Hey, everyone! This is -JansenFriedh827-, the amateur writer who's terrible at making titles and summaries. Thanks for overcoming that and attempting to read this. xD

I've been writing TIGER&BUNNY stuff for forever, but this is the first one I've posted. I'm so crazy about this show. Like, inhumanely crazy about it. And Kotetsu.

This is a sort of depressing one-shot from Barnaby's point of view. Includes some Kotetsu, Karina, and a bit of Antonio (who is such an unappreciated character).

I might want to continue this. Tell me if I should? :D I'm really debating between leaving it as a one-shot or continuing it. But I can't decide D:

This fic is kind of sad. I guess it sort of hit home. Maybe it'll hit home with some readers, too.

I don't own TIGER&BUNNY. That's Sunrise... I think. Er, yeah. The people who own TIGER&BUNNY does not include me. XD

Barnaby had been Kotetsu's friend for as long as he cared to remember. It was only a few years, but Barnaby felt like he would be able to reach into any one of his positive memories, and Kotetsu would be there in some way. He soon realized that he could also think back to his nightmarish memories, the events that changed his life for the worse, and the man would still be there. Somehow, his touch, his voice, his scent- they would all be floating around the edges of the memories. Though those memories were like poison and still caused pain when Barnaby's mind went back to them during a moment when he dozed off or at night when he was dreaming, they somehow seemed less potent with the trace of Kotetsu each one had.

Each day, when Barnaby found himself at his partner's side, arresting criminals and saving civilians, he realized he was happy where he was. To be Kotetsu's other, the one person he was closest to, more than anyone else, made him feel like he was complete. To be called indispensable in his life was his one wish. He could only hope Kotetsu felt the same way about Barnaby that Barnaby did about him. To him, the man was irreplaceable.

Even though Kotetsu would remind Barnaby how glad he was to have him as a partner all the time, and would sometimes hold his hand when comforting him, or rub his shoulder when he was nervous, there still seemed to be something in between them. Barnaby couldn't put the feeling into words. He felt like there was something that was keeping them from being closer.

As Barnaby came to realize this and he noticed the feeling more strongly each time it arose, he found himself drifting farther and farther away from Kotetsu.

Of course his partner noticed; how could he not? Kotetsu was attentive and selfless, and as soon as he noticed something was off, he was questioning Barnaby left and right, making sure he was okay, making sure he was eating enough, on and on and on.

"Why are you asking so much? It's none of your business."

"You're my wonderful, precious partner, Bunny! But I really am worried for you. You look more tired each day, and I can't help but feel like you're avoiding me…"

"It's nothing. Don't mind it. I've got to go."

And soon, the questions just stopped.

Barnaby felt more alone than he had in a long time.

He suddenly missed the barrage of constant queries and curiosities that would be thrown his way. Now that they were gone, he missed idea that he was cared for so extensively. Even though he had wanted Kotetsu to stop and mind his own business (every time he appeared, that feeling would grow stronger), he couldn't help but feel like his day was a lot colder when things went quiet.

Barnaby wondered where his partner was all the time, but only briefly during the day. He was too caught up in his own problems to worry (even though the curiosity was always nibbling at the back of his mind).

Barnaby wished he had acted sooner.

He found out where his partner had been all the time when he looked up one day after zoning out and saw him sitting across a table with another Hero. Blue Rose.

And soon, he found himself staring. Kotetsu had the biggest smile on his face. He was laughing harder than Barnaby had seen him laugh in months. It was only then Barnaby realized how little he had smiled so honestly when he had been with the younger hero recently. Had his time of dejection really affected Kotetsu that much? Had he been that selfish?

Barnaby couldn't pull away from the scene. Kotetsu was standing up, Karina under his arm as they laugh and she messed with his hat. It was an odd sight to Barnaby.

"What's so interesting, Barnaby?" A deep, gruff voice came from behind him. "It's not like this is anything new." Barnaby didn't reply to Antonio.

"Mm." He mumbled his acknowledgement to the older Hero's presence.

"Kotetsu had been pretty down for a while, but now he looks happy. Good thing. I was about to start taking him out drinking even more than we usually do." He added. "Speaking of being down, though, you've seemed pretty down in the dumps lately. Anything happen?" He asked passively. With curiosity and a touch of worry; it sounded completely different than when Kotetsu asked him.

"Not really." Barnaby asked. His eyes followed Kotetsu and Karina as they walked out the door, Karina playfully pushing Kotetsu about something.

"Oh. Well, you've been missing it, I suppose, but Kotetsu and Karina have gotten real close. Since they caught that one sex offender together a few weeks ago, they've become like best friends. It looks a bit funny, but Kotetsu's got a kindergartener's mentality so I guess it's not all that strange." Antonio explained. "Kotetsu looks so much happier. He's so much more expressive. I hate seeing him with that tired smile on all the time. Since his wife died, he'd been having that expression more than anyone should." Barnaby wondered briefly why Antonio was telling him this, but didn't say anything. "He seemed so exhausted all the time, like everything was piling up on him and he didn't know what to do and where to go. He was so lost. Those were some pretty difficult times.

"But they stopped eventually. When you arrived."

Barnaby looked up with interest, finally meeting Antonio's eyes.

"When you arrived, Kotetsu had something else to focus on. I think at first he just found you a distraction from the rut of everyday life. But then you showed more of yourself to him, and he wanted to protect you. Then you two became best friends. Or more. It was sort of ambiguous for a while."

"Why are you telling me this?" Barnaby asked. Antonio paused, as if looking for words.

"Because I think of all people, you ought to know." Barnaby paused, taking in what he said. Antonio stood up and left, saying something about an interview. Barnaby nodded him away.

A distraction. Those words lingered in Barnaby's mind. Apparently, his feelings changed, but what if the whole time, he was just a distraction? Once Barnaby fell into his own rut and dragged Kotetsu down with him, did Kotetsu realize it wasn't worth it and give up? Did he find someone else to take care of?

Barnaby felt worse than before. The image of Karina and Kotetsu laughing, playing, and smiling so happily were burned into his memories. Every time he blinked he would see them. The person he loved more than anyone else finding someone else more important in their life.

The feeling of not having his sentiment returned equally tore at him. At first it seemed to be such a small thing; but then he'd go to work, and they'd be together. Kotetsu would barely talk to Barnaby unless it was necessary. It wasn't that he was ignoring Barnaby; in fact, the younger Hero would have preferred that.

No, he was just forgetting Barnaby. Through all the Blue Rose, he was forgetting about his partner.

"Good job today, Barnaby!"

"You too."

"Ah, Blue Rose! Have you been back this whole time? I swear, this time we finished the arrest faster than usual. Are you sure you're not…"

When had the nickname disappeared?

When had Kotetsu stopped meeting Barnaby's eyes when he spoke? When had he started turning away before Barnaby was done talking?

Barnaby wanted to reach out and grab Kotetsu's shoulders, shake him, and yell at him. Smile at me. Don't smile at her. Smile at me. Laugh with me.

Maybe if he screamed it loud enough in his head, Kotetsu would hear him.

Why have you started treating me like a liability? Why have you started treating me as if it were just habit instead of your voluntary actions? Why am I not as important to you as you are to me?

But if he spoke out, Barnaby would break some unspeakable barrier between the two of them. Something would change in their relationship. Barnaby couldn't explain it, but he knew that if he said something, then things would get worse. Kotetsu would figure out some unspeakable truth about Barnaby. He was trapped, and now the young Hero had nowhere to go.

So, instead, he watched. He waited the same way each day and watched Kotetsu smile with Karina, watched him pretend to be offended by a comment she made, or scared by a joking threat she spoke. He'd watch the corners of Kotetsu's mouth rise as he was listening to her talk, or how his eyes would trail from Karina's eyes to the ground when they were talking, as though he was thinking about several things at once. He'd watch as Kotetsu's ears would move slightly when he began to smile, or how his shoulders would relax when they started talking. Every move he made, every time he tilted his head in confusion, or jumped up and down slightly when he made an exciting observation, was something Barnaby would carefully watch every day. Barnaby couldn't do anything else; he couldn't speak out, he couldn't act, and he was nearly cut off from his partner at that point. So, instead, he just watched, and hoped that maybe Kotetsu would find that distraction from before and think that maybe he was as indispensable as the distraction found him.