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25 November 2011 @ 09:49 am
[fic] & bunny - chapter seven  
Title: & Bunny – chapter seven
Author/Artist: Cheza-chan
Pairing/Characters: Kaburagi Kotetsu/Barnaby Brooks Jr.
Rating: PG-15 (overall R)
Genre: Alternate Timeline; science-fiction; superheroes.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, and I definitely don't own the sponsors that they wear.
Summary/Notes: Taking Ben's advice, Kotetsu decides to separate himself from Hero TV and the Heroes of Sternbild (deviated from the original storyline after ep. 16).

[ chapter one ] [ chapter two ] [ chapter three ] [ chapter four ] [ chapter five ] [ chapter six ]


Dark Star found her sitting outside on the patio, staring aimlessly down at what could almost be considered “a city below a city”. Her deep sigh alerted the other woman of her presence, but Evelyn didn’t outright acknowledge her. Pulling up a chair, the brunette dropped into it, taking a bite of the piece of sandwich she’d brought out with her. "You need to stand up for yourself, y'know," Dark Star mumbled around her mouthful of food. "Ray won't be there forever. We're all expendable." She took the time to finish her sandwich, brushing the crumbs off her thigh-length black top. Beneath were plain black tights; no designs, no rips.

"You're not," Evelyn replied, her voice low and soft. "He wanted you back, broken out of prison."

Dark Star grinned, tilting her chair back. She laughed when all four legs were back on the deck, "Thanks for that. I was going crazy." Her body became outlined by a bright light and she lifted her hand, grin widening as the dark material continued to grow. Eyes already glowing orange, they brightened as the object was engulfed in flames. "I really missed this. I’d like to meet the jerk that made those things they had on me!" The blazing black rock exploded, showering them both with glittering ash.

Evelyn smiled, holding out a hand to capture a few. "I wish I could develop a second ability," she sighed.

"Why?" Dark Star sputtered, spinning in her chair. "Your abilities... are amazing. You can control the world if you wanted to. If you developed a second ability, I hope it would be to integrate yourself into nature." The brunette grinned. "Because you're almost there."

Evelyn’s cheeks colored pink and she ducked her head, whispering a 'thank you'.

"Stop giving my sister ideas, mijn ster."

Evelyn lifted her head in time to see her brother tousle Dark Star's hair. She was the one that received his smile, though. "My Evy is going to control the world. We all are."

"Pass." Dark Star stood, smirking down at Evelyn. "I'm just here for the fun. I already told Barnaby—I'm not Jake. I like his art style—" Remembering the mural "—but I don't want to kill." She hadn't accepted the markings of Ouroburos, but she was part of the extensive group, following only Radboud. Evelyn's was on the bottom of her left foot; Radboud’s, the bottom of his right. "Vee. Stop letting Ray suffocate you. I'll teach you how to have fun."

Evelyn smiled shyly. "Pass."

Dark Star walked away, her laughter following her.

Radboud took the vacated seat, his hands tucked away in the pockets of his pants. "You should, you know. Hang out with her," he added when his sister shot him a confused look. "I think it'll do you good."

"I'm fine," Evelyn murmured. "I enjoy when we sit and talk like this."

Radboud’s smile was forced, but he knew she would never notice. He felt nothing manipulating her, because she was never in harm's way; he made sure of that. Freeing a hand, Radboud reached out, tucking back a strand of her auburn hair. The day her powers developed was the day Radboud revealed his, and the day they lost their parents. "Some people think it's unhealthy for siblings to be so close."

"You're all I have," Evelyn whispered, her green eyes wide, desperation visible in their depths.

"And I'll always be here for you." Radboud cupped his hands around her neck. A smirk tugged at his lips as he wondered if she would object to him strangling her right where they sat; he knew she wouldn't. "I couldn't leave you if I wanted," he lied, chuckling softly.

Evelyn smiled, "Unlike—"

"Don't bring them up," Radboud hissed, his fingers unconsciously tightening around her neck.

Evelyn's smile never faded. "It brought us closer together."

"Jesus, Evy..." With a weary smile, he pressed their foreheads together. "I will never let you go.” Each word was carefully punctuated. “Remember that.”

"I think I'm gonna throw up."

Radboud grinned, turning his head to stare at the brunette that had returned. Dark Star sneered in return. "I'm stealing her, 'kay? No objections, Vee!" Evelyn closed her mouth, lips pressed tightly together.

"Go," Radboud whispered in her ear. A gentle press of lips to her cheek followed.

Evelyn slipped from his grasp, hands folded in front of her as she headed to where the spirited NEXT waited. Dark Star slung an arm around her shoulder, chattering excitedly about what they were going to do.

Radboud tapped his shades until they fell from his hair, hiding his eyes. He reached into his pocket, removing his phone, and flipped it open to find that he had a missed call. The number was easily redialed and he lifted the mobile device to his ear, waiting for his call to be answered. A smirk flitted across his face. “Hallo?

X x X x X

Kotetsu apologized endlessly for making Kaede’s weekend such a horrible one and she just rolled her eyes at him. In all honesty, it had been the most fun she’d had in a while. Hands gripping the straps of her backpack, Kaede headed for the porter waiting for her to board the train. She stopped before stepping up, turning back to her father. "You can't quit. I won't allow it to happen."

Kotetsu grinned, nodding his head. "I know you won't, but it’s… technically already done."

“Undo it!” Her glare changed to a bright smile, and Kaede darted inside of the train.

Kotetsu shuffled along the platform, following her, waiting until she'd found her seat. He smiled sheepishly as she stared out at him. This was the most time he'd spent with his daughter in years; did he really want to go back to Apollon Media? You do, a voice whispered in the far reaches of his mind. He ignored it, widening his smile for his daughter, lifting his hand to wave. Kotetsu's eyes widened and he stepped back after his reflection was suddenly waving back at him. He dropped his hand to his pocket, where his mask was tucked away, but it never made it. His body became heavy and he was dragged down onto the concrete platform.

A pair of polished black shoes entered his line of vision, but he could lift his eyes no higher than that. It was all he needed to see; the blue light encompassed the entire body. "Wild Tiger," a voice drawled.

Kotetsu's wide eyes screwed shut. "I don't know what you're talking about," he ground out. "Do I look like a Hero to you?"

"Only Barnaby exposed himself. Everyone else... can be anyone." Hidden behind a pair of sunglasses, the man smirked, glancing over his shoulder at the train getting ready for departure. Kaede had long since looked away from the "echo" he'd left behind that resembled her father still waving. "Your daughter is very adorable. I wonder... if the train derailed, would she survive?" His eyebrows arched above the dark shades he wore and he took a step back from the prone figure that had managed to push himself up onto his knees. Narrowing his eyes, he increased the pressure.

Kotetsu let out a choked grunt. His arms trembled, but he refused to let his chest touch the ground again. "Don't... Leave her out of this," he growled, glaring up at the man.

"You really are wild," the stranger whispered in his native tongue. With a chuckle, he returned gravity to normal and managed to sidestep Kotetsu's tackle. "Careful, Wild Tiger. You're still on the platform. I would hate for you to meet an unfortunate end. I need you."

"Stay away from Kaede!" Kotetsu shouted, glaring from beneath the bangs that now clung to his forehead, damp with perspiration. The rogue NEXT merely chuckled, vanishing when everything snapped back into proportion. Kotetsu turned, watching the end of the train disappear into the distance. "Kaede..."

As he ran from the station, he was unaware of the individual that continued to watch him. Standing upside-down on the roof, relaxed and out of sight, was the auburn-haired NEXT, nary a strand of hair out of place despite the obvious disregard for gravity.

X x X x X

“Antonio!” Kotetsu switched the phone to video mode after hooking it into the hands-free set of his car. “I need to know… Have we come across any NEXTs with the ability to alter gravity?”

“Not that I know of…” Antonio lifted the phone closer to his face, eyes narrowed. “Is something wrong?”

“I think…” Kotetsu shook his head. “I don’t know what to think. Something’s wrong. Somebody knew me—knew that I’m Wild Tiger,” he added in a whisper. Antonio’s eyes widened on his behalf. A head of blond entered the screen’s line of vision from the right and Kotetsu felt his heart leap into his throat.

“Wild-kun, that’s not good,” Keith said, stating the obvious.

“Is anybody else there that I should be concerned about? And…” Kotetsu shook his head, not bothering to question why they were together. “What should I do?”

“Report it to your sponsors,” Keith suggested. “It’s a breach of privacy—of security.” Antonio nodded along in agreement.

“Is there any way to do a search for NEXTs… according to abilities?” Kotetsu questioned, eyebrows rising to disappear beneath his bangs.

Antonio’s eyes narrowed. “Barnaby can help you with that.” Keith looked from him back to the cell phone screen, wondering what messages were being carried across through the glares.

Kotetsu’s glare turned accusatory, his eyes widening. “Thank you,” he stressed. “Mr. Kindergartener… for telling my brother on me.”

Keith’s expression became even more lost, but he knew it wasn’t his argument and kept his silence.

“You’re very welcome,” Antonio drawled, a smug smile tugging at his lips. “It’s what friends are for. Now, go and do the right thing.”

The call ended and Kotetsu’s screen returned to the default background image. He was glad he hadn’t gone through with his original plan of changing the image to the recent one with himself and Barnaby. Lowering his hand into his lap, Kotetsu looked towards the Apollon Media building. ‘Bunny was my first thought…’ With a deep sigh, he removed his phone, slipping it into his pocket, and opened the door to step out.

X

All eyes were on Kotetsu when he walked into the shared office. With a nervous grin, he raised his hand in a wave. “Yo.”

Barnaby’s body moved without his consent. When he came back to his senses, he was standing in front of his partner, fingers curled in the material of Kotetsu’s sleeve. Reluctantly, he let his hand fall back to his side. “How’s Kaede doing?”

Kotetsu’s smile faded. “Kaede is… fine. I need your help finding a NEXT.”

“Do you want to go to the Justice Tower?” Barnaby inquired softly.

Kotetsu glanced at the third person in the office. The dark-skinned woman rose almost automatically, taking her light jacket with her. She smiled as she passed the duo. “Welcome back, Kaburagi-kun. It’s a bit too quiet without you around.”

Kotetsu grinned after her, turning around only after the door had closed. “Someone…” He lowered his gaze, lifting his head immediately to fix the young man with a look of worry. “Someone knows that I’m Wild Tiger.” Barnaby’s eyes widened, but Kotetsu continued, “I saw Kaede off at the station and everything shifted.” Lips pressed into a grim line, Kotetsu looked towards his vacant desk, trying to keep his thoughts occupied. “I know my past experiences with figuring out abilities haven’t been that great, but hear me out?”

Barnaby nodded in response to the pleading amber-eyed gaze thrown in his direction. He took a step back, indicating to their desks. He hadn’t pictured them meeting again under such circumstances, but such was the life of a Hero.

“Sorry about this,” Kotetsu chuckled as he made his way to his old desk; the blond was at his elbow. With a hand tucked against the back of his head, he gave an apologetic bow. “I should be telling you stories of my vacation, and how adorable my daughter is.”

Barnaby smiled to himself as he took his seat and booted up the computer. “There will be plenty of time for that once we fix your current problem.”

Kotetsu rolled his chair closer, bumping knees with the blond in an attempt to better see Barnaby’s actions and the glaring screen that had been roused from its sleep state. The younger man’s fingers moved quickly and Kotetsu remembered Barnaby had spent almost all of his life searching; searching for the truth.

“What kind of abilities did this individual possess?”

The question cut through his current train of thought and Kotetsu was forced to relive the moment. “Everything… shifted. One second I was looking at Kaede on the train… the next, I was looking at myself. Then I couldn’t move.” Kotetsu shook his head. “It felt like gravity had multiplied.”

That was all Barnaby needed. With a few select words typed in, the screen darkened as a candidate was located, white letters filling up the excess space the picture didn’t. Kotetsu’s eyes were glued to the lower half of the NEXT’s face, the only part exposed. The rustic tuft of hair on the man’s chin, and the sadistic, almost cruel smirk were identical to the facial features of the man that had attacked him. “That’s him.”

“Range Rover,” Barnaby read. “Spatial and gravitational manipulation. The only reason we have a file on him is because he uploaded it himself.”

Kotetsu shot his partner a disbelieving stare before turning his wide eyes back to the monitor. “No one has ever encountered him?”

“No.” Barnaby’s eyes narrowed. “It was him—it had to be. He was the one that helped Dark Star escape. But why…?” He faced Kotetsu, turning so quickly that the well-styled curls of his hair bounced a little. “You said he attacked you? And Kaede…?”

“He threatened… her life,” Kotetsu answered softly.

“We have to let Maverick-san know.”

“No!” Kotetsu’s fingers were wrapped around Barnaby’s wrist, squeezing tightly.

“No?” Barnaby looked nothing short of appalled. “You life is in danger. Your daughter’s… Kotetsu-san! This is no laughing manner. He hacked our databases—he probably knows who we all are.”

“But he’s only after me,” Kotetsu argued.

Barnaby wrenched his hand free, slamming it down onto his desk. “That doesn’t make it any better! And how are you so certain that’s the case?”

“Because he said so,” Kotetsu sighed, sitting back in the chair, hands tucked between his thighs. He stared at Range Rover’s picture. The smirk taunted him. Rather than the sunglasses the real NEXT wore, the upper half of the face in the image was hidden behind the black visor of a black helmet.

“Maverick-san still needs to be informed. A Hero’s life is in danger.” Barnaby glared at the older man, daring him to retort, before storming out of the office.

Kotetsu closed his eyes, tilting his head back. “Bunny…” The truth was at the tip of his tongue—tickled the roof of his mouth—but he couldn’t speak the words to stop the King of Heroes. How deeply was he buried in his own lies? Kotetsu straightened back up, shifting forward so he could perch his chin atop the desk. Eyes narrowed, he stared at Range Rover’s profile picture. “You said you needed me… What for?” he sighed.

X x X x X

Barnaby tried not to let his emotions get the best of him, but having Kaburagi Kotetsu as a partner against crime for almost a year was proving to have a negative effect: his emotions were getting the best of him. Dusk had already settled by the time he returned to the office, and not even the dark-skinned woman remained. “Why did you leave?” he snapped into his phone. “Maverick-san wasn’t in his office, so I couldn’t inform him. We should be sticking together, Kotetsu-san.” Barnaby frowned at the flutter of his stomach, wondering if he’d eaten something that hadn’t agreed with him.

“Why did it take you so long to get back to me?” Kotetsu asked, amusement audible in his voice. “Never mind that. I appreciate your concern, Bunny.” Kotetsu’s smile went unseen. He sat at the sparsely occupied counter of Hero’s Bar, Ben reprimanding him with an almost pitiful look. “You’re Barnaby Brooks Jr. You don’t need an old man like me bringing your image down.”

Once Wild Tiger’s boss, now a cab driver—still his friend—Ben Jackson shook his head.

“See ya tomorrow, Bunny. Make sure you leave enough work so I don’t run away.” Kotetsu ended the call, never giving the young man a chance to respond, and dropped his head onto the wooden countertop. “Tell me why I can’t tell him, Ben-san. I feel like I’ll destroy him if I do.”

“You just answered your own question, Kotetsu. But I think he’ll be more disappointed in you because you didn’t tell him first. That kid has grown so much.” Ben smiled at the shimmering wall of lights on the opposite side of the counter. “He’s Maverick’s well-oiled machine, but his smiles are more genuine now, especially when you are standing there with him.”

“Thank you, Ben-san,” Kotetsu mumbled against the lacquer finish, “For making me feel even more guilty.”

Ben chuckled softly, “My apologies, but it’s time to stop running.”

Kotetsu turned his head so his cheek was pressed against the cool wood. “I’m more terrified of facing him with the truth than I am of crossing paths with Lunatic again.”

Ben’s smile withered away as he caught sight of the television in the mirror’s reflection. “You might have your chance.” Kotetsu lifted his head and spun on the bar stool. The screen was filled with Lunatic’s elaborate mask. The shot vanished, revealing the live footage the helicopter captured as it hovered above the city. The prison was visible, as was a dying blue flame.

A guard at the prison has just lost his life thanks to this merciless vigilante! It was proved that he assisted in the escape of Dark Star!

Kotetsu’s brow furrowed as he frowned and he lifted his right hand to stare at it. The green and white band hadn’t alerted him to gather.

X

Kotetsu was in his car, half-listening to the radio that broadcasted the situation between Lunatic and Sternbild’s Heroes. One hand on the wheel, his right wrist inches from his face, he spoke into the band. “Saito-san! Why wasn’t I contacted about this?! It’s… It’s Lunatic!”

“I’ve been given orders not to! I was informed that you have family business to take care of!”

Kotetsu was used to the screaming voice and maintained his lane. Was it Agnes’s doing, or Maverick’s? Were they helping to keep up his façade? “I can’t join this fight, can I?”

“You can, if you can make it to my location! Barnaby’s down to two minutes!”

“I can’t drive that fast.” Kotetsu clicked his tongue in disappointment. He pulled out of traffic and into a space at the nearest curb. Lucky for him, he had a clear view of the monitor attached to the side of stories-tall office building. Barnaby and Lunatic were faced off against each other, each standing on their own building.

X

The other Heroes were cleaning up the mess Lunatic left behind. Sky High took a few seconds to glance skyward where Lunatic and Barnaby chased each other. It was a fight meant for no other Hero.

Agnes ripped her headset off, throwing it at the monitor where the two masked figures dashed across the evening sky. Barnaby’s blows showed no signs of ever making contact. “He’s ruining my show… He’s…!”

“The citizens can’t see what you’re seeing,” her bespectacled assistant commented with a tight smile.

“And I don’t want them to! I can’t do this anymore… I’m not a woman that walks on eggshells for others.” Agnes shook her head, snatching up her discarded equipment after witnessing another failed attack. "Barnaby-kun! What Dark Star said is true! Tiger is not coming back. You're no longer Tiger and Barnaby, so pull your act together and—!"

Barnaby's hesitation cost him and he found himself surrounded by Lunatic's flames; Agnes’s efforts had proven to have a negative effect. He spun out of the attack, patting down his suit to rid it of the blue flames, landing on a nearby structure. "What?" he breathed. "Why...?" 'Why didn't he tell me?'

"King of Heroes," Lunatic drawled mockingly, cocking his head to the left. "Our new… legend. Do you intend to run from me?"

Barnaby's eyes narrowed, the action unseen thanks to his helmet, as he glared at the masked NEXT.

"Barnaby Brooks Jr. It's apparent that no one wants to be around you." Lunatic cocked his head in the opposite direction.

Eyes alight a sky blue, Barnaby let out an undignified yell, pouring all of his power into leaping at the masked figure.


Kotetsu gripped the steering wheel tightly. “This isn’t like you… Bunny…”


Barnaby could only see his parents’ bodies and the fire that surrounded them; a fire that now blazed blue.

"Good Luck Mode!"

'No!' The right leg of his suit began its transformation as the countdown started. "No!" Barnaby screamed. Lunatic was no longer before him; he was lashing out to a smiling Kotetsu. The kick never connected, but Barnaby's leg remained elevated, mere centimeters from the masked figure.

"Pathetic," Lunatic spat. He’d remained motionless, knowing the King of Heroes would be no threat. Spreading his arms, he let gravity take hold, dragging him down to the street. He disappeared in a burst of blue flames.

Agnes tossed her headpiece onto the blinking consoles and she sank into the empty cushioned chair, burying her hands in her hair. A grunt that sounded close to “commercial” could be heard from her hunched figure.

Kotetsu released the steering wheel, looking away from the appliance commercial that was currently being aired to replace what was once a live broadcast. The damage had been done—on live television, too—and it would be his fault if Barnaby was shunned for deliberately letting Lunatic escape. ‘Bunny…’


A/N: I wanted this up for Thanksgiving for you gaiz! I hope you had a good Happy Turkey Day~! And a good Black Friday shopping time. I know I did; got what I wanted! Hurr~! And I needed the bad guys to open the chapter, in order to send PapaTetsu running back to Bunny :3

mjin ster – my star


[ chapter eight ] [ chapter nine ] [ chapter ten ] [ chapter eleven ]
 
 
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