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It wasn't really unusual for Kiyoteru to be cooped up indoors on such a beautiful Sunday. While he had very few students, and even fewer of them with any significant amount of assignments, it just meant that he had more time to analyze what work they did turn in much closer and give them all much more personalized education than they could get in a large class size. It didn't help that a few, mainly the Kagamine twins, tended to procrastinate on even the little assignments, then turning it all in a flood of work. Sooner or later, he was going to have a make a zero-tolerance rule on late work just for them…

To him, it was better that he had to stay inside while most of the others were out. With over two dozen Vocaloids and counting all living together in a medium-sized dormitory, it didn't take much to engulf half of the building in loud pandemonium. Even though several were still hanging around, they weren't the rowdy types that usually triggered said chaos. Having even a third of the group gone made the atmosphere so much calmer.

Kiyoteru had intended to work in his own room, but he had gotten it into his head that he could multitask during breakfast. As a result, he ended up staying at that table until close to noon, neatly sorting through each essay and grading them as he went, all while failing to actually finish breakfast. He had avoided the messy foods that required some of his attention, like cereal and over-easy eggs, in return for just cramming toast into his mouth and downing cups of coffee for energy boosts.

He hadn't even realized what he was doing until someone spoke to him. "So, uh, you're not eating that cereal, right?"

"What?" Right, other people lived here; he had barely even noticed them coming in and out of the dining room over the course of the morning.

Standing by the table, watching him, was Iroha. Kiyoteru was somewhat familiar with her, as they were both AHS models. However, she had been made much later than him and the others and as part of a collaboration with another company, so he didn't know her quite as well as, say, Miki, or even as much as the Vocaloids that had already been around before him. "It's all soggy, and I don't think the milk is any good now. Should I just throw it out?"

"Um, yeah, sure, thank you. Take it all if you'd like – except that!" He had to stop Iroha from taking his half-full mug of coffee, though she was free to remove all the empty ones.

As she stacked the dishes together – she didn't wear her Dynamic-Phonon Busters when not performing in order to keep her hands free – she continued to talk. "It's almost lunch. Try not to waste so much, yeah? You always say that to Rin, and if she saw you right now, she'd never let you live it down."

"Right, right…" Kiyoteru did not like being lectured, too used to handing them out instead. He knew that Iroha had a point, but wasn't ready to admit it. "I just wasn't as hungry as I thought, okay? And I got distracted by these… I need to get back to them."

It was supposed to be a hint that the conversation should end, but even when Iroha walked into the kitchen to clean up the dishes, she kept on going. "You've been here since six. That's almost an entire work day's worth at a little table. And, what, you have four students?"

"Fifteen." It wasn't just limited to the young Vocaloids, or even just Vocaloids. There were a few of the unofficial models that attended his classes, like Kaiko and Neru girls who lived a few blocks away from the dorm, and even a few human students had managed to find their way in, mostly through their connections with the companies that created Vocaloids. Though he was working with such a small class, his strength was in teaching all levels, from kindergardeners like Ryuto to college students like Miki. "And seven of them have done essays that I promised to finish grading, as well as late work here and there."

This hint seemed to reach Iroha, but that didn't mean she had accepted it. "Well, okay, but when will you be done? Because you really shouldn't spend another six hours here."

Kiyoteru glared at her. Just because some people didn't have any actual work outside their roles as singers and actors didn't mean that everyone had time for leisure. "I told them I would be done by Monday, and I intend to keep that vow, Miss Nekomura, even if I spend another twelve hours here."

Finally, Iroha dropped whatever she was trying to get at, and spoke defensively. "Fine! It was just a suggestion, y'know!" She finished up cleaning, and then stormed out of the kitchen and out of the dining room without another word. Kiyoteru quickly went back into his work, already pushing this distraction out of his mind.

-0-

"How did this happen. Prima, what did you do." She didn't even phrase it as a question, not expecting an answer that would make any sort of sense.

Prima looked ready to cry, or panic, or both. "I-I was just a bit tired and thought that maybe I could have a quick boost – y'know, quicker than just charging up – and I thought I was doing this coffee thing right but then – I'm sorry, Iroha, everyone!"

She always did have a knack for ruining everything she touched. It was pretty pitiful, and Iroha could sympathize with her, but the fact remained that the coffee maker was now leaking hot water everywhere on the kitchen counter for an unkown reason, in no condition to be used again for some time.

Kiyoteru had watched the whole thing happen, the scene barely within his view from the dining room, and though he stayed right at the table, Iroha could tell that he was pretty upset about this development, drowning any comments he might have wanted to make by slooowly sipping his cup of coffee, the last cup of coffee. She wondered if he had even bothered going to sleep last night, with the way he was relying on caffeine for his energy fix. Food and drink wasn't an absolute necessity for Vocaloids and others like them, but that was assuming they charged often enough to make up for it.

Some of the others in the dorm were aware of the situation with the machine and were gathered around it, and Luka had been silently observing up until now. "Does anyone know if Gumi is home?"

Leon, ever the excitable type, answered swiftly. "No, I think she and Miki went to the library, or something, I dunno, I didn't ask them, but that seems like where eggheads like them would be, right?"

Luka just sighed, listing off names of people that had the best mechanical expertise after Gumi. "Miku? Gakupo? Lily?"

"Doing a concert, attending fencing class, and out drinking with Meiko. Actually, I think everyone's gone, except Lola because she's so shy. And those VY-number guys, but I've never actually seen them anyway, so they might as well be gone for all I know. I mean, VY2 might be with Gakupo because I heard he likes swords, if he really is a he, but–"

"I'll keep an eye out for them when they come back," Luka interrupted, much to Iroha's relief. "Just…don't mess with this. Prima, if you'd like, I can lend you money for you to go out and buy coffee."

"Um, I don't…really want it anymore…" Prima still looked ashamed at herself for her latest mishap. "Soda's good, too."

Iroha quickly went to grab a can herself to give to Prima, not trusting her with opening it on her own; with her track record, it would have probably exploded in a spray of soda.

With nothing left to do but wait for someone with mechanical skills to come home, the others began to disperse out of the room one by one to resume their own activities, leaving Iroha behind in the kitchen.

Normally, she would hang out with party animal Meiko, but going to bars didn't appeal to her; Iroha went to one only once, and discovered the hard way that she was bad at holding her alcohol. Ryuto was her second choice, as they had both joined the Vocaloids around the same time and he enjoyed playing the games that others felt were too childish, but he and the other kids had already left to go play somewhere before Iroha could catch up with them. Everyone left behind were the introverted types, aside from Leon, who didn't have any interest in hanging out with Iroha – she suspected that her love of cutesy things had something to do with it. She was getting bored fast, used to having someone to at least talk to.

She looked over again at Kiyoteru, who was now glowering at the broken machine, sipping the last few drops of coffee before setting his empty mug down. "So… Hopefully that will get you through the rest of the work?" she said, hoping to offer some reassurance – and perhaps convince him to spend time with her. At this point, she was willing to be with just about anyone, and he was sitting right there, making him the most convenient target.

"I've made it through all the essays and just need to grade the late assignments," he replied, almost completely monotone, his gaze not shifting one bit.

"You, uh, could probably take a quick break, then." He did sound like he needed it.

"Why? There's nothing to drink during the break."

Yep, he was completely dependent on coffee to keep running right now. Iroha doubted he'd just shut down without it, but if his flat tone meant anything, his mood would deteriorate fast if he continued to work. Three more hours had passed since their earlier conversation, and he hadn't moved at all from where he was that morning.

"It's about relaxing, not preparing yourself to do more work. Look, I'm bored, and you're stressed. We can probably work out something that won't leave you with an all-nighter to do later, 'kay? Heck, when Gumi or Miku or someone comes back, you can come right back to the table."

"…What makes you think I'm stressed, Miss Nekomura?"

"How about the part where you kept downing one mug after another, then glared at Prima like you were trying to shoot laser beams from your eyes? Come on, Kiyo, what do you do for fun?"

Being friends with Meiko had its perks, and she had told Iroha about what happened when he felt truly at ease; it seemed he had a reputation at one of the bars for coming in once in a blue moon after classes were done, drinking like a fish, and partying until almost midnight. Not many of the Vocaloids had actually seen this sort of behavior from him for themselves, and Iroha wondered if she could of one of the few. Even without any chance of going out drinking together, she hoped she could still get him to lighten up a little so that they could both enjoy themselves.

Kiyoteru sat up from his slouched position, thinking for a while. "…I do like reading. Perhaps we could go to the library, and maybe find Miss Gumi there?"

This was going to take some work.

-0-

Kiyoteru waited anxiously by the front door, still running on a caffeine rush and now dressed in more casual clothes. This wasn't going to be too bad, hopefully; Iroha just said she'd bring out a kite or two, and they'd go to the park to play… Still, she was taking an awfully long time to prepare.

"Ready!" she called out, finally joining him at the door.

"…Wait, what?"

Iroha Nekomura was well known for her love of Hello Kitty, and while her usual jumpsuit expressed this, it was the outfit she intended to go out in that epitomized her dedication to the franchise, with her oversized red ribbons, the numerous frills on every hem, and the brightly-colored belt buckle that held up the frilly leg stockings with red ribbons. Even the parasol tucked under her arm was just a giant Kitty head.

"What?" Iroha didn't seem to notice anything odd about her kittyler attire.

"…Nevermind." In all honesty, it wasn't too unusual for someone to someone to walk around in fancy clothing in public, and this wasn't even the most outlandish thing Kiyoteru had seen anyone wear. He could only hope that she didn't intend to rope him into her obsession. "Let's just go."

She handed him a kite to carry, and unsurprisingly, it too had a Hello Kitty theme, with bright red and white colors. It was too late to complain, though, and they were soon out the door, Iroha now opening her parasol. It didn't look like it was intended to block out the sun, and instead was more of a fashion choice. The breeze caught it easily, though, and once in a while Iroha had to readjust her grip on it to keep it from flailing out of her hand.

The walk was brief and uneventful, with Iroha asking questions and Kiyoteru giving brief answers. He tried to put up a good image when asked about what he did in his luxury time; it was hard enough keeping Meiko quiet about it, and it still managed to leak to some of the other adult Vocaloids. This was information he didn't want in the hands of his employer, or even worse, in the hands of Rin or Yuki.

Iroha wasn't a pupil of his, though she was made to be around the same age as Miki. With all the wealth and fame they all got from singing, it was up to them what kinds of goals they had on the side, and Iroha seemed to be the kind of person who lived without any solid plans, simply satisfied with playing games and expanding her collections. He wasn't going to actually tell her that he felt she could put her time to better use, but it was something Kiyoteru couldn't see himself doing, as he felt that he had that ability to stay focused on something useful. His goal was to educate as many students as he could, in the hopes that they could find their own purposes in life.

The park was already busy, with people scattered here and there, doing their own things. Kiyoteru quickly looked over the landscape, picking out a nice hill that seemed to be in a good position for flying kites, and pointed it out to Iroha. Together, they walked to the bottom of the slope.

"You know how to work one, right, Kiyo?" she asked, closing her parasol and setting it down.

"I… Yes."

She stopped what she was doing, looking back and pouting. "Well, that doesn't seem very confident."

"I know the mechanics of it, the directions… I just never actually did it."

"…You're kidding, right? It's one of the childhood pastimes!"

Kiyoteru just stared at her.

"…Oh, right." Iroha cleared her throat, looking embarrassed for forgetting the whole android thing. "Well, if I could learn it, you could learn it, too! Just follow my lead, okay?"

She took off up the hill, leaving him to follow her. By now, the rush of caffeine was beginning to drop, and with him having skipped lunch and lost sleep, dashing up the slope was tiring him out more than he'd like.

"Kiyo! Come on, Kiyo!" she pushed, already approaching the peak of the hill. She waited for him to catch up to her, and she smiled wryly at him. "See what happens when you never actually let yourself rest up? You get to be known as the guy who can't even climb a hill."

Kiyoteru rolled his eyes at her remarks, and looked down at the foot of the hill, trying to remember the steps of getting a kite into the air easily. It was best to go slowly and gently, and having someone else around to release it into the air while the other pulled in on the line would make it even easier. He turned to Iroha to suggest this plan to her–

"Alright! Come on, I'll race you to the bottom!"

And that's when she sprinted down, her kite now trailing behind her and lifting. Kiyoteru had been told that running starts weren't actually that great, but Iroha did it so easily… Determined not to let her poke fun at him again, he ran after her, constantly looking back at his kite to attempt to keep it from flailing about. If nothing else, going downhill was much easier than going uphill.

Somehow, even with the haphazard way he tried to control the kite, it didn't crash spectacularly, and even with a few loops here and there, it began to steady itself and soar into the sky, joining Iroha's kite in all their Hello Kitty glory.

"You know, running starts aren't easy to use successfully," Kiyoteru told her as he reached the foot of the hill where she was standing.

"Hmph. Well, does it matter now? If it's so hard, then look at what you've accomplished! Admit it, you were enjoying yourself."

Kiyoteru pretended to be too focused on controlling his kite to reply to her. The fact that he had gotten it to take off on his first try with that method was a miracle, and yet a bit of pride welled up inside. The effort used in running up and down the hill had paid off; that was how most things in life worked, anyway. And to think that trying something new like this would have never crossed his mind had Iroha not brought it up…

The wind currents were moving the kites off to the side, and Kiyoteru tried to compensate for it by pulling back the other way, just a little…

"Wait, Kiyo, stop!"

It was too late, though, and he had pulled too hard, sending his kite careening into Iroha's. Hers became caught on his line, and she pulled back impulsively, trying to separate the two and only succeeding in entwining them even more. Now left wrapped in a very un-aerodynamic shape, both kites began to loop about, sinking toward the ground.

Iroha was crying "No!" over and over as she ran to where the kites were about to crash land, awkwardly catching them. While the kites themselves weren't damaged, the lines were still tightly tangled together, and she looked futilely for an easy way to separate them. "Oh, come on, these were in such good condition, too!"

Kiyoteru came over to the bottom of the hill to help her out – it had been his fault in the beginning, he thought, so it was only right. He worked with her very carefully, not wanting to tighten any knots or, even worse, break the line.

Well, he had kept his kite in the air for some amount of time, so it wasn't as if it was a total failure. No permanent damage had been done, and Iroha didn't seem upset at him at all, so he was still happy overall with how he had handled this.

Iroha grinned when they finally pulled the two kites apart, but then looked around, spotting a food stand. "I'm hungry. Hey, can you finish rolling these back up for me while I grab something for us? Thanks." She then picked up her parasol and dashed off before he could even give an answer.

It took a few more minutes to wrap the lines around the spools, and by the time he came back to Iroha, she was already starting into her shaved ice treat – it seemed to be kakigōri, or perhaps a simple snowcone variant from another region of the world – offering a second one to Kiyoteru. She hadn't even asked if he wanted one, much less what flavor he wanted. Sure, he didn't have any complaints about strawberry, and he was sorely in need of some kind of energy boost, any kind, but the part where she made all these decisions without considering what he may or may not have wanted was a bit annoying. He stifled his complaints, though, just sitting next to her on the bench and eating.

"So, after this, we can probably try again. We got it so right earlier! I guess we just need to hope the wind doesn't act up, yeah? Come to think of it, maybe bringing my parasol was a bad idea, haha… Oh, hey, look who it is!"

Kiyoteru glanced over where she was pointing, and nearly choked on his ice (on shaved ice! – that was more embarrassing than the kite incident!); he could recognize the bright colors from anywhere. Blue-haired man with an equally-blue young lady, green-haired child, two yellow-haired adolescents, and a little girl wearing vivid red… It seemed that this was where they had all run off to for the day.

And Iroha, in all her cheerful obliviousness, flagged them down.

Kiyoteru wasted no time in jumping off the bench, nearly dropping his dessert in the process, and running behind the food shack. It was awkward enough when he'd run into Lily or Meiko during his drinking sessions without intending to, and he didn't really want his students finding him.

"Hey, Iroha, whatcha looking at?" came the voice of Kaiko; Kiyoteru assumed that she and Kaito were playing babysitter for the younger Vocaloids.

"Well, I'm here with Kiyo, but then he saw you guys and just ran…"

"Kiyoteru's here?" Kaito replied. The sound of his footsteps approaching the shack could be heard.

"No, I'm not!" Kiyoteru insisted from his hiding spot, using an airtight defense. He could only imagine the confusion on poor Kaito's face.

"Iroha! Hey there!" Ryuto called out, and soon all the young ones were greeting her, providing a quick distraction from Kiyoteru.

"Are you here all by yourself?" he could hear Len ask.

"…I am now. I came here with a friend, but then he walked away. I guess he isn't coming back. So, Kaito, this place has some pretty good shaved ice here. You should give them a try, or at least look at what else they might have."

"Huh…? Oh, sure!"

It seemed that those that were aware that Kiyoteru was hiding were going to keep his presence a secret. Everyone else clamored for snacks, and he could hear Kaito ordering and handing out the food.

"Iroha, do you wanna come with us?" Kaiko offered.

"No. I'll wait a little longer for my friend, I think. You guys can borrow my kites, though, if you'd like."

"Really!?" Yuki was squealing excitedly. Kiyoteru took the risk of peeking out from behind the shack for a moment, seeing her and Rin taking the kites from Iroha; the older woman seemed to be smiling, but he had a feeling it was only done to give the illusion that nothing was wrong. "Thank you, Miss Iroha! I promise I'll take really good care of it! It's so cute!"

"It's so…Hello Kitty," Len commented, just to be immediately shut down by his sister.

"Pipe down – it's still great! Come on, Kaiko, I'll race you to that hill!"

The sounds of joy slowly became more and more distant, and Kiyoteru could spy the group making their way toward the hill. He looked again at the benches…just to realize that Iroha was beginning to walk away as well, just throwing her snowcone against the paved path.

Kiyoteru began to chase after her. "Miss Nekomura, wait!"

She turned on her heel, hands on her hips in a defiant pose. "What, now it's cool to hang out with me when no one's looking?"

"I'm sorry! I mean, no, it's not like I wasn't enjoying being with you, but I just don't want to give them anything to tease me about!"

"So you do think it's not cool."

"No! What I'm saying is, I'm their teacher, the one that's always lecturing them and giving them work! They've never seen me unwind like this, and I just know a few aren't going to take me seriously if I do that!"

"And no one takes me seriously when I dress like this!" She gestured to her dress, then spoke in a mocking voice. "Oh, Iroha, your voice is too deep for you to be so cutesy – lose the get-up and act the age you're modeled as, or try to get remodeled to Rin's age. It's frustrating to hear that all the time! I like Hello Kitty, I like it so much that my room is covered in its merchandise from wall to wall, and I don't try to hide it even though people always comment on it. Don't let the peanut gallery stop you from what you enjoy!"

"And maybe I don't enjoy fooling around twenty-four seven like you!" Kiyoteru snapped right back at her, tossing his own treat into the trash can. "Yes, I like cutting loose once in a while, but I'm not going to be seen playing with kites when I'm supposed to be grading the work of the same kids that always procrastinate on their own assignments! Nekomura, at some point, I need to take responsibility for the image I give to my students, and I'd like it to be the way I want it to be, not the way you think is right."

Iroha pouted once more, except that instead of being cute and teasing like she was earlier, she looked genuinely upset at Kiyoteru. "Fine then, Mister Hiyama. Walk me home if you think I've wasted your precious time."

"Fair enough, Miss Nekomura." Without her kites, there wasn't any reason for them to stay at the park. The others didn't seem to be paying attention at all to the food stand, so it was the perfect opportunity to leave. He walked right past Iroha, not giving her another glance.

-0-

No more words were exchanged during the trip home. At first, the anger festered inside Iroha some more. Really? She was trying to be friendly with Kiyoteru, and this was how he was going to pay her back? Flying a Hello Kitty kite wasn't going to damage the reputation he had with his students, not the same way being Meiko's drinking buddy would! So he was out with a kittyler, joining in on her games – so what? There wasn't a single person in that group who hadn't played with Iroha at one point or another, and any teasing would hold that much less weight.

Every time she opened a mouth to express these thoughts, though, the words failed to come out. Even looking at him was awkward for her.

He did have some fair points: this wasn't so much about spending time with Kiyoteru as it was spending time with anyone. If she had been there to catch the kids and Kaito before they all left, she wouldn't have given him a second thought as he spent the whole day doing work. She lived to have fun, and she did all she could to avoid boredom, even when it meant wheedling others to join in on her games. That didn't mean he had to accuse her of being irresponsible, though! …Maybe selfish was the more accurate term.

Thinking these things and admitting them were two very different acts, and the silence persisted even to the front door of their home, which Kiyoteru opened for her, more out of an expected show of courtesy than anything else. She got about three feet into the building before she stopped to take in the sight before her, though.

"I can explain!" Meiko stated very quickly, a bottle of what was almost certainly alcohol in her hand. "It wasn't my fault, I swear!"

Iroha looked to Lily, who was sitting on the couch opposite to Meiko, looking notably more sober.

"She's actually telling the truth," she confirmed. "There was an accident at one of the bars. I guess someone was playing with matches, because a trashcan suddenly lit up in flames and turned some of the sprinklers on. The place was pretty much trashed for the day, but Meiko insisted we just take the drinking here."

"It's not going out, but it's still good!" Meiko insisted. "Oh, hey there, Kiyo! Didn't see ya there! Whatcha doin' with Iroha there?"

"Nothing important," he replied curtly, turning his attention back to Lily. "Has Luka told you about the coffee machine yet?"

"Yes, actually. It seems to be broken badly, though. Either Gumi can fix it, or we need a whole new machine."

"Great! Thanks for trying, anyway." Kiyoteru did very little to hide his annoyance, even when Lily glared at him, thinking that he was getting snippy at her in particular. He went over next to Meiko, sitting down with her.

Iroha stayed by the door, just watching this unfold. Even though she had all but dragged Kiyoteru out for her own satisfaction, she felt that he had been better off separated from his worries. The fact that the coffee maker hadn't been repaired yet appeared to have added even more stress to a volatile situation. He had insisted on returning to his work, but something about this scene gave her a hunch that even that seemed beyond his will now, as if he was ready to just give up on anything going his way.

"Geez, Kiyo, calm down already. Here." Meiko reached into a shopping bag, pulling out an unopened bottle. "I even remembered what brand you like this time!" For a few seconds, he just stared at her, before sighing in resignation and taking it, popping the cap off.

Iroha raised an eyebrow. This was going to be interesting.

-0-

It was the fact that the machine still wasn't fixed yet that set him off, like the final straw in the needle stack. Or, no, it was the final straw on the camel's back. Either way, all that desire to get back to work had melted away. Iroha was right – he was totally wound up and needed a break.

Said break meant hanging out in the backyard and hoping everyone just left them alone. Meiko was the main instigator, like always, just chatting it up excitedly with a tipsy Lily. Lily never really did seem to change when she had drinks, actually. Maybe she got sulkier? That seemed to be about it.

Iroha and Kaito were playing look-out duty, making sure none of the kids came in. Rin would have a field day with this; she had tried so much to sneak out with Meiko to a bar, just to be stopped by Kiyoteru. He knew that she was a good kid, and never meant to cause anyone harm, but deep down he felt intimidated by her boisterous personality.

Poor Kaito – how did he deal with those guys all day? It didn't seem like he had told the the students that teacher was playing Hello Kites with a kittyler. Come to think of it, if there was a guy who needed to be in school, Kaito was that guy. He wasn't ignorant, but he was definitely naive, if there was really a difference between the two.

"Huh?" Kaito glanced over where Kiyoteru was sitting.

Crap, had he said that last bit out loud? He probably did. "Sorry, just thinking."

It was just nice to not have to worry about every single little detail for a while. It was already nighttime? Who cares, Meiko's telling her story about the time she had to play the role of a cannibal in a song! As long as it didn't become a habit, it was probably okay. Not that he needed to let Yuki know that. She was already surrounded by so many bad influences as she was, and she didn't need a lesson like "it's alright to drink and play Hello Kites when you're supposed to be doing work".

Iroha. She really couldn't have found someone else to bug that day? Luka? Leon? That mysterious VY1 lady? Yeah, sure, it was nice to get out of the building, but he really didn't want to be seen shirking responsibilities. Sure, it was completely hypocritical to put her down and then hang out with "all play and no work" Meiko, but he knew that she had only wanted to be with him because there was no one else.

…Eh, he couldn't stay mad at a nice lady like her.

"Excuse me!?"

Ohhh, boy. Kiyoteru needed to stop letting his thoughts slip out like that.

"You're still pretty cool, Iroha, don't worry," he said, trying to talk his way out of this. "I don't really mind the cat thing. You just play around a lot, right? Much more than I like to play around. I like working sometimes, since it makes me feel accomplished. Kind of like flying a kite. But unwinding is good, too. It needs to be balanced out, not like how you and Mei do it."

"Hey!" Meiko proceeded to flip him off, looking offended at his remarks. "I told you not to call me Mei!" Well, a remark.

Kiyoteru completely ignored her; it'd take too much energy to address her little problem with priorities. "So, yeah, I know you were just usin' me, Iroha, but I won't hold it against you if you won't hold be bailing on you against me, alright?"

It was now Iroha's turn to look absolutely baffled by his behavior. "Um… What? You wanna drop that big dramafest we had back at the park, just like that? You're joking, right?"

"No, I'm just drunk. And sleep-deprived. And brutally honest, because we both suck at priorities. But, hey, we're both AHS. We shouldn't waste our energy being pissed at each other."

Speaking of energy, he was beginning to get tired. Like, fast. In the back of his mind, a voice that was still sober and still pissed mocked him: This is what happens when you're deprived of sleep, food, and caffeine. Even Meiko couldn't run on alcohol alone, and the lack of any significant rest or meal was catching up with him.

"I guess that's a good point. I mean, didn't you say something about essays you needed to read, or something like that? Dealing with that is probably more urgent than dealing with our arguments…"

Iroha seemed to think it was an important matter to deal with. Therefore, it had to be a top priority, coming from someone like her. "Uh, yeah. I should prooobably go." Kiyoteru stood up, her words reminding him that, oh yeah, he had chewed her out over those assignments that he was most definitely not grading at this moment. His sense of balance wasn't exactly cooperating with him, however, and he swayed around.

Lily, probably the one there with the most sense in spite of being inebriated, took action fast and caught Kiyoteru as he fell. "Not like this, you idiot! You said that those kids would eat you alive if they saw you stumbling around drunk!"

"I didn't say it like that…" Or maybe he did – he couldn't really remember too well at the moment, and everything was beginning to slow down, his systems automatically going into sleep mode to recover. He groaned, realizing there was no way he was going to make it back to work tonight. At least the impact of that epiphany was currently dulled by the intoxication.

-0-

Iroha wasn't sure what to do. On one hand, Kiyoteru had gone deeply into sleep mode, and she had no idea how charged up he was, and thus wanted him to wake up at his own pace. On the other hand, it was getting just a wee bit late.

She finally decided on trying to wake him up, and she opened the door to his room, careful not to spill the mug of fresh coffee she was holding. Kaito and Lily had sneaked Kiyoteru in there when he passed out, and by the looks of it, he hadn't moved at all from where they had left him on the bed. Iroha sighed, and then knocked loudly on the open door.

His processors came back to life with a light and brief "whirr", but his other movements remained sluggish, and he just rolled over on the bed, trying to get away from the noise. "Get out of here…"

"I don't think so. How are you feeling?"

"Tired. Hungover. …Wondering why you're here." Finally noticing who this person at his doorway was, he rolled again to face Iroha.

"Because I watched the others drag your carcass here last night and haven't seen you since. Also, Gumi fixed the coffee machine."

"Really?" Even this didn't perk Kiyoteru up much.

"Well, kinda-sorta fixed it. I think she expanded it, because now it has options for vanilla and nutmeg and chocolate, and a bunch of others that I don't think even belongs in coffee. I got you plain."

Kiyoteru gave some sort of mix between a groan and a "thank you", putting his hands over his face and rubbing his eyes. "I'm gonna need it. Papers to grade. Gotta do it on the way to work, or skip breakfast again to get some time, probably…"

"Well, actually…"

This got Kiyoteru's attention, and he sat up straight. "What time is it?"

"…Around eight."

Iroha had been told that there were two sides to Kiyoteru Hiyama. The first was his default, no-nonsense teacher personality, the one that he would do anything to preserve. The second was a secret known only by a trusted few, where he would try to forget all about his stress and become impulsive and frivolous.

She now believed that she was the first person to witness a third facet of his character: pure, absolute panic.

He rocketed out of his bed, snatching clothes from his closet and folders from his desk as he sped around the room like a shocked house fly. "Holy shit! And no one noticed!? The kids didn't notice, right!? Oh crap, oh crap!"

"They kinda noticed." Iroha was backing out into the hallway, not wanting to be caught up in this trainwreck, but unable to peel her eyes away from it. She had contributed to this mess, having distracted him for the whole afternoon yesterday. Now she was starting to see why he liked to get everything done the moment the opportunity arrived for him, just in case other events came up unexpectedly.

"Don't even have time to put on the whole suit, and the rail's already left long ago! I think I can catch the next one but I'll still be so late and I still have to grade everything a-and then I–" At this point, Kiyoteru was foregoing coherence in exhange for a panicked, drawn-out scream as he frantically shoved folders – and even a tie, by mistake – into his briefcase. Iroha had to avert her eyes for a bit when he even started changing into the new clothes, forgetting that a lady was present.

He made a mad dash out the room, still shirtless, nearly bumping right into her as she was looking away. "Hey! Hot coffee, here!"

"Yeah, okay, thanks!" Not noticing that he had almost spilled it all over her, he just went to take it from her, believing she was offering it to him again, and ended up succeeding in splashing it all over his leg instead, ellicting a stream of pained curses.

"Kiyo, hold on a second – Kiyoteru!" Iroha had to grab him by the shoulders hard to make sure he didn't just run off.

"What!? What is it, Iroha? I'm late enough as it is!"

Iroha didn't immediately reply – he had used her first name while sober for the first time – but she knew she had to explain quickly. "Look, you aren't going to catch another train anytime soon. But I have a car in the parking lot nearby. I can get you to the school faster than waiting for the next ride will."

"…You have a car? What kind of car?"

-0-

Kaiko didn't know what to do. Mister Hiyama was over half an hour late now, and the class had gone from confused to rowdy. Most students were talking with each other, Neru was texting people on her phone, Yuki and Ryuto were searching the cabinets in search of blank paper to doodle on, and Rin and Len were making up all kinds of theories on where their teacher had gone.

She did know something had been off about him yesterday, with the way he ran away from Iroha during their outing, and how neither of them were anywhere in the park when it was time to return the kites to them, but that was all she knew; she lived with Neru and not with the Vocaloids, and she hadn't called her brother to ask him what might have been going on. According to Len, though, Kiyoteru hadn't been seen during breakfast that morning. Was he sleeping in? He had never been late to class before…

"So, maybe there was this big book club meeting for boring bookworms somewhere," Len hypothesized quite loudly, "and he was all 'I gotta get in on that, yo!' and he just left without a word."

"Nah, you're not thinking grand enough! Maybe that rumor that he gets drunk every night is true, but this time he stumbled into a bad alley somewhere and got kidnapped and taken apart for scrap parts!" Kaiko knew that Rin was only joking, but the thought of something like that happening was still too morbid for her to stomach.

"Perhaps this is a test of character of some sort," chimed in Miki from across the room. "He may want us to work diligently as always in order to see if we have matured enough to monitor oursel–"

"Whatever! Of course you would say that, being his favorite student and all!" It was amazing how Neru could always find the right time to butt in and start poking fun at people. "If he doesn't show up soon, I'm calling the dean and telling him there's an AWOL teacher on the loose!"

"Pl-please don't get Mister Hiyama in trouble!" Kaiko appealed, and she then cringed before Neru could even give her the predictable reply.

"No way! Serves him right for wasting my time!" She laughed, but her phone vibrated, demanding her attention, and she was snared right back into wasting her own time.

Kaiko look down at her desk, once more becoming unsure of what to do about this. Somewhere outside, there was the sound of skidding tires, adding to the building sense of chaos. Maybe no one would complain if she just left for the day and stayed home…

"Oh, that's a cute car! …Wait, everyone, come here, please! Come on, I mean it!"

At Yuki's sudden request, everyone began to crowd around the window she was summoning them to, Kaiko included. The skidding noise had apparently belonged to a vehicle that was now parked haphazardly near the curb. Like Yuki had claimed earlier, it seemed to be of a high-quality sports model.

On the other hand, it was pastel pink, with a very familiar white cat painted on the hood and on the doors.

They began to whisper questions to each other, wondering why Iroha was here, but it all quickly became silenced when they saw the passenger door swing open and an almost unrecognizable man run out, wearing a familiar red Kitty helmet. About the only hints to who he was were his grey suit that hadn't even been buttoned up properly, and the briefcase he was holding.

Well, at least they knew where Mister Hiyama had gone now.

The scene became even more surreal as Iroha, sans her helmet – she had once claimed it was an amplifier used in singing, and yet she wore it even in casual clothes if it matched the outfit – came out of the car next, initally running out to pursue Kiyoteru, then sprinting back to her car to close and lock the doors before resuming the chase. It seemed that he had forgotten something that she was now trying to give to him.

At once, the class all scrambled to their seats, trying to hide all evidence that they were fooling around, and waited for their teacher to arrive. The sounds of feet thundering down over and over on the hallway floor heralded his appearance, and he all but slammed open the classroom door. Even in spite of his status as an android, he had to double over momentarily to regain all the energy he just expended in his sprint.

"I apologize for my tardiness," he finally stated after a few seconds of rest, straightening up.

"Kiyo! Kiyo, when I say to wait for me, I mean wait!" Iroha came up behind him, not looking quite as ragged, but still exhausted. She handed him a pair of glasses, which he took and put on in a casual movement, as if he had simply picked them up from off a desk.

It was Yuki who asked the first question. "Why are you wearing Miss Nekomura's hat?"

Iroha explained before Kiyoteru got a chance to say anything. "Because he said I drive like a madwoman and didn't feel safe with just a seatbelt. Honestly!" She reached up to take back her headgear, and Kiyoteru gave no resistance, just sheepishly looking away from her.

Neru made the next comment. "So, anyway, I've got my phone right here. Is there any reason I shouldn't call your supervisor right now?"

Kiyoteru gulped, and searched for an answer. "You see, sometimes even adults in authority can make mistakes, and I, um…"

"It's my fault." Iroha pushed him to the side. "Yesterday, I convinced him – coerced him into spending time with me. I wasted so much of his time that not only did he oversleep, but he also did not finish grading everyone's assignments this weekend. Kiyoteru had no choice in the matter, and I'll take full responsibility for it." She fastened her helmet back onto her head, and then grinned. "That said, he did finish the essays, the only ones he actually promised he'd finish, and I got him here in one piece, didn't I?"

Kaiko blinked. She still had no clue just what they were up to yesterday, and she was sure they weren't telling the full story. Plus, even if it was true, it didn't fully justify Kiyoteru coming in half an hour late in such a chaotic fashion. She looked over at Neru, waiting for her reaction.

"…Okay," she muttered, sounding bored, and she set aside her cell phone, setting her head on her desk. If there was one thing that kept her mocking from going too far, it was that she usually became uninterested fast and gave up. "It's too much effort to call those guys, anyway. You lucked out, Kiyo."

"It's Mister Hiyama," he insisted, slowly falling back into his professional routine, "and I would say that you lucked out just now; I won't be confiscating that phone, just this once. Don't take it out again." He then began to address everyone. "Miss Nekomura is correct, though. I didn't finishing checking over the late assignments turned into me last week. However, it really would be rude to expect me to complete it right away when they were supposed to be due a whole month ago." In the middle rows, Len and Rin shifted uncomfortably in their seats. "I did finish grading your essays on your assigned subjects, which is what's most important now. I'll start passing them back now; we've wasted enough time as it is."

Kaiko nervously picked at her pencil eraser, unsure just how well she did on her essay. She distracted herself by observing Kiyoteru and Iroha one last time; the former hadn't straightened out the messy jacket of his suit yet, or do anything about the drying coffee stain that was all over his right leg, and the latter, seeing she wasn't needed anymore, just awkwardly shuffled out of the room.

No, really, what the heck just happened?

-0-

"No one's going after your hide, right, Kiyo? Did my cover story work?"

"It seems to have succeeded; no one's questioned me yet. Thank you again for taking the heat for me." Looking back, even if Iroha really did believe that the fiasco in the afternoon was mostly because of her, there was little justification for him wasting the evening in the backyard, just drinking. He had even complained beforehand that he wasn't supposed to slack off when there was work to be done! At least she was the only one aware of the true events of that day…

"No problem at all! I mean, I'm not even associated with that school yet, so it's not like they can do anything to me."

"What do you mean, 'yet'?"

"Well, maybe I could enroll in your class, like Miki did."

"I don't have relationships with my students, Iroha. Not even college-age students."

That comment earned him a tightened sash as Iroha yanked on it. "Who said anything about dating you!? But, fine, maybe I'll be your assistant instead! That is what teachers have, right?"

"Occasionally, though I don't believe they'd let me have one for a small class. Why the sudden interest in education?"

"I dunno. I guess I need something to do on the side, besides watching cartoons and playing games." Iroha then moved to his front, reaching up to adjust some hair decorations. She looked so different at the moment, wearing a neat suit with dull earth tones, the only vivid colors on her being her pink hair and amber eyes. "Mostly I just want to hang out with you for real, and not just because no one else will be with me. And I'm not forcing you out of your element again."

"Really?"

"Yes, really!"

Kiyoteru looked down at himself, specifically at the gaudy clothes he wore. "So, what do you call this, then?" Seriously, they were just about a male version of the kittyler clothes Iroha wore the other day, although it seemed to follow the theme of a different character with white formal attire. Formal attire that involved a lot of lace and sequins.

"Oh, shush! If I'm gonna actually try and learn things, you're going to be the Daniel to my Kitty for a bit!"

"The…who?"

"Daniel! Dear Daniel, the cute and sensitive cat that grew up with Kitty White! They're really close friends! How can you pride yourself on being so smart if you don't even know the basic facts about Hello Kitty!?"

"Knowing or not knowing about a franchise has no bearing on one's intellect!" He grabbed her hands to stop her from adjusting his bowtie more than she needed to, but made sure not to grip too tightly, not wanting to actually cause her pain. In fact, he kept up his hold for a few more moments when Iroha smiled at him.

She clicked her tongue. "You might be Senseiloid, but it seems I have a lot to teach you. Now, come on, you said you were going to be with me when I showed off my new look!"

Kiyoteru looked around her room, right at her vanity mirror, and upon discovering that she had even given him a white and fluffy kitty headband, he immediately decided that, nope, he looked just as ridiculous as Iroha, probably even more so. "…Y'know, we don't have to show off to everyone. This is fun enough as it is! I mean, we're both trying something new again, and we are hanging out with each other, and… and you're not buying this, are you?"

Iroha just let go of one of his hands, entwining their fingers together with the other. "If it makes you feel better, I feel totally exposed without any Hello Kitty clothes, so we're about even right now."

He was going to be okay with this. This was not going to ruin his image forever, and even if all the students made fun of him, it didn't mean that he was any less of a teacher. He would just have to work hard to prove that to them.

His imitation heart thumped wildly as the pair came out into the dorm lobby, hand in hand. All it took was a quick glance from Meiko, followed by a spectacular spittake that splattered the table in front of her with saliva and booze. This was enough to direct everyone's attention to them, and the room broke out in shocked exclamations and uproarious laughter.

"Wow, it's Hello Kiyo!" Rin teased. "I don't think that's part of the teacher dress code! Does this mean we're gonna have to answer to Miss Nekomura tomorrow at class?"

Yuki giggled, but otherwise seemed impressed, if only because new things fascinated her easily. "You look really cool, Miss Nekomura! And Mister Hiyama is so cute!"

Iroha beamed at all the attention they were getting, even if it was because of how silly they looked, and she pushed up her fake glasses with her free hand to give the impression of seriousness. "Now, now, Miss Kaai, I've told you a million times not to laugh at other people! You don't want to emulate Miss Meiko over there!"

For a second, Meiko looked surprised at this sudden jab at her. However, it quickly passed, and she howled in laughter at Iroha's impersonation.

Iroha squeezed Kiyoteru's hand, lowering her voice to talk to just him. "Come on, do a little meow."

"A… meow?"

"Like this: Nyaaa!" Iroha dropped her facade for a moment, swiping at the air like a cat.

He didn't do kitty cries. He just didn't do kitty cries. Everyone was looking at him expectantly, though, and he sighed in defeat. "…Nyaaa." And now just about everyone, Iroha included, was cracking up at Kiyoteru's poor, deadpan attempt at mimicking her.

Miki's main reaction to this whole situation was curiosity. "…Is this a personal learning experience for you and Iroha, sir?"

Kiyoteru soon found himself laughing along with the others, slowly becoming used to being the center of such lighthearted attention. "Yes, that's one way to put it."
Crossposted from ff.net. Why did I suddenly shift over to romance fics?

Pairing: Iroha x Kiyoteru (in a casual, could-become-serious-later sort of way)
Secondary Characters: Meiko, Kaiko, numerous other minor appearances
Rating: T
Warnings: Alcohol use (somewhat neutral view - the act itself isn't really presented as bad or good, but the timing of it is bad), rare but moderately strong language. Rated T to play it safe.
Other notes: Oneshot fic. Iroha is portrayed as a young adult. Kaiko makes an appearance as Kaito's younger sister, while Rin and Len are shown as twins. All characters are portrayed as singers/actors that are aware of their fame and fandom, and as ridiculously humanlike androids that do make use of things like food.
Disclaimer: I do not own any Vocaloids, nor do I own the fancharacters Neru Akita and Kaiko, nor the franchise Hello Kitty, and not even the actual song that's very briefly mentioned in this story (Akuno-P's Repulsive Food Eater Conchita).
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