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04:50 from Hinomoto

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0.
Lucretia cries at the train station.

Vixel puts down her suitcases, then wraps his arms tightly around her and squeezes. "You're going to be just fine."

"Of course I'll be fine, Vixel." Lucretia looks up at him, teary-eyed. "I'm going to be amazing." She blows her nose on a loose bit of his sleeve. Gross. "That's why I'm moving out right?" She wipes her face on that same patch on his shoulder.

"Lucretia, that's foul," He chastens. He takes out a handkerchief from his pocket and tries to wipe her nose. She dodges. Then blows her nose again on his dress shirt. Vixel groans. He has a work function tonight.

Grown-ass woman uses male companion's clothing as mucous repository in departures area. How is nobody around them noticing this? Maybe they're all just too polite to say anything?

"Vixel," She wails, and, okay, now people are starting to stare — and why does he feel like the bad guy here again? He sighs, then rubs her back. There, there.

"It's not me I'm worried about," She sniffles, "It's you."

Vixel winces. Sounds like something straight out of a romance drama. ... And right on cue, now they think he's the bastard boyfriend breaking up with her or something, judging by the glares around them.

Oblivious to the hostile environment, Lucretia reaches up and curls one hand around the nape of his neck. "Vixel, dear," She presses her other hand to his face. "Promise me you won't be too lonely without me?" Her thumb strokes the side of his cheek gently, "Promise me you'll be okay?"

Another tear slides down her face.

His throat suddenly feels very tight. "... I'll be fine, Lucretia." He leans down and pecks her on the forehead. Lucretia hiccups, then takes this opportunity to wipe her nose on his shirt collar. On second thoughts, his throat feels fine.

"Lucretia," He mutters mutinously, lips pressed to the top of her head, "Please stop that. I'm begging you here. We just finished laundry day."

At least he picked a white shirt today. He doesn't know how he could even begin to explain weird, white semi-opaque stains splattered on his usual dark clothing without getting viciously side-eyed and quite possibly arrested.

Lucretia shakes her head, stubbornly clinging to him. Unashamedly, he clings back. The platform for her train is announced from the mechanical speaker above them. They let go.

"Bye Vixel." She kisses him on the cheek. He returns the favour. He also stuffs a pack of tissues into her coat pocket.

It's only when she turns her back to him, that he starts to panic. What if she —

No.

Lucretia is an adult, he thinks, desperately trying to calm himself. She can and will disembowel you if she finds out that you thought, even for a second, she needed protecting. She is a far stronger man right now than you will ever be in your entire lifetime, Vixel.

Deep breaths.

He knows that he's helped her pack as best as he can. Triple checked that all her outfits, adaptors and throat lozenges are safely stowed.

She'll be fine. She'll one hundred per cent be okay.

As he watches her pale blue hair disappear behind the train doors, waving at him one last time, he thinks that maybe, just maybe, the one who wasn't okay was him all along. It's going to be lonely living by himself.

Just then, his phone ticks very quietly. It's a text from Lucretia. The preview reads:
Azura, but stronger: Vixel, darling, don't be angry, but...

Oh no. No no no no no.

Nope. Lucretia never asks him not to be angry. She thrives off of the excitement in seeing him panic from everything she does for her own enjoyment, a byproduct of which is his accelerated ageing process. He has so many grey hairs from living with Lucretia. So. Many.

Before he can open the message, a new text pops up to the top of his lock-screen notifications:
Azura, but stronger: Your new flatmate is moving in tomorrow! ...

He immediately dials her number. Predictably, she doesn't pick up.



1.
Which is how Vixel finds himself back at the train station the next day, in a clean shirt, four thirty in the morning, waiting for his mysterious flatmate arriving from the airport.

Why would she put up a flatmate ad. Vixel is the worst flatmate. He wouldn't want to live with himself.

That's really saying something, considering the domestic disaster that is Lucretia. When Lucretia's friends flat-out refused to continue living with her, they expressed in no uncertain terms that her childhood friend Vixel was an actual saint and that he was only agreeing to live with her because he was ignorant to the domestic menace she was. Domestic menace turned out to be a gross understatement. Lucretia is household Satan incarnate.

He remembers one memorable evening when he came home after a month long tour to find a massive, technicoloured dustball on the ground which was revealed to be his cat who had mopped up everything on the floor since his absence because Lucretia didn't vacuum like she said she would. He hasn't been abroad since.

It's a miracle that Mariti has survived so long in their care.

Vixel sips his herbal tea. It is not tea by choice — because coffee is bad for the throat, Lucretia can't drink it, and by extension, Vixel has to suffer with her. Though now that she's gone for at least a year... he thinks he'll invest in a coffee machine. He can hide it in his room when she gets back.

He checks his watch. 04:50.

The train transporting his mysterious flatmate should have arrived by now.

Only he doesn't really know how to find his flatmate because Lucretia hasn't given him sufficient contact details. Just a blurry photograph, flight number, and a screenshot of Lucretia's internet adventures recording the sketchy flat-letting transaction between herself and 'Botan'. Vixel had to search up the flight time himself and figure out when to show up to the train station. It's all very cryptic.

"Hello."

Vixel starts. He looks up to find a mountain of luggage has materialised in front of him.

"I am Ieyasu." Says the luggage pile in a pleasant voice, "It is a pleasure to meet you."

"Sorry." Says Vixel, not quite grasping the sight in front of him, "I think you have the wrong person." He rubs his eyes. The suitcase tower is still there.

A man steps out from behind all the luggage.

"I am certain I have the right person." Frowns the man. He has really long eyelashes.

"I'm afraid I'm waiting for a 'Botan'."

"Oh." Says the handsome stranger. His eyebrows crease together. "Yes. That's me."

Vixel gives him a once-over. From the photograph Lucretia sent him, Botan is, decidedly, not the tall purple-haired handsome man in front of him. In fact, one might even say that, judging from the photograph, Botan is a petite, pink-haired young lady.

Vixel gives him a look.

"I... misspelt my name." Says not-Botan unconvincingly.

How do you typo Ieyasu so badly that it autocorrects to Botan.

Then Ieyasu correctly names Vixel's address, so he checks the picture again. Sure enough, when he clicks the image thumbnail on his and Lucretia's chat, the picture of real-Botan zooms out and reveals the man who had the misfortune to be cropped in the image preview. Why Ieyasu would choose to send a group shot of all things as an image to help a stranger identify him, Vixel has no clue.

"Sorry." Says Vixel, "You were cropped."

"Quite all right," Replies the man.

Distantly, the clock chimes five.

There's a pause, where they both turn to look at the luggage. Vixel has a feeling that Ieyasu went over the cabin restrictions on his flight and train journey here. He has no idea if it will fit in the car.

"... Lucretia?" Ieyasu peers at him, "Are you all right?"

"...Excuse me?" Vixel isn't sure if he misheard.

"Sorry," Apologises Ieyasu, "Am I saying it wrong?"

Vixel stares at him, uncomprehending. "Lucretia." He repeats.

"Ah, so your name is exactly like the idol's," Laughs Ieyasu. "I was a little surprised when I saw the listing. What were the chances that you two would share the exact same forename and surname?"

"Yes..." Manages Vixel. He is going to have some very strong words with Lucretia about letting his flat out under her name later. "What were the chances indeed."

(Little did Vixel know that his failure to correct Ieyasu at this point in time would bring him unheard of grief over the period of the next six months)



Playing tetris with Ieyasu's luggage against the backdrop of his car is not an experience Vixel is keen to repeat in this lifetime. They manage to make it to Vixel's apartment building regardless.

Ieyasu apologises for inconveniencing him with so much luggage and tries to dissuade Vixel from helping him carry it up some stairs.

"Ah, don't worry." He says, hefting one of Ieyasu's many suitcases up the apartment entry steps, "This is completely fine."

"I am very sorry." Ieyasu looks very guilty, "It hasn't even been a day and I am already bothering my new flatmate like this."

"It's fine." Repeats Vixel, "You aren't a bad flatmate at all. My old one used to blow her nose on my clothes. "

He's met with silence. In retrospect, Vixel realises that probably wasn't the best thing to say to someone you had just met, and would be living with for the next year. Then Ieyasu asks, uncertainly: "When you were... not around?"

 "No," Vixel replies honestly, "Usually while I was wearing them."

More silence. Vixel faintly regrets what he just said. Why couldn't he have just lied and said 'yes', or just left it at a simple 'no' again?

"... I am so sorry." Ieyasu looks him dead in the eye. They are a really nice amber.

"Like I said, no need to apologise — it's not even your fault!"

Ieyasu smiles sunnily in response. Vixel wishes he looked that good when he smiled.

When Vixel sets down the first suitcase in the lobby, he turns to find Ieyasu, in a display of inhuman strength, carrying a stack of four wheeled suitcases up the steps.

He's a monster, thinks Vixel. This man is a monster.

The receptionist and security give them both a very judgemental look when they bring in the fleet of luggage. Ieyasu manages to stuff everything into one lift without activating the overload alarm. Vixel squeezes himself between Ieyasu and the wall nervously.

After an eternity, the elevator doors slide open. They are moving the suitcases out of the lift, when an ear-splitting screech cuts through the air. Ieyasu looks mildly concerned as Vixel approaches the door which seems to be the source.

"That's Mariti," Supplies Vixel as he taps the card-key to the apartment. He hasn't quite finished the sentence, when the door bursts open and a frighteningly large white cat knocks Vixel to the ground. Vixel, with great difficulty, reaches around to scratch him behind the ears. "Ieyasu, Mariti." Mariti's tail thumps rhythmically behind him like a particularly large feather duster. "Mariti, Ieyasu."

Mariti turns his head towards Ieyasu, contemplative. Ieyasu has about three seconds to process this, before Mariti screams and launches himself off Vixel, who tries to reach for his cat in vain. "Mariti, no! Stop!"

Vixel winces when Ieyasu is tackled soundly to the floor. "Mariti!"

"Hello, Mariti." Ieyasu mumbles, splayed on the ground. "It's a pleasure to meet you." Mariti just looks very pleased with himself.

"Ilia, I'm so sorry." Vixel drags one hand across his face, incredibly stressed. "He's social. Really social."

Mariti refuses to budge from where he is laying on top of Ieyasu, neatly tucking himself into a catloaf on Ieyasu's face until Vixel reduces himself to bribing him off with a teaspoon of salmon roe. All the while Ieyasu just laughs, the sound slightly muffled by the white fur smothering him.

"He eats better than we do," Grumbles Vixel, on his way back to the fridge. He throws the spoon into the sink for later, nudging at Mariti's belly with his foot when he walks past. Mariti just rolls over.

Vixel is so petty.



 "So... I'm really sorry you didn't know that I had a cat." Vixel is saying, "If that's going to be a problem..."

Before he can finish his sentence, Ieyasu immediately assures him that he loves cats. Mariti meows his approval, then makes himself at home over Ieyasu's feet. In response, Vixel violently hauls Mariti off. ("He needs to unpack, Mariti, you can play later." To Ieyasu: "If you can, try not to encourage his bad behaviour. He's been spoilt to death.")

Since Ieyasu has no issues with Mariti, Vixel shuts up until they finish moving things inside and he starts taking Ieyasu on the obligatory flat tour.

Vixel's seven o'clock alarm goes off just as he's showing Ieyasu the guest bedroom.

"... I'm afraid I've got to get to work," Says Vixel. It's an event co-ordination meeting for a summit that the orchestra is performing for in a few months, so he doesn't need to bring Mariti in today. "I'll see you later then?"

"I hope you have a lovely day at work." Ieyasu smiles at him, "Thank you again for picking me up from the train station."

"No problem," Calls Vixel, "Bye."

He pauses at the door. Then, to his cat: "Mariti. Behave."



Somehow, Ieyasu is still up when Vixel arrives back home at the inhospitable hour of 2:00 AM.

"Jet-lag," Explains Ieyasu, face illuminated by the blue light of a muted television screen. Mariti is snoozing next to him on the couch, curled into a fluffy white ball. Vixel makes a sympathetic sound as he scrounges for leftovers in the refrigerator.

He's reheating some pasta in the microwave when he catches sight of Ieyasu's phone screen, open on that one cat collector game everyone in the orchestra was really into at some point.

Ieyasu makes an indiscernible noise and nods at the piano. "Do you play?"

"Not at this time of the night." Replies Vixel. That makes Ieyasu laugh.

"How about poker?" Offers Ieyasu. Vixel agrees, then goes off to find a deck.

They get as far as shuffling a whole deck of cards and picking up their hands only to realise:

"Ieyasu..." Says Vixel after a moment. He looks at his cards. "... I know exactly what cards you have."

Ieyasu looks very impressed. "How?"

"... Because... I'm holding all the cards that you don't have."

"Ah." Ieyasu looks thoughtful. "It seems I have miscalculated."

No shit, thinks Vixel.

They have another go at figuring out card game logistics (this time, successfully) and play half deck until Ieyasu falls asleep in the break between their fourth and fifth round. Vixel props a pillow behind his head and tosses a throw blanket over the sleeping man before retiring for the night.



It's raining quite hard when Vixel needs to get to work next morning. Because he doesn't want to have to deal with a sopping wet Mariti at the concert hall if they make their usual pedestrian commute to work, Vixel heaves the enormous cat basket-slash-trolley (affectionately dubbed the 'Mariti-mobile' by Lucretia) out from behind the couch. Ieyasu doesn't stir.

Mariti opens one large, jet-black eye, before he frees himself from Ieyasu's loose embrace to approach Vixel, head held up high. Vixel carefully attaches Mariti's collar to him and ruffles the top of his head.

Vixel leaves a note for Ieyasu telling him that he and Mariti have gone out for a walk. He wheels Mariti out of the apartment in the pram and shuts the door quietly.



When he returns home, Ieyasu is cooking. Vixel is not used to returning home to the smell of food — his old flatmate was Lucretia whose cooking skills were inversely proportional to her singing ones.

"Welcome back." Greets Ieyasu. Mariti pads over and sits at Ieyasu's feet, mouth held wide open expectantly. Ieyasu immediately makes an offering of some cooked salmon to the rascal. "Have you eaten yet?" Vixel shakes his head, then drags Mariti away from Ieyasu before he can appropriate more dinner. "Wonderful. I made enough for thre-"

At Vixel's unimpressed look, Ieyasu hurriedly corrects himself. "I made enough for two."

There's a cute baby boar plushie on the sofa that wasn't there when Vixel left the flat this morning. Vixel picks it up and examines it.

"There are a lot wild boars near my hometown. We make a lot of merchandise featuring them." Ieyasu says without turning around, "They're cute, aren't they?"
 
Ieyasu walks over and passes his phone to Vixel. There's an album with three hundred and fifty one pictures. Vixel clicks it. They are all of baby boars. Vixel spends the whole evening looking at them. If he lingers on the few pictures of Ieyasu cradling a mass of piglets in his arms... Well. What Ieyasu doesn't know won't hurt him.

Dinner is fantastic. Vixel demands Ieyasu gives up his culinary secrets ("Ah, my cooking skills are nothing compared to my teacher's.") and he almost regrets spending that time checking out Ieyasu's arms —

He misspoke. He meant looking at the pictures of cute baby boars like he was supposed to.

"By the way, Ieyasu... isn't it very dangerous to pick up baby boars?

"Quite!" Ieyasu does not elaborate. Vixel pretends he doesn't see Ieyasu feeding bits of celery and more salmon fillet to the inconspicuous antonymic anonymous Mariti under the table. He makes a reminder to himself that Mariti doesn't get any cat treats for the next month.

Then Ieyasu insists on doing the dishes as well. ("You have had a long day — take some rest and leave the dishes to me.")

It's been under forty-eight hours and Vixel is already in love.

Fuck.



2.
Two months into Ieyasu's tenancy, Ieyasu has taken to carrying the twelve kilogram beast around the apartment, much to Vixel's chagrin and Mariti's delight. Both Lucretia and Vixel refused to indulge (read: were physically unable to pick up the metre long animal) Mariti, so Ieyasu has since become the new favourite companion.

Traitor.

Vixel comes home one evening after rehearsal to find Ieyasu reading the newspaper aloud on the lounge, Mariti belly-up on his lap, meowing softly in response.

"I like your cat." Says Ieyasu by way of explanation, kneading Mariti's fluffy head with his knuckles gently, "He is very lovely." Mariti meows in agreement. Then Ieyasu continues to narrate the contents of the fashion column to Vixel's cat.

Vixel makes a mental note to add Ieyasu's name to the growing list of Mariti cat-slaves. A list which includes, of all people, the Prince of New Alberia.



The trick with Vixel's cat is that if he knows he is being talked about, he will immediately try to join the conversation.

Vixel had woken up and checked his phone, only to find out that he needed to cancel rehearsal because of technical difficulties. Because the summit is next month, Vixel spends the morning answering texts and phone calls from the performers, reassuring them that they were still on schedule. By the time he finishes contacting management to arrange another practise time to make up for the lost session, it is already noon.

Vixel stretches, then abandons his desk in favour of hunting for Mariti. He is a bit worried that Mariti might die from loneliness because Vixel hasn't paid attention to him in over twelve hours.

Of course, he can't find him. Since he can't hear anything suggesting a cat breakdown taking place in his flat, there's only one place Mariti could be where he would receive sufficient attention. Vixel knocks on Ieyasu's door. When he doesn't answer, Vixel lets himself in.

There is a mound of blankets in the centre of the bed. Ieyasu is making shushing noises.

"... Ieyasu?"

Ieyasu's head pops out. "Hello."

"Have you seen Mariti?"

"... I'm afraid not." Says Ieyasu at the exact same moment that Vixel hears a meow.

Ieyasu fake-coughs violently. "... I'll let you know if I find him." Mariti meows again. Ieyasu unsuccessfully tries to hide the fact that he is letting Mariti sleep on a bed.

"Sure."

He is about to help Ieyasu save face and leave the room when Mariti voluntarily shows his fluffy face from underneath one corner of the blanket. Ieyasu winces. So much for not spoiling his cat. Vixel realises, horrified, that he's not even that annoyed.

"... Well, he's been found." Says Vixel amicably, "Do you want to go out for lunch?"

"... That would be wonderful."

Mariti crawls out to butt his head against Vixel's shin. He wants a head pat. Vixel reluctantly gives it to him.

He has to look away when Ieyasu throws the blankets off himself then folds them because apparently tall dark and handsome sleeps shirtless and Vixel's single, thirsty heart cannot handle this much human beauty and household responsibility.

Instead, Vixel distracts himself with Mariti. Ieyasu watches with great interest when Vixel clips on Mariti's leash, but he doesn't ask despite looking like he really wants to.

He's definitely in a relationship, thinks Vixel. Be still, my beating heart.



3.
Vixel often gets free tickets for whatever venue he's performing in. Because Vixel is a sad and lonely man, he has no real friends besides Lucretia — who herself receives so many tickets she would be set for a life in the ticket scalping business if she ever thought about giving up on singing.

Vixel had once saved a seat for his girlfriend at the time but they broke up before the recital. On a whim, he brought Mariti instead.

Yes. He is the scum of Grastaea who carts his pet cat around in a stroller sometimes and uses his free concert passes on him.

Except what was going to be a one-time thing turned into a permanent fixture in every recital Vixel conducted after that. Mariti had proved so popular with the New Alberian Philharmonic Orchestra that he was unanimously elected as their official mascot.

Which is why when Vixel arrives for the final rehearsal before the summit, he looks up to see a large, new, Mariti-shaped signboard hanging over the entrance of the concert hall.

Strewn across the tables of the foyer are boxes of Mariti-inspired pastries — all prepared by the catering and event company for the function tonight. A stack of new tablecloths boasting simplified Mariti-heads and paw print designs stand at one metre high for use in the evening, as well as merchandise in the souvenir and gift shop.

He looks down sternly at Mariti. "I hope you're proud of yourself." Mariti meows happily. He loves attention.

Sometimes... Vixel feels like he runs a very high-end cat café for the New Alberian elite.



Elias is in a bad mood because Lucretia didn't bring him along for her latest tour.

That does not stop Vixel from making a beeline to the teenager at the reception as soon as he catches sight of his apparently-not-your-average-office-worker-slash-flatmate Ieyasu in formal Hinomotoan dress, conversing openly with Prince Euden on the evening of the summit.

"Elias," Hisses Vixel.

"What." Replies Elias, rudely.

"Where do Euden and that man over there know each other from."

Elias deigns to look over at where the Prince and Ieyasu are standing.

"Uh. That's Lord Ieyasu?" Elias raises an eyebrow, "He's at least royalty? Possibly next in line of succession? Also the reason why we're performing for the Hinomoto-New Alberia summit right now?"

While Elias is talking, Ieyasu and Euden walk over to a large backdrop advertising the Hinomoto-New Alberia summit (finally) set up in the foyer to have a picture of them shaking hands taken by professional photographers.

"Seriously, senpai." Admonishes Elias, "Get a grip."

Vixel considers flaking on the recital and moving to the other end of the continent.



Ultimately, his sense of duty wins.

In a last ditch attempt to keep the flatmate Lucretia charade alive, Vixel equips himself with a face-mask and his prescription glasses. Unfortunately, the concert hall has the ultraviolet light trick installed for the momentous occasion of the New Alberia-Hinomoto summit. All the light coloured decorations in the concert hall glow with a pretty purple glow. Conveniently, the UV lighting also activates his transition lenses.

He's wearing sunglasses indoors.

So Vixel stands in front of his orchestra regretting all the times he laughed at Lucretia when her flight schedule had been leaked out to her fanbase and she had to be visibly incognito for tabloid photographers upon touchdown.

He sees the exact moment when Elias catches sight of him in the crowd. Elias stills, mouth falling open, before he desperately fumbles for his phone, snaps a picture, then runs out of the concert hall, choking on laughter. Vixel sighs. He is a professional, he reminds himself.

The performance begins. He conducts.



Vixel doesn't see Elias again until the soirée, which he had very nearly succeeded in not attending had it not been for Prince Euden calling Vixel out at the exit. Prince Euden, who is currently introducing Vixel to his companion: Lord Ieyasu.

"Ieyasu, this is my senior, Vixel." Introduces Euden. "Senpai, this is Ieyasu. He's here as Hinomoto's representative for the summit!"

That begs the question: Why is the ambassador of a nation renting a room in a shared flat? Besides being some kind of faux prince or royal equivalent in Hinomoto, there is definitely something fundamentally wrong from a safety aspect with a national ambassador living in some place he found off Air BnB, or whatever site Lucretia advertised his flat on.

Ieyasu holds out his hand, oblivious to Vixel's internal dilemma. Vixel shakes it carefully. "It's nice to meet you," He says in an exaggerated, nasally voice, only made worse by the surgery mask covering his mouth. His glasses lenses are still dark.

Elias starts recording video.

Ieyasu is very friendly. Vixel somehow finds out a lot more in this conversation than he has in the entire length of the other man's tenancy. Including the information that he's single and not averse to men. Vixel files that away for later.

Ieyasu is praising the Mariti-shaped cakes (which, by the way, Vixel conceived), as "Almost too cute to eat," when his sentence breaks off midway.

"Oh my!" Says Ieyasu, eyes somewhere behind Vixel. There is a meow, and Vixel feels his blood turn to ice.
 
Mariti plods over happily, bell jangling, and curls himself around Ieyasu's legs in figure eights. He wants to be picked up. Vixel has vivid flashbacks of explaining Mariti's very unique, ornamental, oversized bell to Ieyasu over the weekend.

Ieyasu laughs, then bends down and scratches him behind the ears. "He reminds me of my flatmate's cat." Then, to Mariti: "It's nice to meet you too, Neko-san."

Idiot! Thinks Vixel wildly, Ieyasu is an idiot! Thank Ilia! Wow! What a dumbass!

It is a short-lived victory.

"Maritimus!" Exclaims Prince Euden, unhelpfully.

At the sound of his full name, Mariti turns to Euden and meows. Vixel thinks he's going to have a heart attack.

"Mariti...mus?" Ieyasu scrutinises the bundle of white fur lying on top of his dress shoes.

There is no way he is getting out of this one.

"Ah!" Exclaims Ieyasu, clapping his hands together, "Like polar bear!"

"Yes!" Agrees Euden, "I thought that was really clever too!"

Really. Really?

Crisis averted. Vixel wonders faintly if he would've preferred Ieyasu correctly identifying his flatmate and flat cat for the last three months. Euden and Ieyasu fuss over Mariti for a few more minutes, until Elisanne and a smartly dressed white-haired woman Vixel doesn't recognise inform them they have to leave for the next function.

"Sorry, sorry! I was distracted." Euden turns to Vixel, "Thank you again for the incredible performance. Let's catch up again sometime!"

Ieyasu lingers. Please leave. "Thank you for tonight, Vixel."

Vixel nods distractedly.

Ieyasu dips his head briefly, "I enjoyed it very much. I'd love to get in touch to find out when your next performance is."

"Oh, our performance schedule is available on the Philharmonic website," Says Vixel automatically.

"Ah, yes, of course." Ieyasu smiles. "Well, in any case, I—"

"Ieyasu!" The white-haired woman motions at him furiously. Ieyasu gives her a thumbs up. "... I have to go. It was a pleasure, Maestro." Ieyasu fishes a pen and business card out of... somewhere in his robes. He scrawls something on the card, then hands it to Vixel, smiling refreshingly. Vixel thanks him, and puts the card in his pocket to forget about later.

When Ieyasu finally leaves the premises, Vixel lets out a massive sigh of relief. He takes off his Clark Kent glasses and surgery mask, then runs a gloved hand through his hair. He is too old for this.

"... Senpai." Elias says, long-suffering.

"Yes?"

"You're so stupid."

Vixel looks incredibly affronted.

"I bet he likes rock music." Says Elias, disgusted. Mariti meows, reprimanding. Elias apologises to the cat.

He was trying to get your number, is what Elias doesn't say. So stupid! Adults are so stupid!



4.
Vixel has a problem.

Mariti loves him. He's been clinging onto Ieyasu like a lifeline. Their kitchen island has never been cleaner. Vixel has started turning a blind eye to Ieyasu smuggling Mariti into the guest bedroom at night despite Vixel's introductory warnings against spoiling his cat. He's so screwed.

"Hi Vixel." Says Lucretia over video chat, "How have you been, dear?"

"Stressed." He cuts to the chase. "Where did you find him." Lucretia doesn't miss a beat.

"Internet." She says noncommittally.

"Lucretia." Says Vixel, very tired, "Ambassadors of entire nations don't just make bookings on Air BnB."

Lucretia completely ignores him. "He's a lovely flatmate. And Mariti loves him." She's right.  "Plus, he's very easy on the eyes." Lucretia winks at him.
 
Okay so sue him he has very strong feelings for responsible, animal-loving, soft people and okay he has a type but also apparently Lucretia knows what it is. That is terrifying. Vixel would have probably been happier not knowing that.

"He is." Concedes Vixel.

"So husband him." Hisses Lucretia, banging her fists on the table, "Now, Vixel."

"I can't." Moans Vixel, then mumbles something that ends with: "Messed up so bad."

"It doesn't matter." Says Lucretia dismissively, "Grovel. Offer to lick his shoes if you have to. This is a one in a million... no, a one in ten billion kind of man."

Vixel presses his palms against his face, breathes deeply, then comes clean: "You filled your name in for the flat contact. He's been calling me Lucretia for the past six months."

Lucretia looks incredibly unimpressed. Then she hangs up.

Honestly, Vixel doesn't blame her. He is an absolute disaster.



Vixel hears the footsteps before the door opens and someone steps in to shake him fully awake. It's still dark.

"Lucretia." Whispers Ieyasu, "It's Mariti."

The tone of Ieyasu's voice fills Vixel with dread. He's up and alert immediately.

"He is in my room." Says Ieyasu quickly, "He was very sick just now." Vixel shoves past Ieyasu and stumbles out of bed, racing towards the guest-room.

Mariti is lying prone on Ieyasu's bed, eerily silent. Vixel can see the laboured rise and fall of his flank when he enters the room.

"Mariti?" Vixel falls to his knees and carefully strokes Mariti's chin, "Mariti?"

Mariti's tongue swipes out briefly to lick at Vixel's fingertips, but he doesn't make a sound. Mariti usually never shuts up.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

"Lucretia." Says Ieyasu, calm, "We have to get him to a clinic."

Vixel breaks just about every speed limit there is to get to the closest emergency veterinary clinic. Ieyasu keeps a firm hold on Vixel's arm the whole time.



Mariti is barely breathing by the time they arrive. Ieyasu carries the limp animal into the animal hospital.

"He's been really clingy lately." Manages Vixel. "I— I hadn't realised that."

The staff give Vixel some forms to fill in. His hands are shaking so badly he can't write. Ieyasu takes the pen from him and reads the prompts to him in a gentle voice.

When those are done and dealt with, they sit in the waiting areas, thankfully empty in the early a.m. hours. Ieyasu is talking at him, but Vixel can't process the stream of words.

He thinks he hears Ieyasu apologise about the cat-sick on bedsheets and Vixel snaps. "I don't care about the bedsheets." Cries Vixel, "I'd rather have my cat."

They've been sitting in the lobby for hours, Vixel texting Lucretia about Mariti through tears knowing she might not see these messages because she's performing right now, receiving precious news on Mariti's condition from late-shift staff when an apologetic receptionist advises them to go home and tells them in the kindest way possible that there's nothing they can do by staying in the clinic. The doctor allows them to visit Mariti before they go. He's laying on some blankets in a metal cage with a cat-sized oxygen mask stuck to his face. Vixel cries harder.

Ieyasu drives them back. Neither of them say much.



Vixel doesn't remember how he gets through work the next day. All he can think about is Mariti.



He returns home to the smell of cooking. Ieyasu glances up and gives him a small, sad smile.

"Hey."

"Hey." There's a moment where no-one speaks. Vixel sighs. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you yesterday."

"You have nothing to apologise for." Replies Ieyasu immediately. He puts down the ladle. "You did nothing wrong."

Somehow, Vixel feels worse after Ieyasu says that. He hasn't eaten yet, but he turns down Ieyasu's offer of food and goes to shower. It's when he's standing listlessly under the spray watching the water drain when he hears Ieyasu yell for him.

"Lucretia?" Calls Ieyasu from across the corridor. His voice is tight, like he's smiling, "They called to say Mariti can come home soon."

In Vixel's haste to reach the landline in the sitting room, he nearly forgets to grab a towel.



They go pick up Mariti the following day.

When they see him again, Mariti looks completely fine, not at all like a cat who was in emergency a little over seventy-two hours ago. Vixel reaches out and pets his cat furiously. Mariti tolerates the attention.

Vixel thanks the doctor profusely for looking after Mariti, and the drive back to his apartment takes much longer than it should because he is not letting go of Mariti. Even when Mariti wants to sit somewhere else, Vixel absolutely refuses to release him. Mariti concedes eventually, settling in Vixel's lap for the remainder of the journey.

Lucretia was right. The clingy one has always been Vixel.



Mariti wants the whole bed. Specifically, Vixel's whole bed.

Vixel acquiesces to his newly healthy cat's unreasonable request and prepares to move out onto the sofa because Lucretia locked her room before she left, citing safety concerns about Vixel contaminating her room with his germs. Privately, Vixel thinks he wouldn't have gone into her room anyway, for fear of encountering hostile bacterial colonies and other hazardous substances that flourished in her abode.

Ieyasu stares at Vixel's make-shift sleeping quarters on the couch. "The guest-room bed is big enough for two."

Vixel makes a noise of dissent.

"Come on," Insists Ieyasu, "It cannot be comfortable on the couch."

Vixel has slept badly since Mariti left and he wasn't keen on the sofa anyway. It doesn't take much more convincing from Ieyasu after that. It is also because he slept badly after Mariti's hospitalisation that Vixel fails to take this golden opportunity for what it is and proceeds to crash straight into slumber upon contact with a mattress.

Unfortunately, no amount of sleep could have prepared him for the shitstorm scheduled for the next morning.



5.
There are three thoughts running in Vixel's mind.

One: Lucretia came back six months early and brought her protégé and the Prince to his flat with no prior notice.
Two: He's only in his slacks and Ieyasu is exiting from the same bedroom as he is in a similar state of undress (Ieyasu looks a bit surprised, then waves cheerily at Euden, who waves back)
Three: Lucretia found his coffee machine.

There is a moment of silence. Then she raises her eyebrows sceptically. "'I messed up so bad!'" Quotes Lucretia, in falsetto, sarcastically. Mariti, the very picture of health, meows from his perch on her lap.

"... This isn't what it looks like."

Euden nods in understanding. Elias gives them all a withering look.

"So... you." Lucretia points at Vixel, "Slept with him." Lucretia points at Ieyasu. Then she takes a long sip of her straight black coffee. "And I'm assuming that when you," She angles her cup towards Ieyasu, "Needed a name during your..." Here, she waves her coffee in their general direction, "Nocturnal activities... you said 'Lucretia.'" She takes another draught.

Vixel does not want to have this conversation right now.

Lucretia frowns at them. "Vixel, I know you have commitment issues and might not be feeling ready for a serious relationship, but this is a bit much." She pauses, then adds, unnecessarily: "Even for you."

"No!" Shouts Vixel, "We did NOT engage in... nocturnal activities." He needs to self censor because there are minors in the room. Euden counts. Even though he's twenty-one.

"Vixel?" Repeats Ieyasu, tilting his head to the side.

They turn to Ieyasu.

Vixel looks pleadingly at Lucretia. She flips him off. He looks at Mariti. Mariti looks away. Traitor. Elias is helping himself to Vixel's coffee beans. No-one can save him now.

"About that." Begins Vixel, sweating profusely. "My uh. Name's not actually Lucretia. Um."

He's spared from the actual explaining part of whatever the fuck he was doing for the last six months when Ieyasu finally responds.

"I know." Says Ieyasu.

... Huh?

"You're quite silly." Ieyasu gazes at him fondly, "I was just teasing you but you took it like a... ah, as Botan would say it: a champ."
 
Vixel is very silent.

"You are very cute, Vixel." He laughs, "I don't know anyone else who would willingly allow themselves to be called the wrong name for six months. How were you even planning to tell me your name wasn't Lucretia?" Ieyasu smiles indulgently at him, "Do tell."

The idiot all along... it wasn't Ieyasu.

It was him.

Vixel has buried his face in his hands. This cannot actually be happening.

"Though, I thought you were a cat walker at first." Says Ieyasu, with no context.

Vixel splutters.

"Yeah," Agrees Euden, completely missing the point, "I understand. I thought Vixel senpai was a model too, when I first met him."

Lucretia, on her way to the sink, suddenly disappears behind the couch, crying with laughter. Elias looks like Dragonyule came early. Vixel seriously considers getting a studio apartment in another country.

"Hm." Ieyasu hums. He eyes Vixel thoughtfully, as though seeing him in a new light. Then he nods, seemingly satisfied.

Was he... checking him out? Oh Ilia, Ieyasu just checked Vixel out. Vixel can't stop the flush creeping across his face.

Lucretia ushers Elias and Euden out of the apartment. ("These two big boys need to have their S support conversation. Let's leave them to become husbands, shall we?")



+ 1
"These last few months have shaved years off my lifespan," Moans Vixel, face embedded in Mariti's flank.

Ieyasu offers him a cup of sympathy tea. Lucretia takes it.

"I want one too." Elias calls.

"Why are you here. Go away."

"Observe," Narrates Lucretia in a solemn voice, "Vixel in his natural habitat. When the Vixelus Conductoris sheds its public façade, the species' naturally grumpy disposition comes to light."

Ieyasu stifles a laugh. He hands Elias a new cup of tea.

"Yeah?" Elias nods at Ieyasu, then takes a long sip, "What else is new about the Vixelus Conductoris."

"Well." Begins Lucretia sagely, "Regarding the mating habits of the otherwise solitary Vixelus Conductoris —"
 
Vixel abruptly sits up. "The Vixelus Conductoris can hear you, you know?!"

"Here's some tea for the Vixelus Conductoris." Says Ieyasu.

Vixel falls back down and screams into Mariti's fur. Mariti bats at Vixel's head with his paws, uncomfortable. Elias lingers for about a minute before he turns bright red and yells there's a minor present do grown-ups have no shame!?

Then he ups, seizes Mariti, and slams the door on his way out.

Catless, Vixel resorts to curling into a foetal position on the couch and reevaluates his life choices to the soundtrack of Lucretia vividly describing his sex life (or lack thereof) to his new, shiny boyfriend.

END