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Family reunion

The fact that Barnaby grew up in an orphanage means that he probably didn't have any extended family to take him in. But...

With Maverick gone, Barnaby is slowly regaining (vague) memories of relatives - grandparents, aunts, uncles, what-have-you. Cue his search to find and reunite with them (possibly something that starts out as a small side project until Kotetsu finds out?).

Can include some or all of the following:

-A look back at Maverick's underhanded measures to make sure Barnaby's family stayed out of the picture. Memory wiping? Murder? It's up to you, anon.
-Barnaby successfully locates his family and reunites with them with happy tears and hugs.
-Barnaby learns that his relatives are all dead (due to Maverick, or natural non-Maverick causes, whatever) so he visits their graves.

This can be fluff or tragedy, whatever anon chooses to make of it! Either way, I would love Kotetsu being a total bro during the whole thing, though I'd prefer no slash. (A-okay with anything up to and including sweet hand-holding of the platonic variety. In fact, bonus if you work that in.)
(Frozen) (Thread)

Re: Family reunion

Could the "family" maybe include people from aforementioned orphanage? The Brooks would probably have blood relatives, but can Barnaby track down caregivers and childhood friends, too?
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Sure, I've no qualms with that. Hell, the guy deserves as much happiness as he can get. :P

why you ask for mathematical formulae, reCaptcha?
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Where There's A Will, There's A Way [1a/???]

Working this out, Anon. Full intent to full.

It hurt, feeling his own memories contradict each other, tearing up the falsehoods and digging for the truth beneath. He compared to it ripping out his fingernails, or gouging out his eyes, or gnawing on his own bones, but Barnaby endured it nonetheless. He endured the lonely, shrieking nights as he wrapped his consciousness around the jagged edges of Maverick’s lies and pulled.

“—Emily, I swear, that child is a monster! I will not have him in my house!”

“He’s a NEXT, Papa! How can you say that about him? You used to—”

A cold shower. A glass of water. A hug for the pink rabbit plushie—with no one to see him, he felt no shame clinging to it for comfort as he reached in his brain again and pulled.

“—boost, Barnaby. If you can toss me on the roof, I’ll let you see my ‘special’ Golden Girl poster.”

“The one where you can see her boobies? You mean it, Quinn?”

“For as long as you like. Now get glowing, before Martha—”

Short of breath, and grateful the apartment was soundproofed, Barnaby rolled off his bed and onto the floor. His head pulsed and sweat dripped to the floor. He could feel Maverick’s memory grafts loosening, revealing themselves as lies—the private schooling, the birthday parties, the fatherly guidance—but underneath, nothing. He had to dig deeper, so again, he pulled.

“—and he even has my same power! And did you see how he busted through that wall? And then he—”

“Quiet, Barnaby. The little ones are already asleep. I know you’re excited, but keep it down.”

“Do you think I’ll ever be a hero?”

“I think—”

Dawn broke, sunlight streaming through the Sternbild skyline. Another sleepless night spent grasping at clouds. This routine hadn’t mattered when he had retired, but Kotetsu insisted on staying in the hero game until Sternbild crumbled to dust or he died, whichever came first. Barnaby had a job again—obligations, duties.

He’d meet them, Barnaby swore, loading a computer file full of notes on Barnaby’s whispy recollections and the distressingly pruned Brooks family tree. Just some data entry…
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Where There's A Will, There's A Way [2a/???]

“Bunny? Hey, Bunny.”

Barnaby blinked awake, still sitting in his lounge chair, staring up at Kaburagi T. Kotetsu. Before he had the chance to speak, Kotetsu clapped a hand against his partner’s forehead.

“No fever. What’s up, Bunny? You didn’t come in.”

Barnaby swatted the hand away. He wondered if he’d ever get used to Kotetsu’s care. “What time is it?”

“Quarter ‘til.”

“Quarter until what?”

“Six.” Barnaby’s eyes widened in shock, but Kotetsu just grinned. “Can I make dinner, while I’m here? You still haven’t had my fried rice!”

“I’m fine. Honestly, you worry far too much about me?”

“Should I worry about all this info you’ve been gathering on dead Brookses instead?”

Barnaby glanced over Kotetsu’s shoulder and realized he had left up his memory research. He hastily turned off the computer, and the display went black. “It’s just a hobby.”

“You stayed up all night.”

“…It’s labor-intensive.”

The room fell silent, the aching silence of grief and loss.

“You want help tracking them down?” Barnaby blinked at his partner, and Kotetsu jabbed at thumb at himself. “Whatever you need, partner, I’m here for you!”

Out of pride, Barnaby wants to protest. He wants to shoot Kotetsu down, call him old, backhandedly complement his selflessness, and then proceed to catch criminals and protect Sternbild with him as if this conversation had never happened.

But that was Maverick’s way. Altering the past to suit his needs. So Barnaby quietly mumbled, “Thank you, Kotetsu.”
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Re: Where There's A Will, There's A Way [2a/???]

OP here, hnnnnnggggggg loving this so far! Looking forward to more whenever it comes. :D
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Where There's A Will, There's A Way [REAL 2a/???]

So I'm still working out how to label these segments. And how to not post while logged in. Pardon my dust.

A second, clearer head advanced Barnaby’s search greatly—as Barnaby focused on recovering the “who? what?” from his faulty memories, Kotetsu took charge of the “when? where?” Heart still bleeding at Barnaby’s confession that Maverick hadn’t raised him like a son at all (he had probably grown up in an orphanage) Kotetsu sorted through all of Sternbild’s 279 orphan asylums for individuals that lived there years ago, using only their first names. He eliminated a few right off the bat, like infant orphanages, all-girls homes, and locations that opened after Barnaby came of age. But the remaining list was still depressingly long, and the hero duo had no choice but to visit them one by one and hope something jogged Barnaby’s memory.

Agnes heard about this and smelled ratings. And she called Lloyds, who smelled publicity.

Cue cameras.

With the media present, Kotetsu and Barnaby lost a lot of valuable time posing for pictures and signing things (well, Barnaby signed, Kotetsu sometimes got the chance to add his name after) and meeting with the head caretaker to explain the situation required some tricky camera-dodging maneuvers.

But, fortune sided with them for once, because the instant Barnaby set foot in the Usami Home for Orphaned Children, he whispered to Kotestu, “This one.”

“Eh? You remember it?”

“I… know it.”

Agnes clapped her hands for attention. “All right, you two, we’re going to start a round of portraits with the children. The nurses should be lining them up soon.”

Kotetsu glanced around, and raised his hand sheepishly. “Sorry, but could I go to the bathroom first?”

The executive producer stared at him with a look that registered as a nine-point-two on the Richter Scale of Stupid Questions. “Now? Seriously?”

“When you gotta go…” Kotetsu offered in his defense, and Agnes waved him away with disgust. With a quick thumbs-up to Barnaby, he took the nearest hallway and just walked, scanning doors for a helpful sign, like “Office” or “Matron’s Quarters” or “Bunny Lived Here Fifteen Years Ago.” The construction was plain and utilitarian, but heavily decorated with children’s art projects, pages torn from coloring books, and posters of smiling kids advocating virtues like “honesty” and “kindness.” Kotetsu wondered if a baby Bunny had ever had his creations featured in this magnificent art gallery.

Kotetsu rounded a corner and saw a door left ajar, so he poked his head in. Table, chairs, coffee maker. A break room; nothing special there.

“The bathroom was the other way, Mr. Tiger. Clearly labeled, too.”

Nearly whacking his head against the doorframe, Kotetsu pulled back and whipped around. The matron of the orphanage, a woman about his age with wire-rimmed reading glasses, stared at him with her arms folded as her foot tapped impatiently. Despite embarrassment at his detection, Kotetsu thought, Too young. This probably isn’t Bunny’s matron.

“I-I promise I’m not up to anything suspicious,” Kotetsu waved his hands as if he could disperse suspicion like a cloud of dust. “Actually, could I talk to you for a minute?”

“Talk to me about what?”

“Bun—eh, Barnaby and I are looking for some people. All we know are their first names, and they were here between eight to twenty-two years ago. Martha and Quinn. Those might be nicknames, too, we’re not sure.”

The matron narrowed her eyes. “I’m not permitted to give out personal information about any of the children, except one that you’ve filed to adopt. Same goes for employees.”

“Hear me out, please?” Kotetsu implored. “This has to do with Albert Maverick.”

“That nutcase?”

Kotetsu nodded. “He was a NEXT who could change people’s memories. Turns out he used that power to almost completely rewrite Barnaby’s past. Everything he thought he knew about himself might be a lie. He’s been trying to push past the fake memories, but all he can get are a few names. Nothing about what his life was really like, but we’re pretty sure he was an orphan here. If we track down some of his old friends, maybe they’ll jog his memory, get a clearer picture.” Yeah, that summed up the situation nicely. Kotetsu the Elock—Eloq—Good with Words.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Re: Where There's A Will, There's A Way [REAL 2b/???]

“What if Maverick tampered with them, too?”

“Then we’ll try to help them remember,” Kotetsu answered. “There’s no way to know about every crime Maverick committed. But I want to find a way to heal whatever I can. Bring friends back to each other. Put families back together.”

The woman still stared at him, steely-eyed, and tapped her foot some more.

“Please. Anything you can tell me. If it’s against the law, I’ll take the blame. You can say I broke into your office and took stuff.”

“A hero can’t steal from civilians.”

“A hero can’t ignore evil.”

A tense staring contest began, the two ideals squaring off and assessing each other. Finally, the matron took off her wire glasses and cleaned them on a spare cloth, and with a heavy sigh, said, “Martha Drury was my predecessor. And I can find Quinn’s record for you.”

Kotetsu beamed happily. “Really? You’ll do that?”

“But you better make your visit worth the children’s while.”

“Got it! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Photographs. Autographs. Question and answer. Barnaby went through the motions of fame just fine, offering each child his most dazzling smile, but the nagging sensation in the back of his mind persisted. This place. This place. This place.

This was the place he had been searching for all right. But what made it so special? Barnaby still couldn’t find a single familiar feature, from the color of the carpet to the hall layout. He had never been here before in his life, but he couldn’t shake, This place. This place. This place.

Agnes moved them out onto the lawn to take advantage of the natural sunlight and play structure. The children immediately took control of the agenda, seeing two swings and two buff heroes, and decided it was time for a “Let’s See Who Can Push The Swing The Highest” contest. Forming two lines, they took turns; Kotetsu pushed one swing while Barnaby pushed the other, sending delighted kids soaring into the clear afternoon sky.

Kotetsu threw himself into the activity, laughing along with the little girl in his swing and supportively complementing her height (“Oh, wow! Look at you! Look how high you got! Even higher! Wow!”) but the simultaneous familiarity and strangeness of the place preoccupied Barnaby. At least the mechanical motion, push, recoil, push, recoil, gave his mind space to wander without consequences.

“—boost, Barnaby. If you can toss me on the roof, I’ll let you see my ‘special’ Golden Girl poster.”

The roof. Barnaby looked to the lip of the roof, and a single piece fell into place. He had been on that roof before. Yes, it was a flat roof, indented, with a three-foot rim for two young boys to hide behind. He and Quinn used his Hundred Power to get up there after dark. Their secret hiding place.

“Oi, Bunny! Don’t forget to push!” Kotetsu reminded him. Barnaby looked back down at the boy on his swing and gave him an extra strong push. The swing’s chains lost tension at the high point of the swing, and the boy free-fell for a foot or two before they caught again and jerked him violently. The boy giggled delightedly, immediately bragging to his friends that he had achieved a world record in Swinging Really High.

“All right! No more of this!” the matron rushed forward, stopping the game before someone got hurt.

The kids groaned in disappointment, some outright declaring the matron a tyrant, but Barnaby didn’t notice. He finally remembered something, a scrap of a moment, but it finally felt real, like progress.

(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Re: Where There's A Will, There's A Way [REAL 2b/???]

Aaaaaaaaaa OP here! W!anon, I love the way you capture the pain and frustration that Barnaby is going through, I can really feel it as I read. And Kotetsu is just so... Kotetsu. *_*

Looking forward to whatever else you have in store!
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Where There's A Will, There's A Way [3a/5]

With Quinn Billerman’s full name at his disposal (how Kotetsu convinced the matron to give it to him, Barnaby would never know—maybe they came to some sort of Old People understanding) Barnaby found him almost instantly, an executive in an advertising firm with a job history buzzing with ambition. Barnaby tried to reconcile the two Quinns—the little boy with a risqué poster and the young up-and-coming businessman—but neither image held enough weight. He hoped, heart pounding a thousand beats per minutes, that seeing Quinn would draw out some buried memories.

“Good evening, Mr. Brooks,” the sharp young man offered Barnaby a handshake. Maybe the arch of his dark eyebrow, or the defined shape of his cheekbone, they might be familiar, but there’s no recognition in his eyes outside of Barnaby’s usual celebrity. Maverick was thorough.

Barnaby shook his hand briefly, professionally. “Mr. Billerman. Thank you for meeting me.”

“Of course! The first hero to ever work without a secret identity, twice King of Heroes? It's my honor to meet you.”

We’re childhood friends. Barnaby thought. Maybe.

He convinced Quinn to dinner with little trouble, and even to ignore the company driver set out for this occasion and ride with Barnaby instead. Quinn made adept attempts to learn the true purpose of Barnaby’s apparently random interest in him, but Barnaby deflected him at every turn. How should he open the subject? Our minds have been tampered with, but we used to ogle last generation’s sexiest heroes together on the roof of an orphanage? Frankly, with the limits of Barnaby’s only memory of his childhood, if Quinn had questions, or thought the story was a lie, Barnaby would lose him for good.

So Barnaby stalled, getting them to the restaurant, getting them through drinks and appetizers, asking every question he could imagine. He felt so nosy, assaulting Quinn with questions about his past and life. He felt like Kotetsu.

Quinn graduated high school nornally. Attended an underrated college and for the first time saw how Sternbild burst with opportunities to make his mark. So, advertising. He paid his dues on the ground trying to convince people their lives and loved ones demanded gimmicky inventions, but he sprung from that wasteland before despair took hold. Now, he works on campaigns, grand, world-changing projects, but still twice removed from leadership. He's glimpsed Barnaby's co-workers before—Blue Rose looks way younger in person than on TV.

"She uses padding," Barnaby guiltlessly revealed. Anything to create overlap between Quinn the Boy and Quinn the Man.

"W-Well," Quinn sipped his martini tensely. “Further evidence of skewed notions of beauty in today’s society. Tell the girls lined up for surgery, ‘Blue Rose uses padding,’ and the world will unravel. It’s reprehensible, the pressures my field puts on women. I want to change that when I run the place.”

Maybe that’s just age, maturity talking, but how much had Quinn deleted? “Golden Girl was naturally busty,” Barnaby mentioned.

“I suppose.”

“Didn’t you ha—” No, don’t begin this conversation with nudity. That’s ridiculous. Barnaby stopped his sentence short.


“When you were an orphan, didn’t you live at the Usami House?” He changed tactics.

Quinn froze, eyebrows knitting together. “How do you know that?”

“I… I lived there, too. At the same time you did.”

“Impossible. I would have remembered you. And you always said in interviews, Mr. Maverick raised—”

“Maverick changed my memories. He could have done it to you, too.”

“Then how are you so sure we lived together?”

“It’s vague,” Barnaby admitted. “But I remember sneaking out at night and throwing you onto the roof.”

“Excuse me? You would throw me onto the roof?”

“I had my Hundred Power at that age.”

“And what age would that be?”

“Young,” Barnaby admitted.

Quinn shook his head, regretful, doubtful. “Mr. Brooks, thank you very much for dinner tonight, but I just don’t believe we have a past together.”

“What if I could prove it?”


“If your Golden Girl pinup poster is still on the roof of the Usami House, then that means we used to be friends as children. How else could you have reached the roof?”

“Are you suggesting we break into my childhood home—”
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Where There's A Will, There's A Way [3b/5]

Our childhood home,” Barnaby interrupted, and Quinn fell silent. “Please, give me a chance. If I’m right, we’ll reclaim a part of our past stolen from us. If I’m wrong, maybe—” The suggestion mortified him, but, “—maybe we could continue meeting each other. You have a very interesting life, and… I’ve enjoyed myself tonight, but I have to know if you’re the boy from my past.” In spite of genuine sentiments, the words sounded forced, and Quinn still looked skeptical. “Please, Quinn.”

Leaning back against the chair, Quinn folded his hands together and rested them on his nose. Barnaby held his breath.

“Fine. I’ll go.”
Barnaby killed the headlights of his car as he and Quinn approached the Usami House, his thoughts occupied with the roof, the one place that made any sense.

“How long have you been planning this, Brooks?”

“This? Barely a day,” Barnaby said. “But I’ve been searching for over a year. This house, you, Martha…”

“Head matron Martha?”

“Yes. But we used to call her just ‘Martha,’ right?”

“Yes, we did…” His voiced trailed with an unspoken, but you couldn’t have.

Barnaby parked the car on the side of the street, and he and Quinn silently approached the orphanage, all windows dark. Gauging the trajectory to the roof, Barnaby paused some distance away, and looked up.

“Are you really going to jump that?”


“…With me?”

“I remember I used to throw you, so this will actually be safer,” Barnaby said, activating his NEXT powers. The faint blue glow illuminated a twinge of fear in Quinn’s eyes. “Get on my back.”

Quinn obeyed, standing behind Barnaby and awkwardly lacing his arms around his shoulders. Barnaby considered a princess carry, but decided that was Kotetsu’s personal humiliation, so he hefted Quinn a little higher into a piggyback ride.

“Can you count off, please?” Quinn suggested. “On three?”

“Three,” Barnaby said, and jumped. He sailed over the edge of the roof easily, landing perfectly on his feet. To his credit, despite his nerves, Quinn didn’t scream or cry out. Maybe he subconsciously remembered the jumps he and Barnaby used to make as children.

Barnaby pulled a small but bright penlight from his pocket and clicked it on. Gritty shingles lined the floor, coated in decaying leaves. A lonely air conditioning duct jutted out on the opposite side of the roof, like an inverted L with a cube next to it, the only interesting feature in the whole area. Barnaby and Quinn approached it, searching for some sign of a shared past.

“Nothing,” Quinn said after the third circle. “How did you expect two children to hide a little box of treasures up here, anyway? This is a huge wild goose chase, Brooks. You’ve got the wrong man.”

That can’t be true. Barnaby stared at the duct, avoiding Quinn’s eyes. He has to be right. He needs to be. If it’s not Quinn, this Quinn, then who was the boy in his memories? Who is that person that might just be Barnaby’s first friend? The ease and finality with which Maverick ripped away something so precious made Barnaby’s stomach churn and his eyes tear up. If he couldn’t even hold onto the people he loved, how could he be so sure he could hold on to anything at all?

“Bring me back down, Brooks. I want to go home.”

“One last look,” Barnaby side-stepped around the duct, squinting for any sign, any clue, anything. He reached out and ran a hand against the battered old steel.

…Battered? What could have battered it at such a height? No one came up here. Rust and discoloration, sure, but the indentations along the side…

Activating his Hundred Power again, Barnaby slid his fingers around, searching for a place where his hand would fit. Many of the indentation clusters felt too small—child-sized—but Barnaby found one that approximately matched his finger spread.

“Hey, what are you doing? I told you—”

A hundred times stronger than a normal human, Barnaby barely twitched and the duct came loose from the roof with a screech. With a little more pressure, he pulled it free completely and turned it about, examining all sides from this new perspective.

“What are you doing?!” Quinn twitched in panic, checking over his shoulder, as he continued hissing, “What are you doing, what are you doing, what are you doing?!”
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Where There's A Will, There's A Way [3c/5]

“Quiet,” Barnaby commanded, listening to the metal. He shook it—a light rattle somewhere inside. A harder shake, and the rattle became a thud, then two more thuds, and a small plastic box plopped onto the roof.

Barnaby and Quinn stared at it for a minute. Then two. Barnaby barely remembered to save a few seconds of NEXT power for his and Quinn’s descent; the box set his mind churning, beneath the surface, true memories he still couldn’t name but definitely felt. He knew he’d find something there if he just pulled back Maverick’s deceit.

Quinn approached the box first, kneeling beside it and pulling off the cracked tape that held it shut. The lid popped off, and Barnaby joined him as the two pulled out relics of boyhood: Outdated hero trading cards. Miniature racecars. Sparkly rocks. Two abused butter knives. Barnaby took each object in hand, the sense of familiarity growing. He was right. He was right.

With the box emptied, Quinn reached for the final object inside—a flat, folded paper wedged into the bottom of the box for who knows how many years. The paper cracked as he slowly unfolded it, revealing a poster of a topless woman, with the name “Golden Girl” emblazoned across the top in curly script.

“God,” Quinn breathed. “Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, oh, God…”

“Are you all right?” Barnaby put a hand on Quinn’s shoulder—could he remember? Were his memories coming back?

“…Allen, Billerman, Delancey…” Quinn mumbled, rambling. “It was Allen, Billerman, Brooks, Delancey. Every single time Martha called roll, Allen, Billerman, Brooks… And we begged Martha to let us be roommates, but she refused, because we’d never sleep. And whenever you won at anything, I accused you of cheating with your powers, even if it didn’t make any sense, like better grades or if you finished your dinner before me…”

He remembered. He remembered things Barnaby didn’t. As relieved as he was to have successfully found his friend, Quinn’s stories soared right over Barnaby’s head. The sheer magnitude of what Maverick had stolen, fourteen years worth of experiences, hadn’t struck Barnaby until now.

“I’m sorry, Barnaby.”

He uses my first name now. “Why are you sorry?”

“When he came, Maverick… He gave me the creeps. I didn’t know why, but I didn’t like him, the way he was all over you. I should have protected you. But then he asked to talk to me—”

“It’s all right. Maverick hurt a lot of people. I don’t blame you.” Barnaby squeezed Quinn’s shoulder reassuringly, and Quinn covered his old friend’s hand with his own, returning pressure.

“All those times we had… Playing explorer, passing notes during study time—”

Barnaby shook his head. “I don’t know about any of that yet. I’m sure I’ll get it, but it’s hard.”

Quinn smiled: the smile Barnaby had grown accustomed to through the night, his cool, confident, professional grin giving way to a wilder, mischievous smirk. “You’ll remember, Barnaby. You remembered me before I remembered you, so I know you’ll get it.”

“Thank you.”

After another minute, Quinn scooped up all their treasures and backed them back in the box. “Now get glowing, Barnaby. I want off this roof!”
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

That last line had me like this: :DDDDD

I feel like a broken record, but I love this so much w!anon aaaaaaaaaaaa <3
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

w!anon, answers finally.

Don't worry about being a broken records. It really encourages me to know that you like what I'm writing so much.

Glad you liked the last line, too. I liked writing Quinn. It was hard to make him not this little mini-Kotetsu clone, but I'm happy to know he went over well.

More updates coming.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Where There's A Will, There's A Way [4a/5]

Kotetsu fumbled with his tourist map of Borelli Gardens, twisting it every which way to try and find “straight.” He hated getting lost in new places. His home he knew inside and out, and after over ten years of service to Sternbild, he knew the city’s nooks and crannies, too. But the little town of Galesville, which Kotetsu hadn’t heard of until he looked up Martha Drury and realized she had moved away about eight years ago, presented a new challenge entirely.

That, and her move corresponded with Bunny’s eighteenth birthday, when he came of age and Maverick all but abducted him up. Definitely suspicious.

Kotetsu had called from Sternbild and explained as gently that he had questions about when she had been a matron at an orphanage. He heard about Bunny’s successful reconciliation with Quinn, and hoping to continue the trend, Kotetsu asked to meet Martha in person. That seemed to do the trick for Bunny. Besides, Wild Tiger One Minute had an easier time asking for vacation time nowadays than the always-photoshoot-ready, not-prone-to-vandalism, five-minutes-per-hour Barnaby Brooks Jr.

Finally finding a feature that corresponded with his map, Kotetsu reoriented himself and set off for his destination again. The town sure prided itself on this sprawling garden; as far as Kotetsu could tell, it was their one tourist attraction. But, on the right path, Kotetsu made it to the central fountain and scanned the surrounding benches for Martha. Granted, he had no idea what Martha actually looked like, but how many little old ladies sitting alone were there?

Actually, several, which threw Kotetsu’s head for a loop. He made a vow then and there that, when he was old (and he was not old yet!) he would never sit around a park alone. He made two loops, trying to decide which of three women was Martha. The one with the bun? The Pekingese? Would they chase him off if he approached them?

Saved from his struggle, the third lady, a woman in a pale yellow sweater with graying black hair, stopped him as he started his third round, “Kaburagi Kotetsu?”

“Eh? Oh! Yes! You must be Ms. Martha!”

Martha smiled at him good-naturedly. “It’s all right. You seemed lost. The gardens are often difficult for newcomers.”

Kotetsu laughed nervously and sat on Martha’s bench.

“You’re sure you wanted to meet me here? I could have met you at my home.”

“Oh, no, it’s all right. This shouldn’t take long.” Kotetsu had some atrocious luck recently trying to meet with little old ladies in private, and he couldn’t express how fervently he didn’t want a repeat of that ordeal. “You worked at the Usami house eight years ago?”

“Yes. I told you that on the phone.”

“You wouldn’t happen to recall a certain boy who lived there,” Kotetsu began, focusing on his ultra-cool detective voice, “and this may be hard to believe, whose name was Barnaby Brooks Jr.?”

Martha’s eyes went wide, and she clapped a hand to her mouth.

“M-Ma’am? Did I say something wrong?” Kotetsu lost the detective voice, fearing he had genuinely offended the woman.

“No,” she said softly. “But are you sure Maverick is gone?”

Well, that was an oddly un-brainwashy answer. “Yeah, he’s dead.”

“Thank goodness,” Martha breathed an enormous sigh of relief. “So it’s safe.”

“Safe for what?”

“Safe to admit I knew Barnaby.”

“What? Maverick didn’t change your memories?”

Martha shook her head. “Eight years ago, Maverick came to the Usami house with a pair of men. We went to my office, and he told me I had to do exactly what he said, or else… my sister and her family would be killed. He had pictures of them.”

“Are they all right?”

“Yes, they’re safe, because I stayed quiet. They live here, actually. After that ordeal, I wanted them close, and I wanted to get away from what I had let happen.”

“What did Maverick tell you to do?” Kotetsu asked.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Re: Where There's A Will, There's A Way [4b/5]

“He told me to sign all the paperwork releasing Barnaby into his exclusive custody. Then, I had to prepare a room where he wouldn’t be interrupted, and bring Barnaby there. One of the men kept me in my office while that happened. The last I saw of Barnaby, Maverick and the other man were leading him to their car…”

She trailed off. Kotetsu tried to envision the scene, trapped in a room as a stranger leads away a young man who, to your eyes, is still a child. It didn’t click until he put Kaede in Bunny’s place, and suddenly a pang of hatred and fear sent shivers down his spine.

“What else did you have to do?” Kotetsu prompted.

“I had to bring each of the other children to Maverick, too. He didn’t take any of them away, but I had to bring each one to him. Then he ordered my immediate resignation, and that I would never try to contact Barnaby ever again. I didn’t know what had actually happened until Hero TV revealed Maverick’s corruption, and his NEXT power. He must have altered the memories of the other children, made them think Barnaby never existed. Then Maverick made me leave to keep his story in place.”

“Why didn’t he alter your memories?”

“I don’t know,” Martha said. “There might have been a limit to his power we don’t know about. And really, I can’t be sure these aren’t implanted memories, too. But this is what I think happened.”

Deciding to ignore that “imp” word that he didn’t know Kotetsu changed the subject. “So you didn’t try to track down Barnaby? Not even when you saw him on Hero TV?”

“Especially not. I felt very tempted to try when he first appeared, but I decided not to, because his dreams had just come true.”

Kotetsu blinked. “His dreams?” Bunny never talked about his dreams. Well, he had, but they were “avenge dead parents” and then “make Maverick happy,” and those didn’t turn out so well.

“Yes. He became a real hero, and he had met Wild Tiger. Got to rescue Wild Tiger, even. That had to be the happiest day of his life.”

A little niggle of glee wormed its way into Kotetsu’s heart, and he couldn’t suppress a smile. “Really? Bunny—Um, Barnaby looked up to Wild Tiger?”

Martha nodded. “More than any other hero.”

Leaning back against the bench, Kotetsu scratched at his beard. “It all makes sense. Wild Tiger is the coolest, after all. Did Barnaby collect his trading cards? Or maybe he had a Wild Tiger action figure? Those things were so—”

“Oh, nothing like that.” Martha swiftly punctured Kotetsu’s little fantasy bubble of hero-worship. “Barnaby never cared about merchandise or interviews, or anything about who Wild Tiger was.”

A little hurt, Kotetsu asked, “Then how can you call Barnaby a Wild Tiger fan?”

Martha turned pensive, folding her hands in her lap. “When Wild Tiger debuted on TV, Barnaby was fourteen. At that age, orphans are sort of… passed the adoption prime. With his birth parents killed and just about no chance for adoption, I could see Barnaby… almost fading. Even his best friend, Quinn, didn’t help him. When they had been younger, they supported each other, but Quinn lost hope of adoption the same way Barnaby did. They started to drag each other down, rather than build each other up. And I got worried. Very worried.”

Martha paused to collect her thoughts, and Kotetsu nodded supportively. He knew feelings of being old, unwanted, or washed-up well, but a child so full of youth and promise shouldn’t feel like that.

After a minute, Martha continued, “Then, we’re all watching Hero TV together, and a brand new hero bursts onto the scene, tosses aside all the criminal’s goons like they’re rag dolls, runs through a wall, and wrestles the bad guy to the ground in literally five minutes flat!”

“I remember that,” Kotetsu said wistfully. Ah, the glory days.

“And it turns out, that was Wild Tiger’s power. Hundred times human strength, for five minutes. I’ll never forget the way Barnaby reacted when the commentator explained that. He literally leapt up and grabbed the sides of the TV, face inches from the screen!”

Laughter interrupted her sentences, and the thought of Bunny getting that excited about anything made Kotetsu join her. “Like he—like he wanted to go through the screen, into the show!” the elderly lady giggled.
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Where There's A Will, There's A Way [4c/5]

When the laughter faded, Martha continued her story. “He wouldn’t stop talking about the show for a week, and ever since then, I could see he watched Hero TV for one hero only. But, he never wanted any merchandise, and he always skipped over interviews and other special events. He didn’t even pay attention to how many points Wild Tiger got. Barnaby cared about Wild Tiger’s actions, how he fought crime and used his power. His depression finally broke, because he had a new goal. He wanted to be a hero himself. It didn’t matter if he had a family or not, because Sternbild would be his family. He’d protect them and they’d love him.”

“The people of Sternbild really do love him,” Kotetsu agreed.

“I always knew he would be a hero,” Martha said. “Even before he saw Wild Tiger and realized it himself, he was meant to help people.”

Kotetsu looked out at the park, the couples strolling together, the families picnicking on the green lawns, the occasional jogger or dog-walker. The warm fuzzy feeling cuddled happily between his ribs, knowing Bunny had found the will to go on and help people when all the world seemed to tell him no one cared whether he lived or died. Well, Kotetsu cared, but sometimes, he wondered if a single friend was really enough for Barnaby. If he could find these old friends and parent-figures for Bunny, Kotetsu would. Because that’s the meaning of life, family and—

His cell phone rung. “Oh, sorry, that’s mine,” Kotetsu pulled the phone out of his pocket.


Oh, this was too perfect. Standing and pacing away from the bench a bit, Kotetsu answered the call, “Hello?”

Kotetsu, you didn’t text when you got to Galesville. Did you make it?” Bunny lectured.

Right, he had promised he’d do that. “Sorry, I sort of forgot… and then I got lost… and then I got lost again, in the garden…”

I knew I should have gone with you. You’re hopeless.

“Worried about me?” Kotetsu teased, and Bunny scoffed at him, crackling indistinctly through the speakers. Glancing over his shoulder at Martha, Kotetsu added, “Actually, could you hold on a second?” Without waiting for Bunny’s reply, Kotetsu skipped back to Martha and offered her his phone. “There’s someone who’d like to talk to you,” he said, passing her the device.

As she brought the phone to her ear, he turned on his heel and started to walk away. Kotetsu knew when—and certainly knew how—to get lost.

I really am atrocious at formatting. Forgive me.
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Re: Where There's A Will, There's A Way [4c/5]

Oh god, Maverick at the orphanage, bby Bunny the Tiger fan a;sldkjf my heart.
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Dawwwww, Kotetsu!! His chat with Martha was so sweet, and I loved the part about the whole of Sternbild being Barnaby's family. :)

I'm looking forward to see how this all wraps up, w!anon! <3
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Where There's A Will, There's A Way [5a/5]

The waiting room smelled clinical, and though no amount of paisley upholstery could change that, the management of Crystal Springs Retirement Home certainly tried. Kotetsu and Barnaby sat side-by-side on a faux-antique sofa, waiting for one of the nurses to bring them visitor badges. People here moved as if underwater—the elderly residents taking measured, deliberate steps, staff matching their pace and assisting them from place to place.

With a rhythm all its own, Kotetsu sensed they’d be waiting for a while, and turned to Barnaby to make small talk. “So… have you tried to remember any more about when you decided to become a hero?”

Barnaby looked away, annoyed. “You mean about the time I saw you on TV and reportedly became overexcited?” Kotetsu smiled as innocently as possible, but Barnaby had nailed him. The younger man sighed. “It’s difficult, but I am trying. It must have pleased you immensely to hear Martha say I was a fan of you as a teenager.”

“Yep!” Kotetsu answered. “I mean, you weren’t the best fan if you only cared about my broadcasts. A real fan supports his hero in any situation, but I’ll take what I can get.”

Barnaby leaned on the armrest of the chair. “I think it was better that I met you without those preconceived notions. I got to know and accept you for who you are, rather than idealizing and having you fall short of my expectations.”

“That’s a little mean, Bunny… It sounds like you’re calling me a disappointment!”

“It’s not just for you,” Barnaby amended. “Worshipping any hero based on public displays alone is dangerous. We try to show our noble selves as often as possible, but ignoring the chance that your idols may have hidden demons only brings pain and heartbreak when they come to light.

Kotetsu suddenly found himself incapable of replying. “…Yeah. That.” Determined not to think too much about the accuracy of Barnaby’s observation, Kotetsu changed the subject. “So what do you remember about your grandfather? Now he’s a real old man!”

Barnaby’s expression darkened, and Kotetsu’s stomach dropped as he realized he had just messed up. “I only have one memory of him. Before that, I was too young.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I remember sitting on a flight of stairs, listening to my grandfather and my mother in the other room. He’s yelling at her for bringing me to the house. He calls me a monster. Mother defends me, but he won’t listen, and tells her to get me out of his house. My mother comes and picks me up. That’s it.”

“He’s anti-NEXT?” Kotetsu realized, and Barnaby nodded. “And you still want to meet him?”


“Are you sure?”

Barnaby nodded again. “He’s the only direct relative I could find. Even if he hates me, I want to see him.”

His partner was resolute, but Kotetsu saw a deeper pain buried in his eyes. Gently, he took Barnaby’s hand in his own and squeezed it. Barnaby looked over at him, surprised, but Kotetsu just smiled. “It’ll be okay. I’m right here.” Barnaby smiled back, and returned Kotetsu’s squeeze.

They sat holding hands for a few minutes more, only releasing when the nurse approached with two visitors badges.

“Mr. Reynolds is in the lounge. I’ll take you to him.”

Sterling Reynolds, father of Emily Brooks, née Reynolds. From an old family founded on old ideas, with old money and an old estate, the man’s body finally matched his other characteristics, restricted to a wheelchair situated near a table at the far end of the lounge beneath a curtained window. Light still seeped from behind the cloth anyway, and the wispy tufts of white hair around his head glowed, backlit. Harsh shadows on his wrinkled face clashed with the brightness from the sunlight outside.

The heroes moved toward him slowly, navigating through the small table settings. Sterling looked up when Kotetsu bumped a vase (thankfully catching it, too) and watched them approach with intense, dark eyes. After an eternity, Barnaby and Kotetsu reach the table, looking down at the wheelchair-bound man.

“Good afternoon,” Barnaby began politely. “My name is Barnaby Brooks Jr. And you would be Sterling Reynolds?”

“I am,” the man grumbled, his voice gravelly and worn.

“May we sit down?” Barnaby asked.

“Are you going to introduce your friend?”
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Where There's A Will, There's A Way [5b/5]

“This is Kaburagi Kotetsu.” Barnaby doesn’t add any embellishment to the name, no title or explanation of their relationship, but the longer Sterling stares at him, the harder it is for Kotetsu to fight back the feeling he knows. The two stand, waiting for Sterling to say something. His gaunt face alternated looking at Kotetsu and Barnaby.

“Well?” he said at last. “Sit.”

Glancing at each other, Kotetsu and Barnaby pulled out chairs and joined Sterling at the little round table. The tablecloth was paisley print, too.

“Your daughter’s name was Emily, correct?” Barnaby asked. “She married my father, Barnaby Brooks Sr.”

“Yes,” Sterling agreed.

“Then you remember me?”


Taken aback by the monosyllabic answers, Barnaby pressed, “I am your grandson.”

“You’ve proved that,” Sterling frowned in irritation.

Barnaby faltered, and Kotetsu brushed his hand against his partner’s under the table, a quick gesture of confidence. “Did you ever meet a man named Albert Maverick?” Barnaby asked, a preliminary check for manipulation.

“I spoke to him on the telephone once, a few days after Emily and her husband’s murder. Never met him in person.”

“What did he say?”

“He told me not to claim you. Maverick offered money, made threats, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t want you anyway.”

Barnaby’s eyes widened, and his mouth opened a little, as if the words had struck him physically. Before either the grandfather or grandson could say another word, Kotetsu interjected, his face set.

“Excuse me, sir, but you don’t just say things like that to people’s faces,” he said firmly.

“Don’t tell me what to say…” Sterling turned his attention to Kotetsu. “…Cripple NEXT.”

“What did you call me?” Kotetsu growled.

“Cripple NEXT,” Sterling repeated, digging into each letter. “Telling the whole world about your weakness and failures so that they’ll take pity on you. Then you expect me to lie—”

“Weakn—failu—pity!?” Kotetsu spluttered, fists clenched by his sides.

“Kotetsu, calm down!” Barnaby placed his hand on Kotetsu’s shoulder. Even though the indignation remained, Kotetsu sat back and clenched his jaw, for Barnaby’s sake. Turning his attention back to Sterling, Barnaby explained, “No one can choose to be a NEXT. But it is our choice what to do with those powers when they appear. How is that any different than a philanthropist or activist?”

Sterling scoffed. The sound rattled his lungs. “That’s what Emily used to say about you. She had so much faith in you and that freak power of yours. Your father, too. I thought they were fools. Fool parents and their freak baby. That’s what I thought all right.”

Kotetsu looked between the old man in the wheelchair and his partner beside him. This was not what finding Barnaby’s family was supposed to be like. But, Barnaby had asked to meet him, asked Kotetsu to be there, and asked Kotetsu to play nice. So for Barnaby’s sake, he’d take the hate and hope they found something more than prejudice under that wrinkled skin.

“Can you tell me more about my parents?” Barnaby said quietly, staring down at the paisley tablecloth.

Sterling took a few raspy breaths before answering. “I didn’t meet Barnaby until Emily graduated college. They worked in labs together, bonded over it. A pair of eggheads. I didn’t notice much because Emily could clean up so nicely, but he courted her with ridiculous things like electronic bouquets and mathematical equations as code for little notes. She fell to pieces.

“They made a good match, and I blessed it. The Brooks family was well-respected, Barnaby a good provider… and Emily absolutely forbade me to say otherwise. Since her wedding, she kept doing things that I would never have permitted in my house. But I figured, she’s a Brooks now. That’s the Brooks way. Keep the husband happy. So I put up with it.” (Pause for frailty) “Looking back, that was her way all along. The way that made her happy.”

“And my father?”
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Where There's A Will, There's A Way [5c/5] END

“He stuttered like a moron when Emily introduced him to me for the first time. Too earnest. He made an idiot of himself trying not to look like an idiot. But he had achievements. What he set out to do, he did. It wasn’t a question of possibility. Life takes equal parts success and how it is presented, and I can say Barnaby at least improved his presentation over the years I knew him. Coming into his own… Getting married, having a son, it changed the fellow.”

Barnaby played with his black ring a little, taking in these words. “Thank you for your time, sir. We’ll be leaving.” Barnaby stood, and from Kotetsu’s seated vantage point, he could see tears gathered at the corners of Barnaby’s eyes. He stood up quickly to block Sterling’s view of the little droplets.

“Next week, sharp.”

The heroes paused. “What?” Barnaby said.

“You’ll come to meet me again, Barnaby. This time next week. Don’t be late.”

“But I’m a NEXT,” Barnaby explained. “You—”

“You’re my grandson,” Sterling stated. “And now that you’ve finally proved you know that I exist, after twenty-two years, by my word, you’re going to act like it. Meet me again next week, this time, right here. Understood?”

The tears fell from Barnaby’s eyes, taking the fear and anxiety away with them. “I will, Grandfather. Thank you.”

“Now go.”

Outside, Barnaby dried his tears quickly, though his eyes continued to glisten.

“You okay, Bunny?” Kotetsu asked.

“I’m fine.”

Unpinning his visitor’s badge, Kotestu dropped it off at a nurses station and laced his fingers behind his head as he walked. “I can’t believe that guy! He’s nothing but a bully! Cripple NEXT… He’s the cripple! He’s in a wheelchair!”

“Please don’t speak disrespectfully about my grandfather,” Barnaby said. “He was trying to be nice.”

“That was being nice? Then I don’t want to see him when he’s mean!”

“One meeting with his grandson will not erase forty-seven years of NEXT prejudice.”

They stepped out of the retirement home and into the fresh outside air, toward the parking lot. “Hey… are you really going to go see him next week?”

“Of course.”

“You know he ordered you to do it. He’s not going to accept if something comes up. What if you get an emergency call?”

“Then I’ll trust you to handle it, non-cripple NEXT.”

“Bunny, don’t start calling me that. It honestly hurts.”

Barnaby nodded, conceding. “I know families aren’t perfectly happy all the time. Watching you with Kaede taught me that. There are things that family members hate about each other, but because of their bond, they push past it anyway. I want to get to know Grandfather better, so I'll push past his hatred for NEXTs and try to show him my true self.”

Unhappy with his partner’s decision, but unable to argue the point about Kaede, Kotetsu shuffled along beside Barnaby, pouting.

“Thank you, Kotetsu.”

“Eh? For what?”

“For everything you’ve done to help me reconnect with my past.”

Kotetsu smiled. “It’s something you really wanted. And besides, what are partners for?”

Barnaby smiled. “What indeed.”
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Re: Where There's A Will, There's A Way [5c/5] END

I remembered Barnaby's flashback to his grandfather and wondered if you really would end the story with him discovering his last living family hated what he was. Shouldn't have doubted you, the bittersweetness of their encounter was perfect in its imperfection, as was how palpable his bond with Kotetsu was throughout. Thank you for writing this wonderful fic :).
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Where There's A Will, There's A Way [MICRO EXTRA]

Because I had such fun writing this, this is the little stinger-teaser that would have played at the end of 25 for this story.

Domo! I’m Kotetsu, the member of Tiger and Bunny that likes to blow bubbles with his chewing gum!

Bunny’s been down lately. Superstar hero back in the game, what’s he missing? Well, whatever he’s looking for, he’s got his partner to help!

Next time! WHERA ZERES A WIWL… Dammit, why do I get the hard ones?!
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

Re: Where There's A Will, There's A Way [MICRO EXTRA]

Hahaha! That extra is spot on. And it works especially well since I could totally see the fill coming right out of a hypothetical season 2.

That was an excellent end to an incredible fill. Sterling was great, and his attitude towards Barnaby was very believable, I think. (And of course, I dawww'd so hard at the hand-squeeze. :D)

Thank you, and thank you again, w!anon! <3
(Frozen) (Parent) (Thread)

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