Actions

Work Header

Broken Like Me

Work Text:

The first time Klaus has his stomach pumped he’s sixteen and Ben’s body has just gone cold.

He’d grabbed for a bottle of pills and chased them with bourbon, enjoying the burning down his throat even if it didn’t quite quell the image of Ben’s eyes rolling back white and the smell of putrid death filling the air as Klaus watched his brother eviscerated by the Eldritch creatures within him.  There’d been the briefest of moments of peace as the world’s edges blurred grey and then he’d smacked against the ground, bottle crashing beside him, and the cold settling around him didn’t seem as inviting. 

Ben was dead and now that Klaus felt his grip on the living begin to wan he suddenly realized he wasn’t ready to die. He remembers hearing a stuttered “m-m-mom” being screamed before the world drops out entirely into darkness.

When he wakes he feels as if he was made to deep throat a steel pipe and his head is buzzing something painful. The lights are too bright in infirmary and the disapproving scowl Sir Reginald sends his way makes Klaus wish he had actually died.

Diego doesn’t meet his eyes for a week after and that, Klaus thinks, hurts worse than having his stomach pumped.

*~*~*~*

Ben appears for the first time to Klaus at his funeral. He’s still in that godforsaken uniform, still covered in blood, but at least he’s whole in this form. He’ll take whatever minor victory he can get in death. 

Klaus is flying high as a kite; he hasn’t taken Ben’s death well at all, living on a steady diet of weed and liquor to numb him. He’s so far gone he almost doesn’t see Ben.

Not until Ben is there beside him glaring at that damn statue, “doesn’t even look like me.” 

Klaus laughs somewhere on the wrong side of manic and Luther has the gall to snap at him for being inappropriate. He thinks if their beloved leader was being haunted by their dead brother he might understand his reaction.

This whole affair is a shit show. Reggie is going through the motions sure, but it’s all wrong. Allison looks devastated, eyes red rimmed and nose raw from sniffling; Vanya isn’t that much better face splotchy red from crying. Luther is obviously floundering; he’d thrown the punch right before Ben lost control. Diego is quiet, but honey brown eyes are focusing his way and Klaus wonders for the briefest of moments if maybe De can see Ben too.

He pushes the thought away quickly; it’s stupid, Diego’s probably just noticing how frayed his brother looks these days.

“I want waffles,” Ben says like it’s perfectly normal to be conversing with your dead brother at his funeral.

Klaus nods slowly clutching to the shred of normalcy in a fucked situation.

*~*~*~*

Diego’s always known about Klaus’ proclivities towards the illegal substance variety. It’s hard to ignore dilated pupils and the reek of ganja staining clothes. It’s even harder to block away the image of his brother sprawled out on the floor convulsing -- surrounded with glass fragments and an empty pill bottle by his head.

After Ben’s death though the stolen moments sneaking away to smoke cigarettes and break into father’s liquor cabinet had morphed into harder things, and honestly Diego worried about his brother. That night he’d watched them stick a tube of saline down his brother’s throat and pump out a bottle’s worth of half-digested pills and half a bottle of bourbon, and he’d forgotten to breathe.

They’re siblings in name only, raised to be teammates, and yet that moment of uncertainty when Klaus was laid out on the table, pulse jumping erratically as they tried to stabilize him left Diego feeling hollow inside. He’d nearly lost two brothers that night and that scared the living shit out of him.

Diego had spent a week feeling helpless knowing that his brother felt so lost he’d tried to end it all and it was just by sheer dumb luck that he’d stopped the deed from being completed. He hadn’t noticed the edges frayed beyond belief, hadn’t the slightest clue Klaus had been planning a permanent exit.

Diego had watched Klaus laugh at the funeral. He’d seen green eyes reduced to a thin sliver around enlarged pupils, he’d noticed the way his brother had swayed slightly, voice tinged with hysteria as he looked off towards his left – where Ben had always stood; and that’s when he made the decision to keep an eye on Klaus.

That night when he hears the window latch pop from next door, Diego is up and moving on autopilot. He’d missed the signs the first time around; he didn’t intend to ever be that slow on the uptake again.

He finds Klaus perched on the balcony rail cigarette held between his fingers as he fumbles with a lighter. He looks tired, gaunt, and isn’t that a thought considering he was already skinny to begin with. He thinks about how fragile Klaus had looked that night and Diego’s feet are moving on their own accord.

“This s-s-stuff will kill you,” he says plucking the cigarette out of Klaus’ fingers, delighting slightly in the fact that he’d only partially stumbled through the sentence.

Klaus smirks and it’s such a far cry from his fun loving brother he had two weeks ago that Diego nearly flinches.

“Ever stop and think that’s the plan,” Klaus says moving to stand and reaching to snag the cigarette back.

Diego’s brain short circuits and he brings the cigarette to his lips and inhales because if the smoke’s in his lungs then it’s not in Klaus’ and in the moment it makes the most sense.

Klaus’ eyes widen and if Diego’s lungs weren’t burning right now he’d probably laugh, instead he fights against the tears pricking his eyes and works on regulating his breathing as Klaus pats his back.

“Idiot, you never fully inhale your first go,” Klaus hisses once the coughing subsides.

The taste of nicotine and ash fills his mouth and Diego knows he should feel disgusted, and yet he can’t help the words that tumble past his lips.

“Next time I’ll take it slow,” he shrugs staring at the still glowing cigarette that’s found its way back between Klaus’ fingers.

Klaus is staring at him like he’s crazy, maybe he is if he’s thinking of a next time, all Diego knows is in the next instant Klaus is smiling wide and proclaiming how he always knew Diego was a bit of a rule breaker. Diego thinks the taste of ash is worth it to see that smile once more.

*~*~*~*

Klaus isn’t sure what switch flipped in Diego’s head but he’s not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Allison stopped sneaking out with him for cigarettes after Ben died, something about life being too short to smoke away, or some other holier than thou bullshit. He could quit if he wanted, but why would he ever want to give up that feeling of elation? 

Nicotine soothes the shakes in his hands the ghosts bring when they start unloading their crap his way. It helps steady him unraveling that coil of irritation deep in his gut. It’s worth the disapproving glare Ben sends his way every time he lights one.

Diego is getting better at inhaling. He finds he likes the menthols better, the burn is cool instead of rough heat burning his lungs like those godawful filter less ones they’d smoked first. Now when they’re on the balcony late at night it’s just as much Diego who lights the first cigarette as it is him. 

Klaus supposed be should feel guilty pulling Diego into one of his vices but it’s not like he forced the cigarette into his brother’s hand. Diego had come looking for him, he hadn’t been the one to force Diego to inhale, and he hadn’t forced Diego to return night after night. Ben says he’s simplifying the issue too much and being a dick about it in the process.

Maybe Ben is right but he can’t bring himself to care because Diego is by his side and he’s not judging him for this vice; no, it’s one they share and its nice having someone just there when the whole world feels like shit and not even the nicotine is buzzing right.

It’s selfish perhaps, but this is theirs, and that Klaus supposes is enough for now.

*~*~*~*

Ben has a bone to pick with Patrick Swayze. Interacting with the still living isn’t as simple as sliding a penny up a door, and Ben feels cheated here in the veil.

He longs for a chance to become corporeal. Maybe if he could interact with the living he could talk some sense into his brothers.

As it is now, he’s being ignored in quite spectacular fashion as Klaus holds Diego’s jaw between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand and murmurs a reminder to relax. With his left hand Klaus is bringing up a freshly lit joint and keeping hold of Diego’s gaze as he inhales ever so slowly before blowing it into Diego’s slightly parted lips.

“See, it’s less harsh this way,” Klaus murmurs dragging his thumb over the corner of Diego’s mouth.

If they were listening they’d hear Ben explaining in detail why this is a bad idea. Cigarettes are one thing, and yes Ben supposes on the ever growing list of substances Klaus is imbibing these days this is a tame one, but he can’t help but worry maybe it’s called a gateway drug for a reason.

He hopes he’s wrong, maybe Diego won’t like the feeling of buzzing out of his body? Of course Klaus has enjoyed each new high, he had reason to deaden his senses; however, Diego’s powers required control, and Ben hoped that drive to unseat Number One might be enough to keep Diego from chasing Klaus down this rabbit hole.

*~*~*~*

The first time Diego gets high Klaus shows him what shot gunning means. 

He remembers cool fingertips solid along his jaw holding him in place, and then there’s a funnel of smoke being channeled his way and he’s inhaling and that burn is back but this one’s different. He just remembers Klaus telling him to keep it in as long as he can and that’s familiar ground so he holds in the smoke until Klaus’ thumb is brushing his lower lip and whispering “easy there big guy, you can exhale now.”

They stay out there, joint passing between them, and Diego wonders vaguely why people even do this? He doesn’t feel any different, and then on the next pass to Klaus a laugh bubbles up of its own accord and Diego thinks oh this is nice.

“Easy bro, I think you’ve had enough,” Klaus counters crushing the roach out on the concrete and swiveling to look Diego over. “How are you feeling De?”

“Do you always feel like this,” Diego asks softly, voice sounding weird to his ears. “S-s-so free,” he murmurs not even caring how sluggish his tongue feels in his mouth.

Klaus chuckles letting his head tilt back, “only when I’m high.”

Diego hums noncommittally focusing on how the tips of his fingers are tingling and his whole body feels like he’s floating. “It’s nice,” he murmurs after a while.

Later when Klaus is ambling to his feet in search of snacks for them Diego allows himself a frightening thought; even if Klaus didn’t smoke, he could get used to doing this.

*~*~*~*

Klaus finds Diego standing in the bathroom dripping head to toe in a steadily growing puddle of water. Pruned fingers are fumbling to roll a tight enough joint and Klaus doesn’t question it because he’s had his fair share of solo trainings that have left him seeking freedom to know what Diego’s doing.

“You’re going to ruin the rolling papers,” Klaus mumbles taking the soggy joint from Diego’s hands to work on re-rolling a fresh one. “We can do this later,” he says tucking the twisted off joint behind his ear. “You need something else,” Klaus nods safely, long fingers curling around Diego’s wrist.

Diego frowns slightly because he’s been thinking of that fuzzied headspace the past few hours he’s been in the tank, and what could he possibly need instead of that nice relaxing buzz? “Klaus...I need it,” he says surprising himself with how much he means those words.

“No, you want this, what you need is to forget,” Klaus says tugging him forward slightly before remembering his brother looks like a drowned cat and maybe dry clothes is the priority. “Okay new plan, you change your clothes and meet me in my room in 15,” he counters letting Diego’s hand drop and turning without waiting for a response.

He knows Diego will follow, he always does.

*~*~*~*

Ben shouldn’t be surprised when he finds Klaus and Diego sat hip to ankle behind the bar. They’re already half a bottle deep and Diego is slurring terribly; it just makes his stutter come out more, but something tells Ben that he doesn’t really care in this moment.

Klaus takes a swig from the bottle before handing it back to Diego, “didn’t I tell you this was better,” he asks head lolling to the side to gaze at his brother.

Diego smiles faintly taking another swig even though his tongue and lips already feel numb. “You promised me we’d s-s-smoke later....it-t-t’s later now?”

Klaus smirks reaching for the bottle back, “my apologies brother mine, we can fix that.” Klaus is up with far too much dexterity for someone that’s nearly polished off a bottle of scotch by his lonesome. “Come on De, I’ll even let you take first hit,” Klaus says extending a hand to haul up his brother.

Diego stumbles only slightly, crashing forward into Klaus’ space until his mouth is level with his brother’s collarbone. He feels like there’s a disconnect from his mind and body but it’s different than weed; he feels caught in molasses, tongue heavy in his mouth, world tilting sideways.

“Want you to shotgun me,” he manages to slur, rubbing his face against Klaus’ shoulder before tilting his head upwards. His brother’s eyes are beautiful, even glassy they shine bright like emeralds and judging by the way said eyes crinkle, Diego figures he said that last thing out loud.

Ben watches from his spot on the bar top. His brothers have been dancing around one another since they turned 12 and Klaus first started stealing Allison’s things. He had just hoped they’d crash into one another before they hurtled to rock bottom together.

“De you’re drunk,” Klaus murmurs dragging his knuckles lightly along Diego’s jaw.

“You’re still p-p-pretty,” Diego manages before tipping forward the rest of the way.

Ben leaves when Diego slots his mouth against Klaus’. He’s not exactly keen on seeing his brothers drunkenly make out against the bar top he’d been occupying. Besides, he figures Diego can’t get high if Klaus has got his tongue down his throat.

*~*~*~*

Diego feels like he swallowed a bag of cotton when he wakes up for group training the next morning. His head is throbbing and the morning light hurts his eyes, and he’s so nauseous that he honestly feels like dying would be easier than hand to hand combat. 

It’s the groan to his left that startles him awake enough for things to start sliding into place of what happened the night prior. Klaus is laying with his head resting over Diego’s abdomen and holy shit they kissed last night.

“Klaus get up...we are going to be late,” Diego hisses gating himself for making the headache worse with his sudden movements.

“Fuck training,” Klaus mumbles nuzzling against Diego, and yea that sounds promising but Diego knows the last thing they need is an upset Reginald Hargreeves.

“I’m s-serious Klaus...we need to go, now...”

There’s a moment where Diego thinks Klaus has fallen back to sleep and then suddenly his lanky brother is up and dragging the sheets with him towards the door, “you owe me snuggles later De.”

Diego’s cheeks burn crimson at the thought of curling back up with Klaus in bed and it takes him a few extra seconds to remember to breathe before he’s up and darting to get dressed.

Almost immediately Diego regrets leaving bed; he feels like he’s dying. The feeling is only amplified tenfold when he makes it down to the training room to find warm up is running suicides.

“Unacceptable Number Two,” Reginald barks barely looking up from his notebook as he jots down a few notes. 

Between the splitting headache and unsteady way his stomach is churning Diego is honest to god surprised that he manages to finish running the length of the court. His lungs are burning when he crashes against the far wall, and he’s drenched in sweat that’s likely 98% liquor burning through him, but he made it and that’s a victory in itself.

“Here, you could use it,” Klaus says handing Diego a water bottle.

Diego nods turning to take the bottle, eyes widening in shock when he realizes it’s not water in the container.

“Hair of the dog and all that....it’ll help with the hangover,” Klaus shrugs like its common knowledge, and perhaps it is for him.

He takes another big swig because anything has to be better than feeling like you’ve been ran over and dragged. 

“Easy there big guy, don’t wanna stumble your way through take downs,” Klaus murmurs guiding the bottle away from Diego’s grasp. 

Training is almost normal after that. He still feels a little green around the gills but after a few “water” breaks he’s feeling relaxed. Maybe too relaxed.

Allison pins him embarrassingly quick. He’d lunged forward and his limbs were uncoordinated, reflexes delayed, and his sister had easily capitalized. She’s got him pinned face down and the spin came so quickly that Diego can’t fight the bile rising up his throat even if he wanted.

Allison screams jumping back when Diego’s stomach decides enough is enough and empties its entire contents. Really that’s the least of his problems, because now Reginald is striding his way and he looks furious. 

“Get up this instant Number Two, Number Four is clearly rubbing off on you.”

Diego knows he shouldn’t laugh but he can’t help it, the word choice is just too funny all things considered.

“That is enough! You will clean this up this instant and then you are to resume running suicides,” Reginald dictates before turning away in disgust to find Number Four. “And you, Number Four, you’ve earned yourself a solo training session for this buffoonery.”

Diego sobers somewhat seeing the scared look on Klaus’ face.

*~*~*~*

“You’re a cancer to this institution Number Four,” Reginald says flippantly once he has Klaus corralled in the backseat for their trip to the mausoleum on the edge of town. “You infect everything you touch, ruining it with your loose morals.”

Klaus bites his tongue; any remark made now will just worsen his impromptu training session. Time forcibly spent with the spirits is hard enough without turning a few hours into days left alone.

“Such a pity, Number Two showed such promise before he started hanging around with you.”

Yea Klaus knows he fucked up, Diego got a crash course in the pitfalls of overindulgence and a blow to his pride with training today, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. He was just trying to help Diego through the rough patch that was life under dad’s watch. Drink and drugs helped him cope, made existence slightly more bearable, and the way Diego looked so desperate for escape it was really a no brainer.

He’d always pushed the envelope though, and he knows deep down he should have tried sobering Diego last night, but he’d been distracted by a pair of chapped lips pressed against his and honestly for the first time since before Ben died he felt okay. Better than okay really, he felt hopeful? 

Of course he’d fuck it up spectacularly.

“Number Four are you listening to me? Of course not, useless boy...you truly are my greatest disappointment,” Reginald continues and really Klaus can’t dispute the claim.

He’s been consistently fucking up since he turned 13 and traded his first handy for a half pack of cigarettes, but lately he’s been going off the rails. Since Ben died he’s been pushing the boundaries and Diego’s been right there beside him the whole way. 

Except Diego can’t follow into the dank cold of the mausoleum. No, there It’s just Klaus and his demons. And he’s far too sober for this shit.

“You brought this on yourself Number Four, perhaps now you’ll realize not everything is a game,” Reginald grouses as he puts the car into park and heads to pull Klaus from the car. 

Klaus knows this isn’t a game, it’s his worst fucking nightmare played on repeat. He bites his tongue though because his fate is sealed but with any real luck all Diego will get is running until he pukes. 

“We’ll start with three hours; see if your behavior can’t be corrected.”

Fat fucking chance Klaus thinks as he’s pushed into the darkness. 

*~*~*~*

Ben’s never felt so useless in his life, and that’s saying something considered he actually died from losing agency of his body. Still death was preferable to watching his brother slowly lose his grip on sanity.

He’d tried initially to keep away the others, but he was vastly outnumbered and this ghost shtick was still new enough that he didn’t quite know how to assert himself. So now he was stuck with a front row seat to the other ghosts crowding in around Klaus.

He’d seen Klaus’ walls crumble as the minutes ticked away to hours. The whispers came first, building until they sounded more like waves crashing around them, and then the ghosts began to present themselves. It was an entire grisly affair of spirits in less than stellar states of decomposition appearing and wanting to be heard.

“You need to breathe Klaus,” it sounds stupid the second it leaves his mouth but he’s out of depth right now. This is so far above his pay grade and Ben isn’t sure if Klaus can even hear him in this state.

Still he has to try. So he carefully moves to sit alongside Klaus, fingers reaching out uselessly to card through curls only to phase right through. He sighs because it’s almost been a year and he still hasn’t gotten used to that.

“Hey...you’re okay...just breathe...”

Ben’s heart just about shatters at the pitiful whine that leaves Klaus. He’s here and he can’t do a damn thing to help.

The worst thing by far about being dead is being trapped and helpless. Here Klaus can hear him, but words are useless, they don’t fix the situation.

Still Ben figures it’s worth a shot to distract Klaus, it’s been four hours and something tells him dear old dad isn’t coming back until morning.

*~*~*~*

Diego didn’t sleep a wink last night. He’d spent the early hours of the morning chain-smoking and wondering where the hell Klaus had been taken. Needless to say he looks like hell warmed over when Klaus finally appears at the academy a quarter past twelve.

“W-what hap-happened to—“

“Let’s run away.”

Klaus is shaking and he looks haunted in a way Diego figures has to do with solo training. Vaguely he knows he should try and talk Klaus down from this, they’re a week from 17 and don’t have anywhere to go, and royalties aside none of the money is theirs to touch. The rebuttal dies in his throat though and Diego finds himself nodding because Klaus looks so scared and he never wants to see that look again.

“O-okay.”

“Yea,” Klaus says breathlessly like he hadn’t expected Diego to agree, and then he’s smiling brightly and tugging his brother down the hall to their rooms. 

Klaus is shit at packing, but Diego makes sure to grab essentials to offset the bottles clicking at the bottom of Klaus’ duffel bag. On second thought he grabs the silver candle holders and jewel encrusted letter opener figuring it can get them started at the pawn shop.

Klaus has suggested they leave tonight after lights out, but Diego wasn’t expecting his brother to waltz in at a quarter after midnight with dad’s wallet in hand.

“Come on, we have until 6:30 to hit as many ATMs as we can before he notices I swiped this.”

Diego nods hauling his bag over his shoulders, “then let’s get moving.” They’re scaling the wall from the balcony making handy use of the trellis when it starts to sink in for Diego.

They’re running away from the only home they’ve ever known.

He thinks about pancakes with smiles and the sweetest woman he’s ever known and promptly misses a step and falls the last three and a half feet. God he’s going to miss Grace, but he’ll hate himself more if he doesn’t follow Klaus.

He’s heard love makes you do crazy things; maybe they’re not in love but he knows whatever is brewing between them, he’d follow Klaus to the end of the world, so this unknown destination is no different.

*~*~*~*

They manage to hit up five ATMs before they get an error code about suspicious activity that swallows the card. Between that and the truly astounding amount of petty cash Reggie had in his wallet they figure they’ve got enough to skip town.

Klaus suggests they go to the bus station and take the first one out of town. They end up Jersey bound and honestly they’re just itching to put some distance between them and the academy that they don’t even care it sucks.

“You’re sure about this De,” Klaus asks for the third time as they’re lining up to board the bus. 

Diego frowns slightly bumping his shoulder against Klaus, “you’re not getting rid of me that easy...besides, someone needs to look after your scrawny ass.”

Klaus grins throwing an arm over Diego’s shoulders, “and you do such a lovely job of looking at my ass.”

Diego flushes ducking his head as he holds out his ticket for the driver to scan. Klaus finds Diego’s sudden shyness endearing, it’s cute that even now at nearly 17 Diego still has that bit of innocence that keeps him flustered.

He hopes it stays; one of them being shameless is probably enough.

“So...Jersey?”

Klaus snorts taking the window seat near the back of the bus. “Relax, it’s not a forever thing, it’s just a jumping off point.”

*~*~*~*

Jersey, Ben decides early on, is boring as fuck.

A jumping off point, Klaus has called it, and unless that point was at the end of a noose Ben wasn’t really sure what they were supposed to be jumping towards. They’d been in town two weeks and the excitement of life on the boardwalk had waned considerably, along with a substantial portion of their money.

They weren’t broke, exactly, they still had the letter opener to pawn they just weren’t too keen on exhausting that avenue too quickly. With meals becoming leaner Diego had suggested they look into means of income. He didn’t want to go crawling back to the academy, but he didn’t exactly want a beach bum lifestyle under the boardwalk.

“This is a bad idea,” Ben had tried to warn, but Klaus was drunk and Diego was edging past tipsy and lighting up a joint and the words fell on deaf ears.

“Wait...run that by me one more time,” Diego asks passing the joint to Klaus.

“Imma flirt with the cashier and you my dearest Diego darling are going to grab as much as your sticky little fingers can get,” Klaus smirks inhaling deeply.

“Fine, but no kissing,” Diego grumbles plucking the joint back from Klaus’ fingers.

Klaus tips forward crawling into Diego’s space and Ben knows beyond a shadow of a doubt this plan is fucked. His brothers are inebriated and if they don’t get caught they’re going to get jailed for MIP and being drunk in public.

“Oh sweet De, you needn’t be jealous,” Klaus croons taking back the joint. “You’re the only one I’m kissing,” Klaus murmurs taking another hit, and as if to prove his point he closes the gap and exhales into Diego’s mouth.

“Klaus I know you can hear me, don’t do this it’s stupid. You’re going to get caught.”

Ben realizes his mistake a second too late. Klaus has always heard don’t as a challenge, now is no different judging by the way he’s pulling back and tugging Diego into a standing position.

“See if you can snag us some lube while you’re at it baby.”

Ben frowns waiting a moment before following his idiot brothers into the shop across the boulevard. Briefly he wonders what exactly he did to deserve a fate like this, and he quickly pushes that thought away because he knows even if he were alive he’d be beside them helping keep them safe.

*~*~*~*

Diego has always been good with his hands, now is no different. He feels like a kid in a candy store and honestly the only limit is how much he can carry within the many pockets of his harness.

Klaus is up front chatting the cashier, some unsuspecting blonde girl, and judging by the giggles Diego figures he could walk out with the register and she’d never know. He settles instead for grabbing every treat that his weed fueled brain deems necessary and snagging a box of condoms water based lubricant.

He ducks out the door after securing a bottle of cheap wine down the front of his pants and cuts into the alley between them and the next shop. He isn’t so far gone to think it’s a good idea to survey his loot this close in proximity but the wine is freezing his junk and honestly strawberry wine sounds delicious.

It tastes how he imagines paint thinner would taste, but he doesn’t care because the bottle said 16% and he’s not about to toss that. So he deals with the sharp burn of wine and how his tongue’s gone numb again and waits for Klaus to come round the corner.

It’s another few minutes but when Klaus returns he walks out holding a carton of cigarettes under one arm and a six pack in the other. “No fair you started without me, he pouts nodding towards Diego who’s nearing the halfway point.

“Would you rather I finish without you,” Diego deadpans as he pushes off the wall.

Klaus snorts caught off guard and shakes his head, “De you’re so fucking drunk right now.”

Stumbling a bit to the left Diego nods in agreement, “fact, but you’re not exactly sober either.”

Moving in step with Diego, Klaus nods, “that is correct sir!”

Diego can’t help but laugh. It’s not even funny but between the alcohol and weed he’s feeling so fucking relaxed he could float off if not for the anchor of Klaus by his side. “Too drunk for this,” Diego asks holding up a roll of condoms.

Klaus snorts looking at Diego like he asked if he thought the sky was blue. “Babe where you’re concerned I’m never too drunk.”

“Good, prove it.”

So he does; twice.

*~*~*~*

Klaus grows bored of Jersey when they hit the six week mark. The boardwalk is fun and all but he’s itching to move on to a fresh scene.

He suggests Boston on a whim, Ben accuses him of just wanting to riff on the song (he’s like only 67% right), and Diego seems intrigued if only because he wants to work the docks. So they gather their things and spend the next week busking and pickpocketing to scrimp together enough cash for two bus tickets.

Boston is cold as shit. But it’s chock full of history and the dock is hiring and Klaus finds he can bullshit his way through palm readings and the Bostonians each that shit up.

It’s a nice having a change of pace. And honestly Klaus enjoys having extra cash on hand. It’s the one thing keeping them off the street; instead they’ve managed to score a shitty loft. The landlord doesn’t even care that they’re underage so long as they keep paying their rent in cash.

And it’s great for a few months until the night Diego takes a bottle to the head from some hotheaded Ivy League frat boy who was pissed Diego had completely decimated him at darts. There’s so much blood and honestly Klaus is freaking out because Diego’s been steadily drinking since he got off at 5 and the hit had been enough to deck him and now there’s blood down his face and shirt and Jesus fuck what if he’s concussed?

Klaus because he’s drunk but not fucked up still possesses enough brain cells to know they need to get to an ER. That’s how they end up tumbling through the front entrance of the ER causing quite a scene for the night shift.

Diego is swaying slightly and Klaus doesn’t know if it’s from the alcohol or blood loss at this point and he’s just so frustrated because fuck protocol. He says as much and gets an exasperated nurse telling him to calm down and answer the questions.

“Has he had anything to drink?”

“Yes.”

“How much?”

“I...I don’t know.”

She looks disappointed which okay rude, fuck you very much. Klaus has a perfectly valid reason for the lifestyle he leads. If she knew what he could see she’d fucking drink too?

They end up in some cramped room in the back; the gauze they’d given Diego is already starting to soak through red. 

“Hey baby you still doing okay?”

“I’ll live,” Diego shrugs reaching for Klaus. “Sorry I ruined our night out.”

“You didn’t ruin a damn thing, got that?”

When the doctor finally comes in he takes one look at the chart, then pulling in a pair of gloves he inspects the gash spanning Diego’s right temple and shakes his head. “He’s going to need stitches; unfortunately since he’s been drinking I can’t give him anything for the pain.”

Diego tries to put on a tough guy act but Klaus is well aware of his brother’s thoughts on needles. He keeps hold of Diego’s hand and tries his best to distract him with stories of the bored housewives he entertains with his mock séances. So maybe he’s a dick using Ben to spook the natives but fuck they pay well and he’s okay with a little theatrics to pay the rent.

In all it takes 36 stitches to close the gash. 

“You’ll want to take some ibuprofen in the morning, the stitches can be taken out in a week, and just come back to the ER one of the nurses can take care of you.”

Diego by some miracle hasn’t passed out but he is looking a bit green around the gills and his grip is tight, so Klaus figures it’s by sheer force of will that Diego is still awake. Still Klaus nods and rubs his thumb over Diego’s knuckles deciding to speak up, “thank you doctor, I’ll keep an eye on him.”

They’re discharged shortly after and while walking back to their small flat Klaus nudges Diego, “think maybe we should move on from here.”

Diego snorts at that, “Babe it was one fight...I’m okay.”

“You’re really not, but fine...I guess we don’t have to move yet.”

“Look our lease is up in a month, if you still wanting to leave we can go then.”

“Yea okay...fine.”

Klaus is already mentally planning their next move as they amble up the stoop to their loft; Boston has grown old.

*~*~*~*

Ben had been unfortunate enough to walk in on Klaus doing that thing with his tongue Diego likes so much, so he knows that, more than the scar Diego is sporting now is why they skip out on their rent and take a train to Philly. Diego has always been bad at telling Klaus no, it’s worse when he’s so blissed out of pleasure he can’t even think straight.

Philly, Ben is certain, must be holding an asshole competition 24/7. It’s the only way to explain the truly alarming number of dickish people they’ve encountered while Diego and Klaus look for odd end jobs. 

Ben figures he’d be pretty upset too if his cities’ teams sucked so badly. After all the Phillies had just managed to become the only team to amass 10,000 loses, the 76ers were really a lost cause at this point, the Flyers were on a 8 game tear and it didn’t look to be improving anytime soon, and the Eagles were sitting 8-8 again under Reid. So yea he figures Philadelphians had reason to be angry, petty macho fueled bullshit reasons, but Ben’s dead and even he feels a bit bummed for the city.

Rude people aside he supposed the change is good for them. Diego finds a job doing janitorial work at some boxing gym and Klaus dabbles with tarot readings and busking down by the park.

It’s actually quite peaceful for a month until Klaus finds the corner of 3rd Street and Indiana Avenue, and things quickly unravel from there.

“You snort it.”

“Yea but with what? I mean isn’t that g-gonna hurt?”

“It’s called a bumper, come on you’re always saying you’re too tired, this is the ultimate pick me up De.”

“Yea because nothing says pick me up like schedule II stimulant,” Ben pipes up from behind Diego looking at the little baggie in Klaus’ hand.

“I’ll try it, but if I end up crouched naked in the alley paranoid about leprechauns or some shit I’m out.”

Klaus snorts waving the little baggie in front of Diego. “You my gorgeous brother lover have got yourself a deal.”

“You know prolonged use of cocaine actually exacerbates insomnia right? Not to mention oh I don’t know cerebral atrophy and death,” Ben grouses pitting both hands on his hips in his most disappointed parent pose he can muster.

“I hear you get really fucking horny on this stuff, wanna test that theory out?”

“Babe you’re always fucking horny.”

“What, don’t think you can handle my increased animalistic magnetism,” Klaus smirks arching an eyebrow in challenge.

Diego rolls his eyes snagging the baggie from Klaus as he sidesteps him to the bedroom. “Come on Mr. Animalistic Magnetism, put up or shut up.”

“De you’re about to have your world rocked,” Klaus grins bounding over to join Diego, wandering hands already working on getting that stupid black turtleneck off. 

“I hope you get the biggest fucking nosebleed and ruin the entire mood,” Ben shouts just before the door clicks closed.

*~*~*~*

Diego still isn’t entirely sure how he let Klaus talk him into this in the first place, but he’s not one to go back on a promise. 

They’re in a tattoo parlor, Spirited something or other because Klaus has a twisted sense of humor. He’s in a chair and he’s shirtless and the guy, Rick, is in the process of sterilizing a small clamp and needle.

Klaus is grinning like a loon from his perch on the stool in the corner. His hands are bandage, still tender from Rick’s previous work; bold black font in all caps proclaiming ‘Hello’ on the left and ‘Goodbye’ on the right.

“Just breathe De, I promise you won’t regret this.”

Diego frowns slightly but welcomes the distraction of Klaus. “Easy for you to say you’re not the one getting your nipple pierced.”

Klaus snorts at that raising his hands in surrender, “I’ll make it up to you, scouts honor.”

“You were never in the scouts.”

“It’s the sentiment that counts,” Klaus protests pouting in response to being called out. 

Before Diego can respond Rick is back by his side, “I’m not going to lie this will hurt, you need to relax.”

Diego wants to snap back telling him it’s going to hurt isn’t gonna help him relax but the smart retort dies on his lips as Rick uses the clamp on his nipple and slides the needle home in one quick movement. Breath hitching Diego clutches at the armrests and tries his best to keep the trembles to a minimum as Rick slides the piercing, a simple stainless steel captive ring, through the newly made hole. The bandage comes next as well as the aftercare pamphlets that Diego nods accordingly to all the while trying to keep his voice from wavering.

Once they’re outside though all bets are off and Diego swats Klaus in the back of the head in retaliation.

“Hey...what was that for?”

“That fucking hurt, asshole.”

“Aw De baby...look I promise it’ll be worth it. I know it’s a commitment but nine months will fly by—“

“Nine months! Dude you didn’t say it’d hurt that long.”

“Well not hurt...but they’ll be tender until the fistula forms, but bro I swear when it’s healed you’re gonna love it...gonna be so damn sensitive De. Bet I can make you cum just sucking on it.”

Diego flushes bright red, they’ve been at it two and a half years already and he still manages to turn into a school girl whenever Klaus goes on one of his ramblings. It’s like he knows which buttons to push, only Klaus isn’t content to just push, no the lanky teen full on button smashes until Diego is a flustered mess unsure if he’s turned on or worried and it just thrills him more.

It’s fucking frightening how turned around Klaus can make him feel with just a few well-chosen words. 

“So how about it De? Gonna keep it for me sweetheart?”

“Y-yeah,” and then more confidently “yes, I’ll keep it in.”

“Good boy,” Klaus grins taking hold of Diego’s hand and tugging him along, already on a new topic of why waffles are superior to pancakes and how they need to find some ASAP.

If Diego wasn’t already sure, this is the moment he would say he knew he was gone on Klaus; Hell, he’d follow him to edge and over if asked. 

*~*~*~*

Klaus brings home a sheet of acid because “you only turn 19 once; what better time to embrace the principal appetite of the soul?”

“Really? You’re quoting Huxley? Does your depravity know no bounds?”

“You want to find enlightenment at 19,” Diego asks arching a brow and doing his best to keep his lips from quirking in a smile.

“Bro not just find it I want to experience the fuck outta it.”

Diego sorts at that shaking his head, “what did you have in mind?”

Klaus, as it turns out, has been planning this experience for two weeks which by his standards is a fucking record. It’s also how they end up barefoot in sweatpants stretched out on their stomachs in the living room. Between them is a journal and assorted gel pens, The Doors playing on record in the background.

Words spill forth freely, half formed thoughts and stray tangents, feelings of inadequacy and desperation; words span the pages quicker than he can flip them.

 

What must I do to feel anything?

 

Vacuum the void of space

 

                                               Space dust

                                                                                                                                  All clean

 

               Beast creatures

 

                                                                                             Mythical and real

 

All must be ground to start anew

 

There was a time

 

When the word love was nothing

 

                                                                                             More than a sigh 

 

A long look at a bed light 

 

                                                                                And now love is locked in

 

                                                                                                                                                                As an old acquaintance 

 

              Yes years gone by without a word.

 

But now I’m ink

 

That’s going to smudge 

 

This is the door...

 

Diego’s journey leads him more towards doodling than words but that’s likely more on account of the dyslexia than lack of things to say. Still his pages are filled in vibrant bold strokes; green eyes, expressive and bright, a door to the soul, curls framing delicate ears, narrow features almost pixie in nature, a halo of gold, cracks on porcelain skin. 

Morrison’s voice warbles through the apartment, record caught on repeat; can you picture what will be...?

Somewhere between they pages Klaus takes to scrawling words against Diego’s skin. Time is passing too quickly loops across his elbow. Consume everything then consume yourself with me along his ribs. Forge my soul with fire spans his shoulder. How do I know, who I am creeps upwards along his neck. Nothing like you arcs over his cheek. Even in the darkest cave there is light in all caps over his heart.

Klaus writes, coloring Diego’s skin in ink and then in kisses. They’re nonsensically ramblings of a man tripping hard but they’re important words too and he needs to get them out; immortalized on tanned skin it feels divine.

“Happy birthday baby.”

Stretched out atop Diego, pens messily strewn about, Klaus can’t help but smile wide; because yes, this is a happy birthday indeed.

*~*~*~*

Ben starts wearing all black sometime after their 19th birthday. 

“I knew you were maudlin and shit but did you really have to go all emo on us bro,” Klaus asks the first time he notices black skinny jeans and a zip up hoodie replace that awful uniform.

“I’m in mourning.”

“Little late for self-reflection isn’t it?”

“I’m mourning the death of my brothers’ common sense and decision making,” he deadpans looking very unamused.

Klaus of course thinks he’s a riot. Maybe it had come off as a joke but part of him is serious. Diego and Klaus live life one bad decision at a time these days, and really the last straw had been their first foray into freebasing.

Bad enough they snorted the stuff in truly dizzying amounts at times, but the moment they’d produced a glass pipe had been absolutely terrifying for Ben. Images of crack houses came to mind, probably a product of growing up post Reagan and having the war on drugs beat into his head; apparently, Diego and Klaus hadn’t been as affected with the statistics. 

By the grace of god they don’t continue to freebase very long. Klaus is so nauseous on the stuff and spends days feeling strung out and overheated. Diego feels agitated coming off the short high and begins to sleep fitfully through the night if at all; two hours seems like a luxury some days. But of course because it’s them the deciding factor to boot the stuff is the day Diego can’t get it up and no amount of oral can get Klaus to orgasm.

Figures, sexual frustration, not health complications and death, is the line in the sand for them.

Ben supposes he shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, they’re off that stuff and it’s a step in the right direction. Okay, so it’s more of a side shuffle but really Ben will take that over a backslide any day.

So yea he wears black now, and hopes it’s not a precursor to actual mourning where Klaus and Diego are concerned.

*~*~*~*

Diego is the one who suggests they head back to New York. He figures they’ve been gone long enough that they can slide back into the city without drawing the wrath of dear old dad and the other siblings. Truthfully he misses home. 

Klaus is on board; he thinks they’ve hit a rut in Philly. Ben thinks it’s because his tarot card business got shut down by some angry soccer mom complaining he was loitering.

That’s how they end up bringing in the New Year in Times Square. Not that they can really remember it, they’re vibing hard on MDMA and spend the majority of the festivities making out and slow dancing in the snow enjoying the bright neon around them as the music thumps on loudly.

The only problem with their plan is when you start 2010 flying high on top of the world the only place you have left to go is down. 

Diego finds janitorial work at Al’s gymnasium and bargains his work skills got use of the boiler room for him and Klaus to stay. Klaus takes to busking again and selling the occasional artwork for spare cash to tide them over between Diego’s paychecks. 

Occasionally, Al let’s Diego fight the undercard for his more prominent fighters once he sees the kid can box; when he’s sober that is.

They scrape by, just enough money to make ends meet and support their growing list of habits but it’s enough. Diego’s got Klaus and really isn’t that all that matters in the end?

Most days Diego starts the day with a hit from his bong, on the truly bad days when his head is throbbing and his mouth feels sour he follows it with a shot or three. It’s very rare these days that he doesn’t have something before breakfast, hell sometimes it is breakfast.

And maybe he should find that problematic but fuck he’s got bigger things to worry about. Like how the fuck he’s going to get the full experience of shrooms without any goddamn orange juice and where his damn mix tape went and fucked off to in their tiny apartment.

“Looking for this,” Klaus asks holding up a cassette. “I don’t know why you even still have this, you know you could have gone digital.”

Snagging the tape in question Diego shakes his head, “not the same, hell wish I could rip vinyl but there’s something about having the old Walkman that just...better? Nostalgic?”

“Well, I’d love to stay and trip with you but right now is peak time for selling art in the park and I’ve gotta see a guy about some snow if you catch my drift.”

Tugging Klaus into a kiss Diego smiles faintly, “bring some orange juice on your way back babe.”

“Of course, now enjoy your music and stay away from mirrors” he sing-songs as he heads out the door with his duffle bag of supplies.

Diego huffs a bit agitated, as he focuses on fiddling with loading the cassette into his Walkman, “low blow bro.”

But fuck he remembers the last time he did shrooms. Shudders remembering how he’d spent the better part of his trip curled in the bathroom rocking and pointedly avoiding the mirror.

He’d seen himself and then everything was just wrong. He was too gaunt and strung out, limbs moving separately from him like a marionette. And then he was at once too tall and too frail all at once. He’d reached out fingertips brushing glass only for them to ripple and then shatter completely. In his stead stood Sir Reginald, condescending as ever, and then he’d screamed.

Klaus had found him hours later, curled up in the bathtub, clothes soaked through by water that had long since run cold.

He’s probably an idiot or at the very least a masochist for even thinking of trying this again, probably the latter. He recalls the phrase ‘a little suffering is good for the soul’ and lord knows his soul is more rotten than good these days.

*~*~*~* 

Klaus is adamant that they celebrate their 21st in a bar like normal fucking 21 year olds. Never mind the fact that they’ve been drinking for what feels like ages these days. It’s the principal of the matter he argues over breakfast, why should they miss out on a pivotal experience of the transition from adolescence to adulthood just because they got a jump start? 

Diego’s resolve crumbles the second Klaus starts pouting and really it’s his own damn fault for not starting with that. Still he’s got Diego’s approval for a proper 21st birthday bash and really that’s the important thing.

It’s also how they end up drunk as a skunk stumbling their way up the back entrance of the gym to their little room at 3:45 in the morning.

They’d started early on account of Diego having the day off. Klaus has a list of bars to hit up and it became very apparent early on that tonight’s MO was to see who could get the most free drinks.

Klaus is a shameless flirt and gets out to an early lead, but Diego fights dirty and his amateur strip routine at The Cockpit has him practically drowning in shots thanks to the increasingly drunk and horny bachelorette party in the front row. Of course that’s about the time the world starts to tilt sideways and he’d fallen off the pole in spectacular fashion because go big or go home; Klaus makes them go home after that.

“Been holding out on me De, so damn sexy out there tonight...how much for my own personal show” he asks waggling his brows as Diego fumbles with the lock for a solid 3 minutes before sliding home the proper key and turning the handle the right way.

“For you babe, no charge,” he grins stumbling into their front room and sending the keys careening to the bowl on the coffee table.

Diego is clumsier this time around when he begins his strip show. He’s drunker than he had been when they started this night, but it’s okay because Diego is a horny drunk and fuck he’s putting on a show that has Klaus practically creaming his leather pants on sight alone.

By the time Diego is clad in only his black boxer briefs, Klaus can’t help himself he’s gotta touch. He tugs Diego forward by the hips until the other boy is stumbling forward in an undignified sprawl across his lap.

“Driving me crazy with the way you swivel your hips, should be a fucking crime De.”

Diego’s next words are cut off by a moan as Klaus sets about marking up the entire expanse of tanned skin before him. He nips gently and then harder, enjoying the way blood vessels pop and purple bruises blossom in his very own live art. One hand has found its way into the back of Diego’s boxers, and the other is gripping the back of Diego’s neck tugging him forward into a brutal kiss that’s more teeth than anything.

Diego is so gone by the time Klaus finally slides a finger into him. He’s mindlessly rutting against his brother’s lap, chest heaving with a desperate need for more. Klaus is more than happy to provide.

Somewhere between the kissing and grinding they end up sprawled atop one another on the couch. Diego is practically bent in half as Klaus slams his hips home. Klaus keeps a truly ruthless pace, and Diego is so blissed out between the booze and the feel of his brother everywhere, in him, bracketing him, the wet squelch of skin on skin reverberating through their small apartment that his orgasm is approaching embarrassingly quick. 

Klaus does this truly amazing swivel with his hips, hand moving from base to tip with a counter-clockwise twist of his wrist and Diego forgets how to breathe. Klaus laughs, not cruelly, just a gentle chuckle as he takes in the dazed look of his brother who’s now coated in cum.

“Happy birthday De,” he murmurs delighting when Diego can only manage a small hum still to blissed out to form coherent words.

*~*~*~*

Ben spends the better part of 21 being ignored in favor of the new party lifestyle his brothers have adopted. It’s not to say that Klaus completely blocks him out, even when he’s nearing blackout drunk it’s always been Ben’s choice whether to stick around.

He figures on some subconscious level Klaus wants him around to play as his conscience; but he didn’t die violently and end up resurrected into limbo just to become somebody’s Jiminy Cricket; least of all his derelict brother.

It’s rotten work, and most days he wants to fucking scream into the void they frustrate him so much, but he refrains because they’re his brothers and someone has to look after them. Reginald has made their life a living hell, broken them down like a tyrannical toddler who’d rather destroy a toy than share. When they’d left the Academy five years ago nobody had come looking for them.

Ben knows that for all the bravado Klaus uses. it’s nothing more than flimsy mask for the real hurt. Diego’s no better, he’s all hard edges when the Academy is mentioned, but Ben would have to be blind not to notice how Diego still craves that approval. It’s fucked when being dead actually grants you the most reprieve, but Reginald did a number on them all; some scars never truly heal.

So yes Ben hates being relegated to Klaus’ angel on his shoulder, but maybe it’s for the best. Ben hasn’t exactly pulled any punches through the years and honestly it’s good for both of them. Klaus likes to tread close to the edge and Ben prefers the solidness a heavy dosing of reality provides.

Klaus takes a tab of acid.

Ben is there quoting statistics of links between depression and the ramifications of flashbacks.

Diego drinks his body weight in cheap vodka.

Ben yells about cirrhosis of the liver and increased chances of contracting cancer for an entire day.

Klaus decides whippets are all the rage these days and falls in deep with nangs.

Ben babbles about hypoxia and B12 deficiency and how fucked his immune system is bound to become.

Diego spends a week living off coke, coffee, and fluffernutter sandwiches.

Ben lays into Klaus with warnings of heart disease and deteriorating septums. Then because he’s just as worried as he is angry he doubles down on the warning and starts talking rehab centers.

Ben has an answer for every drug under the sun and he’s prepared to sound like an astral WebMD for eternity if it means there’s a chance one fact wiggles into his brothers’ thick skull. He has doubts that they’ll learn a damn thing without having to take the hard route. It’s just that Ben worries because the hard route isn’t just going to result in skinned knees and bruises; this route has the potential for death. 

So yea it sucks being a ghost when your brother who can talk to ghosts takes every chance to babble on increasingly nonsensical topics and ignore every warning, but Ben figures one day they’ll learn.

*~*~*~*

It’s Diego’s idea, and the sheer amount of stupidity wrapped up in this one idea is astounding. Still when he had presented the idea to Klaus he wasn’t expecting such a strong reaction.

Klaus had scoffed when he first heard the plan laid out. He had made a point of saying let the record show that he thought this was a terrible fucking idea. Really that admission alone should be all the reason for them not to go through with it, but Diego isn’t letting any of that sway him. 

The thing is they’re in a bit of a pickle. Al doesn’t charge them crazy rent, after all Diego is saving him a fortune by doing most of the maintenance work around the gym, still Al does still charge them, and right now they’re about 95 bucks short on account of having splurged on some top notch weed.

Which is how they end up in the back alley of the Umbrella Academy just as the sun dips below the horizon.

Diego argues that they’re just cashing in on their inheritance before dear old dad kicks the bucket. It makes sense in a roundabout way, and really Klaus just wants to make sure they’re not evicted, so he goes along with the idea.

“So what makes you think they won’t notice us?”

Diego is currently testing the trellis to see if it’ll hold them climbing up the way it had allowed them down 6 years prior. “Its lights out and you know dad and his schedule...besides it’s not like he sprung for an alarm and you know Luther sleeps like the dead.”

Klaus nods slowly moving to follow Diego up the side of the building. “Yea but don’t forget Pogo and Grace.”

“Pogo isn’t an issue he lurks in the lower levels at night and mom...you know she’s charging.”

“Look at you, man with a plan,” Klaus grins as he reaches to pull himself over the balcony with help from Diego.

“One of us needs to be the brains,” Diego snarks with a wink as he extracts his trusty pocket knife to Jimmy the latch on his window.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Ben grumbles, arms cross over his chest as he watches Diego break into his room with surprising finesse for someone coming off a cocaine bender.

“Oh shut it you’ve always got a bad feeling.”

Diego manages to get the window opened and is promptly grinning like a loon when he turns back to Klaus. “Come on, let’s make this quick....this place makes my skin crawl.”

Klaus nods scooting closer and tries his best ignoring Ben who’s tapping his foot impatiently. 

“I’m serious capital B bad feeling about this.”

Klaus pauses half in the window earning him a confused look from Diego.

“What’s wrong?”

“Something feels off,” Klaus murmurs looking back at Diego. “Are you sure about this?”

Diego rolls his eyes giving Klaus a slight nudge, “come on what’s the worst that could happen?”

*~*~*~*

Their first stint in rehab comes a week before they turn 22, when they manage to get caught breaking into the Academy.

Dear old dad is ready to press charges and throw them away. He calls them failures, true menaces to society, and few other choice words peppered in with his typical disapproving tirade. The only reason they manage to get shipped to a rehab clinic instead of jail for BnE is that somewhere inside that think skull Luther still thinks of them as family, and he’s already lost too much to see them ruined too.

Really Klaus thinks they’re getting off rather lucky in the realm of things. Sure Reggie threw them in the most basic of clinics, but it’s a warm bed and three square meals so who is he to complain?

“You two look like shit...when is the last time you two even slept,” Luther managed to finally ask once Reginald is distracted on the phone making arrangements for their rehab stint.

“Well hello to you too brother, long time no see,” Klaus replies flippantly shifting to look at Diego. “Isn’t it great to see our fearless leader?”

If looks could kill Klaus should be inhibiting Ben’s realm, as luck would have it Diego’s latent powers don’t extend to killer glares. “Don’t think you’re doing us any favors, we’ve been doing just fine on our own.”

“Didn’t know fine meant homeless and strung out.”

Klaus snorts when Diego snaps back that they have an apartment but doesn’t dispute being strung out. “What do you care anyway Luther? Haven’t seen you in four and a half years and now you want to play doting brother?”

“At least I’m living and not cooped in this goddamn house living by that monster’s rules,” Diego snaps hotly.

Luther frowns taking a step back as his gaze flickers between the two brothers he hasn’t seen since they were 16. They look worn now, Klaus curls are long and unruly, black nail polish chipped, and his layers are a little ratty looking; Diego isn’t much better off, there’s a scar running angry red along his temple, he’s got a black eye and a week’s worth of stubble, and his knuckles are all busted. Both of their pupils are blown wide in a way that suggests they’re on something now.

“Being high and living isn’t the same thing,” Luther says carefully looking between the two. “I’d say you’re avoiding it altogether.”

Klaus has a zinger on the tip of his tongue but he never gets the chance to say it because Reginald is ushering them out to the car and suddenly they’re Veritas Village bound. He figures it’s likely for the best especially since he tends to get nasty when he’s coming off cocaine.

*~*~*~*

Ben has a good feeling about rehab. Structure is exactly what his brothers need to reclaim sobriety. Veritas Village has that in spades.

Of course Ben hadn’t been expecting for Vanya’s tell all to hit stores on day 4 of 30. Maybe if they’d been sober enough to have their certificate of completion under their belts by the time the book publishes they wouldn’t have reacted so poorly. 

“I can’t believe she said that,” Ben frowns looking over Klaus shoulder.

Diego is a half a chapter ahead of Klaus and his knuckles are white from how frustrated he is right now muttering about stupid sisters talking about shit they don’t know. 

Klaus doesn’t look up from the book just waves a hand in his general direction to hush him while he flips to the next page. The resulting gasp causes Ben to crouch closer, curiosity getting the better of him.

Fuck. He’s no Jack Kennedy when it comes to speed reading but he can get the gist scanning pages as Klaus works his way through the rest of the chapter. It’s about the night they left, only from Vanya’s account they come off as two spoiled brats always wanting what they can’t have.

Diego looks a few pages away from taking his knife to the biopic and Klaus’ frown is so severe Ben worries it may stay like that. So yea, Ben quickly dashes any illusions that rehab might stick. 

*~*~*~*

Diego manages to stay away from anything harder than a cigarette for all of seven and a half weeks out of rehab. He’s thrown himself head first into training and right now his mind is focused on hitting that stupid book jacket he’s got taped to the bag.

They have a new rhythm that features heavily on Diego’s new janitorial work taking priority and Klaus busking across the city for extra cash. They’re turning a new leaf and it works up until it doesn’t anymore.

Al asks Diego to step in for a sparring partner for his prized fighter, and Diego accepts because he’s been itching to get back in the ring. He gets a broken nose, two bruised ribs, and manages to spiral fracture the middle metacarpal of his left hand.

He’s in so much fucking pain that Klaus takes pity and passes him a flask as they sit waiting in the lobby of some med clinic to be seen.

“One drop isn’t going to kill you, but it might take the edge off so you quit your moaning.”

“Love you too bro,” he bites out keeping his arm tucked in close as he reaches for the flask with his good arm.

That first drink warms him to the core and honestly he has this vague regret that he should have never given up on this. The whiskey is cheap but nearly 90 days of sobriety has only succeeded in amplifying the craving. Hell this flask could be filled with the shittiest liquor known to man and he’d wax poetic about ambrosia of the gods.

“Your taste in liquor is shit.”

“I think what you mean to say is thank you Klaus, oh brother lover of mine I owe you oh so many blow jobs to show my gratitude.”

Diego snorts taking another big gulp, “dude I broke my nose.”

“Your jaw still works though."

“You’re a dick.”

“You love me and my dickish tendencies.”

Diego let’s Klaus sweat it out all of 30 seconds while he focuses on polishing off the flask before he responds with a smirk “yea I love you and your dick.”

*~*~*~*

“Budge over I got ecstasy,” Klaus grins widely crashing in next to Diego in the booth.

They’re celebrating their 23rd birthday in style; which in their terms amounts to fish-bowling with the frat party in the back and hustling poor unsuspecting college kids to pay for drinks all night.

“Fuck babe, you’re spoiling me.”

“You know E makes me horny,” Klaus says taking two tablets. “This is as much my birthday gift as it is yours.”

Diego shakes his head taking his tablets and chasing them with a shot of tequila. “Babe you’re always fucking horny.”

“Can you blame me? I mean I don’t know if you’re aware but my boyfriend is really fucking hot.”

That flush is back again and really you’d think after six years together Diego would be used to Klaus antics, but each come on results in rose cheeks and shy smiles; it’s fucking adorable really. 

“You do that on purpose.”

“Prove it.”

Diego is trying valiantly to tamper down the blush, but there’s Klaus with those waggling eyebrows and flirtatious air kisses and he’s back to square one.

“I hate you,” Diego pouts tossing his forearm across his eyes.

“Lies, you loooove me De,” and then Klaus is crowding in close and kissing at Diego’s neck.

“Yea...believe me I was surprised too,” it’s said teasingly and judging by the way Diego is tilting his head in invitation is said with the intention to goad Klaus into biting. Klaus rewards him with a vibrantly purple hickey and delights at the little stutter in Diego’s breathing pattern. 

That’s as far as they get before DJ starts blaring some shitty remixed techno pop babble and Klaus is suddenly up like a shot and tugging Diego towards the floor. “Dance with me De, I love this song.”

Klaus can already feel that euphoria settling in; it’s so good he can almost pretend he doesn’t see Ben glaring at them as he paws at Diego. It’s their birthday, and if Ben were here to feel that glorious floating sensation maybe he wouldn’t be so goddamn judgmental. So yea Klaus is a dick for sticking his tongue out at Ben and shooting a middle finger salute, but he’s never claimed to be the nice brother.

*~*~*~*

“I know you don’t care if you end up in a ditch somewhere but Diego is floundering. If you weren’t constantly three sheets to the wind maybe you’d notice.”

Klaus is playing dumb, more focused on grinding against Diego in the center of the dance floor. Ben knows he can hear him though so he continues, stalking closer so he’s in front of Klaus.

“If you love him like I think you do, you’ll push for sobriety.”

Klaus tilts his head to kiss at Diego’s jaw waving a hand dismissively at Ben. It’s equally aggravating each time Klaus dismisses him, more so when he’s trying to have serious conversations.

“Stop ignoring me you dick!”

“Mountains outta molehills Benny, what’s wrong with a little fun?”

“What,” Diego asks tightening his hold on Klaus’ hips swaying forwards slightly a little off balanced.

“He can barely stand, Klaus. When are you going to grow up and realize you need to deal with the fact you’re both addicts?”

“This conversation is over,” Klaus hisses turning to face Diego. “Nothing baby...hey let’s get outta here...I bought some handcuffs I’m dying to try out.”

“Ignoring me isn’t going to change the fact you two will be lucky to see 24,” Ben shouts at his brother’s retreating forms as they stumble towards the exit.

*~*~*~*

“Look kid, take it or leave it, $430 is my final offer okay?”

Diego frowns considering the blade in the counter; it’s worth easy $550 maybe an even $600 if he polishes it just right. But beggars can’t be choosers and all that Jazz.

“Fine, yea I’ll take it.”

He wishes this guy would hurry up and pay him. Pawn shops give him the creeps. All that junk piled high and the sleazy salesman vibe permeating the air, it’s sickening, but fuck he’s jonesing for some coke and it’s been too damn long since he’s been paid to fight and Al won’t pay him for another week.

“Pleasure doing business with you.”

The guy looks like a damn shark the way he smiles when handing over the money. There are far too many teeth for it to be remotely friendly, and Diego has this vague feeling he’s just sold his soul. Fuck he’d sell his grandma for a decent line at this point.

Pocketing the cash Diego nods, his mind is already racing trying to figure out who to call first. He starts with Aaron putting in an order for an eightball, and then calls Sarah for some molly, the rest he blows on a fifth of vodka and those stupid Swedish fish Klaus is always yammering about.

When it’s all said and done he has just enough to cover the cab home. He takes the stairs two at a time, the only thing standing between him and a roaring good time is their apartment door and fuck Klaus is gonna kill him if he lost his key again.

Smirking triumphantly he procures the key, eagerly fumbling with the lock. It’s a bit harder than normal considering he’s already vibrating with want at the prospect of doing a few lines tonight, but he manages. 

“Babe I got you something,” he calls out closing the door behind him.

“Presents? For moi?”

Diego tosses the package of Swedish fish Klaus’ way as he makes a beeline go the bed, grabbing the mirror and razor from his dresser top.

“Thought you didn’t get paid until next week?”

“Pawned my pocket knife,” Diego shrugs focusing on laying out his score across the bed. He’s too focused on cutting a line that he misses the look of shock Klaus sends his way.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I pawned my pocket knife,” he repeats digging out a dollar bill to roll as a bumper like it’s a normal thing to admit.

*~*~*~*

Klaus is starting to think Ben might be right when Diego tells him he’s pawned his favorite knife. 

They’d been without food two days once when they were 18 and Diego had refused to even consider pawning his knife, so it’s a little disconcerting to know that reservation has long since sailed.

“Bro, did you seriously pawn your knife for a fucking eightball,” Klaus asks abandoning his rambled artwork strewn along the wall.

Diego shakes his head, gaze focused on the mirror balancing on his knees as he cuts out twin lines. “Correction, I pawned my knife for an eightball, a fifth of vodka, and some molly.”

Yea there’s a serious fucking problem.

‘You’re a cancer Number Four,’ echoes something awful in Klaus head and he has to look away.

Diego was a bright light in an abyss of darkness. A promising future, he could have been a cop, he’d have been amazing. Now though he’d have a better chance making a line up than the academy.

“You gonna do a line with me?”

“This is your mess Klaus, you need to fix this,” Ben says unhelpfully pointing over at Diego who’s holding a rolled bill for a snuff sniffer and looking at Klaus expectantly.

“Earth to Klaus, are you in?”

Wetting his lips Klaus nods, holding Ben’s gaze a moment before he pushes off the wall to join Diego in bed. “De, I think we need to give rehab another go,” he says carefully pulling the bill from Diego’s hand.

“What happened to you’re no quitter?”

Klaus laughs nervously and shrugs, “think we need a break...come on consider it a vacation. Bet we can get Allison to pay for one of those fancy clinics the movie stars use.”

Please, you’ve always followed me before, Klaus pleads mentally, follow me here too.

“Yea...alright, we can call Ally...if it’s that important to you baby.”

Klaus grins surging forward to steal a kiss. He can fix this, he has to fix this.

*~*~*~*

Ben relaxes slightly when Allison writes the check. His brothers need help, and this will be good for them both.

It is good, for all of 6 weeks before Diego checks himself out and Klaus follows having already called them a cab. Ben isn’t holding his breath on account of them deciding to trade blunts for straightedge life but he’s still holding out hope they’ll stray from the hard shit.

“Klaus I really think you should stay the 12 weeks.”

“Ally’s going to be pissed,” Klaus muses sliding in beside Diego in the back of the cab. 

“Maybe, but I couldn’t stay another night through that kumbayah bullshit; made my skin crawl.”

Ben wants to smack Diego.  Those first three days had been torturous watching the two of them come down from the slew of drugs in their systems. He’d watched Klaus shake and complain of being frozen even though he was drenched in sweat and sporting a fever. He’d seen Diego refuse to eat, spending the better part of those first three days throwing up and alternating between lashing out and trying to bargain one more bump.

“You two aren’t going to get it until you’re here beside me and then guess what it’ll be too fucking late.”

Diego is asking the cab to take them to a bar in Queens and Klaus is rolling his eyes at him. “You’re always so dramatic Benny boy.”

“I’ll remind you that when you’re both dead.”

It’s harsh but he doubts they’ll listen otherwise.

*~*~*~*

A small part of Diego is aware that they’re playing a dangerous game, but an even bigger part is more focused on the next big score. 

The thing with drugs is when you’re on them everything is fan-fucking-tastic. There’s a sense of euphoria that just can’t be duplicated with the mundaneness of everyday living. If everyday life was even halfway operable there wouldn’t be so many escapes only a pill, drink, or snort away.

And when you’re sober everything sucks worse than Hoover. Sobriety doesn’t give you the excuse of absentmindedness and that simple carefree attitude. When you’re off drugs you’re reminded quite vividly of the mind-numbing soul-sucking harshness of reality. You’ve got to worry about bills, where your next meal is coming, functioning like a normal human with meaningful interactions and all sorts of other bullshit that just crush you whole and swallow you alive.

It’s a wonder how anyone functions fully sober. The way Diego figures it is they’re a bunch of masochistic fucks chasing another more socially acceptable high in success. Why should he punish himself because some Tom, Dick, & Jane think breaking your back for a dead end job makes you successful?

Fuck he’s got a job, he’s got an apartment, he’s got Klaus, doesn’t mean he can’t indulge in a bit or recreational substance use; okay more than a bit, so sue him he enjoys the escape. The point is why should he fuck up a good thing to conform with the normals? Nothing about his existence has been normal, so why sober up because that’s the acceptable thing?

Besides, Diego’s tried quitting before, he’s done the whole rehab shtick and even took up boxing again as a substitute for a few memorable weeks. The thing is nothing makes him feel the way the drugs do; stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, he doesn’t give a damn they all have their uses. 

So hitting up a bar or three fresh out of rehab may be asking for trouble, but then again Diego’s always enjoyed living dangerously. 

*~*~*~*

Because Klaus can be downright dickish when he wants, he special orders them a cake for their 24th birthday. The icing is black and it reads: “not dead yet” in obnoxious block letters.

It’s incredibly poor taste, he’s well aware, but there’s this need to shove this birthday in Ben’s face. Lucky to make it to 24, read it and weep Benny boy.

“The nights not over,” Ben reminded him, tone eerily void of emotion.

Klaus laughs and it’s edging on manic, but fuck when did Ben go and adopt such a caustic form of sarcasm? “It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to,” Klaus croons mockingly as he sets about sticking 24 candles in the cake.

“You’re such a fucking dick you know that?”

Klaus is well aware.

“And here I was going to cut you a slice of the cake...”

Ben looks frustrated in a way Klaus would broach if he didn’t already know he was the cause. But fuck he’s not the one making judgey predictions on his siblings’ lifespans.

“I don’t want any of your tacky cake.”

Klaus rolls his eyes lifting the cake to bring it to their sitting area where Diego is already working on rolling their celebratory joint.

“Your loss, its chocolate fudge,” they both know it’s a crap olive branch but Klaus is trying and that’s gotta count for something.

“I don’t do corners,” Ben says after a moment moving to sit perched on the armrest of their worn couch.

Klaus grins sitting down next to Diego, cake balanced in his lap, “corners are for squares.”

Ben groans because Klaus looks way too self-satisfied for such a shitty pun.

*~*~*~*

Ben spends the better part of 2013 watching his brothers chasing high after high in increasingly reckless fashion. The high point being Diego’s albeit brief return to boxing, the low being Klaus’ bad trip that had resulted in a sledgehammer redecorating of their kitchen on account of the bugs he’d hallucinated.

He’s seen it all really. 

Diego pissed off his ass stumbling up the stairs at 4 in the morning, Klaus so keyed up he couldn’t sleep for days, Diego high on ecstasy spending the better part of five hours petting a rug because it was so soft, Klaus’ brilliant idea to wax his balls with chocolate pudding the first time he’d tried shrooms, so yea he’s been privy to a lot.

The worst part of it all is that Klaus knows he’s there, can hear him warning against pushing the envelope too far, and he continues anyway. It’s aggravating, what good is communing with the dead if you don’t heed their warning? 

Ben knows he could walk away, wash his hands of their idiot nature, probably should save himself the headache, but they’re his brothers and someone needs to look after them; they’re clearly not capable of doing it themselves, so Ben stays as some sarcastically blunt guardian angel.

He’s talked Klaus down from a panic attack when he’d been afraid his heart was going to beat out of his chest from poppers. He’d kept silent vigil over Diego who spent the better half of Christmas Day 2010 curled in the fetal shaking and anxious from a mix of alcohol and PCP-laced marijuana. He’d seen Klaus stick himself with a tranquilizer and bury his nose in a verifiable mountain of coke just to see how long he’d stay coherent enough to blow Diego before he crashed completely. 

They made it to 24 and honesty it’s a fucking miracle, but Ben’s not stupid, he doesn’t have any illusions that this life isn’t running on borrowed time. He’s constantly on edge these days that he’s going to appear and see one of them, maybe both, in a blue sheen phasing through the world around them. He thinks it would be easier to leave, save him the heartache of knowing his brothers are careening towards a fiery ending of self-destruction. But he can’t bring himself to go, they’re family, broken to hell sure, but what type of brother would he be if he left them when everyone else has already turned their back? He supposed that they aren’t the only ones with a self-loathing streak.

The point is he’s been there since Diego took his first cigarette and he’ll be there when he takes his last. He just hopes that it’s his last by choice and not because he’s finally punched his card.

*~*~*~*

Diego first discovers heroin at 25 and a half, and its love at first hit. 

He tried everything from Acid to Xanax but they all pale in comparison to that first taste of heroin. Honestly he’s not sure what took him so long to get his hands on the stuff, lord knew it was accessible in Queens.

He’d been hesitant when Klaus had shown up with a baggie full of white powder. It hadn’t been stated outright, but they’d both come to a silent agreement to forego cocaine for the immediate future. Diego had gotten so paranoid their last go round he’d held a knife to Klaus’ throat trying to quiet him from the feds he swore up and down had their shithole apartment bugged.

So yea Klaus holding up a baggie of white powder left Diego feeling uneasy. 

“Bro thought you were giving coke a break?”

“Obvi, this is heroin, do keep up Diego.”

“Jesus Klaus, that shit’s addictive,” the irony isn’t lost on Diego, he’s not stupid; well not that stupid. Everything they do is addictive, but there’s always been this line they towed but never crossed. 

Heroin was no man’s land.

“Come on baby, one hit one kill you. We don’t even have to cook up.”

“One hit huh?”

Klaus nods flashing his best puppy eyes, and Diego promptly feels his resolve wan. He’s terrible at saying no to Klaus, always has been.

“That’s the spirit Diego, look I’ll even go first since I’m thoughtful like that.”

Diego snorts shaking his head as he reaches to tug Klaus forward by the laces on his leather pants. “We both know that’s a lie, pull the other one baby.”

Klaus moves forward easily, situating himself atop Diego’s lap as he opens the baggie and using his pinkie nail to scoop up a bit of powder. “Fine, I really wanna see what the talk’s all about, aren’t you curious?”

In response Diego leans forward taking Klaus’ finger in his mouth making a show of sucking obscenely

“Fucking hell De, you always look so much hotter with something in your mouth.”

Tongue swirling delicately over the tip of Klaus’ finger Diego offers a devious smile. Only once he’s satisfied any trace of white powder is gone does he press a tender kiss to the inked Hello decorating his brother’s palm.

“Your turn baby.”

Klaus hasn’t found a boundary he wouldn’t overstep so it doesn’t really surprise Diego when Klaus dips his pinkie in once more only instead of ingesting sublingual he treats it like snuff. Zipping the bag closed he shakes his head biting back a cough.

“Motherfucker, that stings.”

“No one told you to snort it,” Diego chastises even as he’s kissing across Klaus face in apology.

Klaus hums tilting his head to catch Diego’s lips in a tender kiss. “Go big or go home,” he murmurs gently tugging Diego’s bottom lip between his teeth.

They spend the next 10 minutes kissing; of course it could very well be 10 hours for all Diego knows because somewhere between languid kisses and wandering fingers Diego starts to feel something. His limbs feel heavy, uncoordinated, and his tongue is moving sluggishly against Klaus’ own, but none of that matters because he’s riding a high so good right now that everything else just falls away. 

He feels this sense of bliss and pleasure deep in his bones. Like someone took a pitcher of warmfuzzygood and tipped it over his head; it’s a pretty nice rush being filled up, all the hurt and bad shit just fades away encompassed by that glorious floating feeling. It’s akin to an orgasm, no that’s not quite right, it might be better even.

Diego, if he’s being honest with himself, knows that he’s standing on the precipice of a slippery slope. He also knows that if given the choice between another taste and never touching the stuff again he’d gladly slide down that slope face first; hell he’d take a running start.

*~*~*~*

Klaus knows he’s the one who brought heroin into their lives, but honestly he can only use it a handful of times. He hates the way it makes him feel.

Or rather he hates the lack of feelings. He doesn’t understand the appeal of taking something that leaves you so low you just want to lay in the hole instead of dig you’re way out.

He doesn’t have time to spend comatose on the couch riding that disorienting wave of semi-existence. Sure he’s breathing and his heart is still beating but there is so much more outside the apartment. He wants the parties, the loud thumping music, bursting bodies, hedonistic lifestyle of an 80s rock star, keyed out of his mind and in a state of go-go-go-go. He uses drugs to escape the nightmare of his life with this stupid power. He wants a high that block out the ghost. A high that makes him feel alive and free. 

Heroin is not that high. 

The closest thing he can compare his heroin experiences to is nights locked in a mausoleum when he was a teen. He has that same sense of dread and hopelessness coursing through him when he uses. It’s the exact opposite of what he’s shooting for when he wants to get well and truly fucked up for the night.

His first, and last, experience with a speedball really sealed the deal to boot heroin. He’d clawed his arms up something awful, scratching at imaginary bugs crawling under his skin, didn’t know if he was up or down. He was hot and cold and so fucking agitated everything annoyed him. In the end he’d stripped himself naked and rolled in the snow, just wanting to feel something, anything, even if it meant risking hypothermia.

He’d refused to touch the stuff after that.

Diego talked about it like he was on the precipice of reaching enlightenment he felt so good on smack. Klaus thinks maybe he’d fried too many brain cells, he only ever felt like death on that shit. 

There was no euphoric paradise of floating in all-encompassing warmth or whatever other bullshit Diego spouted. No, there was a dark void of nothingness; no sound, no touch, no anything save the rhythm of his breath too fast and too slow all at once. 

“I don’t know how you do it De, that shit is awful.”

“As often as I can,” Diego grins wide as he sets about cutting a line.

Seriously though fuck heroin.

*~*~*~*

Ben honestly isn’t even surprised when 26 finds Klaus lighting a cake emblazoned with the words “still kicking” in electric blue frosting. Apparently it was now tradition to order the off colored cakes just to rile up Ben. There’d been Not Dead Yet in black, Feeling Fine in blood red and now this monstrosity.

“That wasn’t funny the first time you know.”

“But wait until you see next years, I’m thinking hot pink and sprinkles ‘Still Breathing? Check’ in beautiful script.”

Ben shakes his head following Klaus to the couch where Diego’s already stretched out gazing at the television, uncaring that it’s been off for hours now.

“He’s getting worse, and I think you know that,” Ben says moving to kneel in front of Diego, fingers snapping in front of dilated eyes.

Klaus focuses instead on straddling Diego’s lap, resting the cake on his brother’s chest. “It’s time to make a wish,” he says instead reaching to turn Diego’s chin so they’re facing one another. “Happy birthday brother lover.”

Diego smiles lazily pulling Klaus hand up to press a kiss to the space between Klaus’ thumb and forefinger. “Got everything that I w-want right here.”

“I wish my brothers would get their shit together,” Ben deadpans resting back on his elbows as he looks at Klaus unimpressed.

“Oh Benny sweet boy, you know wishes don’t come true if you say them out loud.” 

Ben doesn’t even feel guilty for flicking them off.

“Ben’s dead,” Diego mumbles, “as a door nail.”

Klaus nods still cupping Diego’s cheek as he lets his eyes flick over to Ben sat on the floor by them. 

“I miss him.”

Klaus isn’t quite sure what to say to that. It’s been 10 years and this is the first Diego has even mentioned Ben.

“C-can you see him?”

“Daily, he just likes to pretend he doesn’t so he can ignore my advice,” Ben says holding Klaus gaze even though he knows Diego can’t hear him. “Maybe if he listened you wouldn’t be so fucked up all the time.”

“Sometimes,” Klaus says carefully, dragging his finger through the icing on the cake to smear across Diego’s lips. “He’s very judgmental at times.”

Taking Klaus’ fingers in his mouth Diego hums focusing on the mindless task of sucking, questions of Ben forgotten for now.

“Is it really judgmental when it comes from a place of worry?”

Klaus doesn’t answer right away distracting himself with thrusting his fingers in Diego’s mouth, enjoying how his brother’s gagging for it.

“Klaus I’m seriously worried about Diego.”

“He’s fine, just loves having his mouth filled, don’t you baby?”

“Grow up, Jesus, I’m sick and tired of watching you two take for granted the fact you’re still breathing. You’re just pissing it all away and for what a fleeting high?”

Ben knows he’s struck a nerve by the way Klaus is frowning, but he can’t help it he pushes forward. “You’re not going to get it until he ODs and a lot of good having two dead brothers is going to do you.”

*~*~*~*

Diego OD’s a week and a half after their 27th birthday.

They’re at some party, who’s he couldn’t tell you, but Klaus is in some bathroom cutting lines and Diego is sat in the basement on a ratty couch with his arm extended in some girl’s, he thinks her name is Liz, lap, belt tied tight around his bicep.

“This,” she says slapping his forearm trying to find a good vein, “will put last week’s batch to fucking shame.”

Diego hums softly at that training his eyes anywhere except her; oh the irony, a junkie afraid of needles. The thing is he’d never needed the needle before. He’d been fine snorting and rubbing his gums, but he’s heard needles offer a more direct high and that’s an appealing thought.

“Bottoms up,” Liz grins pushing the plunger down on the needle.

Breath hitching Diego feels that familiar warmth flood his system and it’s just so fucking perfect. He feels like the floor is sinking beneath him and suddenly the world is falling away around him and he’s sliding back against the ratty couch behind him for support.

And that’s when everything goes sideways. He’s vaguely aware of Liz screaming, but the sound is far away like he’s in a tunnel, and he can’t bring himself to care one iota what it is that’s got her freaking out. He wishes he could think of something to say, something sympathetic, something human; but his eyes feel so heavy and his tongue is a dead weight in his mouth and honestly he’s just numb to it all.

He has this faraway notion that he’s fucked up, knows his breathing is far too shallow to be okay, and he’s strangely okay with it all. He thinks of that dark night when they’d been 16, Klaus convulsing on the floor, it strangely feels like coming full circle.

He must really be a fucking goner because he swears he can see Ben kneeling before him, and he looks fucking pissed.  The last thing he sees is Ben’s feet walking away from him, but he’s not even upset because he understands, he’d probably leave too if he could.

 *~*~*~*

Klaus is already two lines down and in the middle of raiding the medicine cabinet when Ben phases through the door radiating murderous levels of anger.

“Hey Benny what’s with the angry eyebrows,” Klaus asks flippantly as he tosses a bottle of generic Tylenol in the open toilet.

“Shut up and listen to me for once in your chaotic existence you like to call life.” Only Ben doesn’t stop when Klaus holds up his hands in mock surrender, lips already curling around a rebuttal. “I said shut up, mountains out of molehills right? Well guess what, Diego is on his way to joining the 27 club, and if you don’t get out there now they’re gonna roll him and you know it.”

Klaus is buzzing, he’d started the night with half a bar of Xanax and was currently rebounding with coke, but he’s not that far gone that Ben’s words don’t make sense. If anything they’re pretty fucking sobering because he’s moving on autopilot towards the door, mind racing and breathing erratic the silent mantra of find Diego running on repeat.

The music is too fucking loud and he feels too hot and cold all at once. This used to be fun, but now it’s really a damn nightmare and he’s the goddamn architect.

Liz is a blubbering mess, her face is blotchy red and she’s got tear tracks running down her cheeks, “he just dropped Klaus...I don’t think he’s breathing.”

“De baby...come on don’t you leave me...” Klaus feels manic, crouched down in front of Diego checking for a pulse. “It’s me and you to the end remember? Well I’m still fucking here so you don’t get to punch out yet,” he’s bargaining he knows it but he can’t help the words spewing from him.

There’s people staring but nobody’s doing a fucking thing and it aggravates Klaus to no end. “Somebody call a fucking ambulance or cab or something!”

“Klaus he needs a hospital, you’re in a drug den, nobody’s going to call shit...you need to leave now.”

Logically he knows Ben is right, but right now all his brain can focus on is blue tinted lips and pinprick pupils and he can’t fucking breathe.

The punch comes as a shock. One second Ben is yelling at him to grab Diego and run and the next his fist is colliding with Klaus’ jaw. He has so many questions and Ben can clearly tell, but at least one of them has a functioning brain cell because Ben is holding up a finger to silence Klaus before telling him to grab Diego.

Klaus’ body seems to finally be with the program having enough sense to tug Diego up and with strength he didn’t know he possessed lift his brothers prone figure over his shoulder as he books it to the door. He figures they can talk about that little Swayze display later. Right now Diego has all his attention. 

*~*~*~*

Ben would say I told you so, but he’s not that much of a dick and now is not the time. He’d seen this coming a mile away, fuck years in advance even, but good lot that does when you’re a ghost.

Klaus is still moving on instinct, Diego slung over his shoulder and Ben is trying his best to keep everything together. It’s a bad fucking situation, one brother keyed up and frantic as his world falls apart, the other clinging in limbo between the living and the beyond.

“Come on De, we’re almost there...just a little longer.”

Klaus has been pleading with Diego since he found him curled up in the fetal position, emptied needle by his side. He’s getting desperate and it breaks Ben’s heart listening to typically carefree brother break in front of him.

The good news is Diego’s still breathing; the bad news is his heart rate is slower still and his skin has got this waxy sheen to it, color drained right out of him like a precursor to what comes next. 

“Just one more block baby, please don’t leave me...”

Ben keeps his eyes on Diego, checking for that stuttering rise and fall to make sure he’s still alive. The pauses are getting longer and Ben’s poise is starting to wane as they approach the ambulance loading bay.

“Somebody help, please,” Klaus sounds so fucking desperate as he stumbles forward catching a paramedic by surprise. “He...he’s ODing...please I don’t want him to die, he’s all I’ve got left.”

Ben is almost thankful when the triage nurses come bustling out to collect them. They’re not out of the woods and while he still feels helpless Ben knows Diego is in far more capable hands now.

Klaus is a mess, he’s very clearly shell shocked and it takes a nurse gently shaking him to get him to focus enough to tell them what Diego took.

“Klaus he’s going to be okay, you know Diego...he’s strong...he will make it,” and then much softer he adds “you did well.”

*~*~*~*

Diego doesn’t remember much about the night he OD’d. He knows a few things for certain though.

  1. Liz hadn’t been lying when she said this batch was strong
  2. Klaus looks like shit sat in those awful hospital chairs when he finally comes to at 4:37am
  3. Ben has a nasty left hook

 

His memories from the events directly following his foray into shooting up and waking in a hospital bed in Brooklyn are sketchy at best. In such a way that he is aware they happened, but it felt more akin to something happening in the vicinity of him as opposed directly to him.

He remembers sinking to the floor and knowing instantly he’d finally pushed too fucking far. He had resigned himself to a life trapped in the veil, knew he would miss Klaus — the way their hands fit together, supple pink lips pressed firm against his own, his shitty junkie chic fashion, and god just feeling him breathe when they were curled up late at night — but he’d fucked up and he was prepared to deal with the fallout.

He remembers vaguely seeing Ben, but that can’t be right. He remembers Klaus, desperate and panicked, that broken pleading tone; he had wanted so badly to answer but he couldn’t find the drive to force any words out. His tongue felt entirely too large for his mouth and his eyes were so heavy, breathing so light, and he was crashing spectacularly.

It gets fuzzy from there. He remembers lights streaking by and the sound of converse smacking against pavement, and then he’s being manhandled onto a gurney and there’s frenzied talking all around him. The lights are too bright and the noises around him sound off, like a broken phonogram — distorted and taunting.

He can’t see Klaus but he can hear him and without a second thought he’s reach out blindly. His words come out a garbled moan and then he’s moving again and Klaus sounds farther away.

He thinks he died; momentarily of course. He vaguely recalls feeling disconnected and seeing himself stretched out on a gurney alarms buzzing like crazy as he doctor calls for a crash cart and 1mg of Narcan diluted in a saline solution.

He feels Ben before he sees him. And by feels he means is reward with a wild haymaker left hook as he watches them jolt his body once before increasing the joules.

“Ow what the fuck bro, be nice to me I’m dying.”

“You don’t get to go out like this,” Ben says seriously and then he manhandling Diego towards the gurney and shoving him back into his body in time with the next shock.

Next thing he knows he’s gasping for air and he feels like his veins are on fire but that’s not quite right because he’s so cold and that stupid heart monitor is beeping faster and he’s so nauseous he can’t see straight.  At least death had been numbing, he muses and then he’s passing out again.

He’s not sure what happens after that but when he wakes up next the clock on the wall shows 4:37am and Klaus is curled up in a chair beside his bed. He looks like hell, like he hasn’t slept a week, his eyeliner is smudged framing red rimmed eyes, his skin looks blotchy like he’s been crying; he looks far older than 27.

“I saw Ben,” he says and winces at how rough his voice sounds.

“I know...Is your jaw okay,” Klaus murmurs uncurling to lean forward into Diego’s space.

Tangling their fingers together Diego shrugs looking over Klaus’ shoulder where he suspects Ben is standing, “I’ll live.”

And suddenly Klaus is crawling into bed with him and those tear are falling freely once more. “De I was so fucking scared...”

“Hey...it’s me and you to the end, remember?”

*~*~*~*

Grace meets them at the hospital bright and early the next morning. She’s on a tight schedule, Reginald typically doesn’t let her out of the house but last night had been the worst night in all of Klaus’ life and in a moment of weakness he’d called home.

By the grace of God, Pogo is the one to answer the phone. He’d sounded tired and very nearly hung up the phone, but then Klaus started crying about Diego flatlining and then Grace’s voice came on the line.

“Mom? He needs help, we both do…the doctors said we could qualify for a clinic, but we don’t have nearly enough to cover past the deposit.” He’s rambling he knows it but he’s so fucking scared. “You know I wouldn’t just ask for this if it wasn’t serious.”

“Klaus sweetie I’ll be there in the morning, just breathe okay?”

Klaus wants to believe her, she’s always been there for them, but he would be lying if he said he was worried that Reggie would catch wind of the call and veto her secret excursion entirely by unplugging her. So when Grace walks in to the hospital room at 5:15am he’s positively fucking thrilled.

“Oh Diego darling, what happened,” she murmurs fretfully as she crosses into the room and first pulls Klaus into a hug before circling to check on Diego. “What have I told you boys about getting into trouble?”

Klaus feels fucking exhausted. He’s gotten maybe an hour of sleep since this shit show started and he’s starting to come off of the cocktail of drugs and he should feel shame looking so broken in front of their mom but he’s too tired to conjure an emotion like shame.

“You boys need to eat something proper and get some sleep…I’ve been worried sick about you two.”

Klaus nods rubbing at his face, “I’m sorry…”

Grace shakes her head putting a hand up to stop him from the self-deprecating rant that’s sure to follow. “Sweetie it’s my job to worry about you two, you’re my boys. Now there’s no need to apologize, just let mommy fix this okay?”

Klaus does cry then, full body shaking tears rack his body. He’s been running on nothing for so long and now here’s a hand in the darkness and he’s reaching out and holding on for dear life.

Diego is still in and out the whole time that Grace is there at the hospital. He mumbles incoherently alternating between bouts of maudlin ramblings of feeling like he’s dying and nonsensical bullshit Klaus can’t follow. He’s already starting to detox and Klaus knows the withdrawal is going to be Hell.

Grace chats with the doctors, manages to get the ball rolling on clinic admissions and secures them two spots at a highly prestigious substance abuse recovery clinic in Brooklyn. She’s a goddamn force to be reckoned with and Klaus is honestly in awe watching her work.

It’s nearly 6:30am when she finally pauses and looks at Klaus; really fucking looks at him like she can see beyond the cracks to that still sane innocent little boy. Maybe she can, Klaus wouldn’t put it past her she’s phenomenal that way.

“I’ll visit you both if I can, but please don’t hesitate to call. I miss you boys,” she murmurs and then she’s leaning in to press a kiss on his forehead. “You are stronger than you know sweetie, I know you both will make it through this.”

Klaus wants to laugh. He’s not strong, far from it he’s backslide more times than he can count and this time he’d tugged Diego down with him.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself sweetie, these things do get better.”

And just as quickly as she walked into the hospital room she’s leaving in a flurry of swishing skirts and the clacking of heels against tile.

*~*~*~*

Ben is still kind of floored that Grace not only got Klaus and Diego into RevCore but paid the bill in full. It makes check-in exceptionally easy when the higher ups aren’t penny pinching.

Still, Ben is under no illusions that’s this experience is going to be all rainbows and sunshine. He’s seen his brothers detox before and it’s never pretty.

The thing is Diego’s heroin withdrawals make his cocaine withdrawals look like a fucking day in the park.

Diego makes for a pitiful mess when he’s coming off heroin. He’s so damn sick he spends the first 48 hours feeling like his veins are on fire. He babbles about feeling like he’s caught in limbo; too ill to sleep but too tired to stay awake. He spends the majority of those hours shaking out of his fucking skin. He’s so damn cold but his skin is flushed red and he’s sweating like crazy. He’s in such pain, deep down to his core and fuck he was dead 3 days ago, and he still has that craving.

Ben watches Diego crawl up the wall as he goes through withdrawal. One second he’s screaming bloody murder at nothingness, the next he’s crying inconsolably rocking on the floor. Ben has front row to seeing Diego puke his guts out as the heroin is purged from his system, and it’s a fucking frightening seeing his brother so out of sorts.

Honestly Klaus isn’t that much better off. He’s agitated and keeps snapping at the orderlies. His hands shake these days and he’s slowly losing his grip, years of drug induced walls are being stripped away and now he has to deal with the spirits.

“Hey, breathe Klaus, you’re not that little boy anymore. You’re stronger than this and you know it bro, you just need to stay strong.”

Ben feels utterly hopeless those first few days. He knows it gets better from here, usually does, but he’s been caught in a loop of one high following an even lower low and he’s kind of bracing himself for the fall after this. It’s a shitty thing to think where his brothers are concerned, but he’s being a realist.

He really hopes this time they’ve hit actual rock bottom and not just some stop off before they sink another level. Hopefully they’ll have nowhere else to go but up from here.


Diego isn’t really big on sharing. He’d been raised believing that emotions meant weakness and he was already Number Two, he needed all the help he could get for an edge. So when he finds out that part of their rehabilitation here at RevCore includes mandatory therapy sessions he’s admittedly upset.

The thought of exploring his deep-seated feelings of inadequacy with a stranger is daunting to say the least. He’s partly worried he’s going to end up a stuttering mess and that just makes him angry all over again.

Still, it’s part of the process so he’s going to grin and bear it and hope he doesn’t end up making some poor sad sack cry for not mincing words. He’s a grown ass man and will not be made to take part in some feeling circle, kindergarten bullshit. Hell, he didn’t even go to fucking kindergarten.

Nothing however, could have prepared him for Dr. Evelyn Castillo.

He gathers right away that she’s a stubborn individual and he’s the damn nut that she’s supposed to crack. It should be unnerving, but there’s a small part of him that actually enjoys having someone take an interest in his past.

Sure Klaus has always been there, but it’s different. He went through as much shit as he did, and it’s nice having someone you share trauma with, but there’s something equally as nice about having a stranger actually sympathize. He’d been fighting an uphill battle since Vanya’s book. One ordinary sibling goes on a tell all spree painting them as evil intolerant fucks spoiled by Father for having powers and suddenly nobody can spare a single shred of sympathy for them.

They’d been hurt too, scarred in far too many ways for anyone to ever understand. Evelyn however tries her darndest to understand.

“Diego you need to work with me here, you’re here for 90 days and part of that includes our sessions. I appreciate that you’ve made an effort, but I don’t think we’ve hit the real issue here.”

“Does that line work on all your patients?”

Evelyn smiles closing her notebook to lean forward against her desk, “well not all of them, no, but I find that even the toughest of clients eventually come around to seeing it my way.”

Diego crosses his arms over his chest ready to dig in for the rest of the hour session and not say a word save ‘uh-huh’. Except Evelyn knows just how to play this game and somewhere between word association and another round of ‘what might this be?’ Diego finally cracks.

“My father was a monster,” he starts off conversationally. “He adopted us, stole more like it, and raised us as to save the world. From what, who knows…he wasn’t all there, he treated us more like machines than children.”

“And how did that make you feel?”

“How do you think? Did you know I didn’t have a name until I turned 7? I was just called Number Two because our father couldn’t be bothered to give us names. Do you know what that does to a kid?”

Diego’s leg is shaking he’s so worked up thinking about dad and isn’t that fucked that after all these years he’s still got Diego’s button? He should be stronger, not worry about the sadistic fuck, but even now he has the uncontrollable urge to be more than just a number. Sat here on the couch with a therapist in another fucking rehab center just makes him feel like even more of a fuck up and that just upsets him more.

“He was a shit father and you want to know the most fucked up thing about this mess? I still want him to tell me good job.”

Evelyn hands him a tissue, doesn’t even bat an eyelash. He likes her a little more for that.

*~*~*~*

“Klaus, we’ve been having these sessions for three and a half weeks now, and I feel like you’re holding back.”

Klaus is busying himself with picking at his cuticles, the black nail polish is mostly chipped away now but really he just knows he’s stalling. Part of being in this rehab center meant that he was responsible for attending therapy sessions to work at getting to the root of his addiction.

He’s not faulting the science; it’s a pretty good idea honestly figuring out what drives the addiction to truly tackle the recovery. It’s just that he’s got a load of fucking baggage and Evelyn is nice and all but he prefers to keep his trauma bottled up until he one day dies.

It’s stupidly childish; he’s well aware, so sue him he’s not looking to make some therapist cream her panties over finding the holy grail of problem cases in a rehab center in Brooklyn.

“Look, I know this isn’t easy—”

Klaus scoffs tucking his feet up on the couch so that his chin can rest on his knees, “do they tell you sympathy makes for loose lip in your fancy quack school?”

Evelyn, bless her heart just smiles and puts her notepad down to the side. She’s had her fair share of problem cases, but nobody has had their feet dug in quite like Klaus.

“Alright I’ll be honest with you Klaus. I’m going to get paid regardless of what progress we make here today. I’d however, prefer to help you on your road to recovery.”

Klaus smiles at her blunt honesty. He can respect that. It’s probably why he gives her a small nod before the words are tumbling free.

“My father locked me in the mausoleum across town for the first time when I was 12. He said I needed to get over my fear of the dark and dead and start acting like a man.”

Once that Band-Aid has been ripped off Klaus can’t help himself. He tells Evelyn about the Academy, about his power, he tells her about the first time he got high, tells her about running away with Diego, he talks through the entire hour of their time and in the end Evelyn’s got a recorder full of stories and Klaus is half a box of tissues deep.

“I’m afraid that we are out of time, but thank you for sharing with me,” Evelyn says reaching for a notebook she has in the bottom drawer of her desk. “Here, I want you to start journaling.”

Klaus makes a face but takes the journal. “What like a dear diary?”

Evelyn smiles faintly at that and offers a small shrug. “Whatever comes to mind could be a daily rundown, could be stray thoughts, poetry, complaints, things to be thankful for, just write what comes to mind. I think it’ll do you a world of good. You live in your head Klaus, but it’s not healthy trying to sort through everything alone.”

He wants to tell her that he’s never alone, there’s always some poor dead soul screaming at him, and when it’s not a stranger it’s Ben lecturing him one minute and chatting stupid shit the next.

Evelyn seems to have caught her mistake and corrects, which Klaus can really appreciate. People tend to dismiss his trauma for self-induced drug paranoia.

“Just try writing in it and next session we can discuss okay?”

Klaus seems wary but he takes the journal and tucks it into his jacket. “It’s been real Doc, but I’ve got to go now. It’s pudding day at the cafeteria and if I don’t head out now Diego is going to steal mine. He’s got a crazy sweet tooth since he kicked smack.”

Evelyn chuckles in response, “I’ll see you Wednesday Klaus.”

That should be the end of the journal, tossed in his room beneath his jacket left forgotten until Wednesday. Except Klaus can’t stop thinking about the way Evelyn spoke about journaling; if writing things down really offered that much relief he’d be foolish not to try it at least once?

At the very least he can get the satisfaction of proving her wrong when it amounts to jack shit.

When Wednesday rolls around however, he’s got 10 pages worth of musings and that heaviness in his soul is, not gone, but far lighter than expected. Judging by the smile Evelyn flashes him when he shows up journal in hand it must be evident on his face as well.

“So how did the journaling go,” she asks even though she knows the answer.

“Evie let me tell you it was more enlightening than the first time I tripped on LSD.”

And that’s how Klaus learns that sometimes scribbles on a page can actually be therapeutic.

*~*~*~*

January 6th 2016 is a momentous day in Ben’s book, and not just because it’s Sherlock’s birthday. No today marks the 90th day of sobriety for his brothers.

Admittedly he had his doubt going into this that they’d last the full stint. He’d seen them through a 30 day clinic that promptly lead them crawling back to a few choice pubs. He’d seen them self-discharge out of the clinic Allison had been gracious enough to foot the bill. Hell it had been touch and go there for a while when they were first starting to detox, but Ben is so fucking proud right now he’s practically vibrating with excitement.

Today his brother’s get their 90 day chip; the white one signifying purity of a new start.

It’s a big fucking deal.

He’s been there from the start of this downward spiral down the rabbit hole. Remembers the first cigarette Diego stole from Klaus; seems like a lifetime ago really. In some ways he supposes that’s an apt description. Hell he’s died; Klaus and Diego have too technically.

Life’s weird like that; cyclical in nature. He hopes this means their cycle is complete and they can move on to better things. He thinks they’ve all earned a reprieve from the doom and gloom of life as an addict.

So when they funnel the group into the gymnasium turned conference room to graduate those finishing the program, Ben is fucking ecstatic.

“Smug isn’t a good look on you,” Klaus quips as he takes his seat in the back row.

It does nothing to dampen the smirk of course. Ben thinks he’s earned the right to be self-satisfied in this moment. He’s been privy to a rollercoaster of events chasing after his brothers. He’s seen some highs, far and few between, but boy has he seen some really low fucking lows.

“Bite me.”

“Ooh kinky,” Klaus smirks earning him a curious glance from Diego who mouths ‘Ben?’

“Shut up, I think I’ve earned the right for my moment as a soccer mom. It’s not every day your two idiot brothers complete a 90 day rehab program.”

Klaus at least has the decency to tone down his smile to something a bit more genuine as he gives Diego a small nod. “Aw you’re proud of us,” he murmurs fighting back the need to goad Ben for being so sentimental.

Ben rolls his eyes but can’t fight the smile threatening to take over his face. “Don’t let it go to your head.”

Ben knows he’s a bit late with that warning, but he figures its fine because Klaus should be proud too. 90 days ago they were at their lowest, only hours after Diego’s overdose and momentarily flatling, and now here they were ready to start anew.

“Too late,” Klaus grins crossing his arms over his chest as he leans back in his chair, knee knocking gently against Diego. “You ready for this baby?”

Diego looks 3 parts nervous and 2 excited and it’s so damn adorable that it makes Klaus want to immortalize the moment forever. He settles instead for reaching out to take Diego’s hand.

Ben feels the most relaxed he has in years, and when Evelyn takes the podium and starts their conference off he knows that this is definitely going to be good for them all.

*~*~*~*

Diego knows he should feel excited when the ceremony is over, but all he feels is anxiety tear its ugly head. He’s 90 days sober and he’s so fucking worried he’s going to slip up again.

They’re leaving down the front steps of the clinic, Klaus is talking animatedly about how he’s really craving some French toast, and Diego just stalls on the top step. He feels like he’s caught in cement and he can’t breathe.

It’s loud outside, much more chaotic than the safety of the clinic’s walls, and it’s all a little much for newly exposed nerve endings. This didn’t use to be so much when he was high. Back when he was numb to it all and just existing. Now though he has to cope and that fucking chip weighs a ton in his pocket.

“De, are you even listening?”

Klaus is looking up at him from three steps down a bit concerned. Diego feels his heart clench. He doesn’t want to disappoint Klaus but how do you even deal with something when you don’t feel prepared?

“I don’t think I can do this.”

Klaus frowns slightly as he moves back up the steps so he’s level with Diego. “You don’t think you can do what big guy?”

Diego’s face screws up slightly in frustration as he racks his brain for the right words. He doesn’t want to stumble on them and he’s not even sure if he has the words to articulate this to Klaus. He thinks of Evelyn urging him to breathe and just speak from the heart, clarity be damned the intention will come across.

“I don’t think I’m ready to leave the clinic.”

Klaus tilts his head curiously but doesn’t jump to judgment. He doesn’t have to be a therapist to see that Diego is standing on the precipice of an anxiety attack.

“Baby you completed your 90 days, I think you’re ready to get back to living don’t you?”

Diego bites his bottom lip not quite meeting Klaus’ gaze. “What if I slip?”

It’s said so quietly that Klaus has to strain to hear him and when he does his heart just about shatters on the spot.

Diego knows he can stay sober in the clinic. There’s no temptation, he has his meals, his bed, and access to a therapist which is something he never realized he needed so badly until he checked in 90 days ago. It’s the outside that he’s worried about. Out here there’s temptation everywhere if you look hard enough. Out here he has to really work for sobriety and it fucking scares him the thought of another backslide.

This is his third time in rehab. The other two didn’t take, why should this one work? 

“Hey...breathe Diego...come back to me baby and breathe.”

In two three four. Out two three four. Repeat.

“There we go...see that’s much better,” Klaus murmurs cupping Diego’s face between his palms. “I’m not gonna lie to you sobriety is hard, but you’re not doing this alone baby, you know that right?”

“I know it’s just...I don’t want to relapse...what if I’m not ready?”

Klaus smiles then, thumbs brushing gently over cheekbones before he moves his hands to loop around Diego’s neck and tug him into a hug. “Baby, the fact that you’re worried is a good thing. It means you’re serious this time, you have a reason to fight for it now.”

Diego slumps forward into Klaus and finally takes a deep enough breath. Maybe his brother is right. Maybe this time is the right time.

“I’m scared.”

“Me too De, but you want to know a secret?” Klaus waits a moment before he continues, taking Diego’s slight shrug as permission to continue. “I’m not letting you go through this alone. It’s me and you until the end, remember?”

“And Ben?”

“Well that goes without saying,” Klaus nods shifting to stand side by side with Diego, his arm slipping over his brother’s shoulders as he guides him down the steps. “He’s proud of us you know.”

Diego smiles faintly, “Yea well I’m proud of us too.”

Klaus grins brightly at that as he tugs Diego to the bus stop. “Come on Ben and I decided on French toast, you’re buying.”

Diego shakes his head at that but follows and for the first time in 11 years he feels like everything is going to be okay.