“Remember, you have to answer the letters from our neighborhood kingdom on time.”
“And make sure about the deal for the resources.”
“And also in my cabinet there is-“
Giles folds back his pointing finger that was raised at Leo thought all of this, waiting to hear what exactly he is being interrupted for.
“You can count on me, okay? It’s time for you to relax on your 5th honeymoon. Take it easy. You’re making the queen wait.”
Giles exhales. Maybe he is right.
“Alright then. One last thing. “
Leo smirks at him, ready to hear the last of his endless list of upcoming tasks. He is fine with them. This time, Giles is surely going to promote him. Lots of work right now can result in less work in the future. It’s all worth it.
“I really can’t trust anyone else about this so… take care of Michelangelo for me, will you?
Leo opens the heavy doors to the king’s study, closing them behind him and leaning on the door. He breathes in.
Then he skips his way to Giles’s chair decorated with gold and slams his weight down on it, making himself comfortable and all. He takes out the large ring of keys given to him and starts going through them.
Michelangelo greats him with a meow and rubs his chin against the chair’s leg, familiar enough with Leo to be willing to keep him company.
“Look at this, kitty. This one is for Giles’s bedroom chamber. This one is for his wardrobe room. This one is for the safe. This one…I forgot.”
After a while, Leo gets bored and stands up again, walking to the window. He spins the keyring on his finger, looking outside as the sun sets over the garden of the palace.
“It was about time I prove my worth to Giles.” He smiles to himself, stuffing the keyring back in his pocket. “How does that sound, huh kit—kitty?”
Leo looks around the spacious study. He swears Michelangelo was right there under the desk.
“Kitty? Michelangelo? ”
He walks over to the chair, checking behind it as well, but there is no trace of the cat.
“Pspsps…” He walks backward, scanning his room with his eyes, until his back bumps with the balcony’s open door.
It’s somewhat late in the evening when Alyn hears a knock on his chambers’ door. He raises his eyebrow and puts down the book he’s been reading, going for the door.
He opens it to find a distressed Leo.
Alyn blinks at him, his eyes emotionless but his mind screams oh god what did you screw up it’s been five hours!
“Hey there Alyn.”
Alyn sighs. This is going to be long if Leo rejects the idea of telling him right away at the doorway. Maybe he fears the door being slammed at him.
“You lost the freaking cat.”
“Alyn, drink your water.”
“You lost the freaking cat.”
Leo leans back on the armchair. Then he sits up again. “I’ve got a plan.”
“No you don’t.”
Leo leans in closer, gesturing with his hands to catch his attention. “What if,” he claps them together, “another cat.”
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
Leo looks at him pleading, his foot tapping in distress, “It’s a plain Siamese cat, no visible distinctive traits. Easy to exchange with a look-alike, right?” he watches Alyn burying his face in his hands.
“C’mon Alyn, you’ve gotta help me… Giles will send me to the guillotine…the Gilotine, Alyn!”
The bad pun only makes Alyn hesitate more. He looks him in the eyes again, with a testing glance.
Alyn stands up.
Just as Leo thinks he is about to show him the door, Alyn pats his shoulder. “Bro, you better make sure I’m with clean hands after all of this.”
Leo widens his eyes in surprise, nearly throwing himself at Alyn’s neck but the latter keeps the distance between them. “Go get some sleep now, okay? Tomorrow…we’ll meet with someone.”
The next day, early in the morning, the Crawford brothers leave the palace with many curious eyes following the carriage.
In town, they walk towards a certain pub, Leo goes inside and Alyn rests his shoulder against the entrance, looking at him from afar.
Leo takes his seat at a table where someone already waits for him. He gestures for the waitress, and as soon as she is out of sight, he leans down, whispering at the taller man at the table.
“I believe my partner told you about the…situation.”
“Yeah. I heard.”
The man, Sid, flicks his fingers against his glass of rum, smirking, “You’re in some big trouble.”
Leo receives his drink and takes a nervous sip, “So, you think I can put my hands on one?”
“Hm. I don’t know, those things are a rare catch. One may cost you a lot.”
Leo looks around himself, some of the customers throwing suspicious looks over their shoulder, not really wanting to have anything with a possible traficanting business.
He leans even closer to Sid, lowering his voice. “I’ll pay you well, just please sell me the furball already.”
“I’m not gonna sell ya anything, buddy. I’m an information dealer, not a pet shelter. But I know someone who can help you.”
As soon as Alyn and Leo hop back in the carriage, they change routes, taking the one to Stein.
Alyn sits as far from Leo as he can, shaking his head from under his hand that hides his gaze.
This has to be one of the most awkward moments in Leo’s life.
Right now, he is in front of King Byron’s study. Or, more like, he is in front of King Byron’s personal assistant, Albert, who is guarding the door. They are waiting for the king to send a signal that they can enter.
Albert is not tearing his gaze away from Leo, not even for a second. That man can sense trouble for afar.
They stand like that, waiting, then suddenly there are some disturbing noises coming from inside – objects being dropped and scattered, the king’s voice…
Albert shudders, raising his voice, so he can be heard over the door, “Your majesty, are you alrigh—“
King Byron opens the door, his face stoic as ever as he nods at Albert, returning inside and welcoming his guest.
Leo steps in, looking around to find…about a dozen of cats lying around. One is scratching its nails on Byron’s throne. One is attempting to knock over his crown from the desk.
“Um. Maybe it’s not the right moment for me to be here?”
Byron gestures to Leo to take a seat. He does and a cat climbs on his lap.
“Leo Crawford. I can imagine you’re curious about the felines.”
“I don’t think it’s weird or anything. Our king is a … he is a cat person too, you see. Totally cool. Very beautiful creatures—ouch, it bit me!”
Byron takes the cat from Leo’s lap in his hands, petting it softly, his face changing just a little in a small smile.
Oh right, Leo is still here.
“Those cats are part of the cat shelter I’m about to open in Stein. I’ve found my weakness for them… I have my pet owl, Spinner, but he rarely lets me pet him.”
“I… I see, your majesty.”
Byron looks down at the purring kitty in his hands, smiling a bit wider.
“What brings you here, Leo Crawford?”
Leo smiles at him, confidence in his eyes. “Some minor business to discuss. But that’s for later, I think I’m interested in your initiative. I would like to adopt one.”
A cardbox in his hands emitting soft meows then and there, Leo steps out from Byron’s study, holding his head high, almost mocking the guarding Albert with his haze – ha! He didn’t cause trouble! Nothing strange here, he was totally wrong.
Leo holds his posture for as far as the corridor takes to be crossed, and after the turn, he exhales loudly, eyes drop closed and shoulders sage, he can finally breathe. Byron sold him a cat (that was worth his whole salary for the month, but, since he’s going to earn twice as that starting from when Gilles promotes him, it’s no big deal!) and soon everything will be alright. No one would suspect a thing.
He opens his eyes, not expecting to see… Nico leaning against a wall, his arms crossed.
Leo manages to hold in his scream and puts on his serious face. “Oh if it ain’t the local traitor.”
Nico smiles at him, withdrawing from the wall and uncrossing his arms. “Oh, if it ain’t the local scammer with a fake cat for the King!”
Leo freaks out right away, rushing to cover Nico’s mouth with his hand and looking behind his shoulder to see if it reached someone’s ears. Hopefully not.
“How the hell do you know??”
The cardbox goes Meow.
“Leo, please, you know me.”
Leo draws back from Nico, feeling defeat. “Okay, let me rephrase that. What do you want to keep quiet?”
Nico looks at him with wide eyes, “Keeping quiet? I thought I could help you.”
Nico smiles tilting his chin in the direction of the cardbox, “You’ll need help getting it inside the palace, right?”
Nico’s gaze softens.
“For the sake of old times.”
Turns out, there are a lot of hidden passages in Wysteria palace. And Leo knew only a few of them!
Nico, on the other hand.
“See, we’re here. I’m positive this is going to be fine, we didn’t meet anyone on the way here. Who else knows?”
“Alyn…and Sid. Byron and Albert think the cat is for me so.”
“Yes, that’s fine. Just try not to involve anyone else.” Nico pets the adorable cat that is rubbing on his knee as he squats down to pet it. “Well then, I’ll be off.”
The knight of Stein turns back, looking at Leo.
“Thank you for that. Also, please come to his majesty’s return celebration. You’re officially invited by his right-hand man.”
Nico ‘s agape lips turn into a smile, the smile turning into laughter, just as carefree as Leo always remembers it.
Now there is just one thing to take care of.
“I’m not doing that.”
“I am,” Louis takes his teacup down, “Not,” he looks up at the man who is nearly ready to fall on his knees begging, “Doing that.”
“It’s for the sake of his majesty!”
Right, so there is another one who became involved with all of this, alright, alright.
The whole thing happens, because:
- Information dealers are snakes. Leo comes to acknowledge that they either demand a lot of money for a deal, or, they simply won’t accept money if what they want is something else.
- Sid wants a date with a pretty AND wealthy woman. Leo could have been spared the details, but he also comes to acknowledge that Sid has troubles with his fiancée and makes everything he can to make her jealous so that she can give up on him. Leo didn’t sign up to be a match-maker!
- There are no pretty AND wealthy women in Wysteria palace. Maybe there are some who fall into one of those categories, but not both at the same time.
- However, he can think of a pretty AND wealthy MAN.
Duke Louis Howard keeps sipping his tea as if trying to erasure Leo’s whole presence from his mind. While so, his long, beautiful lashes flutter, the steam from the tea flushes his cheeks pink, his plum lips open ever so seductively to drink down the hot liquid, and the whole picture proves itself as the one thing Leo came up with, with the short time he has in his hands. Duke Howard is rich and beautiful!
And he would look amazing with a wig!
“I said no, Leo. Please stop asking me.”
The thing is, Leo didn’t tell Louis who is the man in question, who wants to take him on a date. God forbid! He would have his head cut off even before Giles get his chance to do it himself!
“Look I promise it’s not some creepy old guy, okay? It’s this…handsome…young man…with a charming smile and.. .and…”
Louis is going to vomit his tea at this point.
“Oh, and he is a great dancer! He even made this big donation for ballrooms, he is a big-time fan of the fine arts. A man of..culture, truly!
“Oh, is that so.”
“C’mon Louis, please, the whole plan is going to go to waste if you don’t help me…”
Louis is very indifferent about Leo’s destiny. But at the same time, they’ve known themselves for a long time now…and maybe…his blind date maybe, just maybe, kind of, seems interesting.
“Very well then. I’ll do it.”
The whole town is celebrating the royal couple’s return, the carriage riding through the streets with people shouting blessings at the King and Queen.
Upon laying his foot in the pathway to the castle, Gilles can already hear the crowd in the gardens. There is a big celebration for him and his wife, a garden party. He smiles. He missed that.
Gilles rubs his wrist hurting from all the waving at the people of Wysteria. His people.
He kisses his sweet wife’s cheek, escorting her by the hand, “Come, my queen, our friends are waiting for us.”
From the King’s study, Leo looks through his binoculars, fake Michelangelo in his arms. He smirks and hurries to the place of the party.
It’s about time for the sunset to sweep into night, and the palace’s garden only grows louder with chattering and music. Everyone is having a good time.
Well, almost everyone.
Duchess Louise is still waiting for her blind date!
It’s getting more and more uncomfortable wearing the heavy dress and the wig. The occasional bits of flirting she receives from left and right are not helping. Her ice-cold blue eyes shoot daggers at Leo from across the garden.
The latter is making her an OK sign, thumbs up and all, as he fixes his collar, returning his attention to the royal couple. He’s been invited to sit at their table! Along with Alyn, of course. Soon he forgets that he was nervous, his hands are forking the meal without much trembling. He cracks a joke once in a while, and Giles is in such a good mood that he laughs! Alyn laughs too, way more nervously, sarcastically even. It’s as if he is trying to remind him that it’s not over yet. Leo has none of it though, sipping his cocktail casually.
An hour more and Giles stands from the table, gaining everyone’s attention with the clapping of his hands. All his guests turn to him, tipsy smiles and eyes full of respect for the kind King.
Giles smiles at them, picking up Michelangelo who seems quite clingy today. Did he miss him this much? Even his purrs are louder. He can’t resist him. All the people here are familiar with him so no one is going to object holding the cat while he holds a speech anyway, so he indulges in petting the cat as he speaks.
“First of all, thank you for attending this humble celebration. I hope everyone feels as good on those as I do, because I have to tell you that I don’t plan to make this one my last honeymoon.”
Laughter fills the air, Giles chuckling lowly as well. “But it is important to me to return to my castle being taken great care of, in the days while the two of us were away. And there is someone who I shall thank for that.”
Leo’s pulse quickens as he stands up even before Giles’s gesture. They applaud him!
“Thank you, your majesty, but it was really nothing that I’m not used to. I’m only doing my job.”
Some of the noblewomen gawk at him, such a neat young man, and so humble!
“I know that, Leo. But please, I do think you deserve a reward for your hard work.”
Leo feels tears in the corners of his eyes, his head nodding without his knowledge.
“I am going to give you the title of—“ he feels something familiar rubbing against his leg, “Michelangelo, not now,”
Giles looks down at his arms, the car still purring in his arms. Then he looks at his feet, the very same cat rubbing against his leg. They both wear the same collars.
Leo can hear the angels singing, they’re coming down from the sky to collect his soul.
“Care to explain what’s going on here?”
Leo’s neck is refusing to unfreeze from his position alike his whole body, but he finally turns it slightly to the side, to look at Alyn for help.
Alyn smiles at him in a way Leo hasn’t seen him smile in their whole 25 years five months and twenty days of living. It’s a smile that reads: yay! I’m finally an only child!
He looks at where Nico was dining. He is nowhere to be seen.
Then he hears Gilles stomping his shoe nervously and turns his eyes back to him.
“Uh. Um. Ummmm.”
Leo takes a step back, for a good measure.
“I have an idea, why don’t you name this one Donatello? Soon you’ll have all the ninja turtles!”
Duchess Louise, actually Louis, is finally entertaining himself with something, and that something is watching Leo’s fate being decided before his eyes. He is watching the whole thing from behind his shoulder as he is sitting with his back to the center of the garden. And so, he misses when someone takes the seat before him.
“Hey there, babe.”
Louis jumps on his seat, turning around immediately to finally great his blind date-
What the hell that’s Sid Arnault!!!
Louis’s mouth is falling open but after a moment, Sid still hasn’t brushed that smirk off his annoying face.
“What’s up babe, lost your words?”
Oh great, he appears to be blind for some reason.
On the other hand…that means Louis’s reputation is not lost yet.
He smirks, putting his best effort in his actions, as his long lashes flutter; he holds a fan in front of his mouth, lowering his voice with an octave or two.
“With a man like you, it’s only natural.”
Sid smirks victoriously, sliding a hand on the table and putting it atop Louis’.
“Damn babe, as strong as a man. I like ya.”
In the distance, a certain Leo Crawford is falling to his knees as two cats purr in sync around him.
“Does that mean I’m not getting promoted?”
After a long, long time.
“Remember, you have to answer the letters from our neighborhood kingdom on time.”
“And make sure about the deal for the resources.”
“And also in my cabinet, there is-“
Giles looks up, meeting Leo’s soft eyes. He exhales, they’ve been through this already. “And one more thing,”
“I know. I will take care of Michelangelo and Donatello. Have fun on your 6th honeymoon.”
Giles nods, still smiling after he hops up into the carriage. Leo waves long after the carriage is out of sight.
“And they’re gone…” He sighs, rubbing the back of his neck.
“You know what, kittens? I think this year is going to be my year. Let’s make Giles proud, shall w—kittens? Hello?”
There we go again.