Title: Lunch with a Tiger Cub
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2290
Pairing: Antonio/Kotetsu, bonding with Kaede
Topic: None
Type: Canon setting, Post series
Genre: General
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Tiger and Bunny. Tiger and Bunny belong to Sunrise and their respective creators.
VTM: I'll write more happy things in the future. But in the meantime I hope that you will enjoy this.

-0-0-

"Are you bored?" Antonio asked the girl that was seated across the table from him.

Kaede was looking out the window of the diner where they were eating lunch together; she had a glum look on her face. It was actually supposed to be her dad with her there; it was Kaede's summer vacation and she was to spend a couple of weeks with her dad. The first couple of days started out just fine, they were talking about all the things to do while Kaede was there. However, as was always the case, something had come up.

In this case it was her dad's health that decided to throw a wrench in their plans. The day before Kotetsu had woken up lethargic, his body ached, his sinuses stuffy, and unable to stomach much food. At first Kaede thought he was faking, just so he could be lazy, but seeing how miserable her dad was quickly squashed that idea. It just was not fair. There was always something that seemed would come up an interrupt their plans, whether it was his job or some act of nature.

"Kaede? Are you okay?" Antonio asked, this time he successfully caught Kaede's attention, bringing her back from her thoughts. "I'm sorry if this is boring. I'm not really sure why Kotetsu asked me, of all people, to do this."

"It's okay, it's nice having lunch with you." Kaede said, hoping that she didn't seem ungrateful. It was true, she would have rather gotten a chance to spend the day with Barnaby; but the sponsors had him booked for modeling shoots and advertisements. It wasn't like spending time with Uncle Tonio was all that bad. But her mind was a little preoccupied, it made enjoying herself a little difficult. "I'm just a little mad at Dad right now."

Antonio gave a small sigh. He could understand why she'd be upset, Kotetsu seemed to have really rotten luck whenever he made plans with Kaede. So Antonio tried to pick his words carefully as he spoke. "It's true that the timing was bad but it's not like he went and got sick on purpose."

Kaede poked the food on her plate, she could feel her cheeks heat up a little with embarrassment. "This kind of stuff always happens though, so how am I supposed to feel?"

"I know, but I know for a fact that he's probably pretty upset about it too." Antonio said.

"How do you know?" Kaede asked stubbornly.

"Well, for one, it's been all he's been talking about lately." Antonio pointed out. "He's been really looking forward to it, especially since he has a little more free time being in the second league."

Kaede frowned a little, not sure whether to believe Antonio or not. He didn't really have a reason to lie to her, right? But then again he was her Dad's best friend, best friends were supposed to help each other, weren't they?

"Is there something else bothering you?" Antonio cautiously pried.

Kaede was quiet for a moment. "…Dad and me had a fight before he got sick." she mumbled.

Antonio blinked; he wasn't really expecting that from Kotetsu. Whatever it was it must have been serious if it got him into an argument with his kid. "What happened?"

"It's something that we fight about sometimes…" Kaede began to explain. She stabbed her food with her fork a little more as she thought back on the incident. "I've been telling Dad that I want to be a hero, and he keeps saying that he won't allow it. We were talking about it a few days ago and he got mad." She then looked Antonio in the eye. "Why is Dad being such an idiot about it? He's a hero, right? Then shouldn't he be happy?"

Antonio was quiet for a moment, he could see Kaede's point. However, he did remember Kotetsu talking to him about Kaede wanting to be a hero. Those discussions had mixed feelings, sadness being the most prominent, oddly enough. Antonio tried to think back on those talks before he tried to answer.

"Dad's so stupid sometimes…" Kaede said stubbornly. "He lies about stupid things and he's a hypocri-"

"You shouldn't be so hard on him." Antonio countered suddenly, interrupting her. He didn't yell, but his voice was still firm. "Kaede, can you tell me why you want to be a hero?"

Kaede blinked, she wasn't expecting to be asked that. She took a moment to think about her answer. "Well, Dad and Barnaby are both heroes. They get to help people and they get to do all sorts of things like appear on TV. I have my own powers, so I could use them to help people too, right? I can get a cool superhero costume and everything."

Antonio smiled a little. There was no doubt that Kaede was a smart kid, but she was still a kid at the end of the day. There was a lot of life that she hadn't experienced or seen yet. Kotetsu's aversion to the idea of her becoming a hero was starting to make more sense. "Being a hero is more than "cool costumes" and helping people, sometimes you have to do a lot of things you don't want to."

"What do you mean?" Kaede asked.

"There are a lot of disappointments in the hero business. I'm sure your Dad can tell you that much if you ask the right questions." Antonio said somberly. He thought back on some of his talks with Kotetsu. How they would talk about heroes in their younger days. A lot of it changed once they were actually in the business themselves. "Heroes get to help people but they also have to keep their sponsors happy. The sponsors are the ones that make it possible to be heroes. So it's not like we get to do what we want, we're like living billboards. So we're sometimes seen as an investment rather than an actual person."

Kaede was quiet, letting what she was hearing sink in. She never really thought about it that way.

Antonio took a slow sip from a cup of coffee he had been neglecting. "It can be a cruel job at times too. Your Dad was a king of heroes just like Sky High and Barnaby but you never really hear about it now, do you?"

Kaede looked a little surprised, she did read the old magazines that were stored away, and she did read on how her Dad achieved the title King of Heroes once. It never really occurred to her what happened since then. She never really paid too much attention to heroes until Barnaby saved her and kick started her interest in them.

"It's sometimes more of a popularity contest than it is about saving lives. The more popular the hero the better it looks for companies that they advertise." Antonio explained; there was a slight tone of bitterness in his voice that he didn't mean to have there. Even if he wasn't quite as passionate about the job like Kotetsu was, they probably agreed more than he was willing to admit aloud. "I know your Dad really well, he isn't trying to be mean to you. I think that he probably hopes that you'd want to aim to do something better for yourself. You have more opportunities than either of us did."

"More opportunities?" Kaede said curiously. "What do you mean?"

"Back when your Dad and I were kids, it was pretty common for NEXT to be bullied and treated like outcasts. There was a lot of prejudice. If you were a NEXT it was kind of either become a hero or try to keep your powers a secret." Antonio explained as he thought back. "It wasn't easy, especially in places like Oriental Town. You had a lot of people that were superstitious or just afraid. I'm sure there's still stuff like that going on around there, probably even here in Sternbild too."

It was then that Antonio noticed Kaede hadn't said anything for a while. He noticed that she was staring down at her plate shifting the food around a little with her fork. Antonio couldn't help but feel a little bad, maybe he had said too much. She was still a kid after all, it's not like she really needed to know that kind of stuff right now, right?

"Ah, sorry about going on about stuff like that…" Antonio said nervously, trying to think of any way he could take back what he had said.

"Do you regret being a hero?" Kaede suddenly asked.

The question caught Antonio off guard. Leave it to Kaede to ask something tough, the girl was growing up to be a lot like her mother. It took a moment for Antonio to answer, the question wasn't as simple as it seemed. "I'm not going to lie, sometimes I do. Sometimes bad things happen and now and then you see things that will haunt you. But, I wouldn't change what I do, I'm glad I get to go out and save people. If I can make a difference, then to me it's worth it. I'm sure it's probably what your Dad thinks too."

Kaede smiled a little, it was reassuring to hear. She was actually glad that she got to have lunch with Antonio; she got a better understanding of her Dad. Kaede wasn't as upset anymore, maybe she would apologize to her Dad when she felt ready. "Thank you, Uncle Tonio."

Antonio smiled, it was going to take some getting used to being called "Uncle Tonio". But he had to admit that it had a nice ring to it. "What do you say we pick up something for you Dad? When he's feeling better he can have something to eat. That guy needs to eat something other than fried rice if he wants to feel better."

Kaede laughed a little and gave a nod. "Sounds great!"

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Kotetsu was fast asleep, cacooned in a warm quilted blanket on the couch in the living room of his apartment, letting Kaede have the bed while she stayed at his place. He didn't stir when the door opened and Kaede and Antonio walked in. Kaede hurried over to the couch and gently shook her father.

"Dad, wake up!"

Kotetsu mumbled and weakly batted her hands away and wrapped himself tighter in his blanket. "Just a few more minutes of sleep…" he mumbled.

Kaede rested her hands on her hips and frowned. "Dad, we got dinner for you."

"We also picked you up some ginger ale to help settle your stomach." Antonio added as he put the food away for later. He then walked over to join Kaede and his friend. Antonio smiled when he spotted Kotetsu sitting up, his hair was a mess, and stubble could be seen on his chin.

Kotetsu gave a yawn and rubbed his eyes, he looked up at the two. "Thanks for taking Kaede out to lunch, Bison." he said with a tired smile.

"It's okay; we had a bit of fun, didn't we?" Antonio said as he ruffled Kaede's hair.

"Stop that, you're just as bad as Dad!" Kaede said with a small pout.

"Hey, don't lump me together with him!" Antonio said with a laugh. He then looked at Kotetsu. "I guess I'll be heading out then."

"Aw, do you have to go so soon?" Kaede asked.

"Why not stay a little longer? We could all watch a movie together." Kotetsu suggested. "Come on Bison, it'd be fun."

Antonio tried to say no, but just as he was about to he was met with both father and child giving the most ridiculous looking pleading looks he had ever seen. "…Fine, but just for one movie, and that's it."

In the end, Antonio ended up staying for two movies and few television shows. It was nine thirty at night when Antonio realized how late he stayed. By that time Kaede had fallen asleep snuggled up to her father, Kotetsu was cozy using Antonio as an oversized pillow, and Antonio was sandwiched between the arm rest of the couch and the two Kaburagis.

Antonio looked over at the sleeping father and daughter and sighed, he then gave Kotetsu a light nudge. "Hey, you awake?"

Kotetsu stirred a little, his eyes blinked open. "Yeah, now I am…" he said with a yawn. He made no attempt to move, he was comfortable right where he was.

"I…I had a little talk with Kaede about her wanting to become a hero. She said something about you two having an argument about it." Antonio explained.

"Yeah, we did, I was a little surprised that she wasn't mad at me anymore." Kotetsu said with a weary smile. "What did you tell her?"

"I told her the truth; I didn't see the point in lying to her." Antonio explained. "You can't protect her from the darker side of things forever."

"…Yeah, I know." Kotetsu agreed in a defeated tone.

"I'm not going to lie though, it did get me thinking about you and your situation too." Antonio admitted. "I worry about you sometimes."

Kotetsu shifted uncomfortably, he didn't liking where this conversation was going. "Let's not talk about that right now."

"Well, when will you be willing to talk about it?" Antonio asked. "Kaede gets a lot of her stubbornness from you. That much I'm sure about."

A small laugh escaped Kotetsu. "I'll talk about it, but not just yet." He then snuggled up a little more, getting a little more comfortable.

"Well, whenever you want to talk about it I'm willing to listen." Antonio wrapped an arm around Kotetsu and settled down. He wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon. When he didn't get a response he looked at Kotetsu and saw that he had fallen back asleep. "Goodnight, Tiger."

-The End-