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Fears, Tell Me Fears

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He met him in a club. 

He was tall, inches above Klaus, with a strong jaw and piercing blue eyes, brown hair (Klaus was always a sucker for brunettes) and light stubble across his jaw. He gave the impression that he shouldn't be in the same kind of club as Klaus, and yet there he was, and he was making a lot of eye contact with him, too.

They danced. He had bought him a drink and, surprisingly, tried to speak to him. Hadn't shoved him towards the bathroom with wandering hands like so many men do, but had spoke with him in a quiet corner of the club. It made his looks and his touches more intimate rather than sexual. They had slept together and he had been so intent on making Klaus feel good, so caring, so gentle. They had smoked a joint together in the afterglow and he had let Klaus stay the night and tried to convince him to stay for breakfast, but that was going too fast. He had told Klaus to remember his address and told him where he worked and to pop by some time.

He had been funny. He cooked great food and he didn’t turn him away when they slept together and he woke up yelling, had taken him out to multiple restaurants, taken him to clubs, drank and pretended not to notice when Klaus popped something into his mouth, and he liked to dance as much as Klaus did. He hadn’t been sure what their little thing was, for nothing official had ever been said by either of them, but it had bumped up a level when he caught Klaus sleeping on a street one night. He had taken him back to his apartment, made him shower and given him some clean clothes, and coaxed Klaus into talking. He knew, then, about the homelessness and the drug addiction soon followed, quickly opening the topic about the Umbrella Academy and his powers. And he had understood.

Klaus had never felt so incredible than when he had said that he understood. Ben might not like the way he was fine with Klaus doing drugs, but Klaus knew that there was nothing else he could do. Drugs were his best option, and now he could use them with someone there to support him and watch him safely.

He let Klaus move in and they become something official. Something more than he had ever head. Something that Klaus was scared of but all too eager to jump into. He had a roof over his head and support, someone who saw him as something other than a night of fun or a source of money. It was great.

That was then. Things changed, as things always do.

Not the support and the love, of course. That stayed, because love wasn’t something you just stopped being in, stopped feeling. Klaus just understood him a little better.

It was a little under a year since they had met.

Klaus wakes up in bed. His eyelids feel heavy, almost stiff, and he’s reminded of the fatigue that always comes with taking ecstasy. But the bed is warm and comforting beneath him, soft, the duvet over his body thick and heavy, that perfect pressure comforting on his body. The curtains are open ever so slightly to let morning light filter in. There’s an arm over his torso.

“Mornin’,” grumbles a voice heavy and thick with remnants of sleep. Klaus’ eyes slip closed and a smile adorns his face. The bed dips as he comes closer, chest pressing against his back, nose nuzzling the back of his neck.

“Good morning,” Klaus returns. The arm around his torso tightens, coaxing Klaus to shuffle back slightly, pressing his back to Ross’ chest. Ross splays his hand out across his stomach, curls his head in the crook of Klaus’ neck.

“Sleep well?”

“Mhmm,” he hums. Ross chuckles, his head dipping down so his lips can catch his skin. His hand runs up and down his stomach absentmindedly, fingertips tracing the curve of his ribs as they expand with each breath. For a while they simply lay there, breathing in the morning and waking up. As is tradition, Ross moves first.

“I’m feeling breakfast,” he grunts, sitting upwards. “Go shower or something, I’ll make something.” He groans, stretching, and Klaus cracks his eyes open to watch as he slides off the bed, fair skin rippling over muscles as he fumbles to find some underwear and half-heartedly shove it on. He lingers by Klaus’ side of the bed for a moment before coming closer, leaning down and placing a hand on his cheek. Klaus smiles, pulling a hand free from his covers to rest it over his.

“I don’t know how you can look so good first thing in the morning,” Ross mutters, shaking his head. He ducks his head to catch his lips and Klaus melts forwards. The past couple weeks had been stressful for Ross with a change in his job, and therefore Ross had been stressed as well. It’s nice to see the affectionate side of him return and it feels as if the ribbon tied around his ribs has loosened slightly. He reluctantly pulls away, messing Klaus’ hair up before slipping out of the room. A minute later and Klaus hears the coffee machine in the kitchen start to buzz.

Slowly he picks himself up off the bed. His muscles ache distantly, pleasantly so, and he stretches his arms up above his head, hearing satisfying cracks and pops. He plucks the bedsheets off himself, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, feet planting firmly on the ground.

His apartment is nice. Leagues above the places Klaus used to frequent prior to their relationship and in a nicer street, too. It’s a two bedroom apartment, with a joint kitchen and living room. The living room has floor to ceiling windows, as does the wall to the left side of the bed in the bedroom. Ross likes the place to be somewhat clean, and the place isn’t overly colourful; a matching mix of greys and whites and light blues mostly, with a splash of emerald green or ruby red here and there. The second bedroom had been transformed into a study for him and his work, his little sanctuary for when he got stressed and needed time alone, away from Klaus but in his own home. The kitchen’s always well stocked and there always seems to be natural light drifting in through the windows – the bedroom windows gets the early morning light, a soft, heavenly glow to awake to. They’re on one of the higher floors, too, so that Klaus can peer down at the people walking on the streets below and see them as little ants.

The bathroom is next to the bedroom, with a bathtub with a shower head and a large window by it that Klaus has found himself pressed against and hoping that no one looks up. There’s a painting of a lighthouse above the toilet and grey-blue towels to match his theme throughout the house. Klaus pads into the bathroom with a pair of sweatpants generously bought for him by Ross draped over his arm, and he sets it on the radiator to warm up as he reaches into the bathtub to turn on the shower and let the water warm.

As he waits, his eyes catch the mirror hanging above the sink, and he eyes himself in it. Milky skin nearly blends in with the porcelain bathtub, his dark hair a stark contrast. He still has some makeup smudged around his eyes – dark purple eyeshadow. The insides of his elbows have old and new ivory scars from needles, and his wrists have bruises on them. There are fingerprints on his hips and he traces them almost fondly, and then he turns and steps inside the shower.

Ben doesn’t like Ross. He used to, back in the beginning, back before they lived together. Now he voices his hatred of him at any and every opportunity unless it looks as if Klaus might cry because of it. Klaus doesn’t understand. Compared to the man he had stayed with for a week who had tried to murder him in his sleep twice, Ross is nothing short of a saint. The drug dealers he had slept with were way worse. The strangers Klaus can’t even remember but knows for a fact that he had mixed with were worse. Ross is marriage material.

He towels himself off from his shower before throwing on the sweatpants that hang low on his hips, gives his hair one last towel off and throws it aside in the washing basket. He finds Ross in the kitchen, standing in front of the stove. He smells bacon. He gravitates to him and curls his arms around his waist, resting his head on the back of his shoulders.

“Good to see you too,” Ross comments, twisting his neck slightly to try and catch a glimpse of him.

“Smells good,” Klaus replies, lifting his head to peer at the stove.

“You know I’m a good cook,” states Ross. Klaus hums.

“Of course I do.” His head bobs in a soft nod. Klaus presses a chaste kiss to his shoulder before slipping away. “Can I make some tea?” He asks, hands hovering over the cupboard storing the cups.

“Hm? Oh, yeah, yeah,” Ross waves his hand dismissively at him, attention on the sizzling bacon in front of him. Klaus pulls down a cup.

“Do you want one?”

“I have a coffee.” He tips his head to the steaming mug to his right and Klaus hums in acknowledgement. He boils the kettle, sets a tea bag into the cup and follows it with a teaspoon of sugar. His fingers drum over the countertop as the kettle boils, and when it’s finally made he takes it to the round dining table, crossing one leg over the other and cupping his hands around the warm mug, blowing gently across its steaming surface.

His mind is still pleasantly fuzzy from the remnants of his high, letting time slip from his fingertips only to be pulled back to reality by a hand on his shoulder and a plate sliding in front of him. Ross is used to working around his moments like these, used to Klaus’ highs and after-highs. If they’re bad, Ross is especially gentle around him, and it’s always pleasant. For once Klaus can sit back and let someone else take the wheel and take care of all the important things in life for him. And Ross seems just as happy to take care of everything else so long as Klaus lets him.

“Eat before it gets cold, Klaus,” he tells him, nudging him beneath the table. Klaus hums, sips his tea and then sets it down.

Ross is a good cook. He works as a chef in a restaurant, and Klaus gets a taste of his culinary skills daily. It’s one of his passions and Klaus loves to see the way he acts when he gets to dish out a new recipe, the way his eyes light up with praise.

Klaus picks at his food until his plate is finished and he takes it to the sink, setting it inside and running the hot water. Ross sets a hand on the small of his back, other hand holding out his plate. “I’m gonna go get dressed quickly,” he says, and rewards Klaus with a kiss on the cheek when he takes his plate to clean it.

“Mind if I lock the door?” He asks upon his return, dressed in his uniform and throwing his coat on. Klaus glances at him over his shoulder and turns the water off. He shrugs. It was dark and dreary when he peered out the window anyway, so he doesn’t see why there’s a reason he would need to leave.

“I don’t mind,” he says. Ross nods, hurries close to settle a hand on his hip and catch his bottom lip between his. When he pulls back, he rests a hand over his cheek and Klaus tilts his hand into it.

“I’ll be back later. Call if you need anything.” And with that, he takes his leave for work. Klaus hears the door lock. Ben doesn’t like the fact that he locks Klaus in. Klaus doesn’t care. There’s no reason for him to be outside, and it’s not as if Ross locks him in the apartment every day.

“Did you ask about that spare key?” Ben asks, as he’s prone to. He doesn’t talk much when Ross is around.

“Not yet. You know he’s been busy.” Ben huffs his acknowledgement.

“I know,” he mutters. Finished with the two plates, Klaus returns to the living room. There’s a little box sitting on the coffee table and he reaches inside, pulling out a lighter and a pre-made joint which props between his lips as he lights it.

He doesn’t need to leave the house when everything he needs is here. Occasionally Ross will smoke with him, but he never does anything more than weed. There’s a drawer in their bedroom that holds the drugs that give Klaus a real high, though, when he needs to chase away the ghosts or the itch in his veins.

Ross once said he likes to see him high. Said he’s like some over excited, docile puppy. He’s always desperate for touch when he’s high, in whatever way he can get it, and Ross likes to chuckle when Klaus lays himself over his lap and moans when fingers run through his hair.

Unless he had been going out with the intent to get high and to party, the highs Klaus had were never overly intense. Not as he built up his tolerance, anyway. When he first started they had been, and the heavier drugs still do whether he wants them to or not, but typically he didn’t take them for that limb-shaking, jaw-grinding, mind-melting, lay-on-the-floor-for-six-hours-because-it-feels-like-heaven, blink-and-he’s-suddenly-in-a-field-and-there’s-no-fields-in-a-city kind of high.

He’d once hung out with a group of people and taken something he thought he knew about, but woke up half way across the city two days later with no recollection of anything and with completely different people. So he had gravitated away from high-high’s, despite the enjoyable ride. That is until he knew he could be safe around Ross, have someone to make sure he doesn’t chew up the inside of his cheeks and keeps him in the same place and complies with whatever high-Klaus wants, whether it’s ridiculous food cravings or scalding baths or scalp massages or sex or tight, restraining hugs beneath seven heavy blankets.

Ben doesn’t like it. Klaus, of course, does. He gets the high out of his highs again and gets to be told that someone loves him.

He smokes one joint out and flicks the remaining butt out of a window, letting it drop on the head of someone unfortunate enough to be walking on the street below at the wrong time, and then he closes the window and turns on the television instead.

“Maybe we should travel,” Ben says, settled on an adjacent armchair.

“Where would we even go?” Klaus asks. “We’ve not left the city. Like, at all.”

Ben shrugs. “Wherever. Could try Europe. Asia.”

“Ghost Bro’s world tour?” Klaus questions. Ben scoffs, a rare smile tilting his lips upwards. “I mean, it’d be nice. Get out of this shitty rat-hole for a while. I don’t think it’s in our budget.”

“What is in our budget?” Ben asks.

“Meth.” Upon the look he receives, Klaus snickers, a small smirk stealing his lips. He picks at a thread in his sweatpants. “Ah, I kid, I kid. But meth is in our budget.” He rises to his feet, slipping into the bedroom and sliding open a certain drawer and eying the contents. His fingers dance over his options before settling on one small bag of which he plucks into his grasp and carries gently into the kitchen. He crushes the contents slightly with a rolling pin, pulls a glass down from the cupboard and then eyes the fridge’s contents. He finds a can of redbull, pours it into the cup, and then he opens the baggie and pours some of it out slowly, weighing out the perfect amount. Then he brushes it into his glass of redbull and swirls it, watching the little crystals and dust dissolve as he returns the bag to its place in the drawer.

“So early in the morning,” Ben chastises. “You never thought of having orange juice or something? Start your day with a jog?”

“Why would I do that when I can exercise my mind?” He retorts, taking a sip. “It passes time. Don’t be so bitter; you’d love it, I’m sure.”

Ben snorts. “I don’t think so,” he replies with a roll of his eyes. Klaus simply grins in return and sips it, pacing himself slowly until his head feels fuzzy and the cup is eventually empty. He sets it down and sprawls out on the couch. He has a moment to think about turning the television on and turning it to the music channel to fill the silence of the apartment, and then he closes his eyes and lets himself feel as if he’s falling through the couch.

 

 

The door creaks open. Klaus, still ever so slightly high and prolonging it with the occasional joint and perhaps sticking a wet finger into the bag of finely crushed crystals to rub a little extra into his gums (occasionally he gets the feeling of the high wearing off when it isn’t, and it always strikes such depression into him and not even in fear of the ghosts returning but in fear of not feeling so great) lifts his head off the couch cushions, blinking wide eyes.

“Hey there, darling,” greets Ross, closing and locking the door behind him. He sets his bag aside, kicks off his shoes and hangs up his coat. Klaus grins.

“Welcome home,” he returns. Ross flicks the lights on with a raised eyebrow and then he comes close, crouching in front of Klaus and taking his face in his hands.

“So high already, babe,” he comments, brushing a thumb over his cheekbone. Klaus snickers.

“Yeah… I am,” he murmurs, pulling a hand free from its place pinned between his stomach and the couch cushions so he reach out and touch Ross’ hand.

“Have you eaten anything since breakfast?” He asks, letting go of Klaus and drifting to the bedroom where he knows he’s changing out of his uniform. Klaus rests his head back down.

“Mmm… had a snack. Didn’t trust myself to cook like this,” he states. Ross laughs softly, hearty and deep, and he reappears from the bedroom in sweatpants and a loose shirt.

“Smart idea,” he replies. Klaus laughs slightly, nodding his head. “I’ll cook something later for us, I didn’t have dinner there.”

“Gotta keep that shape, love,” Klaus murmurs. Ross snorts, and then a hand nudges him gently, then hooks under him to lift his upper body so that Ross can slide into the space and lay Klaus out across his lap instead. His fingers run through his hair in a way that makes a shiver run down Klaus’ spine. He turns his head to rest his forehead against his stomach and listens to Ross flick through channels on the television. “How’s work?” He asks, peering up at him. Ross spares a quick glance at him.

“It was fine. Pretty busy for a Monday if you ask me, honestly, I thought they’d make me work overtime. Knew I had to get back to my little lap puppy, though,” Ross says. Klaus’ eyebrows furrow.

“We don’t have a puppy,” he mumbles.

“I’m talking about you, silly.”

Klaus pauses. “Oh.” Considering their current position, Klaus can’t object. Ross laughs.

“You know I love you, hm?” His free hand runs down Klaus’ arm, ghosting over places where they both know were, at one point, blossoming with bruises. A shiver runs down Klaus’ spine. He picks Klaus’ hand up and brings his bruised wrist to his lips.

“I know,” he says. Ross interlaces their fingers together.

They sit like that for a while. Klaus rides his high out pleasantly, hardly moving an inch from his place sprawled out across the couch and Ross’ lap, and Ross watches the television while playing with his hair. Eventually, he peels them apart, going to cook them something in the kitchen. Klaus turns so he can see the television with this moment of clarity in his high, arms wrapped around himself.

He doesn’t know what channel it’s on. He hardly processes the words being said, not until Ben waves his hand in his face and points at the television. He rubs his eyes, scrutinising the screen.

Eccentric billionaire and creator of the Umbrella Academy, Reginald Hargreeves, passed away last night…

“Oh,” breathes Klaus, sitting up slightly. It shows a picture of Reginald next to a picture of him with all of them (sans Vanya) on one of their missions as kids. “Oh, shit. Shit.

“You alright Klaus?” Calls Ross from the kitchen. He hears him set something down on the counter before his footsteps come close.

“My dad’s dead,” Klaus says, clawing back some sobriety, enough to think about it in a quick second. Ross stands behind the couch, reaching out a hand to set on his shoulder, looking for his own words of comfort. Klaus just reaches a hand up to take his, eyes fixated on the screen.

Chapter Text

“I… ah, fuck, I might have to go home,” Klaus sighs, hands scrubbing down his face. Ross comes around the couch to sit beside him, hands coaxing Klaus into his side. He wraps an arm around his shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” he offers. Klaus huffs out a breath, closing his eyes and melting into his side. He feels too high to deal with this. He had been perfectly content to melt into Ross and be fed some gourmet meal.

“Good riddance,” he mutters. “They’ll expect me to go, though,” he says. Ross hums, fingers twirling the short strands of hair by the nape of his neck.

“It’s your family, you ought to go,” he tells him. Klaus sighs.

“You’re not supposed to agree with that,” he says jokingly. Ross chuckles softly, squeezing his arm.

“At least have some dinner before you go, you’ve not eaten.” Klaus hums, nodding, and Ross stands up. “Go watch the stove and just stir the chicken, okay? I’ll go get you some clothes.” He kisses his cheek and Klaus mourns his loss when he drifts into their bedroom, but he forces himself to his own feet, trudging into the kitchen where he stands in front of the stove and the sizzling chicken. He picks up a spoon and begins to stir the little pieces, keeping them from burning. He can do this, even if it feels as there are weights tied to his shoulders coaxing him to just lay on the floor.

Ross’ hands slide over Klaus’, guiding his hand to stir the chicken. He startles slightly, cheeks heating up. Ross just laughs softly, setting his other hand on his hip, fingertips prying beneath the waistband of his sweatpants, ghosting over his hips. “Can’t trust you to stir some chicken, can I?” He murmurs. Klaus leans back into him.

“Sorry,” he utters. Ross laughs.

“I’m joking,” he dismisses, keeping their hands together while peppering his neck in kisses. “I ought to teach you how to cook yourself something.”

“I’m never that hungry, though,” Klaus replies, eying the chicken in front of him. He eats because he knows he has to and because it tastes amazing, but he’s never overly hungry with his drugs. He’s hardly coherent enough to cook a proper meal, either. Admittedly most of his days are spent lounging around the apartment utterly wrecked, occasionally cleaning or drawing or watching movies, and when Ross is home he’s clinging to him like a koala. It’s a dream life as far as he’s concerned. Occasionally, Ross tells him not to get so high and they go out at nights, go out for dinner in a restaurant or go out to dance in a club, and when his stash is running slow then he goes out with a handful of cash to top it up.

“I know, I know, but you still have to eat,” Ross hums. Klaus lets his eyes close, melting into Ross’ chest, strapped in with his arm around his waist, stealing the warmth emanating from him. After a moment Ross reaches around to turn the stove off, lets go of the spoon still loosely held in Klaus’ grasp, and then he turns Klaus around. Klaus’ hands reach up, clasping over his shoulders.

“We should go out dancing again,” Klaus muses, blinking lethargically at Ross when he brings up a hand to lift his head up.

“Yeah, we should,” he agrees, bobbing his head. “I know you like to dance.”

“It’s fun.” Klaus offers him a lazy grin, swaying his hips. Ross laughs, pulls him flush to his chest and guides him, swaying, out of the kitchen.

“I pulled out some clothes for you,” he says, tipping his head to the coffee table. Klaus lets his arms fall so he can drift over, picking one piece of the outfit up. A long black skirt, a flowy one that ends just below his knees, and a deep blue, near black sweater with flowing sleeves and that is shorter in the front than the back.

“Skirt to a funeral,” Klaus muses. “Is that appropriate?” He offers him a grin, holding it against his hips, and Ross comes closer.

“You look good in it, though,” he states. “Beautiful.” He looks Klaus up and down and then nods, and Klaus takes the hint to shimmy out of his sweatpants and pull the skirt on instead. Ross grins at him, setting his hands on his hips and pulling him close once more, hands ascending, travelling the naked skin of his waist and his back. Klaus laughs when they stagger back so that Ross falls onto the couch and Klaus follows, tumbling forwards and sitting on his lap, skirt flared out over their legs. He presses their chests together, ducking his head to kiss his neck, trailing his lips along the underside of his jaw. Ross tangles a hand in his hair, keeping him flush against him. He tugs his hair slightly, enough to make him sigh. He trails his lips up to Ross’, catching them in a hungry kiss, quick and breath.

“We’ll never have dinner at this rate,” Ross murmurs.

“Don’t care,” Klaus replies. “Please.”

“So needy,” laughs Ross, grabbing a hold of his jaw and tilting it down to look him in the eyes. “Damn happy for someone whose dad just died.”

“Fuck him. You’re really going to ruin the mood with that.” Klaus tilts his head into his hand. Ross snorts but Klaus finds himself laying on his back, one hand clasped in Ross’ and pinned between their chests.

 

 

“Do you want me to come with you?”

Klaus eyes the small plate of noodles in front of him, twirling some around the fork in his grasp. “Do I want you to? Of course,” he says, nudging his thigh next to his. “But my family’s a mess. They’d say all kinds of shit about you,” he sighs.

“I’ll drive you there,” Ross says.

“I’d like that,” Klaus hums. He stabs a piece of chicken and deposits it in his mouth, chewing heavily. Eventually he sighs and stands up, taking his plate into the kitchen. He’s not entirely sure going to the funeral is the best idea. He knows that his high still has hours to it and all he wants is to sit in the bathtub and be hugged beneath a scalding spray of water. He hadn’t anticipated that he’d need to actually be functional tonight. He groans, scrubbing a hand down his face and leaning on the counter.

Ross comes to his side, hand hot and heavy on the small of his back. “What’s up?”

“I’m fucked,” he snorts. “Like, fucked. Christ.” He rubs his eyes, leaning into his side. Ross chuckles softly, nose nudging the back of his head.

“You’ll be alright,” he says. “Come on, grab a coat.”

Klaus forces himself to nod, rubbing his eyes. He squeezes his arm before looking around, spotting his coat and pulling it on. He wraps it tightly around himself and then goes for his shoes, shoving his feet into a pair of boots. Ross comes back with a phone, slipping it into Klaus’ hand.

“You need me, phone me,” he tells him. “If you’re staying there for the night, phone me before nine, okay?” Klaus nods.

“Yeah, yeah, I will. I promise,” Klaus offers softly, taking the phone and slipping it into his pocket. It’s an old, cheap thing – Klaus has never had a phone before and never uses it much anyway, for it only has Ross’ number and the numbers of his dealers. Klaus doesn’t actually know where the phone stays when Ross hasn’t given it to him. 

“Good,” says Ross, and he looks Klaus up and down, fixes the collar of his coat, and then kisses him. “Let’s go.”

He leads the way outside, an arm tight around Klaus’ waist to keep him upright as they descended the stairs. Cool air hits his face, followed quickly by odd drops of rain. Klaus turns his face into it, taking in a deep breath before following Ross to his car.

“How long has it been since you last saw them all?” He asks as they drive. Klaus hums thoughtfully, rolling his head towards him.

“Oh, God… must’ve been years. Diego was just over a year, I guess? We were the closest. Ben’s fuckin’ there all the time,” he snorts, sparing him a glance in the rear view mirror. Ben doesn’t even look at him. “Luther, Allison and Vanya… years. We’re not a close family. There’s probably gonna be a fist fight,” he states. Ross snorts.

“Try not to get involved in that,” he says. Klaus snickers.

“I can’t promise anything.”

“Klaus.” He sits up a little at the tone in his voice, smile faltering.

“I’m joking,” he says, reaching out to place a hand on his thigh. “I won’t.”

Ross glances briefly at him. “Good,” he utters. He doesn’t touch Klaus’ hand and he reluctantly pulls it back onto his own lap, fiddling with a thread in his jacket. He falls silent, letting his high steal his mind, and when he blinks the car’s at a stop in front of the Academy and Ross is opening his door. He fumbles to take off his seatbelt and clamber out of the car, almost tripping over his own feet before Ross catches him. He walks him up the street and in front of the gates of the Academy, where they come to a pause.

“Don’t get yourself into trouble,” Ross tells him, fixing his sleeves and his coat, then reaching a hand up to push his hair back from his face. “You’ll sober up and be alright. Don’t stress out, phone me if you need anything, and check in with me before nine, okay?”

Klaus nods, patting his pocket to ensure that he can feel his phone there. “I will, I promise,” he says. Ross smiles approvingly, and pulls him close, crushing the tension that had grown in the car between the two of them in a tight embrace. Klaus is eager to return it, curling his hands into his coat and burying his face into his neck.

“I love you,” Klaus murmurs, eyes screwed shut. “Thank you for driving me.”

“What kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t?” Ross snorts, but tips his head to the side to kiss his cheek. His hands go up, cupping his cheeks and coaxing Klaus’ eyes to open. He studies his blown pupils, thumbs running over his cheekbones. “We’ll rest tomorrow,” he murmurs, and Klaus knows that rest is just another word for Klaus to get high as Heaven and to lose three hours in the blink of an eye to Ross’ hand in his hair.

“I look forwards to it,” Klaus grins, and he swoops forwards to catch his lips again in a quick kiss. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Ross says, a breath whispered against his lips, and Klaus frowns when he eventually steps back. “Let me know if I’m seeing you tonight or tomorrow, yeah? And,” he says, reaching a hand into his pockets. He pulls out a small pair of sunglasses, unfolding them and sliding them onto his face. “Here. Try and stave off an argument, huh? Stay safe.” He squeezes his hand and Klaus nods, watching him retreat back into his car. He offers a wave as he drives away, and then he turns towards the Academy. Ben mutters beneath his breath, focusing more on the Academy than Klaus.

It towers above him. It feels unfamiliar and unwelcoming, trying to ward him away. He forces himself to walk up to the door before he blinks away an hour standing on the street. The doors are unlocked, large and heavy against his hands. He steps inside, footsteps quiet on the marble floor. It feels no more home than it ever had felt. He can see coats hung up inside, no longer Academy blazers, no children left in these empty rooms, no signs that children ever had been here. Klaus thinks that there never had been children here. They never had a chance to be children.

He doesn’t see anyone yet, and so he wanders around. He arrived earlier than he might have had he come by himself. Luther’s probably here already – he never left, so of course he’s here. He can’t guess when the others would arrive.

He wanders the hall for a moment, eying the trophy cases and the portraits, the pristine floor and walls, the hanging chandelier. The marble patterns swirl beneath his feet and he feels as if he could crouch down and dip his fingers in it like water and stir it.

The doors open behind him. He lifts his head from the floor, turning around to watch the doors open. Allison steps inside, taking down an umbrella as she does so and then peeling off her coat. She startles when she sees Klaus standing there and then offers a hesitant smile.

“The Allison Hargreeves?” Klaus gasps, hands limp over his chest. “Can I get an autograph?” A grip spreads his lips and he comes close, arms open. Her lips twitch upwards and when he brings her into a tight hug she takes a moment to return it.

“Hey, Klaus,” she greets, pulling back with her hands on his shoulders to look him up and down. “It’s good to see you again. How have you been? You look a little pale,” she states. Klaus smiles, waving a hand.

“Ugh, migraine I’m afraid. I fear I might be coming down with something,” he lies. “But nothing more than a little chill, don’t you worry. But what about you? Come, I’m dying to look around again – you think the old man’s office will be open? We hardly got to see inside, and I’m dying to know what dirty secrets he has in that huge desk of his.” He coaxes her towards the stairs, linking their arms. Allison snorts.

“I’ve been… better, I guess,” she says.

“Oh? How come? What’s wrong?” He asks. He reaches his hand up to rub at his jaw, throwing a glance around the place. They ascended the stairs, footsteps echoing loudly, and it felt thoroughly weird to be back. He could hardly process being back, walking in the footsteps of his younger self. He can hear the echo of Reginald’s footsteps, hear the tapping of his cane, his harsh voice barking out commands.

“I’m, uh, still fighting for custody of Claire,” she says, her voice quiet. Klaus stops, turning to face her, head tilted to the side.

“Oh, shit, I’m sorry,” he says, squeezing her arms. “That sucks. But you’re great, Al. I’m sure you’ll get it soon. I’d kill to have you as my mother.” He lies through a smile. Not that he doesn’t love Allison, for he does, but he knows that none of the Academy are exactly perfect people.

“Thanks, Klaus,” she responds softly. “Come on.” She eagerly changes the topic, continuing their way into his office. Klaus thrums with anticipation as they stand in front of two doors that they only ever approached with Grace to say their goodnights to Reginald and never receive so much as a single glance in return. He grits his teeth together and reaches his hands out, twisting the door handles. The doors slide open.

“Oh, shit. Look at that,” he laughs. “The forbidden room. Can’t stop us now, can he?” He nudges Allison with a grin before sliding inside.

There’s trophies and ornaments and portraits everywhere. Some kind of gun set up on the wall next to a trophy and Klaus realises he didn’t know Reginald did things outside of the Academy. Did he have friends? Hobbies? Did he do sports?

His hand ghosts over the infamous desk in his office. He lifts up an ornament. “This? This would look nice at home,” he says to himself, turning it in his hands and holding it up to the light.

“Home?” Echoes Allison, watching Klaus stagger around the desk and fall into Reginald’s chair. He quirks an eyebrow.

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, home,” he nods, kicking his feet up onto the desk, kicking aside a few things that clatter to the floor.

“You have a house?” She asks, eyebrows raised.

“Well, technically it’s my boyfriend’s, but I live there so it’s still my home,” he shrugs. “Think he’d like this?” He holds the little ornament up, looking to Ben.

“Uh, maybe,” Allison says. Ben eyes it.

“Probably not,” he grumbles. Klaus rolls his eyes.

“Who’s this boyfriend then?” Allison asks, shaking her head and leaning against the doorframe. Klaus smiles.

“His name’s Ross,” he says. “Tall, blue eyes, brown hair. He’s a chef.” He nods his head at her with a grin. “I get to kiss the chef.”

Allison laughs softly. “Well, it’s nice to hear that, Klaus,” she says. “Really.”

“Aw, thanks, sis,” he says. “He’d love you.”

“You’ll have to-“

“Allison? Is that you?” Luther’s voice echoes down the hallway. Allison stands up a little straighter. Klaus waves his hand at her.

“Go,” he says. “Mingle with the fam.”

“I’ll see you later,” she says, and leaves him with a lingering smile. He hears her footsteps retreat and hears her talking with Luther, and he takes the moment to peer around the place by himself. He stuffs the ornament into his pocket.

“Where’s your dirty secrets then?” He mutters, eying the desks. Plus, there has to be a stack of inheritance with his name on it somewhere. He opens drawers, sifting through stacks after stacks of paper and files.

There’s a box, looking like it costs more than the amount of money Klaus has spent on drugs. He shakes it, anticipation building as he hears paper thud inside, and he fumbles to find the key to unlock it, flipping open the lid.

Paper, paper, and more paper. Klaus groans, throwing aside all the contents carelessly. He holds the box upside down, shaking it even if it’s empty as if he expects a false back panel to pop off and reveal a million dollars.

“Fucksake,” Klaus moans, tipping his head back and throwing the box aside. The commotion brings the attention of Luther and Allison back, and he sees Luther step inside. Klaus isn’t sure if it’s the drugs making him look so huge.

“Klaus,” Luther greets, tight lipped. Klaus waggles his fingers in his direction.

“Brother.”

“What are you doing in here? This is dad’s office,” he states. Klaus hums, looking around.

“Just paying my respects,” he says with a shrug. “Don’t worry about it.” He pulls his feet off the desk and stands up, making to slide past Luther out the door. Luther blocks him. Klaus stiffens and has to force his head up to look at him. “I’m trying to get out,” he states.

“Drop it,” says Luther.

“Drop what? I’m offended you think I’d-“

“Klaus,” Luther huffs out. Klaus groans, pulling out the ornaments hidden in his pockets and letting them clatter to the ground.

“Empty! Now, let me out.”

Luther raises an eyebrow. Klaus glares at him. He drops the last trophy from his pocket. Allison snorts. “Why’s it so hard for a man to take some decorations to remember his beloved father?” Klaus grumbles, sliding past Luther and trying to ignore the way he remains in the doorway, as if he’s purposefully trying to intimidate him. Or maybe that’s just Klaus.

He leaves them in his wake, skipping down the stairs with one hand gripping the bannister tightly. It’s easier to deal with his high when he’s talking, when he’s forced to remain in the moment, but as he drops down onto the couch by the crackling fireplace in the living room, it’s easier to let everything wash over himself, to stand still while the world continues to move.

“You’re too high for this, Klaus,” Ben utters. Klaus hums. The couch cushions feel fascinating beneath the pads of his fingers.

“You’re probably right,” he breathes. He just longs for Ross to hold him through it, for fingers through his hair. He thinks that the carpet in their bedroom would feel great against his face, especially with Ross’ chest flush against his back. “It’ll wear off,” he dismisses, waving his hands. There’s not much he can do about it now but try and push through it. The sunglasses, though they hide the fact he’s evidently off his face, do nothing to help the need to lay down with his eyes closed, preferably with something heavy pressing down on him, like some weighted blanket.

Diego wanders in. He hears his boots on the floor come close, pausing in the doorway. Klaus waves a hand at him. “Hey there,” he greets.

“Hi, Klaus,” he offers. “Didn’t expect to see you here early.”

“I’m full of surprises,” he says, sitting upright and crossing one leg over the other. “Long time no see.”

“How have you been?” Diego asks, sitting in the armchair by the fire.

“Not bad, not bad. Thriving, if you will,” he says. It feels weird not to have Ross with him. To be out and about, not meeting with his dealer, but alone. It’s both liberating and terrifying. He feels uncertain of himself already, and the drugs making him unsure of where he starts and where he ends don’t help. His tongue feels heavy in his mouth, thick and dry, protesting each time he speaks.

“Really?” He asks.

“Oh, yeah. Thinking about marriage,” he says. Diego’s eyes blow wide.

“What? You’re getting married?”

Klaus snickers, folding his arms across his chest. “Nah, nah. I’m joking. Not yet, anyway,” he says with a laugh. Diego rolls his eyes.

“Idiot,” he scoffs. “Are you dating?”

Klaus hums. “Maybe.”

“Dating-dating or your kind of dating?”

“That right there? That was rude,” Klaus accuses, jabbing his finger in his direction. “Dating-dating, asshole. What about you and that lovely detective lady that arrested me that one time?”

Diego’s cheeks flush warm briefly, his eyes trained on the fire. “Doesn’t matter,” he says. “Have you seen the others?”

“Seen Allison and Luther-“

“Luther’s big.”

Klaus laughs sharply, then muffles it by covering his mouth. “Yeah, he fuckin’ is,” he snickers. “Massive. The moon does wonders for the body, I suppose.”

Diego snorts. “Think this is going to go smoothly?” He asks. Klaus gives him a look.

“That’s a stupid question,” he says. “Of course it’s not. I’m waiting for Luther to deck me any second now.”

Diego shakes his head, lips curled with amusement. “Yeah, you and me both,” he mutters. He hears heels clicking down the stairs at the same time as the doors opened, and Allison’s greeting announces Vanya’s presence.

“Whole family’s here,” he comments. He lifts himself slightly on the chair, fixing his posture, fingers pinching his thigh as if it would sober him up. It wasn’t long after Vanya coming in that everyone filed in, awkwardly lingering around the living room. Klaus itches for a cigarette.

Luther throws a glance around the place. “I guess I should get this started,” he says, rubbing his hands together. Everyone turns to look at him with varying expressions and differing opinions held tightly behind their lips. He begins, of course, with the elephant in the room. “I was thinking we could have a memorial service,” he says. “Say a few words for him in the courtyard at sundown, by his favourite spot, too.”

“He had a favourite spot?” Allison questions. Luther looks around, confusion on his face.

“Yeah. You know, under the oak tree outside. We used to go out there all the time. None of you had that?” He looks genuinely confused and Klaus has to stop himself from laughing. Of course no one else had that.

The drone of Luther’s voice washes over him, an incoherent, careless buzz like radio static. Klaus’ head tips to the side, eyes focused on the dancing flames. If he peers close enough, he thinks he can see people dancing inside of them. No, the flames themselves are dancers; elegant, long-limbed ballerinas performing a show in the fireplace. Klaus had once dated a man who had done ballet. They hadn’t lasted long – a little over three weeks, he thinks – but he’d had great leg muscles.

Klaus.” A hand on his shoulder jolts him back to reality and he snaps his head up.

“Huh? What is it?” He asks, waving away Diego’s hand.

“Are you even listening?” He asks. He looks around the room. There’s a sudden tension in the room that’s grown since he looked away. He’s vaguely surprised to notice Vanya’s sitting next to him.

“Of course,” he scoffs. “Dad’s dead, all that good stuff.”

“Are you high?” Allison asks, scrutinising him.

“I’m insulted you’d think that!” He says, recoiling.

“Take those glasses off, Klaus,” Luther demands. Klaus gives him a look but finds himself doing so without question. He blames the drugs for his compliancy.

“Wouldn’t be able to guess you have irises,” Diego snorts. Klaus rolls his eyes.

“What did you even take?” Luther asks, eying him. Klaus waves a hand.

“Look, look. Listen. This isn’t the important thing. Can we please get back onto the topic of our dear dead dad?” He scoffs. “I’m in the process of sobering up.” He taps his cheeks. They feel electric beneath his fingertips.

“You’re off your face, Klaus,” Diego states. Klaus points at him.

“Maybe so,” he says. “You may have a point. But I counter your point; shut up. It’s not that bad, I solemnly swear I’m basically sober. Can we get back to the point?”

Everyone eyes him for several more moments before sighing and relenting. “Luther thinks one of us killed dad.”

“Oh. Oh, shit,” Klaus scoffs. “Nice to reunite with you too, brother dear.”

“I need you to contact dad, Klaus,” Luther says. “I know you don’t like to do it, but I need you to.”

“Oh, no problem, let me just phone him up in the afterlife,” Klaus says, shaking his head. “It doesn’t work like that, Luther. If he wanted to be seen, he would have been kicking around his office or something. He’s not around. He’s not sticking around me, either; I didn’t murder him. I didn’t come here to be called a murderer, either.” He rises to his feet and waves his hand with GOODBYE scrawled across it. His leave seems to trigger the rest of everyone else, for Diego soon follows him out of the room, followed by Allison and Vanya.

Klaus goes to the kitchen. He slumps in one of the dining seats bonelessly, and for a while he just sits there, eying the table and the grains in the wood beneath his hands.

“So far, so good,” he mutters to Ben, who snorts.

“To be fair, I didn’t expect that,” he says.

“Don’t think any of us did.” He heaves a sigh, digging his hand into his pocket and pulling out his phone. He speed dials the first contact in the phone and holds it up to his ear. It rings to the point that Klaus fears he might not pick up. Eventually it just goes to voice mail and Klaus tucks the phone back into his pocket with a sigh, scrubbing at his eyes. He’s half tempted to just go home and leave before the memorial, but he sticks in.

“Are the windows open?” He grumbles when a draft picks up. He heaves himself to his feet. He had been feeling a draft for a while but it had simply steadily grown to the point where he can’t ignore it anymore, and he can hear a storm brewing outside; rain pelting down on the windows like angry fists, thunder cracking.

“I don’t think it’s just wind,” Ben mutters. Klaus’ eyebrows furrow as he staggers towards the windows only to hear something thud into the wall behind him. He spins around, eyes stuck on the multitude of knives stuck into the kitchen wall where he had just been.

“Oh. Shit,” he breathes. Above the din of the storm, he hears footsteps pounding closer, and his siblings burst in in a group, hurrying to the door. Klaus eyes their backs, peers out the window instead of blindly running into the storm. From the window he can see something that had his siblings not also been staring at, he would assume it was all one huge hallucination.

The air seems to ripple like the surface of water, seems to bend and twist around itself, and then crackles with electricity and glows deep blue. Klaus looks around, grabs the first thing closest to himself, and then runs out.

The fire extinguisher does nothing more than disappear into the void expanding in their courtyard. If anything, it gets more violent, grows more, and he finds himself being pushed behind Luther and Diego as something prods the surface.

Something falls out. Someone falls out.

He didn’t think he was that high. Too high to read the contact list on his phone, yes, but not high enough to do this.

“Five?” Breathes Vanya.

Five, not seen for over a decade and looking exactly the same as the day he had ran away, sits up on the ground and looks at them all. “Shit,” he says.

 

 

He zips around the kitchen as if nothing’s wrong, completely ignoring the crowd of his siblings all watching him with wide eyes. He asks the date and makes himself a sandwich as if he hadn’t eaten in days. He brushes off their questions dismissively, quirks an eyebrow at Klaus, half-dissociated on the kitchen table, who in turn wiggles his fingers at him to prove that, no, he is not as high as he thinks (he is) but he is capable of acknowledging him. He leaves them with the knowledge that he went to the future and that’s all, and then he leaves as if he hadn’t been missing for over a decade – or, according to him, much longer than that, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

The funeral goes as smoothly as one might expect. Ben grimaces when the head of his statue is lost in the scuffle between Diego and Luther that all of them were just waiting for, and Klaus offers unnecessary condolences. He never did like the statue. He remembers Ben’s funeral, and his reaction to the statue being erected. Things were different then, though. Klaus remembers the funeral happening in a mix of hostile words, Five grumbling bitterly, and flying fists. Not that he hadn’t expected much better.

They disperse after the funeral – or, really, after the fight – and Klaus lingers in the hallway. He tries to phone Ross again. He picks up after two rings.

“It’s ten,” says Ross. Klaus sighs.

“I know, I-“

“I wanted to know what was going on an hour ago,” Ross states. “I’ve been worried, Klaus.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Klaus murmurs. He hears footsteps behind him and turns to see Five descending the stairs slowly, and he offers him a wave and a half-hearted grin. “The memorial got delayed a bit, is all. I couldn’t get you earlier.”

“You know I worry about you,” Ross says. Klaus bites his thumbnail. “Especially in the state you left in. I’ve been stressing about you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I just want you to be safe. And you’re so good, usually. When I don’t hear from you, I think things are wrong. What am I supposed to think?”

“I don’t know,” Klaus mumbles.

“I just worry. You know I want the best for you. You know I love you. I need you to be safe for me.”

“I know,” Klaus murmurs. Ross sighs heavily, shuffling over the phone. “I know, I’m sorry. I love you too, I just lost track of time. I, uh, I don’t think I’m staying here tonight,” he says.

“So you need picked up?”

Klaus pauses. “I can get the bus,” he says.

“Don’t be stupid. You don’t have money on you,” Ross points out. Klaus presses his lips together. “I’ll come pick you up.”

“Please,” Klaus offers. “I love you.”

The phone hangs up.

Klaus slips it into his pocket and sighs. Five’s wearing the same look as Ben used to months ago. He turns for the door.

Chapter Text

His car pulls up outside the Academy slowly and Klaus stands on the pavement feet from it. Klaus shifts from foot to foot as he watches it, and then Ross gets out of the car, walks around it, and comes close. Klaus tries to decipher his thoughts by scrutinising his face, but he can’t tell. He opens the passenger’s door and gestures for Klaus to get in. Klaus scurries forwards, fumbling with his seatbelt as Ross comes into the car too. Neither of them say a thing. Ross starts his car up and pulls away from the Academy, letting it fall away behind them. Klaus’ fingers fiddle anxiously in his lap, weighing the pros and cons of being the first to break the silence.

Ross does it.

“Are you coming down?” He asks, peering at him from the corner of his eyes. Klaus licks his lips, eyes bouncing from the window to him and back to the window.

“A bit,” he admits. He can feel reality slowly seep back into his skull, and, admittedly, he hates it. He hates being sober with a passion. It makes him an anxious wreck, unable to keep anything in his cramping stomach, with a permanent migraine and emotions that are even more out of control. Ben told him it’s because he’s not been sober in months. And not clean, he’s not been clean since his last stint in rehab, but sober. Admittedly, he can’t remember when he last was. Months ago. He’s always high these days, the high kind of high, and he’s sure that probably has something to do with the fact that his emotions are out of his control, swinging from each emotion wildly at the littlest of things, and all the little side effects. The fatigue, the anxiety, the difficulty communicating, the need to have someone around him in control. Not that he wants to face those facts.

Ross hums his acknowledgement and doesn’t expand on his thoughts. He parks outside their apartment building and follows Klaus up the stairs, letting them back into the building.

Nothing is said. Klaus lingers, quietly taking his shoes and coat off and watches as Ross sets his keys on the table, hangs his coat up, and goes into the kitchen. He lingers like a child waiting to confess that he'd spilled something over the floor and stained it or broken something of relative importance, fiddling with his hands in place of a teddy bear, shifting from foot to foot, eyes tracking Ross as he busies himself with making a coffee and acting as if Klaus isn't there. He takes his coffee, blows across the surface, then takes a sip. Klaus hates the silence.

"Ross," he begins, voice wavering. Ross shakes his head.

"Not tonight, Klaus," he mutters dismissively. He takes his coffee and he walks past Klaus, around the counter and towards the door to the left, to his study.

"Ross-"

He closes the door behind him, separating the two with a finality that makes Klaus' shoulders drop. He leans back against the wall, scrubbing his hands down his face. "Fuck," he mutters, grinding his teeth together. The heels of his hands press hard against his head as if he might be able to cave it in, grab his brain and shake some sense into it. "Fuck, fuck, fuck." He paces around the kitchen, listening to the deafening silence in the apartment. There's no lights on and the place looks abandoned, he thinks. He notices the way everything is pristine, though. 

Klaus turns a lamp on and sits in the living room. He waits. Ross doesn't come out of his study. Klaus doesn't dare try and make a noise as if he's afraid it might break the fragile tension in the air and shatter it into something worse. As midnight approaches and Klaus feels his high wearing off noticeably, he stands, turns the lamp off, and trudges into the bathroom. His hands grip the sink, leaning heavily upon its porcelain as he eyes himself in the mirror with disdain. 

"Stupid," he hisses between his teeth. Can he not even keep an eye on the time? It's a miracle, he thinks, that Ross still puts up with him. He's careless and insensitive and hardly ever takes into account Ross' feelings in times like these. His teeth grind together furiously as his eyes sting and he turns away from the mirror and instead into their empty bedroom, where he lets his clothes fall to the ground and he climbs into his side of the empty bed. When he reaches a hand out behind him he meets nothing but a soft expanse of untouched mattress, and he curls himself into the duvet and watches the city lights outside.

 

 

The bed is empty when he wakes up. He notices it first, rolling over and reaching out a hand. It's empty and ever so slightly warm. He sits up, legs swinging over the edge of the bed. He can't hear the shower running, can't hear the coffee machine buzzing or the television on.

"Ross?" He calls, and his voice is hoarse, throat rough and dry. He lets the covers fall off his body and pads with silent steps outside of the bedroom, blinking against the sunlight filtering in. He can't hear anything nor can he see him. He sees a sticky note on the kitchen table in his stead.

Gone to work

He lifts it in his fingers like a fragile thing, eyes rolling over the familiar sloping scrawl of each letter with a heavy heart. He runs his thumb over it as if it might offer some comfort to himself or might convey his own apology across to Ross. He places it back down on the table and rubs his eyes. He's limb-shakingly sober and he can feel a headache coming on, so he forces himself to leave the note on the table and goes to the bathroom instead, running the water until it's scalding. He lets the water run down his back, dripping off his fingers, and he has to pull his shaking hands up to work shampoo and conditioner into his hair. 

He lowers himself onto the floor of the tub, wrapping his arms around his chest. He feels like shit for a variety of reasons. He knows that his withdrawals are kicking in strong - had they always been this strong? He could usually go days ignoring the minor withdrawals, but it feels as if his recent withdrawals have been crippling - but he can't bring himself to peel himself off this porcelain floor. His head aches and his stomach flips and his hands shake. His heart feels constricted and weighed down with self-inflicted shackles. They've hard arguments before, of course, as any couple might. Klaus realises, not for the first time, that he's always the catalyst to each one. One would think he might learn his lesson after so many months, but it seems he's yet to sort himself out. Getting wrung out with withdrawals and saying shitty things, not trusting him, accusing him of things, lying, doing stupid things. Klaus runs his hands through his hair, biting down onto his bottom lip. 

He turns the water off quickly, stands up and throws a towel around his waist, and finds himself on his knees by his bedside drawer, pulling it open and reaching a hand inside. It doesn't touch anything. His eyebrows furrow and he peers inside. It's empty. Confusion laces with a jolt of fear deep in his gut. He goes for the next drawer and when that turns out empty, he looks in his last. He crawls over the bed to Ross' side, leaning over to pull open his drawers. Aside from neatly arranged notepads and miscellaneous little things, there's nothing in there, nothing of interest to Klaus.

"Did he move them again?" Ben asks, making Klaus startle ever so slightly.

"Christ," he mutters, then shakes his head minutely and doesn't reply. He knows that Ben jumps at every opportunity to lecture Klaus, to complain about Ross, and he's not looking for an argument now.

"Surprise."

"Shut up," Klaus hisses beneath his breath. He gets up, hurrying into the living room with panic snapping at his heels. "You know he cleans when he's stressed."

"No, he moves it to fuck with you," Ben states. Klaus glares at him. As much as he loves Ben, their relationship had only gotten rockier and rockier. He tries to hear him out, but when hearing him out consists of listening to him verbally abuse the man he loves, he doesn't want to deal with it. It hurts to hear it. 

"Fuck off." He waves his hand dismissively at Ben, avoiding his eyes. "Aren't you always saying I need to get sober, huh?"

"Not cold-turkey," Ben scoffs. 

He notices that the little box of joints is gone, too. He prowls around the living room, hands searching drawers and cupboards, checking shelves, behind pillows, stuffed away in little nooks and crannies. He had once accused him of doing what Ben says he is only for Ross to open a drawer in the kitchen to reveal the stash, making Klaus seem like an utter dick for throwing a hissy fit and accusing him of being a control freak, though said with more colourful words, over nothing. 

Even so, Klaus can't find them again today, though he knows that had he not messed up then this wouldn't be the case. 

He tries the study door. As expected, it's locked. He tries the front door. As expected, it's locked. Klaus groans, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes. He'd have a go at the liquor cabinet if not for the fact that his stomach is already doing flips. He doesn't think he could handle orange juice let alone vodka. 

Knowing he's in for a long day already, Klaus retreats back to the bedroom, opening a window to let some air in and then climbing under the covers. If he's lucky, he can sleep the day away until Ross gets back and he can ask him where he moved them to. He'll have to make it up to him, he thinks. Had the door been unlocked and he had money, he might have gone out and tried to buy some flowers or something. But as it stands, he can't.

He curls into the bed and screws his eyes shut.

 

 

He wakes up launching out of the bed and scrambling for the bathroom. He falls onto his knees in front of the toilet in time to throw up, heaving violently. It feels as if it lasts forever, his stomach trying to crawl out of his throat. He moans, resting his forehead on the porcelain as a shiver seizes him. He reaches up a lazy hand to flush the toilet before leaning back, slumping against the wall. He swipes a hand over his mouth, groaning and screwing his eyes shut once more. He pulls his knees up to his chest and rests his cheek on his knees and tries to decide whether he feels too hot or too cold. He can't. His body trembles like a leaf weakly clinging onto a branch and he simply tries to ignore the ache in the marrow of his bones. 

 

 

He wakes up on the bathroom floor unaware that he'd even fallen asleep. It takes a few moments for him to realise what's happening, confusion heaving in his mind like a thick cloud of smog. He rubs his hands down his face, breathing slowly when he feels like he might throw up again. 

"How are you feeling?" Ben asks, sitting across from him. Klaus grunts. Ben nods. "I expected that." Klaus flips him off. "You ought to try and drink some water," he says. Klaus shakes his head.

"No, no. Won't keep it down."

Ben nods his head. Klaus tries not to catch his eyes, fearing still a possible argument. "Do you think you'll go see them again?" Ben asks, though. Klaus lets out a small sigh of relief and shrugs.

"Dunno. Maybe. Five might have something to say," he mumbles. He runs a hand through his hair and tips his head back to lean on the cool wall. “We’ll see.” He offers a half-hearted shrug. Ben doesn’t seem to add anything else and he has nothing else to say either, so he focuses instead on trying to breathe when his skin is on fire.

 

 

The door creaks open. He can’t see it from where he lays in bed, for his nausea turned to an uncomfortable constant but enough so that he could feel safe in prying himself off the floor and away from the toilet so that he can lay in the bed instead. The nausea replaces in turn for cramps, his guts writhing like a basket of furious cobras striking one another, and he simply rides them out as best he can and tries to sleep the day away. He’s hyperaware of each sound that comes as Ross enters. He listens to the way the door clicks shut behind him, how his shoes scuff as he takes them off and the floorboard creaks as he bends down to pick them up and set them aside neatly. He hears his bag set down and hears him take his coat off, and then he hears the television turn down and the volume turn down to a pleasurable murmur.

Klaus weighs the pros and cons of getting up to greet him or if he wants to let Ross come to him in his own time. He isn’t sure which is the better option. He wants to let Ross have his space if he needs it and he doesn’t want to pressure him, but he doesn’t want this tension to stew between them and build itself into something bigger.

In the end, though, his guts decide for him. They cramp around one another painfully, twisting and squeezing as if trying to strangle one another, and Klaus is left to curl into the bed, eyes screwed shut, face burying in the duvet held between his shaking, white-knuckled fists, biting the inside of his cheek and trying to remember that he needs to breathe.

He’s immersed in trying to ride it out that he doesn’t realise when Ross comes in until he presses the back of his hand to his forehead for a few moments. He murmurs to himself something Klaus can’t catch, but he keeps his eyes tight shut, muscles tense. He listens to Ross step back outside the room and he has to hold back the urge to reach out and grab his wrist.

When he leaves the room he risks cracking open his eyes to peer out. He can see his form moving around outside with quiet steps. He can hear the light switches flick on, hear doors creak.

Klaus heaves a sigh. Slowly, he peels himself out of bed and pads with silent steps towards the door. A floorboard creaks beneath his feet and Ross’ eyes snap to him like a hawk’s. For a moment silence stretches out between them. Ben is nowhere to be seen.

“How are you feeling?” Ross asks.

“Ross-“

“How are you feeling?” He repeats, and he looks back down at the throw blanket he’s fixing over the back of the couch. Something Klaus forgot to fix. Little mistakes, he thinks. Silly little mistakes.

“I’m-“ He pauses, hesitates, and his tongue dashes out across his lips. “It’s just withdrawals,” he says. He closes the distance between them, coming up to his side. Ross keeps his eyes on the blanket he’s fixing, fingertips connecting the sides and the corners together in perfection, laying out the tassles down the back of the couch cushions.

“Ross, I’m sorry,” he begins. When Ross doesn’t look at him he lays a hand on his arm, fingers splayed, and Ross’ eyes turn back to him. “I lost track of time and I got careless, and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you and stress you out.” The words tumble from his lips all mixed up and wavering, the confidence and bravado he had built up suddenly crumbling and the well-rehearsed apology chops itself up on the tip of his tongue. “You know I don’t want you to worry, and I don’t mean it. You… you’re the best thing that’s happened to me,” he reaches a hand up towards his face and Ross takes his wrist, fingers curling around a bracelet of fading blue, hiding it from sight. Despite the way his grip tightens as he does so, Klaus pushes his hand forwards so he can ghost his fingertips over his cheek and then the underside of his jaw. “And I – I love you so much. I’m sorry.”

Ross eyes him silently for several long, stretched out moments. Klaus maintains the heavy eye contact despite the urge to break it and drop his head. Then Ross sighs, shoulders dropping, letting go of his wrist to instead pull Klaus flush to his chest. Klaus almost weeps from relief, eagerly wrapping his arms around him and melting into him, revelling in the feeling of his arms tight around him, of the steady heartbeat beneath his ear. His hands curl into his clothes, desperately holding him close.

Ross’ hand tips Klaus’ head up and his lips crash down onto his with a suddenness that has Klaus’ mind staggering, though he’s quick to reciprocate it. His arms around him keep him upright as he begins to walk Klaus backwards and when he almost trips over his own feet, and then his knees hit the back of their mattress and he tumbles down onto it and Ross follows. They crawl up the bed until Klaus’ head rests on a pillow and his lips are on him again. Klaus can do this. His mind feels too thick and heavy to deal with words, but he knows how to work bodies. He tries to lift his hips to reciprocate it but hands push his hips back down into the bed, and Ross begins to kiss around his face and down his jaw and his neck. He lets Ross push him down into the mattress and he thinks about how grateful he is to have Ross.

 

 

Klaus’ rests his head on his chest. Ross has an arm hooked around him, fingertips drawing shapes on his skin soothingly, their legs tangled together beneath the duvet over them. Trying to steady his breathing, Klaus murmurs, “I love you.”

Ross’ head tips down to press a kiss to the top of his head. “Give me a second,” he murmurs in response, slowly prying himself out of Klaus’ grasp and sliding off the bed. A brief flash of panic twists his gut and Klaus sits up, watching him. He returns to the bed with a belt hanging lax from his hands and Klaus quirks an eyebrow.

“You said withdrawals, huh?” He says. Klaus’ breath hitches as his eyes fall onto a syringe held in his hands, neat and small. “I’m sorry I forgot to tell you where I moved them. I’ll move them back into that drawer later.” The bed dips as he sits on the edge.

“’s fine,” Klaus utters, throat suddenly dry.

“You want it?” Ross asks. Klaus nods without hesitation.

“Please,” he breathes, and Ross laughs a little. He leans forwards to kiss him so breathless he hardly notices the belt slip over his arm. Leather bites his skin as it tightens around his bicep and Klaus outstretches his arm, watching Ross rub the crook of his elbow, over old and newer little scars left from identical needles. The needle lines up with a vein and then pushes in, and he feels it almost instantly. He can’t help but moan as the high hits him like a freight train, sending him flying into the sky and stealing his breath. The bed dips like a boat in a storm and arms wrap around him to catch him before he can fall off, a smooth voice coaxing his lungs back into a steady rhythm – whether it’s because they’re going too fast or too slow he isn’t sure and can’t bring himself to care. Not when the ache in his bones is long forgotten, and the hot flashes and chills, too, and the shame of being such a burden. All that matters is the way there are hands on him, in his hair and on his cheeks, stroking his sides and his stomach, and lips on his cheek and his forehead.

He thinks, briefly, with the last of his clarity, of where he might be if not for Ross. Probably in some dirty alleyway, choking on his own tongue, or with dangerous strangers that might one day get the upper hand on him. He clings onto Ross desperately, as if he might turn to dust and vanish beneath his hands, and mutters an incoherent stream of declarations of love.

 

 

He wakes up, not for the first time but the first time with awareness, and curls tighter around Ross still next to him. He realises he’s on the couch in the living room, sat on his lap with a heavy blanket draped over the both of them, face in his neck and arms hooked under his armpits, fingers hooked into his shirt. He moans as awareness seeps into him, eyes blinking blearily, and he nuzzles closer into Ross and the heat coming off of him. A hand strokes his naked back, following the sharp vertebrae of his spine, and he tracks the motion with his mind until he realises his mind is falling and he’s gone again.

 

 

He’s in a bed. Cocooned in blankets and wrapped like a boa. A hand strokes his cheek and he realises he’s crying. “What’s wrong? Baby, you’re okay, you’re okay. I’m here.”

Klaus tips his head into his hand, shaking hands reaching up to cover Ross’. He doesn’t know why he is, but he can’t stop. He feels amazing. His thumb swipes beneath his eye again.

“I love you,” Klaus says, or he tries to. His mouth doesn’t open.

“Words, baby,” says Ross, and his fingertips massage his jaw loose.

“I love you,” Klaus repeats, a little more coherently. Ross’ chest bounces beneath him with a soft laugh.

“I know you do.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too,” Ross says.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles. “I’m not good.”

A hand strokes his jaw and his neck. “It’s just little things, baby. We can work on it. Don’t worry, okay?”

Klaus huffs a breath of acknowledgement. He cracks his eyes half-open when he feels himself moving. He watches Ross shift positions so that he can tip his head down and catch his lips once more. It’s gentle, soft, imitating their first kiss Klaus thinks, and it makes him melt like it always does.

“You know I love you,” Ross murmurs against his lips. “More than anything. I just want us to be happy together. I do thinks to keep us safe and happy.”

His nose nudges Klaus’, his hand squeezes his from where their fingers are entwined.

“Thank you,” Klaus breathes. Ross does everything for him. Ross saw something in him in that club that night and he gave him a chance to be something other than a homeless addict treating himself rotten, acting so careless with strangers that didn’t respect him like Ross does. “Thank you.”

Ross squeezes his hand and Klaus’ head falls forwards, moulding into the crook of his neck once more. Arms wrap around him, fingers curling the short hair at the nape of his neck, and Klaus wants this moment to last forever.

Chapter Text

Slowly, rather reluctantly, Klaus peels his eyes open. His eyelids feel as heavy as his head and his surroundings filter in slowly. A hand strokes his cheek and Ross' face swims into view, his head ducking down to catch Klaus' gaze. When he sees his eyes focus onto him, he offers a smile. "Morning, sleeping beauty," he comments. Klaus swallows, tries to find some way to moisten the desert dryness in his mouth and throat, and he glances briefly to the windows.

"It's night," he rasps. Ross runs a hand through his hair.

"It is," he agrees. "Not too late, though you've been out for a few hours. How are you feeling? I was thinking we could go out," he says. Klaus feels exhausted. He wants to curl up in bed for another eternity and be done with it all, let his consciousness reside in a mound of duvets and pillows, perfectly content. But, he supposes, a hit of something else and a club scene will wake him up, and he'll just take something else to soothe the crash later.

"Tired," he admits. "We can go out."

Ross smiles approvingly, nodding his head. "Good, good. Pick some clothes, I'll get you a drink," he says, and he pats his cheek once more before standing and disappearing from the bedroom. The temptation to just close his eyes and fall asleep is near overwhelming and so Klaus bites the inside of his cheek as if a sting of pain might clear the fog in his mind. He moves lethargically, peeling himself off the mattress and then simply sitting upright for several moments before continuing to swing his legs off the bed and stand up, a hand on the bedside drawers steadying him when the room spins.

He trudges to the wardrobe, opening it up and eying his clothes. His trembling hands reach out, pulling a skirt down and following it with a sheer shirt. Ross comes back in holding a glass of water, offering it out to Klaus and as he drinks he eyes the clothes in his hands. Taking back the glass and setting a hand on his hip, chin resting on Klaus' shoulder, he says, "change the skirt. Don't want other men looking at you, do we?" And then finishes his sentence with a kiss on his neck.

Fuzzy minded, Klaus hesitates as if trying to process what he said before uttering, "sorry," and putting the skirt back. Instead he reaches for a pair of well-worn leather pants as Ross reaches around to pull a shirt out for himself. They change quickly, though Klaus' shaking fingers can't do the button on his pants and Ross has to do it with a small chuckle and Klaus' cheeks warm at his own helplessness. He sits on the edge of the bed, fumbling to shove his feet into a pair of boots, and he looks up at Ross doing the last button of his shirt.

"I'll... I'll need to take something else," Klaus mumbles. Ross glances at him with a raised eyebrow. "Or I'll just..." He waves a hand. "Collapse when it - when it crashes."

Ross nods his head towards the drawer. "I moved everything back," he says. Klaus' hands reach out to the drawer, almost a little desperately, and relief floods him at the sight of little bags of varying drugs. He reaches for a bag of powder and uses his fingers to set it into a few lines, and he spends a few moments sniffling after he's snorted it, rubbing his nose.

Ross hands him his coat and guides him down the stairs and out onto the street. They don't take the car, his apartment being further into the heart of the city than the Academy and being in walking distance of a few clubs. When the high rears its head, Ross places an arm around him to keep him walking steadily, and in a blink of an eye they're in a club, music rushing to attack his ears, lights flashing and bright, disorientating him. He clings to Ross as he buys himself a drink at the bar, his eyes flitting around the place and trying to make sense out of the lights and the music and the people dancing, the smell of alcohol and sweat, the way the walls seem to breathe. His heart picks up, any trace of tiredness chased out of his bones for the time being, time dancing evasively around him, just out of reach.

Ross takes his hand and draws his attention back to him, an amused grin on his lips when Klaus' eyes light up and he stops trying to make sense of nonsensical things and rather tries to draw him away from the bar. He hardly lets him finish his drink before he's begging him to dance, spinning around and swaying his hips that seem to be guided by Ross' hands. His own clasp behind Ross' neck and he thinks that months ago he would have been here alone, waiting for anyone to come up to him and hardly asking their name.

Ross keeps him flush against him, moving like they're only one person, and then he comes close. "I'm going to the bathroom," he says in his ear, voice raised over the music. Klaus nods his head and lets his hands melt off of him, lets him fade away and become an incoherent blur in the sea of people, and he wraps his own arms around himself, closes his eyes and continues to sway to the music.

Hands settle on his hips from behind and Klaus catches a flash of Ross' brown hair. He sinks back against his chest and lets out a heavy sigh when he presses his lips to the static skin of his neck, trailing up and down, teeth grazing. He always prefers these highs. His body feels alive again and everything is electric, every touch and every sound, and Ross knows how to make it even better. His head falls to the side, stretching his neck while Ross splays a hand over his chest.

Then there's a new hand, a third hand, on his wrist, pulling him away, tearing him away, and Klaus realises the man attached to the hand on his wrist is Ross. When he looks back he catches sight of a brunette he's never seen before. He stumbles over his feet to try and keep up with Ross, storming him out of the crowd and out of the door and into the frigid streets.

"Ross," he says, trying to slow him down and tug on his hand. His grip only tightens to where Klaus' face screws up and he can feel pain shoot up his arm and he wonders if he might accidentally break his wrist, and he keeps walking. "Ross, Ross, please, slow down, baby-" he rambles, heavy words dripping past his lips, and Ross doesn't even look at him. When Klaus trips up he hardly slows down and he has to scramble to his feet in a hurried mess of limbs.

They storm up the stairs of the apartment, Klaus trailing behind and wondering if they might leave dents in the stairs, and then the door is open and they're falling inside. Klaus stumbles when the grip on his wrist is suddenly gone, hand shoving him inside, leaving him skidding into the couch and grabbing the back of it. The door slams shut behind them.

"Ross-"

"What the fuck, Klaus?" Ross says, his voice thick, solid, cold.

"Ross, I-"

"What the fuck? I left you for five minutes and come back to you throwing yourself all over someone else-"

"I didn't-"

"All too happy to have him touching you like you're his, making out with him like a little whore - did he offer you even more drugs? Is that it? You don't care about who touches you or whose dick you suck as long as you get a high out of it-"

"Ross, please-" Klaus' voice wavers, watery between sharp breaths that don't seem to fill his lungs. Ross keeps talking. He's pacing, fists clenching and unclenching, his jaw locked.

"Is that what it was like before me? How else would you have gotten high, right? Did you fuck for drugs or fuck for money for drugs?" Ross asks scathingly. "Or did you just want to lie to yourself and pretend all those men cared about you?"

Klaus' teeth grind together painfully and Ross becomes a form blurred by hot, shameful tears. Ross raises his eyebrows, coming close, right up to him. "Are you going to answer that?"

Klaus sucks in a breath, enough air to whisper, "either." When things got too bad, the ghosts too loud, and he had nothing to pawn but himself, he did what he had to do for some quiet.

Ross laughs, bitter and cold, and he turns away from him to pace again. "Of fucking course. But I come and I take you away from all of that, I listen to you, I understand you, give you somewhere safe to get high and help you when you're too out of it to remember how to fucking breathe, let you live with me, do nothing but love you, and as soon as I'm gone you're looking for the next man."

"Ross, please, it's not - I - no, no, it's not like that-"

"Do you do that every time I go to the bathroom? Take a man around the corner outside and come back and pretend that you love me. I should have left you with him, let him take you home and let him find out that you're just a desperate whore, huh?"

"Ross-" Klaus reaches out when he comes close, fingers curling around his wrist and trying to tug him close to him, trying to stop his pacing. Ross tears his hand away from him and Klaus falls to the floor when he pulls his fist back and sends it back into his cheek before he can even notice it.

His head catches the counter of the kitchen’s small breakfast bar on his way down and stars explode in his vision. He blinks, dazed, blinking the floor into clarity when it spins around him. His breath stutters in his lungs and he covers the hot part of his cheek with his own hand before reaching it up to his forehead. His fingertips come back stained red. He hears Ross' shoes click as he paces, turns, paces. Although Ross is no Dwayne Johnson, he’s large, active, and strong. His head feels disconnected for a moment, distant, yet the pain pushes right to the forefront of everything. It takes him several moments to be able to stand up, hand held to his head.

"I - I thought it was you, Ross," he stammers, and he finds he can't pick his gaze up from the floor. "I didn't - I didn't see him, I thought it was you, please. I'd - I'd never," his head swings side to side, eyes screwing shut. "I love you, I'd never do that. I thought it was you."

A hand, fingers vice-like on his jaw, tips his head up and forces him to look into his eyes. His fingers itch to reach out and touch him but he keeps his hands down, shaking by his sides.

"Do you?" Ross asks, eyes narrowed. "Do you really?"

Klaus nods. Or, he nods as best as he can with his head in his grip. "I do," he whispers. "Of course I do. I - I love you more than - than anything. I'd...  I'd still be like that without you, I know. But I'm not anymore. I just - I thought it was you, I swear, please. It - it - I was stupid. I'm so sorry." He struggles to find air in his seizing lungs, gave up trying to keep his voice steady long ago. He screws his eyes shut, cheeks hot with shame. "I'm so sorry. You - you deserve better, I know, but I love you."

He's too afraid of what disgust he might see on his face when he opens his eyes so he keeps them screwed tightly shut, and tries to focus on keeping him standing on shaking legs. So stupid, he thinks. He's so unbelievably stupid. He should have looked. He used to be so careless, taking whoever would have someone like him, and he threw Ross away for someone who saw him as a strung out crackhead and a probably easy fuck, no doubt. He should have looked, he should have looked, he should have looked. Ross deserves someone leagues above him, but at least someone who can stay faithful to him. He's chucking away everything Ross ever gave him and did for him to what? Go back to being a homeless addict with no worth in life? No purpose further than his next hit?

"You know I love you," Ross says, his voice quiet and almost unheard over the pounding of his heart and the ragged breaths and his own half-choked sobs. "But sometimes I just feel like you don't love me. Are you just using me, Klaus? I'd rather you just tell me now."

He shakes his head vigorously. "No, no, no. I'd do anything for you, I need you, please." He forces his eyes open, forces himself to look at him.

"Then why don't you show me?" Ross asks. "How can I believe that?"

Klaus swallows. How is he supposed to show him? How can he show him how much he needs him without showing him that he'd be dead in a ditch without him? He can’t serenade him, can’t create a beautiful piece of art for him, can’t write love poems or take him out somewhere special or buy him something nice. He doesn’t have anything to give him except himself.

Ross' hand follows his jaw as he sinks to his knees on the floor and he rests his head on his thigh, throbbing cheek on his leg, one hand coming up to cover his. "Anything," Klaus stammers. "I'll do anything. Just - just give me a second chance. Please." His shoulders shake with barely restrained sobs. He’s sure it’s probably not a second chance but rather a hundredth. He wonders how Ross’ patience isn’t worn thin.

He forces himself to slow his breathing, to try to compose himself at least slightly, but the idea of Ross believing he had meant that, the idea of a life without Ross, strikes fear deep into his heart. Ross’ hand moves from his jaw, falling down by his side. He brings a hand up slowly, ghosting it over his thigh and his hip, fingertips following the waistband of his jeans before landing on the button. With trembling fingers he undoes the button, then pulls the zipper down ever so slightly, waiting for Ross to stay something. He doesn’t. He doesn’t say anything as Klaus’ black-painted fingertips hook in his jeans and shimmies them down. His hand ghosts over his crotch, light touched and wavering before he forces his hand to actually do something, stroking him. He thinks that the fact that he has nothing else to offer him is almost painful. And who’s to say that this any better? They’d already addressed the fact that sex is the only thing he knows.

But Ross curls his fingers tightly into his hair, something Klaus takes as a hint to go on, and so he does.

 

Klaus sits back on his knees, running his fingertips over his mouth and watching the floor as Ross does the button of his jeans once more, ever so slightly turned away from him. His jaw aches. His wrists, too, from where they had been held together in a bone-grinding grip above his head. Nothing feels as bad as his spirit. Heavy and filled with disgust and shame and guilt, and he thinks about that time he’d seen a ghost with their intestines falling out of their flesh that looked like a rabid wolf had had its way with them, and he thinks that wouldn’t be as painful as this. He thinks he’d rather let that happen to himself than continue to prove to be such a horrible person time and time again.

His eyes flick upwards, catching Ross looking at the floorboards by his feet. Klaus looks back down at his hands fiddling in his lap. His eyes burn hot. “Tell me what to do,” he whispers. Ross’ eyes bounce towards him and Klaus looks more intently at his hands, gripping one another tightly. “I don’t know what to do for you. I don’t know how. I’d – I’d anything for you if you just asked me to.”

Ross comes close, his feet appearing in his line of sight, and Klaus looks at the way the brown leather of his shoes melds into the floorboards. Any second now Ross will heave a sigh and shake his head, tell him he can’t keep doing this any longer, and ask Klaus to grab his stuff and leave and he’ll be alone again with the only person who could ever love him gone as a result of his own actions.

“I don’t want to fight you, Klaus,” Ross sighs. He crouches down in front of him, resting his elbows on his knees and outstretching a hand to brush his fingertips over the cheek he’d punched. It throbs painfully, skin pink and hot to the touch, and it hurts when he moves his jaw, whenever he talks. He can’t help but flinch ever so slightly though he hurries to tip his head forwards into his touch. He’s not afraid of him. He’s never hurt him without reason. He didn’t mean to. He wouldn’t have lashed out had Klaus not been so fucking stupid.

“You know how I get. I’m afraid of losing you, Klaus. How do you think I feel when I see that kind of thing? Am I supposed to just stand by and let you go off with another man? The idea of it just breaks my heart, Klaus. And the idea of what might happen to you with those kind of men out on the streets. I do what I can for us, Klaus, but it’s not just me in this relationship.”

Klaus keeps his eyes downcast like a scolded child, his lip quivering, his head bobbing in agreement. “I’m sorry,” he breathes. “I am.”

“I know you are,” Ross says. “But you understand where I’m coming from, don’t you?” Klaus nods his head.

“I do, I do. I’m sorry. I just – I’m so sorry. Please don’t leave me. I – please.” He screws his eyes shut until he feels it in his cheek and his jaw, his head bowing down and his nails digging into the back of the opposite hands.

“We can work through this,” Ross tells him. “I want us to be happy together. Okay? I love you.”

Klaus’ heart stammers. He reaches a hand up to curl his fingers around Ross’, pressing his face into his touch, and when Ross curls a hand around his back he’s eager to slump forwards and against his chest. The sobs that he had only just managed to shove down suddenly burst free, loud and ugly things that have him sounding as if he’s on the verge of a panic attack. Ross rests his hands on his quaking shoulders and Klaus’ fingers curl tightly in his clothes, his forehead resting on his collar bone. “I’m sorry,” he sobs. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“I forgive you. It’s okay, it’s okay. I forgive you.”

Ross holds him until his sobbing calms and he’s given himself a worse headache with it all and his shirt is wet beneath his face. He coaxes him up onto his feet and Klaus finds that he can hardly hold his head up, heavy with shame. He wants to keep his gaze averted, wants to hide away and never come out until he’s all forgotten.

Ross guides him into the bathroom first. He has him sit on the toilet lid and he begins to dab away the blood from the gash on his forehead with a wet cloth, his movements gentle, soft. He tips his head to the side slightly and does his best to clean it. Klaus closes his eyes, letting him do it quietly. He disappears for a moment only to return with water and painkillers, of which he takes gratefully. Then he’s on his feet again and in their bedroom, kicking his clothes aside until he’s in just his underwear and crawling beneath the bed sheets. The bed dips and creaks as Ross slides in beside him. He curls behind Klaus, throwing an arm around Klaus’ torso, and Klaus hesitates a moment before he turns around to face him.

In the darkness of the bedroom he can only just make out his features, his open eyes staring back at him, his strong jaw, the rise of his shoulders above the duvet, his hair falling down his face. Ross slips one of his legs between his, entangling them together, and he reaches a hand up to rest it on Klaus’ cheek. His eyes fall shut, unable to meet his eyes for long. How he can still say he loves him is beyond him, unfathomable.

Klaus reaches up to hold his hand. How can he prove that he loves him? The question echoes in his skull and won’t stop. He tips his head forwards to try and catch his lips but stops himself short. If he was Ross, he wouldn’t want to be in the same bed as him now.

But Ross closes the gap with his lips. He kisses him gently and runs his thumb over the blossoming bruise on his cheek as if he might be able to wipe it away.

When Ross falls asleep Klaus turns over slowly to face the windows, unable to find sleep. Ben stands by the windows, catching his eyes. Klaus is quick to look away.

“He hit you,” Ben says. “Again.”

“I grabbed him,” whispers Klaus into the darkness. “Again.”

“Klaus…”

He looks away from him, instead turning to the city lights. “I love him,” he murmurs to himself. He loves him so much, and yet he keeps giving him reasons to leave him, keeps proving to be an insensitive, cruel, selfish idiot. Even after today Ross lies behind him, with an arm holding him close and gentle kisses. Stupid Klaus, with his stupid mistakes. He was simply lucky that Ross was so patient and so forgiving.

He turns his back to Ben and faces Ross, watching his chest rise and fall as he sleeps. He leans forwards, curling his arms around him and resting his forehead against his chest.

Chapter Text

Klaus peels his eyes open. There’s a hand stroking his head, following unruly hair behind the shell of his ear. Ross’ face greets him, a smile adorning his lips. “Morning.”

Klaus feels as if he’s been hit by a freight train. Not just physically. His heart sinks low in his chest and he has the urge to cry all over again. Ross taps his cheek lightly. It hurts. “None of that,” he says. “What happened last night we leave last night. We move on. Okay?”

Klaus nods his head. Ross leans close and presses a gentle kiss to his forehead, an inch from the gash left from the kitchen counter. Klaus leans into the touch. Move on, he tells himself. He knows he did things wrong, he knows how much Ross has done for him, and he needs to learn from it and be better.

He feels no less of a horrible person.

“Come here,” Ross urges, tugging him slightly and pulling him flush to his chest, his hands held together between their chests. His hands are warm and heavy on his skin, steadfast as they always are, and Klaus longs to just melt into his touch. He kisses his cheek. “We spoke about last night. We sorted it out, baby. I forgive you. Now we keep going.”

“I’ve not,” Klaus murmurs.

“You’ve not what?”

“Forgiven myself.”

Ross strokes his cheek tips his head to the side slightly. “Things tend to be repeated if you hold them in your mind. The best thing you can do is to learn and move on, Klaus,” he says, and the idea that that he might repeat that foolish mistake makes him panic briefly. So he shoves down the need to apologise and simply nods.

“Good,” says Ross. “Sit up.”

They both do, blankets falling down and bundling up on the bed, and Ross places his hands upon his shoulders. “I love you, okay? We can be happy together, and that’s all I want.”

His hands drift down his shoulders to take his hands instead, squeezing them. Klaus notices that the knuckles of his right fist are ever so slightly pink and he runs his thumb over them. He wonders if they hurt. He lifts his hand so that he can place a gentle kiss upon them, a silent apology.

Interlocking their fingers, Klaus rests his head back down on the pillow, eyes briefly flitting from Ross to the alarm clock to his side. Then he sits up quickly, aggravating the throbbing in his skull. “You’re late for work,” he says, pulling his hand back and pulling his legs out of the covers.

Ross laughs softly, reaching out to grab his wrist. “I took the day off,” he says, “relax. I wanted to spend some time with you.”

Klaus pauses. Slowly his shoulders slump and he nods. “Oh,” he utters, sliding back into bed. Ross tugs him flush against him and Klaus avoids his eyes by closing his own, focusing instead of the heat of his arms around him and the gentle rise and fall of his chest, his breaths warm, his hands resting on him, fingers parting through his hair. And for a long time, they just stay like that.

“I’ll make us breakfast,” says Ross, gently sitting up and prying himself apart from Klaus. Klaus sits up, nodding, and as Ross retreats into the kitchen Klaus slides out of bed, stretching, and heads to the bathroom. The door clicks shut gently behind him and he turns to the warmly lit room, bathed in gentle sunlight. He turns to the sink, running the water cold and cupping his hands beneath it before splashing it over his face. He lifts his head and looks into the mirror.

His skin is pale - it always seems to be these days - and it only highlights the bruise. It spreads up his cheekbone, underlining his eye, and follows his skeleton, curling down to his jaw and blossoming like a large, sickly marigold, a mottled mess of blues that darken with time.

He tips his head to the side. Phantom fingers remain in blue streaks on his jaw as if a ghost won’t let go of his face.

He looks down at his wrists. They had been a pale, healing colour before, but it seems as if a dam had burst and a bunch of black and blue ink had flooded forth to stain his skin. He wonders if bruises can scar. He wonders when the last time they looked untouched, ivory smooth, was.

He looks, he thinks, like he did when he was twenty-four, only ever half conscious, eating the equivalent to less than a meal a week, and losing months to violent highs. He’d went to prison that year and he’d been arguably worse when he came out of it.

He looks sick, pale and tired, twitchy, lost.

Klaus turns away from the mirror as if he can shun the image in it. Whatever happened to the Klaus in the mirror he probably deserved it.

His shower is quick, wanting no longer to be in this room, and he throws on a dressing gown before leaving. Ross is still by the stove, not yet quite finished cooking, and so Klaus turns to the bedroom and kneels down in front of his bedside drawers. He eyes the contents inside as if weighing which one he feels like. His body positively begs for something, an ache deep in his bones for another needle, just one more, and as much as he thinks the high would be beautiful, he wants to stay awake. Then he decides that he doesn’t actually, and he peels a syringe out - the last one, he notices with panic - and at the first vein he finds, he presses it in and pushes the plunger. He doesn’t push it all the way, only going about half way before the rush hits him and he forgets. Plus, he thinks, he’ll just use the rest later. He pulls it out, lets it clatter to the carpet, and lets his head fall.

He’s at least aware when Ross comes into the room, eying him curled on the floor for sitting upright was too much work, and he’s aware of him setting the syringe aside and crouching down in front of him. His hand feels like a giant’s when it rests on his cheek, brushing over painted skin.

“You with me?” He asks, voice gentle, and Klaus can feel the words travel into his ears. It feels odd. He rolls his gaze to Ross, though, the blurred figure that he is, and Ross’ teeth shine when he smiles. “Good, good. You didn’t take it all,” he comments. Klaus shakes his head. It’s enough, he thinks. It’s not enough - his body yearns for more, for more than the entire syringe, for so much more. But it’s gotten him high, and it’s so much better than nothing, and he’ll use the rest tomorrow, maybe. Not that it really matters, though, because Ross brushes his hair from his face, pulls his arm away from his chest, stretches it out, and there’s the pinch of the needle breaking his skin once more, and his flesh melts into the floor right off his bones and his eyes turn as white as his skeleton, rolling backwards. His heart stutters for a moment beneath his ribcage and tries to make up for it by pounding as if he had just ran a marathon, his body just as hot and flushed, and when he does realise he’s able to see things, he wonders if it was just heroin in that syringe or a deadly sweet concoction he has only rarely and never ceases to seize him entirely.

He can’t even try to help Ross when he coaxes him onto his feet, can’t try to hold himself upright and steady for he can’t feel his legs, half convinced they don’t even exist, and his efforts prove in vain anyway as he crumples when Ross loosens his grip on his arms. He huffs out a small laugh, wrapping an arm like a belt around his waist, guiding him out of the bedroom and depositing him onto the couch in the living room. Klaus panics for a moment when the feeling of falling never leaves, his body jerking on the couch cushions uselessly before Ross runs a hand through his hair and somehow manages to ground him and solidify the couch beneath him.

He sits next to him on the couch, skewering a small piece of bacon on a fork and holding the fork out to Klaus. Klaus stares at it and his fingers twitch heavily. He lifts his hand up and takes the fork – only, his hand doesn’t move. He blinks and he’s suddenly slumped, boneless, with Ross holding his head up, focusing on the heat in his bones that threatens to burn him.

Ross holds the fork, cutting bacon into incredibly tiny pieces and depositing them past his lips, small enough that it isn’t too much of a bother when he doesn’t chew it, and sometimes he chews it for ages. His breath comes in short pants from his nose, sometimes accompanied by an odd noise, a moan or a keen or a whine that he can’t help because he can’t even feel his body let alone control it, and it feels as if someone’s just pressed random buttons, telling his body to do random things in response to his mind melting.

Ross keeps it going like that until Klaus shakes his head. “Ca-... can’t,” he slurs. Ross squeezes his hand and sets the fork down.

“You did well,” he praises, setting the plate aside on the coffee table. Then he moves to guide Klaus when he tips, guiding him onto his lap instead, and he runs his hand through his hair. “Isn’t this nice?” He muses. “Just us. You don’t need to do anything and I’ll take care of you. Hmm?”

Klaus nods his head, though maybe it just falls down. His eyes flutter rapidly, bouncing around the room and blinking furiously, moving even when closed, and his breathing comes fast, rapidly, as if he’s trying to imitate hyperventilating without actually hyperventilating. Ross’ fingertips dance over his face, leaving his skin crackling with electricity from his touch, following down his cheek and down his jaw, stretching across his neck, his shoulder, arm, finding his hand and curling their fingers together. His eyes flicker closed and he falls back into an incoherent white noise.

 

 

Klaus clumsily rubs at his eyes with the heels of his hands, blinking the living room back into reality. He realises, first, that there’s something in his mouth; a piece of gum. His eyebrows furrow ever so slightly and he lifts his head from Ross’ lap. The brunette hurries to swallow the coffee in his mouth before setting the cup aside to focus on Klaus instead.

“Welcome back,” he says, eying him. “Unless you’re still out of it,” he adds with amusement. Klaus has half a mind to close his eyes and melt away into nothingness, but he attempts to sit up, fumbling, clumsy hands shaking on the couch cushions as the . “Oh, good,” says Ross. Klaus grunts, sinking back into the couch, giving up on his attempts to sit upright. When he looks around (and remembers to open his eyes before doing so) everything looks blurred, smudged, and then there are hands lifting his head up from where he’d let it hang over the edge of the couch, forgotten.

“I,” he uses the couch to rise to his feet, though he thinks he might have blacked out between sitting up and standing up, “I’m gonna get a drink,” he mumbles, taking a few lumbering steps around the couch. His knees shake and suddenly he’s gripping a counter, and he can’t remember getting there. He manages to work his fingers to pull down a mug, catching it on his third try, and then he searches out the hot chocolate powder. When he can’t find it he rubs his eyes, a heavy sigh falling from his lips, and then he turns to the fridge, sticks a hand in, and pulls out a bottle of something that he can’t read. As long as it chases away the dryness in his throat, it works.

He swirls it around in the bottle and then twists off the cap, raising it up to his lips. Ross comes close, hand sliding over his back. “Healthy lunch, huh?”

“Can’t find hot chocolate,” Klaus states, throwing a brief glance around the kitchen in case he might just catch a glimpse of it as if he can see clearly. Ross steps aside, opening a cupboard that Klaus swears he had checked, and he pulls out the little tub of hot chocolate. He raises an eyebrow and Klaus’ cheeks warm and he leans back against the counter, watching Ross as he busies himself in making a hot chocolate.

"I was... was thinking I might visit the Academy again," Klaus tells him. Ross turns to peer at him over his shoulder.

"That's what you think about when you're high?" He raises his eyebrows and then shrugs, turning back to the hot chocolate. "Sure, we can go. Can I ask why?"

Klaus shrugs, running his finger over the neck of the whiskey still clutched in his hand. “Still need to… clear things up,” he murmurs, and Ross hums.

"We'll go when you're ready, then," he says. He hands off the hot chocolate to Klaus and Klaus starts thinking about excuses for the bruises when they sit back down, and he decides there’s plenty of time before they need to head out. Not as if he has much of a choice, because the couch sinks into the floor and he sinks with it, whining when reality slips away like the receding waves of a sea, until Ross’ hands land on him, holding down his twitching limbs, in his hair and on his hips, his shoulders, his face, swiping away tears he didn’t know where running down his face and suddenly he’s not sure of what’s going on.

But Ross knows best, and Ross keeps up with the train wreck that is his mind, knows what to say when Klaus sobs or breathes too slow or too fast or not at all or when he babbles nonsense about how he’s dying or not real or that he can’t see, knows how to make the room spin and how to make everything feel that much better, utterly ecstatic, keeps him safe when Klaus can’t even remember his own name or when he toes the danger line.

Ross knows best, because Klaus doesn’t even know what’s going on more than half of the time anymore. Not that he needs to. He knows everything he needs to; Ross is there, and there’s more drugs in his drawer, and Ross loves him.

 

 

He’s wearing clothes, he realises distantly. He doesn’t remember putting them on, nor does he remember moving to the bed. His eyes jump to the window opposite him and he sees a fiery blaze on the horizon, and he wonders if the sun is crashing into the Earth and if he’s about to die and he can’t move to save himself. Then there’s Ross, telling him things he can’t properly understand but he knows is reassurance, good things, and lips on the back of his neck and arms around him. He lets out a sound, if only to let Ross know he’s there, for that brief moment, and Ross hushes him and steals the air right out of his mouth.

 

 

He’s hardly just coming back to himself when they get in the car. He almost falls down the stairs if not for Ross, and he might have known that leaving the house when he can’t count to three is a bad idea, had he been sober enough to think that. He simply trusts that by the time they reach the Academy, the universe will bless him with half an hour of clarity.

Ben is silent the ride there. Although it can be argued that he's been much quieter in the later few months of his and Ross' relationship as a whole rather than just the ride to the Academy, Klaus always thinks it's eerie. He sits in the back of Ross' car, his hood over his head, looking at him in the rear view mirror. He knows what he's thinking.

Ross parks his car down the street and they walk up to the Academy hand in hand, pushing aside the gates and the heavy doors. Ross takes in the Academy with fascination. Klaus, every time he stops by, is always amazed at how pristine and elegant a place of trauma can look. He looks at the grand stairs and remembers the time he felt a hand on his back, sending him down and cracking his head off the floor. He can look in the kitchen and remember arguments and yelling. The living room still emits a buzz from a tattoo gun. But now it also holds voices. Klaus wonders if he came at the right or the wrong time.

"Everyone must be here," he mutters to Ross, tugging him towards the living room. He steels himself before entering.

"Right on time," Diego says upon turning to look at Klaus, along with his other siblings. They're all standing by the bar where Luther and Allison are busy hooking up a small television. "Who's this?" Diego, with all the good manners in the world, jabs a knife in Ross' direction rather than just nodding his head. Klaus takes a few steps forwards, opening his mouth to introduce them when Ross offers his hand.

"Ross," he introduces. "Klaus' boyfriend."

Diego eyes him, looking him up and down as if he might be able to analyse his life story from his clothes, and he puts his knife into his other hand to shake his.

"You have a boyfriend?" Luther asks, looking somewhat startled. He eyes Ross and the clean clothes, clean shave, his well build and his lack of a drug dealer appearance, and he eyes Klaus, with the same look on his face from the times he pulled him out of an alleyway, but with the illusion of a steady life attempting to distort it all.

"Mhmm," says Klaus.

"He do that to your face?" Diego asks, his eyes suddenly cold and boring into Klaus'. But Klaus expected this. He shakes his head.

"No, Christ. Don't even know his last name and you're accusing him of shit. A very Hargreeves welcome, though," his eyes flick to Luther briefly.

"It wasn't there a few days ago," Diego points out. Klaus rolls his eyes.

"Fight at a party with some idiot. Don't get your harness in a twist," Klaus retorts, flicking the words off his tongue. Diego doesn't look any less suspicious. His jaw sets and he narrows his eyes briefly before looking away.

"You're lying because you know it's wrong," says Ben. Klaus' eyes flick to him, glaring. They've had this talk before. No, Klaus is not lying because he knows it's wrong. He's lying because he knows it sounds bad without delving into justifications and the whole story that they don’t have time for. Ben keeps his gaze steady and Klaus is, as he always is, the first to look away. He nods at the television.

"Well, I'm happy for you," Vanya offers. Klaus smiles at her.

"Thank you. Ross, meet Vanya, Diego, Luther and Allison. Five's apparently not here. What's going on?"

"Allison found something," Luther says, "about dad."

Diego scoffs. "This again? What is it now? A missing waistcoat?" He retorts. Luther glares at him.

"No. It's a video of the night dad died. Grace was there," he states.

"And what's the part you're not telling us?" Klaus asks. Luther sighs, watching as the screen flickers on.

"Just watch," he says. Everyone crowds in a little closer to watch the grainy footage of Reginald's bedroom, watching his last few moments and watching as Grace simply watches Reginald struggle and die. Then she leans in, seeming to fix his clothes - or taking his monocle, Klaus realises - and then she turns and leaves.

"You really think mom would hurt dad?" Vanya asks.

"You haven't been home in a long time, Vanya," states Luther, a little bitterly thinks Klaus. "Maybe you don't know Grace anymore."

"If he was poisoned, it would have showed in the reports."

"Yeah, well I don't need a report to know what I can see with my own eyes." Diego scoffs.

"Maybe all that low gravity in space messed with your vision, then," he retorts. "Look closer." Diego steps close to the screen to rewind the footage back to the beginning. "Dad has his monocle. Mom leans in, monocle's gone. She was taking it... to clean it," he explains, waving a hand.

"So then where is it?" Luther returns, eyebrows furrowed. "I’ve searched the whole house, she doesn’t have it.”

Silence stretches for a minute, none having an answer, until Diego averts his gaze. “That’s because I took it from her,” he says. “After the funeral.”

“You’ve had the monocle this whole time?” Allison’s eyes narrow dangerously. “What the hell, Diego?”

“Give it to me.” Luther straightens himself up, squaring his shoulders slightly. Diego shrugs.

“I threw it away.”

“You what?”

“Look,” Diego hisses, “I knew that if you found it on mom you would lose your shit – exactly like you’re doing right now-“

“Diego, you son of a bitch.” Luther takes a stalking step towards Diego and just as Klaus braces himself for another fight and more broken things, Vanya takes a step forwards, inserting herself between them.

“Hey guys, come on. Calm down. Look, I… I know that dad wasn’t exactly an… open book, but I do remember one thing he said. Mom was designed to be a caretaker, but also as a – a protector,” Vanya says, her voice surprisingly steady.

“What does that mean?” Allison asks, head shaking ever so slightly.

“She was programmed to intervene if someone’s life was in jeopardy.”

“Well, if her hardware is degrading then we ought to… turn her off,” says Luther, swallowing heavily. He hardly finishes the sentence before Diego turns on him, pointing in his direction.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait – she’s not just a vacuum cleaner that you can just throw away in the closet – she feels things, I’ve seen it!” He hisses through gritted teeth.

“She just stood there, Diego, and watched our father die,” Luther snaps back, his hands curled into tight fists by his side.

“I’m with Luther,” Allison says. Diego scoffs.

“Oh, surprise.”

“Shut up.”

Diego and Luther turn to Vanya, still hovering between the two of them. She seems to startle slightly with the weight of their gaze. “Oh, I – I don’t-“

“You’re right, she doesn’t get to vote in this,” Diego dismisses, shaking his head. Vanya glares weakly at him. Klaus cringes slightly.

“I was going to say that I agreed with you,” she states. Diego nods, waving away his previous statement.

“Okay, she gets a vote. What about you, ghost boy?” Diego turns to point at Klaus, who lifts his head ever so slightly, startled. His mind feels heavy, clogged with lingering thoughts from last night, and he wishes he was high in the comfort of his bedroom.

“Oh…” He looks between Diego and Luther, both eying him expectantly, and then he nods his head at Diego. “I’m with Diego.”

“Settled.” Diego throws a hand up into the air, only for Allison to interject.

“It’s not final,” she says. “Five’s not here. He deserves to have a vote.”

Diego sighs, shaking his head ever so slightly. “Alright, fine. Fine,” he says. “We wait for Five.” And, with that, he decides to turn on heel and walk out.

Klaus lets them drift out of the room in a blur, remaining firmly planted on the couch with his hand in Ross’. “Hope you like my family,” he mutters, eyes flicking to him.

“They’re certainly… interesting,” Ross muses, drawing a scoff out of Klaus. He leans forwards against him, already eager to let this rare moment of clarity go and to lose himself in nothingness, but a phone goes off and he jumps, heart protesting the sudden interruption furiously, and Ross kisses him as an apology and stands up to take the call.

“’s it alright?” Klaus asks, listening to his footsteps coming back into the living room. Ross sighs.

“It was work,” he states. “I need to go in for night shift.” He eyes Klaus for a moment, lips pursed, and he comes close. “Where’s your bedroom here?”

Klaus waves his hand in the general direction of the staircase and Ross wraps an arm around his waist, forcing him onto his feet despite the way Klaus protests weakly.

“I don’t have time to drive you back home, so you’ll just have to rest here,” he says. Klaus hums. The stairs are hard going, and he zones out on what Ross says to focus on them instead. He blinks and Ross is lowering him onto his bed and turning a lamp on. “Get some rest here, and I’ll be back to get you from here,” he says, and Klaus’ hand snatches his wrist as his heart leaps into his throat.

“Don’t – don’t leave me,” he splutters, “I won’t do – do it again, please-“

Ross takes his hand off his wrist with ease, coming close to crouch in front of him. He watches with near fascination when tears bubble in Klaus’ pupil-blown eyes and slide down his cheeks,    and he wipes them away with his thumb, then runs his thumb along his quivering lower lip. Somewhere in the back of his mind Klaus realises he always wears that look when Klaus is out of it; that hungry, predatory gaze of his.

“I love you,” says Klaus, when he says nothing. “Please, I love you, I love you, stay here. I need you, Ross-“

Ross cuts him off with a kiss. His lips clash with his, fiery and intense, and Klaus tries to reciprocate it at the same level; tries, like he always does, to give Ross what he wants, as if it’s the only thing he has to offer Ross – and he knows, with some pain, that it is. And then Ross pulls away from him, leaving them both breathless, panting. He ducks his head when Klaus tries to lunge and catch him again, preferring instead to take Klaus’ face in his hands and look him up and down; drinking in the bloodshot and eclipse-like wide eyes, the desperation in his features, the pale skin and the bruises that mar it, the shaking of his entire body.

“The things you do to me, Klaus,” he mutters, tongue dashing across his lips.

“Please,” whispers Klaus.

“I’ll be back, Klaus. Do you trust me?”

Klaus closes his eyes and nods his head. Ross smiles, brushes his fingers through his hair, and kisses his bruised cheek. Klaus struggles to fight down the rising panic when he feels Ross’ touch slide away from him, and the door closes behind him, leaving him alone in his bedroom and telling himself how to breathe properly.

 

 

He does get rest, then. Whether or not it’s because he fell asleep, passed out, or if he was awake but simply not consciously there, he isn’t sure. Either way, he doesn’t hear Ben’s yelling, or the gunshots, but he is aware of the fact that when he opens his eyes he’s no longer in his bed. Something above him opens, like the lid to a coffin, and two masked figures stare down at him. Klaus closes his eyes.

Chapter Text

Up until they start to hit him, Klaus thinks it’s all a hallucination. Something above him opens, flooding the tight space (Ross wasn’t there to comfort him through that drug-induced mausoleum flashback, and his face was still wet with tears) with blinding light and reveals to him two figures wearing ridiculous masks. He blinks, but they stay there, but the world behind them is an incoherent blur like smudged paint, and so he just assumes it’s a hallucination, maybe a vivid dream, and so he just blinks at them as they stare down at him. Then the big one, the one with the blue mask, reaches close and hauls him out, throwing him over his shoulder like he weighs nothing, and Klaus’ stomach rolls furiously and he blacks out for a moment, coming to when they’re going up a set of stairs.

Klaus,” hisses Ben, voice urgent as he hurries after them. “Klaus, look at me, Klaus; this is real – it’s real, Klaus,” he insists. “They broke into the house looking for Five, they kidnapped you – you need to get away-“

Ben always says shit like that, though, and so does the Ben he hallucinates sometimes when he’s too high to see real Ben, so he doesn’t trust him. He closes his eyes and hangs limply over the man’s shoulders as he’s brought into a motel room and roughly deposited onto a chair, pulling forth a muffled groan from his mouth. The one in the pink mask comes close, takes his wrists that he only then realises are tied together with duct tape. She uses a knife to cut them free only to hold them down onto the arms of the chair he’s on and tie them down onto there. Klaus wonders if it’s going to be one of those kinds of dreams, and he just resigns himself to waking up and to letting Ross chase away his dreams.

Hands grab his jaw, fingers placing themselves over the bruises left over from his and Ross’ fight, forcing his head up. Fingers pry open his eyelids. Pink floods his vision.

“He’s high as a kite,” says the mask, a scathing voice coming from beyond it. The hands fall away from him and his head drops like a bag of lead, chin hitting his chest and then rolling limply to the side. “What good is he? Could you not have grabbed any of the others?”

“At least I did manage to grab one of them,” replies the man. “You’ve not even tried asking him anything.”

“I doubt he even knows his own name,” retorts the woman.

“’s Klaus,” he mumbles, tongue heavy in his mouth. “My… my name. ‘s Klaus.”

“Oh, well that’s great, Klaus.” Footsteps come close again and he forces his eyes open despite the weights seemingly tied to his eyelids, struggling to keep them closed. Pink crouches down in front of him, eying him and although he can’t see her face due to the mask, he feels as if she’s wearing that look that Ross sometimes wears. Klaus closes his eyes. “You remember who Five is?”

Klaus huffs a breath from his nose. Easily this is the most boring and dull hallucination-slash-dream he’s had, and he’s eager to let consciousness slip away from him again in hopes of waking up in a bed.

Then a hand strikes his face, hard enough it jolts him forwards and his head swings to the side. His face screws up and he jerks briefly against the tape around his wrists, verbalising his discomfort with a groan. The restraints, although uncomfortable, he can deal with, but he doesn’t like being hit, and why had he even been hit in the first place?

Fingers tangle in his hair and wrench his head up and Klaus hisses. “S-stop it,” he mutters, a helpless request, and she leans in close.

“I’ll stop when you’re sober enough to tell me what I want to know,” she tells him, “so you better sober up real fast, now.”

She lets go of his hair only to curl her knuckles into a tight fist and send it into his cheek.

 

 

Do they not know that they are hurting him? He tries to tell them that they are, but either they don’t hear him, don’t believe him, or they don’t care, because they keep hitting him; rough hits over the back of his head, a backhand here, a punch there. He doesn’t know why they’re hurting him and why they won’t stop, even when he asks them to, when he finds his words to verbalise how he feels – like Ross always tried to coax out from him – but he does begin to realise that Ben wasn’t lying and that this is real.

The realisation strikes panic and fear into him and they don’t care when he says please and sorry, and he just wants the hitting to stop. His head aches steadily and he’s so confused as to who they are, how he got here, and why they want to hurt him. Although he’s aware of the situation, he can’t quite wrestle his mind into making sense of it yet, and so he tries to focus on not slipping into a full blown panic attack.

He wishes Ben could help, rather than just standing helplessly, watching Klaus babble and panic with a loose grip on reality. He wants Diego to break the door down, or for Five to zap in, or for Luther to come and for everything to be fine, for him to be fine. He wants Ross to take him away from it all and to hold him close in their bed and never let him go. 

At some point, though, they stop hurting him. Pink comes close and he flinches away, uselessly turning his head away from her. She reaches out, grabs his sore jaw, and forces him to look at her. His eyes focus on her this time around, surely catching her eyes behind those on the mask.

“Ready to talk?” She asks. Klaus nods his head.

“Five Hargreeves. Where is he?”

Klaus’ eyes flick aside to Ben only to come back to the woman when she digs her nails into his skin in a warning. “I – I don’t know,” he stammers. “Was at the – the funeral. I don’t know where he is now.”

Pink stares at him, silent. It makes Klaus’ heart beat rapidly beneath his chest, his blood roaring in his ears. She stands up, wanders for a moment only to return with a knife clutched in her hand. She uses it to cut his wrists free and Blue comes close as if he knows what she’s doing. He forces Klaus onto his feet, following Pink as she strides into the motel’s shitty bathroom with mouldy green and dirty yellow tiles.

Blue shoves him forwards and Klaus stumbles drunkenly over his own feet, hand failing to catch the sink to his side. His knees hit the bathtub at the far end of the bathroom and he falls into it, hands going instead to the back of his head when it catches the wall. There’s no time to gather himself before the shower head above him turns on, a spray of freezing cold water rushing down to greet him.

A sound between shock and mock-pain leaves his throat, his eyes screw shut against the water, and he fumbles to try and quickly pull himself out of the bathtub only for a hand to shove against his chest and for his body to fall back uselessly. He gives up trying to get out, instead moving his arms up to shield his face as if the water hurts him. His clothes cling to him almost claustrophobically, his hair plastering itself to his face. He wonders if it will ever stop or if he might drown, but it does shut off eventually, leaving him soaked and shivering on the bathtub floor. His hands scrub water from his eyes so they can open to stare, shocked, ahead of himself, and he holds his arms to his chest as if he might be able to warm himself up. Water drips down his face steadily, pattering onto porcelain beneath him. His breath comes in short, sharp pants, forcing its way through his tight throat.

He feels cursedly awake. A hand fists into his wet jacket, hauling him out of the tub and letting him skid to his hands and knees outside of it, only to once again lift him onto his feet and shove him into the living room, tracking water with him. Hands take his jacket off him, throwing aside the wet item of clothing, and while Blue focuses on tying his shaking hands onto the chair’s arms once more, Pink dips behind some curtains to open some windows, letting in a biting draft.

“Five Hargreeves,” she says, voice sharp and as cold as he feels. “Where is he?”

Klaus hunches his shoulders up to his ears, eyes briefly bouncing towards Pink and then away again. “I – I told you,” he hisses through chattering teeth, “I d-don’t know.”

“Think,” she demands. “Or do I need to jog your memory for you?”

Klaus certainly doesn’t like the tone of her voice when she says that, and he does think. He rakes through his memories like folders in a filing cabinet, only all of the folders are empty, in the wrong order or missing ninety-percent of its contents. He remembers drugs, and Ross, and highs, and Ross, and love, and arguing, and Ross, and moments with his family blurred beneath a haze of drugs, and Ross. He remembers Five, briefly, at the memorial, and he doesn’t remember seeing or hearing him since.

“I – I…” He trails off, curling his fingers inwards to the palms of his hands and grinding his teeth together. “I don’t – I’ve not –“

Christ, you couldn’t have picked any of the others?” Pink groans, turning her head towards Blue, who shrugs in defence.

“He’s probably still out of it,” Blue accuses. Pink’s head turns back to him, her gaze heavy even despite the fact that he can’t see her eyes, and subconsciously Klaus tries to flex his wrists beneath the tape holding them down. Water drips down his face, pooling around him, and he holds his gaze as if he might be able to decipher what’s going on in her head.

“We’ve got time to kill,” she shrugs, much to his dismay. Blue nods his understanding and stands up, fetching something from behind Klaus that he can’t see. Then there’s a wire being wrapped around his throat from behind and being pulled, wrapped taught around his neck, and no amount of jerking or struggling dislodges it until Blue does, letting it loosen every so often for short periods of time so that Klaus can stave off the encroaching darkness for just a little bit longer. 

Ross must be looking for him, he thinks.

 

 

Maybe it’s just him, but they seem to rotate between ‘tactics’ so fast that it feels as if time’s passing him in the fashion it does when he’s high; disappearing in seconds, melting together unintelligibly. They go between strangling him to putting out cigarettes on his arms and he’s not even noticed that they’ve got cigarettes, though he certainly does notice the smell of burning flesh mixed with nicotine. They slap him around a bit just to ensure that that doesn’t get old, watch his teeth catch on his lips and draw forth blood, and the same goes for his ears and his nose, rich copper rising to their touches, and they dance a knife over his skin, tearing his shirt apart to get better access to his torso and he’s helpless to do any more than an attempt at jerking and twitching away from the sharp blade. His skin feels on fire with or without their hands on him, and he can’t breathe and they don’t stop.

Even when they do, they shove him off into a closet that has the ability to turn into the mausoleum, and they seem more than happy to talk over his slightly muffled screams, the uncontrolled sobs, and they’re just as happy to overlook the panting, shaking state he’s in when they haul him out.

Ben does his best to offer reassurances, of course. Ben is there throughout it all. Klaus begs him not to leave. He doesn’t want to be alone. He assures him that someone will notice what’s happened, but Klaus wonders if he believes that himself. He highly doubts his family will. Ross will come back to find him gone, but what’s he supposed to do? He’ll probably think he’s done a runner. No one will know that he’s here, at least.

He yearns to open his eyes and to see his bedroom and to feel Ross’ hand in his hair, petting him affectionately like one might stroke their dog. He yearns for Ross to come and make everything better like he always does, to keep him safe, to chase away the rest of the world.

He cries, and he isn’t sure why.

 

 

Whatever they do to him, however, is little in comparison to withdrawals. Real withdrawals, too. Not withdrawals soothed with some weed or alcohol until he gets his next hit of something stronger, but immediate, complete, cold-turkey withdrawals.

He throws up in the closet first, and then second in the bathtub when they throw him inside it under another spray of icy water once more, and again into the trash can they leave by his feet, their noses wrinkled up in disgust. He’s sweating and on fire and freezing all at the same time, his clothes still sticky and soaked, his skin clammy, breaths coming in feverish pants and his body itching and aching in a way that threatens to drive him mad as time progresses and they get worse.

At least, though, his consciousness begins to slip again in the worst of it. He lets his mind wander wherever it wants, lets it relive memories, good or bad, or create fantasies to live out until water boiled in a kettle drips down his chest, or until a cigarette is crushed over the track-mark scars on his arms, as if to emphasise his shame and his addictions, or until the buckle of a belt catches his back when he slumps forwards.

He thinks he’s dying.

A hand grabs his jaw and tilts his head up and Klaus chokes on his breath. “Please,” he moans, voice rough and weak. “Please, just stop. Please, please, please…”

There are ghosts in the room. They had been filtering in slowly over the hours, piecing together slowly and coming to fill the room, gory victims that mutter and hiss and curse and watch with knowing eyes. He loses Ben in the crowd for a while, trying not to look up at them all and distinguish them as more than a faceless crowd, tries not to let their voices become one clear thing but remain an unintelligible moan. He doesn't want to give them any attention, not that he's sure he could focus on them with his body contrasting itself with the heat and the chills and the ache and the itch and the shaking all trying to fight for his attention.

He realises, somewhat distantly, that they’ve taken their masks off. While Pink stands in front of him, Blue is off to the side. They went out and got food, earlier, leaving Klaus to himself in the closet, and Blue sets his box of Chinese noodles aside. His fingers run across a nearby table with boredom, then grasp Klaus’ jacket, long forgotten. He pulls a face, then lifts it up, turning it around in his hands and dipping his hands into his pockets.

“Oh, lookie-here,” he says, mildly amused, and Pink looks up before she can speak to him, quirking an eyebrow.

“Hmm? What is it now?”

Klaus’ eyes roll towards Blue, blinking him into clarity only to see that a small plastic bag dangles from his fingertips. His body jerks involuntarily at the sight of it. Pink leaves him to take it from Blue, eying it, and then turns back to him and the sudden intensity in his glossy eyes.

“You know,” she muses, wandering closer, “I both love and hate dealing with addicts. Always so needy, so pathetic, it’s amusing. Look.” She comes close, crouches in front of him and rests her arms atop his legs – they’ve long since tied his ankles down to the chair legs. “How about a deal?” Her fingers pry open the bag and the taunting little crystals inside them. “Tell us where Five is, or where he might be, and this,” she waves the bag in front of his face, “is all yours.”

Klaus’ eyes screw shut. He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know. Desperation bubbles in him, violent and furious, and his nails dig into the arms of the chair beneath him. Had he said anything when he first came? Dropped any hints at all? He had gone to the future for years and he had come back. That’s all he had said days ago.

Please,” Klaus tries again. There’s a sigh from in front of him and Pink’s arms leave his lap. She turns up the bag and some fall out, scattering across the ground, speckling the stained carpet in front of him. “Wait!” He cries out. “Wait, wait, I – don’t do that, don’t, please – I can – I can get you other stuff! Anything else, anything – money, uh, drugs, strippers-“

She does anyway. Klaus’ head drops against his chest and his shoulders shake with a sob, emotions boiling over, and he wonders, in some odd, twisted way, if he deserves this.

Bad things always seem to happen when he’s mean to Ross. Illness, migraines, fights, now this. Maybe this is simply the universe punishing him for spitting on everything Ross has ever given him.

He can imagine what he’ll do to make it up to him when he gets back – when, not if, because he needs to get back to Ross. He’ll be sure to make it up to him, be sure to let him know that he does love him, really, he does.

“He’s useless,” says Pink, crystals crunching under her feet as she turns, leaving him to his quiet sobbing in favour of Blue.

“I thought he would have had something, at least,” Blue defends, shrugging. Silence stretches for a few moments. “Well, what now?”

“Get rid of him, I guess,” Pink mutters, sparing him a glance. She watches him blink through tears to stare at them with eyes widening in fear. His lips spew a chorus of please once more and they all go completely ignore as they move about the room. Blue cuts him free of the chair and when he can’t stand himself, Blue hauls him up like a puppy by the scruff of his neck. They go into the bathroom and Klaus throws a hand out to the doorframe, a futile attempt to try and stop himself from being moved. Blue breaks his grasp without a second thought, pulling his hand away. He shoves him forwards until he falls, once more, into the bathtub still half-full of cold water, and Pink comes in soon after, holding a gun with a silencer attached to it. Blue’s hand holds both of Klaus’ wrists against his own chest, just as effective in restraining him as the duct tape was, even when he tries to kick out and thrash against him with increasing panic.

“Just get it over with,” Blue grumbles.

“Please, don’t – you don’t have to,” Klaus blurts, tugging his hands in Blue’s grip uselessly. “Please, I won’t tell anyone – just let me go, I need to go – Ben-“

He catches his eyes, briefly, as if Ben might be able to do more than panic and beg him to struggle harder. Ben looks just as scared.

A gun goes off, muffled, and there’s nothing.

 

 

He wakes up. He gasps for breath, lungs burning and stealing priority over everything else. Water splashes around him and when he blinks the world back into clarity, he realises he’s in a bath. The water around him is red like wine, and for a moment, he’s confused. He peers around the bathroom and when he eyes the wall behind him, he sees a spray of blood arching high up the tiled wall.

Klaus,” splutters Ben, drawing his eyes from it. “Klaus, shit, how? Klaus-“ He stops abruptly, swallowing, and Klaus swallows against his own nausea rising in his throat. He’s freezing cold, he realises, and he can’t find any words in his mouth to respond to Ben with. Ben’s quick to move on either way, though. “You’re alone, Klaus; they left. You need – you need to get out, Klaus, move.”

It’s much easier said than done, Klaus thinks, fumbling on the rim of the bathtub, and when he falls out of it he falls onto his hands and knees, dragging bloody water across the bathroom floor. The urge to let his arms collapse beneath him is strong and he longs to let his eyes close and stay that way until someone comes and finds him and saves him, until someone comes and injects him with something that steals away all the pain and nausea in his body, but he forces himself on. He’s not sure of what just happened, but he knows, simply, that he doesn’t want to die.

He heaves himself unsteadily onto his feet, using the wall and nearby furniture to keep himself upright as he goes into the main room, all but throwing himself at the door.

It doesn’t budge beneath him. The door is locked and refuses to open, even from the inside, and there’s no sight of a key, nothing. He tugs it again, just in case, and whines in frustration.

“The vent, Klaus,” says Ben, “try the vent.”

He turns until he finds it, hidden down below the side of one bed, and he crawls towards it on his hands and knees. Much to his surprise, the vent comes off in his hands with ease, no need for prying off the nails. The cover had already been taken off to hide a briefcase inside, Klaus realises.

Then he hears the door handle jimmy, and he shoves himself into the vent, pushing the briefcase in with him until they fall out into a different room together, a room with a door that Klaus runs out of and isn’t locked. The briefcase remains in his arms, his fingers refusing to loosen their grip on it as if it’s his only anchor to life. He ducks in back alleys, putting as much distance as he can between him and that motel until his adrenaline wears off and his knees buckle, forcing him to take a break. He leans against a wall, peering out to eye the street around him. He wonders how long he’s been in that motel room for – he has no idea.

He sits down in the alleyway, sliding down the wall and clutching the briefcase to his chest, fingers leaving stains of red in the crevices of the leather. It feels cool against his flushed cheek, almost soothing on the wounds on his chest and the old burns on his arms, and darkness threatens him, then, closing in on him like a curtain.

It’s pure impulsive curiosity that makes him open it. His fingers lazily scratch over the clasps on it, ignoring Ben who tries to tell him to stand up and keep going, to go back to the Academy, of all places. He flips one clasp off, then moves to the other, blinking repeatedly to keep his focus from straying.

He flips the cover off of it, not sure of what to expect, but a blinding flash of blue light and the feeling of being stretched thin is certainly not it.

 

 

Soft, rather confused sleep-blurred eyes stare down at him, framed by gentle freckles, and calloused, gentle hands and a hearty voice.

“The name’s Dave. Don’t worry; things get better.”

Chapter Text

He’s still reeling when he feels ground materialise beneath him. He blinks to clear his vision of blinding blue, wiggles his fingers to feel them again, and then he processes the fact that he’s somewhere else entirely. No longer in an alleyway but inside a tent full of cots and sleeping men and helmets and rifles, the rustle of leaves filtering to his ringing ears. His eyebrows knit together in utter confusion as he looks around, trying to make some sense of everything.

The briefcase had emitted a blinding light, and now he was here. He isn’t high any more, but he is dazed and feverish as withdrawals begin to sink their venomous claws into his bones, and maybe it’s been longer than he thinks and he’s full-on hallucinating now, sweating on the floor of some alleyway, or maybe he’s still in that motel room, in the closet. He decides that the motel is real. Getting kidnapped and tortured was very real, and escaping – he’s fairly certain that happened too, though things begin to get a little blurry then.

But this? This can’t be real. He can’t be sitting on the floor of some tent, surrounded by strangers. If it is, he has no idea how he got here.

“Hey,” says someone, and his eyes, wide, bloodshot, flick towards the voice. One of the men is sitting upright in bed, with messy brown hair, eyes heavy with sleep, but he seems almost concerned. He opens his mouth to speak again but the only noise that reaches Klaus’ ears is a deafening explosion that shakes the ground beneath him in a dizzying way. He ducks his head, hands flying over his head, and there’s more, scattered around him, like bombs dropping around them.

Everyone jolts awake, immediately jumping into a routine of pulling clothes and boots on, placing helmets onto their heads, and grabbing guns.

Hands pull Klaus onto his feet. A helmet falls onto his head and a pair of pants, not torn and bloody like the ones still hanging onto him, are shoved into his arms, joined by a baggy jacket. He blinks and somehow he’s put them on and, with his hands full of the briefcase and a rifle, he’s being shoved out of the tent and into a land on fire and shaking.

They fight. Klaus stays low to the ground, doesn’t shoot, and complies when someone pulls him back and they retreat, an unknown amount of time later, and the ground stops shaking and there’s no more gunshots or explosions around him. Everything is eerily calm, and the wound on his chest are tacky with dried blood, his hair’s dried from heat, and his hands still haven’t stopped shaking, nor have his lungs learned how to breathe properly.

Falling onto a leather seat in a dust covered bus brings immense relief. Time slows down, becomes less of a blur of guns and confusion and fear, and he stares at the back of the seat in front of him with wide eyes.

He doesn’t know what’s happening. Doesn’t know where he is. Can’t tell if this is real. Is it? He feels exactly how he expects to feel in the first wave of withdrawals – which is, to put it simply, utterly shit. He curls his fingers into the fabric of his pants tightly, until the fabric feels strained, as if it might rip apart, and he grinds his teeth together until his jaw aches.

Something shifts in the corner of his eyes. For a moment he thinks it’s Ben, ever lingering in his peripherals, and he turns his head quickly in the hopes of something familiar. Only, it’s not Ben. It’s a man with tousled brown hair and blue eyes that peer at him with curiosity and concern. It’s the same man he remembers sitting up in his cot in the tent and speaking to him.

“Hey,” the man says, exactly like he had earlier. “Just get in country?” He asks. Klaus swallows. His throat’s dry. He doesn’t really understand the question, but he nods anyway. The man offers him a sympathetic, if somewhat awkward, smile. “Shit’s crazy, I know,” he states. Klaus huffs out a breath, eyes bouncing aside. Crazy? Crazy is an understatement. The man holds out a hand. “My name’s Dave.”

Klaus eyes his hand. Tanned, calloused, with dirt under his nails, his fingers warm on Klaus’ pale skin, flecked with dirt and his own blood. “Klaus,” he tells him, looking back up at his face. If he’s deterred by the clamminess of Klaus’ skin or the way he trembles involuntarily or the wild look in his eyes, it doesn’t show. He keeps a firm grasp on the handshake.

“How’re you fairing?” Dave asks him, looking him up and down and quirking an eyebrow at him. Klaus can’t help the snort that leaves his lips. With his own hand back out of Dave’s, he holds it close to his chest.

“Peachy,” he mutters. Dave frowns.

“There’ll be medics when we stop,” he says. “They’ll take care of you.”

Klaus just nods his head. What else is he supposed to do? He still has no idea where he is.

 

###

 

They call him a prisoner of war, and he goes with it. It’s the easiest thing to explain with the wounds and the confusion and the lack of identification – ‘taken from him.’ And plus, it’s not really entirely wrong, is it? Captured and tortured and with no clue of where, or when, he is. Though he learns that he’s in Vietnam, 1968. As in the Vietnam War.

Out of all the hallucinations he’s ever had, this is, by far, the most fucked.

His trip to the medics becomes longer when they realise that, apparently, he’d been heavily drugged by his capturers for an extended amount of time, and the withdrawals were worse than they first suspected. Klaus wishes they’d just let him go – he’d learned that the best treatment for withdrawals was heroin, and if they just let him go find some – someone would have it, for certain – then everything would be fine.

Instead, he’s confined to a cot, sweating and vomiting and much preferring the idea of death over sobriety.

He sees Ross, once. Or, at least he thinks he does. He opens his eyes, pants against the fire beneath his skin, and Ross is there, in all his glory. He crouches by the cot he’s on, squeezes his hand, and Klaus babbles. He isn’t even entirely sure what he actually says, if anything more than incoherent mumbling, but it’s meant to be something along the lines of I’m sorry, so sorry, please help me, I promise I love you, help me, help me.

Ross always had loved when he needed help.

He doesn’t think he’s ever wanted Ross more. His soothing voice, his hand running through his hair and down his back, coming to settle on his waist, or holding his jaw so that his head looks up and Ross can stare at him with that little sparkle in his eyes. He wants Ross to cradle his head in his lap and stroke a hand down his arm, fingertips gentle over the crook of his elbow, and then to feel a pinch and to feel bliss.

All he gets, though, is more cramps and a new pair of dog tags designed for him.

 

###

 

Dave is there in flashes, which is surprising. He asks about Klaus, seems sympathetic at the story of some poor, tortured prisoner of war who miraculously escaped and found a base. He checks in on Klaus, is the one to deliver the dog tags to him after he had given the information for them, and is there in snippets during his worst moments of withdrawals – which is, admittedly, horrifying, because those are the moments in which reality (if this is reality, which he’s still not entirely convinced it is) melts completely and the cot beneath him turns to the stone in the mausoleum and he screams until the medic’s consider kicking him out due to disrupting the other people in there. And, finally, he’s there when Klaus gets out.

“Finally getting out, huh?” Dave says with a smile, wandering over to the cot he’d been staying in. Klaus hangs his legs over the edge of it, watching his toes tap the floor.

“About time,” Klaus says.

“Are you feeling better?” He asks. Klaus isn’t sure. The withdrawals are over, but the cravings are still there, and he knows that before the sun sets tonight he’ll have his hands on something. The withdrawal’s had been hell all bundled up into a nice feverish blur, and the anxiety of being sober and alone is something else entirely, but at least he’s not chucking up his guts anymore.

“My guts are still inside my body, so that’s a bonus.”

Dave offers a laugh, claps a hand onto his shoulder, and guides him outside. The air is warm and humid, unpleasantly so, and he grits his teeth together against the blinding sun overhead. They’re in a town, evidently, and Dave guides him into some hostel.

“Everyone’s been pretty curious about you,” he states. Klaus hums. “Told ‘em to keep their questions to themselves, though. Dunno how open to questionin’ you’d be.”

He shrugs his shoulders half-heartedly.

“It’s whatever,” he says, though a part of him is grateful for that. He’d rather do the questioning, if he even knew what questions he’d ask.

Dave looks like he wants to ask him things. Klaus expects him to just come out and pry away until he’s satisfied – it’s not like Klaus would bite or be mad if he asked (unless he picked up on him babbling about mausoleums) – but he never does.

Instead, he brings Klaus inside, introduces him to the division – to his division, now – and makes sure he finds something to eat at dinner later. Klaus eats, he settles down, and by the time the sun is about to set, he’s standing at a window ledge with a blunt dangling from his fingers, relishing the burn the smoke drags down his throat.

He doesn’t like this new situation he’s been thrust into, but part of him is still convinced that he’ll wake up tomorrow morning in bed next to Ross, hushing him after a particularly bad trip.

He flicks the last of the blunt out the window when he’s done, and then he rolls into bed.

 

###

 

He doesn’t wake up next to Ross.

He’s not sure what to do. He realises that he doesn’t know what to do when he’s not off his face or being told to do things. What did he use to do? Party. Sleep with strangers. Sleep with dealers. Steal shit. Pawn the same shit the same day. Argue with Ben. Pass out in alleyways if he couldn’t weasel his way into someone else’s bed for the night. Spend all his remaining money on cheap junk food, or steal it. Run from cops.

There’s none of that to do here. Ben isn’t here – a fact he realised quickly, but never got around to thinking about until now, when he’s alone. Ben isn’t here. Ben can’t tell him things he ought to do, people he ought to talk to, places he ought to go. Ben isn’t here to distract him or talk to him. His sudden absence feels jarring since his ever-presence for a decade, give or take some time.

So, he smokes. He finds LSD quickly, and coke right after, and doesn’t bat an eye at how easy it is to get it, especially from other soldiers, or how no one bats a single eyelash, and lets him slink off to his bunk to fall into the familiarity of highs again. And when he heads out of the city, he simply swaps the coke and psychedelics out for amphetamines that are dropped right into the soldier’s hands, courtesy of the government wanting their soldiers to improve performance and endurance. He doesn’t mind.

 

###

 

They call him names. Not out of malicious intent, but everyone in the division grows a nickname for some reason or other. His first nickname is Spook, because, as they say, he’s like some damn spooked horse, jumping at the change of wind or whenever someone comes near him or, sometimes, at nothing in particular, nothing that they can see, anyway.

Klaus doesn’t really mind it. They’re not wrong – he’s particularly skittish and twitchy, though that’s all part of the Klaus brand, as far as he’s concerned. Ben might argue that he once wasn’t as jumpy. Once, he had been all smooth carelessness, and now he does things like doubt himself and have regrets.

At least he trusts the people around them, though that’s more so out of necessity. Though he had flinched when Jackson had grabbed him from behind on patrol suddenly, he hadn’t done anything (but is that trust or submissiveness? It’s the kind of thing that would cause arguments with him elsewhere) and it was the right decision, for he’d been an inch from a landmine. Alec had grabbed him and hauled him around a corner just before a bullet had whizzed past them, and Dave managed to wake him up from nightmares in a way that didn’t have him thrashing or screaming.

He trusts them, but it takes him a while to bond with them. He knows they’ll keep him alive, and he’ll try his best to keep them alive, too, but when they settle down and they all talk about home and girlfriends and wives and children and such, Klaus doesn’t join in. He tries not to talk to Clark, the one who eyes him and offers him smiles, the one who’s in the closet but virtually just leaning against the doorframe and winking at everyone who walks by, because though he seems sweet, Klaus isn’t a slut like that anymore, even if he doesn’t quite know how to get back to Ross.

One night, alone with him out the back of a bar, Clark tries to kiss him. Klaus ducks and stammers out something like no, no, I can’t, I don’t want to, but he doesn’t move away because he’ll probably do it anyway – but he doesn’t. Clark steps aside, nods and waves a dismissive hand.

“It’s fine, ‘s fine,” he had said, “no problem, Klaus, I’m sorry.” He had taken a drag of his joint, then given the rest to Klaus. “But I’m here if you ever change your mind.” And he had left it at that.

They do try to talk to Klaus before seeming to accept that he’d simply prefer to keep to himself.

Then there’s Dave. Dave, who he finds it harder to shut out for reasons he isn’t even sure of – maybe it’s because he had been the first person to talk to him and offer him some comfort, or because he’d been there for him when he was in with the medics. Either way, when Dave talks to him, he lets him, and he talks back.

Dave tells him about his family back home. His gran owns a farm that he used to help out with, and he had a lamb on it that he’d called Honey. The image of Dave fretting over a clumsy little lamb stays with him. Dave tells him about his sister studying to be a nurse, and his mother, who makes great pie, and Dave tells him about the time he fell asleep outside because his lamb had fallen asleep on his lap and he couldn’t move and wake her up, and how he thought he was having some kind of asthma attack the first time he smoked a cigarette with his friends. Klaus can’t help but laugh and lean close enough to brush their shoulders.

At Dave’s insistence of eating as regularly as they can, he puts on the little weight he’d lost sweating and vomiting in withdrawal’s, and it’s only then that Klaus realises how sickly he probably had looked. Drugs were one hell of an appetite suppressant, especially when one was so high they could hardly chew.

At night, Klaus lays in his bunk, or cot, depending where they are, and he runs his fingers over his ribs in the same way Ross does.

 

###

 

Despite relying on taking orders, he relearns how to make his own decisions, as odd as that might sound. He learns quickly that doubt and hesitation can be life or death while in action, like how he’d seen Miller split from the division and hesitate for a minute before running to joint them, only to be shot the second he stood from his hiding spot. Had he run earlier, before they were waiting for him, expecting him to move, perhaps he would still be alive.

Klaus remembers the way his blood had stained the ground around him and they hadn’t been able to get his body. He wonders about his family back home, and how they’re coping with his death.

He sees his ghost once, in the lull between highs. He lingers with the division, looking a little lost and dazed, rushing to follow orders only to fall through objects and people, and then he’ll stare at his hand, covered in his own blood, and he’ll blink, all confused, and Klaus will get high and not see him again.

So Klaus learns not to hesitate. Learns to make a decision and act on it, even if sometimes hesitation does the opposite and that lingering moment is what saves them, but he learns how to find trust and confidence, at least in himself, a feeling that’s almost foreign to him now. It’s odd to raise his voice and state his opinion to others, and it’s even odder to be heard, listened to, and considered. Worse still to be taken seriously. Klaus had been so sure all of the shit that came out of his mouth was nothing more than rambling. He can’t even cook himself dinner, let alone be trusted on a battlefield.

It’s odd. Everything about this is so odd, including the looks he’s given for having odd reactions to what he’s assuming is odd scenarios – like, for example, being taken seriously, and not being ridiculed or infantilised.

No one questions him, though, and he doesn’t question them either.

 

###

 

“You’ve changed a bit, I think,” says Dave.

Klaus’ eyes flick towards him. They’re sat outside, underneath the setting sun, and Dave’s cradling a glass of whiskey taken from the bar they’re all in, while Klaus favours a joint.

“Not in a bad way, I mean,” he hurries to correct. “A good way. Definitely a good way.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Klaus asks him. Dave shrugs.

“Well, you’re more chatty. Which is nice – you’re actually interesting, you know. Like, what – you used chocolate pudding to wax your own ass, I wish I knew what went on in your head. The other guys like you. I dunno. Just nice to see you opening up. Don’t make me go all sappy on you.”

Klaus snorts, rolling his eyes. He turns his gaze away, eying the sunset overhead, and toys with his bottom lip. Dave looks at him a certain way and Klaus doesn’t know what to make of it. Dave looks at Klaus as if he cares. Klaus doesn’t like it. But Klaus likes the way Dave smiles at him, the way his nose wrinkles when he laughs, and the way he nudges Klaus sometimes.

Something settles inside Klaus’ guts. He ignores it.

 

###

 

“I’m adopted.”

“Huh?” Dave turns to look at him, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m adopted. I have six other siblings. I was high at my dad’s funeral.”

Dave blinks. Klaus feels slightly bad for blurting all of that out.

“I’m, uh… sorry?”

Klaus shakes his head, lips twitching slightly. “Nothing to be sorry about,” he dismisses.

“Do you want to talk about them? Your family, I mean.”

Klaus hums. “We’re all adopted. All the exact same age. I have four brothers and two sisters.”

“I’m sure your sisters enjoy that,” Dave comments. Klaus snorts.

“We don’t really get on. Used to, years ago. Our dad was an asshole, though. We only got together again at his funeral. They hated that I was high.” He snorts at that, tugs grass by his thigh with his fingers. “They didn’t notice I was missing.” He mutters the last part and he isn’t sure why he’s saying this. Dave doesn’t need to know about all of his childhood trauma. Doesn’t need to know about the royal fuck up that is the Umbrella Academy.

But he listens anyway, and Klaus spills it all out before he can even stop himself. He tells him everything. Almost everything. He tells him about the Umbrella Academy, about being Number Four, about drugs and ghosts and being homeless. He tells him, with shaking hands and in whispers, about the mausoleum. He doesn't tell him about Ross. He doesn't want to, for some reason.

"He left me there for hours. Days, once. I - I couldn't, they never stopped screaming at me, I - I-"

And Dave didn't chase away his fears with drugs. He didn't hush him and slip a needle past his skin, but he reached out, pulled him into his side, and held him, comforted him. 

It felt nice. 

 

###

 

Dave had been talking to him. The music was too loud to hear him properly, and so they picked up their glasses and drifted aside, behind a curtain of beads, so they could talk alone.

Dave tells him something stupid, and maybe it's the alcohol or maybe it's because he's Dave, but Klaus laughs. 

He leans against the wall and inches closer, because there's a draft and Dave's so warm, and he wants to hear the way he laughs better. 

Their conversation drifts away slowly. Becomes more half-hearted attempts at distractions, becomes hesitation. But Dave's breath smells like whiskey, and the hand he lifts to settle on Klaus' cheek is warm and soft, and it covers the spot that Ross had bruised all that time ago. His thumb runs briefly over his cheekbone like a gentle caress, like a cliche romantic movie rather than the way one might stroke their pet, and then he's closer and kissing him, something soft and gentle and Klaus' heart flutters, his knees shiver. 

Klaus doesn't let Ross' face swim up to the forefront of his mind. Not until it's night, and everyone else is asleep. 

He kissed another man. Again. And he knew what he was doing. And he wants to do it again. The idea of not kissing Dave hurts more than the idea of Ross at home. 

 

###

 

"You're upset."

It's a statement. It's obvious Dave is upset - and upset with him.

He's high - coke, this time, and he wanted a fight. It's been so long since he yelled, or since someone yelled at him, or hit him, and coke always makes him that little bit more of a cunt, make him start fights and get his ass beat, usually. 

And Brown was simply a good target. He's a cunt too, and Klaus is fed up of him talking about his girlfriend at home as if she's a welcome mat to step all over, and then he'll go and screw some of the girls here and talk about them, too. He also has a habit of getting rowdy when he drinks.

So Klaus had taunted him, spoke shit about him, made fun of him, and then Brown had socked him, hard, and they'd tumbled to the ground, Klaus laughing between being punched, spitting back at him, and trying to kick him off of where he'd straddled his hips.

Then Dave had come in from wherever he'd been - having a smoke, Klaus thinks, with Wilson - and he'd pulled Brown off, and dragged Klaus away when Klaus, free from him now, had spat at him again, and narrowly avoided a kick to the groin. 

Now they're in their bedroom. Dave's pacing, refusing to look at Klaus, and Klaus is standing like some scolded child.

But this - this, he knows how to deal with. He doesn't know how to deal with Dave when he tells him he's things like beautiful, or amazing, and smart, or when he kisses him so softly, with something that isn't lust, and how he does't crawl into Klaus' bunk when they're alone and Klaus is off his face on whatever he'd gotten his hands on.

"Yes, I'm upset," says Dave, eying him. "Do you know what could have happened? That was stupid, Klaus." Klaus swallows. He knows the clench of his jaw, the set of his shoulders, the thump of heavy shoes hitting the ground. He doesn't like it, but he knows his way around this, knows how to fix it.

Klaus locks the door behind himself, taking some staggering steps forwards until he can grab Dave's wrists, pause him. To hide the automatic flinch when Dave turns on him, he drops down onto his knees, and he lets go of his wrists.

"I - I'm sorry, Dave," he says, voice gentle. Why does he feel bad? He doesn't want to do this. He rarely does. Does he feel worse because he had hoped that Dave would be different? That Dave would, miraculously, never get tired of Klaus, never get mad or upset with him, or because of him. It was a matter of time, and Klaus knows words are useless, and he's not got anything else to give other than the only thing he's actually good at. 

He thinks of Ross. He had been right when he spoke about Klaus and his ways. How he lets anyone fuck him, or how he'll drop to his knees in a second at the promise of being liked. At the idea of being validated in the only way Klaus can be. He had been right, hadn't he? He's always right.

"I'm sorry," he repeats, and his hands slide over his thighs, dance over his groin, and then go to his belt. "I made you upset, but - but I can fix it, yeah? Let me fix it-"

"Klaus-" Dave sounds startled, and Klaus hardly gets his belt undone before Dave's hands are on his wrists, pulling them away. That's fine. Sometimes Ross didn't want Klaus and his dirty hands to touch him, so he'd do it himself. Klaus lets Dave take away his hands and he doesn't look up. "What - what are you doing, Klaus?"

"I'm sorry," Klaus repeats, a little frustrated, because if he can't make Dave stay with this then how will he stay with him, and Klaus can't be alone, he can't- "I'm fixing this - I made you upset." He tries to wriggle one hand free a little desperately, but when it falls free and returns to his belt, Dave catches it once more, moves it away, and then he goes onto his knees so that he finally catches Klaus' eyes.

"I don't want that, Klaus," he says, his eyebrows drawing together. Klaus heartbeat quickens. They've fooled around, done everything short of actually fucking yet, and was that a lie just to entertain Klaus and his pathetic needs for attention and affection in any form? "I - I'm not upset because of you, Klaus, but Brown is a fucking hard-ass and he would've bet the shit out of you, and you just - you do this, sometimes, where you just stop caring about yourself, and that's what upsets me, alright? I don't want you to say sorry, and I don't want you to do that, either. I just - I'm sorry, Klaus."

Klaus wishes Dave would stop doing this. Would stop being so good, because Klaus doesn't know what to do now, and he wants Ross to tell him it's okay if he's a whore, as long as it's only for him, now, and he wants the way Ross' hand would grab his hair, urge him onto his knees, or back onto a bed, and they'd forget all about it afterwards. Klaus curls his hands into tight fists, teeth gritting against the tears that sting his eyes, and he hangs his head. He never knows what Dave wants from him. He doesn't know what to do.

"Klaus?"

"I don't know what you want me to do, Dave," Klaus says, and it's more venomous than he intended it to be. He snaps his head up to look at him. "I - I can't give you anything else, I don't have anything else for you, there's nothing I can do than - than that! What do you want?" His voice wavers weakly, caught in the rough edges of his throat. Dave blinks at him.

“I just want to talk to you,” he says, ever so gentle, and Klaus lifts his hands to press them against his eyes. He’s either too high for this or night high enough, and if Dave would just let him do this, they could go to pretending as if everything is fine.

But instead Dave sits next to him, and they talk.

 

###

 

The first time they actually have sex, Klaus is, admittedly, scared.

He’s not high. He can’t remember exactly the last time he ever had sex sober, but he does remember that he hadn’t enjoyed it, and he doesn’t want to feel the way his hips will bruise, or the way it might be claustrophobic when he’ll press his full weight down upon him and push him into the bed, or if Dave is surprisingly kinky and wants to choke him, or whatever, and there’ll be no high to make everything feel good no matter what it is.

He’ll do it, of course. It’s not a case of not wanting to do it – he thinks Dave is the only person he’s ever been actually excited to pull clothes off of and to fall into bed with, and with no promise of getting drugs, a meal, or a bed out of it. If Dave wants to do a damn roleplay, he’d probably do it. But he fears awareness and sobriety and he fears being aware of what he’s doing, of not being good enough or being too tense or too loud, or being aware of the fact that Ross is out somewhere, and Klaus is seeking Dave’s validation, even if he insists he likes Klaus for more than just sexual reasons.

But they fall into bed, and Klaus wishes he had stopped to grab some pills, but Dave hits his forehead against Klaus’ and laughs, and struggles to get his pants down before they sit up, and he kisses Klaus slow and gentle, and he doesn’t pull Klaus’ hair, or pin his wrists down. He kisses his neck, his cheeks, his jaw, his lips, and he goes slow and he makes Klaus see stars. He likes to call him beautiful. Klaus’ cheeks flush hot pink every time he does, and he curls his head into the crook of Dave’s neck, tightens his grip on Dave’s shoulder, and lets him.

Afterwards, Dave lays behind him, one leg slotted between his, an arm curling over his waist to rest on his chest, and Klaus doesn’t know what to think. So he doesn’t. He lifts a hand to place it over Dave’s and intertwine their fingers, and Dave squeezes his hand.

 

###

 

“I think I love you.”

Dave looks over at him. Smoke puffs out past his lips. Klaus determinedly avoids his gaze. His fingers shake. Dave nudges him, lips curling upwards.

“Yeah? Well, I think I love you too,” he says, voice gentle as ever, a grin on his lips at the prospect.

“I have a boyfriend.”

Dave blinks, looks away then back. “Uh… Klaus-“

“I don’t think he ever loved me.”

Dave pauses. He stares at Klaus. Klaus takes a drag of the cigarette dangling from his fingers. Both Dave and Ross had said those fateful words; I love you. And yet both of them were so different, treated him so differently. Did he prefer Ross’ form of love, those bittersweet words, the way he pushed the plunger of his syringe all the way down when he only wanted half, the way he laughed when Klaus’ words wouldn’t come out properly, or when he made silly mistakes, when he couldn’t eat or drink or do anything more than breathe (and sometimes not even that) because he was so high. Did he prefer the back handed hits, the slut shaming, the distrust, the way he locked him in, over Dave?

Dave, who, even in the damn Vietnam War, managed to find tenderness and gentleness. The way he called Klaus things like perfect and funny and beautiful, rather than a slut, or a whore, or a stupid, needy junkie. The way he twirled Klaus’ hair rather than fisting it, the way he loves him with respect and encouragement and sincerity.

He thinks Ben would like Dave.

Dave sets a hand on his knee, slow and gentle, always so gentle. “Do you want to talk?” He asks. Klaus looks at him for the first time. No judgement, nothing mocking, nothing cold.

Klaus talks.

He tells him about the way Ross loves him, about the arguments and the names and the first time he hit Klaus and the first time he threw something at him, the first time he locked the door, the way the drugs simply become more and more until Klaus had panic attacks when they wore off and how he’d overdosed with him, once, and he’d watched him and not called an ambulance (he claimed he didn’t know, Ben said he watched,) and the time he almost died because the guy he bought from had mixed drugs and Ross left him on his back and he almost choked on his own tongue, and the way Klaus would sometimes wake up with no clothes and new bruises and no memories, but it didn’t matter because they were in a relationship, so he didn’t need to ask, Klaus would have said yes anyway.

He tells him about the club, and the fight, and everything Ben had said wasn’t love. When he’s done, Dave looks more upset than Klaus feels.

“I’m sorry,” Dave says, his voice suspiciously rough. “You shouldn’t have went through that.” His teeth grind together briefly, head shaking. “If I met him… I’m sorry.”

“You’re not like that,” says Klaus.

“I do love you,” he states. Klaus stubs his cigarette out.

“I know. I – I do. I love you.”

 

###

 

He doesn’t forget about Ross, but it’s easier, now. Easier to stop comparing him and Dave, or expecting Dave to act like Ross, to do or say things that he had. It’s easier to move on, and focus on Dave and Dave himself. A weight feels as if it’s been lifted off his shoulders, as if a shadow that’s been haunting him has been torn away and he’s free, and he feels happy.

 

###

 

When they all get tattoos, and Klaus just has to one-up them by not only getting the tattoo of the division but also one of a tiger, he sneaks back to the same parlour later on and gets a third across his stomach, one that makes Dave grin and kiss him all sappily, and then go down the next night with him to get another one of his own – it’s not as big as the one Klaus gets (Klaus always has been known for going a bit over the top, but he doesn’t regret this, he doubts he ever will) because he’s nearly as bad as Diego with needles and getting the tattoo of the division only happened with the promise of getting wasted afterwards, but he gets one nonetheless. He gets a tattoo in Hebrew that he whispers the meaning of in the shell of Klaus’ ear.

“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”

 

###

 

They’re getting sent back to the front lines soon. Klaus can virtually feel the ground shake the closer they get. But Dave squeezes his hand and flashes him a crooked smile and everything’s fine.

 

###

 

Dave says that when this is all over, they'll move away somewhere, and he'll show Klaus how to bottle-feed lambs and they'll adopt stray dogs and a house with a white-picket fence.

 

### 

 

The first day goes by as fine as one can really say when referring to the front lines. They lose good men, of course, but Klaus is alive and so is Dave, and although Klaus feels a horrible, heart-twisting grief for his fallen comrades, Dave is still there.

Dave gives him his dog tags. It’s unsaid, but fear is there. Klaus gives Dave his.

 

###

 

He should have – he should have kissed him earlier, told him he loved him more, should have told him to run away with him, should have refused to go to the front lines. He should have – he should have done a lot of things. Should have swapped places, or gone more to the left, or kept a closer eye on him.

It doesn’t matter now, because Dave’s choking on his own blood, and his eyes are staring at the trees swaying above them. He looks at Klaus, his eyes taking a moment to focus, and his hand drags his own blood down Klaus’ cheek when he can’t keep it up, and the medic isn’t nearby, won’t hear him above the gunshots and explosions, won’t come in time, and he’s slipping too fast.

Klaus screams, begs him not to leave him, leave him all alone, cries for the medic, and Dave’s eyes go unfocused, pain seeping out and into Klaus instead, and this isn’t fair, this isn’t right – but he’s dead.

 

###

 

Initially, Klaus hadn’t touched the briefcase because he’d been scared of it, as well aside for the fact that he thought he was just hallucinating horrifically. But when he realised that this was all real, he’d been scared of it. What would opening it do? What new Hell would it send him to? He didn’t want to risk it.

Now he doesn’t care. He just wants Dave. He’ll start these whole ten months again and do it better, he’ll love Dave better, he’ll save him –

There’s a blue light, blinding, devouring, and it sends him not to a new Hell, but to an old one. To the alleyway he’d sat in ten months ago and first opened it in. Away from Dave, though still stained with his blood, and somewhere he doesn’t want to be, even if Ben’s there, now, fretting over him.

Klaus curls his blood stained hands around the handle of the briefcase and he screams.

Chapter Text

He’s not felt anger like this in a long, long time.

It surges up inside of him all of a sudden, furious, and has Klaus scrambling onto his feet, teetering, and slamming the briefcase against the wall, and then onto the floor, and the wall again, and then chucking it at the end of the alleyway where it bounces off a dumpster and clatters to the floor.

He hates the damn thing. He hates the universe, and whatever higher power there is up there messing with him, twisting his life into some sick cosmic joke. Is this entertaining? Is this funny?

Klaus’ fingers curl into his hair, tugging harshly, and then he whirls and sends his fist into the wall behind him. Pain ricochets down his arm and a shiver runs down his spine. All of that had been real, Dave was real, and Dave’s blood on his hands is real, and so is the fact that his life is a joke.

His rests his forehead against the wall, letting the chill seep into him as if it might soothe his erratic breathing or his shaking hands or locked jaw.

“Klaus?” Ben asks, hesitant and worried, and Klaus wants him to fuck off. He wants everyone to leave him alone. He turns to peer at the briefcase. Maybe he can take it back – he knows he heard cracks coming from it, but maybe Pogo or Grace or even Luther can fix it, and he can go back and fix everything – but then the thing splutters, sparks, and explodes into flames, as if God’s come down, pat his head, then spat in his face.

“Klaus?”

He closes his eyes. He had missed Ben. He truly had. But he wants nothing more than for him to fuck off to whatever limbo it is he goes to when he and Klaus argue and he leaves him alone.

Nonetheless, Klaus lifts his head up from the wall and opens his eyes, turning to look at him. Ben looks scared. He stands in the entrance to the alleyway, lingering, hesitant and uncertain.

“Where – what happened, Klaus?”

Klaus laughs. It’s bitter and sharp and all the things Dave isn’t. Wasn’t.

“It’s been hours,” says Ben.

“It’s been a lot longer than that,” says Klaus, shaking his head. He stands upright, rolling his shoulders back and curling his hands into fists. So much longer and if he had it his way, he never would have come back. Would he? He had no qualms about owning a little farm with Dave after the war. He had no qualms about the idea of even marrying him. He’d settle down with him in a heartbeat, wherever, whenever. He hadn’t spoken to his family in a long time anyway. He might miss Ben, sure, but Ben would cope. Probably. Okay, he might end up feeling a little bad for Ben, but the pros outweighed the cons.

“What happened? Klaus – you look – you look different.”

Klaus grunts. “How far is the Academy?” He asks. The Academy is one of the last places he wants to go to at the moment, but he has two places he could go to, and the Academy is his first option. He doesn’t want to go to Ross’ apartment.

“It’s – it’s not too far, I guess. Maybe fifteen, twenty minutes,” Ben says, peering out of the alleyway. He staggers aside as Klaus walks out, hands scrubbing at the wet spots beneath his eyes, and he says not another word even if Ben begs him to talk.

The Academy doors fall open beneath his touch, and he hauls himself inside. It’s quiet, nearly too quiet, and his footsteps seem to echo around him. He lingers below the staircase, gazing up at it as if it’s a mountain. He feels numb. What’s he supposed to do?

His hands are still tacky with Dave’s blood. He curls his hands into fists, watches the way blood and dirt has dried right into the creases of his skin, how it cracks apart. He wants it off. The sight of it makes him feel sick.

He hauls himself up the stairs. He can’t hear anyone in the bedrooms either, and he’s grateful for that fact, eager to be alone. He eyes his bedroom door, closed, and then he looks aside and to the bathroom closer to him, quickly dipping inside. He’s quick to strip off his dirty clothes, to kick aside his muddy boots, and to run the hot water in the tub.

As the tub fills, he looks around. He wants to be blacked out in an alleyway, wants to let the world crumble apart into nothingness, though he supposes it already has. What’s his world without Dave?

Klaus knees beside the tub, running one hand along the underside of it and rips off a little plastic bag that had been taped to it. Inside sits a few blunts he’d rolled at some point in his life, though when he can’t be sure. There’s a lighter in the cupboards by the sink, and as the water rises in the bath he settles into it, pulling out one blunt first and lighting it, eager to raise it to his lips and inhale until he can’t anymore.

He’d much rather the immediate bliss of a needle, but he feels as if he doesn’t have the energy to go out and find one. He isn’t sure he’s got heroin in the Academy anyway. Pills, crystals, maybe, but not heroin.

So he greedily huffs down one blunt as fast as he can, and almost immediately follows it by a second. The first gives him a buzz, and he wants, needs more. He lets the water reach up to his chest, sinking into it, legs folded awkwardly, and he keeps it so it’s almost burning, turning his skin pink and sensitive.

His chest burns and he gets half way through a third blunt before his fingers seem to swim with reality, and so he stubs it out and throws it onto the floor. He’ll pick it up later, before mom or any of his siblings can find it and chastise him.

He closes his eyes and tries to focus on how he feels as if he’s falling, how odd water feels against his skin, and he tries not to think about anything else. Not about the way the water turns murky, tinged pink with blood. Tries not to think of the way Dave’s lips parted to let smoke drift out, or the way Dave’s hands clapped down onto his shoulder as he laughed; the way Dave’s eyes crinkled when he grinned, and how he jerked in pain beneath Klaus’ hands as he died.

The bath grows cold. He hardly notices it until he’s shivering from the chill and he forces himself to move his limbs, unplugging the tub and stepping out. He half-heartedly dries himself before grabbing one of the robes hanging off the back of the door and tying it around himself.

Ben returns in time to watch him pick the remainder of his blunt off the floor, light it with shaking hands, and inhale it as if it’s the only thing keeping his eyes somewhat dry. Maybe it is. He isn’t sure how he feels anymore. The urge to cry is like a distant itch, as if everything’s underwater, or maybe he is, and it’s all muffled and hardly reaching him. That’s fine, though. He doesn’t want to deal with any of it. He wants to tear apart his bedroom until he finds enough drugs to send him wherever Dave is, or he wants to drain Reginald’s expensive liquor cabinet until he’s in a coma; wants everything to stop, to leave.

He finishes the blunt, feeling thoroughly fucked after it, fucked in a way that makes him stumble and steady himself against the wall because he can’t feel his legs, and it’s not enough.

He throws open his bedroom door, not cringing when it hits the wall behind it, and stumbles in, kicking it half-way shut behind him.

He stops.

“Where have you been?”

Ross is there. Ross. He had almost forgotten all about him. Why is he here? He wants to be alone. Certainly doesn’t want to be with him.

Fuck you,” he spits, anger suddenly filling the emptiness in him, and he stumbles past to throw aside the blankets on his bed and eye the stuffed animals there, wondering which ones he’s cut holes into.

What?”

And yet that tone makes him freeze. It always does. It saps out the anger instantly, makes his blood run cold, makes him curse his fuzzy mind.

“What did you say to me?” Ross repeats, sounding infuriated that Klaus might dare talk to him as he had. Klaus bites his lip, standing upright and forcing himself to look at him. Ross takes a step closer, close enough that Klaus has to tilt his head ever so slightly up to look him in the eye. “I asked you a question, Klaus. Or don’t I want to know the answer?”

Where had he been? Getting kidnapped and tortured, Klaus thinks bitterly. Getting over him.

“I was worried, you know. I came back and you weren’t here, or at home. Didn’t answer your phone. Didn’t come back. I was worried for you. But look at you, high as Hell and all pissy at me.” Klaus steps back and Ross reaches out to grab his wrist, tight and bruising, holding him in place. “Some guy make you think you’re better than me? Some guy make you think that you’re more than some common slut?” He asks, raising his eyebrows. When Klaus doesn’t answer why can’t he speak up? he backhands him. Klaus’ head snaps to the side, eyes down, and his mind flashes with say sorry, tell him you’re sorry, get on your knees and beg him to forgive you.

Then he thinks of Dave, and not the lies Ross keeps on spewing, and he lifts his head. “So what if I was?” He hisses, trying to yank his hand free from his grip but failing. “Fuck-“

His sentence gets cut off with a yelp as he finds himself suddenly against the wall, flinching when his head hits it.

Klaus has seen Ross mad. He’s seen him pissed off, seen him disgusted, seen him utterly disappointed. He’s sure he’s seen him furious before. But this dark glint to his eyes doesn’t match anything Klaus has ever seen before, and he only has a moment to regret his words before Ross’ hands latch onto his throat.

“I don’t know why I ever thought better,” he hisses. He doesn’t budge when Klaus tries to kick at him, only twists to press him against the wall with his full weight, and the only thing Klaus manages is to kick over his little stool with a lamp and two bottles on it, which all topple over with a cringe worthy crash. “What could I expect from some strung out junkie whoring himself out for drugs, huh?”

Klaus realises rather quickly that he doesn’t intend to stop choking him. He digs his nails into his hands, tries to pry apart his fingers, tries to push away from the wall, yet Ross seems to hardly budge an inch. With the wall behind him and Ross all but smothering him with his body, he can hardly move to try and kick him off.

His head feels fuzzy and he doesn’t think it’s because of the high anymore. He kicks his foot back against the wall, again and again, hoping it somehow manages to echo and find Luther, hopefully, because Ross feels as if he’s the one with damn super strength here.

“What did he ever give to you that I didn’t?” Ross demands. When Klaus doesn’t respond, he uses his grip on his neck to swing his head back and hit it off the wall behind him. He blinks heavily, tugs at his wrists and thinks that if not for him pinning him against the wall, he wouldn’t be able to hold himself up. He can’t breathe.

But he can still answer him. In something less than a whisper, perhaps only a mouthed word, Klaus manages to catch his eyes and say; “love.”

Ross’ eyes flash and, though he had thought it impossible, his hands seem to tighten further around his neck, and maybe he’ll just snap it instead of torturing his lungs like this. One of Klaus’ hands fall from Ross’, swinging like a puppet’s, and he slides down the wall a few inches, Ross’ hands following all the way.

“What the fuck.”

Ross is suddenly gone, torn away from him by a hand on his shoulder, and Klaus tumbles to the floor, hands flying to his throat and fighting to draw in sudden air. There’s a thud and Klaus looks up to see Ross on the floor, a knife pointed at his face, courtesy of Diego.

“Want to tell me what the fuck I just saw?” He hisses, eyes bouncing between the two of them, watching Klaus fall into a rough coughing fit.

“How about you stay out of this-“

“Shut up,” Diego snaps, jabbing his knife even closer to him, and when Ross tries to get back up onto his feet, Diego’s other fist is quick to snap his head to the side. “Don’t even – Klaus, you alright?” He asks, turning to glance at him.

There’s a flash of blue. Klaus cringes away from it.

“What’s going on?” Five asks, hands in his pockets and taking in the state of all three of them.

“Caught this fucker choking Klaus out,” says Diego. Five’s eyes narrow and turn to Ross, eying him like a piece of dirt on the bottom of his shoe.

“ ‘m fine,” Klaus grunts when he feels like he isn’t about to pass out immediately.

“Fine my ass,” Diego scoffs. “You open your mouth and this knife isn’t going to miss,” he hisses when Ross opens his mouth, and Diego’s knuckles tighten around the hilt of the weapon.

Five’s jaw tics. He eyes Klaus, rubbing his throat and wheezing, and then he eyes Ross. He turns back to Klaus. “How many times has he hurt you?” He asks.

“I’ve never-“

“How many times?”

Klaus grunts. He shrugs. He doesn’t think even he knows how many times.

“More than once?” Five asks. He already knows the answer. Klaus nods. Diego’s eyes turn cold. His fist curls into Ross’ shirt, hauling him onto his feet and shoving him to the door, knife pressed against his back while he hisses threats.

“Don’t – don’t fuckin’ kill him,” Klaus wheezes, watching them go. Five follows quickly and he thinks he hears him say something about hiding bodies.

Ross cranes his neck to look at Klaus. He’s still angry. “You don’t know what you had, Klaus,” he says. “When he realises what kind of worthless junkie you are, he’ll leave you too-“

“That’s fucking enough,” snaps Diego, shoving him until he hits the wall in the hallway, and though Klaus can’t see from where he is still on the floor, he can hear clearly the sound of another punch, and he’s almost certain Diego isn’t the one getting hit.

“About time someone punched him,” Ben mutters, lingering in the doorway and peering out before gravitating to his side. “Are you okay?”

“Sore as a bitch, but fine,” Klaus grunts. He leans back against the wall, eyes closed against the throbbing in his head and the burn in his lungs.

“Klaus… I’m proud of you,” Ben tells him, lowering himself onto the floor next to him. Klaus quirks an eyebrow at him. “You stood up for yourself. You deserve more than that piece of shit.”

Klaus glances away. It took him months, but he knows now. And he had someone. “I know he never loved me,” Klaus utters, and he looks to the doorway. He can’t help the small part of him that wishes that he had, though, and the doubt that what if he does? But Dave had showed him better.

Ben offers an apologetic look.

A flash of blue introduces Five once more, stepping out of nowhere and shaking out his fist.

“He won’t be a problem,” he says, somewhat ominously. Klaus grunts his acknowledgement. “You should have told someone, Klaus,” he says, turning to face him better. “I had a feeling about him when I first saw him.”

Klaus shrugs. He hears footsteps coming close as Diego hurries back up the stairs and inside the room.

“He won’t be a problem,” he says, repeating Five, and his eyes fall onto Klaus. “Why didn’t you tell me he was – he was hurting you, Klaus?” He grits it out through his teeth, looking pained for a brief moment.

“I loved him,” says Klaus, a rasped whisper, because he had. He had loved him. He had thoroughly believed he might die should Ross leave him. He can remember the utter mind-consuming fear that would fill him at the prospect of being alone.

How?” Diego hisses sharply, shaking his head and flexing his fists. “How could you love that-that piece of shit? You looked like you were going to pass out just now – that bruise – he did that, didn’t he?”

Klaus grimaced, looking away. He lifts his hand up to his mouth, biting anxiously at his nails. He had preened under any and every compliment Ross had given him, had strived to make him proud to be with him, had been utterly infatuated with him.

“It wasn’t all bad,” he murmurs. “He was nice, sometimes. Bought me shit. Bragged about me to his friends, cooked food, held me. He didn’t – didn’t beat the shit out of me every day.”

“Just every other week?” Diego snorts, gritting his teeth. Klaus flinches, a grimace twisting his features. “How long were you together?”

Klaus sighs. “June-ish,” he says. “Last year.”

Diego curses.

“He’s gone now,” says Five, interjecting. “Even if it should have been sooner, he’s still gone.”

Klaus hums. He’s gone, and he never loved him but it’s fine because Dave does. Dave had shown him true love. But Dave’s dead.

He curls a hand around his dog tags, tight, metal digging into the palm of his hand. “Did you notice?” He asks.

“Notice what?” Asks Diego. “That he was a piece of shit? I thought-“

“No.” Klaus waves a hand to dismiss him. “That I was kidnapped.”

“You were what?”

Klaus laughs. “Kidnapped. You know, snatched. Grabbed. Duct-taped and thrown into the trunk of a car. Taken right from the Academy while I slept.”

“When?” Diego asked, his eyes narrowed in anger. Not at Klaus, he tells himself, not directed at himself. Klaus shrugs. He doesn’t know if it’s the same day, honestly. He didn’t bother checking the time, and honestly, he’d been off his face when he was captured. His concept of time in general is pretty poor.

“By two psychos. They had terrible masks.”

Diego shoots Five a look. “Hazel and Cha-Cha?” Five asks, raising an eyebrow. He looks curious.

“Think that’s their names,” he says. “They were after you, lil bro. Got me instead.” He spreads his hands out with a bitter grin. “Did you not even notice?” Maybe he’s a little bitter about it. He thinks he has a right to be; he’s got scars from that day, scars he’d see if he shifted the robe he’s wearing ever so slightly.

“I’m – I’m sorry, Klaus,” Diego says, cheeks heating up. “They shot up the house. We thought you’d left with Ross, and we knew they were after Five. We went looking for him.”

Klaus grunts. He runs his nails over his lips. He knows it’s fair enough – he’d been dead asleep and Ross had left, it was fair enough to think so. But still.

“What happened?” Five asks, an edge to his voice that Klaus suspects isn’t just because of the idea of Klaus being kidnapped. He flaps a hand at him.

“Great time, really. Beating, water-boarding, strangling. It was kind of kinky, really, just minus the safe word and double the trauma.” His eyebrows draw together. Though his memories are fussy (he thinks a part of him ought to be more concerned about his memories, the minefield they are, with holes and gaps in them, but he can’t bring himself to care) of the night, he’s fairly certain he remembers them talking about killing him. Falling back into a half full bathtub, water cold and tinged pink with his own blood. A gun pointed right at his face, Ben helpless. But he’s alive, so he must be misremembering it. “I got out, though.”

“How?” Five asks. Klaus curls his hand around Dave’s dog tags.

“Does it matter? We should be grateful he got out alright-“

“They shot the house up less than twenty-four hours ago, Diego,” says Five, then turns back to Klaus. “You’re saying they tortured you. You look fine, except for your neck, but we know that was Ross.”

“You’re saying he’s making it up?” Diego accuses. Five rolls his eyes but doesn’t look at him. There’s a glint in his eyes. Five knows.

“No,” he says. “What happened, Klaus?”

“I escaped through a vent,” says Klaus, looking away with distant eyes. “They had a briefcase in the vent.”

“And you stole it.” A grin tugs Five’s lips; a genuine one that seems to spark light throughout his entire being. Especially when Klaus nods. “You’re a fucking genius. Where is it, Klaus? I can use that.”

Klaus laughs airily. “I broke it.”

Five’s grin drops. “What?”

“I broke it. It exploded. Went up in flames. Kaboom.”

Diego grabs Five’s shoulder when he takes a step forwards. Horror flashes fleeting in Five’s eyes, quickly replaced by disbelief.

“Why – why would you do that?”

Klaus shrugs, finally bringing himself to look at Five. “I wanted to,” he states. “Because I hate it. I hate it.”

Five’s jaw tics. He shrugs off Diego’s shoulder, eyes going distant, distracted by his own rapid thoughts. “I’ve got stuff to do,” he says, and then he’s gone with a flash and a ripple of space. Diego startles slightly, muttering a curse. Silence stretches between them for a moment.

“Uh, what does a briefcase matter?” Diego asks. Klaus hums.

“Not just any old briefcase,” he says. “A time travelling device.”

“Oh.” Diego tips his head to the side. “Did you… Five was implying that you used it.” He looks him up and down, at the lack of any evidence from being tortured less than a day ago. Klaus grins crookedly.

“He would be right.”

Diego blinks, eyebrows raising. “You time travelled?”

Klaus nods. “Oh, yeah.”

“What happened?”

Klaus’ hand tightens around Dave’s dog tags, metal digging almost painfully into his skin. “I went to the sixties,” he says. “Nineteen-sixty-eight.”

Diego stares at him. He turns to glance at the door, hovering on the balls of his feet. “Did… did something happen?” He asks, voice low, hesitant, uncertain, as if he’s not sure he really wants to ask and open that can of worms. Klaus blinks, grin unwavering.

“I was there for ten months,” he murmurs.

“Shit,” Diego says. “Could you – could you not just come back?” Klaus shrugs.

“Didn’t know how to work the damn thing. Was afraid it might spit me into the thirties next, or something. I… it wasn’t all bad,” he says. Diego blinks. He eyes the door.

He sits down opposite him. “What happened?”

“I met someone,” he states. “Someone who loved me. Really loved me, not like Ross. And I loved him. So, so much.” He fears the dog tags might shatter inside his fist and he has to force his grip to loosen ever so slightly. “And then I lost him.” His eyes close. He thinks about Dave, but not bloody and dying beneath his hands. Instead he thinks about him laughing with firelight bouncing off his face, coughing around a cigarette, or Dave’s gentle touches, his sincere compliments, his love.

Diego shifts, moving to sit at Klaus’ side. He hesitates for a moment, eying him as if he’s some ticking bomb, and then he grunts, drapes an arm around his shoulders, and lets him fall against his side, hand squeezing his shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” he offers. “What… what was his name?”

Klaus inhales shakily. “His… his name was Dave.”

“Tell me about Dave.”

And Klaus does.