When Barnaby says that there is no point in being a hero without Kotetsu, he means it. However, the hidden meaning that no one else but him seems to understand is that, in Barnaby's mind, there is no point in living without Kotetsu. He doesn't expect the old man to retire and then leave him so suddenly. Of course Barnaby is happy that his partner is able to spend more time with his mother and daughter, but where does Barnaby fall in that equation?
He has no family anymore, no one whom he can trust and cherish and call his own. Aunt Samantha is gone, and though she was not actually a blood relative of Barnaby, he never thought of her any other way. Uncle Maverick was the same—the man who cared for Barnaby and temporarily offered him refuge when the child was left with nothing but a robot toy and a picture of his family in a charred, cracked frame. Barnaby trusted him as a blood relation, a close uncle, something close to a father, but not now.
All Barnaby knows now is betrayal and anger and confusion. His life has been a lie, and the only good that seems to be left in it is a two-hour train ride away in Oriental Town. No matter how badly Barnaby wants to reach out to Kotetsu, cling to him and bring him back, he can't bring himself to do it. There seems to be something wrong about expecting the now-retired hero to leave his family and just come home. Besides, Barnaby has to admit to himself that he would much rather have Kotetsu reaching out to him. It feels better that way, when it's so clear that someone cares about him and puts forth an effort to make him happy. But whether Kotetsu wants to leave Barnaby alone to grieve or he's forgotten his blond rookie completely, he doesn't call.
Every now and then there's a brief text or an email, but it's not enough for Barnaby. The messages are sent collectively to all the heroes, filled with insignificant updates or silly anecdotes—there's nothing ever personally written to Barnaby, meant for those dazzling emerald eyes alone. The young man wants to see Kotetsu's face again, hear his voice turning rough with age, regard with adoration the way his eyes wrinkle when he smiles, but it's a dream Barnaby soon writes off as useless. He's convinced that Kotetsu won't reach out to him, not if he hasn't bothered to do so already.
That doesn't mean that Barnaby loves Kotetsu any less.
He's come to realize, over time, that he misses Kotetsu much more than what is normal. He comes to realize that perhaps he's falling for Kotetsu in a way that is far beyond the platonic love he thought he possessed for the older man. The way his heart aches at night when he's laying by himself in an empty bed with no prospect of friendship or company drives him mad, because he knows it's the ache of a lover's heart.
He loves Kotetsu, wholly and entirely and passionately. Romantically, Barnaby wants him, but it's more than a plain want or desire—it's a need. Barnaby reaches a point where he takes whatever he can get of the old man, watching reruns of Wild Tiger at his best, gazing fondly at photographs he and Kotetsu took together. Barnaby's table gains a couple of new framed photographs to join his family portrait. He knows that his memories have been altered and they're anything but perfect, but the memory of Kotetsu and their time together is one that he is determined to never forget no matter what the cost. His life becomes Kotetsu, but it's not enough.
And that's why he's so glad the first day he sees Wild Tiger One Minute appear on Hero TV.
Barnaby's made it a point to avoid Apollon Media's television franchises, because even the mention of the company reminds him of its previous CEO. Despite the good times he had as a hero, remembering those is not worth the reminder that Maverick was only manipulating him into the business all along, and it's only by a fortunate coincidence that Barnaby is watching the channel at all.
His heart leaps into his throat when the announcer says the name "Wild Tiger." He can't help but grin when he sees the green and white powered exosuit run clumsily onto the screen, pursuing a criminal with only a slight amount of competence.
One minute, Barnaby thinks fondly. Never before has he seen such a determined man as Kotetsu, and it's a trait he thoroughly admires. The moment Kotetsu's initiation into the second league of heroes is announced, Barnaby immediately becomes Wild Tiger One Minute's biggest fan. He once again watches Hero TV regularly, waiting with bated breath and a hopeful heart for any second of screen time Kotetsu might be granted. Trading cards are eventually released, and though there are only a couple of variations of the card due to Tiger's drop to the second league, Barnaby owns at least five copies of every one. Whenever Kotetsu manages to catch a criminal, Barnaby celebrates by himself with a glass of wine, always pouring an extra glass as if Kotetsu was there with him. Never does Barnaby drink from that glass, but it's there, just as if he's expecting Kotetsu to come waltzing in through his door to join the party. It's ridiculous and wishful thinking, but Barnaby enjoys the thought.
Finally, though, Barnaby reaches the point where it's not enough.
It's not enough to just be a fan, and Barnaby makes a decision he never even thought he would consider.
When he slips on the tight black undersuit, Barnaby is hit with a wave of nostalgia that's nearly overwhelming. Everything seems surreal as Dr. Saito reactivates the automated program that equips Barnaby with his armor. A year after retiring for what he thought would be forever, he's back, but it's not just being a hero again that makes his stomach flip with emotions he never knew he had—it's the fact that he'll see Kotetsu again, the fact that his dream will come true.
Of course Wild Tiger would be falling through a glass roof for their first reunion, but Barnaby doesn't mind. Boy, does it feel wonderful to hold that clumsy old man in his arms again.