Chapter 1: Monday, 03. December
Monday, 03, December
Shit, Klaus thought, running his hand over his face and groaning in distress. He definitely should have stayed at home. In his bed. To sleep off his hangover.
Klaus was here, at school yet again where his dreaded day job as a high school teacher awaited. He was more or less ready to face the day that lay ahead of him, but god if he didn't wish he could be asleep right now.
He looked out of his car window to see the tall building that screamed prison more than school, and his head sunk onto the steering wheel in anticipation of what was waiting for him. It had definitely been a bad decision to come here. Like, a really bad one. The worst, to be honest.
However, not going to school today would have had downsides. For some sick, inhumane reason - in Klaus’ mind, at least. Seriously, were they trying to kill him? - he would have had to make a trip to the doctor to get a sick certificate. The control freaks in management, as Klaus used to think, required them. Couldn’t you stay at home for just one day and nurse your hangover headache without calling the office guiltily to tell them you were ‘ill’?
Apparently not. The principal insisted on the doctor’s note from the first day of sickness, but then Ms. Handler always has been a stickler.
The other issue was that he was the class teacher of the grade 9B who, much to his chagrin, had to do their art exam about the symbols of Vanitas today. If Klaus had decided to stay at home they would have had to postpone the exam and, since Klaus always hated that as a student himself, he wanted to spare them that particular evil.
And that brought Klaus to here: completely exhausted and painfully hung over, with the headache of his life and a lingering smell of alcohol on his breath that didn’t fade even after brushing his teeth three times.
Why on earth did he think going outside and partying on a Sunday evening was a good idea? How could he be so stupid? This was not the first time he's had to fashion a gnarly hangover fixer-upper at short notice, but surely by now he should have learned from his mistakes.
Admittedly, the party had been amazing - loud music and a lot of booze had been just right to forget the stress of the last few weeks and when a tall, muscular guy had started dancing with him, Klaus’ mood had improved instantly. He always enjoyed the moments in which he didn’t have to hide who he was or who he loved. He savoured the time with these strangers, kissing him and touching him and flirting with him shamelessly right there on the dance floor until the night was over.
Klaus sighed one last time before getting out of his car, an old red Volkswagen that he loved from the bottom of his heart. He had got it when he was fresh out of college and it had stayed with him throughout his whole teacher training course - despite temporarily giving up on him a few times, but that's beside the point. He took a deep breath, the cold winter air almost soothing the headache at the back of his skull, and made his way forward.
He shivered, goosebumps rising on his skin: the short journey to the entrance seemed like an especially humiliating walk of shame since he had only had time to grab the first things he saw from his closet this morning. So hangovers and morning routines don’t mix, what’s new?
As always, Klaus’ clothes didn’t exactly suit the weather. The leather pants might look deceptively thick but they did nothing to keep the cold away, and he wished he’d had the foresight to keep a pair of fluffy leg warmers in his desk. Whatever, he’d start that from today. The white button-down shirt and grey sports jacket also weren’t made to keep him warm.
All the same, Klaus had always lived by the knowledge that beauty knew no pain, so he suffered through his endless list of pains and discomforts in utter, miserable silence.
As he entered the building, warm, cloying air engulfed him and his headache grew ten times worse almost immediately. Klaus only hoped he could get to the staff-room without disturbance, to drink a very hot, very strong coffee before hurrying to teach a class in English Literature. By all rights this should have been possible, but clearly Klaus wasn’t very lucky today.
In fact the universe clearly hated him, because when he finally managed to stumble into the staff-room, either hungover or still a little drunk, the only other occupant was Diego.
The thing with Diego, Klaus has always figured, was that he was a cool teacher. He let the kids call him Diego instead of Mr Ramírez, he played Metallica during his classes so loud that Klaus could hear it all the way in the staff-room and, most annoyingly, he always he was really fucking hot. Dressed in tight black jeans and a leather jacket that barely met the school’s required uniform, with short black hair that always stuck up everywhere in the morning and a mysterious yet alluring scar tracing just above his ear, he exuded sex in a way that drew everyone towards him like a magnet. It was no wonder, really, that almost every senior made heart eyes at him whenever he walked past in the hall.
It was also no wonder that Klaus had a little albeit very unhealthy crush on him. He had met Diego on his first day here, when he was only twenty four and Diego couldn’t have been more than two years older than him, and he’d been gone since day one. It had started as more of a joke than anything, something to daydream about when he was bored and Diego had just finished teaching a PE class, returning to grab a glass of water all sweat and swagger and tensed muscles. Unfortunately for Klaus, his tiny crush had evolved into not only memorising Diego’s entire schedule but also the way he liked his coffee and his hatred for BMW-drivers.
Another thing that had Klaus sighing into his coffee every morning was that Diego was straight as an arrow.
Another thing was that he was a complete and utter fucking asshole. A brown-eyed, soft-haired, ripped fucking hot asshole, but an asshole nonetheless. Whenever Klaus felt like shit, Diego knew exactly how to put the cherry on top and decorate everything with a dash of (heterosexual) glitter. Klaus had come across Straight Guys (™) before, naturally, because you don’t become a fashion icon in college like Klaus had without attracting some negative attention, but Diego really took the biscuit. Forget the biscuit, he took the entire cake. He set the bakery on fire and watched as it burnt to the ground.
And the worst part was he’s not even that bad. He was a legend with the kids, even Klaus could see that; he had them eating out of his hand, turning their homework in on time and actually trying for once. He was popular amongst other teachers for the results he got in class, the donuts he always brought in on Friday and the way he wore white t-shirts that clearly show off his nipple ring. He was a clear example of ‘the women want to date him, the bros want to be him’. And Klaus?
Diego seemed to really hate Klaus. He always had a sarcastic line in store to darken Klaus’ coffee adventure, a witty quip or judgement of his latest outfit. Klaus had no idea if he’d ever done something to annoy Diego, but if he had he really thought the other man should have gotten over it by now.
Klaus shut his eyes and hoped, like a little child playing hide and seek, that Diego wouldn't notice him. Unfortunately, his impeccable logic of ‘I don't see him he doesn't see me’ brought him no such luck. With a very loud, very obnoxious yell he greeted Klaus, obviously very aware of the state he was in.
“Hey Klaus, amigo!” Diego shouted, slapping his hand down onto Klaus’ shoulder. At the painful throb this elicited from his head, Klaus winced.
“Hey,” Klaus croaked as an answer and hoped imploringly that Diego would simply leave him alone. Usually he would take every opportunity to talk to him, asking him about his classes and the students and even inane everyday life questions that Diego would roll his eyes and sometimes even ignore. Even then he had Klaus hanging on his every word.
“Why, Klaus, you look like you’ve been hit by a truck.” Diego smirked, self satisfied, not lowering his voice in the slightest. “You have one too many last night?”
“Of course not,” Klaus answered a little too hastily. “Because I am a professional, my friend.” He tried not to breath in Diego’s direction, because he probably still smelled like a brewery and that would give away just how professional he was in seconds. “I just… didn’t sleep well. That’s all.”
“Uh huh,” Diego raises a doubtful eyebrow at Klaus and snickered very unkindly. “Well, buena suerte with trying to convince the Handler of it, Klaus.” Klaus had the distinct feeling that more than a dozen energizer bunnies were throwing a wild party in his head right now, one that he had not been invited to. Klaus just wanted some peace and quiet, goddamnit. For once.
Not that he usually had many conversations with his colleagues at all. Some of them thought he was strange, others were just assholes, but arguably the most important reason for Klaus’ antisocial behaviour towards his coworkers was his shyness. He could be outgoing, sarcastic and a little too eccentric from time to time when he was with the few friends he had and who he trusted with his life. But when it came to his colleagues, whom he wouldn’t trust as far as he could throw them, he tended to be a little less out there.
None of them knew he was gay, and he didn’t plan on changing that fact any time soon.
“I don’t exactly plan to meet the Handler today.” He answered as politely as he could manage with a killer headache and an impulsive desire to defend himself. “If I’m being honest, I could never see her again and it would still be too soon.”
“Why are you still working here then?” Diego replies sharply, and though it’s phrased as a joke Klaus couldn’t help but notice the cruel undertone that slipped into the words. He sighed inwardly. The last thing he needed today were Diego’s petty jabs. Sometimes Klaus wished he had honestly never met Diego, just so he wouldn’t have to deal with having a crush on such an asshole.
“The fabulous conversation with my colleagues, of course.” Klaus sighed - could never be too hungover to think up witty comebacks - and hoped that if he answered in monosyllables only Diego might just shut up for once.
“You’re not gonna be able to avoid her forever, muchacho!” Diego answered, sounding inordinately happy about that.
Diego stopped any response Klaus might have given just then by turning his back on him and heading straight to the coffee machine. Klaus stumbled to a table and fell into a particularly uncomfortable chair with a heavy groan. The headmistress really did nothing for either the students or the teachers except terrify them both into submission with her daily walks around the grounds. The interior was old and dilapidated, modern technology nearly non-existent, and above all the majority of the rules were hardly first for the twenty first century.
Sometimes, Klaus really thought about quitting. He thought about all the other great schools he could find a job in where the other teachers were actually friendly and respectful, but then he thought of the students he had grown to care about, and he wanted to stay at least to see them graduate. Some of his colleagues weren’t that bad, either.
Take Ben, for example. Ben was an amazing colleague, and maybe even something close to a friend for Klaus. They often sat together during their lunch break or enjoyed a coffee together in silence. He didn’t talk much and maybe that was a reason Klaus liked him so much - he never felt pressured into a conversation or the need to justify himself in anything - but in addition to that Ben was just… a nice person. With Ben it was easy to sit and enjoy the silence or talk about Shakespeare without being called a literature nerd.
Sometimes Klaus wished he had crush on Ben instead of Diego. It would have been so much easier to deal with: Ben was nice, good looking and maybe not even as straight as Diego was - not that he was eager to test that theory, of course. Since they didn’t talk much about their private lives Klaus couldn’t say for sure, and it was irrelevant, anyway, because Klaus couldn’t stop liking Diego anymore than he could create feelings for Ben.
No, it obviously had to be Diego he fancied. Sarcastic, gorgeous, nipple-pierced Diego with a preference for tall, headstrong, equally gorgeous women.
Klaus really hated his life.
But then Diego sat down next to him and shoved a mug under his nose, the smell of coffee overpowering and doing wonders for his head. “Here.” Diego rolled his eyes. “Drink this, idiot, and stop wallowing in self-pity. Your bad mood is rubbing off on me, it’ll be awful for the kids.”
Despite his harsh words, Klaus could have hugged him. Coffee always tended to make his days at school more durable, and Diego caring about the children so much so that he’d be willing to put aside his intolerance for Klaus and make him coffee? Not at all heart warming. Not at all.
“Oh, well, thank you, Diego.” Klaus marveled and wrapped his hands around the cup, enjoying the warmth spreading through him. He tried to smile at Diego, but thanks to his headache and his overall miserable condition it came out as more of a strange grimace.
“Yeah, whatever.” Diego grumbled dryly. “Don’t get used to it.”
Klaus was just about to open his mouth, yet another witty comeback ready on the tip of his tongue, when the door was opened so violently that it bashed against the wall. Klaus jumped in his seat, coffee spilling over his fingers, in time to see Allison - the tall, headstrong, equally gorgeous PE teacher - strut in. She brushed her fingers through her hair and groaned gratefully when she smelled coffee.
“Oh, Diego, you’re a lifesaver.” She brushed past them on her way to the machine, filling up a spare mug and greeting Klaus as an afterthought. “Oh, hey Klaus. Rough night?”
“Baby wouldn’t stop screaming.” Klaus smiled at her for all of half a second. Okay, maybe it wasn’t fair of him to get annoyed when Allison ignored him when he was usually a bitch to her, but he really couldn’t help himself sometimes. It was obvious from the way Diego’s eyes followed her around the room, from the way he laughed at all of her - annoyingly funny - jokes, he was into her.
He was into her, and not Klaus, and Klaus really hated his life sometimes.
“Right,” she said, confused, and turned back to her coffee.
“Well, I must be off.” Klaus stood from the table and, still gripping his coffee, made a move to go. “The art exam waits for no man.”
“You’re in the art block?” Diego asked suddenly, turning his attention from Allison to Klaus so fast Klaus was surprised he didn’t give himself whiplash. “Me too. Covering a lesson, don’t look so surprised loser. I’ll walk with you.”
“Oh,” Klaus blinked, confused as to what just happened. “Um. Okay?”
Diego just rolled his eyes and held the door open for him this time. As much as Klaus wanted to believe it was out of the goodness of his heart - or, rather, a sudden overwhelming love for him - he knew it was more likely that Diego just wanted to impress Allison.
“Let’s go.” Diego said, waving goodbye to Allison. Klaus shrugged, sighed and left.
Thursday, 6. December
Klaus looked at his watch and smiled in relief. It was almost two in the afternoon, so he just had to sit through another dull thirty minutes of class until he could go home. His English literature class was currently writing an essay about the stylistic devices used in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, as preparation for their final examination next year in July, and whilst he didn’t envy the position they were in he also wasn’t thrilled about having thirty odd essays to mark.
He’d have to take those essays home with him, correct them and give personal advice on how to improve. It was what he signed up for as a teacher, of course, but it was always the least favourite part of his job. He wouldn’t mark the essays, the feedback was only for the students themselves, but he still didn’t like giving kids who he knew had worked hard negative feedback.
Thankfully the class was silent, concentrating only on the task they’d been set, which surprised Klaus a bit. Usually there was always at least one student who couldn’t keep their mouth shut, but today they all seemed determined to do their best. Klaus shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth but he was more than a little convinced there must be an ulterior motive.
Klaus opened the notebook he always carried with him and started sketching, just to keep his hands busy. Drawing always helped smooth him, whether it was just a few scribbled lines and geometric figures or actually people and animals, but it helped him stop fidgeting so impatiently. He didn’t want to distract the students.
Of course, his personal task was pretty much derailed after he caught a glimpse of a shirtless Diego through the window to the athletic field, back to Klaus’ class, coaching his phys-ed group. It wasn’t particularly hot outside but the sun was still shining through the layer of clouds and Diego’s tan skin was glistening with sweat as he encouraged his runners. Klaus had to try very hard not to sigh dreamily or rest his chin in his hand as he automatically started sketching the outline of a very masculine, very familiar body.
His mind and his hand were traitors, Klaus decided, but he wasn’t so affected that he stopped drawing. Who cared if there was naked male torso drawn into his notebook that nobody but him would ever open? Right, nobody. And if anybody ever did happen to see it somehow, so what? Drawing naked men was totally a normal thing that every straight guy did.
“Mr. Hargreeves?” a quiet voice interrupted his thoughts and Klaus looked up. A student sitting in the back row - whose name Klaus had honestly forgotten - was watching him questioningly.
“What’s up?” Klaus asked.
“So…” The student exchanged a sideways glance with a girl to his left before continuing. “We did good today, right? Like, we all focused on the task and everything, yeah?”
“Um, yeah.” Klaus confirmed, confused, putting his pencil between the pages of his notebook and closing it. “Yeah, you did. Why’s that?”
“So you’ll join us for the St. Nicholas’ Day party this evening like you promised, right?” The kid grinned smugly and Klaus could have slapped himself.
The St. Nicholas’ Day party the graduation classes hosted every year had become a strange tradition at this school. The graduating classes invited the teachers in a drinking tour through the town, pulling a handcart around behind the, full of whatever alcohol they could get their hands on, until finally ending up at the house of some poor student only to drink some more. The fact that most of them were hardly legal was ignored due to the sheer fun they had - plus, it was a tradition .
Klaus, stupid as he was, had promised his Literature class he would join them if they cooperated today. He had said it as a joke more than anything, not something to be taken seriously, hoping his class would forget about it as soon as they had left the classroom.
Evidently they had not.
Not that Klaus hated partying or drinking in general. On the contrary, in fact, he could probably handle his liquor better than anyone else at this school, teacher or otherwise. But drinking and partying with his colleagues was another thing entirely. He was worried he’d let something slip that might indicate his raging homosexuality, and if he was going to come out he didn’t want it to be in the middle of a graduation party. Additionally he was scared he’d lose control and say something wholly inappropriate to Diego. He didn't want to be the outsider the whole time at a party where nobody was talking to him while he had to watch Diego flirt with Allison all smooth and charming. God knows he did enough of that in high school the first time around.
“You did promise, Mr. Hargreeves, you can’t back out now.” Five intervened - a strange student, usually too busy with schoolwork to take part in trivial arguments like these. The other students, clearly as surprised as Klaus was, simply nodded in agreement.
Klaus knew nothing if not when he’d been defeated. “Alright then.” He sighed in between cheers from his class. “You’d better give me the details, I guess.”
Klaus still couldn’t believe he agreed to go to this stupid party. Wearing a Santa Claus’ hat and listening to Christmas carols the whole evening wasn’t exactly on his to-do list, and his time would probably be better spent catching up on his work. He would much rather have spent the rest of his day on his couch, watching TV and cuddling with his cat, even if Einstein himself wasn't particularly into that idea.
But he made a promise to his students, and he liked them too much to break it off now. He sighed acquiescently and opened his wardrobe, rifling through his things to take out some fashionable and, most importantly warm, clothes, because it was fucking freezing outside.
He tossed a few stray items onto the bed, finally deciding on an outfit that worked well. It wasn't so extravagant that his colleagues might start to suspect (unlike most of the things in his wardrobe) but it fit him well and he thought he looked pretty good regardless. He took a white, woolen cardigan over a black t-shirt and combined it with a black, fake-fur-lined leather jacket. The only jeans he owned were either black or bright pink, so with a longing sigh he chose the more appropriate option, and to top it all off he stuffed his feet into a pair of clunky, lace up boots. They'd be pub crawling tonight: he was going to have to step on a lot of toes to get to the bar.
He'd have to hurry if he wanted to get to the party on time but he let himself linger in his kitchen for a moment, filling up a glass of water and placing it on the counter next to the two aspirin he knew he was going to need by the end of tonight. Then, with a sigh, he flicked off the light and left.
He was still late to the party, of course, because he'd always been late to everything. It was, like, a rule. But it didn't look like he'd missed anything other than pre drinking and a few students making out in the corners of the room. Yikes, maybe this really was a bad idea.
But then he spotted Diego heading towards him from the bar with two drinks in his hands. Klaus, not quite believing his own eyes, blinked twice and peered to his left, then his right. Okay, so that definitely was Diego, looking at him, two drinks in his hands and heading in this direction. No doubt. He couldn’t help the grin that started spreading over his face, and hoped he didn’t look too stupid as it was.
Diego came closer, smiling, and Klaus raised a hand in a half wave, expecting to receive the drink.
“Hey, Di-” Klaus started to greet him, but stopped as soon as he realised Diego’s gaze wasn’t fixated on him, but on something or someone behind him. Diego brushed past him without so much as looking at him, stumbling a little like he’d already had one too many.
Klaus turned and spotted Allison: gorgeous as always, dressed on point in a red jacket and leather pants, walking up behind him. He sighed in resignation. Of course - of fucking course - Diego wouldn’t buy him a drink and have a chat with him just like that.
“Hey,” a tentative voice beside him said, interrupting Klaus’ negative thoughts. Klaus turned, spotting Vanya standing beside him and greeted her with a hug.
“Vanya!” He plastered on a grin, hoping she wouldn’t notice the way his smile wavered. “How are you? I didn’t expect to see you here.”
She looked anxiously between Klaus and Diego’s retreating back like she was wondering whether or not to mention it, but in the end she must decide to keep quiet about it because she just shrugs and leans back against the bar, signalling the woman behind the bar.
“I figured why not, y’know? I don’t get out enough I guess.” She said with a small smile before they’re interrupted by the bartender. The woman was tall with long, blonde hair scraped back into a loose ponytail and big, brown eyes. She smiled when she looked at Vanya, that smile dimming a little when her gaze fell on Klaus.
“What can I get you?” She asked, drying a glass expectantly. Vanya looked from Klaus to her and back again, the slightest blush high on her cheeks, before shaking her head a little and smiling.
“Two beers, I guess. May as well go all out tonight.” Klaus held up his hand for a high five and even the bartender gave her an impressed nod, sliding her a beer before she served Klaus.
Maybe the evening wouldn’t be as bad as he thought.
It wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. No. The evening was worse.
Klaus wasn’t sure how he ended up on babysitting duty. One second he was enjoying himself, leaning against the bar and watching Vanya chat with the blonde bartender, who introduced herself as Rhonda, and the next he was standing in front of Allison as she passed a very drunk, very clingy Diego over to him. The man was totally wasted, unable to even stand on his own, so Klaus wrapped Diego’s arm over his shoulder and tried to stumble his way out of the latest bar on their list.
Diego was completely unresponsive when Klaus asked him where he lived so the way he saw it he really didn’t have any other option that to pack them both into a taxi and direct the driver to Klaus’ apartment. More than anything Klaus was exhausted and he knew he’d have another killer hangover tomorrow - not as bad as Diego’s will be, granted, but bad all the same - and all he wanted to do was to sleep.
The taxi driver wasn’t exactly thrilled to drive two drunken men, one of which looked and smelled like he should already be in the hospital.
“If he pukes in my car he can pay for the interior cleaning.” The driver stated as Klaus fastened Diego’s seatbelt laboriously, since he was too wasted to help in any way.
“I’ll make sure he won’t.” Klaus answered flatly, too exhausted to give a witty comeback. The taxi driver just nodded and, after giving Klaus a stern look in the rear view mirror, he pulled the car onto the street and drove them home.
Diego fell over at one sharp turn and his head landed on Klaus’ shoulder suddenly; Klaus wasn’t sure how to react. On the one hand, he had always wanted to have Diego close and this might be the only chance he’d ever get. But on the other, Diego smelled - no, reeked - of booze and was so smashed he couldn’t even sit properly. Klaus sighed, but before he could push the other manback into his own seat, Diego mumbled something.
“Klaus. Klaus. You’re always… always so…” He was interrupted by a hiccup, “So nice. So nice to me. I like— like…” Before he could finish his nonsensical babbling, his eyes fell close again and he dozed off with his head still on Klaus’ shoulder.
“It’s alright, it’s alright.” Klaus soothed him, patting his head carefully and feeling completely overwhelmed by the situation. How the fuck was he supposed to react to this? What was the right thing to do in such a situation? He decided not to move and simply hoped for the best.
Thankfully they spent the rest of the way in silence, only interrupted by Diego hiccuping or snoring. When the driver stopped the taxi Diego woke up with a jolt, suddenly disturbingly green in his face. Klaus reacted without thinking, years of experience urging him on. He leaned over Diego to open the door, unfastened his seatbelt and pushed him out of the car onto the pavement, where Diego wasted no time in throwing up and redecorating the pavement. Classy, Klaus thought, and wrinkled his nose.
The driver pulled a face in disgust, but Klaus only shrugged. It’s not like he was able to judge anyone. “At least he didn’t ruin your precious car.” He pointed out, strangely proud of his quick thinking as he pulled twenty dollars out of his pocket. “Keep the change.” Klaus got out of the car, lifting Diego from the pavement and half carried half dragged him to his entrance door.
It was kind of tricky to open the door and hold Diego upright at the same time, but after some fidgeting he managed it and pushed his colleague inside.
“How does the couch sound, huh?” Klaus patted Diego’s shoulder, letting him fall back onto the sofa with a heavy grunt. He was suddenly absurdly grateful he had the foresight to leave two aspirin out, because Diego was sure as hell going to need them.
“Klaus,” Diego groaned, kicking his feet up onto the coffee table and catching the man’s hand before he could walk away. “Klaaaaus, wait! Come— come back. Why are you leaving? You’re always— always leaving. Why?”
Klaus rolled his eyes, not quite sure what Diego meant by any of that. He put it down to drunkenness and nonsensical blabbing that Diego would almost certainly regret by the next morning. He shrugged and patted Diego’s head awkwardly, grabbing a spare blanket from the cupboard and draping it over Diego’s motionless form.
“Sleep, Diego. Bathroom’s down the hall if you need to… throw up again, I guess. Um, goodnight?” He drew away and was just about to duck into his own bedroom, stuff his head under his pillow and try to forget the whole thing when Diego made a small moaning sound.
“Night, Klaus.” He heaved out a sigh and turned onto his back, snuggling down further into the cushions. He was painfully adorable, Klaus thought to himself.
He just hoped the man was as docile in the morning.
The St Nicholas’ celebration is a kind of a tradition at the school Soronya went to. It's kind of a satire of the "Nikolauslauf", a marathon in many German Cities at the 6th of December. At our school we didn't organise a marathon but something like a pub crawling - just so you know! This isn’t necessarily set in Germany but we just thought it would be fun to include! :)
Friday, 7th December
There was a loud clanking noise coming out of the kitchen that woke Klaus up. Burglars , was his first thought, which made him sit bolt upright in his bed immediately. His headache made itself known straight away.
Klaus groaned in pain, nearly forgetting about the noises coming out of his kitchen, and put his hand over his eyes, trying to shield them from the sunlight that leaked in through the curtains. Separate from his aching head, the cotton mouth and the nausea he felt made this morning almost unbearable.
Another clattering noise, and then Klaus heard porcelain breaking on the floor and winced. But before he had the chance to look for something he could use as a weapon to defend himself, he heard a familiar voice.
“ ¡Oh Carajo! Shit, gatito , you scared me to death,” Diego said and received a loud and demanding meow as an answer. “Yes, I‘m talking to you, little fellow. Look what you’ve done!”
The cat meowed again and purred loudly.
Okay, so Klaus’ morning couldn’t get any weirder. Diego seemingly was in his kitchen, talking to Einstein. If the whole situation hadn’t been so strange, Klaus would have actually loved the domesticity of it.
Ever so slowly, Klaus started to remember the last evening and understood why Diego was in his apartment and that, thankfully, he didn’t need to call 911 immediately. He tried getting up very carefully, intending not to move his head too much, because even though he didn’t drink as much as Diego did yesterday, he still had more than one too many. He needed an aspirin as soon as possible or he might actually die.
He entered the living room with bare feet, trying to be as quiet as possible, and peered into the kitchen to watch Diego tidy up the mess he made. Einstein strolled around his legs, purring happily like he was hoping Diego would drop some food for him. Apparently Diego had broken a cup when Einstein had startled him. Diego’s frantic expression as he tried to clear it up was enough to quell any irritation Klaus might have felt about that.
Diego was a vision in the morning. Clad only in a pair of tight boxer briefs and a T-Shirt he must’ve worn beneath his sweater yesterday, Klaus couldn’t stop himself from staring at the other man. He must’ve stripped out of his clothes and really Klaus couldn’t blame him: they were stained with puke and smelled disgusting. Klaus’ couch probably smelled awful now too. He definitely didn’t think this through yesterday evening.
“ Gatito , I know you’re hungry, but I don’t know where your food is!” Diego told Einstein, throwing the shards of the broken cup into the dustbin.
“It’s in the cabinet, beneath the sink.” Klaus informed him and smirked as Diego turned around in surprise, wide-eyed.
“Fuck, this is my second almost-heart-attack this morning,” Diego said, sighing, and ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m already hungover. There’s no need for you to sneak up on me.”
“There kinda was. I thought you were a burglar,” Klaus answered and smiled, walking towards Diego. “But I figured a burglar wouldn’t talk to my cat.”
Klaus couldn’t bite back the grin that spread across his face as Diego blushed slightly in embarrassment. Klaus would probably have missed it if he hadn’t been so well versed in studying Diego. Damn, that colour looked way too pretty on his face.
“Right,” Diego said and cleared his throat. “I - I was just… I just wanted to make us a coffee, but then your cat startled me and I… I’m sorry, I broke your cup.”
He could break another cup or two if it meant he’d be standing half-naked in my kitchen , Klaus thought, and chided himself for that. Absolutely not appropriate, Klaus .
“You broke my only cup? Get out of my house, you monster .” At Diego’s baffled expression, Klaus rolled his eyes. “I’m joking, Diego. It’s not a problem. I’ve been meaning to buy a new… Finding Nemo mug for a while now anyway. I should probably feed Einstein first though or he might attack us for real.” Klaus joked, but by the look on Einstein’s face, this was probably the truth.
“Your cat’s name is Einstein?” Diego asked and snorted in amusement.
“Yeah,” Klaus smiled, opening a can of cat food while Einstein purred loudly, strolling around his legs and waiting impatiently for his breakfast.
“That’s an… unusual name. For a cat.”
“Well, my b-” Klaus stopped himself, mid-sentence. The word boyfriend almost slipped from his lips, but luckily he had remembered soon enough. Diego didn’t know he was gay, and that definitely wasn’t something to tell your colleague you barely know before breakfast. Even if your colleague did almost throw up on you last night.
“... best friend didn’t approve of Winston Fur-Chill, Chairman Meow or Vladimir Purrtin, so we finally agreed on Einstein. Because, you know, he always kinda seems to know more than we do.”
Diego rolled his eyes. “And let me guess: your dog’s name is Salvador Dogi?” he muttered under his breath.
Klaus grinned. “I don’t have a dog, but I’d definitely call it Salvador Dogi. Thanks for the suggestion!”
Diego groaned. It served him right, Klaus thought.
While Einstein enjoyed his food, Klaus took two big cups out of the cupboard and turned on the coffee machine. “I think we both need a lot of coffee after last night, right?”
“God, yes. And at least two packs of aspirin, if you have it?” Diego complained and rubbed his temples. He looked unfairly cute when he was fighting a catastrophic hangover. “Man, guess I had one too many yesterday, huh?”
“One?” Klaus snorted, watching the hot coffee drip into their cups way too slowly, before he gave Diego a stern look. That was the biggest understatement Klaus had ever heard. “Fuck, Diego, you almost puked into the taxi.”
“Oh shit,” Diego said and sighed, averting Klaus’ gaze. “Seems like I owe you an apology for that. And… thanks for letting me crash here, I guess. Even though I don’t know why it’s you of all people I ended up with.”
Klaus froze and couldn’t help but notice the sharp pain in his chest those words caused. Anger rose inside him and threatened to boil over in a highly inappropriate outburst. Even though Diego’s remark wasn’t unexpected, it still hurt, after all. Why did he always have to fall for the straight guy, the asshole with the perfect body and even more perfect face?
“Well, next time I’ll make sure to leave you all alone,” Klaus answered, unable to hide the bitter undertone to his words. He took two aspirin out of the box. “And you can walk home.”
“No! No, that’s not what I meant. Sorry, I just… I would’ve thought Luther would bring me home, or I could sleep at Allison’s or something.”
Allison. Of course Diego would’ve wanted to sleep at her place. Klaus would bet that’s not all he wanted to do there, and even though Klaus was incredibly gay he had to admit Allison was incredible, if a little freaked out by him on occasion. Klaus had to will the picture of Diego kissing her out of his mind and shuddered.
At least it wasn’t Allison who took pity on Diego and brought him home in the end. One point for Klaus.
“Well, she practically shoved you into my arms, buddy. Sorry to disappoint.” Klaus said, trying to suppress the spite in his voice.
“Oh,” Diego said softly and quickly dropped his gaze, looking almost crestfallen for a moment. “Right. Um…”
Shit. Klaus didn’t mean to actually hurt Diego or anything. Now he almost felt bad for what he said; instead of apologising, though, he just took the cups of coffee and shoved one into Diego’s hand, along with an aspirin.
“Here. This’ll hopefully help us to cope with the hangover.” And any inconvenient crushes we may or may not have , he didn’t add.
Diego grunted gratefully in response, taking the cup out of Klaus’ hand. Their fingers touched for a brief moment and Klaus had to force himself to pull his hand away, a little too quickly. His heart raced due to the simple touch and he scolded himself for behaving like a jittery teenager standing close to their crush for the first time. He was such a fanboy it wasn’t even funny anymore.
Diego swallowed down the painkiller with his coffee and closed his eyes in satisfaction, tilting his head back so that Klaus got a front row seat to the beauty that was his jawline, sharp and unshaven. “Thanks, man.”
“You’re welcome,” Klaus smiled and gave Diego a warm look, willing to jump on any conversation that wasn’t an argument. Despite looking like he’d been hit by a truck last night, Diego’s eyes were clear and so beautifully dark brown he couldn’t tell the iris from the pupil in the dim light of his old kitchen lamp.
Klaus caught himself staring and looked away quickly, taking a swig of his coffee and swallowing his aspirin as well. Hopefully he’d get through the day without any other disturbance.
Thinking of disturbance, Klaus thought in a sudden panic, today was… Friday. A school day. Shit .
He turned around, taking a look at the clock standing on the kitchen counter. His heart sank as he realised they both had missed their first lessons by a long shot. It was almost nine o’clock.
“Shit, Diego,” Klaus hissed. “The Handler’s gonna kill us!”
“Huh?” Diego answered unintelligently and took another sip of his coffee, unaffected.
“We’re so fucking late! It’s 08:50, oh shit, if we hurry maybe we can get there in time for second period but–” Klaus cut off his own rambling in order to down the rest of his coffee, already heading to his bedroom to dress himself.
“ Fuck! ”, Diego cursed and looked down at yesterday’s crinkled T-Shirt. “I, uh… We aren’t exactly the same size, I know, but I, uh, do you happen to have any clothes I could borrow?”
Klaus stopped in the mid step and turned to look at Diego. The smirk that crept onto his face turned into an actual laugh as he imagined his co-worker in a pair of bright skinny pants, a deeply cut V-neck shirt and a colourful muffler. Diego didn’t look impressed.
At least if anything good was going to happen today, it would be this.
“Stop laughing, idiota . I really hope you’ve got some decent clothes or I might call in sick.” Diego mumbled gravely. “And tell me where the bathroom is. I need to have a shower before I can show up at school. I can’t let my students down by pulling a Klaus.”
“Harsh,” Klaus muttered to himself. “Down the hall, to your left. And hurry . I’ll pick some clothes for you.” Klaus answered, still smirking.
“ Decent clothes!” Diego shouted, already on his way to the bathroom.
“Jesus, Klaus, don’t you have anything normal? Everybody will know these clothes are yours. What’s that gonna look like?” Diego complained on their way to Klaus’ car. Klaus was tempted to make some cutting remark about exactly what it would look like, but refrained if only for his own dignity.
Even though Klaus wasn’t totally sure if he was entirely sober, they had both agreed to take the risk; missing another lesson and getting in even more trouble with the Handler would be much worse than anything else ever could ever be.
Diego pulled at his trousers again - jeans that were a little bit too tight around his thighs - and clutched his arms around his body so his jacket would hide the sweater he wore beneath.
“What’s the big deal? You wear leather pants half the time anyway.” Klaus argued. So maybe he had gone a little crazy with picking out Diego’s clothes for the day. “And I’m sorry that I don’t have another sweater in your size. Besides, orange really suits you.”
“Shut up,” Diego mumbled miserably. Klaus had a feeling it wasn’t necessarily the colour of said sweater that upset him, but what was written on it.
The oversized hoodie has been a gift from one of Klaus’ friends, way back in a time when he hadn’t felt so good in his own skin. So, to cheer him up, there was written “ BE YOU-TIFUL” in big bold glittering letters all over the whole front of the sweater. Klaus had found it inspiring. Diego… not so much.
For Klaus the hoodie was way too large, but that way it was perfect for a lazy day at home, snuggling under a blanket on his couch and watching TV until he fell asleep. Diego however was broader and had more muscles, so the sweater clang to his body like a second skin, making it hard for him to move properly. It did provide everyone else with a really nice view though.
“‘M not gonna take off my jacket today. And if I can’t get rid of this stupid hoodie in the evening, I swear to god, Klaus, I’m gonna cut it up and burn it afterwards - no kidding.”
Klaus grinned. If that was the price for seeing Diego wearing the hoodie all day, it was a price he was very willing to pay it. A little dramatic, maybe, but then Klaus couldn’t judge. “Maybe you should have thought about it before getting so stupidly drunk you ruined your own clothes.” he retorted, getting into his car.
Diego mumbled something inaudible that Klaus didn’t inquire after. He took one last look at his orange sweater and belatedly mourned what would probably it’s last day in existence, before Diego zipped his jacket up and climbed into the passenger seat.
The journey to school was spent in silence while Klaus tried to drive as fast as he could without risking a speeding ticket or the loss of his licence. It was a bit of a struggle to drive properly thanks to his lack of sleep and the undeniable amount of alcohol he drank last night, but he tried to manage it as best he could.
Just act normal , Klaus told himself, concentrating on driving, and luckily it seemed like the universe was taking pity on him just this once; they weren’t stopped by the police or caught by a speed camera once .
(He probably shouldn’t be proud of that.)
Not for the first time, Klaus vowed to never drive like that ever again. It was sort of against everything he told his students, after all.
As he pulled his car into the parking lot of the school, he couldn’t help but voice his concerns to Diego who, by the look on his face, felt similarly.
“I really don’t know how we’re gonna get through the day,” Klaus mumbled as he got out of the car. Diego agreed with a sigh.
“If we survive today I’ll be impressed. If the Handler finds out, she’ll be out for blood.”
“Don’t jinx it,” Klaus told him. He glanced over his shoulder at Diego in time to see the man level him with a sudden, blinding smile. It took Klaus completely by surprise and, even though it only lasted for a second, it was enough to bedazzle him.
In his shell shocked state, Klaus didn’t think twice about opening the doors to the main entrance: this was evidently a mistake. The Handler stood in front of them with her arms crossed and a deadly expression on her face, tapping one high heeled shoe against the tiled floor. Klaus wondered idly how long she’d been standing there like that, waiting for them.
“Mr Hargreeves, Mr Ramírez,” she began in a sickly sweet voice, “You’re late.”
Diego and Klaus shared a terrified glance before looking back at Ms Handler. Before they even had a chance to start justifying themselves, she continued speaking.
“To be exact, you’re one hour and four minutes late. Did either of you call into the office?” From the looks on their faces, the answer was obvious. She squinted her eyes at them and her lips pressed together in a thin line. “You know I don’t appreciate tardiness. Where would we be if everybody broke the rules, hmm? Maybe this school isn’t meant for the both of you.”
Klaus felt his heartbeat quicken and breathing evenly suddenly became a lot harder. She couldn’t just kick them out… could she? Klaus needed this job, he actually liked it - most of the time, at least. He really liked his students and he didn’t want to leave them behind, of course, but he also needed the money. He hadn’t had the nicest past, had made many mistakes and was still paying for that, but at least he was someone now. At least he had a future, and fuck, he didn’t know what he’d do if that was all taken away because of his own dumb mistakes. It would be like his past repeating itself all over again.
In the middle of his panic he almost missed Diego stepping forward, subtly putting himself between Klaus and their boss. He held his shoulders back and faced her with a half frown, suddenly not looking at all hungover anymore.
“I’m so sorry, ma’am.” He began, sounding honestly apologetic. “But this isn’t Mr Hargreeves’ fault. My car broke down on the way to school and thankfully I had time to call Klaus, uh, Mr Hargreeves, right before my phone died. Klaus came to pick me up. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience. I promise it won’t happen again.”
She turned a doubtful expression to Klaus.
“Um, yes.” He corroborated woodenly. “My phone… also died. Sorry.”
Klaus didn’t know what to say. Diego was so obviously lying to her face without batting an eye and he did that for Klaus, taking all the blame himself. If it wasn’t for the throbbing pain in his head, he might have thought this was a dream. Never in a million years would Klaus have thought Diego would risk his job in order to protect him.
The Handler stared at Diego challengingly, but he held her gaze. After what felt like an eternity, Ms Handler sighed.
“Alright, Mr Ramírez, I believe you.” It didn’t seem like she did. “But if this happens again, you’ll have to deal with the consequences. You and Mr Hargreeves, both.” She turned dramatically on her heel and walked away, leaving Klaus and Diego behind.
“Thank you, Diego. That was…” Klaus began, but Diego cut him off.
“I guess we’re even now, huh?” he said, but the usual spite in his voice was missing and the look Diego gave Klaus before he turned and walked to his classroom was almost friendly. Klaus counted that as a success. As he hurried to get to his room as well, he couldn’t help smiling like an idiot.
So maybe Diego wasn’t an asshole all the time.
If any of you recognise where I stole one of the potential names for the cat from, let me know so we can scream together <3 (Soronya)