Title: Et Tu, Page-kun? [Box, Page]
Rating/Warnings: PG for too much c-c-c-cute.
Summary: Box-kun bonds with vermin, and Page-kun works the BL angle.
AN: Set during episode 3. Happy New Year to prillalar and marksykins! You two make fandom so much fun ♥
Et Tu, Page-kun?
The irony of the situation was that, while Box-kun's gloves kept him from actually touching the rat, they also meant that he couldn't shake the animal off either, since it had its tiny claws affixed very firmly into the material.
When Box finally had to stop screaming for a minute to gasp for air, standing in the middle of the room, Akira dropped an empty cardboard box into Page's hands and shoved him forward, towards Box. Page had just enough time to exchange a panicked glance with Box and the rat, before Akira reached out and peeled Box-kun's gloves off, dropping them into the box, rat and all.
Box-kun, having touched both girls and vermin in the space of ten seconds, collapsed to the floor.
"O-okay!" Page clapped his hands several minutes later, then looked vaguely surprised when the others actually stopped what they were doing to look at him. "L-let's b-b-break f-for the d-d-day!"
"Thank goodness!" Taiko exclaimed, flopping down on the couch. "Let's get some food!"
"No more ramen." Izumu laid the armful of keyboards she was holding down on the table and eyed them all mutinously. Taiko waved her off with a "Fine, fine," and behind them, Daruma laid back down a yellow pullover on top of a stack of costumes with a sigh.
"Hey!" Box, who had been stacking some shelves, interrupted. "There's still some boxes back here!" He looked over his shoulder at the last few piles of boxes that had been in the warehouse when they rented it.
"Only a f-f-f-few," Page said, glancing between Box and the others, who were starting to migrate towards the door.
"But isn't it better," Box urged, reaching over to straighten one box on top of another, "if we do all of them at once?"
"We're tired!" Akira snapped, putting her hands on her hips. "We've done enough today. If you want to move more boxes, do it yourself!"
"Come on, Box!" Taiko called, then strolled out along with the others.
"B-box-k-k-kun?" Page asked, starting to unwind the scarf he'd been tucking in around his neck. "I d-don't mind h-h-h-h—"
"Page-kun," Box interrupted, pointing behind him. Page reached for his computer out of reflex, but Box tapped his shoulder and pointed again. "No, look."
Page turned around and looked at the warehouse door, where Akira's boss was inexplicably standing.
"Page-kun!" she called, voice wavering in sing-song greeting. "Could I have a moment to chat?"
"You go ahead." Box stepped behind Page, peeking over his shoulder and giving him a little push in the small of his back. "I'll just finish up here."
"Th-th-thanks," Page grumbled, shooting Box a black look and looping his scarf around his neck like body armor.
After they were gone, Box sighed as his stomach rumbled and turned back to the boxes. He'd just move a few, and then he'd look through his backpack, where he probably had a few cans of snack food stashed. He pushed his sleeves up a little above his bright orange gloves and reached for the first box.
If his stomach hadn't been grumbling, he probably would have heard the soft scrabblings from inside the box, but unfortunately he hadn't eating anything all day except half a box of melon-flavored Pocky. When he flipped open the box lid to find a plump, gray rat blinking in the sudden light, Box screeched like a girl and stumbled backwards into another box, sending both of them down hard in a sprawl on the concrete.
"Help!" Box called weakly, bruised and tangled in the frayed extension cords that had spilled out of the box he was laying on. There was a scuffling noise from the box with the rat in it, and then two pink ears and two beady eyes popped up over the edge of the box.
A dozen long whiskers wriggled in Box's direction, and Box wailed, "HELP" again, scaring the rat into dropping back down in the box.
Several hours later, Box was sitting on the couch and staring into a cardboard box when the warehouse door opened, and Page slunk inside. He was clutching a pink shopping bag to his chest and jumped a little when Box called his name.
"H-h-h-" Page mumbled, slumping down on the couch beside Box. "H-hi."
"Want one?" Box asked, gesturing with his toothpick towards the couple of cans on the low table in front of him. Two of the cans were unopened and one was empty, and they were sitting beside the box.
Page shook his head. "W-w-w—"
"Watch." Box stick his toothpick in the can in his hand and pulled it back out with a cube speared on it. He leaned over the box with it, and, after shooting Box a puzzled glance, Page leaned over too.
"B-box-kun!" Page exclaimed, jumping back. "Th-that's a-a-a—"
"Shh!" Box hissed, glaring at him. "You're scaring it!" Page swallowed and leaned forward again with Box did.
Keeping his movements slow and careful, Box lowered the toothpick into the box until it was just a few inches above the rat. After a few seconds of blinking and whisker wriggling, the rat stretched up on its hind legs and used its tiny, pink forepaws to reach up and delicately removed the cube of food from the toothpick.
Page continued watching, shooting the occasional glance at Box, as the rat devoured the cube in a series of neat bites. When it was finished, it licked its paws perfectly clean, then put them back down on the floor of the box and tilted its head back to watch Box.
"It washes its hands every time," Box said, sitting back and grinning at Page. "Cool, huh? What's in the bag?"
"O-oh!" Page tried to shove the bag behind himself further, but Box reached over him and snatched it away. "D-d-don't!" he started to protest, but gave up when Box peered inside the bag and stared at the floor, trying to hide his face in his scarf.
"Page-kun," Box said after a second, closing the bag. "There's a maid outfit in this bag."
Page hunched down even further in his scarf and reached for his computer.
"Akira agreed to go back to work," the computer informed Box as Page clacked away on the keys, "but she said she could only do part-time until we're set up here. Her boss said that, as Leader, it's all my fault she's short-staffed and I'd have to take responsibility."
"You don't mean…" Box broke off with a snicker. "You have to work at the maid café?"
"D-d-d-d-" Page took a deep breath and peered at Box over his scarf with miserable eyes. "D-don't t-t-tell!"
"Don't worry, Leader-san." Box was still laughing, which Page's expression said was not filling him with confidence.
"This never would have happened if Yui-san were still here," Page's computer said.
As Akihabara@deep continued to set up their headquarters, Box and the rat developed an agreement. The rat quite happily lived in the box on a layer of shredded flyers, which they happened to have in abundance, and tolerated Box using a shopvac to clean out the box each morning, shuffling amiably from one side of the box to the other to keep out of the way.
And every two hours, when Box stripped off his gloves, he tossed them into the box, where the rat happily shredded them into a nest.
"Is it okay to feed it nothing but that?" Taiko asked, watching Box do his thing with the toothpick.
"We're living off them," Box shrugged, and Taiko had to agree.
Meanwhile, Page went missing quite a bit over the next few days, but whenever someone thought to mention it, Box covered for him by saying that he was running some errand or other.
"He's doing an awful lot of errands," Izumu commented on the third day, eyes keen and tracking Box's hands as they tore a pile of flyers into strips.
"He is the leader," Box answered, shrugging cheerfully.
Box noticed out of the corner of his eye that Akira was watching them, but she went on binding cords together without saying anything.
"They're asking about you, you know," Box said when the door opened, too late to be anybody but Page. Box didn't look up, watching in fascination as the rat groomed itself. "It's cleaned itself over two hundred fifty times today, and it does it the same exact way every time. If you interrupt it, it has to start all over."
"W-w-what," there was a soft thump as Page sat his bag down on the floor, "d-d-d-d-d—"
"Use the…" Box started, then his voice died out as he looked up and found himself face-to-face with a squinting Page in a maid uniform. The only difference between him and any of the other maids was the pink and purple striped scarf trailing from his neck nearly the whole way down to his black, strappy shoes. Box's mouth worked for a second before he managed to ask weakly, "Where are your glasses?"
"Th-they alre-re-ready h-have a g-g-glasses c-c-character," Page said.
"Yeah, but how are you—man, I can't talk to you like this!" Box threw his arms up in front of his eyes, and refused to look back up until Page had gone in the back and returned in pants, sliding his glasses back onto his face.
Akira had insisted that Box keep the rat in the back of the headquarters rather than on the table in front, on the grounds that vermin were not an acceptable welcoming committee for clients to be greeted by.
Box was indignant on behalf of the very well-groomed and polite rat, but was more than happy to hide out near its place of banishment when the cosplay girls invaded their headquarters. He pulled up a folding chair next to the box and tossed in a steady stream of strings unraveled from his gloves, eyeing the interlopers with suspicion.
"Th-they're g-g-gone," Page came to the back to inform Box eventually.
It was the amusement glinting behind Page's glasses that made Box ask, "Don't you have to get to your job?" Page's gaze dimmed unhappily, and Box felt immediately contrite. "Go on, I'll cover for you. It's only for a few more days, right?"
"R-r-r-r-right," Page sighed.
"I've brought you something," Page's computer said. Box refused to look up from the rat's box until Page assured him that he was wearing pants, and then lifted his head to find Page grinning at him, holding a white box from the café in one hand while he balanced the computer in the other.
"What's that?" Box asked. The rat stood up on its hind legs, scenting the air.
Page handed the white box to Box and sat down to put the computer in his lap. "They gave me a going-away present at the end of my last shift."
"Cake!" Box exclaimed once he'd flipped the lid of the box back, and sure enough, there was the remains of a small chocolate cake with one strawberry and the syllabary "PA" written in white icing.
Page handed over a couple of plastic forks he'd brought with him, and Box started dividing up the remains of the cake.
"Think you'll miss it?" Box teased, and Page gave him a dark look and tapped at his computer.
"I already gave Daruma the maid outfit," the computer said, and Box let out a bray of laughter. "Even though they tried to get me to stay to work the BL angle."
Box was laughing even harder, the cake in danger of sliding off his lap, when there was a knock on the door. Page and Box exchanged a glance, then Page said that he'd g-g-get it, and hopped up, leaving his laptop on his seat.
It was a girl in a shapeless wool hat and long coat, clutching one of their flyers in her mitten.
"Pardon me for coming so late," she said, bowing, and Page told her to come in even though they were technically c-c-c-closed.
Box tried to catch Page's eye to give him a pleading look as the girl followed him back to his seat, but Page kept his head well down as he offered the girl a seat and picked up his computer to sit back down.
"How can we help you?" he asked with his computer. Box slid his seat a little more behind the rat's box.
"You're website said you were trouble-shooters," the girl said, hands tucked in her lap around the flyer. "My trouble is…well, I've just broken up with my boyfriend."
"And you want us to help you win him back?" Page asked. Box snorted at his romanticism, and Page gave him a dirty look.
"No, no, I broke up with him," the girl explained, then went on to say that no, she didn't need them to slash his bike tires or anything like that. "The trouble is that I don't want another boyfriend, but I'm lonely!"
"O-oh." Page pushed up his glasses.
"It's just so troublesome being by myself," the girl sighed. Page tried to give Box a significant look, but Box refused to cooperate with a girl present.
Page looked sympathetic and went back to typing. "I'm sorry, but I don't think there's anything we can do for you." After a short pause, he added, "Would you like some cake?"
"Page-kun," Box grumbled reproachfully as he reached into the rat's box to offer it half of the strawberry with some chocolate still stuck to it.
"What's in there?" the girl asked, peering over the edge, then gave an exclamation of delight. "Oh, she's adorable!"
Box froze. "She?"
"Of course!" The girl blinked at them. "Look at the way she's built herself a big nest out all those bits of string. And she doesn't have," the girl looked a bit flustered, "you know. They're very obvious on rats."
"Oh god," said Box, in tones of a man who'd been deeply betrayed, and Page gave a suspicious-sounding cough. Box turned to him and pointed at him. "First you, now the rat! If Taiko grows breasts, I quit!"
"How sweet to have a pet to keep you company." The girl reached down to scratch the rat behind the ears, expression full of longing. Page looked from her to the rat to Box.
"B-b-box-k-k-kun?" he asked.
"Sold," said Box wearily.
"Th-that was very-y s-s-s-sweet of y-you," Page assured as the girl gave them a final wave, beaming, and slipped out the door with her big cardboard box.
Box grunted, reaching into his pocket for new gloves out of habit before remembering he'd just tucked his last pair into the rat's box. "I need to wash my hands."