[identity profile] aphelion-orion.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] off_the_homerow
Title: Infinity Road
Fandom: Tiger&Bunny
Pairing: Kotetsu/Barnaby
Rating: G
Contains: Set post episode 13.
Summary: Bunny is fighting demons, Kotetsu tries to help, and runs into a couple of roadblocks of his own. Like how he didn't know he'd really like to kiss Bunny.
Note: This killed LJ's character limit, so the fic's been posted in two parts.


Infinity Road




It's almost two a.m. when the call comes in. Kotetsu knows this since this is what the LCD on his alarm clock says, the one in the shape of a sunflower that Kaede got him since he's always late, he must be napping too much.

The phone, when he finally digs it out of his pants, says that it's actually 2:35 once his eyes have stopped tearing up from the display's bright glare. It takes him a moment to remember how he even got here, that Bunny had to help him off the bike because the ride turned out to have been the last thing his battered body needed, and that he managed to feign the capacity to walk up the stairs about as well as his sore ribs allowed, and somehow he actually got his shoes off and bits of his shirt undone. That was about all the acrobatics he was able to perform before passing out, and that shouldn't be as big a feat as it feels to him.

Oh, right, phone. His thumb slips searching for the call button blind, and then he needs another moment to convince his arm to move the phone close to his ear. He hopes it isn't Agnes. Or Lloyds. Or anyone else from Hero TV because just for tonight, Wild Tiger is not going to be ever-vigilant against crime and ever-ready for press conferences.

"Kotetsu?"

Okay. Okay, not Hero TV.

Kotetsu squints into the darkness, trying to make his mouth move in something that more closely resembles words than empty fish flaps.

"...Bunny?"

Silence.

"Bunny, 's that you?"

A click, followed by the disconnecting beep, and the only proof it happened is the display that is still listing Bunny's number, not the Hero TV caller ID from the wristbands but his private line that, to Kotetsu's knowledge, nobody except Lloyds and the president have, in case of one of the cataclysmic happenings that befall Sternbild at all hours.

Rubbing a hand across his face, he tries to figure out if Bunny lost his keys while dropping him off, or his driver's license, or his glasses, anything that would warrant a call at close to three in the morning. Nothing.

It's stalling, and he knows it. Even as fastidious as he is, Bunny still wouldn't be calling about his glasses in the middle of the night, which means something happened, and the only reason Kotetsu isn't already halfway to the car is because Bunny used his private phone, and that has struck him as stupidly meaningful.

He hits redial.

A pause, a click.

"Bunny?"

Silence. Maybe he just ended up sleeping on top of the phone and hit the speed dial that way, though the idea of Bunny having his number on speed dial is even stupider than losing his glasses. Still stalling. He should just address the elephant in the room.

"Bunny... is something the matter?"

Still nothing. A long, drawn-out nothing. This is the point where Kotetsu would be considering scenarios with robbers or muggers or stalkers, except this is Bunny and he can hear him breathing on the other end, short, shaky breaths like a weight is sitting on his chest.

"Hey..."

Nightmares. Either that or Bunny has been running a marathon in the wee small hours of the morning, and Kotetsu thinks he knows enough about bad dreams to know what they sound like, what they do to a person. Just a week or two ago, he would have felt stupidly satisfied to know that he's on Bunny's speed dial, that Bunny would actually stoop to call him, but that was before the telepathic madman and his fighting ring and before the invasion of the killer robots and before the high-rise apartment with the wall-to-wall screen.

At least, he likes to believe so. Likes to believe himself a good enough person that this was when one-upping Bunny stopped mattering, where proving something — to himself or Bunny or the producers — ceased to be an issue entirely. The issue now is that he's got a young man on the line who is no stranger to night terrors, can't be a stranger to night terrors, must've been dealing with night terrors for twenty years running, and somehow, tonight one was bad enough for him to ring up a person who has almost no part in his life at all.

"Bunny?"

Perhaps he should be saying something, like how it's okay and how he knows what it's like, and is there anything he can do, but before he can pick out a phrase that won't set Bunny off, one that doesn't sound too paternal or know-it-all or presumptuous, there's a deep sigh on the other end.

"It's nothing. I'm sorry for bothering you."

Kotetsu is left staring at the phone, the "connection terminated" message splaying across the screen, the redial icon taunting him with its inviting green. He doesn't know. He doesn't know what the right thing to do here is. His gut says to plow ahead, to ring again, and to keep ringing until Bunny picks up and tells him what's wrong, but his brain knows that's a stupid plan and keeps his thumb hovering in limbo.

It's one of those things for which 2:42 a.m. is a bad time, though when it comes to Bunny, any time is a bad time. Kotetsu has made mistakes before, said things and then backed out of them without meaning to, blathered nonsense because he thought Bunny was just being stiff and a killjoy, because he felt Bunny should be the one doing all the adjusting while he went on at his own pace.

Tomoe was the one who was good with this stuff. Tomoe knew when people needed to talk, and when they needed to be left alone, and she was the one who had to go make apologies when Kotetsu put his foot in his mouth in front of anyone important. He can't afford any of that right now, when he's being made to poke a raw egg with a sledgehammer, and the sledgehammer is his big damn mouth.

In the end, he places the phone back on the nightstand. The least he can do is stay awake in case Bunny calls again, and try not to feel too much like he's let the chance to help slip through his fingers, that on the other side of Sternbild, Bunny is kicking off the blanket and stuffing the phone in a drawer, that he's muttering "idiot, idiot, idiot" under his breath while he goes to hunt down a new t-shirt and a washcloth, and then curls back up under the damp sheets and resolves to never call again, because hell, how else to keep going?

------

In Bunny's vocabulary, "Quit it" means "Why are you doing this?" and "Leave me alone" means "I don't understand you." Kotetsu's figured out as much once he stopped being dumb about it, once he started thinking about it in earnest, how the world would look like if he were twenty-four and didn't have Kaede or Tomoe or Antonio or his mom or even a therapist since there's no one he can trust, not a single soul in the whole world.

It sounds like a cliché, that there should be a person who is so black-and-white, no grays, or mostly black and hardly any white, no friends to hang out with after work, no wife or girlfriend or, getting right down to it, boyfriend to turn to when things get really awful and he'd need someone who won't judge, or ask questions, or do anything other than be. Just be.

It sounds like a cliché, but Bunny is living it, and once he realized as much, Kotetsu couldn't help thinking how that's kind of sad and kind of horrible, except Bunny would murder him for the display of sympathy. There's a lot about Bunny that's trying to be strong, bits and pieces of a crab shell trying to grow as many spikes and sharp edges as it can, and Kotetsu might be getting ahead of himself thinking he can understand, that it's anything like what he did, is still doing, making himself as soft and pliable as he can so any insult, any offense bounces off the surface layer like a mound of jello. Maybe it's wrong, conceited, but he thinks there are a few things he can see now that he couldn't see before, and that's where the little mental dictionary is coming from, with Bunny in no shape to provide anyone with a roadmap to himself.

It's Friday by the time he can add a new item to the list, though that is more or less just conjecture.

He's gotten a few days off to heal up and feels a bit bad for taking them because Bunny took a similar beating and is already out there again, accepting awards and interviews and slicing into every host with a smooth, gracious smile to remind them that no, he couldn't have done it alone. Any of it. No way. They better not make insinuations again.

It's pretty stupid, how happy that makes him.

Kotetsu leaves the TV on while he limps around the apartment, tidying a little, whipping up a batch of muffins that are going to Kaede and trying not to feel old, really old, for every time his back twinges and his joints creak. A dose of hundred power every other hour, and he should be back on the job by Saturday. It's strange, listening to the shows instead of being a part of them, picking out the little differences between the Bunny who's there for the camera and the Bunny who is sitting next to him at the office, just the way he sounds, the smile he wears, the way he has to tilt his head so his glasses don't flash in the studio light. It seems like a person who knows this much about acting should be getting along better in life, but what does Kotetsu know.

Neither of the two personas sound anything like the call that comes in at quarter past midnight, though, and that's when Kotetsu notes down that never calling again means just "unless it gets too bad."

He's more awake this time around, was just drifting off with a bit of slow jazz in the background, and that's why he can say, "Hey," before Bunny gets it in his head to hang up again, and it comes out sounding almost not nervous at all.

"I..."

"Yeah?"

"I... this is stupid. I shouldn't have."

"Oi. At least tell me nothing's on fire, if you're going to leave me hanging again."

He's got it down, he thinks, the cranky-sleepy-old-man thing, because Bunny pauses long enough to move his fingers away from the disconnect button, long enough to try and catch his breath a little. For some reason, people are more inclined to listen to Kotetsu when he's feigning a bad temper.

"I... no. Nothing's on fire. ...I think. I hope."

"Good. That's good."

Another pause.

"...That wasn't awkward at all or anything."

An odd, high-pitched noise, and it takes him a moment to identify it as a mildly hysterical giggle. Things must be pretty bad, if Bunny is so out of sorts he's giggling.

"I'm not keeping score," Kotetsu says generously, and then, "Hang on a moment, gotta get the burn salve."

"...What?"

"Yeah. I forgot the baking tin was hot. My dessert ended up all over the floor."

It's not entirely a lie; he burned his elbow this afternoon when he was picking things up and hit the baking tin on the counter, but he doesn't mind looking like an idiot if it keeps Bunny on the phone right now, gives him a silly mental image to think about. Bunny isn't going to talk, is too tightly wound to talk, and this turns out to have been the right thing to do, because he huffs a little, like he's amused.

"Dessert, at this hour? Only you, Kotetsu. Only you."

"Hey, I get cravings sometimes. Just got distracted."

"By what?"

A hint of sarcasm in there, and normally, he'd take offense to that, but right now it means Bunny is hopefully sort of calming down.

"Oh, interviews."

"I... didn't think you were the type to watch."

"Well, it's pretty boring around here," Kotetsu says. "Just me and my old bones. And they're sure making it an even bigger deal than it already was. Thanks, by the way."

"...what for?"

"For, you know. Shutting up the reporters. I know you didn't have to, but thanks."

"I did."

"Hm?"

"I did have to," Bunny says, and his breathing is almost back to normal now that he has something else to concentrate on. Kotetsu takes a moment to picture him, alone in that dark, polished, empty apartment, with everything so neat and straight and Bunny just a mess, sweaty and confused and hair everywhere. He kind of wishes he could say something better. He kind of wishes he knew where to start.

"—don't like that. If they market a team, they should see a team."

"Funny to hear you say that."

He knows it's the dumbest possible reply he could have picked the moment it escapes his mouth, and it doesn't matter that he meant it as a joke, just a bit of teasing because Bunny doesn't do jokes, not about that, not now, and he knows he's messed up irreversibly when Bunny's voice just shutters, going low, going quiet.

"I know. I haven't been very fair to you, Kotetsu. I'm sorry."

"Hey. Hey, hey, don't—!"

The disconnecting blip cuts off his reply, and though he hits redial immediately, once, twice, three times, Bunny doesn't pick up the phone for the remainder of the night.

-------

There are a lot of different relationships in Kotetsu's life that he manages to screw up every now and again, and he's got a recipe for dealing with all of them.

If he screws up with Kaede, he can call his mom, listen to her lecture and ask what Kaede's into at the moment so he can get her a present, catch her after school, and apologize. If he screws up with Karina, he'll bribe her back into talking to him with a strawberry shake, and she'll accept it despite her claims of watching her figure. If he screws up with Ivan, he apologizes straight up, and Ivan forgives him because he's a nice kid. He can't screw up with Antonio or Keith because both of them are far too easy-going, and Nathan will usually stop him right before he says something spectacularly stupid. He doesn't talk to Pao-lin enough to cause significant damage.

He's screwed up with Bunny more times than he can count, but there's this unspoken rule between them dictated by both their pride, which means they never apologize and just let it slide by next morning, or by the next live show, whichever comes first. None of those times, not even the Jake disaster, involved kicking Bunny while he's down.

It would be better, Kotetsu thinks, if Bunny were mad at him for it, if he'd say "Shut up" or "Go away" or treat Kotetsu like air, but he doesn't. He's just quiet, and a little pale, and much of the afternoon is taken up by the make-up artist wailing that she can't work like this, really, what has he been doing, what happened to his pretty skin, if she puts make-up on that, he'll just look like an owl, and then Agnes sighs and cancels the photoshoot because while there may be a concealer that can get rid of the dark rings, there's nothing that can get rid of that odd, brittle look in his eyes.

"Are you and Handsome having a fight?" Nathan asks while they're working the treadmills together.

Kotetsu let Bunny have the first go in the simulator in case he wanted to blow off some steam, and isn't sure if that was a mistake, too, if he shouldn't have forced the issue, gone in with him and talked it out. It's what he'd prefer, at any rate, a straight-up confrontation and a straight-up solution, but it's that new thing in Bunny's gaze that's keeping him away.

"What makes you say that?"

He's pretending now, and Nathan knows it, because he rolls his eyes. "I don't know, you cringing like a puppy, him looking like death warmed over, take your pick."

"I... no. Maybe. Yes." There's no use lying. "I said something I shouldn't have."

Slowing down, Nathan leans forward against the armrest. "He doesn't look mad to me."

With a sigh, Kotetsu does the same. "I kind of wish he were."

"Ouch."

"Yeah. I don't know how to straighten this out. Don't want to make it worse."

"Well, I can't help out if I don't know what's going on," Nathan says, tapping a finger against his chin contemplatively, "but..."

"But?"

"But something tells me it can't be that bad."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Well, let's just say that if it really were that bad..." Nathan smirks, gesturing towards the doorway, "Handsome wouldn't be over there playing wallflower, waiting for you to come over."

----------

When it comes right down to the critical moments, Kotetsu is bad with words. He knows it, and knows no amount of practice is going to help because he's been sorting through apologies in his head all day and none of them seem like a good thing to say. He's not sure if there's a phrase in Japanese or in English or in any other language on Earth that perfectly encapsulates, "I'm sorry for punching you in the face when you were being nice to me and also quite possibly having a breakdown," but that doesn't mean he can stop trying.

What he manages after a day of scrounging up eloquence, though, is, "Hey."

"...Hello."

After a heavy pause, Bunny breaks away from the door frame, leading the way to the lockers for a bit of privacy. No sense in being on a silver platter for office gossip or any stray Hero TV employee who'll get it in his head that an epic break-up between Tiger and Bunny is going to be the next big special. Okay, that might be just him, projecting.

They stop by the changing area, Kotetsu unable to keep from poking at the tiles with his toes like a contrite schoolboy, Bunny trying to look like he isn't sneaking glances, at Kotetsu and the lockers and the door on the far side, calculating the quickest way out of here. It's all wrong, the jerkiness and the set of his shoulders, like he's been put in a steel cage and has been pacing it from one end to the other for hours, and if Kotetsu doesn't act soon, one of them is going to explode.

"Listen. Last night, I didn't mean that, I didn't want you to think I meant that, I did a bad thing, and I'm sorry, and you can get the first hit in, but I'd rather buy you dinner. Deal?"

And that came out in a garbled rush, because Bunny is blinking rapidly.

"Um."

"I can say it at half speed, too," Kotetsu offers, stomping down on his nervous grin in case it'll lead to Bunny picking up all the wrong signals. "Honest."

"You... want to buy me dinner," Bunny says after a minute, and there's something in his expression that's partly surprised and partly suspicious, but not entirely averse to the suggestion.

"Yeah. Yeah, sure. That's what I said."

"I'm... not very hungry."

"Oh." Kotetsu pauses. Somehow, in the sheer brilliance of his improvisation, he didn't consider that possibility. "Oh. Well. Actually, me neither."

"...Sounds good." There's a tiny glint in the corner of his eyes that makes Kotetsu think that maybe, just maybe, Bunny is laughing at him. "I'll get the bike."

--------

It's not until they reach the corner bistro at the intersection to the seaside boulevard that Kotetsu realizes the last time they went anywhere together was also the first time they officially met. In his head, that doesn't count because there was no way to have an enjoyable dinner with a camera crew gazing over his shoulder, and he wasn't very inclined to enjoy it at the time, anyway. He remembers Bunny looking absurdly perfect, like something cut out of a high-gloss magazine, and he remembers thinking that Bunny was a snob and an arrogant little jerk and no way was he going to just roll over and do whatever some groomed newbie kid wanted.

Now, Bunny doesn't look perfect, and keeps throwing Kotetsu embarrassed glances while he fills out autographs for the three swooning waitresses, like he's sorry about it, and Kotetsu clamps down on the petty little devil inside of him that wants to snark about — still wants to snark about — how that's got to be a first. Something to start working on, if he still wants to be able to look at himself in the mirror.

Waiting for the food is one of the most awkward things Kotetsu's done in a while, clearing his throat every few minutes without anything to warrant the noise, dragging his feet back and forth and succeeding at hitting the table once or twice, or the second time was Bunny's shin and he's just too wrapped up in himself to complain. He's playing with his water glass, eyes flickering from counting the checkers on the tablecloth to Kotetsu, on to the salt and pepper ensemble and back to Kotetsu again, and all of that'd be entirely normal and really quite hilarious if both of them were sixteen and in highschool and had just arrived at the Point of No Return.

The food proves useful, both to quiet the nervous flutter in his stomach and give his mouth a workout that's not related to putting his foot in. Bunny's picking off the protective lettuce wall around his shrimp scampi one leafy bit at a time, giving each enough consideration that he could be a botanist on a rocky outcropping in the Andes, mapping a new species of succulent.

"It tastes like cardboard," he says eventually, pushing the shrimps back and forth in their marinade.

"Oh."

"No, I mean... everything." Bunny's mouth twists into what might have been a smile, if it weren't so horribly lost. "Everything tastes like cardboard."

"Oh," Kotetsu repeats, but this time it's because he gets it, gets it in the most painful way.

It was the same after Tomoe died, where he spent weeks pouring bottles of tabasco on his meals to get them to stop tasting like nothing, and had to crank the shower to boiling just to feel something, and everything around him was starting to look like a washed-out photograph, colors fleeing from the edges.

The hospital sent a counselor to talk to him right after they sent him the doctor to say my condolences, Mr. Kaburagi, we've done all we could. The counselor turned out to be a very soft-voiced, maternal-looking woman who talked to him about loss, and faith, and letting go, when he didn't want to talk about anything at the time. Her words meant nothing, his heart too hurt to listen, his head too full of thoughts about how on Earth he was going to tell Kaede, but a small bit stuck with him nevertheless, about how there's stages to master in grieving, and you have to go through each of them before you get anywhere.

Denial. Anger. He doesn't think Bunny ever moved past anger. Jake might have pushed him towards bargaining, but that's about it.

Twenty years. Twenty years of living on nothing but rage and vengeance and despair.

"I'm not sure what's wrong. I should be happy, shouldn't I?" Bunny is gazing out the window, examining the orange glow of the street lights. "I don't know why I'm not happy."

There ought to be something to say here, some nugget of sagely wisdom to offer about how it'll all come in due time, how nobody can survive on thoughts of revenge alone, except he was able to for a while, too, would have given anything to be able to reach into Tomoe's body and rip out the cancer, punch it until it stopped eating her up from the inside out, her smiles and her good humor and spirits. Five years, and he doesn't have any advice to give on grieving, except that there was a point when it all stopped hurting so much, and things moved on.

None of this is in any way what Bunny is looking for, what he needs, and if he doesn't speak up soon, Bunny will think he's being misunderstood, or rejected, or perceived as a bother. It should be easy. His place is clean, or as clean as it gets, there's some beer in the fridge, they can take the leftovers, and though getting smashed was never anyone's idea of a bright plan, a drink or two might stop both of them from twisting themselves into knots, might give them an easier time talking.

Before he can say as much, though, Bunny is pushing back from the table, looking him straight in the eye.

"I want to show you something."

------

The apartment is as posh and impersonal as the last time Kotetsu was here, and though it wasn't all that long ago, it still feels like forever. Bunny leaves the lights off and his boots on, murmurs "Mind the step," as he makes his way over to the table in what ought to be the living room but can't be described as the living room, just a huge empty space around a recliner, and beyond that, the whole of Sternbild, a bright and shining tide flooding in to eat up the emptiness.

Kotetsu didn't think of it as humbling the first time, being invited into a space that reveals more about Bunny than Bunny himself, but it's humbling now, demanding he tread lightly, demanding he stop halfway to the window and wait until he's asked to do anything else.

Bunny doesn't extricate any promises of keeping quiet, just like he didn't the first time, merely a flick of the remote and then the screen on the wall flares up, sending a cascade of text pouring down fast enough to make Kotetsu dizzy. There's no need to ask, no need to even try to read as clipping is opening on top of clipping, all words and snapshots he's seen once before.

"Kind of strange, isn't it, how a life can fit on a single screen." Bunny hasn't moved from his spot, gazing at the paper landscape with a dispassionate expression. "It feels like there should be more to it, but there just isn't."

Another button press, and yellow triangles begin popping up alongside the articles, yellow triangles in little red boxes asking "how" and "who" and "when."

"It didn't take me long to start thinking again. There's so much that doesn't add up... so many questions. Jake Martinez wasn't the head of Ouroboros. He can't have been. I don't know why I saw his face in my memory... but right now, I'm not even sure if he's really the man who killed my parents."

"That's—" Kotetsu swallows hard, and stops. He doesn't know how to end the sentence, whether he wants to say "impossible" or "awful" or "something we should tell the others," but in the same breath, he realizes it's irrelevant. This isn't about Ouroboros, or their job, no matter how frightening a prospect it may seem.

Bunny's eyes haven't left the screen, the nightglow rendering them almost blue. There should be anger there, or determination, but all Kotetsu can see right now is weariness.

"It should be important, shouldn't it? But it isn't. I wasn't happy... even before I started thinking again, I wasn't happy." He shrugs, helplessly. "And then I thought... why does it matter what I am? Why does it matter so damn much what's happening to me?"

"Bunny, you—"

"I was doing it for myself, see? All this time, I kept telling myself it's for my mother and father, that if I could do this one thing for them, they'd finally be able to rest. But it was a lie. I was making it all up to make myself look better. Nothing more." With a deep, shuddering breath, the screen returns to darkness. "That's... what I wanted to show you. The person who was pretending at being your partner."

Without the artificial glow, the room has returned to a black pocket, Sternbild lapping at its edges. Bunny has turned to face the window, and Sternbild should be eating him, too, but he stays whole, his silhouette a slash against the city lights, sharp and thin and very lonely.

Waiting, while Kotetsu deliberates his verdict, turns around, walks out and lets the door fall shut on their partnership. Or that's what Bunny is expecting him to do, anyway. He's pretty sure Bunny doesn't want him to talk, but this might be a good time to go ahead, regardless.

"When... when my wife, Tomoe... when she died, I thought my family was going to be angry with me."

Bunny doesn't move, just tensing up even more when he can hear him stepping closer.

"I wanted them to be angry with me. I mean, how couldn't they be? I'd done something, or not done something, but whatever it was, it was my fault. I was so sure it was my fault." Five years, and the lump in his throat doesn't seem to be getting any smaller. "For a while there... I would've given anything for someone to stand up and place the blame on me. For my kid to say that she hates me. For my wife's parents to ring me up and ask why I'd let their daughter die. For the doctors to tell me they could've saved her, if only I'd been there sooner. But... nobody did."

This close, he can see the hairs on Bunny's skin standing on end, shivering in time with the rest of him.

"Nobody did. They all just wanted to be there for me, and me to be there for them. The only one who felt like punishing me... was me."

He shrugs, and the extension of the shrug finds its way to the small of Bunny's back, the place where all the tremors are collecting, seeping straight into his palm.

"So, you see... I can't do anything to make you feel better. I can just help you feel worse."

Perhaps there'd be more to say, but it's here that Kotetsu's words desert him once again, and he's left to trust in the side of Bunny that's a smart guy, that it'll trump the side that's trying to veer down the path of self-destruction. It's a good sign that Bunny hasn't moved away, hasn't shrugged off his hand, and it feels stupid to be rubbing his back through the leather jacket, leaving damp streaks on the material that's stiff enough to barely transmit any closeness at all.

He should be good with hugs. He loves the contact, the way they can improve just about anything in a day, but when Bunny finally turns — slowly, hesitantly, searching him, searching everything — he might as well be the most inept novice hugger in the world. It's a lot like embracing a store mannequin because Bunny goes rigid the moment he brings them shoulder to shoulder, muscles locking up like they've been cast in fiber plastic, and though Kotetsu can't see anything past the tips of his curls, it doesn't take a genius to imagine the deer-in-headlights expression, like he hasn't gotten a hug in years, like he has forgotten how to go about it.

It would be less awkward if he could still think of Bunny as a kid, then he wouldn't feel quite so dumb picking out nonsense to mumble, stuff like how it's okay and he won't tell anyone, none of which makes it past his lips.

"You're pitying me," Bunny tells his collar, voice rough as sandpaper.

"I'm not pitying you. I swear it," Kotetsu says, and it's the truth, because the thing in his heart hurts too much to be sympathy, wants Bunny to stay where he is too much for it to be anything so trite, so superficial.

A moment's quiet, and then Bunny's arms are clamping around him like iron bands, fingers digging in hard enough to leave bruises. He jerks, and shudders, his entire body fighting to let out what's been buried under twenty years of steel concrete, pressing small, choked noises into Kotetsu's shoulder like his voice has to climb up all the way from his gut. It's messy, and it's painful, he's getting the air squeezed out of his lungs and Bunny's glasses are jabbing into the side of his throat, but all his thoughts on moving are focused on his hands, on directing one to rest against the bump on Bunny's neck, on pushing the jacket out of the way so he can reach a little better, rubbing in tight, cautious circles.

The tears, when they finally come, are almost an afterthought, a trickle of clarity on top of the entire ugly wreckage of emotions. Bunny's still got his fists tangled up in his shirt, but he's stopped moving almost entirely, and Kotetsu wishes his legs weren't asleep so he could stretch up a little better, place his chin on top of Bunny's head where it ought to be going. Bunny doesn't seem to mind that he stopped halfway up his forehead, though, glasses riding up now that he's actually looking for a place to rest his cheek, and hell, if he's happy with second-rate comfort, then Kotetsu will gladly live with the crick in his neck for the rest of the week.






-TBC-

-------

A/N: Please continue reading the rest here, LJ wouldn't let me put the whole fic in one post by a margin. I apologize for the inconvenience.



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