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They've been partners for over a year. Kotetsu should know by now that he can't keep things from Barnaby. He's always been a terrible liar, and somewhere along the way Barnaby learned to read the exhaustion in the lines of his face and the sad slump if his shoulders.

It's not hard to tell when his partner's having a Bad Day, as Barnaby calls them. Minute changes in behaviour correlate with accidents and soft sighs that he gives when he thinks no one's paying attention. Kotetsu is different when he's depressed. He still smiles brightly, and if anything he laughs harder than usual - almost as if he's got something to prove - but there's a weariness about him. It ages him before Barnaby's eyes; sucks the light out of amber eyes and even turns them red and puffy around the edges.

They'll have to talk about this sooner or later, Barnaby knows. Accidental property damage is one thing, but the most terrifying of Kotetsu's tells is recklessness. He's always reckless, but not like this. On Bad Days it's dropping ten stories before shooting a wire, throwing himself in front of machine guns, charging head first into danger, damn the consequences, damn the pain, damn everything.

It scares him. He knows it’s only so long before his partner seriously injures himself. He could lose Kotetsu, and it’s a sickening, sobering thought.

Kotetsu doesn't want to die, but on days like these it seems like he doesn't want to live either.


Today has been relatively routine, two robberies on opposite sides of the city, a small mountain of paperwork, and thankfully no photo shoots. Today his partner's body is littered with bruises and cuts that he wouldn't allow the paramedics to treat. Nothing serious, and it's not particularly odd for Kotetsu to brush off medical help, but Barnaby is worried. He can't help but worry, really. It hurts to watch someone he loves wear themselves away.

They're leaving Apollon when Barnaby asks Kotetsu to come back to his apartment. He tries to decline, feigning a smile and protesting meekly that he's old and tired and sore. Barnaby doesn't doubt the latter, but he insists.

The ride is quite. Kotetsu doesn't say a word, doesn't fiddle with the radio, barely even moves. If Barnaby hadn't been worried before he would be now. It's unlike Kotetsu to sit still at all, let alone for an extended period of time. Sternbuild rushes past them, the city's lights play across Kotetsu's face and Barnaby almost runs a red light, unable to tear his eyes away. He's morbidly fascinated. The way his partner watches the city he loves flit past with is eyes glazed over and empty. Kotetsu loves this city. He's told Barnaby more than once, inelegantly murmured words of how inspiring it is, how beautiful. More often than not he's intoxicated when he ends up telling Barnaby these things, but he's seen the way the city usually makes Kotetsu light up, smile, watch avidly as it rushes past the windows.

When they arrive Barnaby steers Kotetsu up to his apartment gently - mindful that Kotetsu likely is exhausted - with a hand resting on each shoulder.

Barnaby has a couch now. He didn't before. It's long and charcoal grey and facing the windows. They sit down on it together, and Barnaby makes Kotetsu a cup of cocoa and brings through his duvet. He wraps it around the two of them, and together they watch the skyline, pale, ghostly clouds drifting over a sparkling city.