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I build bridges with these arms, I will not build a fortress

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Dave had always been an early riser. Without the requirements placed on him by military service, it became evident immediately that Klaus was not. Though Dave loved to spend his time with Klaus, to let his partner wake up in his arms, he also needed a little time for himself, and while he was awake but Klaus was still sleeping was the ideal time, particularly after a night where they had only been woken once by nightmares - one of Dave’s this time. But they’d both managed to get back to sleep without too much delay and Klaus’s sleep prior to that had been peaceful, so Dave was confident Klaus would make it through the rest of his sleep without incident. They’d figured out that if he made it past five hours without a nightmare, there was a very good chance he was safe for the night. Of course, waking up and going back to sleep complicated that particular counter, but Klaus seemed to be sleeping soundly and Dave liked the idea of a little time to read.

There were so many new books for him to enjoy, decades worth of stories, and even some that were really, explicitly about people like him, not just hidden in covert whispers.

Careful not to wake Klaus prematurely, Dave climbed out of bed and crept through the halls to the kitchen in search of a cup of coffee to accompany him on his journey into a fictional world, his book tucked under his arm. 

The windows were fogged up enough to hide the fact that there was an outside world at all, and though the house held so many horrible moments and memories for Klaus and his family, he liked to think it was becoming a sanctuary and not a prison these days. It was certainly comfortable for him, although he’d never experienced the bad side of the house for himself. Though in all honesty, he could find this same joy anywhere he got to just be with Klaus and with himself, without having to stay on guard or closed off in some way. He had never realised just how much tension he had been holding in his past life. But the cocktail of love, freedom, safety, and the lingering warmth of sleep had him feeling more relaxed than he’d ever truly felt before. 

When he reached the kitchen, he was mildly surprised to see Five sitting there, a half full pot of coffee with an empty one beside it on the table in front of him. He was hunched over a pile of papers, covered in scribbles that Dave couldn’t quite make out. “And I thought I was an early bird,” he joked.

“What time is it?” Five asked, barely glancing up. 

“Six forty, give or take a bit.” He considered pouring himself some coffee from Five’s pot, but based on what Klaus had told him about his brother, he decided against it and instead went to prepare his own. 

“Oh.”

“Have you slept yet?”

“Don’t need sleep.”

“I’m pretty sure everyone needs sleep, but you do you.” He glanced over at Five, at the bags under his eyes and the heavy exhaustion he carried on his shoulders like an overloaded backpack. Dave had seen that look before. He’d felt that way before. Sometimes, sleep was terrifying. It was a leap into the unknown, allowing your subconscious to wreak havoc and torture you however it pleased. 

For Klaus, the solution was usually sensory comfort. Singing to him, holding him, stroking his hair, telling his mind that he was safe and could rest now, that was what most often soothed him into sleep. For Dave, he needed distraction. Klaus was perfect at that, at talking about the most bizarre and entertaining things, at filling Dave’s mind with so much that there was barely room for anything awful to force its way through and into his dreams. 

It was impossible to know what would work best for Five, but he did need something. That much was clear. 

Dave took the seat opposite Five and sipped his coffee in silence, looking out the window as the first drops of rain broke through the smooth sheet of fog coating it. Slowly, Five seemed to relax back into his work. Evidently Dave was not enough of a threat or a disturbance to cause him to retreat like some kind of spooked animal. Given how many reasons Five had to act precisely like one, Dave was honestly rather flattered. Of course he wanted Five to like him, but neutrality was far better than discomfort, distrust, or dislike. And given how little time Five had had to get used to his presence, neutrality was excellent for the time being.

“More coffee?” Dave asked when he saw Five reaching for his empty pot. He was still nursing his first cup, and though he liked it well enough, he wasn’t quite as territorial as Klaus implied Five was.

“Please,” Five said with a curt nod, his attention still focused on his scribbles, scowling at the paper.

“You know, I’ve been meaning to thank you,” Dave said as he stood and poured some out into Five’s mug.

“Thank me?” Five repeated, looking up from his papers with narrowed eyes.

“Yeah. I know you were always looking out for Klaus when you were kids, and it seems to me like you never stopped tryna keep him and the rest of your family safe. I wanna thank you for that. But I also wanna let you know I’m looking out for Klaus too.”

Five was frozen in place, and Dave felt a horrible sinking in his stomach. He’d screwed this up somehow. He’d pushed too hard or stepped too far over some invisible boundary. But he just nodded stiffly and grabbed his refilled coffee mug. 

Dave took that as the best he could ask for. At least Five hadn’t snapped at him or reacted overtly negatively. He simply sat back down at the table and opened his book to read. 

“What are you reading?” Five asked after ten minutes or so of companionable silence. 

The question came as a bit of a surprise, but Dave recovered quickly. He was used to being surprised by a Hargreeves, after all. “It’s called Exit West.”

“Hmm. What’s it about?”

Dave laughed softly. “It’s about a world where there are these doors that let you immediately travel to a new country, and the main characters are refugees escaping a civil war and trying to find somewhere new to live.”

“Interesting.” 

“Yeah, it is. Seems a little more tame than it mighta once done, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I woulda once thought this whole magic doors thing was crazy. But now? I’ve seen weirder shit.”

Five scoffed. “That’s the trouble with fiction writers.”

“What is?”

“They lack the imagination to fully comprehend reality.”

Dave laughed, silently thrilled by the way the corners of Five’s mouth twitched in an almost smile. “So, your go. What are you working on?”

“You wouldn’t understand it.”

“Maybe not, but I still wanna know.”

“Automated predictive algorithms. I just have to work out how to quantify all the variables, and the cause-and-effect will become clear.”

Okay, so Five had had a point. Dave didn’t understand it at all. It wasn’t as if he was stupid, but Five was definitely smarter than him. “So you’re trying to predict the future?” he asked uncertainly.

“I’m trying to predict potential futures and how to avoid undesirable ones from within the timeline. There is no one ‘future’ unless you can extricate yourself from the linear flow of time.”

“Huh.” He supposed that made sense. Dave couldn’t quite see how it could be possible to predict every possible outcome to every situation, but then again Klaus had always had some kind of strange intuition when it came to the future. He had never been able to say what was coming, but there were countless times when he would go quiet or get anxious with no apparent reason. Every time he’d done that in Vietnam, they’d been attacked within the hour. Perhaps there was something to be said for clairvoyance and premonition. “That’s interesting.”

“It’s practical. I only knew about the previous two apocalypse scenarios because I saw them first, then travelled back enough to alter things. I can’t guarantee that I will be lucky a third time.”

Dave had seen that fear in so many people, including himself. Nights spent sleepless and vigilant, boots by the bed and a gun within arms’ reach not just because of regulations, but out of sheer terror. He knew all too well how it felt to be afraid that things could go to shit any second. And while he was only in a warzone in his mind, Five still lived in the world that he had already seen ending, with the siblings he’d seen die.

“Weren’t those both, uh… Hargreeves related incidents?” Dave asked delicately. “As long as you guys are all good, world’s safe, right?”

“We don’t know that.”

Which was a fair point, and one Dave didn’t have enough knowledge to properly argue against. But he didn’t like the way Five’s eyes shone with almost manic intensity. It didn’t seem right, somehow. He’d never been the best at reading tone, but something there was different too. Was it frustration? Fear? Desperation? 

“I guess not. But we’d all go crazy if we kept thinking about how everything could go wrong, right?”

“I’m not crazy ,” Five snapped.

“I know you’re not.”

Five just glowered at him, eyes narrowed in suspicion. He reminded Dave of the stray cat with the injured leg that had got stuck in the garage when he was eight, all snarls and hisses and claws every time anyone tried to get close, even when they were just trying to help. She’d left Dave with a deep scratch on his arm that took years to fade away entirely when he’d tried to give her something to eat, and his mom’s yelling had only made her freak out more. In the end, his mom had called animal control to come get her out and Dave had cried as they taught with her and took her away. It wasn’t her fault. She had been all alone and in pain, surrounded by strange people who were all so much bigger than her, and she couldn’t use her words like he could when he was hurting or scared.

Sure, Five had words, but that didn’t mean he could use them. As Dave had got older, he’d come to understand it wasn’t that simple. 

“Listen, I may not be anywhere near as smart as you,” he said, earning himself a flicker of wry amusement on Five’s face, “but if you wanna talk this stuff through sometime, I can listen and I won’t tell Klaus.” He left what he meant by ‘this stuff’ entirely up to Five’s interpretation. He’d tell him what he felt like telling him, and that was enough. 

“Duly noted.”

It was the best he could hope for for the time being. So he let the subject go and slowly but surely, like the raindrops on the fogged up windows, Five’s hostility fell away. It was a start.