Nearly four weeks had passed since the near-death incident before Detective Beaman allowed Diego back out on the streets. It was an immense relief to be out of the dull, cramped office and back doing the work he loved.
The first crime scene they attended was a miserable place. It had started to snow, but the flakes could not disguise the ugliness of the street, its sidewalks lined with litter and shadowed by the imposing bulk of high rises. Even so, Diego had to fight to contain his enthusiasm, biting back a grin as he interviewed an elderly witness.
The street was bustling with activity. A few feet away, Eudora was dealing with a witness of her own. Chuck was shouting orders in the distance and forensics were still clearing the last remnants of broken glass from the ground. A few nosy onlookers had gathered at the end of the street, just shy of the yellow tape separating them from the crime scene.
Diego’s witness was not exactly a mine of information. She repeated herself frequently, sighing dramatically between sentences and clearly enjoying having his full attention. He was nodding sympathetically and tapping his pen against his notepad when a movement at the end of the street caught his eye. He glanced up and his heart rolled over in his chest.
It was Klaus.
The man had joined the group of onlookers of the edge of the crime scene, saying something that caused them to speedily disperse, casting worried looks over their shoulders. He was now reclining elegantly against a wall just a few feet beyond the yellow tape. He was watching Diego astutely, lips pursed around a lit cigarette. He was wearing the ridiculous ostrich feather coat again, but Diego was fairly sure he would have recognised him without it.
“And that’s when I heard the screaming,” Diego’s witness trailed off, her voice catching theatrically on the last word.
“Okay, great,” Diego nodded, making a random scribble in his notebook without moving his eyes from Klaus. He felt sure that if he looked away, the man was bound to disappear. “I think that’s all I need, thanks.”
The woman regarded him with disappointment as he stuffed the notebook into his pocket and ushered her back towards Eudora. Finally free, he cast a wary glance over at Chuck. The man seemed distracted and Diego risked breaking away from the scene, ducking surreptitiously beneath the yellow tape to approach Klaus.
“Hey there,” Diego said, wincing at the banality of his own greeting.
Klaus lifted his cigarette away from his lips and smiled slowly. “Hi, Diego.”
The aura of chaos that had surrounded him that night was less intense in the bright light of day. His eyes, while still rimmed with black liner, looked more contemplative than wild. They surveyed each other in silence for several moments. Klaus continued to smile at him as he lifted the cigarette back to his lips. He drew in a long breath and then exhaled gently without turning his head.
Diego’s screwed up his nose. “Is that weed?” he asked incredulously.
Klaus smirked cheekily. “Are you going to arrest me?”
“Probably not,” Diego admitted.
Klaus hummed approvingly. “Yes, that would be bad manners after I saved your life.” His eyes widened. “Wait… does that mean you’re corrupt now? Have I corrupted you?”
Diego snorted in response.
“It does,” Klaus sighed, waving the joint in the air, and gesturing between the two of them. “This is a dangerous relationship.”
“This is not any kind of a relationship,” Diego retorted. He pulled the joint from the man’s hand and leaned over him to stub it out against the wall he was leaning on. Klaus made a slight squeaking noise at their suddenly increased proximity, and Diego had to remind himself that he wasn’t supposed to be enjoying this.
Klaus watched regretfully as Diego stepped back to stamp the joint into the concrete. “You look more like a cop today,” he said, “In your uniform.”
The man’s eyes were lingering on the handcuffs at his belt.
“That’s the idea,” Diego grinned. He suspected he looked a hell of a lot better than he had that last time they’d met, covered in blood and rolling on the ground. “Does it suit me?”
He mentally kicked himself as soon as he’d spoken, but it was almost worth it to see the flash of surprise in Klaus’s eyes. To watch the slow smile lifting the corners of his lips.
The man seemed to take his question as permission to look him up and down appreciatively. Which, Diego supposed, it kind of was.
“I guess you pull it off okay,” he shrugged, reaching out to straighten the collar that Diego knew was already perfectly neat. The man’s hand lingered on the fabric of his shirt, millimetres from his skin.
Eudora shouting his name broke the moment.
“Your lady-friend wants you,” Klaus told him, withdrawing his hand but continuing to gaze at him intensely. There seemed to be glitter swathed across his eyelids.
“Colleague,” Diego corrected him automatically. It had become a force of habit since the two of them broke up, and his reply came out sounding more forceful than he had intended. He glanced back around to see the woman in question waving him over insistently, a cardboard tray containing two takeaway coffees in her hand.
“Is that so?” Klaus batted his lashes at him.
Diego shrugged, avoiding the man’s eye now. “I should be getting back,” he said, making no effort to move.
He was still pressingly aware that he hadn’t yet thanked the man that had saved his life. At the beginning of the conversation the words had been on the edge of his lips. But somewhere along the way the moment seemed to… have passed.
Klaus pouted at him. His stance was still wary, but his eyes danced playfully. “But I was enjoying corrupting you.”
“I’m not that easily corrupted,” Diego said. He glanced over his shoulder again. Chuck was now watching him with narrowed eyes. “Listen, I can’t stop, but I wanted to talk to you...”
“Yeah, Five said you did,” Klaus interrupted, his eyes flicking between Diego and his waiting colleagues. “Call me.”
“I don’t have your number,” Diego pointed out.
Klaus smiled at him sweetly. “It’s in your shirt pocket.”
Diego glanced down and, sure enough, there was now a scrap of paper in his top pocket, where Klaus’s fingers had been lingering a minute before. Shaking his head, he ducked back beneath the yellow tape, putting a healthy distance between them. He glanced back over his shoulder as he headed away towards Eudora.
Klaus was watching him go, another joint now in his hand. He waved goodbye with it dangling between his long fingers. It was a blatant invitation for Diego to return and remove it. He resisted, ducking his head to hide his smile as he took the steaming paper cup of coffee from Eudora’s hand.
Klaus’s number sat, untouched, on his fridge for several days. Amidst the random assortment of takeout menus and postcards from his mother’s vacations, it was the only thing on there that came close to a social engagement. He had spent the last few evenings alternating between staring at it with the phone in his hand, and ignoring it altogether.
When he eventually worked up the courage to ring it, a rough male voice answered that definitely did not belong to Klaus.
“Viper Bar,” the man hollered down the phone, over the sound of pumping bass music.
Diego lifted the phone away from his ear and frowned at it in confusion. He was about to hang up and assume Klaus had given him a fake number, when he hesitated. It occurred to him that the man might not have his own phone.
“Yeah, um, is Klaus there?” he asked, slightly irritated. That seemed to be the only thing he was asking people these days.
“Hang on,” the voice on the other end of the line shouted at him.
There was silence for a minute, save for the distant beat of music, and then an excited chattering, followed by a high-pitched giggle. Then, finally, Klaus’s voice on the other end of the phone.
“Diego,” the man began, his voice lightly scolding. He drew out the vowels in Diego’s name, as if he were particularly enjoying using it. “When I said call me, I didn’t mean a whole week later.”
Diego raised an eyebrow, drawing his feet up on to the couch and holding the phone closer to his ear. “It’s only been four days,” he protested, then immediately winced at the admission that he’d been counting. “How d-did you know it was me?”
“I don’t go giving out my number to every cute cop I meet,” Klaus said, sounding both extremely pleased with him and slightly tipsy.
“Well, I want to talk to you,” Diego told him, ignoring the man’s flirty tone. He resisted the urge to point out that the number didn’t actually belong to Klaus. From the other end of the line there came the sound of glass shattering, accompanied by loud cursing and hoots of laughter.
“So you keep saying,” Klaus said. “I’ll pick you up from work tomorrow. And…” he paused dramatically, “if you’re very nice to me then I’ll let you buy me a drink.”
His announcement was followed by a clicking sound, and then silence, as the line went dead. Diego made an incredulous huffing noise and slowly lowered the phone. He wasn’t sure how a request for a quick word had suddenly become something that seemed suspiciously like a date. He frowned, wondering if he should call back to clarify. His head was starting to throb from the tension of a long day at work, and he decided against it.
Instead, he tossed his phone onto the couch and wandered over to the fridge to get a beer. He held the cold bottle against his head, letting the icy condensation soothe the ache. He wondered vaguely if Klaus would wear his feathered coat again tomorrow, and couldn’t help grinning as he twisted off the bottle cap and took a gulp.
The next day at work felt like an especially long one, the hours dragging by painfully slowly. Diego got lumped with the bulk of the paperwork and spent the day at his desk, trawling through it. On more than one occasion he found himself staring at the clock. As the hands inched towards five, his stomach began to churn. The idea of Klaus meeting him at work felt increasingly worrying. He had no idea when or where Klaus would appear. Each time the door to the station opened, he jumped slightly, and then glanced around guiltily to check no one had noticed.
At four fifty-five, he decided he could reasonably call it a day. He used the restroom to change out of his uniform into a pair of well fitting jeans before spraying deodorant liberally and raking a hand through his hair. He was back at his desk pulling on his leather jacket and ignoring Eudora’s inquisitive glances when Chuck came bursting into the room. He pointed at Diego and Eudora in turn.
“Body found in the East Village,” he told them, grabbing the cruiser keys from behind the desk. “Get in the car, kids. We’re going.”
Diego pointed at the clock before he could think better of it. “My shift’s over.”
Chuck spun around and pressed his forefinger forcefully into Diego’s chest. A vein was pulsing in his temple. “Not yet it isn’t. Get in the car, Hargreeves.”
Diego was relegated to the back seat, and spent the ride brooding. He turned his phone over in his hands, wondering if he should call Klaus to cancel. He didn’t want to, not while trapped in a car with his boss and ex-girlfriend. Then it occurred to him that the number was still stuck to his fridge at home, and that Klaus would probably already have left the bar anyway.
Diego gave a low groan of frustration. Klaus hadn’t actually given him a time, so Diego reasoned that he couldn’t be blamed for not being there when the man decided to show.
“You got somewhere better to be, Diego?” Chuck asked him, twisting around in the passenger seat to glare at him.
Eudora glanced at him curiously in the rear view mirror as they pulled up alongside several other cruisers, blue lights still flashing. The scene was already a riot of activity, surrounded by harried looking cops and curious bystanders.
“No,” Diego said, shoving his phone back into his pocket. He pushed open the car door and stepped out into the rain. “Let’s do this.”
Hours passed before there was any chance of leaving the crime scene. The rain pelted down all evening without a break. Diego, restricted to the space outside of the white forensics tent, was soon soaked to the skin. The zip of his leather jacket was broken, leaving the front of his shirt open to the elements. He glowered up at the sky, regretting his decision to change into jeans before leaving work. The fabric was sticking thick and heavy against his thighs when Eudora finally gave him the thumbs up. Chuck waved the car keys at him. They were leaving.
“Shot to the head,” Chuck said, as they crossed the street, leaving the forensics tent behind, still aglow in bright white lights. “Looks like was on his way to an overdose anyway though. Still had a needle sticking out of his arm.”
“Forced?” Eudora asked.
Chuck shrugged. “We need to wait on forensics.”
On their way back to the car, silent and trudging through puddles, Chuck suddenly stiffened. He stopped and made a disgruntled noise in the back of his throat.
“Diego,” he growled, in a low and distinctly dangerous voice.
“Chuck,” Diego replied, mimicking the man’s tone.
“Tell me.” The man turned to impress upon him the full force of his glare. He flung a hand out and pointed in the direction of the car. “Will your groupie be attending all of our crime scenes from now on?”
Diego’s eyes followed the man’s pointed finger to find Klaus sitting primly on a bench not far from the cruiser. The man was dressed in skin-tight leather pants with a kind of elaborate lacing up the sides, revealing an almost indecent amount of bare skin. His ostrich feather coat was gone, replaced with a ruffled black blouse that Diego was pretty confident could only have been picked up in the women’s section. He was clutching a clear plastic umbrella over his head and had his legs tightly crossed to ward off the cold.
At the sight of Diego he brightened and stood up, giving a little wave.
Diego frowned at Chuck’s disparaging tone. “Hey. He saved my life.”
Chuck shook his head, calling out after him as he headed away towards Klaus. “He’ll be doing it again if you don’t get your ass in gear.”
Against his best instincts, Diego ignored him, heart beating a little quicker as he jogged over to join Klaus.
“Hi,” Klaus said, a little breathlessly, his eyes roaming over Diego’s body as he approached. He clutched his umbrella a little tighter. “You look nice.”
Diego snorted. “I’m soaked.”
“Mm,” Klaus nodded enthusiastically, eyeing his shirt, which was now clinging to his chest from the rain. “Yeah.”
Diego glanced back over his shoulder at the sound of a car door slamming. Chuck was back in the passenger seat looking murderous. Eudora was hovering by the driver side door, watching Klaus with trepidation.
“You need a ride home, Diego?” she called.
Diego shook his head, gesturing awkwardly at Klaus. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he shouted. Klaus beamed.
She nodded, eyes flickering between them as she slid into the car and started the engine.
“You’re getting me in trouble,” Diego said, as the two of them drove away. He couldn’t help but smile as he spoke. True though the words were, he still found himself wanting to lessen their impact.
“Yes,” Klaus sighed, looking momentarily regretful as he watched the car pulling out of sight. “I do that.”