Author's Note: Housepets is an actual Tiger & Bunny fanfiction and not just a collection of ficlets like my other two stories. I am constantly looking for feedback, reviews, and constructive criticism for any of my writing but especially on this story. I'm also not big on author's notes, so don't expect to see them extremely often. I hope to update Housepets at least once/week, though I strive to update it more often than that.
All characters belong to the creators of Tiger & Bunny.
Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers
The doorbell rang, and as Barnaby flicked the knob to turn off the stove and step out of the kitchen, his visitor impatiently rapped on the door. He made an annoyed sound in the back of his throat but couldn't stop his eyes from crinkling in amusement while reaching for the handle.
"I'm here, Bunny! Bunny? Bunny! Bun-" Kotetsu was barely able to stop himself from striking his partner, who had flung open the door faster than he expected. He paused only to assess Barnaby's outfit, his hand still raised mid-knock.
"Bunny," he grinned, raising his hand over his head to casually lean in the doorway, "I like your apron."
Barnaby froze. He rarely cooked for himself, so when he started to learn, he'd bought the cheapest apron in the store. Nobody was meant to see it, so it shouldn't have mattered. Incidentally, the cheapest apron happened to feature all of the Heroes under bold text reading, "KISS THE COOKING HERO." No wonder it had been on sale. Barnaby ripped it off and roughly tossed it into the bin by his desk. It would be best if he pretended he had never made a beeline for the clearance shelf in the kitchenware store, picked up the most unfortunate item there, and later forgotten he was wearing it when he answered the door. As far as he was concerned, it never happened.
"Kotetsu," he said stiffly, "please come inside."
The older man stood up straight with a goofy smile still plastered to his face. He was used to Barnaby's social awkwardness by now, as well as his habitual inability to take a joke or suffer some friendly teasing, and he sniffed dramatically as he stepped into the home he had come to know so well. "Hey, Bunny," he murmured, "it smells so good in here. Almost like-AH!" He jumped and pointed a finger at Barnaby. "Fried rice? I thought you were joking!"
Barnaby gritted his teeth and fought back his embarrassment. "Why would I have been joking? I thought you were dying!" he protested with a wince; he accidentally conjured up memories of their last battle and had to turn his back to regain his composure. Barnaby pushed his glasses up his nose. "Please. Have a seat at the table." He disappeared back into the kitchen, leaving Kotetsu to his own devices-which in retrospect was never a good idea. Serving platter in hand, he returned moments later to find a small structure made of plates, chopsticks, and napkins at the centre of the table and nobody in sight.
Barnaby first set down the platter, then he lifted the tablecloth and peeked under the table to see if his friend was hiding for some reason; he saw no trace of him. "Kotetsu?" he called again, annoyed. A thump sounded from somewhere in another room.
He knew Kotetsu could be childish, but was their last day together as official partnered Heroes so unimportant to him that he would waste time playing foolish games? He briefly walked around his flat to no avail-he even lifted the napkin roof off the dinnerware building and looked inside with a deep frown, temporarily questioning his own sanity for thinking he might be found there in the first place.
"Barnaby Brooks Jr.!" thundered a voice from behind him, causing him to jump and nearly upset the entire table. Barnaby whipped around to find Kotetsu standing in the kitchen doorway. His mouth dropped open.
"What do you think you're d-?"
But Kotetsu cut him off with a pathetic look on his face. "Don't interrupt me, Bunny. It's rude," he whispered dramatically before coughing and striking what he surely thought was an impressive pose. "As I was saying... Barnaby Brooks Jr.! Tonight we dine not merely as friends or partners in business, but as true Heroes! Together, we have brought evil to its knees and secured the safety of the citizens. Tonight is th-"
"I know that, Kote-" Barnaby tried to interrupt him with minimal success.
"Ahem! Tonight is the ni-"
"Why are you-"
But Kotetsu was determined to say his piece. "Tonight. Is. The. Night." he paused, silently daring Barnaby to speak; the young man stared blankly in turn, "-we bid farewell to our lives as Heroes and begin anew as civilians. And so I would like to say to you for the last time as Wild Tiger, Hero of Sternbild City, and your partner..." he trailed off, scratching his cheek gently and looking slightly confused.
Barnaby sighed, "What is it you want to say?"
"Say, Bunny, that fried rice looks great!"
Barnaby had to refrain himself from kicking Kotetsu's armoured leg, but he couldn't help being frustrated. "Why are you wearing your battle suit in my home?" he shouted, lunging forward and shoving the metal suit with more force than necessary.
"Because!" Kotetsu flailed to regain his balance. "I couldn't say goodbye to you as Wild Tiger without the suit!"
"G-goodbye?" Barnaby's eyebrows knit together with concern.
Kotetsu nodded. He steadied himself and clapped a hand on Barnaby's shoulder, continuing in a softer voice, "Yes. Goodbye, and thank you. I... I'm sorry I didn't finish what I was saying. I thought about giving up being a Hero forever, and I suppose it made me nervous. I let myself be distracted. It's hard to consider a future without this. Without criminals, without cameras, without rival Heroes, without points-"
"Not that you had many of those anyway."
Barnaby looked out the window but didn't move. He had so much to say about how life would be different, how he couldn't imagine a future without Hero TV either, how he didn't have anybody outside of the Hero life to turn to like Kotetsu had his family. All of these thoughts had been plaguing him since they decided to retire, but he couldn't find the words to voice them. Not now, not as Kotetsu was wearing his battlesuit for the last time in Barnaby's flat of all places and smiling down at him. He chased away the ruminating thoughts about the absurdity of his becoming a Hero to avenge the death of his parents that had been wrought by the very same "uncle" that had gotten him into the Hero business in the first place. He couldn't vocalise any of these things, so he said, "Let's have dinner," and stepped away from Kotetsu and took a seat.
"Alright," Kotetsu said gently. "Er... one moment!" He clunked out of the room and returned in his normal clothes in a matter of minutes, by which time Barnaby had disassembled his structure and set out the table with the precise amount of a-little-bit-too-much attention to detail that only Barnaby could have.
Once both were seated and served, they ate, Barnaby watching Kotetsu's face carefully out of the corner of his eyes for even the smallest indication of displeasure. But the latter crowed praises between bites to such an extent that Barnaby couldn't decide if he was patronising him or if he was simply that big a fan of fried rice. At the end of the meal, just as Barnaby had worked up the nerve to ask Kotetsu if he might be able to visit his family sometime-to properly thank Kaede for her help, if he needed to provide an excuse-Kotetsu's cell phone rang.
"Oh? It's Kaede," he said. "Probably making sure I'll actually be going home this time. I can call her back later." He moved to silence his phone, but Barnaby shook his head.
"I don't mind. After all, it was thanks to her the other Heroes got their memories back and later escaped. We're all in her debt." He transformed into Barnaby Brooks Jr.: Famous Celebrity, drawing from the fabricated personality he had created to win over crowds and charm skeptics. Kotetsu had a quizzical look on his face as he saw his partner's public persona make an appearance when there was nobody around to see, but he answered the call.
"Hello, Kaede! Is everything alright? ... Oh? You'll have to show me when I get home next week." Kotetsu winked at Barnaby. "Yes, of course I'm still coming home. I've already retired! You'll see the announcement on the morning news. But Daddy is visiting Barnaby an-"
Barnaby heard an excited shriek from the other end of the call, and Kotetsu held the phone away from his ear. "Hey, Kaede, don't make me deaf, already! I will call you tomorrow. Goodnight!" He hung up and squinted across the table. "Bunny, what's with you?"
"Kotetsu... I was wondering if..."
"Eh? What? Are you all right?" asked Kotetsu, noticing Barnaby's intense stare.
Barnaby's words caught in his throat. "I was wondering if you enjoyed the fried rice!" he blurted out. He cursed himself quietly; his courage had faded so quickly.
Kotetsu frowned, unable to determine the source of the young man's anxiety. "It was excellent, Bunny. Well worth not dying for." He stood and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Come on. Let's go have a drink. Oh, and Bunny-" he stooped by the desk to pull the apron out of the bin and toss it at his face, "-you should wear this. It becomes you."
Barnaby caught it with one hand and slammed it on the table. "I think not!"
But Kotetsu had already disappeared into the hall to wait for him.