The butterfly effect is one of the most popular explanations for the existence of parallel universes, multiverses, and alternate realities.
In essence, the theory states that even the smallest of actions at one point in a timeline—such as a butterfly flapping its wings—can change the course of history more and more as time passes. While this theory is generally considered irrelevant, there is some truth to it when it comes to changing the outcomes of events in a timeline. Of course, the final results of the initial action won’t be seen for months, if not years later, but as time passes, the effects will increase exponentially.
That’s the basis of the butterfly effect: something small, spiraling gradually into something much bigger. Sometimes, that “something small” really does start as subtle as a butterfly flapping its wings where it wouldn’t have in another timeline.
Other times, it’s much more obvious; other times, the beginning of the end—or, rather, the beginning of the end of the End—starts with not with a butterfly, but with a multicolored portal appearing in an abandoned back alley, and a young man falling out of it and landing on the ground face-first.
Or that young man sitting up, blowing purple hair out of his face, looking at the alley that decidedly does not match his previous surroundings (or previous world if the villain had been correct during her rant about her quirk), and saying in his native Japanese, “Shit.”
-Three Months Later-
“You know,” Klaus says, “this isn’t how I planned on spending my Tuesday night.”
The massive guy who’d cornered him in the alley behind the bar punches him in the chin.
Klaus staggers back into the wall, trying to shake stars out of his vision. “ Ow ,” he says. “Come on, mister, can’t we talk this out?”
“You kissed my girl ,” Big Guy snarls.
Klaus is pretty sure he would have remembered that. Then again, he’d taken something back in that chaotic mess of dancing and he doesn’t quite remember what, so there’s a good chance he had, actually, kissed some girl. Or been kissed by some girl, which is significantly more likely. Initiating kissing in places like this tends to get him in trouble. Then again, kissing or no kissing, he has a tendency to get into trouble anyway.
“Damn right you’re getting into trouble!” Big Guy snaps.
Oops. He must have been talking about loud again. Oh, well, at least his thoughts aren’t insulting. Probably.
His giggles only seem to annoy Big Guy more, which is fine, he can handle himself, he can run pretty damn fast when he wants to—and then he gets another punch to the gut. His giggles turn into wheezing as he doubles over and Big Guy follows it up with a vicious kick to the knee. Klaus goes down hard. His feet slip out from underneath him and he lands on top of his wrist with enough awkwardly placed weight that he hears a crack.
Pain worms its way past his pleasant drug-induced haze. Okay, so maybe he can’t handle himself. This is going to be another one of those nights, isn’t it?
He tries to get up, but Big Guy kicks him hard in the chest.
Always with the torso shots, Klaus thinks, wheezing as he curls up into a ball. Can’t someone give me some variety?
Stars explode across his vision. His ears crackle and roar. The taste of metal fills his mouth. He dimly realizes he must have gotten kicked in the nose, since that’s where he’s pretty sure most of the pain in his face is radiating out from. That’s what he gets for asking for variety.
He can almost hear Ben now: “Be more careful what you wish for next time, Klaus.” He doesn’t actually hear Ben, though, because Ben’s out spying on their other siblings right now.
What he does hear is a thump of something solid slamming into someone’s head (which, unfortunately, he can identify without looking) followed by the distinct sound of someone collapsing. And nobody keeps kicking him. Huh.
Klaus brings his hands to his nose, prods it gingerly to make sure it isn’t broken despite the blood, then sits up. His head swims, but he looks up anyway.
A lean figure in a hoodie stands in front of him. They look down at the limp form of Big Guy, drop their empty flowerpot onto his stomach and earn a grunt, and offer Klaus a hand.
Klaus takes it, a little bewildered as he gets pulled up to his feet. “Thanks?”
The figure shrugs. Once he’s steady, they step back and slip both hands in their hoodie pocket. “You looked like you could use a hand. And I needed the frustration relief.”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Klaus agrees, not sure what else to do.
They stare at each other. Klaus doesn’t know what to do now. Should he ask who the figure is? Absently, he twists his wrist, but it seems like he must have imagined it cracking, since it moves just fine without hurting much.
The figure looks down at Big Guy, then back at Klaus. “Well,” they say finally. “Anyway. Have a nice night. Maybe stop picking fights. Or not, I’m not about to judge.” They flash a peace sign, then edge around Klaus towards the main street.
“Hey, wait,” Klaus says suddenly, turning to follow them.
The figure pauses. “Yeah?”
Klaus hesitates, looking closely at them. He really should let them walk away and let this random person just keep going on their way. But... well, he’s curious now, and Ben still isn’t back, and he doesn’t really want to be on his own right now. “Wanna get some waffles?”
He feels more than sees the figure’s incredulous stare. “Isn’t it two in the morning?”
“Closer to three, probably,” Klaus says cheerfully. “Perfect time for waffles. Want some?”
The figure stares at him for a while longer.
Klaus waits expectantly.
Finally, the figure sighs. “... Only if they have coffee.”
Ten minutes later, they both sit slumped in the dingy little Waffle House around the corner.
Klaus’s mysterious hooded helper turns out to be a kid maybe nineteen or twenty years old, with his flyaway hair dyed an obnoxious dark purple. Klaus is actually impressed; it’s dyed so well he can’t even tell what color the guy’s roots are. That by itself would earn him a “mad scientist” label (or at least a “professional hairstylist” one), but considering how raccoon-like he looks with those Texas-sized eye bags, he quickly revises that to “overworked college student.” The way Purple Guy curls his hands around his coffee mug and practically inhales his first cup definitely supports that.
Ben perches on the seat beside Klaus, examining their new maybe-friend. He’d appeared halfway through ordering with a squinty frown at Purple Guy’s presence. Klaus had quickly summed up their meeting by enthusiastically recounting it to the waitress, who had just nodded with the look of someone who’s worked too much retail before asking for their orders. Ben hasn’t stopped watching Purple Guy ever since he heard the story.
“There’s something weird about him,” he says.
Klaus shrugs one shoulder and magnanimously doesn’t point out how hypocritical that is coming from a ghost. “So what’s your story, oh tall dark and handsome?” he asks instead, dropping his voice to a low purr.
Disappointingly, Purple Guy doesn’t get flustered at all. “Hitoshi.”
“That’s his name, genius,” Ben says.
Purple Guy actually rolls his eyes. “My name is Hitoshi.”
“Oh! Lovely name. Hitoshi . Just rolls off the tongue.” Klaus uses his own tongue to slowly lick his lips, mostly curious to see what he’ll do.
Hitoshi just eyes him tiredly. Klaus genuinely can’t tell if it’s heterosexuality or exhaustion keeping him from reacting any more than that.
He puffs out his cheeks, disappointed, but gives up. “Anyway, I’m Klaus, and this is Ben.”
He jerks his head at said ghostly brother and offers a hand and a bright grin. Time to see what his reaction is to the ‘crazy’ guy.
To his delight, Hitoshi barely blinks before shaking his hand. “Nice to meet you, I guess.”
Ben nods thoughtfully.
“Yes! So.” Klaus leans forward, still with his grin firmly in place. “Why’d you help me?”
He wants to know if the guy wants something from him, or if he’s just some unlikely Good Samaritan. What he gets is something completely unexpected.
“I’ve been wanting to slam that flowerpot I picked up off the ground into someone’s head all day today,” Hitoshi says, nearly emotionless, holding eye contact. “I saw the chance to fulfill that goal and I took it.”
Ben’s eyebrows climb.
Klaus leans away a little bit. “Um.”
At once, Hitoshi’s blank expression cracks into a small smirk. “Kidding. I just don’t like leaving people in a dangerous situation if I can help get them out of it.”
Klaus sits back, puffing his cheeks out. How heroic. Not what he’d expect from a half-zombie college student, but everyone has their quirks, he supposes. “Well, it was helpful. Kind of. I could have taken him.”
“Could you, though?” Ben wonders, which, ouch. He hadn’t even been there!
Hitoshi just shrugs and takes another deep drink of coffee. It’s not disagreement, so he’ll take it as agreement.
Klaus drums on the table, wondering how long it’s going to take the waffles to come out. “So! Hitoshi, my buddy, my pal, what are you doing in the back alleys of this lovely city anyway? I’m guessing you don’t get around much.”
Hitoshi frowns at him. “Why do you say that?”
“You’re even paler than I am,” Klaus says cheerfully. “And I am very proud of my sunless skin. So! Where ya from?”
“That’s the most ridiculous way I’ve ever heard to guess that I’m from out of town,” Hitoshi says flatly.
Klaus just grins. Let him think it’s a guess; he’s not going to try to explain the not-quite-solid sense of other he’s getting from the guy. He might have ignored Ben’s comment but that doesn’t mean it didn’t stick. There’s definitely something weird about Hitoshi. He just hopes it’s good weird, not bad weird.
Hitoshi eventually shakes his head. “I’m from Japan. Ending up here was...kind of a surprise.” His lips quirk to the side. “But I’m doing my best.”
“Ooh, I love surprises,” Klaus chirps. “What kind of a surprise? Unexpected promotion? Unexpected demotion? Summer fling that you eloped with to a different country to escape her overprotective parents, only for her to dump you because she’d only used you as an excuse to get away from her homophobic father so she could go meet up with her biker-gang-leader girlfriend and do biker-gang-lesbian things?”
Hitoshi stares at him. “That’s...awfully specific.”
Klaus just waggles his eyebrows. He earns himself an amused snort and preens a little.
After taking another sip of coffee, Hitoshi shakes his head. “No, it was...work stuff. An unexpected business trip, you could say. Except it wasn’t supposed to happen because it was my day off, but it happened anyway, and then all my plans were cancelled in the air and my bags were lost in transit. So I’ve been kind of...wandering.” He shrugs.
Klaus has no idea what that means. “That sucks.”
“You have no idea,” is the mutter in reply.
Thankfully, the awkward silence after that cryptic comment doesn't last long, since the waitress soon reappears with two plates of waffles and more coffee for Hitoshi and they both dig in.
It's not until they finish eating and go to pay that Klaus remembers he doesn't have any money on him. Hitoshi ends up paying for both of them, but he doesn't seem too put out by it. They part with an amiable wave, and Klaus heads back into the city chatting with Ben about which midnight movie showing they should sneak into.
At first, it’s just one random run-in with an insomniac with weird hair, and Klaus thinks nothing more of it. Then, a month later, he finds the guy again.
He’s just on his way sneaking out of his latest one-night-stand’s room via the fire escape instead of the door, because he takes every chance he can to be overly dramatic. It takes longer than it should because not only is he trying to be quiet, he’s also carefully trying to avoid breaking the large flowerpot full of tiny purple flowers balanced on the windowsill. Once he does make it out, he slumps back against the wall and sighs in relief. Then he hears voices in the alley below.
Peering over the railing, Klaus spots four guys in shitty suits surrounding another smaller guy in a hoodie. The Suit Guys have handguns like the most stereotypical goons ever. Hoodie Guy looks supremely unconcerned that he’s either about to be mugged or murdered.
“Boss wants you to know you picked the wrong man to steal from,” Suit Guy #1 growls in a voice that sounds like he’s been gargling broken glass.
Hoodie Guy spreads his hands. “In my defense, his security is shit. If anything, you should be owing me a favor for pointing out the flaws.”
The Suit Guys chuckle darkly. Klaus thinks it’s funny too, but probably for a completely different reason.
“We’re supposed to make an example of you,” Suit Guy #2 tells Hoodie Guy.
“In this alley where nobody is going to see you four try to kill me? I don’t think you could get any more cliché. It won’t be much of an example.” Hoodie Guy shakes his head. “I have to say, I’m disappointed. Where’s your panache?”
Klaus muffles a snort. The Suit Guys just growl.
“Tough crowd,” Hoodie Guy muses. “Ah, well. I don’t suppose I can convince you to reconsider?”
Another round of cliché dark laughter.
“Say goodbye, punk,” Suit Guy #1 threatens.
Hoodie Guy sighs heavily. “Goodbye.” Then he moves .
Suit Guy #3 reels back with a shout of pain, clutching his face as blood spews from between his fingers.
Hoodie Guy doesn’t stop: he spins in a blur, sweeping his leg and knocking Suit Guy #3 down so fast he slams his head on the concrete and doesn’t get back up again. Suit Guy #4 joins him a second later with a wheeze after a hard knee to the groin.
Klaus is 80% sure it’s not the drugs he’s on that make Hoodie Guy look like he’s blurring with speed. It’s like watching Diego fight, except a lot more...efficient?
No, that’s not the right word.
The point is, Hoodie Guy’s movements are each hitting exactly where they need to be with exactly the right force and no extra turning or flailing, and it’s kind of terrifying to watch.
By now, Suit Guys #1 and #2 have got their guns up, and they fire—but they hit Suit Guy #4 instead when Hoodie Guy drags their buddy in front of him as a living shield. He shoves the man at Suit Guy #1 and tackles Suit Guy #2, ducking under his swing and slamming a neat one-two into his stomach. He finishes him off with a palm strike to the nose and turns, only to freeze.
Suit Guy #1, having shoved his groaning (and bulletproof-vest-wearing, apparently) buddy out of his way, has his gun leveled at Hoodie Guy’s face.
“Nice try,” he sneers, “but not nice enough.”
“Which is where you’re wrong,” Hoodie Guy says. “You missed something important. You know what that is?”
“No, what?” Suit Guy #1 asks, clearly not expecting anything.
Klaus chucks the flowerpot from the windowsill at his head.
It hits his skull hard enough to shatter the painted ceramic pot and drop Suit Guy #1 to the ground. Dirt and the once-pretty flowers scatter everywhere.
Huh, Klaus hadn’t actually expected that to work
Hoodie Guy stares down at the unconscious Suit Guy #1. “...That, apparently.” He looks up. “Thanks.”
Klaus catches a glimpse of eye bags the size of donuts and abruptly places the voice. He beams. What was it he’d said, that first meeting? “You looked like you could use a hand, and I needed the frustration relief!”
Hoodie Guy pushes his hood down, revealing a familiar floof of purple hair. “Klaus?” he asks incredulously.
“Hitoshi, buddy!” Klaus cheers. He clatters down the fire escape and stumbles to the ground. “Fancy meeting you here!” He throws his arms wide, offering a hug, and Hitoshi rolls his eyes but moves in.
Klaus wraps his arms around him in delight. Oh, Hitoshi is a good hugger, too.
He pulls away pretty fast, though, so Klaus lets go.
He then beams at his—well, his purple-haired assault partner. Maybe they’re friends? They’re probably friends, right? After this kind of a thing happening twice? No harm in asking. “Are we friends now?”
Hitoshi just blinks at him. “Were we not before?”
The only reason Klaus doesn’t wince at the question is because Hitoshi sounds just as genuinely unsure as him. Thank God, he’s not the only social-disaster one here.
Before he can answer well, duh, of course we’re friends, assuming you really want to be, Suit Guy #4 stirs with a groan.
Hitoshi eyes him like he’s considering kicking him again.
Instead, Klaus links his arm through his elbow like a high-class couple and drags him out of the alley. “Come on! There’s a diner somewhere down this street, isn’t there? I just saved your life, you definitely owe me pancakes!”
“I had it handled,” Hitoshi says, rolling his eyes. He doesn’t pull away though.
Klaus snorts. “Yeah, handled real well. He had a gun in your face!”
“And he was talking to me,” Hitoshi counters.
“What’s that have to do with anything?” Ben asks, falling into step with Klaus on his other side. Klaus repeats the question for Hitoshi’s benefit.
Hitoshi shrugs, a secretive smile playing on his lips. “I’m pretty good at talking people down.”
Much later, Klaus will look back on this moment, squawk in outrage at the inside joke, and swat Hitoshi on the back of the head.
For now, all he does is laugh and tow his new friend towards the diner. Questions can come later—right now, it’s time for pancakes.