Kotetsu sighed, staring morosely into his glass, the amber liquid untouched and his mind far away from the bar where he was currently sitting. His powers had dropped by another three seconds. He couldn't even use the Hundred Power for a full minute now, and it stung something deep inside. He hadn't told the others yet, but it was only a matter of time until he could no longer hide the continued decline. He was most worried about telling his partner, though; Barnaby still thought that the decline had stopped at a minute.
Kotetsu snorted; One Minute Tiger indeed. It was more like a kitten, at this point. His stubborn pride wouldn't allow him to retire while he still had some power left, but it was still humiliating being lumped in with the second batch of heroes. Not that he had anything against them; the kids were great, and they really looked up to him. But it hurt, not being able to keep up with the others. The fact that he had dragged Barnaby down with him as his partner was even more depressing. It would have been better if the younger man had just stuck with his early retirement, instead of coming back for no better reason than that the older man didn't know what else to do with himself.
He smiled sadly; he had never been very good at giving up. And it worked, sometimes, too; after all, didn't his daughter think he was really cool as Wild Tiger? The day she had finally told him that she thought he was cool was the most wonderful feeling in the world. Pity that his powers were already in decline by that point.
Light footsteps sounded behind him, and the bartender looked up pointedly. Kotetsu frowned, but lifted a hand and waved vaguely behind him. "Hey, Bunny. Come to fetch the old man?" he murmured. The tapping of boots stopped, and the bartender shrugged in response to something Bunny had done behind him.
"Don't ask me," he replied to the unspoken question. "The guy hasn't touched his drink. Any of them." There were about ten glasses littering the countertop, all ordered by Kotetsu, all of them untouched. Once the ice melted, he just ordered another one to hold and stare at while he waited. What he was waiting for, he had no idea.
A hand rested purposefully on his shoulder, and blond hair covered his vision as his partner leaned over him. "I think you've ordered enough for tonight," Barnaby said firmly, taking the glass from him. Kotetsu let it go without protest; he wasn't really in the mood for drinking, anyway. "Come on, let's go," his partner continued, urging him to his feet.
Kotetsu blinked, forcing himself to refocus; it wouldn't do to let his partner see him so out of it. Not if he wanted to keep his secret for a little longer. So instead, he forced himself to smile cheerfully, his eyes sparkling. "Aww…was Bunny worried about his partner?" he crooned happily, grinning as Bunny grabbed his wrist and dragged him from the bar.
"My name is not Bunny. It's Barnaby," the blond muttered, as he always did. Kotetsu ignored him, as per usual, turning to wave merrily at the bartender, who just gave him a dismissive gesture. He'd put the drinks on Kotetsu's tab, to be paid later.
When Barnaby didn't let go of his hand once they were outside, continuing to drag him along, Kotetsu frowned. He gave his hand a gentle tug, testing, but Barnaby's grip just tightened and his pace increased, forcing the brunette into a near jog to keep up. "Bunny? What's wrong?" he asked, suddenly worried.
Barnaby just turned an annoyed glare on him, and Kotetsu cringed; his partner was really pissed for some reason. "If it's something I did, I'm sorry," he said earnestly, hoping to diffuse the situation before the blond got violent. "If it's something that somebody else did, then just tell me, and we'll go kick their ass, okay?" A fight sounded good right about now, actually. Surely there was a bad guy out there somewhere right now that needed arrested, right?
"Shut up," Barnaby snapped back, and Kotetsu obeyed, falling silent as they moved. It didn't take him long to realize that they were heading for Barnaby's apartment. Maybe then he'd finally find out what was going on with the younger man. It wasn't like him to be this irritated, not since he had finally solved the mystery of his parents' murder. Maverick would spend the rest of his life in a psych ward, unable to tell anybody of his past, but unable to do any further harm, either. It was the closest thing to justice that Barnaby could ever hope to have anymore.
Kotetsu let himself be dragged into Barnaby's apartment and shoved into a chair. The blond moved to stand in front of him, hands on his hips as he stared down at his partner. "Ah, Bunny?" Kotetsu asked, laughing nervously. "What's wrong? This isn't like you." Worry filled him suddenly; maybe Barnaby had gotten more bad news? Was Ouroboros moving again? The organization had laid low after its mastermind was captured, but it was only a matter of time before a new leader was chosen.
Finally, Barnaby let out an explosive sigh, his hand dropping to his side as he stared down at the other man in fond exasperation. "You just don't change, do you?" he asked wryly. Kotetsu just stared up at him warily, not sure where he was going, and Barnaby chuckled. "You were all depressed there in the bar, but as soon as I showed up, you dragged yourself out of it to try and make me think nothing was wrong. And now you're worried for me. For me, when the one you should really be worried about is yourself."
Kotetsu just blinked, frowning lightly. "So…nothing's wrong?" he asked tentatively. "Because you looked pretty pissed back there, so I'm just checking. You're scary when you're angry, you know that, right?" he said, rambling as his mouth ran away from his better judgment. "I mean, I know that things have been pretty good, and I have been spending more time with Kaede like you said, but things have been slow for Heroes lately, so-"
A slender hand covering his mouth stopped him, and Kotetsu looked up into the laughing eyes of his partner. Good. If the other man could laugh at him, then it wasn't as bad as all that. Kotetsu smiled around the hand over his mouth, his eyes twinkling as he relaxed. Barnaby just rolled his eyes, and Kotetsu held back a chuckle; his partner would probably hit him if he laughed right now.
Barnaby's face grew serious again, and Kotetsu sobered up. Whatever it was that the blond wanted to tell him had to be important for him to look so grave. "Kotetsu. If you could restore your Hundred Power, back to what it was, would you?" he asked seriously.
Kotetsu froze, his breath lodging itself in his throat as his heartbeat thundered through his ears. He stared at the man in front of him with wide eyes, a sharp pain jolting through him. Was this some kind of cruel joke? According to Ben, a decline couldn't be stopped, much less reversed. And now his partner was telling him that there might be a way to restore it back to what it once was. Was he serious?
"Don't," Barnaby murmured, his hand reaching out and running along Kotetsu's bottom lip. It was only then that the older man felt the sting from where he had bitten his lip in his attempts to not scream at his partner. "I'm serious," Barnaby continued, staring down at the floor, not looking at him now. "We'd have to leave here for a while, go to America, but it can be done. There's a way to restore your Hundred Power. I wouldn't lie about this. Not ever," he swore, earnest eyes finally meeting Kotetsu's shocked ones.
The Hero saw nothing but truth in his partner's eyes, and tears welled up as he allowed himself to hope for the first time since he had learned what was happening to him, that he was losing his powers, for good, he had thought.
"Do you mean that?" he asked, not caring that his voice was hardly louder than a whisper, or that it threatened to crack on him at any moment. Barnaby just nodded, and Kotetsu did something he hadn't allowed himself to do in a long time. Grabbing his partner, Kotetsu buried his face in the younger man's shoulder and just held him tightly, his body shaking with suppressed sobs. Slender, strong arms wrapped themselves around his shoulder, and a gentle kiss was pressed into his hair as his partner held him.
Barnaby spoke then, his smooth tone soothing. "I've already gotten the go-ahead from our boss to take a two-week vacation. I have flight tickets in reserve, so as soon as you've said your good-byes, we can go, Kotetsu," he said, and the brunette could hear the smile in his tone. There was a serious note hidden underneath, though, and Kotetsu frowned, suddenly worried as the questions settled in. If his Hundred Power could be restored, then why hadn't it been done before? Was it new, untested technology, which would be the most reasonable explanation? Or was it just so rare that Mr. Legend hadn't known about it? Or – and this was the most worrisome theory – was it only the Hundred Power that could be restored? And if that was the case, then why? Why just one?
"You're thinking about this too much," Barnaby stated reprovingly, looking down at his partner. Kotetsu just blinked, then flushed lightly; he did have a tendency to overthink things when they seemed too good to be true. It wasn't that he always expected the worst or anything. He just never expected miracles to actually happen, at least not to him.
He nodded. "You're right," he agreed, sighing. Then he smiled up at his partner, allowing Barnaby to see the hope and joy that he knew was in his eyes. The younger man smiled brightly back down at him, his own happiness momentarily masking the weariness that always seemed to be lurking in his expression.
Kotetsu stood up. "Let me just call Kaede and let her know that I'm going away for two weeks. It shouldn't take too long – she's been telling me that I need a vacation anyhow," he laughed, remembering the exasperation in his daughter's tone when she spoke to him, as if she was the more mature one. Then again, maybe she was, he thought in amusement.
Barnaby nodded. "Very well, then. I will finish arrangements here, and we can catch a flight out tomorrow morning." Kotetsu murmured his agreement, already looking forward to the trip with his partner. With that, the two men went their separate ways to prepare for the oncoming adventure.