over 1,000 responses entitled 'Barnaby Brooks Jr. confesses to Wild Tiger? Is Blue Rose's love for the older hero threatened?' There was a link to some video footage, and most of the replies on the forum were filled with cute emoticons and cries of 'squeee!~'

Scarf-tan smiled sympathetically, patting Jessica on the head.

"There, there, it'll be okay. I'm sure you'll post something really famous on the internet one day, too."

Meanwhile, in the same stifling hot classroom, Karina Lyle- who had been roused from her sleep by that loud scream- turned to glare at her two over-eager classmates with half-lidded, sleep-deprived eyes.

"What noisy girls, making such a big deal over nothing..."

Karina was in a worse mood than usual- and she had every right to be. Over the past week she'd been rushed off her feet, to the point where she felt she was physically going to collapse. Trying to juggle hero work alongside school and her part time job as a singer had always been a heavy workload, but now it was getting ridiculous. The constant advertisements, interviews and photo shoots she had to do were draining; not to mention she was now expected to learn and record a handful of songs for her new CD, plus learn the dance steps for upcoming concerts. Add midterm exams into the mix, andthe fact Agnes had landed her a job as an actress in a new romantic drama as a lovelorn side character, and her life was so impossibly busy it was a wonder she hadn't collapsed under all the strain yet.

Karina was a headstrong girl, though; bold and confident, and able to overcome any obstacle. She'd always been a hard worker. This was nothing. If she wanted to be a famous singer anda hero, she had to be prepared to struggle. Suffering was fine, if she was doing it for her dreams.

The acting job might have been a little unnecessary- but Karina wanted to do it, all the same. If acting as a character was the only way to express her true feelings about Kotetsu, even if he wouldn't watch the series, then she would do it.

Girls in love really were scary. They could do anything.

Apart from stay awake during school, apparently.

Yawning, Karina rubbed her eyes, trying to stave off another hit of oncoming sleep. She was starting to look a zombie from all her work, with bags forming under her eyes, and her make-up wasn't even able to hide it anymore- but she wouldn't give in!

It was as Karina tried to force some life into her for her evening lessons, slapping her cheeks to get some color back into them, that she noticed it.

The screen of her pink cell phone was glowing.

She had a new text message.

And it was from none other than Kaburagi T. Kotetsu.

She read through it quickly, expecting it to be another stupid joke to cheer her up, or a friendly 'good luck' message about her upcoming exams. It was none of those things, however.

It was...

I-it was...

Karina's eyes widened.

Then, she squealed in excitement.

Meanwhile, her friend, Emily, sighed.

"You're such a hypocrite, Karina. You're just as noisy as they are."

Jane giggled. "Was that a text from your boyfriend?"

"T-there's no such thing!"


a/n: Teehee~ This chapter got to ridiculous lengths (like 15k o_o) so I decided I really should split it up. It's a kind of lazy, slow-paced, slice of life-ish story (even though it's about heroes XD) so it doesn't deserve to have such colossal chapters, people will get bored XD~
The movie Kotetsu and Barnaby are watching is totally this one:
http : / / cinemassacre . com/2010/10/13/inframan/
It's ridiculous & it looks entirely like the sort of thing Kotetsu would love XD

~renahhchen xoxoxoxo