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A Simple Case of Mistaken Identity

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Francis noticed first.

After all, Matthew didn't normally sit in the back seat and make airplane noises.

When he looked in the rearview mirror, he had to fight not to swerve in shock. The child he had hurriedly and gratefully strapped into Matthew's car seat was most assuredly not Matthew.

He came to a red light and brought the car to a stop, taking the opportunity to study the child he'd mistaken for Matthew. Now that he looked closer, he couldn't believe he'd made the mistake. The child's hair was shorter than Matthew's, a little darker blond, though superficially there were some similarities and their styles of glasses were nearly identical. He'd been so frantic when he'd realized Matthew wasn't with him that he'd just grabbed the first blond child he'd spotted wandering alone, sure it must be Matthew.

Obviously not.

The light turned green and Francis ignored it, letting it run through another cycle as panic gripped his stomach. Matthew must still be alone at the market. He was a smart, level-headed boy, but even so he was sure to be frightened if he realized that Francis had left without him.

And then there was the matter of this child's parents, though Francis couldn't think much of them if they let their child wander freely where anything might happen.

"Er," the traffic light had turned red again. "What's your name?"

The boy looked up, eyes bright and unafraid. "Alfred. Am I being kidnapped?"

Francis started looking for a place to turn around.

~*~

Alfred was being unusually quiet, and Arthur was starting to worry he might be sick. The wandering off in public places was distressingly normal for Alfred, but the meekness after Arthur found him again was not. Maybe some of the scolding had actually sunk in this time.

As he helped boost Alfred up into his car seat, he frowned. Alfred had a backpack on shaped like a white teddy bear that Arthur had certainly never seen before. "Alfred Fitzgerald Kirkland, where did you get this?" Arthur did not need the headache that would come if Alfred had stolen it, either accidentally or on purpose.

The boy froze for a moment, then turned to plop into the car seat and stare at Arthur with surprisingly violet eyes. His voice was quiet, but Arthur heard him even over the sudden frantic pounding of his heart.

"His name is Kumajiro, and my papa gave him to me."

And then he burst into tears.

~*~

Meanwhile, Francis was trying to figure out how he had ever mistaken Alfred for Matthew. The child would not shut up, and Francis was beginning to feel like a fool for making such an enormous mistake. At least Alfred didn't seem terribly frightened, and actually thought it all a grand adventure.

And on the other hand, by the time they turned back into the market parking lot Francis had just about convinced himself that perhaps Alfred had an attractive single mother. He wasn't really paying attention to Alfred's chatter, he'd stopped about the time he started talking about how cool it would be to be kidnapped by aliens.

So when Alfred shrieked "There's my dad!" at the top of his lungs, Francis nearly swerved and hit the man who was standing at the back of a row of cars, looking vaguely constipated.

"Alfred!" Francis snapped a bit more sharply than he meant to, turning into an empty parking space nearby and trying to get his heart rate under control. It didn't seem to have much effect on Alfred though, he was already trying to get himself unbuckled. Hurriedly Francis parked the car and shut it off, then got out to open the door for Alfred. The boy was off like a shot as soon as his feet touched the pavement, and Francis was right behind him. He could almost forgive that Alfred's father was not a beautiful young woman, as long as he had Matthew safe and sound.

"Dad!"

The man spun around, and the look of relief on his face was palpable as Alfred hit him in the knees. He immediately crouched, wrapping his arms around his son and hugging him close for a long moment. Only afterward did he look up at Francis, who was looking around in clear agitation.

"Francis Bonnefoy," he said, beginning to frown at the lack of his own small son in sight. "Do you have my Matthew?"

Alfred's father looked very uncomfortable suddenly, but nodded. "Arthur Kirkland. Your boy is in my car, I thought he'd be safer there. He was, er, slightly upset..."

"You left him alone and crying?" Francis whirled on the other man, only stopped from doing something drastic by the fact that Alfred was still in the other man's arms. "You will take me to him, now."

Arthur bristled, scowling at Francis' harsh tone, but just nodded curtly and turned to carry Alfred between the cars, Francis right on his heels. He dug out his keys, opening the locks to the modest blue sedan. A moment later Francis was squeezing around him in the narrow space between the cars, jostling Alfred and making his father squawk indignantly at the knocking of knees and thighs. Then Francis was past, and yanking open the back door to lean inside.

"Mathieu, mon chaton, it's alright. Papa's here."

Arthur glared at Francis' back for a moment, then realized it was doing no good and turned his attention back to Alfred with a disgruntled sigh. "Are you alright, lad?"

Alfred nodded, beaming. "He thought I was his kid, and he drove a lot faster than you, dad. It was fun!"

A soft sniffle heralded the arrival of Matthew, being lifted out of the car by his own father and half-hiding behind the bear backpack that he was holding clutched like a regular stuffed animal. "I didn't think so," his voice was soft but clear. "It was scary."

Alfred looked surprised, twisting in his father's arms to look over at Matthew. "Wait, I know you! You're in my class at school! You thought my dad was scary?"

Wordlessly, Matthew put his hand up over his own eyebrow to mimic Arthur's somewhat... thicker style. Alfred looked up at Arthur, then broke into peels of laughter. After a moment Francis joined in, and even Arthur relaxed enough to smile, just glad that both boys were alright and safe now.

"Maybe this will teach you both not to wander off," Francis said gently once his laughter had died down. He hugged Matthew a little closer, and Matthew nodded immediately.

"That goes double for you," Arthur eyeballed his own son, who didn't look nearly so apologetic. "Maybe next time I won't wait for you to come back."

"Dad," Alfred looked more pouty than truly frightened, perhaps knowing just how untrue Arthur's words were. "No fair!"

Arthur rolled his eyes a little, then looked over at the Bonnefoys again. "Well, at least that's settled then." He coughed a bit, suddenly feeling a bit awkward. It wasn't every day you ran into attractive men in the market because you'd accidentally kidnapped their child.

(And though he really had no reason to look, Arthur had already noticed the lack of a ring of any kind on Francis' hands. That didn't rule out a girlfriend or anything like that, but...)

Firmly, he shook those thoughts aside. "Thank you for returning Alfred," he said, a bit more brusquely than he meant to. "But we should really go."

"Wait!" Alfred yelled suddenly, making all of them pause. He was patting down the pockets of his jacket, starting to look more and more concerned. "My airplane's gone. I might've left it in the other car."

"You know," Francis spoke up, catching Arthur's attention. "I wouldn't mind if Alfred wanted to come over to play for a little while. Would you like that, Mathieu?"

Matthew nodded eagerly, smiling. Arthur thought about the piles of editorial work sitting on his desk at home, and how much easier it would be to make some real progress if he didn't have to stop every ten minutes because Alfred wanted to show him something. He'd made a conscious decision to work from home after Elaine left, not wanting Alfred to grow up alone with a distant father. But it was very hard sometimes to balance work with his rambunctious son. "...What do you think, Alfred?"

"Can I please, dad?" Alfred was giving him those big blue puppy eyes of his, which pretty much settled it. Arthur caved.

"Alright. What's your address then, Bonnefoy? I'll pick him up before dinner."

"Nonsense," Francis said smoothly, startling Arthur. "I'll make dinner enough for all of us."

Matthew and Alfred seemed so excited that Arthur couldn't even find it in himself to protest, though he could feel his cheeks growing rather warm. From the canny look Francis gave him, he was sure the other man could see him blushing, which only made him blush all the harder.

It looked like it was shaping up to be a very interesting evening.