“Please don’t be mad at me.”
Barnaby raised his eyebrows and looked up from his laptop. That Kotetsu had chosen to start the conversation with that did not bode well for whatever would come next. “What did you do?”
Kotetsu rubbed the back of his neck and his gaze darted to the corner. “Well, Kaede was telling me about this thing they’re doing at her school, where they’re having people come in to talk about their jobs to all the students. She was upset no one was coming to talk about being a hero, so I might have said we could come?”
Undoubtedly all that was true, but if it were just that, Barnaby did not think Kotetsu would’ve started the conversation the way he did. He drummed his fingers on his desk and waited. “And?”
Kotetsu cringed. “And it’s the same day as the awards ceremony.”
Ah. So that was the problem. “You didn’t think to check the calendar?”
“I wasn’t in front of my computer!”
“It’s on your phone.”
“I was on my house phone!”
Barnaby glared at him. “Then it should have been even easier to check your cell phone.”
Kotetsu ducked his head. “I’m sorry, Bunny.”
Barnaby pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. The awards ceremony was important, particularly from a professional perspective, but he also didn’t want to be party to Kotetsu breaking a promise to his daughter just because he hadn’t looked at the damn calendar.
“I can tell her it’ll be just me—”
Barnaby scoffed and opened the calendar. “Did you promise both of us?”
“Then it has to be both of us.” Barnaby shot him a look. “Besides, I don’t like doing those ceremonies without you, old man.”
Kotetsu’s eyes went wide. “Huh?”
Barnaby ignored him and frowned at the calendar. “What time is the talk for Kaede’s class?”
“Late morning?” Kotetsu scratched his head. “I’d need to ask her again.”
“And how long would it be?”
“The whole assembly’s an hour or two, I think.”
Barnaby did the math in his head. If they left early and drove instead of taking the train, they could probably get there in time to do the talk. And if they left immediately after, then they could make it back to Stern Bild before the ceremony. It would be tight, but it wasn’t impossible. “We’ll need to talk to Lloyds, but we should be able to do it.”
“What, really?” Kotetsu leaned over his shoulder. “Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure.” Barnaby elbowed Kotetsu out of his space so he could stand up. “As long as we leave there by two, we’ll make it back here with time to change and get to the ceremony.”
Kotetsu caught his arm before he could walk away. “You really don’t have to do this. I know it’s a lot, and you’ve got the ceremony—”
“We already had this conversation,” Barnaby said. “Besides, if I’m not with you, there’s no guarantee you’ll be back here on time.”
“But why are you helping me out when I’m the one who messed up?”
Because I love you, you idiot. Barnaby raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, I thought you wanted me to come. Did I misunderstand the question?”
“No, no!” Kotetsu said quickly. “Of course I want you there. We’re partners. It won’t be the same without you.”
“Then quit trying to talk me out of it.”
Kotetsu gave him a smile, the small, soft one that Barnaby couldn’t help but return every time. “Thank you, Bunny. I know it’ll mean a lot to Kaede.”
I’m not doing this for her, Barnaby thought. “Just call her and find out what time we need to be there. Today.”
Kotetsu held up one hand and placed his other over his heart. “As soon as I get home, I promise.”
“Good. Then I’ll talk to Lloyds first thing tomorrow morning,” Barnaby said, and started down the hall.
“Thank you, Bunny!” Kotetsu called after him.
Barnaby shook his head and made a mental note to call Kotetsu that night and make sure he’d talked to Kaede.
It was ridiculous to do an assembly in another town the same day as an awards ceremony in Stern Bild. It would be stressful, and the chances of getting Kotetsu to leave either place on time were slim at best. Not to mention the driving.
But…it was for Kotetsu, and Barnaby would do just about anything for him. Adjusting his schedule for a day was nothing.
Given his reaction, it didn’t appear Kotetsu realized that. Barnaby should probably tell him.