Title: In a Nutshell
Word Count: 6532
Pairing: Kotetsu/Barnanby, Other hinted pairings? You decide.
Topic: Prompt fic, One Shot
Type: Post Series
Genre: Romance, Drama
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Tiger and Bunny. Tiger and Bunny belong to Sunrise and their respective creators.
VTM: Deanoning this from the T&B Anon Meme.
-0 Months (How It All Began)-
Kotetsu was on cloud nine, possibly in part because he was more than a little tipsy. He and Barnaby were at his place, sharing drinks and celebrating reuniting as partners, even if they were now both knocked down to the second league. It had been about a year since they had a chance to do something like this, just spend time together. They talked about how they spent their time away from Sternbild, Barnaby talked about his travels, Kotetsu talked about his time with his family and hometown. There were a lot of laughs and some tears (mostly from Kotetsu), both partners happy to just be with each other again.
As the night went on, the mood started to change, Barnaby became quieter as he lamented about some of the soul searching he did before he came back to Sternbild. Kotetsu seemed to be growing bolder, but holding back something that seemed to be on his mind. He listened to Barnaby the best he could, but there seemed to be something on the tip of his tongue that he wanted to say.
"Is something wrong, Kotetsu?" Barnaby suddenly asked, taking Kotetsu off guard.
"A-ah, well not really, it's nothing important..." Kotetsu started to say. His eyes met with Barnaby's, he could tell that the younger man didn't buy it for a second. "Well, there is something, but I'm not sure if you would really want to hear it from a silly old man like me."
"Try me, after everything I've been through, it'd take a lot to faze me." Barnaby said with a small smile.
Kotetsu gave a short laugh. "Well, I hope that's true..."
-1 Month Later (Getting Used To Something New)-
It was a little difficult sometimes, believing that they were actually going out together. While on the job and in the office you could never tell, the two managed to stay professional at work and around the other heroes. It wasn't that hard, surprisingly, but it was in part because Barnaby seemed to retreat a little in a way, keeping Kotetsu at arm's length a first.
It was understandable, Barnaby had been through a lot with his experience with Maverick, he trusted the man like a father, and in the end he was betrayed. Letting people get so close to him, being intimate, it must have been a scary prospect with all that's happened. Just the idea that someone that you could love so much and trusted would turn around and betray you, it was terrifying.
Kotetsu wasn't going to push anything with him; they would go at the pace that Barnaby was comfortable with. However, there were times where he would slip in a small "I love you" now and then, sometimes when they finished talking whether it was in person or over the phone, or if it was in a text message. Kotetsu used it sparingly, not wanting to push things, but he thought it would be nice if Barnaby had a little reminder now and then that someone did love him.
He hoped that when Barnaby was good and ready, he would be able to say "I love you" back. Until then, Kotetsu didn't mind that things were the way they were.
There first time together was awkward, for lack of a better word. It was a surprise to Kotetsu when Barnaby had brought up the subject. It left Kotetsu feeling nervous and self conscious, it worried him, sometimes it was the gap between their ages, or the lack of scars on Barnaby compared to Kotetsu's own battle worn body.
Barnaby liked to experiment, he seemed to enjoy binding Kotetsu and watching him squirm and struggle as he played with him. He found the noises that the older man made were cute in a way, a chill would rush up his spine whenever Kotetsu said his name when he had him writhing under him. He loved the way Kotetsu's eyes seemed to have a sort of light to them, and how they looked so endearing on him as he said things like "I love you". Barnaby wanted more and he wanted to keep these little pleasures of his partner all to himself.
-3 Months Later (The Seeds Of Doubt)-
"Look this way and put your arm around her waist and move in a little closer!" the Photographer ordered.
Barnaby and the model did as they were told; they were participating in romantically themed photo shoot. Barnaby was well dressed in casually worn suit, while the model was dressed in a white flowing gown. They were set up to look like they had strayed from a fancy party to have a little "naughty" fun together, away from prying eyes of other guests.
"Now move in closer like you two are about to kiss. Francine, try to look a little flirtier; hold a finger to his lips like you're teasing him." Flashes from the cameras went off catching image after image of posed intimacy.
It wasn't that Kotetsu resented Barnaby's youth or good looks, but it was times like this that he'd wish Barnaby wasn't as good looking as he did. Even with being in the second league, their company had Barnaby model and participate in all sorts of events like this to cash in on him. Kotetsu would sit out on the sidelines, stuck watching as they went on. It was to the point where Kotetsu would have preferred just staying at the office and doing paperwork. Did he really need to be here?
That was it; Kotetsu promptly got out of his chair and left the room, he'd wait for Barnaby in the hall. He just didn't need to sit around and watch this. The hallway of the floor they were on had large windows that gave a good view of the city. Kotetsu tried to concentrate on the view, but even that couldn't give him much peace of mind given that he could see plenty of advertisements of Barnaby on billboards and buildings. His return to the hero business had excited quite a lot of people and had caused him to reemerge as the "it boy" of the hero industry. Maybe Kotetsu did resent Barnaby's looks and youth, just a little.
"Hey old man..."
Kotetsu jumped slightly and looked over his shoulder; he spotted Barnaby dressed in his normal clothes again. "Ah, hey there Bunny, the shoot's over now?"
"It's "Barnaby", not "Bunny". And yes, Lloyds said that we can head home for the day."
"Ah, that's good; I can catch up on a little sleep then!" Kotetsu said with a grin, trying to push the thoughts he had before to the back of his mind.
"Actually, I was wondering if you'd like to come with me to my place." Barnaby began; there was a subtle hinting in his words that caught Kotetsu's attention. They both started to make their way down the hall and stopped in front of a nearby elevator.
They were both silent for a while as they waited for the elevator to arrive.
"Is there something that you wanted to say, Old Man?" Barnaby asked.
"Not really." Kotetsu scratched the back of his head; he could feel Barnaby's forest green eyes on him. It only served to make him feel a little nervous, and even a little guilty. "Well, maybe..."
"What is it?"
"Bunny..." Kotetsu felt a little ridiculous, he couldn't help but think about how he was when he and Tomoe went out when they were young and in love. He'd ask Tomoe the same question now and then, when he needed reassurance. Even if Kotetsu already knew the answer, just actually hearing it once in a while was enough to put his mind at ease. "Do you love me?" Kotetsu asked while giving a small smile.
Barnaby looked a little confused for a moment. He was used to Kotetsu telling him that he loved him; he never really pressured him to say such things to him in return. "Why are you asking such weird questions?"
"You think it's weird?" Kotetsu's smile faded a little, he could feel his own face heat up as he blushed a little from embarrassment.
"Well, yes, to be honest, it's a little silly to hear from a grown man." Barnaby said simply.
Right then a soft "ding" announced the arrival of the elevator, catching both men's attention. The ride down was a quiet one. Kotetsu couldn't bring himself to look at Barnaby during the elevator ride, he felt a little silly for even asking. Kotetsu already knew the answer, but still, actually hearing it would have been better. Maybe he was just a little too old fashioned.
-5 Months Later (Bunny Always Knows Best)-
"Wow, you're Wild Tiger?" a woman said with a smile, she seemed a little nervous, like she was a little excited.
"Yes?" Kotetsu frowned slightly; her face looked familiar for some reason. It wasn't too long before it clicked; the girl was an actress that he had seen in movies. It wasn't too surprising to see a person like her at one of these gatherings, but usually actresses and other socialites wanted to talk with someone more sophisticated like Barnaby.
The actress smiled, she was very pretty, a "natural beauty" with long hair. "I never really thought I'd get to meet you face to face one day. I used to watch you on HeroTV all the time when I was just a schoolgirl."
"Ah, I...I see..." Kotetsu said with an uncomfortable laugh. He couldn't help but feel older than he really was, and in front of a woman like this, it made feel a little more uncomfortable. He didn't dislike her, but it felt a little odd for a woman like her to be talking to someone as "unrefined" as him.
"Oh, I'm sorry if I seem a little rude; you see, you've been my favorite hero for years." the woman admitted. She then pushed some stray strands of hair back behind her ear. "I'm glad that you're still doing hero work. You saved my mother once and I've always been grateful for that. I guess I was just a little excited..."
"Oh? Really?" Kotetsu said as he scratched the back of his head.
"Yeah, it was a hostage situation on the Silver Stage..." the actress began to explain. She then went on into a story of the event.
It didn't take too long for Barnaby to spot the guest and Kotetsu talking. To the blonde's surprise, he could see Kotetsu smiling and blushing, he seemed flattered. What was she saying to him? Barnaby couldn't help but frown as his thoughts wandered into the possibilities. Kotetsu had an ego, that was for sure, and that woman was probably pressing all the right buttons if he was smiling like a fool like that.
"Yes! I do remember that! So that was your mom, huh? She was a really brave woman..." Kotetsu said as he thought back on the incident.
This time it was the woman's turn to blush. "Thank you, I'm glad that you remember..." she said happily. "I'm glad I got a chance to meet you, you are a great hero, Wild Tiger."
Kotetsu gave a weary smile; he'd be lying if he didn't say it felt good to hear that. Sometimes it was a little easy to forget that he was a capable hero on his own. Or he was, given his power loss. Kotetsu's mood visibly got gloomier as his thoughts lingered on that fact.
"Mr. Wild Tiger?" The woman said suddenly, her voice was laced with concern. "Are you okay? I didn't say something to upset you, did I?"
Kotetsu shook his head and tried to laugh off the thought. "No, no, I just got caught up in my own thoughts, just typical old man stuff..."
"Old man?" The woman said with a blink, she seemed a little confused.
"Ah, yeah, I'm not exactly young anymore, you know?" Kotetsu said with a weary laugh.
"Oh, I guess I can see where you're coming from, the hero business I suppose is similar to the entertainment industry, huh?" the woman said thoughtfully. The actress then gave a sheepish smile. "I know I have been told that I'm getting up there in years too."
Kotetsu just looked at her bewildered. "What are you talking about? You're not old at all!"
The woman couldn't help but laugh. "Yes, I'm aware of that, but in the industry's eyes I'm not exactly a "Spring chicken", if you catch my drift. I'm in my late twenties and the industry loves its teeny boppers and young college kids."
Kotetsu was quiet for a moment; her situation was a little similar to his in a way. It felt good in a way, as bad as it may have sounded, but Kotetsu felt a little less alone. Soon he realized that the woman was smiling at him in a way that it seemed like she knew that he felt a little more at ease.
"Say..." she said suddenly, she paused a moment as if she were trying to build up courage to continue. "If you're not too busy, this week, would you like to go out for coffee sometime?"
"Huh?" Kotetsu gave a confused blink; he wasn't expecting to be asked out.
"I-it's not a date! Sorry if that seemed a little too weird. I meant just a friendly lunch!" the actress said as she gave a nervous laugh, clearly a bit flustered. "I'm sorry..."
"Sure, I don't see why not." Kotetsu said with a smile. He wasn't fully sure why he had agreed; maybe he just enjoyed chatting with her.
The woman practically beamed and the two of them went on to exchange numbers on their cell phones. The actress then left, but not before making a promise to call Kotetsu when she could to set up plans.
"What were you two doing?" said a familiar voice that practically whispered in Kotetsu's ear, causing the veteran hero to jump.
"Geeze! What the hell?!" Kotetsu settled down when he noticed that it was just Barnaby. Though, he felt his stomach churn at the sight of the apprehensive look that the blonde was giving him. "Bunny, what's wrong? You look angry..."
"It's Barnaby, not "Bunny" old man." Barnaby said in an annoyed tone, he then grabbed Kotetsu by the arm and took his aside from the rest of the guests, where there would be no prying eyes or ears. "I can't leave you alone for even a few minutes, can I? I didn't take you as the type that really liked to flirt."
"What are you talking about? We were just talking, she was a fan." Kotetsu explained.
"Sometimes you really are hopeless, old man." Barnaby said with a sigh. Honestly, hadn't the man noticed that the woman seemed all a flutter?
'Great, here we go again.' Kotetsu only gave a short sigh in response.
"What? Do you have something to say?" Barnaby said as he frowned a little. "Then say it, I thought that we were going to be more honest with each other?"
'Oh sure, when it's more convenient for you.' Kotetsu bit his lip and thought for a moment. He wanted to tell Barnaby how he felt; that he was being over protective, a little hypocritical even.
After all, Barnaby was the one that usually made Kotetsu a little jealous with the intimate photo shoots he'd have with models, or when he was flirted with or was flirting with others for the cameras. Kotetsu wanted to tell him how silly he was being, but instead he just shook his head.
"It's nothing, I'm just a little cranky from being out so late." Things would get better, he knew they would, there was no reason to stir up anymore trouble. 'I'm probably the one in the wrong on this; after all, everyone knows that Bunny is supposed to be the "smart one", right?' Kotetsu was surprised at how bitter that made him feel. He didn't like it, they were partners, and partners shouldn't feel that way.
"Please be more careful, I don't need you getting yourself seduced by someone that claims to be a "fan" of yours." Barnaby said as he eyed Kotetsu's phone. "And I hope that you'll erase that number..."
That hit a nerve. Kotetsu frowned at the younger hero and shoved his phone into his pocket. "So what are you saying? You make it sound like I can't possibly have fans of my own. I am a hero in my own right too, Barnaby, I've been in this business a lot longer than you have." he reminded the blonde.
"And now we're a duo, and in a relationship, so that changes things, Kotetsu." Barnaby countered. "Why are you being so difficult today?"
"Me?! You're the one that started it!" Kotetsu said as he pointed at the blonde. "We were just talking."
"You were flirting." Barnaby stated point blank. "Old man, you're not very tactful and you are notorious for hiding things. Don't even try to weasel your way out of this one."
Kotetsu bit back all the comments that he wanted to throw right back at the smug brat. Kotetsu would stay quiet, he was just a little angry, he'd cool off and he and Barnaby will be back to normal by tomorrow. Though, Kotetsu was not going to erase that phone number.
-7 Months Later (A Chat Between Friends)-
Kotetsu was sitting with Antonio at the Hero Bar; the two of them shared drinks and talked about their day and occasionally the past. But lately Kotetsu seemed a little off, he was quieter than normal, it was harder for him to keep a conversation going because he kept retreating to his own thoughts, but the biggest giveaway was that Kotetsu would steal glances at his wedding ring when he'd get that quiet, playing with it sometimes by turning between his fingers It had been a growing trend for a while now. Knowing his friend for as long as he did, Antonio could tell that there was something was wrong.
"You seem down lately, are you okay?" Antonio asked. He didn't expect a straight answer with Kotetsu's habit of keeping things bottled up. But Antonio was going to try to press him on it a little, because sometimes friends had to do that for each other.
The question seemed to catch Kotetsu off guard, he looked at Antonio in surprise, the broke eye contact.
Antonio watched as Kotetsu's eye darted away from him, as if he were looking for some sort of answer to give him. It wasn't going to be the full truth if Kotetsu even decided to tell any of the truth at all. "Don't even try bullshitting me."
Kotetsu gave a short laugh and sighed, he took a moment to pick out what to tell him and what to keep to himself. "...Well, you see, I'm seeing someone."
Antonio blinked with surprise, not expecting an answer like that. "That's great! Congratulations, Kotetsu! Is it someone I know?"
"No, not really." Kotetsu lied, wanting to keep some of the details to himself. He wasn't ready to divulge too much information about it just yet. "It hasn't been that long since we started seeing each other, but it's been pretty good. I never really expected that they would have accepted me if I confessed to them."
Antonio could tell that Kotetsu was still holding back, but he wasn't going to push that part of the subject. He couldn't help but smile, seeing his long time friend practically beaming as he talked about how he confessed even if it wasn't all that romantic being a little drunk at the time. But he could also see that Kotetsu's mood eventually changed again "I take it that things aren't perfect, huh? That's to be expected, isn't it?"
"Yeah, I know..." Kotetsu sighed as he looked down at his drink. "We have a lot of good times, I'm not going to lie, the sex is...interesting."
"They're kinky?" Antonio slyly pried. He couldn't help but enjoy seeing this side of his friend. It had been a while since they had talked about such things.
"Oh yeah, they also really have a big sexual appetite." Kotetsu added.
"Kind of like a rabbit?" Antonio asked with an impish grin. It was just a guess, to be honest, but when Kotetsu elbowed him in the side he knew he hit the nail on the head.
"You bastard." Kotetsu grumbled, shooting Antonio a half glare. But he soon calmed down, took a sip from his drink, and sighed. "How did you know?"
Antonio cleared his throat. "Well, we are best friends; I kind of just figured it out..."
"You just took a wild guess?" Kotetsu asked in bluntly.
"Yeah, pretty much." Antonio admitted.
It wasn't long before both men started laughing; Kotetsu's dreary mood seemed all but forgotten. But Antonio wasn't going to let it slide that easily. He remembered how Kotetsu hid his power loss from everyone, ever since the framing and Maverick incidents, Antonio wanted to be a better friend. He didn't want Kotetsu to feel alone anymore. Over the year that Kotetsu spent in retirement Antonio would check in on him now and then either through phone call or visiting. They both promised that they would work at being better friends, especially since Kotetsu was going to trust Kaede to Antonio if anything were to happen to him.
Kotetsu coming back to Sternbild made it a lot easier. The two of them soon went back to going out together, whether it was to grab a drink, a bite to eat, or just fool around. Adults or not, they were still a pair of hoodlums together, they somehow kept each other feeling young and alive.
When they both calmed down Kotetsu was slowly returning to the melancholy mood that haunted him before.
"So what is it that's bothering you?" Antonio asked.
"It's tough sometimes, being in a relationship with Barnaby." Kotetsu finally admitted. "I know some of it is my fault. I'm not the easiest person to get along with, you can vouch for that. But sometimes, he does things that bother me too."
"Have you been talking to him about it?" Antonio asked.
"...No, not really." Kotetsu admitted. He gave a small huff of a sigh as he thought back on some of their past arguments. "We're both stubborn; when we fight no one really wins. Well, Bunny probably wins more often because he's better with words than I am, but then I'll hold a grudge for a while. It usually ends when something else comes up or if we both forget about it."
"That's not a good way to handle it at all, you dummy!" Antonio said with concern. "It doesn't really seem all that healthy, and what kind of example is that going to set for Kaede? Have you even talked to him about Kaede yet?"
"No, not yet, it's still kind of early for that, don't you think? And besides, Barnaby's still young, I'm not sure he'd be ready for talking about kids just yet." Kotetsu explained. "He's still trying to figure out his own issues at the moment; that shit with Maverick really did a number on him."
"I get that, but you're a father, Kotetsu." Antonio pointed out. "It's something that you two are going to have to talk about sooner or later."
"Yeah, I know that..." Kotetsu said somberly, he then finished his drink. "Kaede's getting older; she needs her dad, right? It's unfortunate she's stuck with me." There was a forced laugh with that last part.
Antonio then reached over, wrapped an arm around Kotetsu, pulled him in close, and ruffled the smaller man's hair. "Shut up, you're a good dad."
"Stop it you jackass!" Kotetsu yelled as he tried to squirm out of Antonio's hold.
"Want to take this back to your place?" Antonio suggested with a smirk.
Kotetsu frowned, he knew that he probably should have just said no, but at the same time he would appreciate the company. Him and Tonio could talk more, drink more, and hopefully not wake up in an awkward situation. No way that this could possibly go wrong.
-9 Months Later (Don't Try To Make A Father Choose!)-
"She's my daughter, Barnaby." Kotetsu said in a firm tone. "I want her to come live with me."
"There's not really enough room in my place." Barnaby pointed out.
It was an argument that was becoming more frequent between them. The subject of Kaede coming out to live with Kotetsu in Sternbild. Kotetsu wanted to focus on being a better father, and the NEXT academy could help Kaede get better control of her abilities. However, Kotetsu and Barnaby clashed more on the subject than he thought they would. Usually they'd end the argument or change the subject before things got too heated. However this time Kotetsu was really pressing the issue, the fact was that he was a father first, and this was important to him.
"Then maybe we can get a bigger one for all of us." Kotetsu suggested hopefully. "I mean, it wouldn't be a bad idea would it? We get to pick a place that we'd both like."
"I like my apartment though, and we still live separately." Barnaby reminded him. "You're the one that refuses to completely move in with me."
"Oh come on! You're still hung up on that?" Kotetsu grumbled. "I personally like having more furniture and no offense, but this place is a little too...I don't know, metallic, maybe? It doesn't exactly feel like an actual home to me."
"Then stay at your own place." Barnaby said with a shrug, he felt a little insulted.
"Fine I will, I'll pack my stuff and stay at my own apartment. It's no skin off my nose! I actually like my place." Kotetsu shot back. He knew he was being a little childish, but Barnaby wasn't much better either.
Things have been getting a little shaky in their relationship in recent months and it was steadily getting worse. Sometimes it was Kotetsu's fault, sometimes it was Barnaby's, usually their tiffs ended with them both forgetting about it because of something else or Kotetsu letting Barnaby win. But recently, Kotetsu couldn't help but be more stubborn, he was getting tired of giving in. Like in this argument that involved his daughter, he was not going to budge on it.
"Bunny, do you have a problem with the idea of Kaede living with me?" Kotetsu finally asked. It was a question he avoided for a long time. He didn't want to believe that could be a reason for Barnaby being so unwilling to compromise.
Barnaby didn't answer right away, he wouldn't make eye contact with the older hero either. But after a while, when he noticed amber eyes watching him so intensely, he knew that he couldn't get away from the subject without saying anything. "Yes, I do." he finally admitted.
"Barnaby..." Kotetsu's tone was grave. "Whether you like it or not, I am a father, a future with me would also involve my daughter, end of story."
"And if you had to choose?" Barnaby asked. "What if you had to choose between me and-"
Kotetsu suddenly spoke up, cutting Barnaby off before he could finish. "I'd pick my daughter."
-11 Months Later (The End)-
Things did not get better this time. There were more fights, less intimacy, and it was starting to affect the hero duo's work. There were trust issues and it was starting to show outside of their relationship, people were noticing that both Kotetsu and Barnaby were putting distance between each other. Their diminishing trust became a hot topic amongst tabloids and it was the most noticeable when it almost cost the life of a civilian that they were trying to rescue.
Enough was enough.
Barnaby was a little surprised to get the brief message from Kotetsu.
"Meet me on the balcony at the Apollon building before work today."
It was simple and brief, yet something about it gave Barnaby an odd feeling. Regardless, he did as he was asked. He found Kotetsu waiting for him, leaning against the railing and looking out at the city. Kotetsu seemed a little lost in his own thoughts; he didn't even notice Barnaby had arrived yet.
"I'm here Old Man, what did you want to talk about?" Barnaby called out to him.
Kotetsu looked back at the younger hero and gave a small wave. "Yo Bunny..."
"I got your message, so can we please cut to the chase? What's this about?" Barnaby asked.
"Calm down, it'll all be over soon enough, no need to be so grumpy." Kotetsu said with a sigh. He yawned and scratched the back of his head, he seemed like he didn't get much sleep the night before. "Trust me; this really isn't going that easy for me either."
"What do you mean?" Barnaby asked. He felt a little uneasy now, Barnaby couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something about Kotetsu's manner seemed different somehow.
"Bunny..." Kotetsu then paused, he then corrected himself. "No...Barnaby."
Barnaby had an odd feeling in his stomach at this point; he didn't show his discomfort outwardly. He was always good at keeping up appearances, but the tone in Kotetsu's voice did unnerve him a little. It wasn't threatening, but it was firm and carried with it a certain weight that only a parent knew how to imbue their words with.
"Barnaby, I don't think this is going to work out." Kotetsu finally said; his tone was serious and steady. There was no sign of the foolish old man that Barnaby usually had to deal with. "I think that it'd be best if we break up."
At first Barnaby wasn't sure if he had heard that right, he wasn't sure how to respond. Part of him waited, hoping that maybe Kotetsu would be joking, though a joke that cruel would have been oddly out of character for the man. However Kotetsu just stood there, his eyes locked with Barnaby's, the look on his face not faltering.
"I'm a horrible boyfriend, and to be honest, I think we're a little too different. I'm old fashioned, foolish, and a dad, you're young, very logical, and just starting to really live your own life. It's not exactly the best match." Kotetsu admitted; it looked like it hurt him a little to say such things. "Let's face it, we've been at each other's throats lately, and now it's starting to affect our work."
"What happened was a mistake." Barnaby interjected. "It's not going to happen again!"
"Can you really say that you trust me right now?" Kotetsu said suddenly, his eyes locked with Barnaby's. "We've been fighting more and more and acting less like a team."
"It's happened before and we've still gotten over it." Barnaby pointed out.
"Yeah, but the difference was that before we were able to have more space from each other so we could both cool off." Kotetsu said thoughtfully.
Barnaby had to admit that there was some sense in what Kotetsu was saying. But he wasn't about to let him know that. "Don't be ridiculous, you're jumping to conclusions and rushing in head first as usual. We'll be fine, Kotetsu."
"I mailed your keys back to your place." Kotetsu suddenly spoke up. He started making his way to the stairs that led to the balcony. "If any of my stuff is at your place you can throw it out or I can come back to get it."
"So you're just going to end it? Just like that?" Barnaby huffed; he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Barnaby, you're young, smart, and a capable hero. Do yourself a favor and find somebody more on your level." Kotetsu said while he started to pass by the younger hero with a bittersweet smile. "It probably won't be that hard for you, you are Barnaby Brooks Jr. after all."
Barnaby suddenly grabbed Kotetsu by the arm before he could leave. He wasn't sure what else to do, he couldn't remember being in a break up before. But he didn't want Kotetsu to leave, not like this. He wanted to say so much right then, but he was also stubborn, he couldn't get what he wanted to say out of his mouth. Instead came a tirade of insults and things like "You're right! You were a horrible boyfriend!". Barnaby couldn't even keep track of the verbal abuse that he pelted had Kotetsu with. He just knew that deep down, he didn't really mean it, he was just angry.
Kotetsu waited patiently for Barnaby to finish yelling, it was obvious some of what Barnaby was saying did hurt. But he made not motion to fight back or defend himself. Kotetsu just let Barnaby vent out all his frustrations, he knew he rightfully deserved some of it, and he knew that it was also to be expected. He just hoped that they could still salvage their friendship from this mess, just because they were breaking up as lovers didn't mean that he wanted to break up as friends and partners. But perhaps that was also inevitable as well.
-Epilogue: 16 Months Later (A New Start)-
"Whew! It's nice to have a break after all of that." Kotetsu mused with a smile. Their orders arrived; he gladly took his cup and took a sip of hot chocolate. "Nice save back there, you really got that robber by surprise." Kotetsu added while giving a nod to his partner. "You should consider going back to first league, you know?"
"Please don't start this again, Kotetsu." Barnaby said with a sigh. Though he didn't outwardly show it, he appreciated the praise.
It took a while at first, but the hero duo managed to eventually patch things up, though they did not get back together romantically. Barnaby didn't want to push Kotetsu out of his life and Kotetsu still cared about Barnaby. They still had a connection as close friends and partners; however sometimes there were hints that there were still remnants of something deeper between them.
Once in a while the subject would come up, usually when the two were alone together, maybe after spotting a couple or seeing a romantic add on billboard of broadcast. Kotetsu would do his best to dodge the subject or try to steer it elsewhere, back into safer waters. But sometimes it was harder than to do. Their conversation was innocent enough, it went the hero business and somehow went on to family matters, and finally from there it ended on to the subject of "love".
"I hate to say it, but it was after we broke up that I was actually able to say out loud, that I love you."
"Love? Shouldn't that be "loved"?" Kotetsu said with blink.
"No, I...I still love you." Barnaby admitted. "You were my first love, so I guess that makes it a little hard to let go."
"Is that so?" Kotetsu said with a hint of weariness, he didn't like where this was going. Kotetsu then took a sip of his coffee and looked away from Barnaby.
There was a period of silence between them for a while, then finally Barnaby spoke up again. "How do you feel about it?"
"What's that?" Kotetsu said, acting as though he had suddenly become hard of hearing.
"I said that I'm still in love with you." Barnaby clarified. "If you still feel the same, maybe we could try again?"
Kotetsu was quiet for a while; he gave a sad smile and shook his head. "I'm sorry Bunny, I can't."
"So, your feelings really have changed that much?" Barnaby asked; feeling a little saddened by the answer.
Kotetsu took another sip of his coffee, sighed, and continued on. "Don't get me wrong, I do love you, Bunny..."
"Then why won't you try again with me?" Barnaby asked.
"I think it's because I love you that I can't really bring myself to do that." Kotetsu began. "I do love you, but I'm not even sure if it's anything romantic anymore. Maybe it's become something else. I care about you a lot, Barnaby. But being in a relationship with you, I'm not going to lie, it was pretty stressful." Kotetsu then paused a moment to give the words time to sink in, and to think of the best way to continue on. "I started to resent you and I hated myself for that."
"You resented me?" It hurt hearing such a thing. Barnaby had no idea that was how Kotetsu had felt.
But then again, it was just like Kotetsu to be like that. Sometimes it was easy to forget that the man was an adult, with his own feelings, thoughts, and that he had his limits. Even if he put on a smiling face or put up a silly act, even if he kept forgiving, that didn't mean that things were really okay.
"I don't want to resent you; you're my partner and my friend." Kotetsu had a weary smile on his face. "That's why I broke up with you, if we had kept going, I don't think I could have kept working with you."
There was a moment of silence between them. Neither seemed really sure what to say or to think.
"I'm sorry." Barnaby said finally.
"To be fair, it was my fault too, Bunny." Kotetsu admitted before he took another sip of his coffee. "I should have been more honest with you; I should have tried harder to talk more. I'm just as much to blame for it happening. But let's move on, okay?"
The two of them were quiet for a while, neither really sure where to go on such a conversation. Kotetsu was trying to think up ways how to back track and change the subject. However, Barnaby spoke up before he could.
"I can change, you can change, we could try again and it will be different..." Barnaby suggested; there was a slight tone of hopefulness in his voice. "Are you absolutely certain on this?"
Kotetsu was quiet for a while; he seemed to actually think the prospect over. But he eventually gave a weary smile and shook his head. "I'm happy being your partner, I'm also happy with who I'm with right now. It's true, sometimes things can get a little bitter and my love life is sure as hell less than perfect, but I am happy."
"It makes me wonder who you're with now." Barnaby said with sigh. Truth be told, he had moved on as well, and though Kotetsu would pester him for the details, Barnaby wasn't going to tell him who.
"That's a s-e-c-r-e-t!" Kotetsu said with a smile and wink.
"It's always secrets with you." Barnaby mused with a half smile. "Is it that actress that was so smitten with you?"
Kotetsu laughed. "No, she's a nice enough girl though; we chat from time to time."
"I see..." Barnaby said with a small laugh. He took a sip from his drink and seemed to be thinking things over for a moment. "What if I were to tell you that I won't let you go? That I'd keep perusing you, like a hunter tracking an elusive tiger?"
"What was that?" Kotetsu couldn't help but laugh, and here Barnaby would tell him that he was the one that said corny things. He could also hear the secret challenge in that statement. "I'd say that you'd be wasting your time."
Barnaby took Kotetsu's hand into his, lifted it up to his lips, and planted a kiss on it. Looking up he could see Kotetsu looking away from him, he could make out hints of the man blushing. "We'll see about that."
Kotetsu smirked and took his hand away from Barnaby's hold. Like hell he'd let him think it was going to be that easy.