The wedding ring was essentially part of him.
Kotetsu was rarely seen without the little silver band encircling his ring finger. It meant a great deal to him; It signified that at one point in his life, he had gained something very precious to be called his, to be part of his life, that he had someone who cared for him as much as he cared for her, and a daughter that he loved.
Likewise, it also symbolised a certain loss, what he once had, and how he refused to let those good memories die if he were to his discard the ring.
Barnaby wondered if Kotetsu would ever be entirely his, and if it was selfish of him to harbour such desire.
"Earth to Bunny, Earth to Bunny."
Kotetsu's voice brought him out of his musings, and Barnaby was back in Kotetsu's living room. The television was on, but only Kotetsu was the one who paid any attention to it. Kotetsu still had his left arm around Barnaby, his hand dangling over his shoulder, and that was the starting point of Barnaby's thoughts.
"Are you all right?" asked Kotetsu, concerned. "You've been awfully quiet, you didn't say anything when I changed the channel."
Barnaby adjusted his glasses. True enough, the television was showing a cheesy soap opera, one that Barnaby would have less tolerance for, and he would've wrestled Kotetsu for the remote control.
"Yes, I'm fine." Barnaby maintained, and took a sip of his milkshake.
Kotetsu did not say anything even if he saw through the lie. The hand that was on Barnaby's shoulder pulled him closer, and he wiped the corner of the younger man's mouth with his thumb.
The ring gleamed in the light with Kotetsu's movement, and Barnaby's eyebrows twitched once.
"Say something, will you?" asked Kotetsu, cautiously this time. "Care to share what's on your mind?"
"Do you still miss her?' asked Barnaby suddenly. He would probably hate himself for bringing up the topic, but he knew how it must have felt to have lost someone close to him. Additionally, his own curiosity was getting the best out of him.
"Tomoe? Every now and then." Kotetsu, thankfully, did not remove his arm from Barnaby, although his tone seemed to relay a certain sadness. "Sometimes I miss her even more when I see Kaede. She's growing up, and she looks more and more like Tomoe, reminding me of her. But we all need to move on, don't we?" He shrugged, as if he was trying to assure himself more than anyone else.
"You still love her."
Kotetsu stiffened, which Barnaby took as an affirmative answer long before the older man actually gave it. "I do, yes."
Barnaby was about to ask further, probably a selfish confirmation as to how he stood in Kotetsu's life, but his speech was muffled when Kotetsu brought his lips over his.
It was a quick one. The next moment Kotetsu was smiling at him, his eyes holding joy and some nostalgia, and whispered, "As much as I love you now."
"I..." Barnaby cleared his throat. "You'd better."
Silence. "You think it's better if I take it off?" asked Kotetsu suddenly.
It was a daring move on his part, and Barnaby was momentarily unsure on how to respond. He could never bring himself to ask Kotetsu to choose between him and Tomoe, because it would not be fair, and Kotetsu would be in pain.
"No," said Barnaby. "It won't do her justice, Kotetsu-san. She has contributed a lot in your life, encouraging you on, and the result is the you that I have with me now, not just as a partner in this Hero business. So...I owe her too. And Kaede would be devastated if you ever let the memories of her mother go." He brought his hand to Kotetsu's, touching his wedding ring carefully. "I know I wouldn't let go of the toy that my parents gave me, and I know they wouldn't want me to forget them."
Kotetsu was staring at him as Barnaby spoke, his eyes growing wider and heart throbbing. Kotetsu saw how Barnaby could be so understanding, so accepting, even when it could have hurt his own self.
"You know, I still have space for more rings," Kotetsu grinned as he wriggled the fingers that were entwined in Barnaby's, trying to lighten up the mood.
Barnaby smiled slightly and removed the ring that was on his own index finger. He reached for Kotetsu's right hand, and slid the ring into Kotetsu's ring finger. It fit snugly, which was fortunate for both of them. Kotetsu, awed, took a better look at the ring and fiddled with it, chuckling.
"It's temporary," said Barnaby, battling a furious blush that was dangerously heating his cheeks, "until we get a more permanent replacement."
"Bunny, you sure about this? Like, absolutely certain?" asked Kotetsu, amazed and nervous at the same time. "This is as good as a proposal."
"Naturally. I do love you, Kotetsu-san."
The other man smiled wistfully, still fixated on Barnaby's ring. "I know."
"You're not just going to play with your fingers all night long, are you, Kotetsu-san?" Barnaby leaned closer, resting his head in the crook of Kotetsu's own shoulder to hide an incoming smirk, and he grew mesmerised with Kotetsu's heart that seemed to beat against his chest.
'Mine,' Barnaby sighed in content as he rested a hand on his chest, and Kotetsu's arm embraced him tightly.
Kotetsu was a man with a big heart; Big enough for him, for Tomoe, and for all the citizens that Kotetsu had vowed to protect.
-- end --