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Ignorance Is Bliss (Well, Almost)

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Beep, beep. Beep, beep. Beep, beep.

The sound of the alarm going off at 4:30 woke Kotetsu, and he half-consciously swung his right arm to shut the damn thing off. As he stretched almost cat-like on the bed, he realized that he had no memory or recollection of walking home last night, nor changing into his dark green boxers, he only vaguely remembered an odd, prickly sensation at the nape of his neck…

Finishing his morning stretching, he shrugged away last night as simply a might of too much drinking even though he wasn’t feeling sick or felt like he had a hangover pounding in his head. He could’ve sworn he only had a few drinks with Antonio at the new bar they decided to try out. Some more memories came back to him: talking to his buddy about his daughter Kaede, about their recent firefighter rescue at an old warehouse, and some unimportant topics.

Kotetsu was in his thirties with cordovan short hair, which hardly had any grey, with warm brownish caramel eyes. Soon he would be called an “old man”, despite his endurance and strength, which is how he got his occupation. But even with these qualities that are typical for any firefighter, his oddly-timed clumsiness and misjudgments-thought neither brought out a fatal outcome, thank goodness-made it harder for him to keep his job, mainly because his boss Ben was concerned about the numerous injuries he’s accumulated, and how they could possibly open up again during a serious situation. Kotetsu tried to wave away his friends’ unnecessary worries, refusing to give in and retire when he could still hold on to his job for at least another decade.

But even he began to see the reality in front of him, grinning wickedly in his face: he needed to take more caution with his body or it would be what kills him instead of a fire.

Still deep in thought as he made his sluggish way to the bathroom, he almost didn't see the bruises until he started trimming his prized beard: two little indentions just above his left collarbone, almost making a reddish hickey. As he felt his face flush, he had another flashback of seeing bright green eyes behind pinkish glasses, and then a sudden glimpse of red as his gaze lingered on those eyes that seemed full of hunger and…possessiveness? Desire? He wasn’t sure, there seemed to be so many emotions in those steady, unblinking, mesmerizing mirrors that reflected his own image.

In his spellbound trance, the stranger-a beautiful, young, curly haired blond man-seemed to lean closer to him, almost hesitantly slow, without moving a step, until he realized it was actually his own body that was moving on its own. Bewildered and confused as he was, he didn’t feel any fear at all, only a strange calmness of being near this young man clad in a uniquely styled black and red suit that accented his slim, muscled frame.

Gasping, Kotetsu shook out of his daydream and went back to staring at himself in the bathroom mirror, still seeing the small holes in his tanned skin. Quickly covering it up with has hand, as if that would make them disappear, he searched for a band aid or gauze he could use cover it without making it too noticeable when he’s around his teammates. Out of luck he couldn’t find any and so had to use a special cover-up cream, which didn’t come off easily just from sweat or clothes rubbing at it, that he used to hide the particularly worse scars from scrutinizing or wandering eyes.

Satisfied he blended the cream evenly; he looked back up in the mirror to see a person-the blond from last night-standing just behind him.

“What the!” Kotetsu stepped backward as fast as possible to the other side of the room as he kept the man in sight, not even bothering to grab anything as a weapon. He figured if this person could sneak up behind him, despite his training to always know what’s around him, then he could disarm Kotetsu just as quick and easily. He kept stepping backward as the room would allow, which only gave him around four or five feet of space between him and the intruder.

Gulping shallowly without making it obvious to the other man, Kotetsu found his voice, and said quickly, barely leaving a pause between each question, in a half-whisper, “W-who are you? You’re the one from last night, aren’t you? Did I…um…sleep with you? If so how come I didn’t see you when I woke up?”

Kotetsu’s conclusion to last night was that he must’ve drank something weird at the bar, the reason why he couldn’t remember everything and wakes up with a hickey put by someone who apparently had some kind of biting fetish. The fact that said person was a man didn’t surprise Kotetsu as much as he thought it would, he knew he was bisexual since the incident with Keith a few years back, but he never thought any young, attractive man would want to be with a clumsy guy like him in his thirties.

Speaking of the young man, he had raised one eyebrow-over currently green eyes, which to Kotetsu meant that he must’ve wore uniquely colored lenses to make them seem red- at Kotetsu’s hasty retreat, and seemed amused even though his lips didn't so much as twitch.

“I am sure that we exchanged introductions last night, but I suppose the alcohol and your slightly aged mind made you forget,” before Kotetsu could protest at being hinted as an old man, he continued on, “but I shall introduce myself again. I am Barnaby Brooks Jr., and yes we did meet last night as I have just said. As for the sleeping part…well you could say we did do that to an extent, but we didn’t go all the way if that is what you are worried about. It was quite late when you brought me here so I just slept on the couch, which mind you I had to clean up because of all the bottles and cans littered everywhere, after I helped you in the shower and get dressed for bed.”

Barnaby had stayed in his spot in the doorway, still hardly moving a muscle. The whole time he spoke his eyes had stayed fixed on Kotetsu’s, making the firefighter feel a bit uncomfortable and sorry for his rude behavior that he had to glance away from the blond a few times.

After a short pause he spoke, self-consciously, “A-ah, is that so? I’m very sorry about doing that to you, I-I don’t normally ever just pick up someone up like that, y’know? Um… to make it up to you, would you be fine with staying here for the day? I have work unfortunately, so I can’t keep you company, but I can cook you dinner when I get back, if you like? Or, uh…oh man is this awkward,” he finished lamely, mortified at how he got himself into this situation, but nonetheless had relaxed his crouching stance to stand loosely despite his nerves.

Barnaby tilted his head elegantly down slightly with a thoughtful expression as his right index finger and thumb cradled his chin. As he was occupied doing that, Kotetsu finally noticed he was wearing a spare shirt and boxers of his, hanging a bit too big on his slim, slightly curvy figure, confirming even more that he had stayed the night.

Finally coming to a decision, he looked back up at Kotetsu with a certain brightness in his eyes and face as he replied, “I would not mind that at all. I believe I recall you stating before that you were working at the fire department, correct?” Kotetsu nodded. “So you would not be home until a late hour-“

“Well I can try to get off early, maybe around sever or eight at the least, so I can cook for you at a decent time. Are you allergic to anything or have any specific foods you don’t like?”

The younger man smiled amusingly, “None of the usual sort.” Before Kotetsu could interject what he meant by that, Barnaby continued on, “I do not eat a lot of regular food, so I would advise you not to make anything too filling for me, please.”

Kotetsu felt both his eyebrows go up at that, he couldn’t imagine anyone of Barnaby’s tall height and build to not eat a little hearty. But he kept his thoughts to himself. “Alright I’ll keep that in mind. Well, um…excuse me while I get ready, I need to hurry or I’ll get scolded by my boss.”

Barnaby inclined his head in acknowledgement before disappearing out of the bathroom and down to the stairs. Kotetsu stepped back toward his sink and quickly finished his routine before he changed into his street clothes. As he was fixing his tie when he walked down the stairs, he saw Barnaby standing in front of the back of the couch, on which he glimpsed a corner of a blanket.

“I hope the couch wasn’t too uncomfortable for you. Oh, you can use the shower while I’m gone, If you want to.” Kotetsu secretly wanted to ask him exactly how far they went last night, but he felt to awkward and embarrassed to ask, so he just let the thought alone.

“Thank you, I do feel like I need one. Before you go, I would like to ask you a question: do you normally put cover-up on your body?” Barnaby asked, waiting in anticipation for an answer, and thought he didn’t let it show on his face, he actually didn’t like the fact his mark was being covered.

Kotetsu blinked his eyes in shock, and realized the blond probably saw all of his scars last night. “O-oh…um, well…not too often, I, ah, normally only use that cream to cover up scars so that my team won’t fret and fuss too much over me, even though I try to tell them I’m fine. I love my job too much to just retire from it because of a few battle wounds that can heal in no time, you know? Anyway, I need to get going now, so I’ll see you tonight, alright?’ Kotetsu tipped his hat in farewell as he walked over to the front door.

“Of course,” Barnaby called out after him, amused when he saw the older man also waved bye to him before the door closed and locked behind him. Sensing the sun coming underneath the horizon, the blond man immediately checked the curtains to be sure they were drawn tight, giving a satisfied nod when he saw they were, and contemplated if he should sleep or shower first. After a minute he decided to sleep first, but before that he cleaned and ironed his suit as best as he could and then hung on Kotetsu’s closet door. He even considered if he should sleep in Kotetsu’s bed, but resisted against it since that would have been rude, and drifted to sleep on the couch as the sun started to rise and color the sky with its vibrant colors equal to those of the city’s.

Kotetsu had a surprisingly uneventful day after he walked to the fire department, so that night when it came to seven o’ clock to ask his boss if he could leave early, Ben didn’t argue or put up a protest. Kotetsu was teased by his teammates that he must have a lady waiting for him that he needed to leave early to see. He just chuckled nervously as they made their jokes and then said his see-you-tomorrow’s. On his way home, he stopped by the market to buy fresh ingredients to make beef stroganoff and strawberry cheesecake. He hoped it wouldn’t be too much for the other man to eat, and continued on his way feeling light-hearted. This was the first time in years, since his wife Tomoe had passed away, that he has ever cooked for anyone besides himself.

In the beginning it was because he messed up constantly on making Kaede’s favorite foods, nor could he make anything healthier than fried rice, so he gave up and took her to his mother’s home where she would be fed well and taken better care of than living with him. Sure he had been incredibly lonely, but he soon set a goal for himself to still continue and practice his cooking, and soon he did get better at it and could cook several dishes without the guidance of a cookbook. For whatever reason the hobby became calming for him, and significantly filled some emptiness in his tired soul.

Shaking his head of the dark memories, Kotetsu determined to keep cheerful tonight and thought about how Barnaby would react to the food. Thinking of the pretty blond-Kotetsu couldn’t deny he was attracted to him-felt familiar to him, and made him feel…affectionate, despite the fact they’ve only known each other for barely a day.

Upon reaching his apartment Kotetsu set his bags down momentarily on the ground while he fished out his keys in the dark with only a street-light down the street as his illumination. After fumbling a bit with them, he managed to get the door open, grab his bags again, and lock the door behind him. Switching the lights on, he spot Barnaby coming down the stairs wearing the black and red suit without the jacket, but looked cleaner than he did this morning.

“Looks like you took up the shower offer! I brought some ingredients for beef stroganoff and strawberry cheesecake, is that alright?” Kotetsu asked a bit over bubbly, now that he was feeling nervous again.

“Welcome back, and yes that sounds delightful," Barnaby answered, “in fact, that is my favorite dish.” The tall blond gazed fondly at him as he stepped next to Kotetsu. “Do you need any help?”

“Nah, I got it, but thanks anyway. How was your day?” Kotetsu asked as he started preparing the food, glancing up at Barnaby every now and then.

“Uneventful, I went back to sleep for a while,” Barnaby replied, “I did iron my suit, if that was all right?” He asked politely as he sat in a chair that made it easier to watch Kotetsu’s movements.

“No, I don’t mind at all! If it’s alright with you-and it might sound weird to ask now of all times-could you tell me about yourself? I’ll do the same if it’ll make you more comfortable.” Kotetsu looked up at him, waiting patiently as his hands kept moving around the counter.

And they did indeed talk the whole time as Kotetsu busied himself about the kitchen. Surprisingly they didn’t enter a topic neither was unwilling to talk about, or suffered any awkward extended silences; it was just fun and conversation. As they ate and drank tea, Kotetsu noticed the young man ate in small bites, giving the brunet an image of a rabbit nibbling at a carrot. Chucking, because of course he didn’t giggle like a little kid, he mentioned to Barnaby, even going as far as to say he should call him “Bunny” from now on. Said nicknamee protested and pouted at the silly name, not changing the older man’s mind in the slightest with his cute reaction.

Barnaby was put off by the nickname for a while, but eventually began to respond to it positively as they started to date. After a week or two, Kotetsu finally figured out Barnaby’s secret, to which the blond had to point out all the hints he had given him before, and amazingly he didn’t become afraid of Barnaby, but rather he immediately asked him questions about what kind of vampire he was, how old was he really, et cetera. When Barnaby told him that he actually didn’t need blood every night (only once ever year), Kotetsu shocked him by saying he could just drink his blood from now on, since vampires couldn’t turn vampires unless they did a blood exchange.

Ever since then they’ve been together for many years. After Kotetsu retired from being a firefighter when he reached his mid-forties, he did the blood exchange with his blond partner. Though they did fight over little things, neither could stand to be angry at the other, and always made up with simple and loving gestures. Even the adventures they went on were worth it, but those stories are for another time…