No crime in Stern Bild in a single evening was unusual.
No crime in Stern Bild on a Sunday evening was practically unheard of.
All but sure that their comms would patch through a call from Agnes before the height of the city's glittering, boisterous night-life scene was through, both Barnaby and a less-than-reluctant Kotetsu had opted to retire to the former's apartment after a duo photoshoot. Closer to the center of the city, it provided an easier spot to hole up and wait than the latter's glorified bachelor pad. And all the better atmosphere, Barnaby thought idly, for Wild Tiger to wrestle with the newest piece of technology Apollon had graciously handed him earlier in the day.
"Damnit, this stupid thing-"
"Swearing at it won't make it do what you want."
"You sure about that?" Though he doesn't look at the man as he says the words, Barnaby can nonetheless see the expression that accompanies the sarcastic drawl with crystal clarity in his mind - eyes half-lidded, one brow cocked. The thought shakes his shoulders against the recliner's cushion in the barest of movements, a withheld laugh that his partner is too absorbed in the brand-new smartphone to notice.
"Positive." Barnaby counters. "What are you trying to do with it, anyway? It's not like you need to use it for much other than phone calls, same as your old one."
"Yeah, but - I don't want to be that parent who has to ask his kid for help every time he wants to use modern technology. Kaede already has enough ammunition against me." He grumbles, and Barnaby hears blunted fingernails clicking against an LCD screen much too strong for it to be good for the poor piece of maligned technology.
"Hey, be careful with that, old man. Lloyds may have given you that, but if you break it same-day he might not be so eager for the company to pay for the next one."
"Hey, be careful with that-" Kotetsu mimics, voice dropping into a poor imitation of Barnaby's for a moment. "I'm not gonna break it, you can calm down."
An hour passes, then two, and it becomes strikingly obvious as the evening wears on that perhaps the crime syndicates and petty thieves alike have collectively decided to take the night off. Barnaby finds himself thanking them inwardly - not that he might ever admit it without serious provocation, but quiet nights in with Kotetsu were a cherished rarity. Conversation had been light, Barnaby studying a new book as Kotetsu wrestled with his own lack of technical knowledge. But the creature comfort of having someone there - it's more than enough for Barnaby to officially deem the evening one well spent, in his book.
Checking in with a discrete glance upward, Barnaby notes Kotetsu’s surprising progress with the device in his hands. He's figured out the video browser, anyway, and has been steadily making his way through a variety of songs and genres through the phone's tinny speakers. Somehow, the image of a much-younger Kotetsu pouring his heart and soul into karaoke covers of ska bands was neither surprising nor entirely off-putting - how else could the man know each song so thoroughly? Barnaby finds himself holding in another laugh as Kotetsu hums along to song after song, pleasantly whiling away another half-hour.
"Hey, does this thing-" A tan hand rises to gesture, vaguely, at what Barnaby assumes must be the sound system that dots the edges of the room - installed recently, at the behest of his fellow heroes who politely insisted his apartment look less like Barnaby might be planning to escape to another country at any moment. "-can it connect to this phone like the communicator can?"
"Yeah. You remember when Karina previewed that album of hers for us?" Barnaby echoes the motion of Kotetsu's hand with a finger, indicating the same. "That's what she did." He offers a quick explanation of the process by which Kotetsu might achieve that - a glance up at the man from his book reveals a stern expression, concentration lacing his pulled-together brows as he stares down at the tiny screen before him.
Barnaby cocks his head after a few moments of silent watching. "You want me to do it for you?"
"No, no - I've got it!" Kotetsu responds hastily, one hand coming up from the screen to wave Barnaby off. "I've definitely got it myself."
Barnaby rolls his eyes, though he's still smiling. "Alright, Kotetsu."
He watches Kotetsu wrestle with the directions, offering a reminder here and there to help him along and fully expecting Kotetsu to give up on the endeavor halfway through. Instead he hears static, then the bombastic end of an ancient Broadway hit booms out of the surround-sound speakers and earns a wince from both men. Kotetsu pumps a fist in celebratory joy after dutifully lowering the volume.
"See! Even this old tiger can learn some new tricks- I- I mean, I'm not that old, but I just haven't had the time for this stuff, you know? A hero's work is never done, and all that-" Kotetsu is fast in correcting himself as he leans back onto the couch, scrolling with newfound confidence through the device as Barnaby returns to his reading.
It's another ten-to-fifteen of showtunes - only slightly surprising, coming from a man like Kotetsu - before the music comes to a halt. Barnaby doesn't look up from the screen, but a brow arches as he awaits the explanation he knows is forthcoming.
Instead, he gets a cryptic question, spoken in a tone he knows is meant to sound casual. A good liar Kotetsu is not, however, and Barnaby wonders where this particular line will lead.
"You a fan of musicals, Bunny?"
"Aw, why not? I used to watch 'em all the time with my mom-" Kotetsu pauses, stumbles over a few different beginnings to what he wants to say next until Barnaby cuts him off.
"I was a pretty serious kid. I sort of considered them beneath me, I guess." Barnaby lifts one shoulder, attention rising from the screen parked in his lap to look at Kotetsu. There's an unspoken phrase that follows - a reassurance, an it's fine, you didn't do anything wrong - that's communicated in the way their gaze locks, and Kotetsu's smile returns.
"Guess I'll just have to educate you, then."
"Yeah. You know-" Kotetsu waves a hand in a sweeping motion. "-expose you to culture and all that. You're kind of self-absorbed."
"Says the man who carries his own trading cards in his wallet."
"Hey! Those are collector's items!"
"Right. For all the collectors desperately clamoring for Wild Tiger memorabilia."
The pout Barnaby earns, the dramatic cant of Kotetsu's head to one side as he harrumphs is perhaps well-deserved; it's a sore spot for the man, he knows, but Kotetsu knows as well as he that it's entirely in jest. Kotetsu falls silent, apparently unwilling to dignify the taunt with a response; it's a minute back into his reading when a shadow falls over him. Kotetsu has risen from the couch to loom over Barnaby, one hand extended down. His other hand, Barnaby notices, is tucked discreetly behind his back. The phone is nowhere in sight.
"Hey. Truce, Barnaby?"
Barnaby lifts a brow at the emphasis on his name, shakes his head to hide a wider smile, then lifts his hand to meet Kotetsu's lest the man be left to hover plaintively above him for even longer.
"If you say so."
But Kotetsu doesn't let go. That blond brow stays raised. Then the strings start - he sees the minute movement of the man's hidden arm that's clearly another much too hard press of thumb to screen.
"Just what are you-"
He's cut off by the voice that cascades from both the speakers and the man before him, and the dawning look of abject horror on Barnaby's face as he realizes just what Kotetsu has chosen to broadcast through his flat is almost enough to put a stop to the man's antics right then and there.
"Out there, there's a world outside of Yonkers - way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby!"
"Kotetsu, are you serious-“
"There's a slick town, Barnaby!"
He's pulled, stumbling, to his feet by a sudden yank from Kotetsu - aging he may be, but all that hard-earned muscle helps even without the blue glow of the Hundred Power. The hand comes out from behind his back to brandish the phone above him and Kotetsu's Cheshire grin, far too pleased at his own antics, is maddening. Clearly the man has pulled him up from his seat with the intention of dancing, but instead Barnaby makes a lunge for the device. Kotetsu is faster, anticipating his movements as he singsongs out the words in perfect time. If Barnaby were not so concentrated on claiming the phone he'd have marveled at how well the man could keep the tune and pace while being so evasive.
"Close your eyes and see it glisten, Barnaby! Listen, Barnaby-"
The note Kotetsu holds with the recording dissolves into panicked laughter as Barnaby makes another lunge for the phone and he dances backwards, around the couch. The worst, of course, is over with the final chorus of his name, but stubborn as they both are it turns into a game of cat-and-mouse about the apartment for the next verse. The corners of Barnaby's mouth tremble as he makes a concerted effort not to smile, to give away that he finds the teasing remotely funny, else Kotetsu might never relent.
Kotetsu settles halfway through the following verse, both because Barnaby has grown tired of attempting to dart around the couch - the obstacle Kotetsu has chosen as his main protection against him - and Kotetsu's main aim behind queuing the song has passed. He offers a show of bravado at the last line, the twirl of an arm stretched out before him and the hand still clutching the phone pressed to his chest as he warbles along with it.
"And we won't come home until we've kissed the girl-!"
There the last of his act dissolves, disguising how breathless he's grown in the chase with raucous laughter; Bunny sets a hand to his temple, a sigh accompanying the press of his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. Kotetsu looks up at him from where he's half-bent over the arm of the couch, minute disappointment apparent in the furrow of his brows and the fading of his laugh as Barbara Streisand croons through the speakers. The music grows noticeably quieter as Kotetsu drags the volume down with a heavy thumb.
"Oh, come on. It was funny, Bunny."
"Maybe the first time, sure. You think you're the first person to make a Hello, Dolly! joke at me?"
"Hey, I - you just said you didn't-" Kotetsu stutters partway through an explanation.
"That I don't like musicals? That doesn't mean the other kids at the Hero Academy didn't. It was a running joke for almost a year, if I remember right."
Kotetsu's pout only deepens; he breaks eye contact to stare pointedly at the wall. "Well, I thought it was funny."
Barnaby lets loose another sigh, this one decidedly theatrical - as theatrical as the man could manage, anyhow. "For what it's worth, you executed it best. So - points for that, if you must."
"Aww, does Bunny like my voice?"
Quick as ever to recover, Kotetsu bobs his way around the couch in-time with the beat to Barnaby's side, slipping a hand up the small of his back and letting his fingers curl into the fabric of Barnaby’s shirt. He's still humming, Barnaby notes, and Kotetsu is close enough to see the way his gaze softens, warms with minute affection. He doesn’t speak, but if Kotetsu notices he doesn’t make mention of it.
"That Sunday shine is a certain sign- It's a classic, Bunny. You can't convince me it's that bad."
Barnaby offers a noncommittal sound, tilting his head away from Kotetsu for a long beat. He doesn't move out of the gentle hold the man has on him, though, and the glint in green eyes as his attention finally sweeps back to his partner after a moment of consideration doesn't go unnoticed. Kotetsu halts, and surprise paints itself over his features as Barnaby - against his better judgement - catches the tune himself and hums.
It's softer than Kotetsu's overblown gesticulation, that booming, practiced voice he'd employed in his teasing, but Barnaby carries the tune decently all the same.
"For there's no blue Monday in your Sunday - no Monday in your Sunday clothes- What?" Barnaby stops at the expression on Kotetsu's face - he doesn't think he's seen the man so heart-achingly fond short of the few times he's seen him with his daughter. "Don't look at me like that. It's hard not to pick up the words after a while - like I said, running joke." The corner of Barnaby's mouth quirks upward.
"Well, now - Bunny's got a nice voice, too." Kotetsu's voice is softer, now - he keeps the playful lilt, but it's suffused with something warmer this time.
"Yes, I figured you were aware after we recorded that promotional album together. Have you forgotten about that already, old man?" In a rare show, it's Barnaby who initiates contact, lifting a pair of fingers to poke and push at Kotetsu's cheek. The movement angles the man's head away from his, hiding for a moment the softness that's made itself apparent on Barnaby’s face. He only manages to keep Kotetsu away for a beat or two of saccharine musical accompaniment before he protests - "Hey, no fair!" - and catches that hand with his own, the phone evidently stowed in a pocket.
"What, old man?"
That softens him more than anything else, the barest hint of pink finally suffusing his cheeks as Kotetsu's lips find his cheekbone.
"Yeah. Yeah, I know." Barnaby responds. "Why do you think I put up with you?" It's Barnaby's turn to tease, and Kotetsu grumbles against Barnaby's temple.
"Kotetsu." Whatever retort the man had planned fades to nothing as Barnaby interrupts, turning to kiss him proper. It's fleeting, just enough to daze, and he pulls back to let Kotetsu see the honest smile that's blossomed so readily over his features.
"Love you too."