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03 September 2012 @ 06:06 am
[fic] & bunny - chapter fourteen  

Title: & Bunny – chapter fourteen
Author/Artist: Cheza-chan
Pairing/Characters: Kaburagi Kotetsu / Barnaby Brooks Jr.
Rating: R (M for Mature)
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.

[ chapter one ] [ chapter two ] [ chapter three ] [ chapter four ] [ chapter five ] [ chapter six ] [ chapter seven ] [ chapter eight ] [ chapter nine ] [ chapter ten ] [ chapter eleven ] [ chapter twelve ] [ chapter thirteen ]


"Can I at least call him?" Kaede wasn't whining; pleading, maybe.

"No," Anju sighed. "Focus on your studies. The semester is almost over. You can spend Christmas with him."

"But… he'll wonder why I haven't called." Kaede crossed her arms, tapping a socked foot as she watched her grandmother move around the kitchen.

"I left him a message regarding your situation." Anju faced the young girl, smiling sweetly, her eyes crinkling at the corners. "So, please make sure you focus on your school work. If you attempt to visit him, I might have to resort to drastic measures and ground you."

Kaede dropped her arms, gaping at the older woman. "You're not… serious, are you?"

"I am. Come over here and help me prepare breakfast. Your uncle's stopping by."

Kaede released a soft whine, but did as she was told, heading over to the sink to wash up. She stared at her hands as the warm water flowed over them, remembering how terrified she'd been when they reported Wild Tiger's kidnapping. It had all been for publicity, apparently, to overlook his sporadic quitting, and then taking him back into the company. 'At least he got his job back…' Kaede exhaled softly. "Otou-san…"

Anju lowered her head, thinking about how the tables had turned; she was now the one keeping father and daughter apart after wanting them to rekindle the relationship lost. She felt that Kotetsu needed to straighten out a few things in his life right now, and Kaede would only serve as a distraction. Her actions would benefit them in the long run, she hoped. Anju's message was currently being stored on Kotetsu's home phone, unsure of when someone would come by to listen to it.

X + X

A concerned Barnaby also sat wondering why his partner refused to answer his cell phone or even his PDA. He'd already reported the issue to Maverick, and the older man told him not to worry. How could he not? With a frustrated sigh, Barnaby pulled out his cell phone and attempted to contact Kotetsu one more time.

Radboud ignored the continuous ringing of the phone in the android's pocket. He'd searched through the recorded data collected and detected no abnormalities. He feared tampering with the AI at this stage because of the possibility of damaging the program. The ringing ceased and Radboud removed the plug attaching the android to his laptop. He reached around the life-sized figure and pushed the button to restart it. Lights blinked into the blank eyes and the red irises blazed brightly in mere moments. Radboud jumped back, barely escaping the wild fist swung at him. Powers activated, he held out his arm, hoping to make the manufactured body heavier. Movements stiff, the android kept dragging himself forward. Radbout gritted his teeth, remembering the real Kotetsu had behaved in a similar fashion during their first unofficial meeting.

"Why… did you… shut me down?!"

"I don't have to answer you!" He clenched his hand into a fist and grinned when his creation was forced to its knees. "You're nothing but a machine."

"One… that you obviously… desperately need…" The dark head rose slowly, revealing a cocky smile that seemed out of place on Kotetsu's face. "Take that into consideration… before you attempt to dismantle me."

Radboud snarled, dropping his arm. The second he did, he was tackled to the floor. "You're breaking the laws of robotics!"

"Those laws were abolished the day the Brooks dabbled in this subject matter. We're replacements… we are the future!"

Radboud winced at the steel grip keeping him pinned to the floor. "You're not the future… not yet. Your behavior right now says you're not ready for the real world."

The android's eyes flashed a burning red. "I am Kaburagi T. Kotetsu."

Raboud's body lit up and the two were propelled towards the ceiling, the machine receiving the brunt of the force. He pressed his knee into its gut and pushed, struggling to separate himself. He managed to free his left arm and, focusing on making it heavier, brought it across the other's face. There was an intense pain that traveled up its entire length, but he achieved his purpose and then some.

Radboud floated back down to the floor his right arm extended high to keep the other pinned to the ceiling—his left arm hung limply, and landed with a gentle touch. "I can keep you up there for as long as I can stay awake." He lifted his head, meeting the ruby-eyed glare. Radboud smirked, feeling pleased that he managed to damage a machine meant to render NEXTs—more specifically, Heroes—obsolete. The skin of its right cheek was torn, revealing the silver-gray material beneath "Are you. going to. behave?"

"Yes," the android ground out, his teeth bared.

"I don't trust you." Radboud smiled darkly. "And I will smash you into Earth's core if you try that again." He lowered the manmade machine from the ceiling, righting him so he could stand on his own two feet. Like the obedient doll he was supposed to be, he walked to his chair and sat, turning his damaged cheek upward. Radboud shook his head with a scoff, muttering in his native tongue beneath his breath. The brunet smirked, closing his eyes. He slipped into 'sleep' mode, filling his monitor with the scenes he'd recorded with his own optics last night.

x

Evelyn brought the plate back to the kitchen, storing the food away in the fridge. Kotetsu was back to not eating—he wouldn't even look at her. She stood in front of the sink, knuckles white as she clutched the edge. It was painful—being in the same house as her prisoner. Why? Evelyn couldn't answer that question, but she knew she needed to get out and breathe. She pushed away from the sink and made her way to the front of the apartment. Grabbing her jacket on the way, she slammed the door shut behind herself.

Radboud didn't want to leave his creation unattended, but the real thing needed to be tended to as well. Kotetsu's wrists had indeed been damaged after last night's stunt. Despite the fact that he would slowly heal, he didn't want to risk it.

"Don't turn me off."

Green eyes narrowed at the almost pitiful expression being shown to him.

Even when he slept, he was still recording. The several hours spent powered down were several hours missing from his "life". He needed to fill that void; he didn't want any more voids.

Radboud exhaled deeply. "Stay," he ordered, rolling his chair away from where he worked. He stood and walked out of the room, heading for the bathroom to wash up and collect the necessary items. Kotetsu gripped the pillow tightly after hearing the door open. "At least you understand the situation now. You're not our friend, and we're not yours." The bed dipped. "Sit up."

Kotetsu did as he was told, his eyes empty as he stared at the younger NEXT. Radboud sniffed, wordlessly holding out his arms to tell their prisoner to do the same. He took Kotetsu's fisted hand, using it to turn the other's forearm to better survey the damage. The skin was torn in certain places. Where it wasn't, there were angry welts of varying sizes. He had no comments; they would simply bounce off the empty shell seated before him.

Radboud worked in silence, making sure to thoroughly, but gently, rub the healing ointment into Kotetsu's ravaged skin. He held Kotetsu's left hand, turning it over so the palm was face down. His interest was in the silver band. "Have you figured out how you feel about Barnaby? He's figured out his feelings… for you."

Kotetsu blinked, slowly, and met the emerald-eyed gaze. They weren't the same color as Barnaby's, but they reminded him of the blond. He missed those eyes glaring at him. "I… want to be back at his side," he spoke, his voice cracking. "I don't care that I'm losing my powers. I don't… Bunny…"

Radboud sighed. He released Kotetsu's hand and reached up, cupping the man's face. "Tell him that… if you see him again."

If. Kotetsu squeezed his eyes shut, ducking his head.

Radboud leaned forward, pressing his forehead to Kotetsu's. He pulled away, standing from the bed immediately. "Apologize to Evy when she gets back," he stated, walking out. He had to finish the other's repairs and send him back out. As though someone else read his mind, his phone sang and he reached for it where it was nestled in the back pocket of his jeans. Scowling at the name, he accepted the call.

"Just a little mishap. I'm doing damage repair – He's fine and we've still got our prisoner – Yeah, whatever. How 'bout you send your lackeys back out to cause more destruction and mayhem?" Radboud's scowl remained as he made his way back into his workroom. "I'm not giving his blueprints to Rotwang. I'll make a simplified version, you can have those." The green eyes narrowed. "You can't threaten me. I'm the keeper of your secret. Remember that!" He ended the call, resisting the urge to throw his phone. He caved, hurling the device across the room. It smashed into the wall, shattering into pieces that scattered. The android smirked, somehow amused at seeing his master crack.

"Shut up," Radboud spat at him.

"No words left my mouth."

"Shut up before I really do scrap you, just to prove a point."

The manmade machine sighed, sitting up straight. "Am I finished? Bunny keeps calling. I want to tell him I'm fine."

The NEXT ran a hand over his short-cropped auburn hair, looking around the well lived-in space. He spotted a box of gauze and smirked. The tear hadn't quite sealed, but it was on its way. Radboud retrieved the box, knocking one out into his hand as he headed for the dark figure. "You want to be more human, look it. Act it."

X + X + X + X

"Are you really that clumsy?" Barnaby pushed his glasses up, pinching the bridge of his nose. Kotetsu grinned sheepishly, touching the bandage covering his cheek. He winced, forcing the blond to ease his hand away. "Why didn't you tell anyone? Considering what happened yesterday, and… the kidnapping." Barnaby shook his head, willing the distressing thoughts away.

Kotetsu smiled, taking Barnaby's hands in his own. "I'm not leaving. You can't get rid of me that easily." He tugged, bringing the younger man close against his chest.

Barnaby didn't try to escape from the embrace, but there was a quiet voice at the edge of his subconscious, whispering to him. He ignored it and let the hug continue for a few more moments before pulling away. "Maybe we should do something away from the office today," he suggested with a small smile.

Kotetsu grinned. "Like a date?"

Barnaby pressed his lips into a thin line before his expression softened, his smile warmer than before. "Something like that."

"Fantastic!" Kotetsu circled around the blond, placing his hands to Barnaby's shoulder to steer him out of the office and down the hall to the elevator. He chattered away, occasionally running his knuckles gently across the bandage on his cheek; a subconscious effort to let Barnaby see that he was indeed human.

Kotetsu offered up his car for use, but Barnaby waved him off, leading the way to his cherry red sports car. "I was the one that invited you out," was his excuse.

Kotetsu grinned at him over the top of the car before they had to break gazes to climb into their respective seats. "Do you even know where we're going?" he chuckled.

"The park?" Barnaby mumbled, shrugging lightly as he slipped the key into the ignition. His frown vanished as he smiled at his passenger. "I'll know when we get there, so just sit back and try not to hurt yourself in my car." Kotetsu pulled his seatbelt across, buckling in, and shot Barnaby a thumbs-up with a wide grin. The blond shook his head and pulled out of the parking garage.

X + X + X + X

Kaede would probably be grounded for life, but she desperately wanted to see her father, up close and personal, to make sure he was really all right. She'd gone to school as her grandmother had wanted, but instead of going home, she headed for the train station. Bundled down from head to toe against the wind, nobody had recognized her to stop her. Kaede tucked herself into the corner of her seat, watching the world go by with a small smile on her face; she'd be seeing her father again.

X

The second Kaede stepped off the platform and onto the train to make her way to Sternbild, Radboud was alerted via the security cameras he had oh-so-diligently re-wired. "Why don't children listen?" he scoffed. He rolled his chair to another table, booting the computer located there. "Look up, girls." Hoping Dark Star and Evelyn were still in the Silver Stage, Radboud hacked several of the video screens located—hopefully—where the girls might be.

Dark Star was tossing back the last remnants of her soda when she noticed the stream of characters running beneath an ad for clothing on the screen across the street. "Huh… I'm not good with kids." She turned away and smirked at the waitress nearby, lifting her hand to signal that she was ready to order.

Evelyn was already on her way to the station after reading the coded message; she knew her friend would never take the job.

X + X + X + X

Barnaby wasn't sure what brought him back to the skating rink, giving the connections it had with his sordid past, but they were here, and he felt at ease. He glided slowly across the ice, Kotetsu striding ahead of him. Barnaby smiled as he watched the older man, amused at his child-like behavior. The brunet slowed, spinning on the ice to face him. A wide grin split Kotetsu's face as he waved excitedly.

Barnaby chuckled, nodding his head in acknowledgement. He gave himself an extra push to catch up. "Are you showing off or just having fun?" he asked after reaching the other's side.

"A little of both," Kotetsu laughed. He reached out, grasping Barnaby's hand.

The young man brushed the chill of his fingers off as a result of their surroundings and the weather outside that accompanied it. Barnaby also realized that Christmas was just over a week away and he wasn't feeling any of the fear and anxiety that he usually did this time of the year. Samantha always told him he was welcome to come over for Christmas dinner, but he always refused; searching for his parents' murderer had been imperative. But Jake Martinez was gone and, unless something else cropped up, he would be free Christmas day.

Barnaby's fingers curled around Kotetsu's, drawing a red-eyed glance from the older man. "If you're not busy," he began, looking away for a second to gather his thoughts. "I've told you about Samantha, right? Well, she's having a party. I'm sure you can guess what kind. But I extend an invitation, for you to join me." Kotetsu stared blankly and Barnaby found that the flip-flop of his stomach was different; he wanted to empty it, of all its contents. "If you can't—" he began hastily.

Kotetsu grinned. "That's a big step for a second date."

Barnaby's entire frame relaxed and he had to right himself before he slipped on the ice. "Why do you persist on labeling our outings?" He eased his hand away from Kotetsu's, turning to skate away, but the chilled fingers took his once again, halting any movement.

Kotetsu tugged, bringing the blond as close as possible. His black and red hat was tipped backwards as he pressed his forehead against Barnaby's. "Maybe… I'm hoping you'll think of labeling these outings… as dates."

Barnaby's eyes widened, but Kotetsu was gone before he could comment, gliding away, mingling with other skaters. He pushed off, giving chase, and spent the remainder of the evening doing so.

X

"Why don't you spend the night? I'm worried about you." Barnaby's hand hovered over the gauze on the side of his partner's face. Kotetsu didn't flinch away this time. He tilted his head, making contact with Barnaby's hand, and leaned into the touch. "Only if you'll have me."

Barnaby had no experience with this kind of situation, but he's never let such a silly reason stop him before. He slid his hand down the side of Kotetsu's neck, letting it rest on his shoulder, and slowly leaned in, tilting his head to avoid the brim of Kotetsu's hat. Their warm breaths mingled, but their lips never touched. Barnaby pulled away as Kotetsu fumbled to retrieve his ringing phone.

The screen darkened the moment he brought the device into his line of vision, but not before catching the name of his caller. "Wrong number," he laughed sheepishly, waving his phone for Barnaby to see.

The blond nodded stiffly, unsure of what face to show the older man.

Kotetsu fixed that problem for him. A light touch to his cheek guided his head so they faced each other. "Do you still want me to spend the night?"

"I don't trust myself," Barnaby admitted, averting his eyes to stare at the cement floor beneath his boots. "So… no. I'm sorry."

Kotetsu smiled, brushing his thumb beneath Barnaby's eye in a gentle caress. "I respect your wishes… this time. We're going to work on that, though: Barnaby Brooks Jr. doesn't trust himself—something's wrong." Barnaby managed a small smile and Kotetsu grinned. "There you are." He bumped their noses before pulling away. "See you tomorrow?" Kotetsu started walking backwards, back to where he knew his car was located.

Barnaby nodded, never looking away. Not even after the other had turned his back and began jogging eccentrically between cars. Once he could no longer see Kotetsu, Barnaby slipped back into his own car, staring at his hands clutching the steering wheel. He groaned, laying his head down atop them.

The dark figure leaned against the borrowed SUV, a phone in his hand. Not his phone, or the replica he was given, but a special phone that couldn't be traced. The bored look on his face remained even after the call was answered. "I need a favor. I need Radboud out of the apartment." He paused, listening, and slumped lower against the door. "I need some time with the prisoner and I won't get it if he's there. Call him in. Tell him you want to talk." He smirked, remembering his creator's earlier reaction. "I'm sure he's get scared. And if you need something extra…" His fingers ghosted over the phone tucked away in his pocket. "I think the daughter's back in town."

X

Kotetsu heard the approaching footsteps and pushed himself into a sitting position. Radboud appeared in the doorway of the room, dressed for an evening stroll. He looked apologetic and Kotetsu found out why soon enough. The dark clone appeared behind him, smiling innocently with his face.

"I have to step out, and the girls aren't back yet." That was all the explanation the young man provided. Expression guarded, he pushed past his own creation to make his way outside.

Kotetsu licked his chapped lips before worrying the bottom one between his teeth. His actions were copied and he looked away.

"We need to kiss."

Kotetsu's head snapped up and he found the other still smiling sweetly as he moved into the room. He idly wondered if he'd ever be able to look into a mirror again without feeling disgust. The folding chair was dragged out, and the dark copy sat in it, just so he could remain upright with the proper support.

"Come here."

Kotetsu's arms were still unbound, which made it easier for him to climb from the bed. He hesitated after standing, swaying a little on his feet. Fingers curled around his wrist, dragging him the final steps, and a strong arm snaked around his waist after he dropped into Ebitsu's lap.

"Close your eyes."

Kotetsu did as he was told.

"It should be easy to picture him, since he's probably all you think about. Kiss me... like you would kiss him."

'Bunny...' Kotetsu reached out, blind, and managed to find the other's face, cupping his cheek. He would be gentle because, just like a real bunny, Barnaby would scare easily. He leaned in, exhaling softly, before his lips pressed against the other's. Warm. They were warm. 'Bunny?' Kotetsu's eyes slowly opened and he sat back after staring into the crimson irises. He was still close enough to see the light reflected in them.

Ebitsu smirked, keeping the man from falling off his lap with a steady arm. "You're so cute. It's amazing the entire city isn't after you." Kotetsu remained silent, gaze lowered. Chilled fingers cupped his chin, forcing him to meet the ruby-eyed gaze. "You should try to loosen up, especially after I went through so much trouble of getting us privacy, too."

Kotetsu's fingers dug into his hip as he held onto any sound that would betray him.

"Maybe if I tell you… Bunny tried to kiss me today."

Kotetsu stiffened, balling his hands into tight fists, his nails digging into the palms, and he kept his head lowered.

"We were interrupted, and I'm glad. I want to kiss him, like you would."

"…can't," Kotetsu choked out. He whimpered, screwing his eyes shut as his hair was snatched and his head painfully dragged backwards.

"Why not?" Ebitsu asked, each word stressed.

"Because… you're not… Bunny."

He laughed harshly, "That's your excuse? Pathetic…" The grip on his hair tightened and Kotetsu found his breath stolen away by the mouth crashing against his. His hands rose, angry half-moon welts on the palms, and he let them rest on the broad shoulders, gripping the material of the shirt.

This wasn't how he kissed. Kotetsu's lips parted under the forceful tongue and he breathed through his nose. "…stop." The fingers in his hair tightened and more pained noises tumbled from his bruised, swollen lips. "Stop… Let me…" The pain on his scalp lessened and the Hero breathed a soft sigh of relief. Kotetsu stared at himself—a dark, malicious version—and slid his hands slowly upward. His movements stalled after his fingers curled around the other's neck.

Ebitsu smirked, tilting his head to further expose his throat. "Do it. It would be so easy, wouldn't it? Just cut off a few more second to your time… End my reign."

Kotetsu's fingers trembled, tightening. His thumbs pressed against the Adam's apple that had no reason to bob. Machines didn't breathe nor swallow, so why…?

"Save your tears," Ebitsu whispered, lifting his hands to the crook of Kotetsu's elbows. He pulled downward, forcing the space between them to shorten. "You'll need them later."

Kotetsu released a shuddering breath and let his hands continue traveling upward until he cupped his own face. He closed his eyes, drawing minute strength from Barnaby's smile, and closed the space between them. The warmth almost fooled him into believing the recipient of his kiss was real. Instead of running away, though, he accepted the false truth. Kotetsu drew himself higher, a thumb moving in a gentle caress across the other's cheek.

Ebitsu read it as a sign to open his mouth, and he did. The tentative brush of tongues elicited a better reaction from him than his own forceful behavior. He slid his hands up to Kotetsu's shoulders, then down to the narrow waist, dragging the man higher on his lap. Kotetsu's tongue swept over every inch of his mouth, curling against his tongue, fueling him to once again attempt to control the kiss. His actions were more reserved, even when he sucked Kotetsu's tongue into his mouth. The moan that followed sparked something inside of him, and he arched up in the seat, lifting his hands to tangle them in the dark, chestnut hair. Kotetsu mirrored his actions, grinding down. There was no fear of being powered down as the man's hand curled around his neck a second time.

'This isn't me…' His conscience revived, Kotetsu attempted to free himself, but he wouldn't be released. He pushed feebly at the droid's shoulders and was allowed a little leeway for breathing. Before he could speak, Kotetsu was easily lifted—his legs automatically wrapped around Ebitsu's waist, earning him a leering grin—and carried the short distance to the bed, where he was deposited. He attempted to curl up, but Ebitsu followed, forcing his legs apart. Kotetsu blinked and relaxed after finding Barnaby kneeling above him, lifting his hips to allow his pants to be removed.

Ebitsu smirked, not realizing the man's mental state had been compromised. "So eager... I don't even have to threaten you." He wrapped his fingers around Kotetsu's half-hard member, tugging gently a few times, watching as he worked it to full hardness.

Kotetsu opened his mouth to speak, gasping as his hips left the bed. "You... You need..."

Ebitsu couldn't hide his surprise. "I'm not..."

"You are." Kotetsu managed to free himself, rising onto his hands and knees. He turned, crawling his way across the bed, and cupped the obvious bulge in the dark trousers, glossy golden eyes staring up into crimson ones.

Ebitsu huffed out a laugh, grinning. "Somehow... I don't want to fake it with you, but only Radboud can 'get me off', so to speak. It's... different."

"I… can try." The mention of his captor's name did nothing to bring him back, and Kotetsu reached for the other's fly, ready to undo it. He faltered when another hand landed on his. Transparent, he felt nothing, but his heart clenched as he recognized the wedding band. He pulled away sharply, lifting himself into a kneeling position. His mind now cleared, he stared at his dark reflection with fear.

Ebitsu hummed, a long, drawling sound. "The moment's gone. I was going to be on the receiving end, just because you were so willing, but now I have to take what I want."

"Wouldn't it be better… if you just let me go to Bunny? Just once," Kotetsu pleaded. "You can record my genuine reaction and use that. Just let me see him once." He had backed himself into the wall after the predator began advancing. "I won't tell him anything. I just want to tell him how I feel."

Ebitsu's eyes narrowed as he processed the information in hopes of arriving at a reasonable conclusion. He scowled down at the human. "Fine. You can see him tonight. Don't do anything to force our hand. We're not meant to kill you."

Kotetsu nodded. He remained in his current position until he realized the other wasn't moving. He glanced at him and found the ruby eyes focused on his lap… where he was still aroused. "I can—"

"I don't want you to. Come back over here. Or do you want me to come over there?"

Kotetsu couldn't answer such a question fast enough, and found himself trapped, arms pinned against the wall at the wrists by one hand. The other was wrapped around his erection, its gentle movements frustrating, as his body refused to listen to him and just became more aroused. Ebitsu smirked, leaning down to press a gentle kiss to the corner of Kotetsu's lips. He tightened his fingers around the hard length, brushing his thumb over the leaking head, and was rewarded with a ragged gasp panted directly into his ear.

"I just want to stretch this moment out as long as possible."

"Don't…"

He couldn't. Ebitsu pumped his hand faster, each time stimulating the sensitive head of Kotetsu's cock with a swipe of his thumb. The body beneath him writhed, a whine filling his ear. He really would have liked playing with his toy a bit longer, but time had now become limited. His fingers unfurled from around Kotetsu's wrists as he lowered himself, stopping only after nestling himself between the man's thighs. It only took a few firm sucks before Kotetsu spiraled over the edge, left panting where he slumped against the wall. Again, Ebitsu swallowed his spoils, wiping a hand across the back of his mouth as he climbed from the bed. "Bathroom," he ordered, walking out.

x

Having cleaned himself up and dressed in clothes obviously borrowed from Radboud—dark blue jeans and a black hoodie with a graphic design running down the left sleeve—Kotetsu took a hesitant glance into the bathroom's mirror. He looked like a shell of his former self. Even with the hot shower that freshened him up a little, there was still evidence of bags beneath his eyes. 'He might not think I'm… me.'

Noticing the movement out of the corner of his eye, Kotetsu turned and faced his unwanted shadow. The android inclined his head, wordlessly beckoning him over. Kotetsu obliged, trying not to drag his feet as he did so. The hood was tossed onto his head when he passed, tugged down to cast shadows across his face. After that, they headed out into the night.

Kotetsu had no recollection of how they moved through Sternbild and its Stages, but he found himself in an elevator, riding to the penthouse suite, hood off and dangling down his back. The elevator doors opened and he was greeted with a worried Barnaby. Kotetsu smiled and reached out, cupping the blond's face between his hands, stopping any words meant to be spoken. He pulled him forward, unconsciously licking his lips before pressing their foreheads together. "Sorry to bother you so late. I just… I wanted to see you."

"You saw me earlier. Is everything okay?"

"I… missed you." Kotetsu exhaled deeply. "I don't want to be apart."

"You're scaring me." Barnaby eased himself away from the older man, giving him a quick onceover before brushing back the dark bangs to take Kotetsu's temperature. He lifted his free hand to his own forehead, gauging the difference. "Your temperature seems normal enough. You look fatigued, though." Barnaby frowned. "Did you go straight home after we parted ways?"

Kotetsu grinned sheepishly. "I did, but I couldn't stop thinking about you."

Barnaby revealed his wide eyes as he slowly lowered his hands to his sides. "Kotetsu-san?"

"Bunny."

Barnaby closed his eyes, reveling in the warmth of the fingers against his cheek. He leaned into the touch, recalling the lost moment in the parking garage. His lips parted expectantly and he was rewarded with a gentle kiss. Kotetsu kept it chaste—a firm press of lips only. The feeling was different than kissing the droid; different than kissing a woman, but pleasant all the same, because it was someone he cared for. Kotetsu knew he had to be strong, for Barnaby's sake. He grinned against the blond's lips, pulling away long enough to catch Barnaby's eye. The moment was fleeting, however, because Barnaby averted his gaze. Instead, he showed Kotetsu a red-tipped ear that told the older man he was blushing.

Barnaby cleared his throat. "We should... probably talk—"

Kotetsu slid his arms around Barnaby, squeezing tightly, before holding him at arm's length. "Let's put you to bed," he declared, his smile wide. Barnaby nodded in agreement. He allowed himself to be led to the bedroom, where he was promptly tucked into bed.

Kotetsu stood at the edge of the bed, looking at the blond that stared questioningly back at him. It was the fear of know that this could be his final time with the young man to made him climb into bed beside Barnaby. Gently, he removed Barnaby's glasses. "Sleep. I'll stay with you, promise." A soft press of lips to Barnaby's temple followed his words. "And don't forget me…"

Barnaby wanted to question the man about his choice of words, but all he could do was enjoy the heat that encompassed him, lulling him back to sleep.

Kotetsu waited a few minutes before carefully edging away from the sleeping young man. It pained him to climb from the bed—to walk back out of Barnaby's life, but if he didn't do it willingly, the extraction would be even more painful. He walked out of the elevator after it arrived at the ground floor, trying not to drag his feet as he made his way to his escort. The hood was replaced, casting shadows across his weary features, and they walked out together in silence.

X

The red eyes never once looked away from the man sleeping curled on his side; a habit formed from having his arms bound for almost a month. As an android, even with an AI, was he capable of having feelings? He was processing information—thinking. Barnaby was his goal, and he wanted to achieve his goal. "Kotetsu" was in his programming, and he needed his programming. The android's eyes narrowed into a glare as he continued to stare at the sleeping NEXT.

Did he really want them both, or was he jealous at the affection meant only for "Kotetsu"?


A/N: I tried to run this by my "editor", but she seems to have a lot on her plate, and I feel like I'm being a bother. So… all thoughts are mine, no suggestions added, hope it's half-decent. Sorry for bathing you in my self-conscious self-depreciation *bows*

Why am I torturing Kotetsu like this? I dunno… *le sigh* Next chapter… expect the unexpected? I don't even know what to tell you gaiz (except…) I had fun at Otakon? Yay~? I saw an Origami Cyclone on my last day, a really good one xD Oh! And Kaede's back~ she'll be sticking around for a while, too :3




[ chapter fifteen ]