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24 April 2013 @ 07:08 pm
nyegeh  


Title: From Land to Foam – chapter seven
Pairing/Characters: Kaburagi Kotetsu / Barnaby Brooks Jr.
Rating: R (M for Mature)
Genre: AU
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters (of Tiger & Bunny).


Barnaby changed his mind about his phone. Instead, he told his brother about Keith. Said lifeguard was climbing down from his tower when he was approached by an older man with short-cropped black hair. The stranger smiled and Keith returned it, feeling at ease for some odd reason.

"I have a message," he told the blond. "From my brother, Barnaby."

Keith's eyes widened. "He has sib—no. What's the message?"

"Our mom grounded him and he's not allowed to go anywhere for a while. He doesn't have his phone, and wanted to know if you could pass a message on to Kotetsu Kaburagi."

"Of course!" Keith gathered his jacket and buoy. "Follow me. I left my phone back at the shack." He smiled at the older man. "I'm sorry to hear about Barnaby. Hopefully, he can use the memories of his week here to help him through his grounding."

The brunet grinned. "He's got a house full of siblings. Someone's bound to annoy him long enough that he forgets just how long he's grounded."

They shared a laugh as they fell in step together.

X X X

/I'm sorry that you have to hear this through me, but Barnaby's brother arrived to talk with me today. He said Barnaby's grounded... He didn't give a time frame of when this punishment would end, but Barnaby wanted me to pass the message along to you./

Kotetsu opened and stared at the message for the fifth time in an hour since its arrival. He sighed, laying the mobile device down so he could stare at it from a different angle. "It's my fault," he finally muttered. "Again, I never thought about his situation and dragged him out with me."

"Is this the person you bought the phone for?"

Despite her unexpected appearance, Kotetsu remained indifferent to Karina's presence. He mumbled a soft 'yes'. Karina scowled, setting the stack of papers down atop his phone. "This is no time for you to be moping, and for no reason. You still have to visit those aquariums. Mr. Antonio decided we would go with you. He wants to catch up on the work he missed."

"Did you miss me, Karina?"

'Of course I did.' Karina tossed her hair with a scoff, "I was worried about you because you're so accident prone, but everything seems to have worked out just fine."

Kotetsu smiled, reaching out to push at the papers with his finger. "Bunny was there, so of course everything would be okay."

Karina's eyes grew comically wide and she choked on her words, "Bu-Bunny...?! Who—?"

Kotetsu blinked, shifting his gaze to the teen. "Barnaby. The one I bought the phone for. He's a nudist alien, so I've been looking after hi—eh?" Forced upright in his seat, Kotetsu stared cross-eyed at the girl taking his temperature.

"You're delusional," Karina stated matter-of-factly. "But… you have no fever."

"He's not delusional."

Kotetsu perked up, looking over the girl's shoulder at the filled doorway.

"I didn't know he was on your phone plan..." Antonio's eyes narrowed. "But everything he's saying is true."

"A nudist... foreigner?" Karina whimpered, stumbling away from the seated scientist.

Kotetsu shook his head. "Alien. He knows nothing about our society and I'm helping him learn."

Antonio sighed, stepping aside to reveal an older, bespectacled man with snow white hair. Kotetsu rose slowly from his chair, curiosity written across his face. Karina was also curious about the newcomer, but she hid it with a frown. "This is Albert Maverick," Antonio explained. "He was asked to come in and interview us on behalf of Apollon Media."

Karina's eyes widened. "A-Apollon...?!"

Apollon Media was a major daily newspaper of the Sternbild area. It covered the city's news; sports, weather, entertainment, business, and political news. The daily issues were also available via eReader. The Three Stages is a monthly magazine issue, also published by Apollon Media, that does more in-depth coverage of certain entertainment events and "red carpet" gossip.

Karina smoothed out her outfit and the borrowed lab coat, putting on her best smile. Maverick's gray eyes were focused solely on Kotetsu, who stood oblivious and awed that someone so important would want to talk with him. With a grin, he walked forward to meet the interviewer, vigorously shaking his head. His phone remained forgotten beneath the pile of documents.


Kotetsu pushed away from the table and the microscope he'd been utilizing, rolling to the other side of the room to reach his trilling phone. His face lit up as he saw the name of his caller and he couldn't swipe fast enough to accept the call. "Bunny! It's been forever. I'm so sorry I got you in trouble!"

"Are you free?" Barnaby cut in on the other line. "I'd like to see you."

Kotetsu looked back at his workstation, his leg jumping impatiently. "Give me an hour?"

"That's fine."

"I'll see you in an hour! Same beach, right?"

"Yes."

Kotetsu could practically hear Barnaby rolling his eyes and grinned. "Don't judge me. Maybe you were thinking of going back to Poseidon Line."

"Poseidon? What does he have to do with this?"

"Poseidon Line is Keith's county," Kotetsu laughed.

"…oh. No. The beach right here in Sternbild will be fine."

"I'll see you in an hour, Bunny." Kotetsu ended the call, unable to wipe the grin off his face. He shook his head, giddily rolling back to his cluttered work desk.

X

Barnaby placed down his cell phone, picking up the pink bunny plush to hug against his chest. He'd spent two weeks at home with his extended family per Mother's request, relearning how to use his tail to its fullest abilities. Fifteen days without Kotetsu, fourteen away from humans; the extra day was spent hiding in the security shack to charge his cell phone. To please Mother, he'd even gone as far as to enlist the help of Keith and his brother in order to return to town as a "normal" person would, which allowed him to travel with the plush he currently squeezed.

Barnaby smiled, holding the toy closer as he recalled the last conversation he'd had with Mother.

-x-x-

Floating in the depths of the ocean, Barnaby closed his eyes, reaching out to the one that helped bring him into existence. /I want to tell him./

A gentle voice filled his head, /Do you trust him enough to do that?/

Without hesitation, /Yes./

/Then I wish you the best of luck, my child./

Barnaby grinned, restraining his squeal of excitement, especially since it couldn't be heard under water.

-x-x-

Alone now, though, with only the wooden walls and lost objects surrounding him, he let out a shout of excitement, hugging the plush close against his chest. Maybe—just maybe—he'd also be able to tell Kotetsu his feelings. At that thought, Barnaby blushed, bringing the soft toy up to hid behind it.

X X X

Kotetsu's hour turned into two and he found himself sprinting down the sand, his black and white cap clutched tightly so he couldn't lose it. Barnaby lifted his head, a wide smile splitting his face. Kotetsu stumbled in the sand a few feet away from the young man, catching himself long enough before dropping to his knees right beside the blond. "...work!" he panted.

"Would you like to see a mimic octopus, old man?" Barnaby's eyes widened, his arms reaching for the sky as he was tackled into the sand.

Kotetsu's face was inches from his, the older man's honey golden eyes wide and almost glowing. "Are you kidding?! I would love to see a mimic octopus! Me and Antonio talked about it a few years ago—said we wanted our own video to be broadcasted... anywhere!" His eyes grew even wider, if possible, and the space between the two men lessened until they were practically nose to nose. Thank the Gods for being on an empty part of the beach. "Are you a mimic octopus?" Kotetsu whispered.

Barnaby turned his head away so he could laugh. "I'm not. I do have a spine, old man."

"I need to see proof!"

Barnaby yelped in surprise as he flipped onto his stomach. Kotetsu straddled his thighs, keeping his flailing to a minimum while sliding his hands beneath the black shirt. He poked and prodded along each bump of Barnaby's spinal column, grinning cheekily as the young man desperately attempted to escape from his tickling hands.

Satisfied with his findings, Kotetsu rolled off with a sigh, lying next to the panting blond. "I guess you do have a spine, so you can't be a mimic octopus."

"You're an idiot..."

Kotetsu grinned, staring up at the afternoon sky. "That's nothing new." A silence settled between them, occasionally disturbed by Barnaby as he tried to even out his breathing from Kotetsu's sudden attack. "I'm sorry you were grounded—"

"It's not your fault. If it was, do you think I would invite you to see a mimic octopus?"

Kotetsu pursed his lips, his hat falling off as he folded his arms beneath his head. "Maybe you plan to leave me in the middle of the ocean to suffer a horrible fate?"

Barnaby pushed himself up, leaning over Kotetsu to glare down at him. "I would never do that."

Kotetsu studied him, eyes wide, before his expression softened. "I wish I could be as honest as you."

"I'm not honest," Barnaby scoffed, lowering himself back onto the sand to hide his face in his arms.

"Hmm," Kotetsu drawled. "I already told you—I know what you are."

Barnaby glanced at Kotetsu in time to catch the brunet glancing his way also. He saw something in Kotetsu's eyes—felt it—that told him that the other might be speaking the truth.

Kotetsu grinned. "Do you want me to tell you?"

"We can exchange stories while diving for the mimic octopus." Barnaby grunted as he pushed himself up off the sand.

Kotetsu followed, his movements wilder than his young companion's. "When did you plan to go?"

Barnaby paused, his gaze fixed on the sand. Today was Monday; his day to return to the sea was Wednesday— "Friday," he stated softly.

"A weekend trip with Bunny to hunt for a rare and amazing creature!" Kotetsu snatched up his hat, dusting it off to place it back atop his head. "You have to meet the work family if we're going to run away together. The kids are polar opposites—Karina and Ivan." Kotetsu's thoughts ran away from him and the rambling began, "If we really find the mimic octopus, it'll be an amazing story to tell the reporter of Apollon Media. I still can't believe they wanted to interview me... I'm no one."

Barnaby stared at the sand beneath his bare feet. "You're... You're amazing."

Kotetsu chuckled softly, "Thank you." Hearing the praise from Barnaby warmed him inside.

They continued their conversation as they strolled down the damp, sandy shore, enjoying each other's company. At the end of their walk, Kotetsu had made a decision that he voiced to the younger man. "Can I pick you up Wednesday to visit the lab? You can officially meet everyone then, and Mr. Maverick will be there, too. He said he was returning to take a few shots to go along with the article."

Barnaby swallowed thickly, instinct telling him not to go against his true nature. Kotetsu stared expectantly at him, though, and he nodded, not trusting his voice to verbally agree.

Kotetsu mistook his silence for something else. "You don't have to come if you don't want to."

Barnaby shook his head frantically. "I don't mind at all! We might have to get Antonio's permission to take out a boat after all, so it'll be a good time to try to persuade him."

Kotetsu scoffed, reaching over to flick the young man in the forehead. "He's not the boss of me. It'll be just you and me, searching for the mimic octopus."

Barnaby smiled, liking the sound of their burgeoning plan. He walked Kotetsu to his SUV, standing back when the man opened the door to climb in. He clutched his hands together to keep from doing something he would probably regret. 'Just wait a while and you can tell him...'

Kotetsu studied the young man. "You can tell me now if you want to."

Barnaby's eyes widened and he looked away. "I used to be so good at hiding my expressions," he sighed.

"Not with me," Kotetsu laughed, crossing his arms over his chest proudly.

"That's because I wanted you to see how annoyed I was with you." Barnaby smiled at the brunet's hurt pout. "No. We made a deal."

"Such an honest Bunny," Kotetsu chuckled. He closed the car door, turning the key in the ignition. With a wave, he pulled away from the curb.

Elated that he'd be able to make Kotetsu a part of his life, Barnaby failed to notice the shadows that shifted to the left of him despite there being no light to cast any shadows.


Karina actually sneered at their guest the moment he walked into the lab. Barnaby knew why; he was her rival in the quest to win Kotetsu's heart. He smiled sweetly at her behind the frameless glasses he'd picked up from the lost and found at the beach—

"Clark Kent?" Kotetsu inquired with a grin when he arrived to pick up his guest.

Barnaby blinked owlishly. "Who?"

"Superman," Kotetsu outright laughed, pushing the young man into the car.

—and extended his hand in greeting. The prescription in the glasses was mild, almost nonexistent, so he didn't have a hard time seeing; one of his sisters told him he needed a disguise. "I've heard so much about you."

"Same here," Karina ground out between teeth gritted in a forced smile, her hand gripping his tightly.

Kotetsu laughed, the sound growing louder after spotting Antonio and another walking across the lobby. Barnaby released Karina's hand to automatically move his to his stomach. The young girl looked concerned, but only for a brief second. She had to put on a smile for Apollon Media; for Maverick, who walked alongside Antonio. Barnaby stumbled away before they could get closer, bolting from the building to get some fresh air. Kotetsu was at his side every step of the way, a gentle, calming presence.

"I'm sorry," Kotetsu whispered. "I'm always doing this—I'm sorry!"

Barnaby shook his head, tying to catch his breath and find his voice. "Panic..."

"Panic attack?"

Barnaby nodded as best he could in his hunched state. Kotetsu's hand rubbed small circular patterns on his back and he focused solely on the touch, pushing the darkness he'd felt from the reporter as far away as possible. It wasn't possible, though, because everyone was joining them outside to see if he was all right. Barnaby straightened up, fisting his hands at his sides. He smiled tightly at the white-haired man, trying not to look him directly in the eye for fear of what he might see there. "I'm sorry... I had a slight panic attack. I'm not used to... reporters."

"Because you're an alien?" Maverick asked, chuckling softly.

Barnaby turned, staring at Kotetsu incredulously, his panic returning. The brunet shook his head, hands waving frantically.

"It's not his fault," Maverick continued. "I overheard him talking about an 'alien' when Mr. Lopez brought me to meet him. I'm not one for creating speculations, but I assumed he was making references towards you?"

Kotetsu stepped forward, drawing the attention to himself. "It's an inside joke of ours," he explained. "I tease him about his blond hair and blue eyes all the time."

"If that's the case, Ivan's more of an alien, then," Karina mumbled, staring at said blue-eyed blond with a scrutinizing glare.

"Are you, a blonde with blue eyes, really going to stand here and point fingers because Ivan's a foreigner? He was raised in Sternbild most of his life."

Karina looked taken aback at being chastised so sternly, but she saw the smallest hint of an upward curl in Kotetsu's lips. "There's also Keith," Antonio muttered, completely shattering the tension that had begun to build.

The atmosphere relaxed after that, but Barnaby kept close to Kotetsu the majority of his visit, trying not to be caught alone with the Apollon Media representative. Ivan joined the party later, introducing himself shyly to the newcomer of their group. When the talk of diving for the mimic octopus came around, the quiet teen turned into a completely different person, attaching himself to Barnaby's side so he could excitedly voice his thoughts over the situation.

Albert Maverick left first, Karina kept her distance, and Barnaby was finally able to relax. Kotetsu took pleasure in mercilessly teasing the boy, and Barnaby sat back, enjoying their antics.

X

The minute the sun dipped beneath the horizon, Barnaby began to fidget. He tried to be discreet with his discomfort, but he knew Kotetsu could tell something was wrong.

Kotetsu excused them both, taking Barnaby by the wrist to lead him out of the lounge. He continued holding on, smiling as they strolled down the hallway. "Is it midnight already? Time for Cinderella to leave the ball?" At the blond's blank stare, Kotetsu laughed. "That's right. We haven't had our movie marathon yet." With a deep exhalation, he swung their arms high. "We'll figure that one out. In the meantime, I'll take you back to the beach."

"Thank you," Barnaby murmured, his thoughts elsewhere. How would he persuade Kotetsu to stay? He could only hope he devised a plan by the time they got there.

X X X

Barnaby literally itched to remove his clothes by the time the SUV finally pulled up to the curb that would lead them down to the beach. Kotetsu parked and watched his passenger wriggle in his seat. "I'll be honest and say I don't feel comfortable leaving you here tonight…" He drummed his fingers against the steering wheel before curling the digits around the leather-bound object. "Something's… off."

Barnaby smiled weakly. "You can stay if you want," he stated, taking a shot in the dark.

Kotetsu looked to the ceiling of the car, lips pursed as he weighed his options. His eyes widened as he heard the sound of a zipper being pulled down. At the same time, the car door opened. "O-oi…!" He reached across the way, but his own seatbelt still restrained him. Kotetsu fumbled with the locked device, finally getting it undone. He stumbled from the car and around to the other side, only to find a trail of clothes leading down to the beach. Sighing, he began picking up each piece, smiling to himself as he thought this was similar to following a trail of breadcrumbs. Kotetsu straightened up after picking up the left boot, only to have all the collected articles of clothing fall from his hands. He teetered on his feet before toppling over onto the sand from the blow he'd received to the back of the head.

His assailant dropped the thick branch, looking towards the grove of trees the trail of clothing had stopped at.

Barnaby had stumbled across the set of tide pools during his many adventures alone at the beach, and thought it a convenient place to hide. More water flooded them at night when the moon was high, so he needn't have to worry about disturbing the unique ecosystem too much, especially since the pools were pretty full right now. He mapped out his path to the ocean and looked back over his shoulder, wondering if Kotetsu was still following him. He couldn't sense the man at all, which told him he wasn't close enough. With a soft sigh, he sat, a rock wall at his back, and splashed the water over his legs.

The transformation was simple, and very much welcome. His legs seemingly merged together, the silvery scales cascading down the now single appendage that tapered off where his ankles had once been. The twin fins sprouted from his feet and he gladly soaked his tail. He knew he was going to have company—Kotetsu—but he just never expected the sudden and bright flash of light that practically blinded him. Barnaby floundered, desperate to have his legs back, so he could escape, but it was useless. He flopped like a fish dropped on the floor of a fisherman's boat.

The bespectacled man lowered the camera, his dark smile making his unpleasant features even more so. He blocked the blond's escape path. "I knew it... I've been searching for proof and now I have it! Such beauty and power is wasted on you," the man spat, letting the camera hang loosely from his neck. "You spent so many years pining after a man that will never accept you—hoping for a relationship that's destined for failure..."

Barnaby shook his head, curling against the rocks at his back. /Not tonight... You can't see me tonight!/ He felt a tug, like someone had hooked him right behind his navel; the ocean was calling him home. /I don't want to leave him… Kotetsu…!/

The man called Maverick of Apollon Media took a step into the water and Barnaby clearly saw the net in his hands. His eyes widened and he turned, clawing at the rock for purchase to climb over it. His tail slapped the shallow water and he pushed at the slick bottom, whining softly when he slipped back down.

"I've heard so many tales... and I plan to find out if they're all true," the man stated softly, his voice making the merman's skin crawl. "Maybe I should start with your flesh. Immortality seems like a nice idea."

Barnaby wrapped his arms around his upper body, drawing his tail close against his chest. He was torn between anger and sorrow. He wanted to scream at the man that his plan was flawed; that if the ocean has its way, there would be no inch of him left to be captured and feasted upon. Barnaby tucked his chin against his chest, ready to embrace rather than resist the call of the sea. /Goodbye, Ko—/

"Bunny!"

Startled by the shout, Maverick spun around in time to see Kotetsu come crashing through the underbrush. His face was covered in scratches of varying kinds, some bleeding while others didn't, his features twisted into a dark scowl. Rage burned in his eyes, a look Barnaby never thought he would see, but it was directed at Maverick. "I don't care if you work for Apollon Media or not… you're a fraud! And you attacked me!" Upon closer inspection, there was a trail of blood that ran from his temple down the side of his face, more visible after it trailed down along his neck.

Barnaby's gaze was drawn to something glinting in Maverick's hand and he saw that one edge of the netting had been released for the sake of a blade. He opened his mouth to warn Kotetsu, but only a wail came out, a tortured and haunting sound. He startled both, but that also created an opening. Barnaby launched himself at Maverick's legs, bringing the old man down. There was a sickening crunch as his head collided with a nearby rock, and then his body moved no more.

Barnaby wiggled away, curling an arm around his abdomen as the pull became stronger. /He wasn't... my mate. It's not fair! Kotetsu... Kotetsu...!/ Barnaby sobbed as he felt strong arms envelope him, but he made no attempt to free himself, as it would be his last time with the human. /I don't want to leave him...!/

Kotetsu pulled the emotional wreck of a man closer against his chest, rubbing Barnaby's back while whispering softly to him. He let one of his hands wander until his fingers went from smooth skin to rough scales. He stilled for a moment, letting the truth sink in as he gently massaged the scales—his nudist alien is a real life mermaid!—and a slow smile spread across his face. Kotetsu rested his head atop Barnaby's, humming softly as he curled his hand under the curve of the shimmering tail, feeling the softness of a fin located where his behind would have been if he still had human anatomy. "You'll always be my nudist alien."

There was a choked sound, akin to a laugh, from his chest, and slowly, the body in his lap ceased its trembling. Clutching at the lapels of Kotetsu's jacket, Barnaby lifted his head, showing the other his tear-stained face and red-rimmed eyes. He began writing out words on Kotetsu's chest through the material of his shirt: I won't exist anymore.

Kotetsu studied each finger stroke, his eyes widening when the message finally reached him. "What...? Why not?! You can't... you can't leave me behind, Bunny!" He shook his head, clinging tighter to the half-human frame. "Not like she did... I won't allow it!"

Barnaby smiled sadly up at the man his heart ached for. /She never left you,/ he mouthed, hoping his lips could be read and his words understood. He looked past Kotetsu's head, smiling at the faint outline. /Is it time?/ The apparition shook its head. Barnaby's eyes widened and Kotetsu twisted his upper half as best as he could, to see if the dead man had had reinforcements. Instead, he was greeted by a bright light and empty arms.


A/N: figgigly