“It’s my fault, you know.”
Diego looks up at Klaus’s words, tilts his head to the side at the shadows smudged under his eyes. “Klaus? What are you talking about?”
Klaus takes another step into the room, gaze flickering from Diego to the window and back as he shuffles forward. “It’s my fault. Your lady detective. She died saving me.”
And for a second, Diego can’t breathe.
She needs your help. She said she found your brother.
I know that guy. He and a really angry lady tortured me.
“I didn’t—no, Ben, let me do this, I can do this,” Klaus says, staring at the empty space next to him as his fingers twist together in anxious motions. He turns back to Diego, exhales heavily. “She found me after they got sick of beating me up. I—I thought I was going to die, but then she showed up and untied me. When the gunshots started, I panicked and crawled through the vent. She saved me and I just—I left her there.”
His chest tightens at the thought of Eudora bleeding out on the floor of that cheap motel room, at the thought of Klaus abandoning her. He stands up without realizing it, storming towards where Klaus is hunched over in the doorway as his fingers automatically reach for the closest knife.
He barely notices the way Klaus stumbles back a step, too focused on the scarlet haze surrounding him and the voice in his head repeating—he left her, he left her, she saved him and he left her.
“You’re a coward,” he spits venomously. “I always knew you were selfish, but this is a new low, even for you. I mean, fuck, what kind of person does that?”
Klaus doesn’t respond, doesn’t meet his eyes.
“It should have been you,” he hisses through clenched teeth. When Klaus stays silent, his rage intensifies, red seeping in through the edges of his vision. “Say something!”
He brings his hand up and Klaus flinches, squeezing his eyes shut tightly.
It only takes a second for the movement to sink in. And just like that, his anger is ripped away.
He takes in the sight of Klaus—at the way his shoulders shake, his entire form racked by tremors. He sees the dried blood peeking out from under the collar of his shirt, the bruises under his eyes, the pale skin.
“Oh, Klaus,” he murmurs, his hands dropping to his sides. “It’s okay, Klaus. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“You’re not?” Klaus asks, voice small and unsure.
And Diego wants to scream, to shout at himself until his throat is raw because Klaus should never sound that small, especially not because of him.
He takes a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”
Then Klaus is shaking his head, a furious motion that nearly gives him whiplash. “No, don’t do that. Don’t—don’t apologize. You’re right. It should have been me.”
“No,” he breaks in, desperate to make Klaus understand, to take away the guilt written all over his face. “Klaus, I need you to listen to me.” He cradles Klaus’s face in his hands, thumbs brushing over sharp cheekbones, and waits until their eyes meet. “It wasn’t your fault. I was wrong to say that. No, no, don’t say anything, just listen. I’m glad you left. You couldn’t have done anything. You said it yourself—they tortured you. You were alone and hurt and you didn’t have a weapon. So, yeah, I’m glad you got out of there because if you hadn’t, I’d be burying two people I love instead of one.”
Klaus stares at him with wide eyes. “I—”
“It’s not your fault,” he repeats firmly. “You didn’t kill Eudora and you’re not the reason she’s dead.”
There’s a long beat of silence and then Klaus whimpers, tears sliding down his cheeks and falling onto Diego’s fingers.
He slips his hand to the back of Klaus’s neck and pulls him closer until his face is pressed against his shoulder. “It’s okay, baby. I’ve got you. Just let it out.”
The sound of Klaus’s sobs breaks his heart and makes him want to hunt down Hazel and Cha-Cha and make them regret ever laying a hand on the people he deems his.
But more than that, he doesn’t want to think about them right now. Instead, he focuses on the man in his arms and runs his fingers through tangled curls. He brushes his lips against Klaus’s forehead, breathes in the scent of cinnamon, and tries to ignore the way he can feel each individual knob in Klaus’s spine.
“I’m right here, baby. You’re safe,” he says quietly. “No one is ever going to hurt you again.”
He doesn’t know how long they stay like that, but he doesn’t move, just scoops Klaus into his arms when his legs give out.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Klaus whispers, clutching at his shirt with shaking fingertips.
“Shh, it’s okay. I’m not going anywhere,” Diego says, pulling him impossibly closer and shuffling towards the bed.
He doesn’t bother putting Klaus down, just uses his foot to push the covers back enough to slide under them. Shifting into a more comfortable position, he settles with tucking Klaus under his chin and curling protectively around him.
“Can I ask you something?”
Klaus nods, nose rubbing against Diego’s jaw with the movement.
“Have you seen her? Since she died, I mean,” he says.
There’s a pause before Klaus shakes his head. “I could try—I mean, if you wanted me to. I don’t know if it would work, but I could try.”
For a moment, he entertains the idea. But then he studies the stiffness in Klaus’s shoulders and the hesitation in his voice and he has his answer. “Nah. I know what she would say.”
“Yeah. She’d tell me to get off my ass and stop moping around.”
Klaus lets out a short laugh. “She sounds smart.”
“She was. She would have liked you.”
He nods and brushes his thumb against Klaus’s temple. “Mhm,” he says. “You never try to hide who you are. She would have respected that.” He can feel the smile that Klaus presses into his skin and it helps dull the emptiness that settled in his ribcage the moment he found Eudora’s body. “You know, she would tell you the same thing I did.”
“What thing?” Klaus mumbles sleepily.
“That it wasn’t your fault. She would just be glad you’re safe.”
Klaus tenses momentarily before relaxing again. “I never got to thank her—at least, not the way I should have.”
Diego pushes the curls away from Klaus’s forehead. “She knows.”
There’s a beat of silence before Klaus responds. “I wish I could have met her. Actually met her, I mean.”
“I do, too. Even though you would have ganged up on me.” He listens to Klaus laugh and smiles in response. “Hey, Klaus?”
He can tell that Klaus is nearly asleep, but he needs to say this—needs to make sure he gets it out. “I meant what I said, that I don’t want you to try and conjure her. But if she does show up, will you tell her thank you for me?”
“Yeah, Diego. I promise,” Klaus says softly.
He lets out a breath that he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Thanks.”
“I should go,” Klaus mumbles, words slurring together. “’m tired. Don’t wanna bother you.”
“It’s okay, baby. You’re not bothering me. Just go to sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
His thoughts keep him awake, long after Klaus is passed out on his chest, warm breath fanning over his collarbone. He tightens his hold and tries to focus on the solid beat of Klaus’s heart, on the fact that the other’s pulse is strong and steady and there.
“I’m glad it wasn’t you,” he whispers.