Kotetsu was Barnaby's beloved partner. His confidant. His first and closest friend. Barnaby did not take this relationship for granted. He would do anything within his power to protect Kotetsu and keep him safe (something that had become slightly more challenging, but no less rewarding, with Kotetsu's now vanished powers). If there was a life he could live without him, Barnaby wanted nothing to do with it.
Sometimes, however, he just wanted to throttle the man like nobody's business.
“C'mon, Bunny, let me take a picture! This is something we can't let pass by without preserving the memories.”
This was one of those times.
“No,” Barnaby replied flatly. They both stood in the relatively new apartment that Kotetsu moved into three months ago (it helped to have more than one bedroom with both his daughter and partner coming over so often.), waiting for Kaede to finish getting ready.
Barnaby picked at the red spandex costume Kotetsu had forced him to wear and frowned. He wasn't very fond of it. The cape was too short to be even remotely impressive, the design was entirely too busy, and the ears kept drooping and falling in his face. “It's embarrassing enough that I have to wear this at all. The only thing that would make it worse would be to make photographic evidence of it.”
“Aw don't be like that. I had Antonio sew it especially for you.”
“I don't care if the president himself made it. Put that camera away or I'm going home right now.”
Kotetsu pouted, but relented and put the camera back into the pillowcase he had in hand. He too was wearing a ridiculous spandex costume, the blue one that Barnaby had seen him wear twice before. The primary difference was that he seemed to be enjoying it. “Fine," he said. "Just don't be such a sourpuss about it. You're supposed to celebrate your birthday, not spend the whole night complaining about it. Also, it's Halloween. It is required by law that you go trick-or-treating at least once in your lifetime.”
“By what law?”
“By Wild Tiger's law!”
“I fail to understand how dressing up in silly costumes and pestering people for candy will help me to enjoy anything.” Barnaby adjusted one of his costume's drooping ears for what had to be the hundredth time that night. Lord knows why Kotetsu decided that the best outfit for the occasion was a red, rabbit themed duplicate of his own costume.
“Bunny, you have been deprived of the joy of trick-or-treating for too long and I won't stand for it. We are going out there in silly costume, we are going to eat entirely too much candy than is healthy, and you are going to like it.”
Barnaby regretted ever telling Kotetsu that he'd never been trick-or-treating as a child. He had thought Kotetsu had gotten over his inexplicable desire to celebrate Barnaby's unusually dated birthday. He had thought wrong. Frankly, Barnaby didn't get why the old man was so concerned about it. It wasn't as if he didn't do anything for his birthday; he just liked to keep it simple. A night of listening to Rossini with some scented candles and a small cake was enough for him.
A small pang of sadness hit Barnaby's heart when he realized that he'd have to buy the cake himself from now on. Samantha should have never died the way she did...
“C'mon.” Kotetsu slapped a gloved hand on Barnaby's shoulder, snapping him back to attention. “Kaede should be finished with her costume just about now. Get your bag.”
“... Er, right,” Barnaby said, trying to fight his surprise listlessness. He went to the coffee table to grab the sack on top of it, catching a glimpse of Kotetsu's concerned expression directed towards him before the older man knocked on the bathroom door.
“Kaede sweetie, do need any help with your costume? It's still a bit of time to make things perfect before we go out.”
“No, I think I got all of it.” The door opened and out popped a twelve-year-old girl in a blue, winged jacket and a rainbow wig with ears. Her outfit seemed a lot more practical than the one Barnaby had forced upon him. Sure, it was clearly a costume, but take off the wig, the wings, and the numerous embellishments (normal shorts, Barnaby assumed, didn't usually have rainbow scarves stitched to their bottoms) and it looked like something a young girl could possibly wear any day.
Barnaby didn't have time to figure out what she was dressed as before Kotetsu dove in for his requisite doting and bone-crushing hug. “There's Papa-Tetsu's little Rainbow Dash! Now, aren't you the cutest thing in all of Equestria?”
“Dad, you're messing up the wig.” Kaede struggled to keep her jacket's wings from being destroyed in one of Kotetsu's forceful embraces.
Kotetsu released his prisoner and patted her on the head. “I'm sorry Kaed-er, Rainbow Dash sweetie. I just got swept up in how adorable you look.” After smoothing out the wig, he stepped back to examine his work. “There, now it's as dashey as the real Rainbow Dash's mane! Now, do you have your candy bag?”
Kaede winced. “I left it in Grandma's car.”
“Well, you better get a pillowcase from one of the bedrooms!” Kotetsu said in a voice of fake panic. “Quick, before we leave without you!”
“Crap! Give me a second!” Kaede was out of the main room before her father could scold her for her language. With here gone, there was only Kotetsu and Barnaby himself – although he could feel the tone of the impending conversation seeping into the room.
Kotetsu put a hand on Barnaby's upper arm. “You gonna be alright, Bunny?”
“Yeah, it's just... There's just some strong feelings attached to this day. Not very good ones.” Barnaby felt the vague pressure behind his eyes that was warning him of impending tears, but he was able to fight the sensation.
Kotetsu's expression grew pained. He drew Barnaby into a sort of half-hug. “It's okay,” he said, and gave a heavy sigh. “I'm sorry, Bunny. I should have made sure you were okay with all of this before we got going.... I'm not going to force you to come with us if you don't want to. I can tell Kaede that you got an emergency call from Ben. We can talk about it when you're feeling better.”
“No, it's alright... I'm willing to try this.” Truth be told, even if he was against this whole trick-or-treat thing, Barnaby didn't want to be alone tonight. With Samantha gone, he couldn't enjoy relaxing on his birthday like he used to. The once soothing candles and opera just reminded him what he had lost.
“Are you sure?” Kotetsu asked. “I don't want you saying that just to make me happy, alright?”
“I'm sure.” Barnaby took a deep breath. The pressure behind his eyes began to fade.
“I'm glad, Bunny. I'll do what I can to make sure you enjoy tonight.”
Barnaby gave a weak smile. “Thanks.” He might have said more, but a twelve-year-old girl dressed vaguely like a blue Pegasus barged back into the room before he could think of anything to add.
Kaede waved the cat print pillowcase in her hand. “Got it! Can we go now?”
Kotetsu gave a subtle nod to Barnaby before spinning around to face Kaede.
“That depends – do you remember everything I told you?” he asked, bending over with his hands on his knees.
"Well, I guess if you don't want to go then..."
Kaede rolled her eyes before going over the safety check list. “Don't go too far ahead, always keep the flashlight on, make sure I know who's power I have at all times, and only use Hundred Power if I'm really, really sure I'm in danger.”
“And don't eat more than half of the candy tonight. I'm not five, Dad. Sheesh.”
“Now we're ready to go.” Kotetsu sprung back up, broad grin on his face. From Barnaby's perspective, he looked twice as excited as Kaede. In an instant, both Kaburagis sprung for the door as if in a race. Kotetsu made it first by a long shot, swinging the door open before Kaede could crash into it, and Kaede ran through it faster than any girl ought to.
Kotetsu didn't follow suit - not immediately, at least. Instead, he turned to Barnaby once again. A more serious look spread across his face.
“Remember: if you want to stop – really stop – just tell me.”
“Kotetsu, I'll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. Not only that, but I assure you that I won't even complain.”