From the Heart
The shopping centre was crowded; people running about this way and that like ants in a hill, as relentless noise and chatter and advertisements flashing across billboards assaulted every single one of the senses. Colorful lights and decorations were strung up everywhere and inane Christmas music drifted through the air; a failed attempt to increase morale, given the people doing their Christmas shopping at nine p.m. all looked completely miserable.
For once, Kotetsu was no exception to that rule.
"Come on, Bunny, help me out here!"
"You should know what your own daughter would want for Christmas," was Barnaby's flippant reply, as he folded his arms and gave Kotetsu a withering look.
"That's so cold, Bunny! I just want some advice, that's all."
"And why would you need advice from me, exactly?"
"Because Kaede loves you. She thinks you're the most incredible thing since mayo on fried rice!"
"No. You're the only one who thinks mayonnaise tastes good on fried rice. Besides, I already got her a present."
Kotetsu's face fell slightly. "You did? But I thought, if we bought it together-"
"Stop being lazy. Your present needs to be from you; not both of us. Otherwise, it wouldn't be special, would it?"
Kotetsu sighed, scratching his cheek as he thought.
"…You've got a point there."
"You shouldn't have left Christmas shopping until Christmas eve, either," Barnaby said, scolding Kotetsu as though he were a young child. "It was irresponsible. I figured you were the kind of person who'd buy Kaede's presents in the middle of July or something- not wait until the very last minute."
"I know, I know- I realize I messed up pretty bad, but…"
With a sigh of long suffering, Kotetsu slumped down onto the floor; not caring about the very real possibly he might get trampled underfoot by the crowd of late Christmas shoppers. Knees tucked under his chest, arms round his legs, head bowed, he looked more pathetic than ever.
As Barnaby looked at the defeated form of Kotetsu, he felt a small twinge of pity in his chest. That pity was great enough for Barnaby- the great Barnaby Brooks Jr., the most well-known hero of Sternbild- to willingly tear his own reputation to tatters, as he took a seat beside Kotetsu on the floor.
"Cheer up, Kotetsu," Barnaby said comfortingly (a tone of voice he didn't use very often- so he wasn't really sure whether his voice actually was comforting or not but, hey, he tried), as he rested his hand on Kotetsu's shoulder. "You'll think of something."
"But it has to be something good; something I can use as an apology for being away so long… and I have no idea what that 'something' could be! Does a present like that even exist? The more I think about it, the more I realize I really don't know Kaede at all! If Tomoe was here she'd know what to do…"
Barnaby looked at Kotetsu in surprise. He'd never seen the older man look, or indeed sound, more despondent; eyes downcast, most of his face cast in shadow by the brim of his hat.
Kotetsu wasn't a hero; not anymore. After recovering from his wounds, he had finally handed in his resignation, and had returned home to be Kaede's full-time father, just as he had always promised. Whenever Barnaby spoke to Kotetsu on his cell phone the other always seemed bright and cheerful; always wanting to talk about something funny Kaede had said, or what they'd done together, or how she'd tried to bake cookies and put washing up liquid in them by accident- and although Barnaby missed Kotetsu (quite horribly, sometimes, too) he had tried to be happy for him, because he thought Kotetsu was happy and he didn't want to be selfish.
Kotetsu didn't look happy now, though.
"Idiot. I called you an idiot. If you don't know what means, you're even stupider than I thought."
And with that, Barnaby grabbed hold of Kotetsu's hat and pulling it off his head. This motion was met with a small 'h-hey, Bunny!', but Barnaby ignored him.
"Kaede's your daughter, isn't she? She'll love you no matter you get her for Christmas, so stop beating yourself up over it!"
"You know…" Barnaby looked into Kotetsu's eyes; his expression serious, eyes narrowed. "I'd love to have a dad like you- o-or, hell, a dad who was still alive; who could still give me presents I don't really like, because it's not about the presents, it's about being with another person and spending time with them! Isn't that the most important thing?"
Kotetsu gasped; mouth falling open in a small 'o'. He was completely lost for words.
Meanwhile, the faint sounds of chatter and cheery Christmas music drifted through the air.
His smile was shaky, awkward, and tears were beading in his eyes- but he was still smiling, and, for Barnaby, that was more than enough.
"Y-yeah. You're right, Bunny. I'm… I'm sorry; I guess I was over-thinking everything."
"I guess you've got to do that sometimes to make up for not thinking enough in any other situation."
"I suppose so, haha… I-I… just wanted this Christmas to be perfect for Kaede. I don't want to disappoint her anything- like I am so very skilled at doing…"
"It will be perfect. It'll be perfect because you'll be there with her."
"And you, too."
"M-me?" Now it was Barnaby's turn to be confused. "I didn't know you were inviting-"
"Don't be silly, Lil' Bunny, of course you're coming, too! I thought that went without saying. You're practically one of the family now, you know?"
"Yes. Mom loves you. Kaede adores you. And I… I…" Kotetsu flushed slightly; looking a little abashed, a little nervous- but, nevertheless, his smile did not falter. "I… really care about you, too, Lil' Bunny. Why else would I go to you first when I'm having a midlife crisis and I don't know what to buy my daughter?"
The word family replayed in Barnaby's head over and over again, like a stuck CD. I-it couldn't be, could it? He hadn't had any real family since his parents died; and Maverick hardly counted, given he had raised him on a steady diet of mind control whilst pushing him into the path of being a hero; somebody he could manipulate to make money out of.
Kotetsu was different.
Kotetsu… really thought… he was 'family'?
That was too much for Barnaby- far more happiness than he deserved; than he had ever received before- and, even though it wasn't Christmas quite yet, it was the best gift he had ever had.
With a lump in his throat, composure shattered into small pieces, he sniffed slightly-
And then buried his head against Kotetsu's shoulder, wrapping his arms tightly around his middle.
Kotetsu was pushed backwards against the wall at this sudden motion, and he gave a small 'oof' in pain; a laugh and, "I-I'm really too old to be treated like this, Bunny! You're a lot heavier than Kaede, you know?"
But Kotetsu still returned Barnaby's hug; holding on perhaps even tighter than Barnaby was.
Neither cared that they were sat on the floor of a very busy shopping mall, or that Barnaby, being something of a celebrity, was beginning to attract a lot of attention. Instead, they continued to hug each other; and Barnaby might have been crying, but he wasn't really sure, it didn't really matter-
And, all of a sudden, he just had an idea.
"I know what you should get Kaede for Christmas," said Barnaby; pulling himself away from Kotetsu so he could look into his eyes.
"A-and what's that, Bunny?"
"Give her something from the heart," said Barnaby; flushing slightly at how embarrassing this whole situation was, but that wasn't gong to stop him talking- not at all. "Just like… that weird, wonky stuffed toy you gave me."
"A stuffed toy…? But Kaede always said she thought my sewing was terrible."
"Yeah, because it kind of is." Barnaby smiled. "But… it's special all the same. Do you know I still have that toy? I wouldn't throw it away for anything."
"Come on," said Barnaby, getting to his feet- extending his hand and pulling Kotetsu up into a standing position beside him. "Let's go and get some thread and material, and whatever it is you need to make a present, then we can go back to my house and you can start sewing. I'm sure Kaede will love it."
"B-but I don't know if there'll be enough time," Kotetsu fretted, snatching his hat up from the floor where it had fallen and putting it back on his head. "I mean, it took me a few days to make your present, and even then it wasn't very good, and-"
"And that only made it better. Don't worry." Barnaby's smile was almost luminous. "I'll help you out."
"Yes, idiot. I'll do my best. Because…" Barnaby flushed with half happy, half sad emotions washing over him all at once; a wave of feeling that made him tremble. "Because… we're family, aren't we?"
And, in a strange, dysfunctional sort of sense, it was true. They really were.
Barnaby hadn't had any 'family' for so long he'd almost forgotten what it felt like- but the warmth that swept through him when Kotetsu took hold of his hand and smiled brought it all back to him in a sudden rush of thoughts and feelings and colors so bright they almost burnt.
This was what having a family was all about; Barnaby was sure of it.
He'd been so empty for so long, but now… it was plainly obvious.
Anybody could see it.
He wasn't alone anymore.
And even if Kotetsu completely botched up Kaede's Christmas present, it'd be fine; it wouldn't matter- because it had been made from love-
And it had come from the heart.
a/n: Yay!~ It's finished :3
This wasn't really intended to be a shipping Barnaby/Kotetsu thing, it was really based more on friendship and family and yeah, there's a lot of hugging and blushing but that happens in the anime too XDD
It's also really fluffy... XD;;
I hope you liked it, it was very fun to write! ^_^;;
Yeah I finished this whole 'fic' in like 2 days, but it's not really a 'fic', it was originally going to be a oneshot collection but I dropped that idea in doing something more connected, to show a slowly building friendship, but the chapters are still incredibly short. I could have smushed them together into a single oneshot, but I think, given how different all the scenes are, that would have made it disjointed, so it was better to treat each of these scenarios as a separate 'chapter' instead. I didn't label them as 'chapters' though because they're incredibly short; instead, they're more like drabbles.
Um, alright, reviews and the like are very much appreciated, I want to know what you think :3
Tbf this could probably have been better, but this really was a 'I want to write something friendshippy and fluffy' sort of thing and I didn't think about it too much when I was writing it down XD;