AN: What's this? Rae writing something? Shock. But yes. Dedicated to my shiny Leon. For you, hunny.
Kotetsu was dead. His face blank, his body limp in his arms. How... how had this happened? How could he have not seen? Barnaby lowered his head, his body quaking, tears spilling from his eyes. Kotetsu... Kotetsu...
He had killed the only person in the world he could trust. The only person in the world that made the empty void in his chest not so painfully tight, that... the only person alive that he loved.
... Except he was no longer alive, was he.
No. No, Barnaby had made sure of that. He was dead... all because of him.
The man was gone, and once again... Barnaby found himself painfully alone in the world—a world where those he loved vanished right before his eyes, time and time again.
"Kotetsu... K-ko..." He was suffocating. Suffocating on his tears, suffocating on guilt.
He had killed him. He had killed the man he loved.
He loved Kotetsu. Loved him so. And now he... he...
"... Bunny? Bunny, wake up! Bunny?"
Barnaby's eyes shot open, a gasp escaping him. It was a dream. Of course. Just another dream. Kotetsu was alive, alive right beside him, those expressive eyes of his looking at him with such concern. Concern... concern that Barnaby didn't deserve.
"Ha..." he sucked in an uneven breath, tightly closing his eyes, struggling—and utterly failing—to contain those tears slipping down his cheeks. I... killed him, I...
"Bunny..." his partner gently called that silly nickname Barnaby had grown to love, and moments later, the blond felt a gentle touch to his cheek. That hand moved along his cheekbone, collecting tears, the sensation so soothing.
The young hero didn't deserve that touch, and yet he found himself pressing into it. Kotetsu...
"Another bad dream, huh," Kotetsu noted, no question in his voice.
A feeble, quivering smile formed on the younger man's lips. A pretty obvious observation, wasn't it? Yet, he could think of no response, nothing but a slight nod of his head. It was hard to admit aloud that he had dreamed of killing the man yet again, after all.
The 'tiger' remained in silence for a few moments, clearly contemplating a response. No reply came, however, that generally outspoken man apparently at a loss for words—either that or he felt actions would be better than words at the moment, considering Barnaby suddenly found himself held in a warm embrace.
He pressed into that hold, a shuddering breath escaping him. Again, he could think of nothing to say, so instead he sank into that embrace, his body limply resting against his partner. Being... childish, but I...
"I'm right here, Bunny. This 'old man' isn't going anywhere anytime soon," the dark haired hero finally spoke, his voice holding that all too familiar confident, knowing tone. "Don't let any dream tell you different."
Barnaby let out a soft, half-laugh, half-sob at this. Stupid... stupid Kotetsu. He... really loved the man. So very much. "You better not. It... would be a pain having to deal with getting a new partner, after all," he weakly retorted, that tint of dry humor he had attempted to force falling rather flat.
"Especially finding a partner as cool as me, right?" Kotetsu cheerfully replied, that confident tone still clearly present in his voice.
Barnaby let out a soft scoff, another faint smile forming on his lips. "Don't get carried away."
"Wha? Who's getting carried away?" the man quickly inquired, a mock indignant tone tinting his words.
"You are," the blond simply remarked, his voice deadpan—except for that slight shake, of course.
Kotetsu let out a long, exaggerated sigh, clearly feigning exasperation, yet he wrapped his arms tighter about the younger man, holding him even closer against him. "I just can't win with you, can I, Bunny?"
"Of course not," Barnaby murmured into his partner's chest, an uneven breath following his words. It was difficult to keep up the banter, difficult to keep himself focused on anything other than that memory from his dreams. What if... what if I had really... What if that blow really had been lethal? What if... what if Kotetsu really had died in his arms? It... it was such a painful thought. It was nearly unbearable.
"Oi, Bunny... you're not alone, you know that, right?" Kotetsu gently remarked, all teasing and banter put aside, judging by that soothing tone to the man's voice.
"Kotetsu..." Barnaby's throat tightened, a choking sensation nearly overwhelming him at those warm words. Not alone... The young hero pressed his wet face into his partner's chest even more so, his body giving a slight shake. Not alone... he...
"It's true. You're always gonna have me, bunny. It's a promise," the dark haired man stated, his voice firm, certain.
"I... I'll hold you to that, old man," Barnaby softly replied.
With this exchange the two fell into silence, Kotetsu's hand lightly caressing through blond locks of Barnaby's hair in such a soothing manner. The younger man found himself relaxing with each touch, his tears slowing, his breaths steadying. He... he would hold the old man to that. He... he would never let such a situation happen again. He would never fail his partner again. I failed you once, but now, I... I'll protect you, Kotetsu... I promise...
He would never see such a lifeless expression on his partner's face ever again. No matter the cost.
"Kotetsu..." the young man mumbled, drawing back, enough to meet that concerned gaze with his watery eyes. I won't... I can't...
"Bunny?" the 'tiger' questioned, a soft frown on his lips.
"... you're... my only partner. That's the way it'll always be," he firmly stated, carefully meeting his partner's gaze. "Always."
Kotetsu let out a soft laugh at this, that frown of his replaced with a warm smile. "That's right, Bunny. We'll always be partners. Always."
Barnaby smiled—a full smile—a few stray tears streaking down his cheeks. Always...
The blond rested back against his partner—his lover—his watery eyes closing. Yes. Regardless of those dreams that plagued him, despite that past failure of his, he... he was certain of one thing: he and Kotetsu would always be partners, and he... he would damn well make sure that lifeless expression never crossed that face he held so dear ever again.