The day that Hilda buys a pet tarantula is the day the Claude waves goodbye to his once peaceful life.
Marianne and her bring it back, beaming like brand new parents. They bought it from a reputable spider breeder — which is a sentence Claude cannot even begin to unpack — who specializes in magically augmented arachnids. The tarantula Hilda buys is a bright lavender with shiny red eyes. Claude has to admit it’s pretty.
Everything is fine until Hilda decides to name it Lorenz.
“Absolutely not.” Lorenz seethes. The human Lorenz that is, not the spider Lorenz. Spider-Lorenz is currently being cradled in the hands of a pouting Hilda. Claude is hiding his grin behind his hand on her and Marianne’s sofa. Marianne sits on the arm of the sofa, ready to be the peacekeeper if need be.
“You’re going to upset him,” Hilda says.
“No I am not.” Lorenz says. “It is a spider.”
“Well, then you’re going to upset Marianne.”
“I’m not upset,” Marianne says. Neither Lorenz or Hilda pay that much attention, continuing to scowl and pout respectively. Claude gives Marianne a gentle pat on the shoulder.
“Maybe we should just stop talking about the spider?” Claude says. “Just a thought.”
“Not until Hilda swears she will not give it my name!” Lorenz whips around, his fussy anger now directed at Claude.
“Please don’t fight,” Marianne says. She gets up and puts a hand on Lorenz’s arm. “I’m sorry Lorenz, we thought it would be a compliment. It’s so pretty and purple, he just immediately reminded us of you.”
Lorenz deflates, the fight draining out of him. Claude winks at Marianne and mouths, Nice job. She shrugs.
“Fine,” Lorenz huffs. “I suppose I can allow it.”
“Aw thanks so much Lorenz,” Hilda drawls. Spider-Lorenz uses that moment to start crawling up Hilda’s arm along her shoulder. “Oh!, I think someone’s hungry.”
“Oh, I will not watch this,” Lorenz shivers and makes as dignified an exit as a man running from a spider can.
“Can I hold him?” Claude grins at Hilda.
Claude and Lorenz start dating with very little fanfare, settling into it like it a welcome inevitably.
They’ve only been together for about five months when The Spider Incident occurs. They’re not yet living together, and nowhere close to making any grand romantic declarations, but definitely toying on the edge of something serious.
“It is a compliment,” Claude says. Lorenz is sprawled out on Claude’s bed, face down on his pillows. Claude still claims that one reason that their relationship is going so well is because of their shared preferences over pillowcases. He and Lorenz are the only ones of their friend group who sleep with silk pillowcases, Claude because of his hair texture and Lorenz because he saw an article about it on a beauty blog.
“It’s odd,” Lorenz says.
“If you really don’t like it Hilda and Marianne will definitely change it.” Claude says, starting to braid Lorenz’s hair. “Your hair’s gotten a lot longer.”
“Do you think I should get it cut?”
“Nah, I like it.” Claude says, tying off the braid. He leans down and presses a kiss on Lorenz’s exposed neck.
“I was thinking about doing a shaved section again.” Lorenz says, he sits up to play with Claude’s hair.
“You gonna do an undercut again?” Claude leans into his boyfriend’s touch.
“Mmm, that or just one of the sides.” Lorenz says. “I was going to ask Dedue, he’s started to do Caspar’s hair nowadays, I think it looks quite nice.”
“That’d be cool.” Claude says. “You should do it.”
“Maybe I will then.” Lorenz smiles.
claude: hey are u and ferdinand hosting the bachelor watch party tomorrow?
claude: raph and ignatz are asking
claude: we’re @ the gatekeeper’s and both of theyre phones are dead
claude: ignatz says he’s sorry that he’s not asking you himself :(
LorenzHG: I suppose we could, I was under the impression that it was Marianne and Hilda’s turn?
LorenzHG: Please assure Ignatz that I am not bothered at all!
claude: yea they were
claude: but ashe n lysithea don’t wanna be around the spider
claude: also felix doesn’t like it either but he won’t admit to it lol
claude: but now no one knows where to go :(
LorenzHG: Goddess above, I can’t say I blame them.
LorenzHG: I’ll send out a text to the group chat to confirm that we’ll be hosting.
LorenzHG: I suppose changing the location is for the best anyway.
LorenzHG: Ferdinand doesn’t like how Hubert acts around the spider.
claude: lmao how does he act?
LorenzHG: Ferdinand claims that Hubert ignores him in favor of the spider.
claude: does he?
LorenzHG: Unfortunately, yes.
claude: lol what if ferdinand goes n buys a spider to get hubert’s attention
LorenzHG: You bring a new nightmare into my life every day, von Riegan.
Ferdinand and Lorenz were the ones that started the weekly watch parties. It started off as just the two of them watching The Bachelor and getting extremely wine drunk, but once Dorothea caught wind of it, everyone else started to trickle in to join. Now the hosts and which show they watch rotates - the only thing that stays the same is that there must always be a copious amount of wine and snacks.
Claude inevitably drinks too much and eats too much whenever one rolls around. He can’t count the number of times Raphael has had to carry him, Ignatz and Bernadetta back to their respective apartments.
Claude smiles thinking of it. Not too long ago, he would never have even entertained the idea of dropping his guard down low enough to indulge like that. Now though, with Lorenz curled up at his side, Hilda refusing to budge from his feet, and the rest of his friends scattered about in various lounging positions, he can’t imagine feeling more relaxed and safe.
FerdinandVonAegir: Lorenz, would you mind terribly if Hubert had one of your kombuchas?
LorenzHG: I have no objections!
LorenzHG: There are ginger ones in the fridge, he is welcome to have on of those.
FerdinandVonAegir: Thank you so much!
FerdinandVonAegir: Oh! I almost forgot to ask, will you be coming home tonight or staying over at Claude’s?
LorenzHG: I’ll be staying over, so if you’d like to invite Hubert to stay the night, feel free. :)
FerdinandVonAegir: You’re the best <3
“You’re being nicer to Hubert,” Claude says, reading Lorenz’ phone from where his head rests on Lorenz’s bare shoulder.
“Hmm,” Lorenz taps away from his chat with Ferdinand, pulling back up the ASMR cooking video from Dedue that they’d been watching.
“Do you like him now?”
“I tolerate him,” Lorenz says. “For as long as he continues to make Ferdinand happy.” Claude hums and the two settle into silence. They watch, enraptured, at the calm scene of Dedue thinly slicing different peppers.
“It’s cool he’s doing some videos about Almyran food.” Claude says.
“Mmm,” Lorenz nods. “Didn’t you mention Petra was going to help him make some videos about Bridgese food?”
“Yeah,” Claude says. “Those’ll probably be out in a couple months.”
“I’m looking forward to it.” Lorenz says. They watch the rest of the video, Lorenz taking the time to like it and leave a long, complimentary comment while Claude goes and brushes his teeth.
Claude goes off to his side room, checking on the various reptile tanks, making sure each has enough water and food for it’s occupant for the night.
“Have you finished putting your children put to bed?” Lorenz teases once he’s back. Claude rolls his eyes.
“You have no room to talk,” Claude grumbles, snuggling up to Lorenz’s back. He spits a strand of purple out of his mouth. “I’ve seen what you feed your horse.”
“Oh hush,” Lorenz laughs. “Jeremias deserves it.”
Claude laughs. He remembers back in the early days of their friendship. When Lorenz used to talk about Jeremias and the mountain hike they were going on soon, Claude was certain he was talking about his boyfriend. He'll never forget the wave of relief he had felt when he realized Lorenz was talking about a horse.
“Go to bed,” Claude presses a kiss to Lorenz’s neck.
There is another tradition that has come out of the watch parties. One just for him and Lorenz.
The day after, once either Claude or Lorenz or both have worked off the hangover from the night before, they go to a little hole in the wall place and get Dagdan food.
Claude got tipped off about it from Shamir. They two of them had gotten close after Leonie recommended Shamir to him when he was looking for a personal trainer once his top surgery had healed up. He was on the ground, panting, his arms burning from the heavy draw bows they had used, when Shamir took pity on him and dragged him off to this place.
It was also the first place Claude and Lorenz went to together, after they had finally stopped dancing around the feelings they had for each other.
“How do you feel about pork knuckles?” Lorenz asks, scanning the menu. It’s Lorenz’s job to order whenever they come here. Claude still remembers the shock he felt when the first time they were here Lorenz opened his mouth and spoke in perfect Dagdan to their waiter.
“I feel very good about them.” Claude says. “I want soup.”
“You always want soup,” Lorenz smiles, tucking his hair behind his ear. “What kind?”
“Hmm, how about tofu cabbage?” Claude says. “Oh wait, are you still avoiding soy?”
“No,” Lorenz sighs. “Marianne finally convinced me to drop that.”
Claude smiles. Lorenz flags down their regular waiter, ordering for them.
Claude stares at him. He’s wearing a loose silk shirt, showing off the rose tattoo at the base of his neck that he typically takes great care to hide. His face is still a little wane from the hangover, and his eyes are slightly hidden by the glasses Lorenz so rarely wears outside. The comfort he so clearly radiates in this little, dive of a restaurant still makes Claude feel a pang deep in his chest.
They sit and eat the food. Their feet tangle under the table, and they talk and talk. Claude cannot think of a single place he’d rather be.
On the bus home, Claude reaches out to play with a strand of Lorenz’s hair.
“Do you wanna cut it tonight?” Claude asks.
“I wouldn’t be opposed. I haven’t had the chance to ask Dedue yet.” Lorenz says.
“Here let me ask him.” Claude says, pulling out his phone.
claude: hey dedue !
claude: are you free tonight?
claude: not for like, a party or anything
Dedue: I’m home, yes. Why are you asking?
claude: lorenz was wondering if you could shave his hair for him ?
Dedue: Does he want all of it shaved off?
claude: lol no nothing that drastic
claude: he just wants like a side shaved
claude: like leonie had hers awhile ago?
Dedue: Oh, yes. I remember.
Dedue: I can do that tonight, when is a good time for him?
claude: we’re on our way back from dinner !
claude: we’ll be back in like 15 min ? is that good?
Dedue and Dimitri’s apartment is on the second to top floor. It’s a mix of being cluttered (Dimitri’s fault) and impeccably organized (Dedue’s doing), along with its unique blend of Faerghus and Duscurian style.
Claude watches, perched on the counter top, as Dedue neatly sections off Lorenz’s hair.
“How does that look?” Dedue asks, giving Lorenz a small hand mirror.
“It looks perfect,” Lorenz smiles.
“What number guard would you like?”
“Let’s start with a three.” Lorenz says as Dedue sets up his clippers. “I’ll probably want to go to a two after that, but let’s start conservatively first.”
“Alright,” Dedue says. Claude watches as silky straight lavender hair floats down onto the floor. It doesn’t take long, Lorenz’s hair not being especially thick. Dedue clicks off the clippers, letting Lorenz inspect the cut.
“How is it?” Dedue asks. Claude knows him well enough now to pick out just the slightest hint of nerves in his voice.
“Oh Dedue,” Lorenz gushes. “It looks perfect! Thank you so much.”
“Would you like to go down to the two?” Dedue asks, a slight blush on his cheeks.
“Hmm, you know what I think I would,” Lorenz nods. “Just so it lasts a bit longer.”
“I’m happy to touch it up for you anytime.” Dedue refits the clipper’s guard, finishing up the cut. “There you are.”
Claude grins and jumps down off the counter top. He runs a hand over the now prickly side of Lorenz’s head, wiping away a few stray hairs that have stuck to his neck. “It looks great babe.”
Lorenz smiles, shaking his hair out. He stands and gives Dedue a kiss on each cheek. “Thank you again Dedue. You’re sure there’s nothing I can do to repay you?”
“I’m always happy to do favors for a friend.” Dedue smiles.
Later that night Claude and Lorenz are curled up in his bed again. Lorenz putting off returning to his own apartment for another night.
“You’re really not getting separation anxiety?” Claude teases. “Normally if you don’t see Ferdinand at least once every twenty four hours you start getting twitchy.”
Lorenz swats his hip. “We’re not nearly so bad. Plus we’re going to play polo this weekend, I’ll see plenty of Ferdie then.”
“Right. And it has nothing to do at all with wanting to give Hubert and Ferdinand more private time before Hubert leaves for his business trip?” Claude grins.
“I won’t have you spreading such slander about me, von Riegan.” Lorenz huffs.
“Oh, I would never.” Claude smiles, settling down onto his chest. He reaches out and runs a hand over the new shaved part of Lorenz’s hair.
“Do you truly like it?” Lorenz asks.
“Of course I do.” Claude smiles. “It’s on you, isn’t it?”
“Flatterer.” Lorenz’s pale face blushes bright red, visible even in the dark room. Claude can’t help but kiss him.
Lorenz falls to sleep before him. Little whistling snores filling the room. Claude lays there with sleep tugging at his eyelids, and Lorenz’s weight heavy where it presses down his arm.
He feels words dancing on the tip of his tongue. Words that the Claude of just five years ago could never imagine even thinking, let alone saying. He’s not ready to say them yet. But, he’s close.
Claude closes his eyes and smiles. He knows, with a deep, resounding. surety that when he does say them, Lorenz will answer in kind.