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[Tiger & Bunny] The Real Thing

Title: The Real Thing
Fandom: Tiger & Bunny
Pairing: Kotetsu/Barnaby
Rating: G
Contains: humor, TWT (timeline, what timeline?)




If this is a crush, I don't think I could take it if the real thing ever happened. - Chasing Amy



Barnaby Brooks Jr. had determined a long time ago that his life was approximately one part over-the-top action movie and three parts Western-style revenge drama. He had done so sometime after meeting his new partner but before being subjected to the full Kotetsu experience, which had led him to add one part comedy of errors and one part cream pie slapstick to the formula. He had come to accept that these parts could, at any moment, result in fusions that would have caused movie critics to shake their heads in disgust, such as cream pie shoot-outs or motorcycle chases prompted by a serious case of mistaken identity, and had resigned himself to the fact that taking a metaphorical pie to the face from time to time was the fastest and altogether least frustrating way of getting the job done. It worked out fine for the most part, with the added benefit of growing desensitized to public apologies and embarrasing paparazzi spreads, and would have continued working fine if Barnaby's life hadn't neglected to inform him that it was also one part Spanish telenovela.

If it had, he might have taken his chances with the sea, or at least tried to find a different boat.

Sighing, Barnaby surveyed the damage, his boots squelching uncomfortably. Doc Saito was no doubt going to take this as the inspiration to outfit their suits with gills and impractically oversized fins, but at this moment, Barnaby would have settled for waterproof pants. Behind him, Kotetsu had finished tying the swim-vested daisy chain of unconscious criminals to the stern and had sprawled out against the railing, alternately coughing, wheezing and trying to remove parts of his arm and leg plating, which prompted a small deluge of sea water every time.

"Could have... warned us... no floaters... on purpose..."

"We wouldn't have needed floaters if somebody knew how to stick to a plan," Barnaby pointed out reasonably, debating the merits of flipping the visor back down to help his blurry, red-raw vision and deciding he'd rather not see the whole extent of the damage for the time being. He could hear it, anyway. And smell it. Half a mile behind them, the explosions were still going.

"But that guy was going to shoot you, Bunny."

"They were all going to shoot us," Barnaby said, carefully inching his way to the bow. His back was vehemently protesting any untoward movement, and beneath his feet, the boat was creaking ominously with every step, its frail plastic hull not really built for any great amount of heat or two fully grown men wearing approximately one hundred pounds of armor. Around them, the rain of flaming debris had finally slowed to the occasional bit of scrap, but that didn't mean he was especially keen on testing the durability of a tourist ride by paddling through a swath of burning shards.

"Maybe you shouldn't have tried to tell him how to drive his boat," Kotetsu said, craning his neck to check on the half-dozen gently bobbing bodies. Several yards away, their sinking aqua scooter was making good progress, now submerged up to its handlebars, its fluorescent pink casing winking mournfully.

"Maybe he should have taken a crash course in steering a military submarine if he was planning to steal one," Barnaby said, more concerned with the state of their ride than the motives of a bunch of terrorists who thought waving machine guns around in an enclosed, pressurized space was a sensible method of intimidation. The boat dipped dangerously when he made it to the bow, the headless swan-neck attached to its front leaving it more than a little ill-suited for anything beyond a romp in a duck pond even without him trying to keep his balance against it.

"Maybe he tried and they just didn't offer any classes," Kotetsu suggested, his tone equal parts earnest and sullen so that it was hard to tell whether he was just being stubborn or honestly trying to defend a hijacker who had very nearly run his getaway vehicle aground, twice. This being Kotetsu, both seemed equally possible.

"Please tell me you're not arguing with me on behalf of the madmen who wanted to blow up Sternbild," Barnaby said, still going over their options. From all the squelching noises, he didn't quite dare check if the suit's thrusters still worked, and the front benches had clearly not been designed to accommodate any attire other than beach shorts and flipflops, so there was no squeezing into a seat and pedaling back to the shore, either.

Shaking his head, he made his way back towards the stern and slid down against the railing, wincing when the change in position aggravated his bruised back. Getting a torpedo tube to the spine was definitely not the high point of his career. "I don't think we can get back in this thing."

"Hnngh," Kotetsu said, still struggling to remove the massive braces from his arms. "Well... maybe, if you could help me out of here..."

"Don't. even. think about it," Barnaby said sharply, pushing himself up a little for that extra boost of authority. "It's dark."

"Eh, I'm a good swimmer. I could pull this little boat back, no problem. Doesn't look that far, anyway." Kotetsu cast a quick glance at the distant glimmer of the city and flashed him a confident grin, but the prospect of trawling the blackened waters of Sternbild Bay for drowning tigers was one that Barnaby could imagine all too vividly.

"You're staying put. It's dark, everything's on fire, and I don't feel like punching sharks on your behalf."

"But your back—"

"Is not a medical emergency. Let's just stay put," Barnaby said, rubbing a hand across his brow to keep his hair from dripping into his eyes. The cameras would be here soon, anyway. Even with all the commotion back at the military base, the theft of the submarine had probably been noticed by now, and if nothing else, Hero TV's phone lines would be running hot at this point with the calls of some two thousand concerned citizens trying to report the massive explosion south of Sternbild Harbor in hopes of getting a spot in an eyewitness interview. Perhaps the indignity of having to be rescued from a piddly little swan boat, of all things, could qualify as today's cream pie.

His back throbbed again, and Barnaby tried to distract himself by thinking of ways to placate Agnes's fury when she realized she had missed the biggest spectacle of all. With any luck, the integrated cameras were more resistant to seawater than the rest of the suit, and she'd be able to get some up-close-and-personal material for a retrospective. Hopefully, she'd cut the argument about the submarine's navigational controls for the broadcast.

He was so absorbed in trying to think of explanations which didn't involve simply pointing at Kotetsu that the safety latches coming undone barely registered until his helmet separated from the rest of his suit with a wet sound.

"Hey, what—"

"There," Kotetsu murmured, pushing the helmet into his hands. "Taking off the pressure should help. Try lying back now."

Barnaby glanced at him, but did as told, leaning back until his head came to rest on the railing.

"Better?"

"Yes, a little."

Kotetsu shifted to the opposite side in an effort to keep the boat from rocking too much. "...Sorry. I swear I didn't know that guy had steel fists."

"It happens," Barnaby said dryly, surveying the trail of debris that was describing a neat arch from the harbor out to the sea. Some yacht owners weren't going to be pleased.

"You could've let me take that blow, you know," Kotetsu continued, apparently still hung up on a couple of bruises. "After all, I had his launch keys."

"And throw an old man under the bus?"

"Oi."

He couldn't quite help the smile at the petulant whine, the closest thing there was to a Kotetsu default mode. It was better than the excessive concern from seconds ago, at any rate, and if he just ignored the fact that he was lying in the back of an oversized swan, surrounded by the remains of some prohibitively expensive military property, being allowed to let the rush of battle wear off naturally was really kind of nice. No camera crews. No rookie reporters trying to leap into the path of a bullet for the best picture. No make-up assistant flitting past him in a cloud of concealer to get him ready for victory glamour shots.

Just him, and Kotetsu, and that rare kind of quiet. Somehow, he even kept himself from listening for the helicopters.

"Oh, hey, look." Kotetsu had gone back to sprawling against the side of the boat, pointing a finger up into the inky sky. "A shooting star."

"I think that's a satellite," Barnaby said absently, still soaking up the relative peace of the moment.

From the corner of his eye, Kotetsu was making a face. "You're such a spoilsport, Bunny. No sense of poetry."

"We're in a swan boat. Surrounded by the remains of a submarine. Courtesy of a live torpedo. Also, everything is on fire."

"So?" Kotetsu shrugged. "Sky's still pretty. And I don't care what you say, that was so a shooting star."

"I doubt it. Shooting stars don't—"

"I'm not listening to you, Mr. Not-a-Romantic-Bone-in-His-Body."

Barnaby could feel his face becoming pinched. "Why would I need a romantic—"

He stopped. Turned the thought over in his head. Squinted a couple of times at nothing in particular. Rewound the conversation to the point where they had both stopped swallowing salt water, and went over it again. Something was wrong with this picture. Something was very, very wrong with this picture. There was a sinking feeling settling in the pit of his stomach, the kind of feeling that told him he'd just become the butt of somebody's joke, only that somebody was an unnamed cosmic entity who loved to arrange his life like a cheap television program.

This was it, wasn't it. If he extrapolated from the general course of life, which was, for all intents and purposes, more than a fair bit insane, considered the fact that more than half his friends and coworkers were some variation of insane, and added to it the fact that he was quite happy to be in the company of Kotetsu, who was most definitely completely insane —

He wasn't sure why he had thought it would be normal. Nothing else in his life was normal, and this was Kotetsu, whose relationship milestones included bomb threats and bank robberies —

"Bunny?" He'd probably made a strangled noise, because Kotetsu was watching him with concern. "Are you okay?"

"No," Barnaby said decisively. "Are we..." He swallowed. "Is this a date, Kotetsu?"

Kotetsu blinked owlishly. "Um. What makes you say that?"

"This," Barnaby said, flinging out his arm to gesture at the floating carnage. "All of this."

"Um," Kotetsu said again, his eyes widening as he followed the motions of Barnaby's arm. "Oh man. Oh man, is it?"

"I don't know."

"I'll... I'll just ask," Kotetsu decided, reaching for his discarded arm gear.

"You'll..." Barnaby narrowed his eyes. "What are you doing?"

But Kotetsu had already shaken the small comm unit out of its water-induced stupor and was typing furiously. "Texting Nathan."

"Why."

"He'd know," Kotetsu said as if it were perfectly obvious, the tip of his tongue starting to peek out of the corner of his mouth in concentration.

"He'd also—" Tell everybody, was what Barnaby didn't get to say because the comm unit gave a little jingle to signal the arrival of a message. Trust Fire Emblem to deliver a verdict in record time. "...What's he saying?"

"'Is one of you not wearing pants'," Kotetsu quoted, frowning thoughtfully. "Hm. Does leg armor count?"

Barnaby didn't really get to inform him how leg armor did not and would never constitute pants, and could Nathan please stop joking because this was no laughing matter, since the comm unit announced the arrival of another message.

"Keith says yes."

"Keith's date did not pass the Turing test. Keith doesn't get a vote."

"Hey now, that's—" Kotetsu's reply was cut off by a rapid series of jingles.

"What? What is it?"

"Um, Antonio wants me to delete his number," Kotetsu said, pouting. "Karina says it's not unless there's dinner involved. I think Ivan's quoting the bushido. And I can't read Pao-lin's 1337 speak."

"So that's... One in favor, one against?"

"Two in favor," Kotetsu said. "I did buy you dinner."

Barnaby thought for a moment, and decided that since this was Kotetsu, sharing some chicken marsala in a plastic cup certainly counted.

"So..."

"So..."

Perhaps it would have helped if he'd had anything to fall back on in the romance department. Even a completely botched courting attempt from ten years ago would have been better than what he did have, which was a bunch of completely fabricated interview answers regarding his preferences for candlelight and expensive restaurants. It would have been nice to have some idea of what normal people did, but normal people were unlikely to find themselves arguing about dates in the middle of the ocean.

At any rate, examining the tips of his boots with great interest was not working towards a productive solution.

Kotetsu, meanwhile, had determined that their friends were going to be of exactly no help at all and was rubbing his chin with one hand, a rare expression of solemnity on his face that Barnaby found reassuring. At least someone was working to figure out a way to deal with this.

"I think we're missing the most obvious thing," Kotetsu said after a moment's consideration. "Do you want it to be a date?"

And it figured that what Kotetsu had to say would be anything but reassuring. Barnaby realized he was dangerously close to gnawing through his lip, and stopped. "...I don't know. Do you?"

"I'm game if you are."

"That's not—!" Barnaby burst out, and barely stopped himself from saying something incredibly childish. Fair or not fair, it was hardly Kotetsu's fault that Barnaby's life was panning out the way it was, dates included. "I don't... do this sort of thing."

"That's okay," Kotetsu said, in that infuriatingly gentle tone that wanted to make Barnaby believe that it was okay to be a socially inept recluse trying to fumble his way through a decision that had a more than seventy-five percent chance of simultaneously failing to launch and self-destructing a relationship.

"No, it's not. I mean, I don't do this sort of thing. I'm not... very interesting. Or talkative."

A smirk. "I never noticed."

Barnaby shot him a sidelong glance. "Or liable to stop telling you that that was clearly not a shooting star."

"That's okay." Kotetsu beamed. "I'll prepare a flowchart for next time."

"...Wait a minute, next time?"

Perhaps his tone would have been more appropriate for questioning Kotetsu whether he truly wanted to antagonize that coconut crab, but Kotetsu seemed to take it the way normal people would take an enthusiastic 'yes' because he gave Barnaby the thumbs-up and grinned happily. It was the kind of grin that made forty-year-old housewives send him selections of their underwear. It was also the kind of grin that made Barnaby's face do funny things, like heating up and trying to smile back.

And because this was his life and his life never did know how to handle a mood transition, the coast guard boat chose this moment to point its floodlights at them.

Letting out a deep breath, Barnaby collapsed back against the railing, partly to allow Agnes to get started on the inevitable "Barnaby Brooks Jr. Injured!" special, and partly to block out the fact that Kotetsu was still grinning like a loon.

"...Next time, I'm picking where we go."



-Fin-


A/N: "Next time" involved being wedged inside a runaway tank that mistook downtown Sternbild for the world's biggest training simulation. Dinner never got eaten, but the lack of room did force Kotetsu to spend an inordinate amount of time draped across Bunny's lap. Nathan says that totally counts.



Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
megyal
Jun. 13th, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
I was smiling all the way through it, because it was so very THEM.
aphelion_orion
Jun. 14th, 2012 07:59 am (UTC)
Hee hee. Mission accomplished! :)
suanz
Jun. 14th, 2012 12:59 am (UTC)
Kudos. *grins*
aphelion_orion
Jun. 14th, 2012 07:59 am (UTC)
*salutes* Thank you.
wickedorin
Jun. 14th, 2012 03:12 am (UTC)
This... is pitch-perfect and magnificent. Sweet, funny, and just so wonderfully dead-on. And thank you so much for the laugh that came from "'Keith's date did not pass the Turing test. Keith doesn't get a vote.'"
aphelion_orion
Jun. 14th, 2012 08:01 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you. Glad you enjoyed it! Poor Keith's fail-date was one of the best moments on the show. I couldn't let the opportunity slip past. XD
perkyandproud
Jun. 14th, 2012 06:48 am (UTC)
That rocked :-)

I agree about the way you managed to capture their essences and the part about Keith's date. *grin*

Nicely done!
aphelion_orion
Jun. 14th, 2012 08:04 am (UTC)
Thank you! :) Sad thing is, even though Keith's date turned out to be a robot, it would still be more successful than any of Kotetsu and Barnaby's attempts at going out.
perkyandproud
Jun. 14th, 2012 09:22 am (UTC)
True. And I still so very sad for him...
sylphaen1637
Jun. 14th, 2012 07:48 am (UTC)
I'm not a huge fan of the Barnaby / Kotetsu pairing, but your writing's really good. I haven't seen someone handle long sentences and metaphors that well in quite a while; especially not in a humour fic, as those tend to use more simplistic vocabulary than drama or plot-heavy fics.

Edited at 2012-06-14 07:49 am (UTC)
aphelion_orion
Jun. 14th, 2012 08:07 am (UTC)
*bows* Thank you very much. Imo, a lot of humor comes from word choice and structure rather than sight gags, so I'm glad you think I've managed it well.
drredhead
Jun. 17th, 2012 12:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you! That was so much fun to read, I could really hear the characters' voices coming through.
aphelion_orion
Jun. 19th, 2012 06:27 am (UTC)
Hee, thank you. Glad you enjoyed it!
ardwynna_m
Jun. 21st, 2012 04:40 am (UTC)
LOL. Yay for Nathan!
aphelion_orion
Jul. 9th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
Nathan is so awesome. One day, I will figure out how to write a fic to do him justice.
taithe
Jul. 8th, 2012 09:57 pm (UTC)
Ah, this is the kind of fic I wish I could write! :D

Thank you for sharing~ You've captured Kotetsu and Barnaby so well! The line about Keith's date made me giggle. <3
aphelion_orion
Jul. 9th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
Hee, glad you enjoyed it. :)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )