He wakes up with half his body hanging off the couch, the TV blasted too loud, the leftovers of his takeout coagulated into a single, greasy mass.
He doesn’t remember what day it is. Or what he did the night before.
Cans of beer rest beside his styrofoam plate. All of them empty.
He feels that heavy discomfort that comes from eating too much too fast and sleeping right after. The burn inside his heart only adds insult to the hammering headache and horrid dry aftertaste of something sickly sweet. As he attempts to shift into a sitting position, everything becomes brighter, grittier, harsher. The voice of an anchorman grates his senses to the smallest nerve until he seriously contemplates throwing the remote through the screen.
In short, he feels like crap.
His cell phone rings, chirping with an incessant demand to be picked up, and he has the urge to throw that too. Except he has everyone’s numbers stored on there, and it’d be a bitch to go hunt them down again. So he crawls over the couch with gritted teeth, until his hands smack against sharp corners and hard wood panels.
The phone doesn’t stop ringing, and it sounds as though it’s right there so why the hell can’t he find it?
He’s about to give up and simply throw his pillow over his head to muffle the sound. The caller had to give up at some point, right?
A few seconds later, silence descends his living room, providing some relief. He collapses back on the couch and rolls over so that he’s face-down.
That’s when he hears a voice that sounds too familiar and almost offensively cheerful:
“Good morning! And good morning again!”
He groans and his leg kicks the cushion before he can suppress the reaction.
“I heard your phone ringing,” Sky High says. “Did you know it was in your jacket?”
Kotetsu opens his mouth to tell the man to shut up, when a logical thought finally strolls over and whacks him upside the head.
He bolts up from the couch and stares at Sky High, who stands in his navy jacket and jeans. The man smiles with radiance and extends his hand to offer Kotetsu his phone.
He continues to stare incredulously.
“What… what are you doing in my house?” he asks.
Sky High tilts his head. It worries Kotetsu that the man’s smile grows politely blank.
“How did you get in?” he asks. He glances at his front door, which is still closed.
“You invited me,” Sky High answers.
It’s Kotetsu’s turn to not comprehend.
“Invite? When? I don’t remember a damn thing except…”
Except the argument.
Kotetsu closes his eyes as unpleasant memories rush through his mind. The sound of Bunny yelling and slamming the locker door echoes, as does the phantoms of a sting on his cheek when his partner decided to slap him after a careless comment.
“Is there something wrong?”
He realizes he’s frowning. Rather than pretend, he decides to channel his bad mood toward Sky High, who’s invading his private space.
“I don’t think this is a good time for me to have a visitor,” he says bluntly. “Sorry.”
Sky High’s expression changes oddly.
“But you’re sad,” he says. “And you said you wanted someone to cheer you up.”
It’s cringe-inducing to hear that. Kotetsu wonders if the embarrassment will scar into his memories, because there’s nothing worse than being told that he had been acting stupid and maudlin and pathetic. If he hadn’t had that fight with Bunny, this would’ve topped the list of dumb things he’s done this week.
He doesn’t want to kick Sky High out when the man’s probably done nothing wrong, but he really can’t deal with having someone here when he needs to sort out other things first.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “But. Uh. Not a good time.”
Sky High stands still, blinking innocently.
“So. Yeah. Thanks for finding my phone,” Kotetsu adds awkwardly.
“You’re welcome!” Sky High doesn’t budge from his spot.
Kotetsu just wants the other Hero to leave so he stands up and tries to be a bit more assertive.
“Hey, do you need a cab? I can call one. Dunno if you live on Bronze, but there’s usually some that go up to Gold Stage around this time.”
The other Hero shakes his head.
“I promised to stay with you all day,” he says. “Promised! So I’ll be here until six.”
Kotetsu’s mouth falls open.
“S-six?! In the evening? And w-what promise I don’t remember a promise – ”
“Promised,” Sky High repeats.
What the hell did he do last night?
Kotetsu wonders if he can get away with pushing Sky High out into the street. But the guy is well-built and has this weirdly determined shine to his eyes that sort of frightens him. It’s the kind of dedication he usually sees directed toward Hero work, which is why Sky High has the reputation that he does. But in this context, it’s unexpected and unnerving.
“Ah! I forgot,” Sky High says. He hands Kotetsu his cell phone before running inside the kitchen. When he reappears, he has something in his arms.
To be exact, he has a giant stuffed tiger.
Kotetsu hugs the tiger as Sky High clears the mess around the coffee table. He buries his head in the crook of the animal’s soft fur and waits.
When the last of the soggy noodles are tossed into a trash bag, he speaks.
“…so basically, you’re telling me you’ll be here all day.”
“Because I asked you to.”
“While I was drunk.”
“Is there anything else I should know about? Did I ask you to buy a stuffed animal too?”
“You wanted something that was cuddly and didn’t have teeth,” Sky High explains. He ties the bag before hauling it over his shoulder. “You said rabbits were out of the question. Maybe because they have really big teeth?”
“They can be a pain,” he grumbles. “So what else did I say?”
Sky High pauses from his cleaning. He looks up at the ceiling in contemplation.
“Hmm… you said you didn’t like drinking alone when you were sad,” Sky High says. “Drinking is supposed to be relaxing and happy.”
Another burn of embarrassment singes between the space formerly known as Kotetsu’s brain.
“So we went out together! And I got you that.” Sky High nods at the tiger on his lap. “This way, even if I’m not here, you can drink and drink but not be alone because you’ll have Little Tiger for company.”
Kotetsu wonders if it’s possible to actually die of embarrassment. He hides his blush by pulling the tiger up to his face.
“I’ll be right back,” Sky High says. “I need to take out the garbage. But I promise to be back really soon!”
Sure enough, the man practically flies out the door and comes back in less than a minute. Kotetsu doesn’t know if he can keep up with such an energetic pace. It makes him tired just seeing Sky High so eager.
“Hey,” he says. “You don’t have to do all of this. Or any of this.”
Sky High picks up a stray can of beer and places it in the recycling bin. Kotetsu doesn’t even recall owning a recycle bin.
“But I like helping you,” Sky High says. “You’re a special person, Mr. Wild.”
“C’mon, let’s stop with this stuff,” he says. He places “Little Tiger” on the seat of the couch and folds his arms across his chest. “It’s getting weird.”
“It doesn’t have to be,” Sky High answers. His smile grows mysterious.
“W-wha… no, seriously, stop that!” Kotetsu’s shoulders hunch defensively as he glowers.
Sky High adds another can to the recyclables.
“Today, I want you to enjoy yourself. Really enjoy it,” Sky High says.
Kotetsu makes a skeptical noise.
“I’d enjoy it if I had some alone time,” he says. “A man needs his privacy after all.”
Sky High picks up stray coins from the carpet and places them on the table.
“That’s not what you said earlier.” He straightens up and gazes directly at Kotetsu with a serious, no nonsense frown, one that tells him Sky High doesn’t like listening to people lie to themselves. “We’re going to see the Legend exhibit in central Sternbild, just as you wished.”
His eyes widen in surprise.
“W-wait, the exhibit? I thought that was opening next week!”
Sky High grins, giving him a wink and a thumbs up.
“They’re having a special opening today,” he says cryptically. “We’ll be going in an hour.”
Kotetsu checks his watch and finds it’s half past nine.
“B-but I don’t even have my camera,” he says. He tries to hide the excitement bubbling in his stomach. “I was supposed to get my broken one replaced this weekend so I could…”
“That’s not a problem.” Sky High points at the freshly polished coffee table.
A brand new camera, the latest design, sits right at the center. Kotetsu isn’t sure how he hadn’t noticed the shiny high-tech object before, since his house is normally devoid of shiny high-tech objects.
“Huh. Guess I don’t have a choice,” he says. He pretends to be reluctant, because he’s not willing to admit Sky High’s managed to cheer him up a little already. No, he won’t give in to the man that easily, especially since he can’t remember telling Sky High anything, or even meeting up with the Hero the night before. And to top it off, it’s not just telling any old thing, but incredibly personal private things, stuff that he wouldn’t admit to most anyone except maybe Bunny if Bunny really wanted to know.
With all that together, he decides the best option is to go along with Sky High’s plans, but to drag his feet the entire time.