Title: Let's Handle This Like Adults
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1649
Pairing: Older!Karina/Older!Kotetsu
Topic: Another Prompt from the T & B Anon Meme: Kotetsu/Karina, Kotetsu's thoughts about Karina as she transitions from a teenager to a mature adult throughout the years.
Type: 7 years post series.
Genre: Romance, Humor, General
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Tiger and Bunny. Tiger and Bunny belongs to its respective owners.
VTM: I regret nothing. That is all. *puts on sunglasses, like a boss*

Notes: "Speech", 'Thought'

-o-o-

It was supposed to be a regular lunch, one of many that they had over recent years. A lunch between colleagues, maybe even friends, since they had been getting a little closer over time. But all that came crashing down on Kotetsu's head when somehow their conversation went from heroing, to friends, to family, to eventually the issue of romantic relationships. Just when Kotetsu was giving what he thought was helpful, innocent, fatherly advice, his lunch..."date"...decided to drop a bombshell on him.

Kotetsu stared at the woman seated across from him. The spoon that he had been eating with dangled barely in the loose grip of his fingers, when it finally fell and landed on the table with an audible "pang!" he blinked and came to his senses. "...Excuse me?"

"Don't pull any of that "I'm an old man, I'm hard at hearing" crap. I know you heard me, I said: "I like you"." The woman in question was none other than Karina Lyle. She was looking at the veteran with an expectant look. She was obviously waiting for Kotetsu to answer.

But the problem was that he didn't have a straight answer to give her. Now Kotetsu wasn't really a fool, he did have his suspicions about the girl six years ago and figured she would simply grow out of it. Kotetsu had always thought that if this situation were to ever pop up, he could either gently turn her down or try to focus her attentions on a better, "more appropriate" target, like Barnaby. However, for some reason that just wasn't happening, Kotetsu froze up. He tried to find the best way to put it, he then thought that maybe trying to reason with the girl would be the best approach. "Blue Rose...Karina..." Kotetsu corrected himself. "You do realize that I'm forty three, right? Forty three, that's about twice your age." he reminded her.

"Yes, and I'm a twenty five year old woman, that is educated, and I have a promising career." Karina explained. "Kotetsu, I'm not a child anymore, I think that you know that. You're not that stupid."

The veteran hero looked away and ran his fingers through his hair as he gave a small sigh. Well, that attempt was shot down in a burning blaze of glory. Why was this so damn difficult? All he had to do was say that he wasn't interested. But, in all honesty, maybe that was part of the problem. Maybe he actually was a little interested. Karina was right, Kotetsu had been noticing her more as an adult in recent years, she was talented, attractive, and she had a certain familiar strictness to her that he admired. It was possible that he was starting to like her a little beyond their friendship. But still, part of him was still reluctant to admit it fully.

"Kotetsu?" Karina said, while waving a hand in front of his face.

The veteran hero jumped slightly as he was brought out of his thoughts and back to reality. "Huh? What?"

"You're hopeless..." Karina smiled and shook her head at him. "But, was that a little too forward?" she suddenly asked. "While my hero persona is the confident dominating type, the real me...is not so much."

"Karina..." Kotetsu said, suddenly finding his voice. "You are a strong woman...Blue Rose is just an extension of you, not the other way around."

Karina's smile grew a little, she could feel her cheeks warm slightly as she blushed. "You idiot..."

Kotetsu laughed, rubbing the back of his neck. "Yeah, I guess I'm just making this a little more awkward..." he said with a nervous laugh.

"So, I told you how I felt, what about you?" Karina said, getting them back on topic, much to Kotetsu's dismay. "You haven't rejected me yet, why are you hesitating? Do you like me too?"

"Well, I..." Kotetsu was quiet for a moment, a thoughtful look was on his face. "I'd be lying if I said that I didn't find you attractive. I uh...It's a little hard to say exactly how I feel, I'm flattered, but...I feel...guilty in a way."

"You are such a dork." Karina said with a laugh. "But that is one of your charming points."

"Karina, look, you're young, you're beautiful, and I'm just old. There are plenty of younger guys out there that would make you happy." Kotetsu was trying to reason with her again. Hoping that maybe, just maybe, it could would work.

Karina huffed out a sigh of annoyance. "Oh, shut up, that's your excuse for everything. "I'm old, so I can't do anything right". You've been saying that since you were in your thirties, you're not that old, it's an excuse."

Kotetsu bit his lip, he glanced to the side, Karina hit the bulls eye. "Back then it was, yeah..."

"And it still is now, you're a capable guy, but you tend to run away from stuff like this." Karina smiled slightly. "I mean, you are still a hero after al-" Karina was suddenly cut off.

"Ah, ah, ah!" Kotetsu said as he wagged his finger. "That's not true, I am retired now and I am happily in a new career. I just help Saito with some of his..."experiments" in my off time." There was a playful smile on the veteran hero's face.

Karina quirked an eyebrow at that statement, there was a small smirk on her lips. "Uh huh, sure."

Kotetsu couldn't help but laugh, a lot of things had changed over the years, the both of them sure did. But even so there were still some old habits that die hard.

"Anyway, getting back on topic again, Kotetsu..." Karina said with a tone of finality. She was not going to let him sneak his way out of this one. "Either way, it's a little ironic, you're so eager to take on criminals and rescue people from things like burning buildings. But when it comes to personal issues, you clam up and hide things with a smile and stupid jokes."

Kotetsu was quiet again, his smile faded as he stared down at his food and started prodding it with his spoon. "...I kind of like what we have, Karina." he finally said. "I don't want to mess it up. When things start to go good for me, I get a little scared."

"Why?"

Kotetsu gave a deep sigh, well, there was no point in holding back anymore, right? If it screwed things up between them, then that was just how it was going to be. "When good things happen with me, it either doesn't last for long or it takes a sudden turn for the worst." he began to explain. "I became a hero, I got married, I had a wonderful wife and cutest little girl ever...My wife got sick and died, I couldn't help but let it get to me in my hero work, and in end, I couldn't handle being a decent father to my own daughter for the few years that followed that." He took a sip of his drink before he continued. "Suddenly I'm thrown into a hero team, Barnaby and me become friends, I start getting my act together as a hero...then my powers decide to burn out. I get back into heroing, Saito develops armor that makes up for my power loss, I move my daughter out here because I finally believe I'm out of my depression, you and me become friends, I'm enjoying it...and I just know that some kind of shit is going to happen and life is just going to fuck me over, again." Kotetsu sighed as rubbed one of his temples, he could feel a headache coming on and heart was pounding, he felt nervous. Opening up to people was not Kotetsu's strong point, he felt vulnerable, weak, and even a bit scared. There was really only one person that he was ever this honest with, and that was Tomoe. 'Why the hell am I telling Karina all of this?' He looked at her and was greeted with her looking at him with a look of concern.

"Ugh...fuck." Kotetsu said with a forced, half laugh as he leaned back in his chair and looked upwards. 'Well now, I guess I just fucked this up...'

"...I can't really help how I feel, even if you have the rottenest luck that I have ever seen." Karina said as she took a sip from her own drink.

Kotetsu looked at her with surprise, he was half expecting her to just walk out on him. He couldn't help but feel a little thankful.

Karina then continued. "I still want to be friends with you, even if you can't return my feelings. But I can't help but want a little more, I guess I'm a bit selfish."

"I guess we're both a little selfish then..." Kotetsu said without thinking. When he realized just what he said he covered his face with his hands in his usual, comedic manner. "Oh god, no! I didn't...That is...I...God damn it!"

Karina suddenly burst out laughing. She both felt relieved and a little sorry for the clumsy veteran as he tripped over his words trying to explain himself, eventually he had to give up they both knew that there was no recovering from it. "So, I guess it's safe to say that at least we share some feelings."

"I guess so..." Kotetsu finally admitted.

"...Well, how about this, we can still be friends, but maybe with some "benefits"." Karina started to explain. "If it works out, who knows, maybe we could be something more. If not, we're still friends if anything."

"Heh, you're persistent." Kotetsu prodded his food a little more as he thought the prospect over, it was tempting, he had to admit. It was then that Karina placed her hand on his in a reassuring manner. "I guess we could give it a try..."

-The End-

VTM: Leaving the ending open, how does it go from here? You as the reader can have fun with it with your own imaginations. I hope that you enjoyed this piece, thank you for reading.