TBC

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A/N: This was a prompt written for fanlovedlt, who sent me this prompt: "It's been a long time since I had a good sword fight. I'm hoping you'll indulge and give me one," with the additional detail of: "I feel like Baron would say this to a man who kidnaps Haru for force marriage. Like it would be how the cat bureau would meet this prince and the guy immediately wants Haru as his wife so Baron had to fight him to save her. It would be kind of cute."

This ended up far more comical than I was expecting, but I think we could all do with a bit of humour this year anyway.

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Haru didn't have time for this.

Like, really, really didn't have time.

She leant over the armrest of her newly acquired throne and scowled at the prince who had put her there. "You know, it would save us all a lot of time and trouble if you just returned me back to my world now."

"But why would I do that," the prince asked, "after all the effort I went to to attain such a lovely bride?"

"You should do that because this lovely bride has friends who aren't afraid to kick even royal asses who kidnap people."

"Kidnap is such a strong word…"

"Steal. Capture. Imprison. Trap. Which of these words do you prefer, Your Highness?" Really, Haru thought, Baron was beginning to rub off on her. Although the people he swept off his feet didn't usually resort to kidnapping him to get his attention.

She supposed she was just that lucky.

"Oh, do not fret over your companions, my dear." The prince smiled indulgently at her, as if she were a child in need of reassurance. "The palace is well guarded and highly secure. No one but those I allow will step foot inside our palace–"

It was at that exact moment that the huge double doors leading into the throne room fell off their hinges, followed by a lot of smoke and coughing and barely-suppressed cussing that sounded suspiciously like Muta.

When the air cleared, the Bureau stood in the freshly-made opening.

The effect was somewhat ruined by Baron stomping out the smouldering hem of a stolen guard's uniform. "Muta, next time please dial down the explosives," he could be heard to mutter. "We want to create an entrance, not blow up the palace."

"You take all the fun out of life," Muta muttered back.

Haru looked to the prince and gave an unnecessarily smug smirk that was probably unbecoming of their possibly future queen. "You were saying?"

"Usually," he amended. "Usually no one but those I allow…"

"Sure. Anyway, this has been a blast, but I'm already running behind schedule, so if we can wrap this up–" Haru rose to her feet, but found her wrist caught by the prince.

"Nothing's been decided," he said.

Haru slumped back into her throne. "Naturally."

"Your Highness," Baron called up to the raised dais. "It was a pleasure to help your kingdom out in our previous case, but it seems we may have mislaid a companion of ours in the leaving." He bowed. "Miss Haru, I believe it's time to head home."

He looked up to meet Haru's scowl. "You're late," she said.

"And you're as stunning as always."

She had to fight to keep the smile from twitching onto her lips. "You're forgiven. Mostly." She tilted her head, taking note of the stolen guard uniform that was only gently smouldering now. "And where did you get that disguise?"

"Oh, this?" He had the audacity to look surprised, as if only just noticing the cape. "Stealing into a palace is no simple task. We had to take some precautions."

"You're telling me you took the time for a wardrobe change before coming to rescue me?"

"Well, when you put it like that…"

"ENOUGH!" cried the prince. He raised his head from where it had been dropped into his hands. "Could you two stop… flirting for long enough to take this seriously? Baron, I have selected your companion as the perfect partner to rule this kingdom alongside me, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!"

"Are you sure?" Baron asked. "Because we took great pains to get this far and it would seem like a waste to just turn around and go home now. I even went to all the hassle of finding a good costume to get us this far with only minimal chaos."

"Baron, just take him seriously and get this over and done with!" Haru called. "I have places to be!"

"Very well, Haru. As you wish." Baron removed the stolen cape and hat, passing both across to Muta. "So, Your Highness, how do you wish to resolve this? A challenge of wits? Chess? Maybe a riddle or two…?"

"I challenge you," the prince cried, "to a duel!"

Baron beamed. "Fantastic. It's been a long time since I had a good sword fight. I'm hoping you'll indulge and give me one."

Any fallout from his, frankly-impressive, line delivery, if he did say so himself, was hindered when Haru called out, "What?" from the queen's throne. "What about the fencing lesson you gave me yesterday?"

"That was practice!" he called back.

"I put you on your ass and you don't consider that a decent sword fight?!"

"What I meant was– hang on." Baron bowed to the prince and motioned to Haru. "Would you mind terribly if I just cleared this up–"

"I've challenged you to a fight to the death," the prince protested.

"I'm not hearing a no. Trust me, this'll only take a moment." He dodged his opponent and ascended to the dais. "Haru–"

"I don't have time for this, Baron," she said.

"I know, but–"

"I have to pick up Kasumi from nursery in the next…" She checked her watch. Both clock hands were spinning rapidly. "…whenever the equivalent of 2pm is for this world."

"I know–"

"I do not have time for you to show off in some grand toothpick fight."

Baron looked crestfallen. "I'll be quick."

"Will you? Or will you get distracted with fancy footwork and showy moves?" She raised an eyebrow. "Look me in the eye and promise me you will keep this practical and…" she motioned vaguely to him, "non-Baron-y."

"Non-Baron-y?" he echoed with a grin.

"Drama-llama-y."

"That's not a word either."

"Oh, you know what I mean." She prodded him in the chest. "If I am even a minute late in picking up Kasumi, I will hide all your tea for a month and tell your sister about that time you jumped out of the window."

"Got it. No drama-llama antics. Just… one request." He had to duck as the prince swung a sword at him. "Muta! Cane!" He caught his cane with practised ease and halted the prince's second attack in time to look back to Haru. "Next time I give a striking one-liner, just let me have it."

"Get me back to the human world on time and I'll consider it."

"Deal." Baron dropped away and rolled down the steps. "Now, that was hardly sportsmanlike, Your Highness. Attacking your opponent while their back was turned."

"Then stop flirting with my future wife!" the prince snapped back.

"Not your wife!" Haru shouted. She slumped back into her seat and watched the fight play out with a general air of grumpy impatience. Muta sidled up to her and offered her a slice of cake. She took it.

"And I suppose you're going to tell me you managed to fit in a trip to the kitchens as well, before you decided to get me out of this nightmare," she grumbled.

Muta shrugged and munched on the rest of the cake. "We figured you'd be handling this, and the easiest unguarded entrance was the kitchens. Did you know they're making you a six-tiered cake for your wedding?"

"Oh joy," Haru monotoned sarcastically. "It almost makes getting married tempting."

"You should get yourself hitched more often. Weddings have all the best food."

"Why don't you get yourself married, and then you can choose the wedding food," Haru retorted.

"Nah. You seem to have the market cornered on unwanted marriages anyway. If I just stick around with you, I'm sure to be invited to many more without having to raise a paw." He finished the last of his cake. "Except for the whole, ya know, rescuing you business."

"Charming."

"Nice dress, by the way."

"Fight me, peasant," she muttered. She watched as Baron flipped over the prince and landed perfectly, giving Haru an imaginary tip of a hat as he did so. "Oh god, he's showing off. I'm going to kill him."

"And yer sound surprised?"

"No. Just annoyed." She raised both hands to her mouth and shouted, "Get on with it!"

Baron nodded, but when he turned to block the prince's oncoming attack, she could see he was talking. Probably delivering some witty comeback to whatever his opponent was throwing at him.

Haru groaned and slouched further into the throne. The many ruffles of her ridiculous dress bunched up at the improper posture and she had to flatten them down. There was no way she was going to be on time to pick up Hiromi's daughter at this rate, and she had no idea how she was going to be able to explain it to her friend. Somehow 'I got kidnapped to be the bride of another world's prince' just wouldn't fly.

"It's not his fault," Muta said. "He was made to be dramatic and showy and that's the guy you fell in love with."

"Yeah, I suppose…" Haru looked sharply at Muta. "Wait, what?"

Muta smirked. "Do ya really want me to repeat that louder for everyone to hear, or do ya want to admit you heard it right the first time?"

Haru blushed. "The second one."

"Good." Muta grinned wider. "And it doesn't help that he always gets worse like this when he has someone he wants to show off for." He winked. "If ya get my drift."

Haru stared and blushed further. Then the penny dropped. "Hang on a minute." She stood and cupped her hands to her mouth again. "Hey, Baron?" she bellowed.

Baron scooted to one side to smoothly avoid another attack. "Yes?"

"Do you love me?"

Baron's attempt to parry fumbled, and the cane was knocked from his grasp.

"Ah-hah! Now I have you!"

Baron batted the sword away with his hand. "Shut up, I'm trying to talk here. What did you say, Haru?"

"ARE. YOU. IN. LOVE. WITH. ME?" Haru yelled across the throne room.

"Is this really the right time to ask?"

"Is that a no?"

"No! I mean–" Baron rolled away to avoid another attack. "Yes, I am in love with you, but could we discuss this over a cup of tea or something?! I'm kind of busy right now!"

"And I'm meant to be picking up Kasumi from nursery, and yet here we are!" Haru called back. She faltered. "Wait. So you do love me?"

"I have loved you for the past year, but thanks for noticing!"

"Well maybe if you made it a little clearer–"

"I thought I was making it clear!"

"Wistful looks do not make anything clear!"

"I'm sorry. Would you have preferred it in writing?"

"Maybe!"

The prince lowered his sword and threw a reproaching look at the two. "Look, could you please delay your declarations of love until after the fight?"

"No!" both retorted.

The prince shrugged. "Fair enough," he said and pushed on with another attack.

Baron rolled back and snatched up his cane to deflect the hit. "Haru, I'm sorry if my intentions were unnecessarily vague, but you have to understand I'm not wholly familiar with modern-day styles of courting! And I wasn't sure if you returned my feelings!"

"Of course I'm in love with you, you idiot!"

Baron knocked the prince's sword clean away and didn't notice. "You are?"

"YES!"

"Oh."

The prince muttered something very unprincely and dived for the dropped weapon and went to attack Baron again. Whatever Baron had to say in addition to his eloquent 'oh' was smothered by the clash of cane meeting sword.

"PAY. ATTENTION. TO ME!" screamed the prince.

"Oh, this is getting ridiculous." Haru snatched the cake plate - sterling silver - off Muta, stalked across the room, and slammed it into the back of the prince's head. He slumped to the ground like a sack of royally-dressed potatoes. "There!" she heaved. "Fight over. Can we go home now? I have appointments to keep."

"Haru…"

"If I'm not there in time for Kasumi, Hiromi's gonna have kittens. I promised her–"

"Haru! Do you love me?"

She leant in and kissed him on the cheek. "Oh, keep up with the programme, Baron. Of course I do." She patted him on the same cheek. "But, if I'm late to picking up Kasumi, I'm still going to hide all your tea for a month," she said.

Baron could only grin like a fool. "That was the deal."