( i ended up way busier than i thought i'd be so this first part is a sad case of so many words, so little action. things should build up faster after this though.... hopefully. /mental mantra of "i think i can, i think i can" !! )
To say that it had been a bad week would be an understatement, something Fire Emblem quickly realized when his sweet, innocent little purr of a question received him nothing but a hardened, displeased gaze from one Barnaby Brooks Jr. But, Fire Emblem could compete with any sort of heat, even the firey intensity of the glare Barnaby was giving him (not to mention it proved to be more exciting than intimidating. The junior hero could be so cute and feisty sometimes) and so the only reaction he gave was a bat of his eyelashes and a sigh, finely manicured nails fiddling around with the straw of his drink.
"Should I ask for details?"
Barnaby's glare faltered only for a second, probably because he realized that if he wished for his eccentric co-worker to leave him alone then he'd most likely have to right out say it, but instead his eyes fell down over the dark wood of the counter in front of them, seemingly oblivious to the martini that had been ordered for him. "I'm sure it's nothing you don't already know about."
Which was true, as right on time the televisions in the lounge sprang to life and as Fire Emblem craned his head to glance over Barnaby's shoulder, he watched quietly as the recap of the Hero TV broadcast from earlier that day was displayed with a rather... unkind commentary following along. It was just one of many blunders that had been commented on in the last few days, what appeared to be a long running losing streak for both Tiger and Barnaby. At first, it was easy enough to brush it off as a simple mistake, some bad timing. So they had come in a minute after that bank robbery had been taken care of, no problem! There was always another day! And when that day came by, just about as badly as the first with the two of them tripping over their feet before managing to catch up to arrest a car thief, then it was simply some rusty luck, and that the day after that would surely be better!
Except it wasn't. Neither was the day after that, or the day after that one. And the day after that. And, as if having their failings as heroes broadcasted for the entire judgmental world to see wasn't enough, that bad luck of theirs had started to slip into their normal, daily lives. Late interviews, spilled coffee, gum popped into his hair, tripping over empty bottles. Still, it was just bad luck, that was all it could be, or at least it was what Agnes had insisted on explaining it as in public when behind the scenes she was cutting into Kotetsu and Barnaby with tooth and nail, demanding how in the world she was going to make up for a continuous stream of low ratings. As if it wasn't bad enough that Lloyds was taking them off of active duty more and more and placing them on-call to keep their embarrassments from ruining the company's reputation, something that didn't happen to make Kotetsu's sour mood any better.
But that was the key, Kotetsu himself, because the more Barnaby thought back on those moments (which he tended to not do unless absolutely necessary, as all it really ever did was make him want to bury his face into his hands and never come back out), the more it seemed as if it wasn't just some invisible, unspeakable, uncontrollable force that had been causing them all this agony for the past week. No, Barnaby knew who to blame. It was Kotetsu. Kotetsu did this.
Kotetsu forced him to make a left instead of a right in order to get to that bank robbery first, Kotetsu's leg tripped him over while trying to get ahead of him to catch that car thief. Those late interviews? Kotetsu rambling to him and making him forget their schedule for the day. The spilled coffee? Kotetsu running down the hallway when it had clearly just been mopped. Gum in his hair? Kotetsu leaning in far too close while trying to beg Barnaby to do half of his paperwork for the day. Tripping on empty bottles? Kotetsu's inability to keep his apartment clean for longer than three days.
Barnaby didn't even want to think about the horrible, terrible things that had been happening to them in bed... not that he could even accurately say it had all happened in bed, since the last time they'd been able to actually get that far (four days ago), Kotetsu had been about to pull him down for a kiss— and then subsequently sneezed in his face.
And there were other things, much, much, much worse than that. Things he would take with him to his grave.
"—Handsome? Are you listening to me?"
Barnaby was snapped out of his hideous and enraging thoughts by a gentle tap at his shoulder, and when he looked over, the stem of his martini was gripped in-between Nathan's slim fingers. "Are you going to drink this or not?"
With a heavy sigh and a hand run through his hair (which immediately stopped when Barnaby reached the small patch of curls that was shorter than the rest, where Kotetsu had tried to cut the gum out on his own with a pair of scissors), Barnaby shook his head and stood from the bar stool, reaching into his pocket and at least pulling out enough money to pay for the drink. Even if he couldn't fully appreciate his co-worker's hospitality and company, he could still thank him this way.
"No, and I'm sorry, but I'm not really in the mood for idle talk at the moment. Maybe another time."
Nathan stared at him with lidded, contemplative eyes, and even under all the mascara and eye shadow, the look he gave Barnaby was more than a little chilling, enough to cause him to stop in his tracks.
"Barnaby." Nathan spoke up after a quick sip of the alcoholic drink, setting it down on a coaster that was offered before turning to face Barnaby fully. "Don't do anything too hasty. That's Tiger's job after all."
As amusing as the comment was, all it seemed to do was fuel Barnaby's irritation, but he offered Nathan a fake assuring smile and a laugh before walking off. "I'm not one to fall to my partner's sort of impulses so easily. There's no need to worry."
He had plenty of other things to worry about, like whether he'd end up chipping a tooth or breaking a leg the next day. Things were just bound to get worse before they ever got better. At least the predictability of those annoying mishaps were a lot easier to figure out with Kotetsu associated to them, as the second Barnaby stepped out of the bar and felt the vibration of his phone in his pocket, a pigeon felt the need to fly right over his head and relieve itself on his shoulder.
"Someone's ears were burning." Barnaby hissed out between grit teeth as he yanked his phone out and went to work on removing his jacket first, shivering at the rush of cold that hit him. If he got a flat tire while driving home that night then he was just going to get himself a hotel and stay there for the night, just to keep himself from getting into any worse mishaps.
Flipping the phone open, Barnaby had been sure that Kotetsu decided not to wait any longer and simply hung up the line, but he was proven wrong with a loud, overly chipper voice on the other end.
"Bunny! Took you long enough. You busy? Did I interrupt opera hour?"
If only he could just answer with a roll of his eyes, but that didn't translate very well into spoken words, so Barnaby only sighed and started the short walk to his car. "You're not interrupting anything. What do you want?"
He could practically see Kotetsu's pout on the other end. "That's a little harsh, isn't it? I'm just calling to see how you're doing, that's all!"
"You saw me earlier today. I'm no different than I was then."
"But that was still a while ago!"
"Then I change my response. What do you want that doesn't have to do with asking how I'm doing?"
"Now you're just being cheeky." He was more than okay with being nonexistent in the conversation unless Kotetsu spit out whatever in the world he was calling about.
"Okay, okay, I'll get to the point! I thought you'd get the message, we've done this enough times."
"Message? ...I don't understand."
"Seriously? You sure I'm not bothering you? I can just—"
"You're not interrupting anything, and being this vague isn't a very endearing trait, now what do you want?" Barnaby hadn't realized how harsh his response had sounded until he'd caught the reflection of himself
"I'm sorry, Kotetsu. I didn't mean to snap at you. It's just, been a long day. I'm tired."
Kotetsu went silent for a while, enough to crumble Barnaby's anger into tiny bits and pieces of nothing. The past week was driving him crazy, but even if he still held his bitter opinion that perhaps it was all Kotetsu's doing, all it really was in the end was empty frustrations clinging to some sort of outlet. This wasn't Kotetsu's fault, nothing he could control, and so Barnaby had no reason to lash out at him like his ulterior motive was to make Barnaby's life hell.
"Nah, it's fine. I figured that much. 's why I wanted to say you should come over to my place."
'Absolutely not.' Was Barnaby's initial response, but after closing his eyes and taking in a steady breath of cool air, he reached into his pocket for his keys, opening the driver side door and slipping inside.
"All right, I can be there in about an hour."
"Eh? Really? That easy? We're not gonna argue about it or anything?"
There was only the slightest hint of a smirk in Barnaby's voice. "Would you like us to?"
"After that weird little tantrum you just gave me? Thanks but no thanks."
Then quickly enough, the smirk was gone. "It wasn't a tantrum, I told you, I've just been under a lot of stress. Listen, I'll be there soon."
Barnaby didn't know whether to bang his head against the steering wheel or laugh. Maybe both. Of course in the end, he chose neither.
"I do, yes."
"...hold out your pinky."
"Kotetsu!" Except the laughter came, though it was from Kotetsu instead. A loud, airy, warm, obnoxious kind of laugh, the type that made Barnaby's knees go weak and caused his stomach to flutter in odd, concerning ways. He couldn't find it in him to have a biting comeback to that sort of dirty trick, and so Barnaby ended the call and set his phone as well as his jacket onto the passenger seat. While driving toward Kotetsu's apartment, he noticed his phone vibrate once more, but instead of a missed call waiting for him when he arrived there, Barnaby only found a single text message:
Maybe that bad luck they'd been plagued with was finally running out.
A fleeting thought when Barnaby arrived a block away from Kotetsu's apartment complex and heard the pop! hisss of his tire being punctured. Damn everything.
( suddenly realized one of the sentences in the first part was unfinished. good job me?! if this part gets messed up too then i'm sure i've accidentally given myself bad luck with this fill )
If there was anything Kotetsu knew Barnaby as, it was the definition of punctual, which was both a godsend and a curse to deal with. As handy as it could be to have a partner who was sure to keep the two of them prepared at any moment, it wasn't exactly the most enjoyable thing when Kotetsu was being urged to keep up with some imaginary timer ticking away the moments of his life. Why couldn't he ever spend an extra few minutes slowly enjoying a delicious ham and extra mayo sandwich? Or take a little time with a shortcut to explore a part of the city they hadn't been through together? Worst of all, what was wrong with sleeping in for a while and enjoying some kissing and cuddling in the morning before heading out for work? Criminals were never usually active at 6 in the morning. Hell, he was never active that early in the morning (which Barnaby had told him was a bad excuse but he didn't care, because crime wasn't meant to be an issue when Kotetsu was half-awake), but all his complaints and whining and clinging to Barnaby's arms and legs never usually got him much aside from a begrudging peck on the cheek, but those were few and far between.
So the second the hour passed for Barnaby's supposed arrival at his apartment, Kotetsu quickly made his way down from the bedroom after his quick shower and began his expectant wait in the living room. When he looked over at the door, there were no footsteps or click of the doorknob.
Huh. Maybe he was just a little held up then. Turning on the television, Kotetsu lowered the volume enough so he'd be able to keep his attention open for possible blonds making their way to his front door and continued his patient wait.
Five minutes later, nothing. Ten minutes later, more nothing. Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five...
'Maybe he really was busy.' Kotetsu thought mournfully as he chewed away at a piece of toast he'd made for himself after getting hungry. Once it was finished, he stood and wiped his hands clean of crumbs, heading over to the kitchen to retrieve his phone and see about giving Barnaby a call or another text. After thinking about the decision for a while, Kotetsu finally gave in and sent Barnaby a text asking where he was. A few seconds later, he got a response.
Kotetsu's eyes widened slightly as he read over the text before sending another back, telling Barnaby he'd wait for him outside. Tucking the phone away in his pocket, he walked over to the front door and stepped out, immediately shivering as the cold air hit him in only a buttoned-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his regular slacks. It hadn't been this cold earlier.
He only managed to wait five minutes until the numbing chill was too much to handle, and Kotetsu went back inside to retrieve a jacket. Thankfully, once he finally ended up outside again and had been about to pull it on, he had been just in time to catch sight of a person walking down the sidewalk with very noticeably curled hair. Immediately the cold was the last thing on his mind as Kotetsu dashed down the steps and ran as not impatiently as he could manage (which wasn't very much) toward his partner... except the second he noticed he wasn't wearing that leather jacket of his, Kotetsu actually upped his pace into a sprint, stopping a foot away from Barnaby and keeping his concerned voice to a low hush. They didn't exactly need anyone else in the neighborhood knowing Barnaby Brooks Jr. was having himself a casual stroll.
"Bunny, aren't you cold? Where's your jacket..." Kotetsu's words fell on deaf ears, or at least it was what he assumed, since the second he started speaking to Barnaby his partner didn't so much as offer him a glance as he just made his way past him and continued walking toward the apartment complex. A part of Kotetsu bristled at being ignored but he figured that what with Barnaby's so-called stress, having to walk to his place in such cold temperatures was bound to make anyone grumpy.
Didn't mean he appreciated being brushed off but an argument was the last thing on his mind at the moment.
"Bunny, wait! Here, just take this."
His jacket was removed and quickly draped over Barnaby's shoulders, Kotetsu's hands rubbing over the fabric to smooth it over his shivering form more, though when he noticed he actually was cold enough to be shivering he started to push Barnaby along to quicken his pace, eventually passing right by him to open the door and urge him inside.
"Where'd your car even stop at? Looks like you had to walk pretty far to get here. I'll make you some tea, hopefully that'll help a little more than that flimsy thing. If you were really far then you should've called me so I could pick you up."
Again, Kotetsu's rambled words got absolutely no reaction from the blond aside from a heavy sigh, though he at least seemed to be aware enough of what was happening by reaching his hands up to tug the jacket more securely over his shoulders.
Okay then, no talking. Whatever, he could deal with that for a while. All that was important was getting Barnaby nice and warm as soon as possible, so once the two of them were inside the apartment, Kotetsu hurriedly went over to the kitchen to get to work on Barnaby's tea, calling over to his companion for the night as he made his way over to the living room.
"Just take a seat and I'll be done in a few minutes! If you wanna get a blanket or something then you know where they are."
All Kotetsu received in response that time around was a weak wave of Barnaby's hand, either agreeing or dismissing, he had no idea, but he didn't care because at least it meant he was actually listening to him.
Barnaby had unceremoniously plopped himself down into the couch with an exhausted sigh, still lightly shivering but hardly as much as he'd been doing during his lengthy walk. In fact, he had most definitely heard everything Kotetsu had told him, but he'd been too preoccupied with keeping his temper in check to bite out a response that he was sure Kotetsu wouldn't appreciate. Bad luck, it was just a lot of bad luck. Nothing he could do about it so it was best that he kept quiet and allowed Kotetsu to care for him and not wait for the springs on the couch to give way under him.
It was exactly why Barnaby didn't tense up when he heard a concerning squeak underneath him. Stupid outdated couch, don't you dare, don't you even think about it.
When Barnaby allowed his eyelids to close out of his physical but mainly emotional exhaustion, he didn't expect himself to actually doze off until he felt a firm, insistent hand patting away at his shoulder, and when he opened his eyes again all he saw was Kotetsu's amused gaze fixed on him, holding out a cup of something very, very warm, if the steam drifting from the top was enough of an indication.
"Tired? Usually you can handle running a couple of blocks without a sweat, what's got you so worn out this time around?"
There was a quiet uncharacteristic grumble from Barnaby's end as he fought between unwrapping his arms from around his warm waist and reaching out for that equally appealing cup of tea. The tea won of course, and as he took a slow, cautionary sip and felt the mild but varied tastes soak his tastebuds, he relaxed against the cushions and sighed again through his nose.
Even if the words weren't exactly directed at him, Kotetsu still found himself more than a little pleased that Barnaby was actually speaking to him now.
"Though you put too much sugar this time around."
...so much for that. Kotetsu reached out a hand to ruffle Barnaby's hair in retaliation before easing his way over to the empty side of the couch, taking a seat himself.
"A little extra sugar is good for you sometimes, especially since you're not too sweet tonight."
Kotetsu grinned as Barnaby snorted but continued sipping away at the drink. Instead of striking up conversation right away, he decided to allow Barnaby time to warm himself up with his tea for a while, flipping through the channels of the television absent-mindedly in the meantime. What exactly had caused his partner's sour mood was still a mystery to him, but with the two of them in the comfort of his apartment, Kotetsu figured it wasn't really worth talking about unless Barnaby wanted to bring it up to him.
Even though some small-talk still would've been nice, and the longer the space around them was filled with only the blabber of skin-care commercials and late night movies from 10 years ago that Kotetsu didn't know about, the more Kotetsu wanted to just offer up something, anything, to get Barnaby's attention. Had he fallen asleep again?
A quick glance over his shoulder proved no such thing as Barnaby stared ahead at the television with rather empty eyes, occasionally taking a sip of the tea but mainly, he was just a miserable sight, once again ignoring Kotetsu, like he wasn't even there.
Okay, he couldn't take it anymore. Possible verbal spat or not, this was ridiculous, and Kotetsu wouldn't allow Barnaby to keep obviously sulking like a miserable child.
Barnaby's shoulders tensed under the jacket, but he didn't bother turning in Kotetsu's direction to answer.
"Give me whatever kind of offer you want, I'm not buyin' it."
"It's nothing, honestly. Just stress."
"Aha! Then that's not really nothing!"
Green eyes narrowed slightly. "You're going to keep pestering me until I give you details, aren't you?"
As much as he couldn't stand Barnaby's weird, bristly attitude, Kotetsu knew that as long as he put up with it and kept pushing, he was sure to get his way somehow. Collateral would be an issue but, hey, no one ever said he didn't take risks.
"Yup! C'mon, just tell me already. If it's just about your car then I can understand that, but you're here now, and you can fix it tomorrow morning. It's like, a non-issue at this point." At least it was what Kotetsu assumed it was. Flat tires were always something reasonable to get upset about, but Barnaby had been acting as if the whole thing had broken down in the middle of the street and he'd stopped miles of traffic behind him in the middle of a rainstorm. Kotetsu scooted in a little closer and draped his arm over the back of the couch, fingers tapping away the seconds it took for Barnaby to succumb to his curiosity and spill the beans on whatever he'd been fuming about that whole day.
But, none of it proved to do anything except make Barnaby think that coming over had been a bad idea. He didn't want to talk about how he felt, because he knew there was no point of it and he was sure that letting Kotetsu know that he was essentially annoyed at everything, most of all him, would surely get him some disapproving looks. Maybe it was the tea, or Kotetsu's looming figure next to him, or the boring background noise of the television, or the jacket with Kotetsu's cologne all over it, slipping through his senses and lulling him into a false sense of security. Whatever it was, it did the trick, because Barnaby had given up somewhat and after setting his cup down onto the coffee table, he removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Like I told you, it's just stress."
"Stress from what?"
Oh, if looks could kill, the one hiding behind his tightly shut eyes would do Kotetsu in over a hundred times. It was good enough reasoning to not look at the man next to him at least, not just yet.
Kotetsu blinked, straightening up and giving a quiet contemplative hum as he tried to figure out what sort of work-related thing they'd dealt with that could bother Barnaby this much— ...oh.
"You mad about what happened today?"
"Not just today, what has been happening lately."
"Aah, all that stuff." Pulling his arm away from the couch, Kotetsu rubbed at the back of his neck and huffed out an awkward laugh. "Really? You're mad about all that? I mean, not that it's that much of a surprise, I've been kinda ticked off about it too. Also getting fed up with how everyone thinks it's our fault when I know for a fact that it isn't! But, you're mad enough to not talk to me?"
"If you mean earlier when I arrived here, it... it wasn't just that."
'It's more things than I could even count, how can you be so dense and not know?'
Kotetsu leaned in closer to try and get a better look of Barnaby's face, and when Barnaby felt the shift of weight on the couch, he turned away further.
"Sooo, it was all that and the flat tire? Or more than just that?"
'It was you, obviously.'
The presence next to him was so stifling that Barnaby could just shove Kotetsu away. He didn't want to admit that this whole time, he'd been holding a grudge against his partner for things that most likely weren't his doing at all but with his track-record, how could they not be? Kotetsu was clumsy, and reckless, and irresponsible, and just... such an idiot.
'Please stop talking, just stop, you're not helping matters at all and why are you even so close, you're just going to make things worse.'
Barnaby set his glasses down on his lap and rubbed at his temples as subtly as he could, urging himself to calm down. No tantrums, no outbursts, just stay calm. Breathe, relax, everything will be fine, everything will be just fine.
"Does your head hurt? ...here, lemme get you more tea and I'll bring over some aspirin—"
'Shut up already, you stupid old man!'
"No, I'm fine—!"
He hadn't realized how loud or angry his voice had been, but apparently it had been enough so to catch Kotetsu completely unaware and unprepared for it as he'd been startled enough to lose his grip on the cup, allowing it to drop down over Barnaby's boots, the liquid pooling over the sides to soak into the carpet. Barnaby had been about to try and set a hand on Kotetsu's shoulder to keep him from moving over to try and help but it was too late, as the second he saw Kotetsu sink down to his knees to try and pick up the cup, he'd set his hand on Barnaby's lap to better balance himself and
It was all too much to handle at once, and Barnaby just sat in speechless, shocked horror as Kotetsu went stiff then removed his hand from Barnaby's lap, watching as one of the lenses fell over to the couch before the whole pair of glasses simply tumbled to the ground, making a soft thump as they fell onto Barnaby's tea-soaked boots.
The two of them sat in silence as their minds properly caught up with the disaster that had just occurred in front of them, the peace and tranquility of their time together shattered beyond recognition, but soon afterward Kotetsu was fumbling with trying to pick the pieces up, metaphorically and literally.
"Dah! A-ah, uh, s-sorry about that Bunny, I'm really sorry!"
Picking up the glasses, Kotetsu held them in his hands like some kind of tiny, wounded animal, unsure about whether to give them back to Barnaby or set them on the table or take them somewhere, anywhere, he just didn't know where. He glanced up frantically, hoping Barnaby could give him some sort of cue or sign as to what he was supposed to do but all he saw was a blank, almost dead-eyed gaze, caught in a horrified trance and unwilling to acknowledge what had been inevitable at this point.
This couldn't be happening, this just wasn't possible. What in the world had he done to deserve any of this? Nothing, absolutely nothing! Was it a NEXT? Had someone cursed him? Was he going to live his life like this, chasing after Ouroboros with a target drawn on his forehead, letting every single being in existence know that he was always and forever meant to be their pin-cushion, their lab rat, their guinea pig. Was this truly going to be his fate from now on?
Just before Kotetsu could try to stand up and bring over a towel to at least clean up the mess on the carpet and Barnaby's boots, Kotetsu simply decided to leave the poor remains of Barnaby's glasses onto the table before looking over at Barnaby worriedly, probably just a reflex from the combination of a Saito-like whisper and the dull yet sinister mumble of that not-too-kind nickname.
"Yeah? You, ah, need something?"
Barnaby gave no response, deciding to just hang his head low, his eyes covered by his bangs.
That... sure was concerning. Kotetsu swallowed hard.
"...towels, I bet you want towels! I-I'll go get you towels, just sit here and don't move, don't break anything else—!"
Out of all the things possible for him to say, jokingly setting blame on Barnaby for what had just happened had not been what Barnaby wished to hear, and when Kotetsu finally stood, Barnaby acted. All that frustration, all that stress, all that anger that had been steadily boiling under his skin for the past week could only be held back for so long. But not anymore. Oh no, he was done listening to excuses, giving his partner the benefit of the doubt, thinking that this was all just out of bad circumstances, luck, fate, whatever it was.
This was the last straw. Kotetsu had crossed him for the last time.
He needed to be punished.
Barnaby's hand curled into a tight fist in his lap, and when his head whipped over to catch sight of Kotetsu's movement as he stood, his hand lashed out as well, firm and unrelenting as he struck the only thing within reach, the first thing that had caught his blurry line of vision.
The smack echoed through the room and rang through Barnaby's ears even with the faint sound of the television still in the distance, his rushed heartbeat eventually catching up along with Kotetsu's startled, loud, yelp of... of... Barnaby didn't know what to call the sound, but maybe if his frustrations had cleared up sooner, he could have sworn that the sound had been, almost sort of like—
But he couldn't pinpoint what it was, couldn't guess, not with the stinging heat and pain of his palm from the contact, not with him watching speechlessly as Kotetsu tumbled to the floor, hands scrambling to keep himself from falling flat on his face, ass high in the air.
He wants to do it again. And again, and again, and again. Yet the thoughts were too confusing and alien to Barnaby for him to act upon them, and when his awareness of what he'd truly done finally hit him he clutched his hand to his chest tightly as if protecting himself from a lit flame, finally finding his voice as he called over to Kotetsu in genuine concern.
"Kotetsu, I'm sorry, I-I don't know what came over me, I'm very sorry, are you okay?"
Barnaby had been about to scoot over on the couch to get a better view of his partner, hoping with all he had that that he hadn't dug himself such a deep hole that he'd never get out of it, but his worry kept him from budging an inch. Kotetsu was bound to tear him apart for what he'd done, he was sure of it, downright positive. He'd never struck him before, especially not in that sort of way. Before he could buildup the courage to get down to his knees in order to actually help, Kotetsu shifted, and Barnaby went still as he looked over his shoulder, and their eyes met.
Flushed, heated, strained features. Not like the embarrassment was too much to handle, that the knowledge of what Barnaby had done was more than he could take. No, Barnaby recognized that face clearly, knew it by heart, but that face didn't belong here in the living room with Kotetsu on his knees, like he'd simply tripped over himself because Barnaby couldn't fight back angry impulses, couldn't keep his hands to himself, couldn't keep his temper in check.
That wasn't the look someone gave over something they didn't like.
And all Barnaby could think, as his fingers dug into the cushion of the couch to keep himself from striking out again, was why.
As if reading his mind, Kotetsu realized what he was doing and hurriedly pushed himself back onto his feet, clumsily murmuring about "be right back, sorry, towels", something along those lines, Barnaby didn't know because he'd given up on trying to understand what was happening and merely fell sideways onto the couch. Rolling onto his back, he draped his arm over his face and felt the odd warmth of his cheeks against his skin.
It was only after he could hear the sound of the tap in the kitchen running that Barnaby realized, in that single moment, he felt more relaxed than he'd ever felt that entire week.
( i return from the depths of hell. almost literally. scorching temperatures made it feel like that's where i was. let's just say i stuck myself in a freezer but i'm thawed out now. good excuse, right...? yeah i thought not )
When Kotetsu returned to the living room, Barnaby had made the decision to not remain longer than he was usually meant to in Kotetsu's apartment. Even with Kotetsu's protests that he remain for a drink, that he was more than okay with giving him a ride home, he could still tell there was a part of him that wasn't sure what would result from their extra time together. That little spontaneous action had caused a ripple in their usual routine, and because they had never dealt with anything like it before, neither of them knew what to do from there.
And so, it hadn't taken them long to come to the decision that Barnaby was probably better off leaving. Kotetsu put up a brief protest, saying that he didn't want Barnaby catching a cold outside, and even when he was assured that his partner would take a taxi, Kotetsu still seemed to be reluctant on the idea of him throwing the other man out. Not that that's what he was doing, but it sure did feel like it.
But Barnaby could tell just by looking at Kotetsu's face that he knew he needed to go.
Barnaby thought he could tell something else about his expression, but it seemed like whenever either of them realized their casual, concerning gaze would turn to staring, someone would turn away, and nothing was found.
During the taxi ride back to his place, after calling up a tow truck to retrieve his car, Barnaby remained in surprisingly calm silence, the anxiousness he'd felt since remaining in Kotetsu's company having settled a few minutes ago. He swore though, that the only thing he could remember (or maybe better yet, would remember, just by choice) about the whole experience was the lingering taste of the tea and persistent tingling of his hand.
An accident, he'd told Kotetsu for the fourth time before leaving. All Kotetsu had been able to do was laugh his partner's persistence off hesitantly and nod before watching him walk down the steps away from his place. (It wasn't until he had made it to the taxi that Barnaby realized Kotetsu hadn't set a hand on him ever since the incident on the couch. A wave and a verbal goodbye. That's all he got. But then, it was probably all he deserved, so there was no point in sulking over a lack of physical affection.)
Yes, an accident. And it'd never happen again.
Barnaby clenched his hand into a fist, turning his head to the side to let his attention wander more toward the passing lights and buildings and not his confusing thoughts, the ones that sent his heart racing once more.
The next day had to be better. Please, let it be better.
And, surprisingly enough, it was. ...somewhat.
When Barnaby woke up the next morning, he felt surprisingly refreshed, something that had become almost rare for him ever since the events of the past week. He made his bed, took a shower, brushed his teeth, prepared a quick breakfast and watched the news all with no mishaps, and by the time he was out the door and back inside his retrieved car, he actually believed that the day was going to go well. Again, there were no tricky incidents on his drive to the Apollon Media building. Finding a parking spot wasn't a problem, he didn't trip over the stairs, no one spilled coffee on him, and all the greetings he received on the way to the office didn't make him tense up in preparation for someone to sneeze or cough on him.
Once he finally arrived, Barnaby bid their secretary a cheery good morning, smiling in amusement as he received that typical occupied mumble in return. He extended his arm for whatever paper work was meant for him and after receiving a rather thin manila envelope, he made his way over to his desk, taking a seat and sifting through the papers eventually (no papercuts). Barnaby had been so distracted with handling the work that he hadn't noticed when Kotetsu entered the office as well, his much louder greeting shouted from the doorway, and if Barnaby had bothered to turn around he would have seen their secretary throw his partner a displeased glance and a grumble to keep the noise down at that hour. After picking up his own paperwork (a much larger stack than Barnaby's as usual. That itself Barnaby didn't need to see to even know), Kotetsu was soon in his own seat and simply setting the papers aside, stretching his arms up and leaning back in his chair.
And more silence, but Barnaby's mental countdown of how long the two of them were meant to play this game of avoidance surprisingly didn't last very long.
"Good morning, Kotetsu."
Again, nothing. Only a quiet squeak of the wheels under Kotetsu's chair. Barnaby didn't know whether to be understanding over the fact that Kotetsu would be so hesitant to attempt casual conversation after what had happened the other night, or irritated over the fact that, even though it had clearly only been an accident, Kotetsu was obviously still dwelling over it, enough so to actually think it was enough of a problem to keep them from talking to each other.
It was most likely only because he was in a rather good mood that Barnaby decided to give his partner the benefit of the doubt, and so after setting his papers aside for a moment, he turned to the side enough to face Kotetsu, offering what he hoped was an assuring smile.
"Would you like me to retrieve the coffee today? Anything else you'd like as well."
Kotetsu had apparently not been expecting the sudden chipper attitude, evidence enough when his seat squeaked back a few inches (they would probably need a new chair, Barnaby thought. The noise would be a nuisance eventually) and he turned his head sharply in Barnaby's direction, a jittery smile spreading over his own lips. "Y-yeah, that's fine! Thanks! Just, get me the usual, it's all I really need..."
As relieving as it was for him to actually get a response, Barnaby wasn't exactly all that enthused by the hesitant tone of voice, and so he continued on even as he stood to make his way out.
"I'll be a few minutes then. Please try not to doze off while you're waiting." Somehow, that seemed to do the trick, as Kotetsu's nervous smile was replaced with a rather characteristic pout.
"Wasn't gonna! For your information, I slept pretty well last night."
Barnaby hesitated, unsure as to whether Kotetsu was lying or not, putting up a front in order to keep him from worrying, but he didn't have the time to question his partner over such a thing, especially not in the office, and so he simply accepted the answer.
"I'm glad, I did as well."
'Are you asking because of last night, or because you know about my dreams.' It was bound to spring up eventually, those infrequent dreams Barnaby tended to have, usually of a faceless man eventually engulfed in flames, or various other things that ranged from bizarre to bland. Kotetsu knew about them all, and knew of the toll that they had on Barnaby's rare tendency to sleep well.
Again, unspoken thoughts, no clarification, but for once Barnaby was able to answer truthfully.
"I did, yes." The refreshed hint of warmth to Barnaby's words and his smile was more than enough to ease Kotetsu's worries, and with a smile of his own he turned back around to face his desk, waving a hand over his shoulder.
"Good! Get going then. If you take too long then I'll have to send a search party out for you."
Barnaby left the office with a faint laugh, and the coffee as well as their donuts were brought back without a hitch.
Even when he returned to Kotetsu's side and held out his half of the morning essentials, and their fingers touched briefly, neither of them flinched back or gave each other so much as a hesitant glance, a cautionary, questioning look of, 'Is this okay?'. If the rest of the day didn't go along well, at least that morning had been better than most, and at that point it was the most they could ask for.
It was around an hour into their then comfortable silence they had fallen into, occasionally interrupted with Kotetsu's insistent but typical nagging at Barnaby to help him out with signatures, that they were called into Lloyds' office. When they arrived there they were given a rundown of their schedule for the rest of the day, and surprisingly enough, they'd been taken off of the "necessary break" they'd initially been given the day before and simply switched to on-call duty. From the way Kotetsu grumbled under his breath, Barnaby knew it wasn't enough to please his partner completely, but as long as they had the prospect of possibly doing something, then they could hardly complain very much.
A half hour after the brief meeting, Kotetsu and Barnaby decided to head down to the training area for a while, deciding that whether or not they would be able to actively roam the streets, they could at least get a good workout. They both dropped by the lockers first, and it was Kotetsu who noticed the lack of any other heroes there.
"It's quiet for once! I dunno if I like it or not, but it sure is different."
"It is, yes." Barnaby answered, his voice slightly muffled as he pulled on his gym shirt. "Isn't Rock Bison usually here? Origami as well." And then of course, wherever Rock Bison was, Fire Emblem tended to linger, but that was a suspicious sort of assumption that Barnaby wouldn't quite make on a whim.
"Usually, yeah! Especially the bull. He never exactly does much of anything." Kotetsu almost laughed at his own joke until he seemed to realize something, and he paused before mumbling. "Then again, at the rate we've been going, we probably won't be doing much of anything either."
Barnaby tensed up for just a moment, as if expecting something, anything, because when Kotetsu was aware of the bad luck then he just knew it was a call for disaster. The roof would cave in on them, fire sprinkles would turn on, tear gas would go off in the locker room for no reason.
But nothing. As he glanced over his shoulder, all he could see was Kotetsu finishing up with removing the remnants of his regular clothing, naked aside from his boxer briefs. It was something Barnaby could never quite understand, why Kotetsu was the type to get rid of all his clothes before changing, whereas Barnaby typically started off with removing everything above the waist, replaced those, and then worked with everything below the waist.
Maybe it was just a comfort thing, he thought as he watched Kotetsu pull on his gym shirt first and then work on his shorts, leaning over—
Suddenly, Barnaby panicked as something like a shock ran through him, and as he tried to reach out a hand to steady himself he took a step to the side... or at least he tried, because the next thing he knew he had stepped on his own shoelaces (he swore he had tied those), and the ground came up swiftly behind him as he fell hard, flat on his back.
Kotetsu jumped with a yelp as he heard the loud thud, and when he turned to find out what it was, all he could see was empty space where his partner had been.
And so he looked down, and there was Barnaby.
Barnaby groaned as he lay right where he was, uneager to move what with the throbbing pain at his back. Thankfully he had been able to keep his head from colliding with the ground, so he had at lease avoided cracking open his skull or gaining a concussion, but it wasn't to say that he had gotten out of his little slip-up pain free. When he felt a hand on his shoulder and a presence at his side, Barnaby looked up blearily (he hadn't put his glasses back on) at Kotetsu's face, and he wasn't sure if he looked worried or thinly amused.
"Did you really just trip over nothing?"
It was both. Resting an arm over his eyes, Barnaby ignored whatever else Kotetsu was starting to ramble to him about and simply berated himself for ever thinking that the day was meant to stay uneventful and embarrassment-free forever.
( no more words, only updates now )
After Barnaby had laced up his sneakers properly, he hadn't accepted Kotetsu's offered hand and simply pushed himself back onto his feet on his own, throwing his partner a short displeased look after he continued to snicker at him. However, he wouldn't bother with scolding remarks, not over something as minor as an unpredictable tumble to the ground. As the two of them left the locker room though, Barnaby could only cross his fingers and toes and hope that nothing worse would happen.
A futile request, but how couldn't he simply ask for just that?
When they finally arrived where the usual training equipment was kept, Kotetsu glanced over his shoulder curiously for a moment, basically asking his partner, 'What first?'
But again, Barnaby didn't answer. Not immediately, and instead he turned to walk in the complete opposite direction. He ignored Kotetsu's sputter of surprise as he called out.
"I think it would be best if we took advantage of the extra space. I'll be running on my own for a while."
It was the best way Barnaby could think of to say, 'I don't want to be around in the now predictable chance that you'll break something.'
As his partner walked away from him without another word, Kotetsu could only grumble and scratch at his head, thinking it probably wasn't the best idea to have laughed at Barnaby just a few minutes ago.
"Maybe he just needs to blow off some steam?"
An optimistic thought to have, and with that, Kotetsu decided that some weight-lifting was in order.
Neither of the two attempted to speak to each other for what felt like an hour, though it was easy enough for either of them to check that it had only been about twenty minutes. Barnaby assumed it only felt that long because their time wasn't filled with the distant chatter of their fellow heroes. Sky High's voice tended to be the most noticeable, followed by Kotetsu, and then Fire Emblem, though his tended to come in combination to Rock Bison's, but only for a few brief but loud seconds. Dragon Kid usually only spoke up in response to certain things but depending on her excitement levels, it was either just an interested murmur or a boisterous shout. The former of the two came in with Blue Rose's as well, and then Fire Emblem's would sometimes follow.
When the three of them spoke, Barnaby could easily tell what was to come and he never really listened. 'Girl talk', is what Sky High called it, and Barnaby merely shook his head in amusement.
And of course, Origami's voice was non-existent, at least from a distance. Not unless he was practicing a new posing stance and attempting to get advice from Sky High and Dragon Kid, but he could only seem to keep up that amount of energy for a few seconds at a time before fading off into the background, as was just expected of him.
No, none of those things seemed to be part of today's training session, but now that Barnaby was only left with the sound of his steady footsteps and the faint hum of the treadmill under his feet, he had to wonder why he paid attention to patterns such as those when he was never quite that interested in what anyone ever said. Not in situations like those when he was clearly focused on his own task. If he was questioned or spoken to, he knew to reply back out of courtesy, but usually Barnaby never involved himself in the conversations of the other heroes willingly.
The only person he ever really cared enough of to provide that sort of attention to was Kotetsu.
Barnaby reached out to press a button on the controls, changing his settings to something a little slower, possibly enough to allow him to overhear whatever Kotetsu was doing at that moment. But the next thing he knew, the treadmill had started to go about three times faster than he'd wanted. Barnaby just about tripped over himself again but at the last second he managed to leap back and barely land on his feet on the carpeted floor, though the suddenness of the movement caused him to fall backwards once more, this time at least managing to land on his behind instead of his back. As he tried to sit up straight, Barnaby's eyes squinted through the now crooked view of his glasses at the machine as it beeped about three times.
Then it stopped completely.
He stared at it for a moment longer, expecting something worse to happen, but nothing did. Sighing heavily and rubbing his fingers at his temples, Barnaby waited for the hammering beat of his heart to slow down before he could truly consider himself in the clear.
"Not again. Please, not again."
Practically startled enough to fall over, Barnaby whipped his head up and looked around, already prepared to fall into a panic all over again. What else had happened? Or better yet, what had Kotetsu done?
"You okay over there?! I heard you yell!"
'I didn't yell.' Was what Barnaby thought as he narrowed his eyes over in the direction that he assumed Kotetsu's voice had come from, but as he glanced back toward the treadmill, he had to wonder if he'd possibly yelled out in surprise when the speed had increased, but hadn't been aware of doing so because of how caught off-guard he'd been.
"I'm fine!" Barnaby shouted back before standing again, making his way over to where Kotetsu was. "Something went wrong with the treadmill."
"I said, something went wrong—"
"No, not what, like what did you say. I mean what as in what went wrong!"
"I don't know."
Or he did know, but it wouldn't exactly be the sort of answer Kotetsu was expecting, nor would he probably believe him.
Back at Kotetsu's side (albeit with a good few feet between them, a little more than usual at that), Barnaby adjusted his shirt and his shorts and ignored Kotetsu's confused stare.
"What do you mean, 'you don't know'? Aren't those new ones? We got 'em about, what, three weeks ago? Unless the company's being stingy with their expenses or not checking who they're buying from then I don't get how we'd start having problems with the new equipment."
Barnaby sighed and rubbed at the bridge of his nose, refusing to make eye contact with his partner.
"I told you, I don't know. Maybe there was just something wrong with that one in particular, or I pressed the wrong button, I'm not quite sure."
"Then why not use one of the other ones?"
'Because the next time I'll probably end up landing on my face.'
"I'd rather not."
It took a while before Kotetsu answered back, and though Barnaby wasn't paying attention to the expression on his face, he could hear the teasing tone in his voice.
"Did little Bunny get scared?"
There was a twitch at the corner of Barnaby's eye. Not a good sign. This wasn't going to be good. Instead of saying anything in return, Barnaby turned around and walked away again.
"Ah, Bunny! Wait, where are you going? C'mon, I'm just playing around! But, it's okay if you were scared!"
"I wasn't scared."
"Then where are you going?"
"I'm getting water."
"But I put our water bottles right here!"
Barnaby stopped dead in his tracks, refusing to turn. He had to be joking, he just had to, but this was Kotetsu and he knew that he wasn't because of course he would set things up so Barnaby would have to be in his company sooner or later.
'This scheming old man.'
Finally turning around, Barnaby placed a hand on his hip and looked over to where Kotetsu was pointing.
Two water bottles and two towels.
Two half-empty water bottles... wait.
"You drank from both of them, didn't you?"
Wide-eyed, Kotetsu sat up straight as he looked to where the water bottles were, and as soon as he noticed, he stood up from the workout bench to grab the bottles for a better look.
"What? No I didn't, I only drank from... one.. dah!" He groaned loudly, slapping a hand against his forehead.
"Damn it, I must've forgot to make sure which one I was drinking out of while I was here! I'm sorry Bunny, I'll go get you—"
"It's fine, don't worry about it. I'll retrieve a new one right now."
"No no, it's my fault, I'll go get it!"
"There's no need, I can take care of it myself."
When Kotetsu stepped away from the work-out equipment and started to make his way over to Barnaby, a weird taste suddenly filled his mouth, and it took him a second to try and figure out what it was. Something slightly familiar, a very recent taste, but not from the donuts or the coffee, not even anything from his breakfast, it was...
Overly sweet tea.
As soon as he felt a hand on his arm, Barnaby tensed and shouted on instinct, his gaze barely focusing on Kotetsu.
"Old man, if you ask me one more time, I swear I'll—"
The voice was crystal clear, with only the slightest hitch at the end, like Kotetsu could barely keep himself together enough to say that much, and Barnaby didn't understand why he would say anything to him in such a way until their eyes met and the air escaped his lungs in a rush.
'That face... don't you dare make that face at me again.'
Strained and heated and needy, but for something that he really couldn't understand, because they never argued like this, never expected there to be such a thing as negative consequences for doing something wrong, never even thought of the possibility of a 'good' or 'bad'. Kotetsu was a clumsy idiot, he knew that well enough that it wasn't even a surprise that Barnaby would get frustrated with him so easily, but lately... lately, it was different. Maybe it was one of those 'phase' things he heard about, or maybe a weird interest, some bizarre curiosity he had picked up from who knows where, something unexpected, just like everything else that had been happening to them lately, all that terrible luck that Barnaby mentioned before.
But why this? Why him, why them? Why would he want something like this? Those angry green eyes had been burning holes into him for days on end, and yet Barnaby only waited until yesterday to show him how much it had all been digging deeper and deeper under his skin. This whole time, his partner had turning into a tightly coiled spring over things that had been completely out of their control, and he couldn't help it, making him mad, screwing up all the time, getting on his nerves.
He couldn't help it, and yet... and yet, as his hand slid down Barnaby's arm, fingers trailing down the fair skin over his wrist and then the back of his hand, causing it to tingle all over again, Kotetsu's curiosity couldn't be ignored. Whatever this was, whatever in the world he was supposed to call it... he wanted it. Just one more time.
Kotetsu had done something wrong. So, what would Barnaby do about it?
"What'll you do, Bunny?"
Barnaby's heart was beating so fast he thought it would burst out of his chest.
'You need to be punished.'
The lights flickered, and the whole room went dark.
For once, and most likely only once, Barnaby couldn't have been more relieved to have another badly-timed incident tacked onto their bad luck quota, because it was very convenient to avoid making what could be terrible, terrible decisions when you couldn't see a single thing.
Though that still didn't seem to stop his urge to just yell at the top of his lungs over the power going out at a moment like this. What sort of timing was that? They had been going somewhere (whatever 'somewhere' even was), and they'd both been so close (another mysterious definition), and then nothing.
A whole lot of nothing, until Kotetsu seemed to come out of his shocked stupor and filled in the empty silence between them.
"What... just happened?"
'Tell me what exactly you're referring to and I may or may not have an answer.'
"The power is out."
Barnaby couldn't figure out if Kotetsu was simply joking around as usual or if he was dogging him on toward something else, whatever had been meant to happen after he answered his previous question. He didn't know what to expect from anything anymore, least of all Kotetsu, and whether he would regret it later or not he had no idea, but at least he could ease the confusing tightness in his chest by doing what he did best: investigating.
Raising his left hand, it took Barnaby a while to figure out where he was meant to reach for and tapped at his callband (briefly, he had felt the faint brush of Kotetsu's hand against his own and he had to wonder why he hadn't bothered grabbing at him. Maybe Kotetsu was just at a loss as he was on how he felt and what he wanted from these bizarre turn of events) in order to try and contact someone about what he was sure was merely a meager power outage. At the most, only their floor was affected, at the most the entire building, but he knew that their call bands wouldn't be affected. Saito's technology was too reliable to be hindered by such a simple problem.
He waited... and waited... tapped at the callband again and waited, but nothing happened. There wasn't even a hint of a message of any technical problems.
"Kotetsu, can you try yours?"
That's right, he couldn't have been able to see what he was doing. "Your callband."
There was a faint sound of surprise before Kotetsu followed along with the request, and again, nothing happened.
"Don't tell me these things are busted too."
"I wouldn't use that phrasing, but it seems accurate enough."
Their callbands weren't working. That could only mean one thing.
Barnaby murmured worriedly. "This might be more than a mere power outage."
"Think it could be a NEXT?"
"It's a possibility, yes. For something this severe, there would need to be some sort of frequency disturbance along with the electrical outage we're facing as well. Something more than what Dragon Kid is capable of. The most likely source could be inside the building, especially if they happen to have some sort of thorough technical experience, but I would not rule out the possibililty of a culprit attempting to cover up their hacking job with a staged power outage."
"So, just someone who's really really good with electricity?"
Barnaby huffed. Leave it to Kotetsu to try and come up with the simplest explanation to something not quite so simple and yet still be wrong.
"Something along those lines." The least he could do was make his partner feel like not quite that much of an idiot. Another thing he'd only allow this once. Now wasn't a time for him to lose his patience.
"Wel, if they're in the building then we've gotta go get them before they do more damage!"
"That's easier said than done."
"Then let's make it easier both ways."
With startling ease, a hand grabbed at Barnaby's arm and tugged him in a direction he temporarily wasn't quite sure of, and simply out of instinct he resisted for a bit as his eyes frantically tried to find some source of light to help guide him better, but of course there was no such thing available.
"Kotetsu, what are you doing?"
The voice was about a foot away from him, hardly as cautious as one was meant to be in this sort of situation where you needed to be careful because you were walking blindly in the dark.
"I'm gonna get us out of here, that's what."
"Do you even know where you're going?"
"...'course I do!"
That wasn't as comforting as it was probably meant to be, and Barnaby tried to pull his himself free. Somehow that just resulted in Kotetus's grip slipping all the way down his arm, grasping at his hand instead.
"Only because I had to think about it for like, a second, but I'm definitely sure I know where we're going. We spend almost every day in this gym, I know it like the back of my hand!"
All of a sudden, Kotetsu let out a loud grunt, and Barnaby found himself pressed flush against a large body. Barnaby sighed heavily, reaching up to try and fix his glasses, though his hand first made contact with the side of his head and pushed away at some of his hair before he figured out what the proper direction to move toward was.
"You were saying?"
"Oh shut up, I just..." What was a good, convincing word to use? "Miscalculated."
Barnaby had been about to rest his forehead against the back of Kotetsu's neck in exasperation until he realized what exactly he was doing, and his nose brushed against his partner's hair before Kotetsu made a slight surprised noise, and they both went still.
'Why aren't I moving? I should move away. We should keep going.' Yet neither of them did, and as Barnaby inhaled and exhaled through his nose, Kotetsu could feel his warm breath ghost against the nape of his neck, causing him to shiver faintly, his hand squeezing Barnaby's as some sort of signal but he couldn't figure out what exactly it was.
"Kotetsu?" There was an audible swallow and a swish of hair against his face. Barnaby assumed Kotetsu was trying to look behind him to better get a look him, something he couldn't understand and yet it seemed so obvious, because of course Kotetsu would try to settle his nerves with unnecessary movement.
"What are you doing?"
"Oh... uh, trying to figure out where to go. We hit the wall, so the stairs should be somewhere, but I can't... really remember what direction."
Barnaby leaned in closer until he could nose through the hair at the back of Kotetsu's head, his face shifting to the side in order to murmur against his ear, hopefully loud enough for Kotetsu to hear. From the way the muscles pressed against Barnaby's chest tensed, he assumed he'd done a good enough job.
"The stairs are at the left, from the weights."
"I am. I know the entire layout of the building by memory." His lips quirked at the somewhat put-off tone to Kotetsu's voice. Someone didn't like being shown up.
"And you wait until now to tell me?"
"You never asked, and you seemed so sure of yourself that I didn't wish to ruin your plans."
Kotetsu's hand squeezed his again, almost painfully tight, but Barnaby barely even flinched. In quick retaliation, his free hand slipped up Kotetsu's side and then pinched, hard. The yelp that came from his partner was so loud that the noise just about filled up the entire room.
"Ow! Wh-what was that for?!"
"You don't appear to be taking me seriously, so I figured I could do the same thing."
"I am taking you serious! I mean, seriously! All of this! This is a serious situation y'know!"
"Then why aren't you walking?"
No reply, which simply just spiked Barnaby's confusion. Whenever any action tended to occur, Kotetsu never hesitated, and this wasn't meant to be any different. The only reason he would hesitate is if something else were on his mind, or if he were debating his options, but their only options here were to either stay or to go, and the choice was incredibly obvious. That only meant one thing then. Kotetsu was distracted, but by what?
Barnaby's free hand began a slow, leisurely trail down Kotetsu's side, enough to feel the movement of every breath he took, the warm cotton of his shirt eventually stopping as he reached his hip, down to the sleek texture of his shorts, and then behind... all he heard was a sharp intake of breath as his hand paused on Kotetsu's rear.
"Kotetsu." His voice was no longer a quiet murmur, but more of an audible demand, a statement to keep his partner's awareness on him and him alone. "We need to go."
"I... I know."
"Then what are you waiting for?"
His hand shifted, fingers curling in slightly enough to press against the firm muscles underneath, and Kotetsu made another noise as he shifted from the contact, not away from it but toward it, and the resulting rush of heat through Barnaby's body was instant. They couldn't do this here, not at work, not when they had a job to do, but it was dark and they were alone and if Kotetsu wouldn't listen to him then he'd just have to take matters into his own hands. Literally.
"Bunny." A breathy exhale, lost in the darkness but it repeated over and over again in Barnaby's head. Do something, do something already, just do it.
Barnaby pulled his hand away.
The lights flickered back on.
And with a soft pat, he whispered once more into Kotetsu's ear before pulling away completely to make his way toward the stairs.
"Tonight. We need to talk."
Kotetsu's knees went to jelly so quickly that he didn't know how he'd been able to follow behind Barnaby soon afterward.
( sorry again for the lengthier wait. work things etc blah blah blah. thankfully this fill should be wrapped up in about 2-3 more parts, i just don't know when exactly it'll be done. but we can get to the actual basis of the prompt soon! h-hurray... )
Unsurprisingly enough, Barnaby's assumptions as to the basis for their little troubling blackout weren't too far from the truth, and once they were able to find Saito and get into their hero suits, they were eventually hot on the trail of a NEXT who could manipulate electronic data. With Dragon Kid's assistance, they managed to find him relatively quickly, but unfortunately neither of the two managed to get any points from the arrest.
Mostly because right before the two had been about to catch up with him in his own specialized motorbike, the culprit had done something to the Double Chaser Kotetsu and Barnaby been pursuing him in, causing them to go careening off of the road they had been taking and crash straight into a fountain. It hadn't helped that said fountain had just been renovated a month previously from another accident cause by Kotetsu.
The points had gone to Blue Rose in the end, and with Saito's angry shouting screeching through a microphone after he had arrived with the transporter, the two soaked and miserable heroes added another terrible experience to their growing collection. Their bikes were thankfully not too banged up, and their suits were more than well enough prepared for being immersed in water, but it didn't mean that they were out of trouble at all. Before they had even been able to head home, Lloyds had given them a call and informed them that they would still remain off-duty for a few more days so such an embarrassment could be avoided, especially when there were still plenty of others still fresh in the minds of the public and the sponsors.
Kotetsu had been upset, Barnaby had appeared furious, and their drive back to Kotetsu's apartment had gone by with absolute silence.
Yet, it seemed as if that was all it took for the two of them to settle into a better mood, because as soon as they made it through the front door, Barnaby was quick to offer to retrieve drinks himself. Kotetsu had been surprised and baffled, but if there was anything he wouldn't do, it wouldn't be to question his partner's sudden willingness to act as if everything was fine and dandy with them, as if they weren't once again the reigning kings of Sternbild's laughingstock, and so after a murmured yes, he had gone off to the living room to wait.
All that had really been on Kotetsu's mind as soon as they sat at his couch was that they could just lounge about for a few minutes, relax and enjoy their drinks, distractedly watch some television, and then at some point where they were comfy and ready and willing to take the time for it, they could talk about whatever Barnaby had meant for them to talk about earlier. Yes, that sounded like a great plan.
"What exactly is this?"
—except Barnaby was too damn prepared to waste time like that.
Kotetsu stared up from his beer, swallowing harder than he'd meant to and thus having to lightly pound a fist against his chest in order to help the liquid go down better for a moment. After taking another sip, Kotetsu balanced the drink carefully on his knee. "What...?" In the back of his mind, he felt he had a good idea of what exactly Barnaby was talking about, but he wasn't quite sure if he was ready for them to breach into that unknown, possibly dangerous terrain just yet, and so his eyes immediately darted down to the first thing he could find; Barnaby's beer.
"Y'mean that?" Kotetsu pointed to the can. "They were having a sale at the market and I decided to try out something different this time around. I know the taste is... a little sour, but... uh..."
His response trailed off into nothing as narrowed green eyes watched him with absolute annoyance. That was a bad excuse apparently.
"Oh, you mean... not the beer."
"Yes, not the beer."
Kotetsu tried to grin the whole mix-up off but Barnaby's glare was enough to freeze his expression into a plain grimace, his hand bringing up his beer to his lips again, but he couldn't even drink, not just because he wasn't thirsty but because he knew by then that Barnaby was fed up with these delays. He couldn't prolong this for much longer.
They had to talk.
Reaching over to set the can down on the table, he noticed as Barnaby did the same thing, and he knew that they were officially preparing themselves for something, something big.
"First, I would like to tell you that I'm not angry with you."
"Angry?" Kotetsu echoed back, unsure of what exactly Barnaby intended by bringing up something like that up first. "Over what?"
"Various things." It hadn't been until then that Kotetsu had realized Barnaby's shoulders seemed a little tenser than usual. He told himself it was probably just because he was sitting uncomfortably, because that way he wouldn't feel so guilty about putting him through so much obvious stress.
Barnaby looked off toward the television, the movements and images on the screen meaning absolutely nothing to him. "Everything from this past week, at work, in the office, in your home and mine." He turned his head back over to Kotetsu. "I was blaming you for everything."
Kotetsu scooted back on the couch just a few inches, caught in brief surprise before he sputtered out a haughty retort, pointing to himself. "Blaming? Me? ...wait, are you telling me you were blaming me for all that stuff? Everything going wrong? Our shitty missions and the messes in the office and... you thought that was my fault?"
Barnaby simply nodded, which seemed to only cause Kotetsu's temper to flare up more.
"How was that my fault?! I didn't do anything! I mean, yeah I did some things... a lot of things— B-but none of that was my fault! I couldn't do anything about it!"
"But you still felt like it was all my fault?"
Okay, these short little responses were really starting to piss him off, but Kotetsu knew that if he got angrier and angrier then they'd lose sight of what the main goal of this conversation was... even though he already felt as if they were trailing completely off-track. What was this all meant to be? Some impromptu guilt-trip made to make him feel like some troublesome and blundering moron who couldn't do anything but mess up a few thousand times without any remorse? And of course, the more he thought about it that way, the madder Kotetsu just seemed to be. Snatching up his beer again, Kotetsu pointed a frustrated finger at Barnaby, completely ready to just pelt him with one angry remark after another. Until Barnaby spoke up before him.
"I'm sorry. I blamed you for everything, and I had no right to. I let my frustrations get the better of me and I know I most likely only helped to make things even more difficult." Slowly, Barnaby's line-faced expression faltered to a small frown, but it did nothing to portray how deeply upset he truly was for taking out his feelings on his partner all this time, for allowing himself to become so wound-up over mistakes that had been completely out of their control, the both of them.
Kotetsu stayed silent for a long while, and when he opened his mouth, nothing came out. He tried again and again, even coughing slightly, but nothing. Eventually after giving Barnaby a wary look, he took a very long drink of his beer before setting it back down on the table. And then finally, he spoke.
That was all he could say, and the only reason he'd been able to continue was because of a small sound that came from Barnaby. Almost like a laugh.
"Dah! Don't laugh at me! I'm tryin' to figure out what to say!" Even though he tried to still sound as upset as possible, Kotetsu knew he had no right to do so, not with Barnaby owning up to his half of the blame in this whole crazy situation, which meant he most likely had to apologize too, but for what? Well, first thing's first at least.
"Okay?" Barnaby arched an eyebrow, causing Kotetsu to roll his eyes.
"I mean okay as in... apology accepted."
The smile he received was small, but somehow, it really was all it took for Kotetsu to forgive his partner for having turned him into an secretive pin-cushion pricked with endless amounts of excuses and blames. Totally not completely, but just enough.
Scratching at his chin, Kotetsu cleared his throat for a second. "And... I guess, I'm sorry too. In case anything I did could've, y'know, been prevented somehow."
"Please don't worry about it too much. I think by now I'm willing to accept the fact that there was just about nothing you or even I could have done to change anything. It was merely bad luck."
"Yeah, a whole lot of it." Kotetu mumbled cautiously. He had been just as aware as Barnaby was of these weird infrequent disasters following at their heels, and it did sort of still make him terribly unnerved that there was nothing they could do about any of it, but as long as they were careful and didn't get themselves into some sort of hectic blame game over it then maybe... it'd work out. This weird imbalance of luck would sort itself out soon enough and then things would be fine. They just needed to wait.
"Now then, shall we continue our discussion?"
"eh?" Baffled wide-eyes watched Barnaby as Kotetsu found himself completely caught off-guard. "What do you mean by 'continue'? Aren't we done?"
"We're not. That was only half of what I wanted to talk to you about."
"But we're... we apologized! You said you were sorry and I said I was sorry and so we're done! There's nothing else we've gotta talk about!"
He didn't know when it had happened but Barnaby had suddenly ended up with a very sort of casual, almost innocent smile, and somehow, that seemed to unnerve Kotetsu even more than having Barnaby mysteriously angry at him.
"There is, actually."
This is bad, this was very bad. Even worse than everything before even though nothing had even really happened yet. Kotetsu's heart was hammering all over again in his chest and he didn't know why because they were done talking, they were finished, they fixed everything and so they had nothing else to talk about, except...
"Kotetsu?" Even though the question of his name seemed to be enough to force Kotetsu to sit straight upright in his seat on the couch, he couldn't say anything, and the more Barnaby kept smiling the more his skin began to crawl in weirdly nice ways.
"Are you not saying anything because you'd prefer I force an answer out of you, or do you just not know what to say?"
A strange little tingle went up Kotetsu's spine at the word 'force', but he paid no attention to how or why it had happened and just swallowed hard again, wringing his hands together as he stared down at the carpet.
"A, little of both, really."
"Then I'll narrow things down to smaller questions."
As calm and assured as Barnaby seemed to appear, inside, he was just about as confused and nervous (and excited) as Kotetsu was, but he knew by now that if they were bound to get themselves any sort of progress with whatever this... 'thing' was, hovering over them for the past week, then he'd have to rely on himself to be able to lead them both toward a solution.
"When the power went out in the training room and we had to leave, why didn't you go?" Before Kotetsu answered, Barnaby quickly added on: "And don't say because you didn't know where to go. I gave you directions afterward and yet you still didn't listen."
"I... it's just 'cause I was... it was dark!"
"That's a terrible answer."
Kotetsu wiped his head over to Barnaby and scowled. "It's still an answer! You didn't tell me how I needed to answer and that's an answer so you've just gotta take that as an answer!"
Barnaby said nothing. He didn't even seem to react to Kotetsu's sudden outburst. Instead he merely nodded once.
"How did you feel then?
"After I told you that we needed to go, and you didn't listen to me and simply stayed there. How did you feel?"
'Like you were going to get mad at me and chew me out for not listening and maybe do something.
No reply, and so Barnaby attempted to fill in the gaps for Kotetsu himself, slowly but surely.
"Is it the same way you felt when I wouldn't let you retrieve me another water bottle?"
Kotetsu's heart skipped a beat and his chest seemed to constrict in confusing, not-so-painful waysShit, he's good. He's too good. Why the hell is he so damn observant?'
"Were you angry at me?"
"No!" Realizing that his answer could easily be taken as an impulse of denial just to keep Barnaby from worrying, Kotetsu emphasized. "I mean, no... or, yeah, no. What I mean is that I wasn't mad at you, both those times."
"What about when I struck you?"
Kotetsu had an immediate flashback to that other night on the couch, the night he didn't really like to think about but he couldn't seem to get out of his head no matter how hard he tried. Wasn't he in the same spot Barnaby had been sitting in back then? If he looked up toward the side, he could probably watch each and every moment of that night play out in front of his eyes, and Kotetsu squirmed on the couch at the thought.
"Wh-what about it...?"
"Were you angry that I hit you?"
Yes, yes he was, he had been absolutely angry because he didn't deserve something like that for absolutely no reason. It had been abrupt and mean and painful and embarrassing and humiliating and Kotetsu never wished for Barnaby to do something like it ever again.
'Liar,' is what Kotetsu thought. 'You're lying.'
You can't tell him any of that, you're lying. You liked it and you know it.
"Kotetsu, are you listening to me?"
I don't get it but I like it, and I know you don't wanna do it so I shouldn't say anything but you keep getting mad at me and yelling at me and I just really wanna maybe try it one more time.'
"Kotetsu, I didn't mean to hit you. I'm sorry that I ever did."
What the hell are you apologizing for? Don't apologize, I liked it, I really liked it. I don't know why but I liked it so much.
"I understand if it upset you that much. I promise, I won't ever do it again."
No no no, one more time is okay, it's okay, I don't mind, just one more time please I don't mind it's okay I liked it Bunny please one more time just once more I really want it I want it so bad.
"Shut up already! Stop apologizing for things when you've got nothin' to apologize for!"
Hands lashed out, fingers clinging desperately to the collar of Barnaby's jacket as Kotetsu yanked him in for a kiss. It was the only way he could figure out to shut him up and as lips began to react quickly under his own, he hoped that anything he could say further would simply be swallowed up by Barnaby's mouth, and he'd push him down to the couch and climb on top of him and instead of having to deal with that talk they could just do this instead and everything would be fine. But that wasn't how things would be, because it wasn't what he wanted.
When Kotetsu let Barnaby go, Barnaby didn't pull away and simply moved his efforts to Kotetsu's throat, teeth and tongue and lips occupying themselves with every spot that would shatter his defenses. "Why won't you tell me?" He whispered against Kotetsu's damp, kiss-marked skin. "Just tell me how you felt. I want to know, please."
Even with brief little pleased noises betraying his actions, Kotetsu reached down to try and pry Barnaby's arms off of him as they encircled his waist.
"Bunny, Bunny don't. I can't— It's weird. I don't get it, it's weird."
"It's okay, just tell me, it's fine." Barnaby's words were a rushed and clumsy murmur against Kotetsu's lips as he continued to try and kiss away his complaints, hoping the quick work of his hands across his back and further down would be enough to get him to relax but all it seemed to do was make Kotetsu feel nervous and hot and breathless and impatient for those hands to give him the only thing he'd wanted since the last time they were together.
"S-stop you, idiot...!" Fed up with trying to budge those persistent arms, Kotetsu reached up as if to push Barnaby's shoulders away, but his fingers simply clung to him as Barnaby's hands squeezed at his ass, his confusion and arousal spiraling into something he'd never dealt with before. He wanted things he'd never wanted before, he was thinking of things he'd never thought of before, there were unspoken demands at the tip of his tongue that he didn't even know existed.
"Do you really want me to stop?"
With Barnaby's lips finally abandoning their invasion of Kotetsu's heated face, his green eyes watched him again with intent, burning focus, and Kotetsu could swear that right at that moment Barnaby knew far more than even he did. If he knew, then he had nothing to say, but saying things made everything so much easier and he had gotten sick and tired of all the waiting, but he couldn't, he just couldn't say it.
The world spun, and the next thing Kotetsu knew Barnaby was pressing him face-first into the couch cushions.
"I'm starting to become a bit frustrated with you."
With a muffled grunt, Kotetsu shifted his head to the side, a single eye almost glaring at Barnaby, but more out of annoyance than anger. "That should be what I'm supposed to say."
"I have a feeling you have quite a few things you'd like to say actually, and yet now that I've given you that opportunity, one of many at that, I'm not hearing anything."
Kotetsu stayed still, his chest rising and falling against the couch with surprising ease even with Barnaby's weight on top of him.
"Kotetsu, you're not listening to me again."
That weight was suddenly lifted off of him, just slightly, and one of Barnaby's hands skimmed down his back along the line of his spine to the seat of his pants and squeezed, causing Kotetsu to bite back an eager groan, a plead for more. Barnaby seemed to be aware of this as he pressed his face against the nape of Kotetsu's neck, ready and willing to listen, but Kotetsu wouldn't beg. Not that easily.
"Wh-what're you gonna do about it?"
Even with an attitude that would be enough to throw Barnaby into a, gentle lips ghosted against the back of Kotetsu's neck, almost inappropriately so, and Kotetsu could have sworn that he was making this all out to be something it really wasn't. He panicked, attempting to push Barnaby off his back until he went absolutely still as he swore he could feel Barnaby smirk.
"Then I think some discipline is in order."
( long time no see! hopefully this update was worth the wait, and if not, you may line up to your left in order to give this wanon a good talking to )
The walk from the living room to the bedroom had gone by in such a blur that Kotetsu could hardly figure out just how exactly they had made it to the bed in the first place, but he could clearly remember Barnaby's warm and reassuring hand in his own, leading him across the carpet and up the stairs, and though he had no way of seeing his expression from behind, somehow, he had a clear mental picture of what his partner must have looked like in that moment. Heated and hungry green eyes hidden behind a mask of patience, and Kotetsu knew he couldn't make him wait much longer. He'd given up, and this little chase of theirs littered with restrained needs and clumsy hands and unspoken words would be finished. Now it was just a matter of starting what had needed to happen sooner, but as he lay atop his bed and relished in the intimate attention that the two of them had lacked for days now, something inside Kotetsu continued to hold him back.
They were there now, but what was he supposed to do?
Barnaby's voice spoken against his neck caused Kotetsu to snap out of his distracted daze, and as he tilted his head down to get a better view of Barnaby's face all he could see was a strange combination of worry and need. Kotetsu didn't know which emotion to latch on to first, and instead ran a hand through Barnaby's hair, grinning at the faint yet visible grimace on his partner's face at the action. Really? Was then actually a reasonable time for him to be fussy about his hair? Clearly he wasn't the only one still unprepared for whatever was meant to happen that night... if anything would even happen at the rate they were going.
"Yeah?" Kotetsu answered back quietly, fingers sifting between curls, twining through them absentmindedly until Barnaby reached up to remove Kotetsu's hand, and as their fingers laced together Kotetsu's heart just about melted.
"Are you all right?"
Kotetsu laughed quietly, squeezing at Barnaby's hand. "What about you?" Barnaby frowned.
"I believe I asked you first."
This could easily lead things to questions being thrown in circles, so Kotetsu decided to be the one to kick things off, and finally answered back honestly. "I'm kinda nervous, but other than that, I'd rather we just get things going already." Before Barnaby could toss another question at him, Kotetsu beat him to the punch. "Now your turn."
Remaining silent, Barnaby rested his head against Kotetsu's chest for a moment, shutting his eyes as he felt the faint yet quickened beating of Kotetsu's heart. Initially, Barnaby couldn't understand why seeing as they'd been in bed plenty of times before, and so he eventually assumed that it just came down to the different circumstances and whatever direction things would be lead to. It didn't exactly settle his nerves to know that, as much as it seemed that the two of them had some sort of idea as to what their hidden objective had been all this time, buried underneath their fussy arguments and bad timing, the two of them hardly knew what to do with themselves or each other now that they had a moment to figure things out, but clearly, stopping before they had even tried wouldn't get them anywhere. Realizing he had yet to say anything, Barnaby lifted his head and scooted up further from his position on top of Kotetsu, setting a brief kiss atop his partner's lips.
"Me too." Kotetsu smiled, and Barnaby wasn't sure if he found humor in his answer or was merely trying to ease his worries, but regardless, he didn't care to ask further as he leaned in for another kiss, then another, and as Kotetsu's hand slipped out of his fingers Barnaby felt arms encircle his waist, pulling him closer, urging him for more... until Kotetsu pulled away and blinked in confusion.
"Wait, whatever happened to that whole discipline thing?"
And yet, Barnaby seemed to be completely unwilling to change the subject as his lips began scattering small kisses along Kotetsu jawline, then down to his neck, finally mumbling against him as he heard a rumble from Kotetsu's throat meant to grab his attention. "That and this are two different things." As he nipped at the warm, flushed skin, Barnaby grinned against Kotetsu's neck as he felt the other man shiver, his arms tightening around him. "Why, are you complaining?"
"No, 'course not, I just—"
'Maybe a little.' Kotetsu rolled his eyes, yet it was hard for him to even say otherwise as Barnaby's hands rubbed at his shoulders, his mouth dipping down to the line of his collarbone. "Stop trying to come up with reasons for me to not be in bed with you. It's been like, what, a week? I'd figure you'd be ready and raring to go since two days ago."
"Is that the sort of impression you have of me?" Barnaby said, his breath hot against him, and Kotetsu found himself thinking maybe he was the one who couldn't wait for some sort of action. But of course, he knew clearly that that couldn't be the case.
Kotetsu knew full well of Barnaby's tendencies when they were alone together. Not that he wasn't occasionally slow and gentle, but his pushiness and fervent nature when riled up just right was more than well-known by that point. "Sometimes," was all Kotetsu could say in a light, almost humored tone.
It had been hard to tell if the answer struck the right chords or simply happened to irritate Barnaby, because the response he received could have easily gone either way, as teeth suddenly nipped harshly at his chest, and Kotetsu flinched, letting out a surprised noise before laughing breathlessly.
"See? You're already trying to eat me up!"
Even with the rather adorable flush of Barnaby's face framed by tousled curls, Kotetsu knew clearly what Barnaby wanted to say. He was done fooling around. This wasn't a time to joke and play. Barnaby wanted him, right then, right now, because they hadn't had a moment like this in what felt like ages and he most likely couldn't take waiting any longer. It made Kotetsu feel oddly guilty, to think that with his own indecisiveness, he'd been putting Barnaby in such a complicated spot. Could he have stopped this if he had just gone with his gut instinct when this whole thing had started that one night? But what if that had ended up as a mistake and merely got them into a messier situation? How exactly were you supposed to handle asking your romantic partner to try something a little different from the usual repertoire? What if he had been wrong? What if they had messed up? What if...
God, he was so done with the assumptions and what-ifs. If he wasn't ready then, he probably wouldn't be ready later, and he certainly felt ready now so... so what the hell was he waiting for? Kotetsu released his hold of Barnaby's waist, ignoring the flash of dejection on his partner's face as he seemed to assume that the action apparently meant a complete denial, and instead carefully grabbed a hold of Barnaby's head between his hands to pull him up for a long, deep kiss.
"What do you wanna do, Bunny?" Kotetsu mumbled against his lips when they pulled away, and Barnaby couldn't do anything except try to catch his breath before he spoke.
Whereas any other day, Kotetsu would probably feel a little put-off about being pushed into what was probably his least favorite position (he liked eye contact a lot, so what? Not to mention he couldn't even touch Barnaby when he was face-down like that), especially without even a please, the demand sent those familiar pleased shivers down Kotetsu's spine as he turned over, burying his face against the pillow to muffle a moan when Barnaby's hands settled on his hips to help set him in a better position, and once they were done they began their leisurely trail along Kotetsu's body, Barnaby's lips and mouth occupying themselves with Kotetsu's lower back and shoulders. Even though the pace was expectantly slow, Kotetsu tried everything he could to not tell him to go faster, instead using the arch of his back off the mattress to signal his request, and Barnaby reliably caught on quickly.
Having already taken care of most of their clothes aside from pants and underwear, it didn't take very long for Barnaby to remove the last few layers Kotetsu still wore, and he devoted a minute or so of his time on merely touching wherever he wanted, however he wanted, because it had been far too long since the last time, and if he was meant to shift the tone of what they were meant to do in such a way as to not unnerve Kotetsu, he would have to start things off as normally as usual. Kotetsu continued to squirm and shift into Barnaby's hands to urge him toward the right spots, until smooth fingertips skated down the middle of his back and down to his tailbone, and Kotetsu couldn't have been more rattled and anxious as Barnaby's index finger dipped down between his ass cheeks for the briefest of seconds before pulling away.
Then Barnaby's hands settled on his ass, and Kotetsu didn't realize he had started trembling until Barnaby kissed at his back and whispered against him. "Kotetsu, calm down."
"S-sorry, I... I dunno, why. It's just kinda... it's kinda different."
"I've touched you like this plenty of times before though."
"Yeah, but... I know what you're gonna do."
Barnaby had raised an eyebrow, his hands rubbing at Kotetsu's back soothingly to help settle him down again. "Do you?" Kotetsu could only nod his head.
"What am I going to do?" There was no answer, and as Barnaby's hands slid back down to mimic the same action that had gotten the most noticeable reaction out of Kotetsu a few seconds earlier, Barnaby swore he heard something like a whine muffled against the pillow.
"What would you like me to do?"
"Don't ask me!" Kotetsu shouted heatedly as he turned his head away from the pillow, glancing over his shoulder quickly to throw a quick displeased glare in Barnaby's direction, until he felt a sharp pinch on his ass, and Kotetsu's hips jutted up off the bed, his fingers clutching at the sheets as he yelped in both surprise and... he didn't know what the other thing was, but it sure as hell felt as if it wasn't unpleasant, especially when added to the firm tone of Barnaby's voice as he rubbed his thumb against the faintly stinging spot.
"Please don't shout. I'm merely asking a question."
It was then that Barnaby knew he most likely needed to get things moving much more quickly than he'd been allowing them to go, and so after easing his way over to the head of the bed, he retrieved a rather small bottle along with a condom, then moved back to his previous spot. Setting the condom aside, Barnaby uncapped the bottle and squeezed out a reasonable portion of lubricant onto his fingers, his eyes remaining on Kotetsu's shivering form on the bed. Settling his free hand on his hip, Kotetsu stopped, then looked over his shoulder again, catching sight of Barnaby's movements, and his whole body jumped to attention, his cock in particular. "Want me to...?"
Barnaby nodded. "As usual."
Swallowing hard, Kotetsu drew his knees underneath his body, his legs spread slightly. His body felt jittery and stiff from the anticipation of Barnaby's fingers, and as soon as he felt something rather slippery and cold slip between his ass cheeks again, Kotetsu gasped, his shoulders tensing. He could hear Barnaby mention something about how he needed to relax, and his fingers seemed to stop as he waited for Kotetsu to listen to his words, and so he breathed, slowly, in and out, focusing on Barnaby's hand on his hip, his thumb rubbing against his heated skin. It wasn't different, it wasn't different at all. This whole thing was the same as usual, where he needed to trust in Barnaby and his ability to care for him, no matter what he did. He had no reason to be nervous about any unknowns, thes things he didn't really know anything about but that he seemed to be drawn to so suddenly.
Kotetsu felt the caress of a dry hand down the side of his thigh, then the back, then slowly up... and the pads of smooth fingertips trailed atop his ass in seemingly teasing touches, almost enough to give him goosebumps, but whereas all the previous times Barnaby had touched him there led him to turn into an aroused and rattled mess, this time it felt... almost like quiet, soothing whispers to his ear. Lulling and assuring, in an admittedly weird sort of way. Maybe this was that difference Barnaby had mentioned before.
"Are you ready?"
He hadn't realized Barnaby had said anything until his fingers ghosted against him once more, a little more insistently, like a prodding poke one gave a person in order to wake them. ...which had become a pretty bad comparison as soon as a slick knuckle rubbed against his entrance. That alone would have been enough to get Kotetsu ready.
And then he felt a playful pat against his ass where those nice feather-like touches had been before, like a light slap, loud enough to reach his ears but not enough to hurt but the shock of electricity that ran through his body was almost enough for Kotetsu to shout out nothing but pleas and demands for more harder more please again harder please Bunny please
"Fuck, Bunny go—!"
Barnaby found himself frozen at the spot by Kotetsu's shouted command, not just because of the abruptness that caught him off-guard but the swell of reactionary heat that swam through his body, and it was then that he began to regret not getting rid of his pants and underwear before going about with preparing Kotetsu. This impatience was very evident as Barnaby's index finger slipped through Kotetsu's entrance all the way down to the last knuckle without a single hint of hesitance, and even as Kotetsu hissed a curse against the pillow at the sudden movement, there wasn't a single protest or resistance that followed as Barnaby pulled his finger out then smoothly back in again, and even as another joined the first after a few minutes, Kotetsu's body accepted it, his legs subtly spreading wider for the paired intrusion.
There never seemed to be anything quite like Barnaby's preparations, and the more Kotetsu became used to them, the more seemed to be almost amazed by it, not just due to the caution Barnaby always seemed to have but the pure concentration he put into the act, which was something Kotetsu was very aware of whenever he could watch Barnaby during the whole thing. It almost made him a little disappointed about their position, seeing as he always preferred to be able to face Barnaby and hold him and touch him and tell him directly just how good he made him feel, and the reactionary flush of color on Barnaby's face as well as the obvious strain on his expressions to keep himself as composed as possible were always his favorite things to watch. Kotetsu loved seeing Barnaby unravel in front of him, because he swore it was one of the most genuine and real expressions Barnaby could ever be capable of, alone with only the two of them, where Barnaby didn't have to worry about the stresses of being a hero, about keeping up with endless interviews and photoshoots, where he didn't have to live with the constant weight that he carried his entire life, the one that came with the burden that had been set upon him when he was only a child. Here, none of that mattered. Nothing outside that bedroom and beyond their hands mattered in those scant few minutes or hours. They could be as selfish and heartfelt and honest with their emotions and bodies as possible.
Kotetsu vaguely wondered if having such a deep opinion on what was essentially just sex made him more of an old-fashioned old man than he originally thought he was, but then Barnaby slipped a third finger into him and as he felt himself stretched a little wider, those fingers pushing deeper inside, Kotetsu's constructive and deep thoughts started to crumble, and all he could find himself shamefully caring about was the heavy heat of his erection between his legs, dripping with precum already as he thrust back against Barnaby's fingers, his breath escaping him in heavy pants as he waited and waited and waited but he didn't want to wait any longer.
"B-Bunny, hurry..." Kotetsu whispered harshly as he shoved back once more against those fingers, ignoring the slight burn at his entrance, though he slowed his actions as Barnaby settled a hand on his back.
"Almost." A short reply, but understandable, as Barnaby could barely find many other words to say as he watched Kotetsu turn into a wanton, writhing mess on the bed, needing and wanting but hardly capable of asking, not further than what his shaky breaths and fragile whines could offer. Kotetsu lifted up further on his knees, almost to the point where his ass was just about hoisted up into the air, and Barnaby could barely take it as he watched his fingers sink into that slippery, warm flesh, over and over and over again, his free hand idly slipping between Kotetsu's legs to jerk him off, and it seemed as if things could easily continue that way until his fingers brushed against a certain spot and Kotetsu howled in pleasure.
"Stop, s-stop Bunny, gonna... gonna—!"
Barnaby's eyes widened, unsure if he had heart Kotetsu correctly. No, no he couldn't, it was too soon for that, and so his fingers pulled out, clumsily brushed clean against his pants (something he wouldn't usually allow himself to do but he was horny and Kotetsu was going to come soon and he could always just do laundry the next day) as he began to fumble with undoing the belt and button and zipper. The clothing was tugged down and then off along with his underwear, his actions fueled on by Kotetsu's call of his name to hurry, and once the condom was finally on Barnaby leaned forward and pulled Kotetsu hips back to meet him, his cock tucked against the crease of his ass.
"I'm putting it in now." The only response Barnaby got was Kotetsu's ass shoved back impatiently against him, and Barnaby bit at his lip to silence a groan. Gripping at the base of his erection, Barnably settled the head of his cock at Kotetsu's entrance, and slowly but steadily, slipped on through until he made it about halfway until he needed to stop, because it felt like it had been so long since he had been able to feel Kotetsu like this, this snug and accepting heat wrapped around him, and he couldn't stop himself from pushing the rest of the way in.
Kotetsu's fingers twisted into the sheets as he arched up to meet Barnaby's cock, seemingly unable to catch his breath or settle his heart, and just as Barnaby found himself distracted by the almost near nostalgia of the two of them together, Kotetsu also couldn't help but feel so relieved that they could finally indulge in themselves again. Nothing else that had happened mattered at that moment, and nothing could ever ruin it.
Though it took a few minutes for Barnaby to begin moving, mostly due to the fact that he didn't wish for Kotetsu or even himself to finish unnecessarily early if he just went with his libido and just went at it unrestrained, eventually he began his steady past and pulled back, sliding back in then out, and as his hands settled on Kotetsu's waist, Barnaby's gaze trailed down from Kotetsu's shoulders to his back, then further down, and his hands shifted to settle on Kotetsu's ass. In a split second, Kotetsu moaned lowly and Barnaby felt a subsequent clench around him, causing him to moan as well, and he shoved back slightly harder than before. The more they continued, the more the cycle went on, to the point where Kotetsu would seem to clutch around him more and more, like he was intentionally trying to get Barnaby off first, and Barnaby couldn't accept that.
"Kotetsu, don't—!" Barnaby's fingers dug deep into Kotetsu's sides as he stilled himself, unwilling to allow himself to finish so soon.
Barnaby suddenly stopped, unsure of where that oddly disappointed tone of voice had come from, like Kotetsu had been expecting something, but when he looked down and met eyes with him as Kotetsu glanced over his shoulder, Barnaby knew exactly what he meant.
He'd been waiting this whole time for something he only had a vague awareness of, like a feeling that hung in an empty room, unspoken but just begging to be acknowledged. It was the same as when Kotetsu had accidentally spilled that tea on Barnaby's shoes and broken his glasses, and when he had questioned Barnaby's possible actions after he refused Kotetsu to bring him back another water bottle, but the difference was that then, neither of them knew what they wanted, and if they did, they didn't see themselves in any position to just take it. But there they were, alone in that bedroom, and Kotetsu knew what he wanted, he finally knew. Now it was just a matter of waiting for Barnaby to catch up.
There was that old yet familiar glint in Kotetsu's eyes as his hips shifted up just the slightest bit, and once again he watched Barnaby with constrained need, a silent challenge. Do it, do it. Just do it. It's okay, I want it, you do too.
Barnaby's words left him in a
"You're always so troublesome."
He pulled his hips back, leaving Kotetsu in a long slide backward until only the head remained inside, and Kotetsu's eyes widened as he tried to push himself up in order to shove back against him. "No don—"
Before Barnaby shoved back inside, the flat of his palm struck at Kotetsu's ass, hard and almost lightening fast with a resounding smack, so loud that Barnaby heard it echo through the bedroom, just as it had that night in the living room, and it was almost enough to send shivers down his spine.
A second later, Kotetsu's shout rang through the bedroom just as loudly, and he squeezed at Barnaby so tightly that he wasn't quite sure if he'd be able to thrust back in. Yet he did, and his hand made contact with Kotetsu's ass once more, hard and fast just like before.
That was when Barnaby knew he couldn't stop.
Over and over again, Barnaby shoved forward, reached as hard and deep as he could before his hand soon made contact with Kotetsu's ass, and the longer he went, the more clumsy his thrusts became but the harder the movements of his hand were. Even when his hand began to sting uncomfortably, Barnaby kept going until he merely switched hands and continued from there.
And all he could hear were Kotetsu's hysteric shouts each and every time increasing in volume until it was almost like Kotetsu was screaming. Barnaby couldn't even believe what was happening. He was fucking Kotetsu like it was a punishment, striking him like he was teaching him a lesson, and he really was, because this was exactly what was meant to happen days ago. Kotetsu deserved this, he wanted this, for being such a perfectly clumsy and hopeless idiot, for wanting this sort of filthy thing, for being such a dirty old man that didn't know how to control himself, and the more Barnaby thought of it the harder he seemed to smack, to the point where he could barely feel the painful tingle of his hand anymore, and he shouted at Kotetsu to drive his point home.
"This is what you wanted, right? Like this? This whole time, you wanted it like this?"
Kotetsu could barely respond aside from a slurred yes and a nod of his head against the pillow, his voice going so hoarse that he could barely say anything else, could barely make further noise aside from breathy pants and drained, strangled pleading noises for more more more, he deserved this, keep going, hit him harder, just fuck him and let him come, let him come, and after one last harsh strike, without even needing to tend to his cock, Kotetsu finally came, sparks shooting up his spine and his toes curling into the sheets as he rode out his orgasm, even as Barnaby continued to fuck him and strike at his burning ass, until it all stopped as his energy left him in a single exhale, his body slumping down to the bed. Barnaby was quick to catch him as his arms hastily wrapped around his midsection, his breath catching in his throat as he pressed flush against Kotetsu's ass, his cock still buried in him and it didn't take much longer for Barnaby to finish the job and reach orgasm as well.
Barnaby had no idea how he managed to find the strength to roll himself off of Kotetsu, let alone pull himself off the bed and attempt to clean them off, but it had all just about gone by in daze and most likely completely by reflex, and it was only halfway through that Barnaby realized Kotetsu had gone dead silent. When he leaned in close to get a better look at Kotetsu, he noticed the older man's breathing had evened out, almost as if he was asleep. He passed out. Barnaby would have laughed if he had the energy for it, and instead he simply pressed a kiss against Kotetsu's sweaty forehead and helped to tuck him under the covers before huddling up close to him, whispering words that he knew Kotetsu wouldn't be able to hear but that he felt he owed him anyway, and even as Barnaby finally fell asleep, the tingling in his hands didn't seem to go away until darkness fully enveloped him.
When Barnaby woke up, all he could feel was an overwhelming amount of warmth around him. The blankets provided most of it, but there was a weird line of heat trailing over the back of his neck, and as he turned over slightly to blearily stare at the blinds, he realized it was just a stream of light that had slipped through them.
And right as he moved, that final source of warmth grumbled its sleepy complaint as it snuggled closer against his chest, rough knees rubbing against his legs, and so Barnaby promptly turned back around to return the clumsy embrace Kotetsu currently was trying to envelope him in, trying his hardest to keep him from escaping his woozy clutches.
"Mm, Bunny, don' wanna wake up yet..." Kotetsu mumbled sleepily as he buried his face against the pillow that was actually Barnaby's chest, breathing his hot breath against him that only seemed to tickle him, and Barnaby squirmed slightly in order to try and get a bit of distance between them.
"Kotetsu, please let go a little."
This, again, did not please Kotetsu, and as his arms tightened around Barnaby, he shifted himself up closer to hook his chin over Barnaby's shoulder, clinging as if they were permanently stuck together.
This would have been fine if Kotetsu's morning stubble wasn't just as ticklish as him breathing on him, and Barnaby wiggled about even more to try and free himself from Kotetsus grasp, eventually deciding that the best course of action was to smother Kotetsu back, and that was exactly what he tried as he wrapped his arms around Kotetsu's waist and attempt to roll on top of him, pressing Kotetsu's back against the mattress—
And what followed soon afterward was a very loud yelp of pain.
"Dah! Ow oww, wait!"
Barnaby immediately lifted himself off Kotetsu and stared at him cautiously, very much awake, his eyebrows knitted in worry as he sat in front of him all while Kotetsu tried to figure out some way to lay on the bed that wasn't painful, eventually realizing the only comfortable position available involved anything that didn't have his back against the mattress. As he begrudgingly rolled over to his stomach, he groaned in frustration, and after a moment Barnaby sat at his side, continuing to watch him worriedly.
"What's wrong? Where are you hurt? Is it your back?" The two had been sleeping together long enough now that Kotetsu never particularly gained any problems the nights after they had sex, though there were occasional times where he couldn't quite handle overly rigorous actions (usually during long dryspells due to work or fatigue) and getting out of bed took a bit more patience and effort. Already, Barnaby was considering the worst, and he couldn't berate himself further for losing his restraint and being so hard on Kotetsu even if he hadn't complained the whole time.
Shaking his head, Kotetsu turned his head to the side toward Barnaby, appearing just as upset as he was, but upon closer inspection, he almost seemed... embarrassed too, and Barnaby couldn't understand why.
"Are you sure? You can tell me, it's my fault—"
"It's not your fault," Kotetsu interrupted, lifting his arms up from under the covers and crossing them atop the pillow, allowing his head to rest over them. After waiting a while, he continued. "...it's not my back that hurts." And before Barnaby could jump to the next conclusion, Kotetsu hurriedly said, "My ass hurts."
Barnaby went silent, and his mouth opened to respond, but Kotetsu was quick to beat him to the punch one more time, his cheeks blooming with more color the more he said.
"I don't mean inside or anything, that's just fine. I mean my actual ass, where you... hit me."
Neither of them could seem to say anything, and as Kotetsu buried his face against his arms, Barnaby's face went slightly pinkish, until finally all he could say was, "Oh."
Kotetsu's shoulders shook, almost like he just scoffed, and soon enough he turned his head back toward Barnaby. "That's your best answer? Oh?"
Immediately realizing how callous his answer had been, Barnaby shook his head and leaned in a little closer to Kotetsu, a handle settling cautiously at his back as he apologized profusely. "No no, I didn't mean— I didn't mean to make it sound as if I didn't care, I'm sorry, I really didn't mean to hit you that hard, I... I had no idea I'd hurt you." Quickly, Barnaby's own embarrassment was overshadowed by his shame, and he hung his head low in dejection before pulling his hand away. "I'm so sorry, Kotetsu."
Before Barnaby could continue with his slew of apologies and looking like a kicked puppy, Kotetsu sighed heavily before turning over onto his side, patting at the side of the bed Barnaby sat at. Unsure of what the signal was for, Barnaby narrowed his eyes slightly before simply laying on his side as well, facing Kotetsu, though he managed to keep some space between them. This was apparently unacceptable, as soon enough Kotetsu scooted in enough for his forehead to rest against Barnaby's, an arm draped over his waist.
"Hey, don't beat yourself up about it so much. You didn't mean it, right?" Barnaby raised an eyebrow, causing Kotetsu to review what he'd just said, and so he amended it quickly. "Okay, wait, you did mean to do that. I mean the... spanking, thing." Color crept back over their faces at the final admittance at what they had actually done (to think, this whole time they'd been thinking about it but couldn't say it, but now that they'd gone forward with it, actually calling it what it was sure didn't seem very easy), but Kotetsu kept going. "But you didn't go through with it actually wanting to hurt me, y'know?"
However, Barnaby couldn't seem to stop staring at Kotetsu dubiously, as if he couldn't quite convince himself to follow along with whatever logic he was going with, and so Kotetsu frowned, pulling his head back and leaning back in forward enough to bump his forehead against Barnaby's lightly. He shut his eyes with a slight wince and a surprised noise, but once he opened his eyes, he was surprised to see Kotetsu actually smiling at him.
"Don't gimme that look, you know what I mean. All it comes down to is that we wanted to do something new, and us being the brilliant and inexperienced people we are, we kinda messed it up."
"So I did a bad job?" Barnaby asked hesitantly, only resulting in another gentle headbutt.
"I'm not saying you did a bad job, don't put words in my mouth. What I'm saying is that you... well..." Kotetsu paused, unsure of how to put things, and he nibbled on his lower lip in thought. "The best way to put it is that, you got a little carried away, I guess. Not that I didn't like it or anything, I did, but... it was kinda a lot."
Barnaby stayed silent for a moment as he mulled the words over in his head, and it actually seemed a lot better to understand what sort of point Kotetsu was making without drowning in guilt over hurting him in a simple new bed experience. Once the awareness seemed to dawn on him, Kotetsu kissed at his nose and smiled wider as Barnaby's nose wrinkled from the contact.
"Seriously, don't worry about it. Not like we'd ever done that before or ever thought we'd do something like it, so you just went with your gut instinct and tried to do your best. Can't blame you for that."
Turning his head toward the pillow, Barnaby's voice came out slightly muffled. "But you're still hurt because of me..."
"Oh will you stop that?" Kotetsu grumbled before draping his arm over Barnaby's shoulders instead for a one-armed hugged, pushing himself off the bed in order to lean in and set a kiss on Barnaby's cheek. "I'm not gonna let you guilt-trip yourself over such a silly thing. Besides, there's always next... time..." It wasn't until he realized what he had said that Kotetsu stopped and pulled away from Barnaby enough to look down at him, anticipating the question that was sure to follow, and as expected, Barnaby turned over onto his back to stare up at Kotetsu in surprise.
"You want to do that again?"
Accidentally attempting to sit normally again, another ache shot up his back as Kotetsu's ass brushed against the mattress and he simply just flopped back onto his side next to Barnaby again, finding it kind of difficult to meet his eyes and Barnaby turned to face him again also.
"Uh, w-well... it's not like I hated it or anything, but, t'be honest..." Kotetsu pursed his lips. "I don't think it's gonna be an everyday thing."
"Because of the pain?" Kotetsu shot a pointed glare in Barnaby's direction.
"You keep talkin' about the pain and I'm gonna headbutt you again." Even as Barnaby laughed, he was very unwilling for that treatment again, displayed well as he lifted up a hand to rub at his forehead subconsciously.
"I'd prefer if you didn't." After he rested his hand on the pillow, his fingers curling against the fabric, Barnaby looked Kotetsu over top to bottom, or as well as he could with half of Kotetsu still under the covers. "You mean we won't do it all the time."
"Yeah, that's what I meant." He nodded, rubbing at his neck and yawning, and Kotetsu ignored the displeased little narrowing of green eyes at how he didn't bother to cover his mouth. "I kinda still like it all the regular ways we do it, but that's just... an option now."
Just a simple addition to their sexual repertoire. Barnaby could understand that much, and as new as he still was to the experience, he knew that all it would require was a bit of practicing, which was exactly how the two of them had gotten to where they were now with their sex routines, finding what they liked the best and perfecting it to suit the wants and needs of their partner as well as themselves. Granted he was still iffy on the whole thing, but that was most likely simply due to the whole newness of the act, and Barnaby was sure that as long as he knew how to control himself better and find some better restrictions, then the two of them would be fine, and the next time they found themselves in that sort of situation, they'd be ready.
"Okay." Barnaby said with a nod of his head, and just like that, all the worry he'd had over the previous night seemed to be gone as he wrapped his arms around Kotetsu's waist and leaned in for a kiss, which Kotetsu granted him gratefully. After a few chaste kisses, Barnaby nuzzled his nose against Kotetsu's cheek as he intwined his legs with his, and while Kotetsu chuckled at Barnaby's cuddling, his curiosity couldn't help but get the best of him.
"So Bunny, did you like it? I mean, I've got no doubts about how I felt, but I don't know how it was like on your side."
Stilling against him, Barnaby took a moment to bring the memory back to the forefront of his mind, and though the emotions he felt at the recollection of the previous night were a mixture of various things, very good to what-could-be-better, Barnaby nodded, murmuring quietly. "I did, yes." But quickly, Barnaby picked up with his kisses and nuzzling, eventually setting another kiss on Kotetsu's lips. "But I'm afraid I like things like this a bit more still."
Kotetsu chuckled, wrapping his arms around Barnaby's shoulders and mumbling against his lips before pulling him in for a deeper kiss. "Me too." It didn't take long for Barnaby's tongue to seek entry into Kotetsu's mouth, which he offered gladly, and the two of them remained entangled on the bed in various ways for what felt like an hour until Barnaby broke away from kiss number he-lost-track-at twenty-five, gazing at Kotetsu with hazy yet pleased eyes. Kotetsu wasn't sure if it was due to his bad vision, or maybe drowsiness hadn't quite left him, or maybe he felt like having another round that morning, but Kotetsu received his answer soon enough as Barnaby pressed more firmly against him and Kotetsu felt something damp and hard bump against his thigh.
"Wanna shower?" Kotetsu asked cheekily, shifting his thigh forward to rub against Barnaby's growing erection, and he bit back a groan as his hands rubbed at Kotetsu's lower back, mindful to not tread much lower otherwise he would agitate Kotetsu's sore rear, as disappointing as it was to not be able to get his hands on it.
"Do you actually want to shower or, are you entailing something else?"
"I'm sayin' I wanna shower."
"I thought it was a question, now it sounds like a demand."
"Got a problem with that?" Kotetsu pulled away from Barnaby enough to grin at him, a mischievious glimmer to his eyes, but it looked so familiar to Barnaby that even though he found himself aroused by it, he faltered in falling for Kotetsu's bait.
Kotetsu wasn't sure of what Barnaby meant until he caught on soon enough, and his ass seemed to twinge in pain at the thought as he groaned against Barnaby's neck, not quite agonizing but not quite pleased either. "Ugh, no way. Too soon. If we do then I don't think I'm gonna be able to sit all day." Weirdly enough though, after peeking up from his hiding spot, Kotetsu had a sudden thought, and he couldn't help but voice it amazingly clearly.
"We could, try again tonight...? If you want."
Conflict rang through Barnaby's head for a split second before any possible complaint was conquered in a flash.
"I— I wouldn't mind."
Their eyes met, and they held each other's gaze for a long time. Even though nothing was said, they knew exactly what the gaze meant. Tonight. Again. It's a plan. But for the time being... Kotetsu licked his lips and nipped at Barnaby's bottom lip.
"Let's go have sex in the shower then."
'You're acting like a teenager, old man,' is what Barnaby thought but couldn't find the time to say as Kotetsu somehow found the strength to pull himself out of bed and hurriedly walk his way over to the bathroom, and in due time, Barnaby followed, his eyes trained on Kotetsu's ass the entire way there... which turned out to be a terrible decision, as an hour later, Kotetsu came out of the bathroom with a sated libido but a sore bottom that wouldn't allow him to sit on hard surfaces for the rest of the day.
At least their luck got better.
( at that literally butthurt note, we come to the end of this fill. and there was much rejoicing. once again, apologies to all for my shoddy updating schedule and for developing this prompt in such an odd way. i hope it isn't too lacking, but i did the best i could, and darn it, that's what matters. hope you all have a wonderful and safe new year ♥ )