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In Amber

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It’s Roy, not Dave, who runs to him when the shooting subsides. Klaus is relieved, because he’s freaking out, and he doesn’t want Dave to see him like this. He still wants Dave to see him as the carefree, ebullient man he has presented himself as from day one — but all his potential jokes are drowned out by his very real brush with death.

“I got shot,” Klaus confesses to Roy, who is already taking his rifle from him and pulling back his vest.

“I saw,” Roy replies, keeping his cool. “Where?”

Klaus doesn’t actually know, he realizes. Adrenaline is keeping him from feeling much of anything, aside from shock. “Uhh...”

Roy finds blood on his shirt and raises the fabric to reveal a wound along his ribs, angry and bleeding but shallower than a bullet hole. “Just a graze,” Roy tells him. “You’re alright.”

Klaus doesn’t reply. He looks at the wound and notes that, yeah, it isn’t a big deal at all, probably won’t even need stitches, but the confirmation stutters in his mind and catches there, refusing to sink in. It isn’t his first brush with death, and he knows it won’t be his last, but it’s different this time. This time he has everything to lose.

“What the hell happened? You broke cover.”

Klaus accepts his rifle back from Roy and murmurs, “Oh.” Then, with an attempted return to his bravado, he adds proudly, “I sneezed.”

“You sneezed,” Roy repeats dryly.

“Yeah, like three times,” Klaus replies, the conversation helping him to get back into his normal state of mind. “Big and loud, but instead of getting blessed, Roy, I got a bullet in my side.”

“Bullet against your side,” Roy corrects. “Next time I’ll ignore all the gunfire to yell out a blessing.”

“That’s more like it,” Klaus replies, then shuts his mouth as his nerves stir back to life and provides a reminder that bullet wounds, grazes or not, have a tendency to hurt.

The shaky overload of too-much adrenaline begins to fade as they regroup with the others and head back to base, but the sickly feeling that has been hanging over Klaus all day only seems to intensify with the drop. It’s a familiar feeling, to some extent, similar to the slick-with-sweat sheen of malaise that overtakes him when he skirts toward withdrawal. Only this time, he's clean.

Dave makes his way to him from the back of the group. “Roy said you were shot.”

Dave is openly concerned, and it catches Klaus completely off guard, as it does every time Dave expresses how much he cares.

There’s something inherently fucked up about comparing your lover to your family, but Klaus can’t help but think, as he stares back at Dave, that no one else has ever looked at him that way before. Not his father, not one of his siblings, not any of his previous flings.

This, he thinks, is what it looks like when someone really sees you.

“Oh this?” Klaus asks, lifting his shirt a little too slowly, as much of a strip tease as one can provide on a battlefield with a death threat from every direction. “’Tis but a flesh wound.” He winks at Dave. “Nothing that’ll get in the way of our soldier bonding time.”

He expects Dave to laugh, to flirt back, to engage in the normal back-and-forth that has set the tone for much of their relationship, but this time, Dave’s expression remains set with frown lines. Klaus falters and drops his shirt.

“I’m okay,” he says, softly now, seriously. “You don’t have to look at me all…intense like that.”

Klaus realizes that they both stopped walking and the rest of the squad is making their way around them. Someone comments that they better move their asses.

“It’s okay to be scared,” Dave tells him, reading him like a book, like he’s fucking Goodnight Moon in how obvious his plot is, and not something like Infinite Jest, impossible and complex, made to just sit on a shelf, forgotten. “Come on.”

Klaus falls into step behind Dave and repeats those words to himself, wondering how different everything would be if someone had told him, long ago, that it was okay to be scared of ghosts.

When they reach the tent, Klaus falters in the doorway, and someone — José — calls from his bunk, “Don’t pass out over a little blood, Klaus.” It’s teasing, and the guys laugh, but Klaus can pick up on the undercurrent of anxiety. The concern is there, too.

“Not...fainting...” he replies breathily, stuck somewhere between a sneeze and a sentence and not sure how to reach the conclusion of either. His sinuses prickle to a degree that is almost painful, and he takes a deep breath to try and get on with it.

“Let me guess.” Roy doesn’t even look up from unlacing his boots as he speaks. “Another sneeze?”

“As a matter of fact…” Klaus replies, taking a step forward, then regretting it because the pressure in his sinuses finally surmounts and he sneezes and stumbles forward at the same time. He only has a brief moment to clutch at his side and hiss out an exhalation of pain before he has to sneeze again, twice, the exact pattern from earlier that caused him to get shot in the first place.

There was a time not too long ago (or much more forward in time, depending how you looked at it), when Klaus would ham up a budding cold, layering on dramatics with each cough or sneeze, a combination of wanting to provoke attention and also live up to the expectation of being obnoxious. Now, though, he’s thinking about Dave seeing right through him, and it’s for his sake that he contains himself and straightens without so much as an attention-provoking sniffle.

“What happened to those big, bad sneezes you were talking about?” Roy asks, finally looking up at Klaus, clearly disappointed by his performance.

“Oh, did you want my germs?” he asks, though the point is moot, given their close quarters.

Dave, who had turned to observe this whole procession, puts an arm around Klaus and guides him to his cot. “I don’t care about your germs,” he states. “I need to patch you up.”

Klaus allows Dave to settle him into a sitting position and remove his vest and shirt. “I think I’m sick,” he confesses quietly, for Dave’s ears only.

“I know you’re sick,” Dave replies as he begins to wipe at the wound with some alcohol-soaked gauze. Klaus grimaces. “I knew this morning.”

“How?” Klaus asks, surprised once again at Dave’s utter acceptance of his claim, his belief in what Klaus says, and his ability to see right through him. “I’m pretty sure I was my sexy self this morning, same as every morning.”

“Sexy, yes,” Dave admits, opening a bandage. “But you didn’t pester me for my biscuit.”

“You’re right!” Klaus exclaims, sitting up straighter, wide-eyed with dismay over have forgotten his favorite breakfast ritual, and nearly messing up Dave’s attempt to bandage him. “I’ll have to pester you extra tomorrow!” But the vigor of his excitement unsettles his chest. He staves off a cough just long enough to let Dave finish, then pulls back against the protest of his wound and ducks his head toward his shoulder to give into the fit.

“Easy,” Dave murmurs, placing a gentle hand on his back, rubbing small circles.

“Ugh, this is annoying already,” he chokes out. And it would only get worse, because he is sober enough to feel every bit of discomfort while he nurses this sickness through humidity of Vietnam, laden with gear, facing death with every poorly timed sneeze.

Dave tugs him forward, into his arms.

“I got you,” Dave promises.

Klaus relaxes against him — releases the tension of the day, of his worsening cold, of navigating a new relationship when he barely understands the definition of commitment — and his coughing finally subsides.

Dave doesn’t let him go.