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Word Count: 873
Summary: Continued from Day #9: Kotetsu, Barnaby and Kaede go ice-skating.

Walking down familiar streets, having Kaede hold his hand excitedly, the lights out on the streets, Barnaby's soft, stolen smiles every once in a while; all of that was everything that Kotetsu could wish for for Christmas.

His own smile seemed to be stuck on his face, unmoving, and he had to look up at the dark sky from time to time to remind him that all of this was real, that he was touching things, that he was smelling things and that this cold outside was extremely real as well.

Shivering slightly, he looked down at Kaede and Barnaby talking animatedly and he made an effort to listen to what they said, catching snippets of "What did you do the Christmases before you met dad?" and "My mom used to take us all skating, well as long as she could anyways."

His smiled turned a little wistful at that and he had to look back up at the sky, because he realized that for all of them, Christmas would be a holiday full of pain from the losses they experienced and Barnaby probably had it worse than he and Kaede.

"Kotetsu tried to take me skating that year, too, though it was more to retrace steps of what I did on the day my parents were murdered," Barnaby explained, the soft tone in his voice not matching what Kotetsu thought he must surely be feeling.

He felt his brows draw closer in irritation - he wanted this to be a happy day, not a day full of painful memories although he knew that it would always be like this - and he decided to step in.

"Hey, you two. Stop talking about sad things when you could be talking about how great the cake was that I got from the two of you! Honestly, I don't think I've ever tasted something as good as that!" he laughed loudly, tugging on Kaede's hand in this. "I promised I'd take you ice skating on Sternbild's most popular place, and we're right here, too!"

And really, they had just arrived at the plaza with the big Christmas Tree, with the clock indicating the day, the photo spot and the ice rink beneath it.

"...That's it?" Kaede asked, looking disappointed. "I thought... it would be bigger," she said and started to pout.

That triggered an uncharacteristic reaction from Barnaby, who covered his mouth and started chuckling until both the girl and his older ex-partner looked at him with wide, incredulous eyes.

"...What? I just find it funny that Kaede would think this is a too small rink! Surely you must be used to bigger ones from your professional ice skating career," Barnaby replied, still chuckling, but smiling as well, so much that Kotetsu felt his cheeks heat up. One quick look down confirmed that his daughter was having the same reaction and Kotetsu broke out in chuckles himself.

"O-of course! Yes! That's the reason!" Kaede gave back quite passive-aggressively, although Kotetsu knew she was used to bigger skating rinks because these things were naturally bigger on the countryside because there was more space than on some plaza in the big city. "E-either way I think this is just fine so let's put on our skating shoes, alright?"

She let go of their hands with a quick squeeze and hurried to sit down on a nearby bench to put on her own shoes while Kotetsu and Barnaby were left with having to rent a pair each, so they started to queue in line. Of course, people soon recognized the blond and ushered him in front and since the lender also recognized Kotetsu they got their shoes for free. It was a nice gesture, but it also came with having to deal with people who wanted autographs from them and that wasn't all fun, even if it pushed Kotetsu's ego a bit that he was also asked for his sign more than once, even without people coming to Barnaby first. Thankfully they all retreated quietly when Barnaby called it an end and they were finally able to join Kaede on the ice.

The skating itself came easy to them, even though he felt a little rusty and Barnaby seemed like he had never been on ice at all. But after a few practice rounds with Kaede holding his hand eagerly, he seemed to be getting the hang of it and he managed to skate along gracefully with everybody else.

It made Kotetsu smile and he nodded to himself as he did his own rounds, before he caught up with his daughter and swooped her up, but miscalculated his own momentum so that the two of them landed ungracefully on the ice with a shriek each, but Kotetsu cushioning her fall. Barnaby just so managed to evade their collision just like everybody else and while Kaede started blowing up into his face how dangerous that was, the blond couldn't help but start laughing.

That made father and daughter stop bantering, falling silent for a heartbeat before they joined the blond in his laughter.

Ending the day with huge amounts of candy cotton, Kotetsu thought that this was how he liked his partner - ex-partner - best; carefree and laughing.

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August 2014

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