Chapter 1: Memories, They're All That's Left You
Forgetting about Klaus wasn’t Diego’s fault. Really, it wasn’t.
He did notice, in a vague, distant kind of way, that he hadn’t seen Klaus in a while. He distinctly remembered mentioning his absence at the family meeting, but impending apocalypse took precedence over their flaky, junkie brother. The mystery of Klaus had to be put on the back burner - and who could blame him? He loved Klaus, sure, but the guy was flighty and had a history of avoiding conflict, so it wasn’t a stretch to think he had decided not to stick around.
And then Harold Jenkins. Allison’s throat. Vanya.
So, Diego had been busy.
The siblings had gone to Vanya’s apartment after being attacked at the bowling alley, and waited in tense silence for their sister to return home. When she finally did, looking smart in her black tux, pale eyes swimming with tears, Allison had swept her into a tight, reassuring hug, and for a moment, they had thought that it was all over.
Then, of course, the commission had found them.
The fight had been brutal and messy and left Diego sore and aching. There were just so many of them. He knew that if Vanya hadn’t unleashed her powers, he would be dead. As it was, he felt pretty deathly - he had reopened the bullet wound on his arm, and his muscles screamed at every movement. So, once Five had assured them that he would take care of any remaining commission employees, disappearing with a briefcase in hand, he had trudged back to his apartment and promptly passed the fuck out.
That was how Al found him: fully dressed and drooling into the sheets.
“You better start paying me a wage if you keep using me as your fuckin’ secretary!” he yelled irritably.
“Wha’?” said Diego.
“Phone for you,” explained Al.
Frowning, Diego half jogged half stumbled to the phone, wiping sleep from his eyes as he went. “Hello?”
“Is this Diego Hargreeves?” said a cool, professional voice.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“This is Lenox Hill Hospital. I’m calling regarding a Mister Klaus Hargreaves? You’re listed as his emergency contact.”
“Shit- is he okay?” he asked urgently.
“I’m afraid I can’t give out information over the phone. Are you able to come in?”
“Um, yeah, I’ll be right there,” he said, hanging up and patting himself down for his car keys.
By the time he rolled up at the hospital, he had half convinced himself that Klaus was dead. No matter how many times he got the same damn call, he still panicked. He rushed down the too-familiar hospital halls, only pausing to get directions from a harried looking receptionist.
He ended up pacing the waiting room, heart thrumming in his chest, palms sweating. Waiting for the doctor to come talk to him always put him on edge. Klaus hated hospitals with a passion, and was liable to sneak out regardless of whether his doctors were ready to release him. For all he knew, Klaus was creeping out whilst he waited uselessly -that is, if Klaus was still alive.
“That’s me,” said Diego. He tried to read the woman’s expression, but she was inscrutable.
“Your brother was admitted four days ago,” she said, “after a head trauma.”
“Four days?” repeated Diego.
“We did try and call you,” she said mildly.
“Sorry, I’ve been- sorry,” said Diego lamely, skin itching at the lack of judgement on her face.
“He was found at a rave, unconscious.”
Diego sighed. “Yeah, he’s an addict.”
“Actually, there were no drugs in his system when he came in,” said the doctor.
Diego blinked. “Really?”
The doctor raised one crisp brow. “Really. He did, however, sustain a skull fracture and a traumatic brain injury.”
He felt like the air had been punched from his lungs. He drew a ragged breath, the words bouncing in his mind, leaving him sick with guilt. His brother had been in hospital with brain trauma for four days, and he hadn’t even worried?
“Is he- I mean, how b-bad is it?”
“He’s awake, and the swelling on his brain has already gone down. He was lucky; it could have been a lot worse.”
“Okay,” said Diego slowly. The doctor didn’t exactly sound happy.
“However, I need to ask some questions about Klaus’ medical history. Is that okay?”
“Um, sure,” said Diego.
The doctor took out a pen and neatly flipped open the chart in her hands. “Has your brother ever shown signs of any mental illness?”
Diego’s stomach turned. He hadn’t tried to- to hurt himself, had he? “No. I mean, I don’t think so, no.” With Klaus, would he know? He always kept his emotions so close to his heart, always grinning and joking and too high to let anything touch him.
“No signs of psychosis? Hallucinations, delusions?”
“What? No, of course-” Diego cut himself off. “Oh. Is this about the ghosts?”
“The… ghosts?” repeated the doctor, brow wrinkled.
Diego steeled himself. “You heard of the Umbrella Academy?”
He watched as the doctor mouthed the words, realisation lighting up in her eyes. “ Oh. You don’t mean-... The Seance?”
“That’s the one,” he said grimly.
“That would explain a lot,” the doctor said faintly. “We thought… the head trauma…”
“Yeah, well, if you had actually listened to my brother he could have explained all this,” said Diego caustically. He imagined Klaus, alone, twitching in that antsy way he always did around hospitals, being dismissed as psychotic. He was probably terrified of being committed.
“Well, that’s something else we need to discuss.”
Diego paused. “What?”
“Brain injuries are… unpredictable. We don’t really understand how the brain works, and sometimes-”
“What are you trying to say?” he snapped.
The doctor coughed. “Your brother is experiencing retrograde amnesia.”
A beat. “What?”
“It seems he is unable to recall autobiographical information - that is, he doesn’t remember who he is,” the doctor explained.
Diego shook his head. “I don’t- he doesn’t remember anything?”
“He remembers general information about the world, and how to perform tasks. Personal information - his parents, his home, his occupation - that is what he is unable to remember.”
He swallowed tightly. “He d-doesn’t remember me?” He hated how small his voice sounded in that moment. Hated it.
The doctor softened slightly. “I’m afraid not.”
“W-what about, um, the rest of it? Like, is he still…” he struggled for words.
“It’s somewhat difficult to tell, but so far it appears that his ability to create new memories is unimpaired. It may be that the retrograde amnesia is the only symptom of the brain injury. However, it’s not always possible to tell straight away, especially considering the… emotional distress.”
“And if there are m-m-m-,” he took a breath. “More symptoms?”
“He may experience some difficulty with language, or previously learned tasks. Seizures, maybe. It’s too soon to tell,” she said. “Would you like to sit? You look pale.”
He shook his head and said, “No. I want to see him.”
“Of course. This way.” She lead him down the corridor and paused outside a doorway. “I’ll come in with you and explain who you are, okay? Any questions before we go in?”
“No. Wait, yes. Is it permanent?”
The doctor grimaced. “I’m sorry, but there’s just no way of knowing. Some patients spontaneously remember, some don’t. Others only get some things back.”
“I know it’s a lot. Just be patient with him, okay? It’s a very confusing time for him.”
“Of course,” said Diego indignantly. “He’s my brother.”
She nodded in approval before opening the door.
“Hello, Klaus,” she said cheerily. “How are you feeling?”
Klaus was sitting on a hospital bed in a position that reminded Diego of when he was very young: knees tucked under his chin, hands over his ears. At their entrance, he uncurled just enough to face them properly, dropping his hands and pulling a face. “I’m okay,” he said.
He looked. Different. Diego couldn’t put his finger on why exactly. Maybe it was the lack of make up on his face, the way the starch hospital gown was hanging on his thin body - and had he always been so thin? A patch of hair along the side of his head was shaved away, a neat line of stitches in its place. Or maybe it was none of that. Maybe it was the way Klaus held himself, without any of the usual theatricality. His face held no recognition, none of the usual mix of happiness and nervousness that he usually wore when he saw Diego. He was just… blank.
“Hi, Klaus,” he croaked.
Klaus licked his lips, looking awkward in a way that sat wrong on him. “Sorry, I don’t- do I know you?”
Diego’s stomach clenched painfully.
“This is your brother, Diego,” the doctor said.
“Oh,” said Klaus, looking at him curiously. “You don’t look like me, do you?”
“Adopted,” said Diego.
“Oh,” he said again. “Are you older than me? Or younger?”
“The same age, actually,” said Diego.
Klaus frowned. His eyes darted away briefly, then back. “How old am I?”
Diego felt a jolt of nerves zip up his spine at the question. He had to grit his teeth against the urge to run, or hit something, or yell. “Twenty-nine,” he said.
Klaus nodded, and then flinched at something unseen, hands twitching towards his ears. “Sorry,” he muttered.
“Shit, don’t-” he cut himself off at the expression of open distress on his brother’s face. “Sorry. Um, you’re probably seeing a lot of people right now, huh?”
Klaus chewed at the inside of his cheek before replying, “I know they aren’t real.” Then, contrary to his words, he jerked sharply, as if under attack. Diego couldn’t remember ever seeing Klaus like this before. Had something about the head injury made his powers stronger? Was that even possible?
“Actually, that’s something we needed to talk to you about,” said the doctor gently. “We were wrong, earlier. Remember how I explained about hallucinations?”
Klaus’ eyebrows pulled together. “Yeah?”
The doctor nodded to Diego, and he said, “They’re real. You have an ability to see the dead.”
“Ghosts. You can see ghosts,” said Diego.
“Oh,” said Klaus. Then, his face crumpled, and he began to cry.
“Wait- Klaus, don’t-” stuttered Diego, horrified. He had made his brother cry. He took a step towards him, made an abortive attempt to touch him before withdrawing; would Klaus want to be touched by a stranger?
“They’re so, they’re so,” sobbed Klaus, burying his face in his knees. “They’re horrible! They won’t stop screaming, oh my god, they won’t stop-”
“Klaus,” the doctor said, voice calm but firm, “You need to slow your breathing down.”
“I can’t- I can’t-,” said Klaus, shoulders shaking. “They’re real?”
“Yeah,” said Diego. “Just breathe, okay?”
But his breathing didn’t seem to be slowing at all. “Oh god, oh god, why won’t they go away? How do I- How do I make them go away?”
Drugs, thought Diego, stomach turning at the thought. He had always thought that Klaus was weak for his addiction, but if the alternative was this-
“Please, please, let me out, I’ll be good, let me out, dad -,” moaned Klaus before he was overtaken by fast pants, choking on air. Diego looked to the doctor and back, stricken. What was Klaus talking about?
The doctor was quick to take action, crouching and Klaus’ side and talking him through a breathing exercise in a low, soothing voice. Diego watched, helpless, useless, his ears ringing with his brother’s words. Let me out, Dad.
What the hell?
It took a solid ten minutes before Klaus could breathe without the aid of the doctor counting each breath. He looked pale and sweaty, drooping into his pillows.
“What did you mean when you said that?”
Klaus looked at him, forehead creased. “What?”
“You said,” Diego said, “You said, let me out, dad.”
“No, I didn’t,” said Klaus blankly.
Frustration unfurled hotly in Diego’s chest at the denial. He had heard him.
“Diego, a word outside?” said the doctor. Her tone was genial, but her eyes were hard.
“What?” he said, as soon as the door swung shut behind them.
“Your brother just had a panic attack. He’s confused and frightened. Now isn’t the time for an interrogation.”
“But what did he mean? Why did he say that?” demanded Diego.
The doctor took a step back, and ran a hand down her face. “Some people with traumatic brain injury display symptoms like spontaneous, iterative speech. He probably wasn’t intending to say it at all.”
“But why? Why did he say it?”
“I wouldn’t like to speculate,” said the doctor with an air of finality.
Diego said, “Fine.”
“We also need to discuss what happens next. His insurance is covered by your father’s policy-” (Diego decided not to mention his recent passing) “-but I have no up to date address for your brother.”
“I’m not sure that he had a permanent address,” Diego edged.
The doctor raised her eyebrows. “Homeless?”
Diego’s hackles raised. “I offered for him to stay with me, but he always said he was staying with one friend or another.”
“Well, he’s going to need somewhere to stay, and probably a full time carer initially, at least until we can better judge his capability.”
“He’s staying with me,” said Diego, tone leaving no room for argument.
The doctor smiled, pleased. “Let me go get the paperwork.”
Chapter 2: Settle Like Dust
“This is where we live?”
Klaus was looking at the entrance to the gym, expression apprehensive. He was clutching a bad of possessions close to his chest; it held everything he had when he had been admitted to the hospital, minus his converse, which were on his feet. He wore a pair of too big sweats and a black t shirt which Diego had fetched from his apartment whilst Klaus was waiting to be discharged. It made him look smaller, sicker.
“This is where we’re staying,” Diego said, not particularly wanting to broach the whole topic of homelessness with Klaus right now. “Come on.”
Klaus followed him through the gym obediently, ducking his head shyly when the guys in the ring stared with open curiosity. Diego waved them off.
“This is it,” said Diego, trying not to feel self conscious.
“There’s only one bed,” said Klaus, puzzled.
“I’ll get an air mattress, or something,” said Diego.
Klaus nodded slowly before sitting and upending his possessions onto the rickety desk. The picked up the leather trousers with great care, inspecting it as if it might hold the secrets of his lost memories. “Interesting,” he said.
“You always had a, uh, distinct style.”
He moved on to the the tank top. One shoulder was soaked in blood, dark and flaky. He grimaced.
Diego offered, “I can probably get that out.”
Klaus blinked at him with those huge damn eyes. “Thanks.”
He then picked up the last item. The dog tags. His brow furrowed as he smoothed his thumb over the metal. “These feel… important. Who’s Dave?”
Diego hesitated. He hadn’t heard the name before, but his brother had started wearing them around the time he told Diego about losing someone. What were the odds that they were the same person? “I’m not sure, exactly,” he settled on.
Klaus tilted his head, as if listening to someone who Diego couldn’t hear. His forehead wrinkled, but he didn’t reply, just looping the chain over his head and allowing the tag to settle over his heart.
“Were there any, um, ghosts that I talk to a lot?” Klaus asked, eyes low.
He frowned, feeling out of his depth. “I don’t know. You didn’t use to mention any ghosts specifically.”
“Oh,” said Klaus. Diego was beginning to hate that damn oh.
“Here,” said Diego, snatching up the tank top and taking it to the sink. Busy hands, and all that.
“ Shut up!”
“What?” said Diego, spinning so fast that soap suds splattered to the floor.
Klaus shook his head. “Sorry, sorry, not you.”
“Right,” said Diego, disquieted. He watched as Klaus twitched, holding himself tight against things that existed only to him. Diego could vaguely remember similar behaviour as a child, before Klaus had gotten into drugs. Even then, he had always been quick to cover with a grin and a cheap joke.
“Can you tell me about him?”
Diego blinked. “About who?”
Klaus flushed. “Sorry. I meant me. What was I like?”
How do you answer a question like that?
Diego pushed out a slow breath, looking down at the tank top in his hands, bright colours darkened by the water. “I don’t know. You were… eccentric. Funny. Kind of a wild card, y’know?”
“Right,” said Klaus. “Were we close?”
A beat. “Not really.”
“Oh.” The disappointment was naked on his face.
“But we were getting closer, before this. Talking more,” added Diego.
A hopeful smile. “Cool. That’s- I’m glad.”
“I should go get that air mattress. Wanna come with?”
Klaus hesitated. “Mind if I stay here? I have a headache.”
“A headache? Should I call that doctor?” Diego asked anxiously.
“No, no, I think it’s just the noise,” Klaus said flippantly.
“Right, alright. I’ll be back soon.”
“See you,” said Klaus.
Diego’s heart beat hard at leaving Klaus there. He wasn’t sure if it was worry for Klaus, or worry for his possessions. He had to remind himself that this Klaus didn’t know where he could pawn stuff, nor where he could use that money for drugs.
At the nearest Walmart, he picked up an air mattress and pump, and then a pillow and duvet. He added a pack of underwear for Klaus, and considered some clothes before deciding that he could take Klaus thrift shopping sometime. He would be fine borrowing Diego’s stuff for now.
He grabbed some groceries too. He wasn’t usually one to cook, but he doubted Klaus would go for raw eggs.
When he got back to the gym, he used the opportunity to snag the phone, ignoring Al’s grumbling about phone bills. He chewed on the inside of his cheek for a moment, before stabbing in a number which he had memorised a long time ago, but never used before.
“Vanya? It’s Diego.”
“Oh.” A pause. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah. Well, no, not exactly,” he said. “I found Klaus.”
“Is he okay?” she asked.
Diego said, “He had a head injury or something. He can’t remember anything.”
“Wha- What? Like, like amnesia?”
“Yeah, exactly. He’s staying with at mine for now, but I just thought you should know.”
“Thanks,” said Vanya, voice stilted with surprise. “Allison gave me the number for the hotel they’re staying at, I’ll let them know.”
“Can we see him?”
Diego paused. For some reason, he hadn’t expected that. “Sure. I mean, maybe give him a few days? He’s… adjusting.”
“Yeah, of course,” said Vanya. “God, I can’t even imagine. How do you even explain our… everything?”
“I have no idea,” Diego admitted, exhausted. “And he’s so… He’s scared of the ghosts, and he doesn’t try and hide the way he’s scared of them.”
“Is he sober?”
“Yeah. Was sober when he was admitted, apparently.”
“Yeah.” Diego pinched the bridge of his nose. “I should go. He’s waiting for me.”
“Okay. Let me know if I can help, okay?”
“Thanks, Vanya,” he said. In that moment, he was too tired to feel any lingering anger towards her over the book. He was just grateful that it wasn’t all on him.
He hung up the phone, and hurried back to the boiler room, bags juggled in his hand. “Hey, I’m back!”
Klaus looked up, cutting himself off mid sentence. He looked… not quite guilty, but definitely secretive. “Hey, bro.”
“Yeah, everything’s grand,” he said, reminding Diego a little more of the way Klaus usually was. He wasn’t sure it was a good thing. “So, how many siblings do we have, exactly?”
“There’s seven of us, altogether.” Well, six. Shit.
“Tell me about them?”
“Sure,” said Diego, putting the food away in the fridge. “So, Luther is. Well. He’s a big guy, kind of the oldest, even though we’re all the same age. Kind of a dick, to be honest.”
Klaus snorted. “Wow, tell me what you really think.”
Diego shrugged, smirking. “We never got on. Then there’s Allison. She’s actually kinda famous. She’s an actress. She just got divorced, but before that she was living across the country with her husband and daughter.”
“I’m an uncle?” Klaus asked excitedly.
“Uh. Yeah. Claire. Her name is Claire.”
“Wow,” said Klaus.
Diego cleared his throat. “Then there’s Five. He… He’s smart. Ambitious. Ben. And Vanya. She’s a vio-”
“Wait, wait, you didn’t say anything about Ben,” interrupted Klaus.
Diego winced, brushing a hand over the short hair at the back of his head. “He- He died. A long time ago.”
Klaus was unreadable at that. Diego had expected him to look more upset, or at least more something , but he was inscrutable. “Okay.”
“Anyway, wanna help me pump up this air mattress?”
Klaus pouted. “I just got out of the hospital!”
Diego rolled his eyes, but he didn’t complain about pumping it up alone.
Chapter 3: Lost In Their Overcoats
thank you to everyone who took the time to comment, y'all are stars
“No, no, no, please!”
Diego startled awake, disorientated but alert, a knife already in hand. A quick scan of the room found no intruders. Just Klaus, twisted up in Diego’s sheets, his face pale and sweating under the light of the lamp that Klaus insisted must stay on.
“Please, let me out, please-” whimpered Klaus. Diego’s stomach dropped. A nightmare. “Dave? No, not you, no-”
“Hey, Klaus,” said Diego, crouching by the bed. He reached out and shook his brother’s shoulder.
Klaus yelped, and shot up, trying to shuffle away from Diego. His eyes were dark and wild.
“Hey, hey, hey, it’s just me,” Diego said, hands held up in surrender.
Klaus leaned back against the wall, shoulders heaving as he breathed huge, shuddering breaths. “Fuck,” he croaked, and scrubbed his palms over his face. “What-?”
“Just a nightmare, man,” said Diego.
“A nightmare. Right,” said Klaus.
Diego wasn’t sure whether nightmares were a common thing for Klaus. He used to get them as a kid, sometimes waking Diego when he crawled into his bed for comfort. The nightmares increased in frequency as his training became more regular, only to seemingly cease suddenly when they were thirteen. Diego could only assume he had begun to turn to drugs instead of his brothers. He never knew what changed.
“What was it about?”
Klaus eyes went distant, unfocused. “Walls. Stone walls. I was trapped. And there were ghosts, and blood, and- gunfire? I don’t know. It was confusing.”
Diego chewed that over. It was probably nothing. Except that Klaus’ words at the hospital - I’ll be good, let me out, dad! - were haunting him.
It was probably nothing.
“Think you can sleep again?”
Klaus didn’t react. He looked hazy in a way that Diego would usually put down to drugs.
“Sorry, what?” said Klaus, blinking at him with wide eyes.
“Think you can get some more sleep?”
Klaus said, “Sure.” It sounded like a lie.
“I’ll be right over there,” said Diego.
“I know. I’m fine.”
Diego settled down on the air mattress, and stared up at the ceiling. He felt way too awake to fall asleep again, but he didn’t feel like he could go out looking for people to save, not when his brother would be left alone. He rolled onto his side, wincing at the way the air mattress squeaked against the floor, and beat his pillow into submission.
He had always thought of Klaus as a simple soul. He wasn’t one to ruminate, instead living moment to moment, one fix to the next. He liked drugs and sex and eye liner, and he didn’t care who knew it. Diego hadn’t thought of him as particularly traumatised - at least, no more than the rest of his siblings. If anything, less so. Klaus had the lowest body count of the academy, excluding Vanya, almost always the look out. That’s not to say Klaus had it easy. Sometimes he had thought that their father had a particular distaste for the fourth Hargreeves, with even the smallest transgressions ending in extra training and harsh words.
Now, Diego was beginning to realise that he didn’t know his brother nearly as well as he thought he did. Seeing Klaus stripped of the shiny veneer that he had worn since their teens had left Diego off balance. He was left with questions, except it was too late to ask them. Klaus himself couldn’t explain the words that escaped in his panic. And who was this Dave? How could Diego have missed something as huge and monumental as Klaus falling in love?
It took a long time for Diego to get back to sleep.
When he awoke that morning, Klaus was already awake, swaddled in the duvet with bruise like shadows under his eyes. Diego would lay money that he hadn’t gotten any more sleep after than nightmare.
“You okay man?”
Klaus eyes slid over to him slowly, glassy and unblinking. “They’re loud.”
“...Okay?” said Diego.
“Is it always like this?”
“Like I’m half dead? Like I’ve got one foot in the grave?”
Diego felt his blood run cold. “Klaus. I-...”
Klaus shuddered. “It’s like… I can’t tell where they end and I begin.”
Diego rolled up and stepped over to Klaus, sitting on the bed next to him. He reached out and took Klaus’ hand. It felt frail and cool, corpse like. Diego held it in both of his, trying to share his own warmth. “You’re right here, Klaus.” He squeezed the hand in his. “Right here.”
Klaus slumped, the tension leaching from him. His eyelids fluttered closed. “I’m tired.”
“Think you can sleep if I stay here?”
He shook his head, looking panicked. “It’s okay, I’m awake.”
“Alright,” said Diego. “Breakfast?”
Klaus brightened. “Waffles?”
Diego snorted. “Can’t remember your own brother, but you can remember waffles?”
A shrug. “Waffles are clearly more important to me.”
“Charming,” said Diego. “Eggs?”
“That’ll work too.”
Diego decided that they would go clothes shopping that day. “You can’t keep wearing my clothes forever.”
“Upset that I wear them better than you?”
For a moment, Diego could pretend that Klaus had never forgotten him.
“Yeah, whatever. Come on.”
Klaus followed him out. His mood seemed to have improved since that morning. The miracle healing power of eggs.
As Diego drove, Klaus flicked through the radio stations idly. “Is it weird that I still remember the lyrics to Toxic but I don’t know my mothers name?”
“Please don’t leave it on this station,” said Diego. Then, “Grace.”
“Mom’s name. Grace.”
“Oh. Okay.” He switched the station again.
“Are we almost since now?”
Klaus shook his head like a dog shaking off water. “No. I meant, are we almost sent- uh- I can’t-”
Diego looked over at his brother. He had a strange expression on his face - half frustration, half panic.
“You okay? What’s wrong?”
“The words- I can’t sink- think- shit,” said Klaus, voice giving out in a sad whimper. His breathing was speeding up, and his hands were fisted in his hair.
“Hey, hey, Klaus, breathe,” said Diego, wide eyed.
“I can’t speak, oh my god, Diego,” cried Klaus.
“Klaus, you’re speaking right now,” Diego snapped. He swerved dangerously, earning a few beeps from other cars, and parked haphazardly at the roadside.
“But, I couldn’t- I couldn’t-”
“ Klaus! Take a breath!”
Klaus shot him a look which said, I’m trying!
“Shit, just-” Diego took his brother’s hand and put in on his chest, taking a slow, exaggerated breath. “Feel that? Copy that, okay?”
Klaus nodded frantically, and sucked in a desperate breath.
“Great, now out, slow, okay?”
Klaus obeyed, jaw clenched tight, air whistling through his teeth.
“Good. Again. In… and out. In… and out. You got it,” said Diego, relaxing when Klaus’ breathing followed.
“I’m okay. I’m okay,” said Klaus. Diego got the feeling he was trying to convince himself more than Diego.
“Yeah, you are.”
Klaus rubbed at his sternum, and tangled his hand in the dog tags hanging there. “God.”
Diego watched his brother for a long moment, before starting the car. “What was that?”
“I don’t know,” said Klaus. “I just… the words wouldn’t come out right.”
“We’ll mention it at your doctor's appointment. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
By the time they pulled up at a row of thrift shops, they were both already exhausted by the day. Still, they were there now, and Klaus had been eager at the idea of choosing his own clothes.
Diego pushed the door open and ushered Klaus inside.
His brother hesitated at the doorway, rocking back on his heels, before wandering over to the nearest clothing rack, and letting his hand brush over the various materials - silk, cotton, velvet. Then he stepped back, and head over to the men's trousers. He picked up a pair of shredded jeans, and slung them over one arm, and then followed them with a pair of pinstripe trousers.
Diego watched as his eye caught on a knee length purple skirt. His hands twitched by his side, but he bypassed it for the men's shirts, picking out a faded grey top.
"You not gonna try on the skirt?" he said, holding up the purple material. Klaus stiffened, flushed.
"Shut up," he muttered, eyes cast down.
He softened. "Klaus, I wasn't…"
Klaus paused, head cocked to the side. Then, "Am I allowed-?"
"Christ," said Diego, "you don't have to ask permission."
"No, I mean- Did I… Did I wear skirts, before?"
"Yeah, sometimes," said Diego.
Klaus looked up, resolved, and took the skirt.
After that, he seemed happy to browse the different sections of the store. Klaus would pull out some bizarre, hidden monstrosity from the racks, and it was anyone's guess whether he would ridicule it or proclaim it's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. Diego wasn’t the shopping type, but he was happy to watch his brother enjoy himself.
Diego ended up carrying half of Klaus’ selections. Even at thrift store prices, this was going to be hell for his wallet.
Klaus swanned over to the little changing room in the corner, hanging the clothes from the pegs, and then over the corner of the mirror when he ran out of room. Diego handed over the rest of the clothes, and went to close the door, except-
“Wait!” cried Klaus, wedging his arm in the gap.
“What?” said Diego, bemused.
“Don’t- don’t close the door.”
“Are you… claustrophobic?”
Klaus shrugged helplessly. “I guess so.”
“Huh. Well… you kind of have to close the door if you want to try any of this on,” stated Diego.
“Right. Right, okay, just close the door.”
Diego pushed the door closed. This lasted about four seconds, before Klaus sprang out saying, “Why I don’t try them on at home?”
Diego sighed. “Fine. Come on.”
Chapter 4: Waiting For The Sunset
warning for:- some blood
- a scene where someone attempts to pressure someone into sex
(v mild, no non-con, but better to be safe than sorry)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The pair of them stopped for lunch at some tacky diner in town - not Griddy's. There were some memories Diego wished he could forget, and he didn’t want to be thinking about Hazel and Cha-Cha today.
“Waffles!” cheered Klaus as the waitress set down his plate. He clapped, childlike, before digging in.
Diego rolled his eyes, but started cutting into his burger without comment. Klaus was easy to please, at least for the moment. Sometimes he would catch Klaus with that look in his eye, the one he got when he was craving a fix. He didn’t think that Klaus even knew about his own addiction yet. The track marks in the crook of his elbow were faded; Klaus had decided that he preferred his highs in the form of little tablets many years ago. Still, Diego worried that it wouldn’t be long until Klaus figured it out.
“I was thinking,” said Klaus, “Do you have any photos?”
“Y’know, family photos. See if anything jogs my memory?” said Klaus. Diego got the sense that there was something more to it than that, but he decided not to pry.
“No,” said Diego. “I could ask Vanya, though, if you'd like?”
“Vanya, our… sister?”
“You know any other people named Vanya?”
A shrug. “Maybe.”
“Right. Well, I can go call her, see if she’s home?” Diego suggested, nodding to the phone booth across the street.
“Sounds good,” said Klaus around a mouthful of food. Diego would say that he had forgotten his manners along with his identity, but he didn't think that Klaus had ever had any.
Diego fingered the change in his pocket as he crossed the street, glancing around to check for any tails. His usual paranoia had been exacerbated by Vanya’s stalker situation.
The phone rang a few times before Vanya picked up with a breathless, “Hello?”
“Vanya? You good?”
She laughed. Diego thought that he could count on one hand how many times he had heard that laugh. “My neighbours cat is in my apartment, and he is way faster than me.”
Diego snorted. “Want some help?”
“Sure.” A pause. “Are you bringing Klaus?”
“Yep. He wants to look at some family photos, you got any of those?”
“A few magazine photoshoots, maybe a couple of Polaroids from when Ben had that phase.”
“That'll do.” He glanced back over to the diner, and saw that a man was approaching Klaus’ table. “Gotta go.”
He jogged back to the diner fast enough to catch the guy say, “-you think, you in?”
“Can I help you?”
The guy glanced up at Diego with a cocky smirk. “Not you, but Klaus here can. What do you say, princess? I’ll make it worth your while.”
Klaus had a tense, complicated expression on his face. “No.”
The guy rolled his eyes, and slid into the booth so that he was pressed in close to Klaus. “Come on. I got some gear if cash isn't what you’re looking for. Hell, I'll let you have a hit before we start. Like a deposit, a downpayment, yeah?”
Diego dropped a heavy hand onto the man's shoulder. “That's enough. Get out.”
He raised an eyebrow, unimpressed. “You his boyfriend or something?”
“His brother. Now get the hell out, before I make you,” Diego said lowly. His blood was thrumming.
The man stood, chin held high. “What's wrong, big guy? Didn't you know that your brother here’s been whoring himself out since he was-”
Diego’s hand was flying before he made a conscious decision. He didn't feel his fist collide with the guys mouth, instead watching, detached, as the guy twisted, blood and tooth hitting the floor, quickly followed by his body.
“Holy shit!” yelped Klaus.
The guy groaned, gingerly probing his mouth. “Fuck,” he garbled.
“Time to go,” said Diego.
“Yep,” said Klaus, grabbing what was left of his waffle with one hand and levering out of the booth with the other.
The pair ended up sitting in the car below Vanya’s apartment in an uneasy silence.
Diego knew that Klaus wasn’t an idiot; even if he wasn’t aware of his previous lifestyle, the guy hadn’t been subtle. That had to be a pretty difficult pill to swallow, pun not intended. As if finding out that you’re an addict was bad enough, hearing it from some sleazy guy who couldn’t take no for an answer had to be ten times worse. Diego could still hear his blood rushing, hands aching for something to hit.
“You’re really not going to say anything?” Klaus said mildly.
“What do you want me to say?” said Diego.
Klaus looked away. “I’d just rather know now if you’re gonna be mad at me or whatever.”
Diego startled. “What? Klaus, no. Why would I be mad?”
Klaus shot a pointed look at where his fists were clasped around the steering wheel.
“Why would I be mad at you,” he amended.
“Well, I figure that most people don’t like finding out that their brother is a junkie hooker,” Klaus said flatly.
“I already- I mean, I already knew you were an addict. I’ve had to drag you to rehab plenty of times. That’s nothing new.”
“And the other thing?”
Diego paused. “I- I didn’t know, but I figured that- I mean, you never held down a stable job, but you were getting drug money somewhere.”
“Oh,” said Klaus. He itched at his arm absently. “Got any sh-, um, any fi-” he shook his head. “Anything you wanna say about that?”
“I d-don’t care,” said Diego fiercely. “You’re still my brother, Klaus.”
“Oh.” He looked away, squirming under the attention. “Okay.”
Diego exhaled sharply through his nose. “Come on. Vanya’s waiting,” he said, slamming his door shut.
Klaus meekly followed. Diego knew that he wasn’t doing a very convincing job of ‘not mad’, but every time he tried to smile at Klaus, that asshole’s smirk flashed in his mind, and he had to convince himself not to go back and relieve him of his remaining teeth.
Diego hammered his fist against Vanya’s door, reveling in the pain of his bruised knuckles.
Vanya’s voice faintly called, “One second!”
There was a clatter as something fell inside the apartment, and a yowl, and then Vanya opened the door, blowing her hair out of her face. “Hey!” She looked over to Klaus, who looked back with open curiosity. “Klaus. Nice to- meet you? Oh, you know what I mean. Come in.”
Klaus ducked in, turning to take in the state of the apartment. The place was sparse, but everything she owned seemed to be in a state of disarray.
“Jesus. That cat must be a monster,” whistled Diego.
“Tell me about it,” said Vanya. She lifted her arms and said, “I’ve got the war wounds to prove it.” He arms were littered with claw marks.
“Cat?” said Klaus.
“My neighbours cat. He doesn’t usually like my place, but he came in through the window and doesn’t want to leave,” she said with a sigh. “He’s under the sofa now.”
“What’s his name?” asked Klaus.
Vanya grimaced. “Mr Puddles.”
Klaus clapped his hands, delighted, before dropping to the floor and ducking his head to get a view of the cat. “Mr Puddles! Who’s a good kitty?” he cooed.
A flash of black, and Klaus suddenly had a lapful of purring cat.
An exasperated huff. “Seriously?”
Klaus blinked up at them innocently. “I guess cats like me?”
“Well, they don’t like me,” said Vanya, “and after today, I can safely say the feeling is mutual.” She opened up a cupboard, and had to rise up on tiptoes to grab the first aid kit at the top. She opened it up on the coffee table, careful to give Klaus and Mr Puddles a wide berth, and said, “Diego, sit. Don’t think I didn’t notice your knuckles.”
Diego froze, startled. “They’re nothing.”
“Diego,” she said, voice stern. So unlike the sister he grew up with.
“Fine,” he said, taking the seat next to her.
With deft hands, she cleaned and bandaged his knuckles, and fetched a bag of frozen peas. He insisted it was unnecessary, but in the end allowed her to ice them - maybe that way, they wouldn’t bruise up too bad.
Only once that was done did she wipe down her scratches, grabbing a couple of plasters for the spots where the cat had managed to claw blood.
“Here, let me,” said Diego, taking the plasters and smoothing them down efficiently. Vanya raised her eyebrows, but didn’t comment.
Klaus cried, “You don’t even know what I was going to say!”
“We’re not keeping the cat.”
Klaus fell silent, pouting.
“I don’t think my neighbour would be too happy if you did,” said Vanya.
“But he loves me more!” said Klaus.
Mr Puddles purred in agreement.
“No cats,” said Diego firmly.
“No fun,” said Klaus.
“Family pictures?” suggested Vanya, always the one to smooth over family arguments.
“Yes, please!” said Klaus.
Vanya disappeared into her room for a moment before returning with a shoe box in hand. She handled it with care, placing it down on the coffee table with a warning glare at Mr Puddles, who stared back.
Klaus eagerly prised the top off, balancing forward on one arm awkwardly to avoid disrupting the cat. Diego privately thought it was adorable.
The first thing on top was a magazine cut out. Diego remembered this one well; Klaus had stunk of pot, and Allison wasn’t talking to him because he had stolen her black nail varnish. Five was already gone, and Luther and Diego had been feuding as usual. Ben had managed to avoid having his photo taken, spending the day dodging the cameras diligently.
Klaus’ hungry eyes roamed, reading what was no doubt a frilly, vapid article about their teenage selves. Klaus looked up and said, tone incredulous, “We were superheroes? And you failed to mention this, how exactly?”
Diego crossed his arms. “Child soldiers, more like. None of it is nearly as glamorous as the press made out.”
With reverent hands, Klaus placed the cut out on the table, and scooped out the next item: a faded polaroid.
When they were sixteen, Ben had bought a polaroid camera. He had been fixated on capturing every moment on film, commemorating even the smallest thing. At that age, there had been a sense of change in the air. Freedom was close enough to taste, and some of them had begun to whisper about plans to leave, about what would happen after the academy. Klaus had been spending more and more nights out of the house, and Allison had started receiving offers from Hollywood. It was an unsaid truth that they would all be going their separate ways; even if they stayed in touch, it would never be the same.
On Diego’s darker days, he wondered if Ben knew that he didn’t have much time left. Maybe he knew that his control way waning. (Maybe it was never a question of control.)
The polaroid in question was fuzzy edged from repeated handling, the scrawled date at the bottom - 01/10/2005 - smudged. It showed Ben and Vanya, both taking huge bites of birthday cake. It was a little out of focus, and the framing was bad; Klaus had probably been the one to take it. Seeing it now felt like a stab in the heart.
Klaus made a small noise in his throat, and his eyes whipped upwards to hover above the empty armchair. “Oh.”
“Klaus?” said Diego.
Klaus smiled tentatively. “Hi, Ben.”
feel free to threaten me with bodily harm in the comments
“What do you mean, hi, Ben ?” said Vanya, voice thin.
Diego demanded, “How did you even know that was Ben?” He stabbed a finger towards the photograph in question.
Klaus looked pale and flimsy, eyes dark and wide in his face. The black cat stood in his lap and headbutted him until he stroked her absently. “He’s been here the whole time,” he said.
“The whole time?” echoed Diego. “And you didn’t think to mention that?”
Klaus sucked in a breath. “Well, I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth.”
Vanya frowned, forehead crumpling. “I don’t understand.”
“When I first woke up,” said Klaus, “he was there, trying to talk to me. Except, there were about thirteen other ghosts in the room, yelling at me.”
“Yelling?” said Vanya.
Diego winced. “Turns out, Klaus powers are a little more… loud than he usually let on.”
“They’re horrible,” said Klaus, voice breaking. “At first, I was just trying to block them all out, y’know? So it took a while to realise that Ben was different.”
“He’s- just, normal. Not bloody nor screaming. It took a while until I actually listened to him, and even then I didn’t know whether he was jud- if he was rud-” Klaus closed his eyes, frowning.
“Are you okay?” said Vanya.
“He’s been having some trouble with words since the accident,” muttered Diego.
“I didn’t know if he was tricking me,” he said eventually. “Like, the ghosts don’t seem like benevolent spirits, y’know? It wasn’t until I saw the photo…”
“No, that doesn’t make sense,” said Diego. “You’ve never mentioned him before. You would have said something, right?”
Klaus turned to the armchair, listening. After a beat, he said, “I did. At the funeral, apparently.”
Diego turned his face away.
“Oh, God,” said Vanya.
Diego said, “Listen. After Ben d-died, you were kind of a mess. We all were. You showed up to the funeral high as a k-kite.” His voice was rough.
“We didn’t believe you,” said Vanya brokenly. “How could we have done that? Oh, God.”
“Fuck,” said Diego.
Klaus cocked his head. “He says that he doesn’t blame you. He’s not mad.”
Vanya whimpered. “Is he…” she nodded her head towards the armchair in question.
She turned to the armchair. “Hi, Ben,” she whispered softly.
“Hey, bro,” added Diego,
Klaus cleared his throat. “He says hey.”
Vanya buried her face in her hands, but it did nothing to hide the way her shoulders hitched.
“Oh no,” said Klaus, panicked. “Don’t be sad!”
Diego was paralysed for a moment. It wasn’t that long ago that he couldn’t even think about Vanya without his blood turning hot, but looking at her now, he just saw his sister. With his unbruised hand, he squeezed her shoulder. She shuddered, but wiped away her tears and looked at Klaus directly.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “for not believing you. I know you don’t remember it right now, but I’m still sorry.”
“Oh. That’s, uh, that’s cool,” said Klaus.
“Seems like this past week has just been me realising what a shitty brother I’ve been.”
Vanya shot him a sympathetic smile. “You’re not that bad. Still doing better than Luther.” The pair looked at each other, then snorted at the ridiculousness of it.
“Ben says thanks for driving me to rehab all those times,” said Klaus. “And also, he says sorry for the Taco Incident of 2013? Apparently that was his idea?”
“What the hell, Ben?” said Diego, voice high.
“What Taco Incident?” asked Vanya.
Diego crossed his arms. “We don’t talk about that.”
“Well now I gotta know,” said Klaus.
“Ben, I will never forgive you-” threatened Diego.
“Aw, no fun,” said Klaus.
Diego looked at him with mock seriousness and said, “There are some things that you’re lucky to have forgotten.”
“What could possibly be that bad about tacos?” Vanya said.
Diego shuddered. “I don’t even like thinking about it.”
“Y’know,” said Klaus, “This whole family is weirdly dramatic, considering we’re all adopted.”
“We learnt from the best,” said Vanya with a dark grin.
“Our father was kind of theatrical, when you think about it,” pondered Diego. “What an asshole.”
“Y’know he decided to hide my powers because I cracked his monocle?”
Klaus squinted. “What?”
Vanya blinked. “Oh. Up until last week, no one knew that I had powers.”
“This family is so weird,” complained Klaus. Then, “What do you mean, a monkey and a robot?”
Vanya and Diego looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Klaus and Diego left Vanya’s with a plan to schedule a Family Meeting, not only to reintroduce everyone to Klaus, but to tell them all about Ben.
Diego felt like he was floating, like maybe he was dreaming. Ben was here. Ben was here. Ben was here.
Ben’s absence had been a festering wound, and each new loss was fuel to the flame. Diego’s life had felt, for a while, like it was defined by the holes left in it. Now, he had his family back. Not just the living siblings, but the dead too, with Five miraculously living and Ben miraculously sticking around even in death. Having Ben back was surreal. Knowing he was there, even if he couldn’t hear him directly, was a blessing from a God that Diego didn’t believe in. He felt dizzy with the relief of it. He was so used to losing people. His brothers. (His mom. Eudora-)
The pair of them were quiet as they drove back to the gym. Diego had done more talking today than he did in the whole year of 2018, he would swear it. Klaus seemed happy to sit in silence for once.
Diego boiled up some pasta, not willing to pay for more take out after the day of shopping. Klaus entertained himself by trying on his purchases, stripping with his usual carelessness for modesty, and posing in front of the mirror. After cycling through it all, he redressed in the same shirt he had been wearing, but with the purple skirt instead of Diego’s sweats.
Then ended up eating with Klaus sat on the chair and Diego on the blow up bed. He could really do with some more furniture. Or maybe a real apartment.
“Diego,” said Klaus.
“Mm?” he said through a mouthful of pasta.
“Did I-” he paused, but not in the way he did when his words wouldn’t come out right. There was no frustration on his face, just thoughtfulness. “I’m your brother, right?”
Diego side eyed him. “Sure.”
“Oh,” said Klaus, poking at his pasta.
“Oh, well. I don’t know. Just being stupid.” He twitched, and then said to the empty air, “Shut up, Ben.”
“Come on, don’t be like that,” said Diego.
“Just-” Klaus sucked in a breath. “I don’t think I’m actually… a guy?” His voice went high and pitchy at the end.
Diego’s lips parted. “Uh. Okay?”
“I guess I didn’t mention that before, huh?” said Klaus with a self-deprecating smile.
“No, you didn’t. Do you mean- like, are you a girl? A woman, I mean?”
“Yeah. Well, no,” said Klaus, deflating. “I’m not explaining it right.”
Diego put down his plate, realising that this was important. “Just- just say what you’re thinking.”
“Okay. Well, uh. I guess I feel like maybe I’m both? Or like, neither? Like-” he huffed. “I don’t know.”
“Oh. Well, y’know. That’s cool?”
Diego shrugged. “Sure. You’re still my brother.” A beat. “Or, my sibling, I mean.”
Klaus smiled, pleased. “Thanks bro.” He looked up, and then said, “Ben says I identified as non-binary, before.”
Diego tried not to take it personally that Klaus had never said anything. If anything, it was his own fault. He had never asked, after all, and was probably not very approachable. “Cool. Do you want me to call you, like, they?”
“Oh. Uh, I think I’m okay with he/him,” said Klaus. He turned to Ben. “Was I..? Yeah.”
“Alright, no problem,” said Diego.
“But, like, I’d prefer if you didn’t, like… oh, don’t worry,” said Klaus.
“No, go on,” encouraged Diego.
Klaus said, “It doesn’t, like, upset me, it’s fine.”
“Klaus,” Diego said seriously, “you deserve to have your identity taken seriously.”
Klaus looked about ready to bolt, eyes skating away, knee bobbing up and down furiously. “Sure.”
“Okay, okay! I just- it feels kind of weird when people refer to me as a man. Like, calling me your brother, it feels kind of… inaccurate?”
“Okay, that’s easy enough. Thanks for telling me, man. Wait-”
Klaus giggled. “Dude. You called Vanya man at least seven times today. That’s just the way you talk, it doesn’t bother me.”
“Oh,” he said, flushing. “You sure?”
“Okay,” said Diego. “And I really appreciate you trusting me with this. That’s brave as shit, considering you basically met me yesterday.”
Klaus looked away. “Not really. I can tell that I trust you, even if I don’t remember you.”
Diego wasn’t about to cry. Shut up.
“I should go do some work, or Al’s gonna throw us out.”
“Alright,” said Klaus, flinging himself on the bed like a damsel. “I’d love to help, but I’m terribly injured, you see.”
He snorted. “Yeah, whatever. Lazy asshole.”
“But I’m your lazy asshole,” Klaus said with a wink.
“I hate you,” said Diego, but he couldn’t hide his smile.
no, i will not elaborate on the Taco Incident of 2013
Chapter 6: Confidences
pls forgive the lack of klaus in this chapter
The pleasant, jovial mood of that evening tanked under the darkness of nighttime. By two in the morning, Klaus had already startled awake twice, and Diego was staring a hole in the ceiling.
The second nightmare of that night had been marked by a litany of pleading and begging. Diego had seriously wondered whether the embarrassment of being woken was worth cutting the nightmare short, before remembering that Klaus wasn’t as easily as embarrassed at him.
He cracked his knuckles. He hadn’t gone out at night since… well, since his dad had kicked the bucket. He hadn’t had a chance.
He itched for it.
He hated it.
Eudora had never approved of his nighttime activities. She claimed that it was just the failed convictions that was the problem, but Diego knew better. In her heart, Eudora was a forgiving person, always believing that people could do better. She could never approve of his method of doing things. Some nights, when he lay awake in bed, he wondered if had ever scared her, his bloodthirstiness. It scared him.
After all, Diego was a murderer.
Sure, he didn’t try to kill people. That didn’t change the fact that people died. He could control where his knives went, but people were unpredictable, and sometimes moved into the path of what would have been an incapacitating but survivable stab wound. That’s not him trying to move the blame off of himself. They were his knives. They were his kills.
The scariest part? Some nights, he didn’t care that he killed people.
(He had been eleven when he first killed. His father had smiled. The city had cheered. The mayor had shook his hand. His siblings survived another day.)
Diego knew that Reginald wasn’t the best role model for ethics. Hell, he knew that it was wrong, had learned a lot since he was a nervous kid joining the police academy. Eudora had taught him a lot. If there was a choice in it, Diego would always trust Eudora’s judgement over his fathers. Unfortunately, that didn’t undo a childhood of desensitisation.
Some nights, he felt nothing. Other’s, he would like awake and remember the look in someone’s eyes just before they died. There’s a look that people got when they realised they were dying. A strange mix of terror and acceptance. Diego was well acquainted with that look. Usually, he was the one who put it there. On those nights, he felt sick to his stomach with guilt.
He cracked his knuckles.
Klaus was snoring softly on the bed. He had gotten better at going back to sleep after the nightmares. Diego figured the familiarity of the room was helping, and hoped that he helped too, although the way Klaus would twitch away from him left him wondering sometimes.
Diego had always thought of himself as a protector. A protector of victims. A protector of his little siblings. It seemed he had failed at that.
He sat up and silently slipped out of the apartment. He couldn't lie there a minute longer. Maybe he couldn't undo whatever secret traumas hid in Klaus' subconscious, but he could at least save others from becoming a terrified wreck of a person. Before he could think twice, he was driving his car over to the bad parts of town.
He touched his police scanner, and thought of Eudora's frustrated eyes gleaming in the fluorescence of Griddys.
No. He wouldn't listen to that tonight. That wasn't the only way to find someone in need of help.
He prowled the street with a hood pulled up. He hadn’t put the mask on that night. With the recent reminders of their childhood excursions fresh in his mind, it felt a little bitter. In the dark of the night, no one gave Diego a second glance, and he slyly glanced at drug deals and sex workers loitering on street corners, waiting to hear a yell for help.
When he did hear a yell, it wasn’t the kind he had expected.
He whipped around, one hand on a knife.
Stood with a hand out in greeting was a total stranger. She was tall and thin, dark skinned and wearing little, tottering on high heels. Her hands were shaking slightly, but whether it was from the cold or something more sinister, Diego wasn’t sure. She was eyeing him with a nervous but determined stare.
“Do I know you?” he said, walking closer but keeping a few feet between them.
“Nah, I know your brother though. Klaus.”
That made more sense. “Can I help you?”
The woman glanced around. “I was the one that called him an ambulance when he overdosed last month. No one’s seen him since.”
Klaus had overdosed? “He’s been staying at mine,” he said.
The woman slumped slightly, adam's apple bobbing. “Jesus, I thought the kid was dead!”
“No, no, he’s okay. He’s- sober, actually,” said Diego, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
“No shit? Good for him,” she said with a smile. “He’s a good kid. Tell him Roxie wants her coat back, yeah?”
Diego said, “Oh, the black feathered one?”
“That’s the one,” she said.
He looked at her. She had goosebumps on her arms, and she was shuddering slightly as a cool April wind hit them. Before he knew what he was doing, he was shrugging out of his favourite leather jacket. “Here,” he said.
She looked at him with wide eyes. “What’s the catch?”
“No catch. You l-look cold,” he said, ears burning.
The woman cackled. “Oh, you’re too cute,” she said, slipping the jacket on and wrapping it tightly around her. “Thank you sweetheart.”
“You’re welcome. I should- I should be getting back,” he mumbled.
“See you! Give Klaus a hug from me,” she said.
“Take care of yourself, yeah?”
He ducked back towards his car. All of a sudden, he was thinking about Klaus waking up alone and not knowing where he was.
Diego white knuckled the steering wheel on his way home. The air was cold, and he had to turn the heat up high. His goddamn jacket. God, he thought, I’m an idiot . (Eudora would have been proud.)
He opened the door with almost comical care. Part of it was that he didn’t want to wake Klaus, considering he never got much sleep as it was. On the other hand, he really didn’t want to explain where he had gone at three am. There weren’t a lot of legitimate reasons for sneaking out in the early morning
Diego swore under his breath. “Hey, Klaus.”
“What naughty things have you been getting up to?” asked Klaus, all faux shock. “Is it a girl? Do you have a secret girlfriend?”
Diego’s face twisted, and Klaus stopped. “Is- are you okay?”
“Yeah,” said Diego flatly.
“Are you fur- for-” Klaus scrubbed a hand over his face.
“I’m alright, really,” he said. “You have another nightmare?”
“Always,” said Klaus with a wry smile.
“Wanna go get waffles?”
“At three in the morning?” said Klaus. “Hell yeah!”
Chapter 7: I Have A Photograph
shout out to GabbyD for leaving the longest, most adorable comment on the last chapter, i still havent stopped smiling over it. *DJ voice* this ones for you
The morning came around faster than Diego was ready for.
They had gotten home around four am, eyes drooping and bellies full. Klaus had dropped into the bed face first and passed out, snoring into the bedsheets with little decorum. Diego had dozed fitfully, catching sleep in snatches. The inevitable dawn filled him with cold dread, and no amount of mental acrobatics would allow him to ignore it forever, not with the clock ticking down ever closer.
By ten in the morning, Diego was showered and dressed all in black, although not his usual clothes. He stomach felt unsettled, and a cool sweat was breaking out on his neck. Klaus peered up at him with bleary green eyes and mumbled an inquisitive tone.
“Going out. Be back this afternoon,” he said shortly.
“-righty,” Klaus said, already half back to sleep.
Diego felt himself mentally check out as he drove. He sunk back into himself, allowing himself to become distant, running on automatic. He was nauseatingly numb, but he couldn’t quite feel it.
He parked a few blocks away, and walked over to the cemetery.
He had been 23 when Eudora had first took him home to meet her folks. Her mother had hugged him at the door, and her father had shaken is hand with a broad, calloused palm. Her younger sister had teased Eudora mercilessly, and laughed when Diego went red at her comments. The evening had been comfortable and kind and Diego had felt like he was going to explode with anxiety. He felt too big, too rough, too sharp. He didn’t know how to joke without cutting people with his words. He had never learned how to make people smile, only how to bleed.
At the end of the evening, her father had taken him aside and looked him up and down. Diego felt like he might throw up. He had never felt so hideous, never felt so ashamed of the things he had done, the person he had been. Diego waited for his sentencing, waited to be turned away. Instead, the man had looked at him with knowing eyes and said, “I used to be a kid like you. I know how hard kindness can be, especially when you’ve never been shown it yourself. I want you to know that you’re always welcome in this family, kid.”
If Diego had cried a little, her father had never mentioned it.
Now, six years later, Diego looked across the cemetery to where Eudora’s family stood, mournful figures with slumped shoulders, leaning into each other. Her father was weeping, huge, gulping sobs that shook his thin frame, and her mother looked hollowed out. Her younger sister, now all grown up, looked too old for her years.
They looked broken.
Diego had broken them.
The family that had welcomed him with compassion and kindness had been robbed of a daughter. The city had been robbed of a hero. The world had been robbed of the most beautiful woman to walk the earth.
Diego couldn’t walk closer.
At this distance, he couldn’t hear the words of the priest. The wind didn’t quite manage to carry anything but only the most piercing cries. There were a lot of people gathered; she had been the kind to make friends and keep them. She was loved. She was so loved.
He couldn’t walk closer.
Diego watched as her body was lowered into the ground, watched her family scatter dirt onto the coffin. Watched the crowd disperse.
Her father spotted him.
He said something to his family, and started off towards him, limping slightly, and Diego could almost hear Eudora’s voice saying that’s how you know it’s going to rain.
No, no, no.
Diego felt that hazy calm slipping away from him. He was suddenly too present, too aware of where he was, of who was lying in that six foot pit. He couldn’t do this, he couldn’t-
“Hello, Diego,” said Mr Patch.
“Sir,” croaked Diego.
“I’m glad you could make it.”
Diego took a sharp breath. “I-I-I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Mr Patch placed a weathered hand on Diego’s shoulder. “Not your fault, son.”
He flinched. “You d-don’t und-und-und-” he stopped, jaw twitching. His adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. “It’s my fault.”
“Don’t,” said Mr Patch. “Don’t you do that. She made her choice, just like she did every time she put on that badge and gun. God knows there’s nothing we could have said that would have made her do a damn thing different. Force of nature, my girl was.”
Diego shook his head. “She called me, she needed me. I was too slow. I-I couldn’t save her. I c-c-c-”
Mr Patch roughly pulled him into an iron tight hug. “I know,” he said thickly. “I know. She wouldn’t want you to blame yourself.”
And Diego broke. His throat hurt and his eyes stung and he shuddered in her father’s grip as he finally let out all the hurt and grief and guilt that he had been burying this past week. His hands twisted in the black material of Mr Patch’s coat, and he wept.
It finally began to rain.
Diego stayed at the grave for a while before he was ready to go home. There was a sense of finality to leaving her there in the ground. He couldn’t let go of the childish notion that it was wrong to leave her alone, as if she might get lonely .
By the time he got to his car, he was soaked through, his socks squelching in his boots. Diego turned the heating on high, teeth rattling. He was fucking freezing. At a red light, he peeled off his outer layers, leaving him in a shirt that was only nominally less wet than his jacket, and shivered hard enough to pull a muscle.
He parked in the gym’s lot, and rested his forehead against the steering wheel. He felt wrung out, his head aching from all the tears, and he was in no mood to face Klaus. Still, no amount of lingering would get this done any faster, make it any easier. With a cursory glance in the rear view mirror - and yes, he did look puffy and ill - he kicked open the car, and slunk through the gym with his head ducked down.
“ Finally! Where have you been? Actually, don’t answer that, this is more impor-” Klaus caught sight of him, and came to a stop. He blinked. “Are you- okay?”
“Yeah,” said Diego, voice stuffy. “What’s up?”
Klaus waved a vague hand. “That can wait. Come on,” he said, guiding Diego over to the bed, grabbing a towel to wrap around him. “I’ll make you tea.”
“You don’t have to baby me,” Diego rasped, scrubbing the towel over his hair.
“You can’t stop me,” said Klaus, waiting for the kettle to boil.
Diego stripped out of his clothes and into some warm sweats, leaving his funeral clothes in a sad little pile. He would put them in the wash later. Or maybe just burn them.
“Here,” said Klaus, passing him a mug of hot tea. Diego cradled it gratefully.
“What were you saying? When I came in?”
Klaus eyed him, searching his face for something, before saying, “I went to the library. I wanted to look up this Dave guy. Ben doesn’t know much more than me, except that something strange happened and I, like, literally disappeared into thin air. When I came back, I had the tags, and I wouldn’t talk about where I went.”
“So, what did you find?” Diego asked.
Klaus went over to the table and grabbed a bookmarked library book. “This,” he said, flicking open to the marked page. Diego peered over at the photo. It was grainy, but Diego could easily pick Klaus out among the army men, looking war-weary in his fatigues.
“What,” said Diego, “what were you doing in the army?”
“The real question,” said Klaus, pointing at the caption, “is what was I doing in 1968?”
Diego blinked at the date, waiting for it to resolve into something less nonsensical. The caption was unchanged: The 173rd ABCT, aka ‘Sky Soldiers’, at the end of Operation Delaware, 17th May 1968.
“You-” stammered Diego, “how c-can-”
“Oh good. I was hoping you would have some answers.”
Diego shook his head blankly, before bursting into laughter. “Jesus, Klaus, you sure don’t do things by half.”
“Maybe… maybe he’s my granddaddy? A relative?”
“Who has your tattoo?” said Diego, poking him on his shoulder. “Shit, the tatt’ even says sky soldiers!”
“Well shit, do you have any better suggestions?” said Klaus.
Diego paused, considering. “Did Ben tell you much about our brother Five?”
Chapter 8: How Terribly Strange
we're drawing to the end of Act I... next there will be a short interlude from Klaus' perspective, and then it will be back to Diego for Act II
The next morning starts with Al hammering at the door.
“I’m still not your damn secretary!” Al yelled.
Sleep rumpled and irritated, Diego opened to door and said, “What?”
“Message for you. Griddy’s at eleven am,” said Al shortly.
“Would you all shut up!” shouted Klaus, burying his head under his pillow.
Al raised an eyebrow.
“Dude, no. He’s family,” said Diego, nose wrinkled.
Al said, “Don’t care what you get up to in here, as long as you do your damn job.” (For Al, that was the closest he got to kindness.)
“Whatever,” said Diego. Then, checking his watch, he said “Shit, eleven? That’s ten minutes!”
“You want messages on time, get your own goddamn phone,” said Al, already walking away, the bastard.
“Klaus, up! We’re gonna be late!”
“Aw, Diego,” he whined, “Five more minutes?”
“Now!” barked Diego, already scrambling for the showers.
They rolled up outside Griddy’s twenty minutes late. (It would have been ten, except Klaus took forever deciding on what to wear.)
Diego hadn’t seen the place since the shooting. Most of the damage had been cleared out or covered over, but one of the lights were still out, and the counter had bullet holes in it. Still, the place was already open for business, and had a few customers. The nice lady he had questioned about the shooting wasn’t there, which was probably for the best; he didn’t want to have to answer those questions.
The Hargreeves had claimed a booth in the corner.
Bracing himself, Diego led the way in, holding the door open for Klaus, who was lagging behind, looking apprehensive.
“Hey, guys,” said Diego, taking a seat.
“Hi,” said Klaus, taking a seat beside Vanya. She was quick to squeeze his hand in greeting, giving him an encouraging smile.
“Now you’re finally here, will you explain was this meeting is for?” demanded Luther.
“It’s about Klaus,” said Diego.
Vanya said he has amnesia??? Allison scribbled out, brow creased. He throat was still bandaged, but her skin had regained a healthy colour, and she looked strong and alert. She and Vanya were sat next to each other, arms brushing.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Diego said. “Klaus, this is Allison, Five, and Luther.” Diego pointed them out.
Klaus gave a thin lipped smile. “Right. Hi.”
“Look,” said Luther, “Do you actually have any proof? How do we know that this isn’t some crazy story to get attention?”
Klaus flinched back, face pale. “I was in the hospital,” he said quietly. “For four days.”
“There were brain scans and everything,” confirmed Diego. “I spoke to his doctor. It’s legit.”
“And you want us to help trigger his memories?” guessed Five, hovering over a mug of coffee with a protective stance.
“No, that’s not why we’re meeting today,” said Vanya hesitantly. “It’s- well, it’s about Ben.”
“Ben?” said Five blankly.
“What about Ben?” said Luther.
“I can see him,” said Klaus quickly. “I can always see him. He’s right there.” He nodded to the empty space next to him.
A beat. Diego was holding his breath. Maybe the whole world was holding its breath.
“No,” said Luther.
“Luther-” Vanya began, but was quickly spoken over.
“He’s lied about it before, remember? He was high. He’s probably high now!”
Klaus’ hands balled into fists. “I’m sober. And anyway, if it wasn’t for you getting high, I wouldn’t have a brain like twi- tint- ugh.”
“Klaus? What do you mean?” said Diego sharply.
Klaus swallowed convulsively a few times before speaking. “Uh, according to Ben, I got my head cracked trying to protect Luther from a jealous boyfriend. I just- I was only in the club because I was trying to get him home, and then he just left me unconscious on the floor!”
Diego took a slow, intentional breath. Counted to ten.
“Is that true?” Vanya asked lowly.
Luther twitched. “Well- uh- I don’t really remember.”
“What do you mean, you don’t remember?” Diego growled. In his head, he counted to twenty.
“I mean, I don’t remember! I- I had just found out that dad sent me to the moon for no reason-”
“Will you shut up about the moon already,” Five moaned tiredly, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“I was alone up there for years for no reason! I was upset, okay? I had a few drinks-”
“And decided to take our addict sibling to a rave?” Diego said, about ready to lunge over the table. His hands were shaking with rage, thighs trembling with the need to launch himself at Number One and beat him bloody.
“I wasn’t thinking straight!” defended Luther.
Guys, this isn’t helping, wrote Allison, tapping the notebook with her index finger.
“What isn’t helping is that Luther almost got our sibling killed!” Diego hissed.
“Guys-” said Vanya quietly.
“Come on, he’s fine! He can probably remember everything, he just wants to make everyone blame me!”
“Oh yes, play the victim card,” said Five dryly. “That always works so well.”
“Guys, listen-” Vanya said.
“You don’t know shit, Luther! You’re not the one who has to talk him down five times a night when he gets nightmares about stuff he doesn’t even remember, okay?”
Nightmares? scrawled Allison, mouth twisted unhappily.
“Guys, will you shut up!”
The table fell silent, all blinking at Vanya, who’s hair had begun to float out around her.
“Um,” she said. Her hair fell down to her shoulders, and her eyes lost their silvery tinge. “Klaus left, like, two minutes ago.”
“What?” said Diego, swivelling around. “Where did he go?”
Vanya jerked a thumb toward the main exit. “He just left. Probably 'cause you were yelling like assholes,” she said unapologetically.
“Shit,” said Diego. “Shit, shit, shit. I gotta go find him.”
“I can help,” said Luther.
“I think you’ve done enough,” spat Diego, running to the doors.
He could feel the eyes of his siblings on the back of his neck as he started the car and skidded out of the lot.
Klaus couldn’t have gotten far, Diego reasoned. He was on foot, without any knowledge of the city or any money for bus or taxi fare. He would find him.
He had to find him.
Chapter 9: Interlude: The Lunatics Are On The Grass
just a little interlude from klaus' pov
Klaus’ brain was itching.
It had started when he had looked up at Griddy’s diner. Something about the bright lights and tacky colours tickled something in his head. It only got worse when he saw his siblings, a sense of deja vu that he couldn’t shake.
And then they started yelling.
He had been tense, a live wire, from the moment he walked in. For a small, nondescript diner, the place sure did have a lot of ghosts. Almost all of them wore black, some kind of uniform. Maybe they were in a club. A ghost club.
Klaus tried to focus.
Watching the big guy - Luther , his name was Luther - get mad and defensive, his siblings turning on each other with barely concealed hatred, it had felt like a bleed on Klaus’ brain. A pressure building, the air before a storm, heavy and thick and weighing down on him, the weight of it in his lungs. He felt like time was blurring and distorting around him, the last week or so layering over something else, something that Klaus couldn’t look at. It was like trying to stare directly into the sun; his mind skirted away, an act of self preservation.
It was nauseating.
He slipped away from the table without calling any attention to himself. He just couldn’t be there, needed to get away, go back. Back to where?
He started walking.
“-going? Klaus? Where are you going?”
Klaus startled. Ben had skated out of his mind for a moment. “What?”
Ben frowned at him. A lot of people frowned at Klaus. “Where are you going?” he repeated.
“Oh. I don’t know,” Klaus replied honestly.
“You should go back,” said Ben.
Klaus said, “Yeah.” He kept walking. He was going back.
Where was he going?
“Diego will be looking for you,” said Ben.
“Yeah,” said Klaus.
His feet knew something he didn’t. They weren’t aimless, they were determined. They were taking him somewhere, he was sure. He thought that as long as he didn’t think too hard, he would get to the right place.
“Klaus,” said Ben quietly, voice almost lost under the moans of the dead that dogged Klaus’ steps.
They were stood next to some sort of wreckage. The place was taped off around a wrought iron gate, which was the only part of the property left standing.
A woman in a wide skirt waved at him from the ruins. Wires spilled from her gut like intestines. She was smiling, red lipstick the colour of blood. Klaus waved back.
He turned and kept walking.
He wasn’t there yet, but he was close. He was close.
He kept walking.
“Klaus, come on,” said Ben. “Do you even know where you’re going?”
He kept walking.
He kept walking.
His heart was hammering in his chest, and his hands were cold. He was sweating and shivering like he was coming down from something (how did he know what that felt like-)
“Klaus, you need to stop. I’m serious, turn around.”
He kept walking.
“Klaus. Klaus, please, you don’t want to do this. I swear, you don’t want this.”
He felt like his brain might explode, might leak out of his ears. He could taste anticipation heavy in his throat, copper pennies.
Klaus pressed his palms against the wood of the door. It felt ancient and cold and impenetrable, but it swung open easily, leaving a dark, gaping chasm. He stepped inside. His knees felt insubstantial and weak, and then gave out on him. He caught himself at the last moment, palms scraping on stone, smearing blood. His hands were bloody. His hands were bloody.
His head hurt.
He laughed and laughed and wretched.
Ben said, Klaus, and the rest of the ghosts said, Klaus, and Klaus said, “Please, no, no.”
That’s when he started screaming.
Chapter 10: Remembering Games, Daisy Chains and Laughs
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
By the time Diego got back home, it was dark out. Klaus didn’t like the dark, he thought. He might be scared somewhere, alone and in the pitch black.
He hadn’t found him.
His lungs were a collapsing star, hot and dense and fiery. He could barely breathe through it. He had lost Klaus. He had lost his sibling. He was choking, spiralling, losing focus, even though he couldn’t afford to lose focus, not now.
He half collapsed onto the edge of the bed. It was still unmade from when he had dragged Klaus out of it that morning. He balled his hands in the sheets, and tried to think what to do next. He had tried every open establishment in a twenty block area of Griddy’s to no avail. He had checked out a few of Klaus’ old haunts, in case any memories had resurfaced, but found no hint of his sibling. Could he put a missing persons report in? Would anyone take it seriously, with Klaus’ police record being what it was? Hell, would anyone on the force even listen to him, after Eudora's death, and all the suspicion that had come along with it?
Finally, he decided to go down to the station. It couldn’t hurt to try, and the more people on the lookout for Klaus, the better. Surely they would take the amnesia into account, understand how vulnerable Klaus was at that moment.
He jogged out to the car, veins full of restless energy, adrenaline with no release. If he pushed a little over the speed limit, no one pulled him over for it. He ended up skidding into the lot, already half out of the car before it was at a stop.
Rodriguez body checked him at the door.
“Woah, sorry,” said Rodriguez, steadying Diego instinctively. When he saw who it was, he stepped back, expression guarded. “Hargreeves.”
“Rodriguez,” greeted Diego, cautious. He hadn’t spoken to him since the arrest, had only caught sight of him at Eudora’s funeral.
“You good?” said Rodriguez. An olive branch.
Diego twitched one shoulder. “I guess. You?”
Rodriguez looked at him, speculative. Outside of Eudora, Rodriguez probably knew him best out of everyone on the force. However, their relationship had always been… complicated. They were both fiery and competitive, butting heads just as often as they laughed together, best of friends or the worst of enemies. Rodriguez had never liked Diego’s disregard for rules, but not in the same way as Eudora. She had always understood it, even if she disapproved of it. To Rodriguez, it had been something worse, something scary and wild. He had, one drunken night, confessed that Diego reminded him of his father sometimes, who had been violent and cruel. Diego had beaten his fists bloody on his bedroom wall until he forgot those words.
Diego had tried hard to convince Rodriguez that he wasn’t like that, hoping that he might actually end up with a friend. It might have worked, except for how a night of post-break up commiserating had turned into a night of half drunken hand jobs. Neither of them mentioned it afterwards. It seemed strange to try to befriend the guy, after that.
Now, Rodriguez looked at him, eyes skating over the way his fists shook at his sides. “Just heading out. Listen, about- about Eudora-” He licked his lips. “I’m sorry. I know you wouldn’t…”
“It’s alright,” croaked Diego. Turned his face away. “I get it.”
“Right,” said Rodriguez, shifting his weight. “You should probably get in there. They’ve been trying to call you for a few hours now.”
Diego blinked. “What?”
Rodriguez tilted his head. “Your brother-”
Diego choked, a hundred scenarios running through his head. (Klaus, hurt. Klaus, dead.) “Klaus is here? Is he okay?”
“Yeah, man. Beaman has his case, you can-”
But Diego was already gone, darting through the familiar maze of the precinct. “Beaman!”
“Hargreeves, finally! You’re a hard man to find,” said Beaman, half buried in paperwork.
“Klaus is here?”
“You can see him when he’s back in lock up,” said Beaman.
“Lock up? Why?”
Beaman pushed his glasses up his nose. “Because he was arrested? Charged on disturbing the peace and trespassing on private property.”
Diego shook his head. “I don’t- what happened?”
Beaman sighed. “We were investigating a noise complaint. Found your brother in some mausoleum on that old estate, the one over on seventh. He looked like he was having a bad trip, screaming his head off. We had to book him.”
“Seventh? What- you said he was screaming?” said Diego faintly.
A shrug. “Don’t know what he had taken, but he wasn’t having fun.”
“He’s sober,” said Diego. “He- seventh, the old place on seventh was one of our father’s properties, why would-”
“Hargreeves, you good? You look like you’re gonna pass out,” joked Beaman.
“I need to see Klaus,” said Diego.
“He’s in interrogation right now,” said Beaman, apologetic.
Diego gaped at him. “He’s in interrogation?”
“He broke into private property! Pretty sure that breaks the terms of his parole,” he defended.
“It’s my family's goddamn property,” hissed Diego. “And he’s just had a traumatic brain injury! And you thought it was a good idea to interrogate him?”
Beaman flinched. “Shit. Okay, okay, this way.”
He didn’t waste time after that, taking him straight down to the interrogation rooms, allowing Diego in first once he opened to door. Klaus was slumped in a chair, cuffed, head on the table and his arms over his ears.
“Klaus?” said Diego. “Klaus, man, you good?”
Diego reached out and touched his siblings shoulder.
Klaus flew upright, almost tipping his chair over, a yelp ripping from his throat.
“Just me,” said Diego roughly. “Beaman, keys?”
Beaman hesitated for a second before tossing him the keys. Diego made quick work of the handcuffs, and Klaus was quick to pull his wrists free, pulling them close to his body and shivering. There was something a little wild to the way he was watching Diego, something feral and scared. He hadn’t looked like that since the hospital, since he first found out the truth about the ghosts. “Diego,” he said. His voice was like sandpaper. Probably from the screaming.
“Yeah, it’s me,” said Diego, pulling Klaus up and onto unsteady feet. “I assume he’s free to go.”
Beaman nodded. “But if I find out that the property doesn’t belong to your family-”
“You won’t,” promised Diego, ushering Klaus out of the station before he could make any more trouble.
He waited until they got back to the gym before he tried to goad Klaus into talking.
“So… a mausoleum?” he said, not sure where to start, what to say.
Klaus didn’t look at him.
Diego put the kettle on the stove, getting out Klaus’ favourite mug, throwing a tea bag in it. Klaus seemed too jittery for coffee.
“How’d you end up there?”
“Walked,” croaked Klaus. His green eyes were glassy and hollow.
“You just happened to walk into a mausoleum that our father owned?” questioned Diego.
“Did you- Did you remember something?”
The kettle screamed. Klaus twitched.
Diego poured the water, working on autopilot, brain working a mile a minute. He had never been a believer in coincidences. He pushed the tea into Klaus’ spidery hands, watched him cradle it close as if trying to absorb its warmth.
“No,” said Klaus.
It almost sounded like the truth.
“If you did remember something,” said Diego, “You can tell me, okay? No matter what.”
“I didn’t ,” Klaus insisted fiercely.
“Alright,” said Diego, hands up in surrender. “Just asking.”
“Well don’t,” said Klaus, slamming the mug down with enough force that some tea spilled over the sides. He turned his back on Diego, burying himself under the duvet, curled in on himself.
Diego sighed. It looked like he wouldn’t be getting any answers tonight.
if anyone's interested in my tua art, the person who commissioned this Klaus painting ghosted me (pun not intended), so here's a link:
Chapter 11: Gotta Keep The Loonies On The Path
updates may slow down for a couple weeks since ive got a lot of hours, but ill try to keep updating!!
The drive to the hospital was spent in terse silence.
Klaus had woken in a sour mood, artfully deflecting Diego’s questions, playing the fool, and then jabbing cruelly when that failed. Diego had tried his best to stay calm, but Klaus seemed to know all the softest places to poke at, despite his apparent absence of memories. Diego didn’t want to be distrustful, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to accept that Klaus had failed to recover any of his memories.
If nothing else, Klaus hadn’t forgotten his distaste for hospitals. He glared out of the windshield at the huge grey building as if it had insulted his outfit (his leather trousers and a crop top that read, Witch, Please. )
“Come on,” said Diego, checking the time on the dash. They were cutting it fine, and didn’t have time for Klaus to attempt to intimidate an inanimate object.
“Fine,” muttered Klaus. He stomped out of the car, heavy boots slapping against the asphalt of the parking lot. Diego rolled his eyes at the dramatics.
They had an appointment to get his stitches out before the follow up with the doctor. The nurse made quick work of it, but Diego didn’t watch, his stomach roiling as the thread was tugged out of his brother’s temple. Klaus, for his part, was unflinching, seemingly unbothered. The silence was palpable, the empty space where a joke should have been; Diego could almost hear Klaus tease him, calling them twins, wondering if he should keep his hair short to show it off, chicks dig scars, right, bro?
Klaus didn’t speak at all.
Diego was reminded of that day, mid apocalypse week, when Klaus had turned taciturn, all moody silence and swigs of vodka straight from the bottle. Just before he had disappeared.
The same doctor from when Diego had picked Klaus up greeted them with a smile. Her name tag read Dr Rivers. He had been so caught up in panic that he hadn’t gotten her name, the first time around.
“Klaus, Diego, nice to see you again,” she said, welcoming them into her office.
“You too,” said Diego politely, if a bit awkward. Klaus’ mouth twisted.
“How have things been? Any new symptoms I should know about?”
Diego looked to Klaus. When it was clear that his sibling wasn’t about to speak up, he said, “He’s been having some trouble with words, sometimes.”
The doctor nodded, frowning. “How so?”
Diego nudged Klaus with an elbow. His sibling sighed. “Sometimes, I just- it’s like, I lose words, or sometimes I get to a word, but the word in my head isn’t the same as the one my mouth is making.”
“I see,” said Dr Rivers slowly. “That sounds like aphasia. It’s a relatively common symptom of brain injury. How often, would you say, do you struggle with speech?”
Klaus lifted a shoulder. “A few times a day, I guess? Depends how much I’m talking.”
The doctor made a note, expression thoughtful. “Any difficulties with reading or writing?”
Klaus crossed his arms, looking uncomfortable.
“Klaus?” said Diego, brow low.
“With reading, yeah,” he bit out. “Haven’t tried writing.”
Diego’s breath left him. His sibling hadn’t been able to read, and he hadn’t even mentioned it?
“Is that all the time with reading, or just sometimes?” Dr Rivers inquired calmly.
A shrug. “Always, I guess.”
The doctor nodded, and pulled out a pamphlet from a draw. She turned it to face Klaus. Brain Injury and You, it proclaimed in bold letters. “Can you read any of this?”
Klaus glanced at it, his eyes cutting away quickly. His cheeks stained red. “No.”
Diego made a thin, involuntary noise. Klaus’ shoulders hunched inwards.
“Any blurred vision?”
“Nah, I can see fine,” he said.
“Okay,” she said, placing a sheet of paper and pen on the desk. “Could you try writing your name, please?”
Klaus was still for a moment before he leaned forward, taking the pen into an unsteady hand - his left, the one he had always written with, despite their father’s best efforts. He let the pen hover over the paper for a long moment. Diego had to remind himself to breathe, tension twisting his gut, palms sweating. Eventually, Klaus brought the pen down. It wobbled on the paper, aimless, whilst Klaus stared down at it with intense focus.
“Klaus,” said Diego helplessly.
The doctor said, “It’s okay if-”
Klaus stood sharply, the pen dropping onto the desk, rolling off and to the floor. He stood, shoulders heaving with his ragged breathing, whilst Diego watched his trembling hands. “Happy now?” Klaus spat. “I can’t write my own fucking name, okay? Happy?”
“Klaus,” said Diego again. He stood, and put his hand on his siblings narrow shoulder. Klaus twitched away, but sat again, practically drooping in his chair.
“I understand that it can be distressing,” said Dr Rivers, her words measured and slow. “But it doesn’t reflect your intelligence, okay? You’ve had a brain injury. It’s very normal to have some difficulties with language after that.”
Klaus took a deep breath. “Normal. Yeah.”
“How about your memories? Have you managed to recall anything?”
“No,” he said sharply.
“Okay, that’s perfectly alright. How about we do some brain scans, see how things are looking?” she suggested softly.
Klaus nodded, but he didn’t meet her eyes.
Four hours, an MRI and a CT scan later, and not much had been concluded. Klaus may or may not get his memories back, may or may not improve in terms of language.
After a long test where Klaus attempted and failed to repeat phrases back to the doctor, he was diagnosed with Conduction Aphasia. His auditory comprehension was fine, but his speech was sometimes difficult, particularly when attempting to repeat specific words. They speculated that, in a display of typical bad luck, due to his left handedness, the inflamed lesions on the right hemisphere had caused a lot of difficulty with writing skills. The prognosis was generally good - even if it didn’t come back, the brain could learn to work around the damages lesions, relearning - but it was all guessing, really.
Diego could tell it made Klaus antsy, frustrated. It made him think of the way his tongue used to twist around words, repeating syllables and stopping in strange places, the battle just to speak. He had to refrain from punching a wall.
By the time they left the hospital, Diego was feeling tightly wound, and Klaus was simmering with tension, hands shaking.
“It’s gonna be fine,” said Diego, trying to speak it into existence. “You hear me? You’re fine.”
Klaus snorted. “I have the reading ability of a four year old, Di. Don’t sugar coat it.”
Diego turned to look at his sibling, the familiar nickname startling him. “Di?”
Klaus stilled. “Yeah. Short for Diego? That’s your name, right?”
Diego flexed his hands around the steering wheel. “You used to call me that when we were kids.”
“Oh,” said Klaus. “I wouldn’t know, would I?”
“I don’t know,” he replied evenly. “Would you?”
“Are you accusing me of something?” said Klaus, resting a hand over his heart in mock horror.
“Not accusing,” Diego said. “Just asking,”
“Well, stop asking,” said Klaus. He twisted to look out of his window, arms folded.
“Alright,” said Diego, and bit down on his tongue hard enough that he tasted blood.
Chapter 12: The Lunatics Are In The Hall
yooo im so so Tired but im still writing i promise!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Diego contemplated for days on how he would sneak out without Klaus’ notice. Worryingly, it turned out to be unnecessary; Klaus had taken to walking the city alone, insisting that he didn’t need a babysitter. Diego didn’t know where he went, or why, but he didn’t like it. It reminded him too much of how Klaus used to be at the academy, sneaking out at strange hours.
He had, for many years, regretted not doing more, back when he was a kid, watching his softest sibling drown in slow motion. The slide into substance abuse had been slow, so slow, and then all at once. Diego had thought he had more time, more chances, and then he blinked and Klaus was ODing on heroin in his childhood bedroom. He would have done things differently, he told himself. Except now, here he was again, right at the beginning, watching from under his eyelashes as Klaus climbed out of the window in the dead of the night, and saying nothing. Passive, always too passive until it was too late. He needed to say something now, not later when Klaus was too high to hear him, but the fear kept his jaw wired shut. Fear that he would push Klaus further, push him away, that Klaus would slip through his fingers faster the more he tried to hold on.
Was he doomed to repeat the same mistakes?
Maybe he was underestimating his sibling. Maybe he was going to different places, better places, than he had at thirteen. Maybe he was going to VA meetings, or NA meetings, or just seeing friends who weren’t looking for their next customer. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Diego didn’t think so.
The pattern matched their teenage years too closely. Sobriety was easily lost, when you put yourself in that world again. Diego knew it. Knew that his sibling was one cheap hit away from losing it.
Diego was terrified.
Since the mausoleum, Klaus had changed, becoming more like himself in a way that had Diego’s gut twisting. All the little idiosyncrasies that Klaus was better off without - the slight of hand, quick grins, baring teeth and spouting bullshit, whatever would distract the quickest, look here, not there - they had flooded back, the dam breaking. Klaus had closed himself to his brother, snapping shut and locking the door, the chair under the knob. Diego could be right next to him, but he was a world away for all it mattered.
Diego had thought things had changed, that they had become closer, began to understand each other. He could see now that a week of artificial closeness was nothing when compared to a lifetime of distance.
So, he was left with a question.
How much did Klaus remember?
Because despite his denials, Diego knew that Klaus had remembered something. You don’t stumble across your father’s mausoleum by accident. It was evident in Klaus’ behaviour, his emotional 180, the walls he constructed and the smiles he faked. He had become himself again, had remembered whatever traumas had sparked those behaviours in the first place.
Most telling of all, he had stopped questioning things.
Before, his desire to learn his own secrets had been a molten burn, a desperate need, an itch he couldn’t scratch. Now, that passion had evaporated, a deflating balloon. That sort of change didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen for no reason.
So, Diego had gotten desperate, and in his desperation, he had found himself here, at Five’s mercy. Not a place he ever wanted to be, but Diego was putting his personal feelings aside in favour of, hopefully, understanding Klaus a little better.
Knocking at Vanya’s door had never been so daunting.
She opened and did a tiny double take, always so surprised to have visitors. Diego, for his part, also had to look twice.
“Is that a nose ring?”
She raised a hand over her face, a self conscious gesture. “Yeah,” she said, half defensive, half apologetic.
“It looks- good.”
Vanya smiled brightly. “Thanks!”
He shuffled. “Is Five here?”
Her expression dimmed. “Oh. Yeah.”
“Not that- not that I don’t want to see you!” added Diego hastily.
“No, yeah,” said Vanya quickly. “It’s fine.”
“No, I-” Diego shook his head, embarrassed. “I need to ask him about Klaus.”
Vanya sobered. “Oh, yeah, come in.”
Diego ducked inside to see Five curled in the arm chair, a huge brick of a book cracked in his lap. He held up a finger, scanning the page, before slotting in a bookmark and snapping the pages shut. “Diego,” he said.
“Five,” said Diego, his voice as close to neutral as he could manage.
“What can I help you with?” he said with bared teeth, a barracuda smile.
Diego squared his shoulders. “I need information.”
“Usually,” said Five.
Take a breath, count to ten, thought Diego. Don’t throat punch your tiny brother. “What do you know about Klaus and time travel?”
Five sighed and stood, the change in height unimpressive. He beelined for the coffee machine. “Be more specific,” he said.
“Okay, how about this,” said Diego. “Was Klaus in the Vietnam war?”
“Um- what,” said Vanya. Diego kept his eyes focused on Five, unflinching.
“I wouldn’t know,” said Five.
“What do you know?” Diego questioned.
Five rolled his eyes, sipping his coffee. “More than your puny brain could comprehend.”
“Five,” said Vanya quietly.
He deflated, just slightly. “My colleagues, Hazel and Cha-Cha? Apparently they kidnapped Klaus when they attacked the mansion.”
Diego blinked. “They what now?”
“Kidnapped,” said Five factually, “interrogated, tortured.”
“What,” said Vanya, “What- Why- How did we not know about this?”
“It was a busy week,” said Five, all casual.
“Sure, that makes it better,” said Diego.
Five glared, composure finally breaking. “I don’t remember you noticing either.”
Diego looked away. “He did mention something, but I thought he was being… y’know,” he forced out. “So… time travel?”
“I’m getting to that,” said Five, irked. “The commission travel through time using a very complex device, which is disguised to look like a briefcase. He stole it, and travelled through time.”
“To 1968?” guessed Diego.
Five shrugged. “I didn’t ask.”
“Five,” said Vanya, admonishing.
Another shrug. “He said that he was there for ten months before he came back.”
“Ten,” said Diego, jaw working. The words echoed in his head. Ten months. Almost a year.
Vanya pressed a hand to her mouth, looking faintly grey. “Jesus,” she said, the sound distorted by her palm.
Diego's palms itched with the need to hit something, someone. He could taste blood at the back of his throat.
“I think he dreams about it.”
"Shit." Five looked at him with hooded, haunted eyes. “Amnesia is about the kindest thing that the universe ever did for that kid.”
feel free to comment so that i have something nice to read when i peek at my phone at work
Chapter 13: The Paper Holds Their Folded Faces To The Floor
tw for drug use, violence, blood, mentions of suicide
Klaus slipped back in at four am. Diego had been waiting up, a lukewarm coffee in his hands and bags under his eyes. His ass had fallen asleep twenty minutes ago, and his knees creaked when he stood. “Klaus,” he said.
“Shiiiit,” sang Klaus, clinging to the door frame as he swayed. There was glitter in his hair, catching under the glare of the bare lightbulb, and his face was smeared with makeup, which, Diego had no idea where he had found lipgloss or whether he had just kissed someone else wearing it.
“Yeah,” said Diego. “Yeah, that about sums it up.”
“Diego,” said Klaus, “Mon frere, mon- bruder! Light of my life!”
“You relapsed,” Diego stated, arms folded.
Klaus giggled. “But whatever do you mean? I’m high on- on life!”
Diego said, “Klaus.”
A pout. “Boo! You’re no fun!”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Diego, rubbing his burning eyes. The lights were burning his retinas, and his bones ached. “Just go fuck to bed. I’m taking you to rehab in the morning.”
“What?” said Klaus. “No, no, no. No!” He stomped his foot, a petulant five year old.
“Too fuckin’ bad.”
“I’m not going! You can’t make me! You’re not my real dad!” Klaus cackled at his own wit, his laugh too loud for his body, hands clutching his ribs like he was holding himself together.
“I’m serious. You’re going,” said Diego.
Klaus sobered fast, good humour sinking faster than quicksand. He took a step closer to Diego. “I’ll kill myself. I’ll kill myself.”
Diego took a ragged breath, paling. “D-don’t-” he stammered, “Don’t-”
Klaus burst into laughter, clutching his stomach and overbalancing, and fell on his ass. “Oh-” he gasped, “Your face-”
Diego’s hand reached for a knife that wasn’t there. “You little shit-” he growled, “You god damn-”
“You’re so easy,” said Klaus, head rolling onto his shoulder. “Oh, Diego, baby boy.”
Diego leaped forward, twisting Klaus onto his front and wrenching an arm behind his back, a move taught to him at eight years old, and again at eighteen, in the police academy. “You little fucker,” he hissed.
“Ouchie,” said Klaus. “Bad Diego!”
“Stop it! Stop! Stop, stop, just be fucking serious!”
“Fuck you!” snapped Klaus, throwing his head back into Diego’s nose.
Diego dropped him, reflexively grabbing his face, blood hot under his hands. The pain was blinding for a moment, and he staggered, disorientated. “Shit,” he said thickly. Then Klaus was in front of him, eyes wide and young. He held a hand up, unsure, but Diego twitched back.
“Oopsie,” said Klaus absently, head tilted as he watched a stream of blood trickle down his brothers’ chin. “Bad Klaus. Bad Klaus. Shh,” he said, waving a dismissive hand at something unseen. Ben, probably.
Diego stood, grabbing out an old, bloodstained towel. With his night time activities, he wasn’t a stranger to cleaning up his own blood. He winced as he wiped at his face.
“Diego. Diegooo,” cooed Klaus. “Let me see. Let fee- Lem tee-”
“I’m fine,” said Diego.
“Let me seeee,” said Klaus.
Diego sighed, and looked at his sibling. “Klaus,” he said. “It’s okay. I’m fine.”
“You’re bleeding,” he said. “Let me- let me help.”
“Just leave it,” Diego said heavily.
“Don’t be mad,” said Klaus. “Please don’t be mad.”
“I’m not mad,” lied Diego. He ran the tap and dampened a corner of the towel, methodical.
Klaus wavered, skirt swaying about his knees. “I didn’t- shut up, Ben!”
Diego side-eyed his sibling. “What’s Ben saying?”
“He’s being mean,” drawled Klaus. He produced a cigarette from nowhere, and lit it in a smooth, rehearsed motion. His hands shook faintly.
“Being smart, you mean,” said Diego, wiping blood away. All he could smell was copper.
Klaus handwaved. “Relative.” He took a long drag.
“Put that shit out,” said Diego, “You’re gonna stink up my place.”
Klaus giggled. “This whole place smells like feet, bro. I think a little smoke is the least of your problems.”
Diego huffed. “Whatever.” He spat into the sink. His saliva was tinged pink with blood. “Go to bed, Klaus. Rehab in the morning.”
Klaus stabbed his cigarette out against the wall, tobacco stains on the exposed brick. “Yeah, yeah. Rehab in the morning.”
“Try not to choke on your own vomit in your sleep,” said Diego sweetly, tossing the bloody towel in the laundry hamper.
“You wish,” he replied airily.
Klaus was gone by morning.
A week after Klaus left and didn't come back, Diego started seeing a therapist. She was small and steady and kind and everything that Diego wasn't. She asked why he had come. He told her, "I don't want to be like my sibling."
"And what's your sibling like?"
A breath in. A breath out. He looked out the window. "I don't know how to help him."
"And what about you? Do you know how to help yourself?"
Diego didn't say anything.
“What do you want to get out of these sessions? What are your goals?”
He squinted at her. He hadn’t had anything so lofty as goals since he had left the police academy, a hurricane of bruised knuckles and disregard for anything resembling an authority figure. “I dunno,” he said finally.
“That’s okay,” she reassured. “A lot of people don’t know where they want get to.”
“I’ve never really-” he stalled, started again. “I never really had any goals, except not to die.”
She nodded wisely. “It can be difficult thinking about the future, especially when you’ve been stuck in survival mode.”
“Yeah.” He watched as a couple pigeons fought over a Burger King wrapper on the ground outside. He kind of wanted to tell them that there was no food left inside.
“Could you tell me about your childhood?”
Diego snorted. “How long is this session, again?”
“We’ve got half an hour left,” she said, a wry twist to her mouth.
“Yeah,” he said, “We’re gonna need more than that.”
“Why don’t we start now, and we can always run onto next week,” she said, “If you’d like to continue these sessions, that is.”
Diego thought of the last time he had seen Klaus, strung out and held together with glitter lip gloss and a prayer. He thought of the way each of his siblings had systematically destroyed every good thing in their lives, and the way that he had done the same thing, wrecking his career prospects and his relationships with a reckless sort of ease.
“Yeah,” he said, “I’d like that.”
Chapter 14: Everyday, The Paperboy Brings More
a little softer chapter, before things get sadder:)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Diego danced back from a left hook, glancing across the ring to where Al was stood, one expectant eyebrow raised.
“Yeah?” called Diego.
“Call for you!”
Diego shot his opponent an apologetic look and ducked out of the ring, tugging his gloves off with his teeth and unwinding the tape from his knuckles. By the time he got to the phone, Al had abandoned it to hang from the cord.
“Hello?” said Diego, wary.
Diego heaved a sigh. “What’s that shithead done now?”
Rodriguez laughed, low and throaty. “That how you greet all your old friends?”
“All the ones with a badge, yeah,” said Diego. Rodriguez had been calling on a semi-regular basis, informing Diego of every brush with Klaus, which happened fairly regularly, considering Klaus’ less-than-legal proclivities. Through Rodriguez, Diego had heard all about his siblings slide back into heavier drugs, reacquainting with the same unsavouries that he had thrown in with before. He had been picked up a couple times and left in lock up to sleep off some highs, and almost got charged with solicitation last week, but the charges didn’t stick. He hadn’t seen Klaus in the flesh since he had threatened rehab.
“I’m actually calling in a… non-professional capacity,” said Rodriguez, voice hesitant.
Diego’s heart stammered in his chest. “Okay?”
“I was just thinking- I don’t know. Maybe we could catch up sometime? Grab a few beers?”
Diego chewed on the inside of his cheek. His therapist had been encouraging him to socialise more, but drinks with Rodriguez might not mean just drinks. He wasn’t sure whether he was ready for that - after all, it had only been a few months since Eudora’s death, and even though it had been a while since they dated, he hadn’t given up on her until she was put in the ground. Still, he didn’t exactly have an overabundance of friends.
“Sure,” he said. “But- just friends, right?”
His laugh was loud and tinny in Diego’s ear. “Yeah, man. If I were seducing you, you’d know about it.”
Embarrassed, but also a little pleased, Diego said, “Well, as long as I’m the first to know.”
“You will be,” said Rodriguez, a little too soft. Diego hesitated.
“Sorry- I just- Patch-”
“I know,” said Rodriguez. “I get it, man. It doesn’t have to be that. Just bros, yeah?”
“Yeah,” said Diego, relieved.
His plans with Rodriguez had left Diego unsettled. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, or what he even wanted from it. He felt nervous and excited and most of all, guilty, like it was dishonourable to Patch’s memory or something, which was stupid since they hadn’t even been together in years anyway. Still, his thoughts were whirling themselves into an anxious snarl of half thought things, and he knew that if he allowed himself to stew, he’d end up cancelling his plans.
So, no more ruminating. Easy enough. Besides, there was something he needed to do today.
Diego usually subscribed to the no-news-is-good-news school of thought when it came to Klaus, but the way he had seemingly evaded law enforcement for the last few weeks had made him worried. He had given his sibling space, but without updates from his friends on the force, he found himself out of the loop, and he couldn’t take it any longer. It was time to hunt Klaus down.
He started with homeless shelters and branched out from there, asking around with a picture of Klaus in one hand and his fake badge in the other. None of the shelters had seen him in more than a fortnight, nor any of the pawn shops. Not many of the homeless were willing to talk to a badge, and the dealers even less, but they didn’t seem to know anything. With each failed lead, his heart beat a little faster, palms got a little slicker. He was about ready to give up when he heard a familiar voice.
“Oh, shit,” he said, blinking in surprise. “Roxie?”
“Hey, sugar,” she said, a little breathless from jogging after him in heels.
“Listen, you haven’t seen Klaus around, have you?”
Her expression went pinched. “He in trouble?”
Diego shrugged, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “You tell me.”
She took a quick glance around before saying, “I’m no narc, so you best not be spreading this around, but last I heard, he was shacking up with Big Jack.”
“Big Jack?” he repeated with a raised brow, unimpressed.
“He’s a dealer. Real piece of work, too, ‘kind of guy I wouldn’t get any of my girls work for, you feel me?”
Diego’s stomach dropped. “Shit,” he muttered. “Where can I find him?”
Roxie grimaced. “Sorry, hon, no idea. I don’t hang with that crew. But I can ask around, if you want? Let him know that you’re looking for him?
Diego passed a hand over his mouth. “Yeah, okay, thanks.”
“He’s a good kid,” she said softly. “Deserves better than an asshole like Jack.”
“Try and tell him that,” said Diego.
Rodriguez and Diego ended up going out for a drink, and then for a few more drinks, and by the time that they’re kicked out of the bar at closing, they were drunk on nostalgia and cheap beer, leaning on each other for balance more than strictly necessary, faces aching from smiling. When Rodriguez asked if he wanted to come back to his for coffee (and it was no double entendre, no innuendo, no pressure), Diego took him at face value and said sure, but how about mine instead? Rodriguez blinked, clearly taken off guard, probably because no one from the police academy had seen Diego’s place, including Patch. He agreed, even as his eyes were cautious, curious. Diego dragged him into a taxi.
If asked why Diego invited him, he might have said that he had better coffee, that they didn’t have to worry about waking any neighbours. If he was drunker, he might have said that the place had been too quiet since Klaus had left. In the safety of his own mind, he might admit that he wanted Rodriguez to see this, the unglamourous parts of himself, the trauma and anger and fear, the inability to create a real home. Why he wanted that, he wasn’t sure.
To Rodriguez’ credit, he didn’t look judgemental or even surprised at Diego’s less that traditional space. He just smiled and said, “It’s very you.”
Diego bristled. “What does that mean?”
“Just…” A shrug. “It’s very you. I like it.”
Diego’s ears burned. “Oh.”
Rodriguez bumped a shoulder with his. “So are you gonna make that coffee, or are-”
He was cut off when Diego pressed a brief, hard kiss against his mouth. He blinked at him, lips parting slightly.
“Sorry,” said Diego, “I-I”
“No, don’t- please don’t apologise,” said Rodriguez.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” confessed Diego, quiet.
“Okay,” said Rodriguez.
“I mean,” said Diego, “I don’t know if I’m ready for this, if I’m over Patch, or if I ever will be.”
He swallowed. “Okay.”
“But- But I don’t want you to go,” said Diego, mouth dry.
Rodriguez looked at him with dark steady eyes, and brushed his knuckles against Diego jaw, so gentle that it almost tickled. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said, “Whatever you need me to be, I’m here.”
“Fuck.” Diego stepped back, breathing harshly. “Can we just- just sleep? I don’t- I don’t want to be alone.”
Rodriguez smiled at that. “As long as you don’t snore.”
Diego snorted. “As long as you don’t steal the covers.”
“As long as you don’t pretend to like being the big spoon.”
Diego gaped at him. “I told you that in confidence , you little shit!”
A shrug. “That was stupid of you.”
“You’re the worst,” he groused, but still allowed Rodriguez to hold him from behind when they curled up in bed, his back pressed up against Rodriguez’ chest, feeling safe and content.
if you have the time and the spoons, a comment would really butter my toast<3
Chapter 15: The Dam Breaks Open
trigger warnings for references to domestic abuse. nothing graphic, although it will be featuring in future chapters too, so please take care of yourselves!
if theres anything else that i should tag, please let me know
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Klaus finally gets in contact, it’s not out of choice.
“Yeah?” Diego said into the phone, groggy at the early hour, expecting to hear Rodriguez’ familiar voice.
Instead: “Is this Mr Hargreeves?”
“Yes. Who’s this?” said Diego.
“This is Lenox Hill Hospital, calling regarding a Mister Klaus Hargreeves? You’re listed as his emergency contact.”
A sickening, dizzying sense of deja vu washed over Diego. He croaked out, “Is he ok-kay?”
“He was admitted to our emergency room late last night. I’m afraid I’m not permitted to tell you more over the phone, but if you-”
“I’ll be there in five.”
Diego could feel himself sweating into his grey sleep shirt as he drove, foot heavy on the peddle. He couldn’t stand the thought that his sibling might- might go before Diego had a chance to make things right with him. He cursed himself for his own lack of action, for allowing Klaus to disappear into the night, for not chasing him down and keeping him safe. His sibling had gone out into the cold, cruel world all alone, and Diego had been a fool to think that someone as soft and sensitive as Klaus might go unharmed.
If Klaus died-
If Klaus died, it would be Diego’s fault. The knowledge settled in his stomach like a stone.
He parked the car in a daze, jogging into the ER on muscle memory alone. His words to the receptionist seemed to come from far away, somewhere beyond himself. He was told a room number, and soon enough he was bursting in, breathless.
“Diego,” Klaus said cheerily, “Fancy seeing you here!”
“God, Klaus, your face - What happened?”
Klaus grinned, the split in his lip welling with blood. “I think it rather brings out my eyes, actually.” He fluttered the eyelashes - or, at least the eye that wasn’t swollen shut.
Diego stepped forward, hands balling into fists, a hot rage rising in his chest. “Who did this?” he growled.
“Why?” challenged Klaus, “Gonna go defend my honour?”
“Depends,” said Diego. “Did you defend yourself?”
“I can fight my own battles, you know.”
Diego crossed his arms. “You can, sure. The question is, did you?”
Klaus’ eyes cut away, across the stark hospital room.
“Yeah,” said Diego flatly.
“You canf- naf-” Klaus clenched his jaw, taking a sharp breath through his swollen nose. “You can’t go beating up everyone I date, or I’m going to get a reputation.”
Diego froze, blood draining from his face. “Y-Your boyfriend did this?”
Klaus stilled, eyes wide. “Um, no?” he said, unconvincing.
“I’ll kill him. I’ll kill him.”
“Diego-” said Klaus, sitting up sharply, only to wince at the movement.
“What the fuck,” growled Diego, working up a rage, “What kind of person beats on their- I mean- fuck, I’ll kill him, I will, I swear.”
“Calm down, I’m fine!” said Klaus.
“You’re moving back in with me.”
“ Fuck that! ” hissed Klaus.
“I’m not asking,” said Diego.
“No, you’re not,” said Klaus, “That’s why you’re pissing me off!”
“You’re moving back in, or you’re going to rehab, those are your choices.”
Klaus laughed coldly. “Oh, fuck off.”
Diego flinched back. “Excuse me?”
“It’s a bit late to pretend to care, bro,” he said sharply, sharper than Diego's knives.
“I’m not- what’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means,” Klaus said, “You can’t go nine years without seeing me, and suddenly pretend to be my father, Diego!”
Diego was struck with realisation, drawing to a stop. “You remember?”
Klaus flung his hands up, exasperated. “Yes, fine, I nelm- I len- ugh.”
“You remember,” said Diego, “I knew it, I knew it!”
“Congratulations,” spat Klaus.
“Why wouldn’t you tell me?” he asked - begged, almost.
“Because- Because I wish I hadn’t, okay? I wish I never remembered, and it was easier to pretend than- God.”
Diego felt the fight go out of him, an extinguished flame. “Klaus… please.”
“No,” said Klaus. “I can’t- I just can’t, okay?”
Diego squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, trying to centre himself like his therapist told him. “Then what will you do? Are you going to go back to him?”
“I’ll be okay,” said Klaus. “Ben will take care of me.”
Diego knew that, even though he hadn’t spoken directly to his brother in years, Ben would agree with him, would hate to think of Klaus returning to his abuser. Ben might try his best, but Klaus was a force of nature, and Ben couldn’t lift hand nor tentacle to stop him.
“I don’t want you to get hurt,” Diego said eventually.
Klaus smiled bitterly. “I don’t think that’s something you get a choice over, Di.”
“No,” he agreed, “but you do.”
“I never have before,” said Klaus.
Diego swallowed. “Can I at least buy you breakfast first?”
Klaus looked at him, speculative. “Fine,” he relented. “As long as I get waffles.”
As it turned out, Klaus did get waffles, gleefully drowning them in syrup before he began stuffing it into his mouth with all the decorum of a man starving to death. Diego crinkled his nose as he watched. “Slow down, you’re gonna choke yourself to death,” said Diego.
“Nah,” said Klaus. “Besides, what a way to go.”
“Let me guess,” sniped Diego, “Your dickbag boyfriend isn’t feeding you enough?”
Klaus rolled his eyes. “Did you bring me here just to insult my life shin- sh- life choices? Because I already get enough of that from Ben.”
“He always was the only one with common sense,” grumbled Diego, stabbing at his eggs.
“Common sense is dreadfully boring,” Klaus declared.
Diego said, “I don’t see what’s so fun about sticking with someone who put you in the hospital.”
“Don’t pretend you didn’t get me sent to the infirmary back in the day,” said Klaus.
Diego shifted, uncomfortable. “That’s different.”
Klaus raised a brow. “Is it?”
“Yes,” said Diego roughly. “We didn’t have a choice, back then. We got out, remember? It’s different now, don’t pretend it’s the same thing.”
“If you say so,” said Klaus, shrugging delicately.
“Just tell me why,” said Diego, desperation leaking into his voice.
“‘Cause he’s cute,” said Klaus, flippant. “Because he gives me the good drugs, because he tells me I’m pretty, because why the hell not?”
“I can think of a few reasons.”
“Can you stop? Ten- fen-” Klaus cut off with a moan, pinching the bridge of his nose, only to stop when he felt the bruises under his finger tips.
“I just c-care about you, bro,” said Diego.
“I fush- shuf- ugh.”
Diego eyed his sibling, concerned. “That’s gotten worse,” he noted.
Klaus waved a dismissive hand. “Drugs,” he said in explanation.
“Getting punched in the face probably isn’t helping either.”
“Yeah, yeah,” sighed Klaus, swirling what was left of his waffle through a puddle of syrup.
Diego watched how his sibling's hands shook finely, and wondered how much of it was withdrawal, whether any of it was anxiety; he himself couldn't help but feel nervous, his words holding too much weight to be careless with them. Diego searched for something to say, something that wouldn’t push Klaus away further. “I spoke to Five.”
Klaus looked up. “Oh yes?”
“About you time travelling,” he said. “You got kidnapped, right?”
Klaus was unnaturally still at that. “Yes.”
“You even told me, and I- I just- shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t listen.”
Klaus glanced away. “There was a lot going on,” he said.
“Doesn’t really excuse it,” said Diego.
A beat. “You’re… different,” said Klaus.
Diego tried not to bristle. “How so?”
“I don’t know,” said Klaus. “Just, nicer than when I last saw you.”
He let out a breath. “Been going to therapy.”
“No shit?” said Klaus, eyebrows shooting up.
“Yeah,” said Diego, feeling his cheeks heat.
“Well,” Klaus said slowly, “Good for you, man.”
“Thanks,” said Diego, pushing his eggs around his plate. He drew in a slow breath, let it out slower. “And I’ve been- seeing someone. Kind of.”
Klaus whistled lowly. “Who’s the unlucky lady?”
“Um,” said Diego.
Klaus tilted his head and said, “Di?”
“It’s a guy, actually.”
Klaus jaw dropped open. “Wha- But- Diego, I can’t believe you never told me! Are you bi? Pan?”
Diego ducked his head. “Dunno, haven’t really…”
His sibling softened. “That’s cool,” he said, “You don’t have to put a label on it.”
“Right.” Diego scratched at the stubble on his jaw. “We’re taking things slow, just kind of- seeing where it’s going, I guess?”
“I’m happy for you,” said Klaus, smiling.
“Thanks, man,” said Diego.
“So what’s he like?” Klaus leaned his chin on his palm. “Has he kissed you, yet?”
“I kissed him, actually.”
Klaus cackled. “Wow, I’ve clearly underestimated you.”
“Only once, though,” Diego admitted.
“And then I said something dumb about not being ready, and-” Diego ran a hand through his hair, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Klaus looked at him with a strange, nostalgic expression. “Sounds like you really like him.”
“Yeah,” breathed Diego.
“Then why don’t you just go for it?”
Diego looked away, memories of a different pair of eyes flooding his brain. “I just- after Patch…” He looked at his sibling, and asked, “How do you know when you’re ready to move on?”
A sad smile. “Hell if I know,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.”
Diego frowned. “Then why are you shacking up with some dealer?”
Klaus stiffened. “Don’t,” he said.
He ducked in closer, and said, “Klaus, why are you punishing yourself?”
His sibling flinched back, eyes wide and wet. “I-” He stood, pale, and said, “Don’t follow me.”
Once again, Diego watched his sibling leave him.
as always, feel free to come chat with me on tumblr (im siriuspiggyback there too)
Chapter 16: Raise The Blade, Make The Change
this is not happy, but its also. the closest to happy that youre getting for a while:)
Following breakfast with his sibling, Diego was left with a righteous anger that burned in his chested and itched in his knuckles. Just the thought of someone hurting Klaus like that was making him turn rabid, and the need to hurt him back was a physical thing, clawing its way into his brain. With no address for Klaus or his abuser, the fire had nowhere to go but inward, twisting itself into guilt and regret.
In the past, he might have decided to don his mask and go find some crime to stop. Maybe he would have thrown punches at a bag until his knuckles split and bled, or maybe he would have picked a fight with the nearest alpha male personality, or just whoever was closest.
But that was then.
With shaking hands, he dialled Rodriguez’ number.
“Hey,” said Diego quietly.
A beat. “Di? Everything okay?”
“Yeah,” said Diego. Then, “No, I guess, not really? I- I saw Klaus.”
“Shit,” said Rodriguez. “He okay?”
“His boyfriend put him in the hospital,” said Diego. The words sounded unreal to him.
“Oh- Oh fuck.”
“Yeah,” said Diego, cradling the phone close, letting his eyes fall shut.
“Is he gonna stay with you? Or- He can stay at mine, if he doesn’t want to stay at yours, I don’t mind.”
“He- No, he’s- I think he’s gonna go back to him.”
“Oh. Shit. Diego…”
“I don’t know how to help him,” said Diego, voice small and ashamed. He cradled to phone close to his mouth, hands cupped to keep his words hidden from the rest of the world.
Rodriguez made a pained noise. “Babe, don’t- You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.”
Diego breathed out, the air heavy in his lungs. “I just- I wish…”
“I know,” said Rodriguez. “Want me to come over? I’ve got- like, three hours until my shift starts.”
“No, no, I’m okay,” said Diego. “Although- maybe we could go out for dinner?”
“Dinner?” said Rodriguez, softly teasing. “Sounds an awful lot like a date.”
Diego snorted. “Yeah, that was kind of the point.”
“Oh. Oh,” said Rodriguez. “Yeah, that- that sounds great.”
“I just- I’ve been thinking, and, fuck it, you know? I don’t want to wait anymore.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to, like, rush you or anything, if you’re not ready.”
Diego smiled. “I’m ready,” he said.
“Okay,” said Rodriguez, a little breathless. “Okay, I can pick you up at seven?”
“Sounds good,” said Diego. He scratched the back of his neck, feeling warm and flustered. “I’ll see you then.”
“See you then!”
As it was, Diego ended up seeing Rodriguez before their seven pm date.
Diego answered the call and felt his stomach drop, mind already providing him with a multitude of reasons that his sort-of-almost-boyfriend would be cancelling their first real date, ranging from injury, to fire, to just straight up not wanting to go. “Hello?” he said.
“Everything okay?” asked Diego, cautious.
“Yeah, well, I, uh… I just arrested your brother.”
“Sibling,” he corrected absently. Then- “Shit, what did he do?”
A sigh rang through the phone. “Just petty theft,” he said.
Diego pinched the bridge of his nose, massaging the beginnings of a tension headache. “What did he steal?”
“Some Kraft’s mac and cheese, and a bottle of orange juice,” Rodriguez said miserably.
“Did you really have to arrest him for that?”
“Oh, wait, no, I didn’t arrest him for that,” he said, “ that’s just why we were called in. I arrested him after he broke Johnson’s nose.”
“He what?” barked Diego.
“Johnson made some dumb comment, you know what he’s like-” Diego made a small noise of assent, knowing all too well what a dickbag that cop could be, “-and your bro- sibling, I mean, he just turned around and punched him.”
“Fuck,” said Diego. Assaulting a police officer was a lot bigger than some petty theft.
“He’s made bail, but he hasn’t got any money to pay it,” Rodriguez said apologetically. “I can pay it, but he needs someone to pick him up, and my shift doesn’t end for a couple of hours.”
“I’ll be right down,” said Diego, “I got cash, I can probably swing it.”
By the time he got down to the station and got the bail paid - and there went his savings - Klaus had been sitting in lock up for six hours. Knowing that, Diego hadn’t expected to find Klaus in good spirits (pardon the pun), let alone whistling a tune from the 60’s under his breath.
“ And you've just had some kind of mushroom, and your mind is moving low ,” sang Klaus, wiggling his shoulders, almost a dance, eyes squeezed shut. “... something, something, the red queen if off of her head!”
“Klaus,” said Diego.
Klaus didn’t seem to hear him, too busy bopping his head to a tune that only he could hear. “ Remember what the doorman said…”
Klaus was on his feet faster than he could blink. “Yessir- Oh. Diego.”
Diego took stock of his sibling. He looked… bad. Worse than he had that morning, bruises darkening into deep blues and blacks, skin waxy and pale. The bare prison lights threw the contours of his face into sharp relief, making him look gaunt, almost skull like.
“What the hell, Klaus? Assaulting an officer? Really?”
Klaus crossed his arms, turning his chin away. “He started it.”
Diego raised an eyebrow. “He hit you?”
“No,” admitted Klaus, “But he made fun of my army jacket and dog tags, said I was disrespecting actual vets.”
Diego sighed, a long exhale. “Klaus, come on. How was he supposed to know?”
Klaus wrapped his arms around himself and shrugged.
“Well,” said Diego, “I’ve paid your bail. Lets go.”
“Thanks,” whispered Klaus, following Diego out of the cell and through the precinct. Diego stopped at Rodriguez’ desk to say, “Thanks for calling.”
“Of course,” said Rodriguez. “We still good for tonight, or do you need to raincheck?”
Diego chewed on the inside of his cheek before saying, “Pretty sure Klaus is going to run off at the first opportunity either way. Seven, right?”
“Yeah,” said Rodriguez with a warm smile. “If I ask you not to wear the knife harness, will you listen?”
Diego tilted his head playfully. “Depends if you’re gonna put out at the end.”
Klaus took this as his cue to interrupt. “Oh my god, is this your boyfriend?”
Diego flushed. “Oh, Christ.”
Rodriguez said, “I would say it’s nice to meet you, but y’know - circumstances could have been better.”
Klaus waved a hand. “Ah, I won’t hold it against you.” He ducked in and lowered his voice to say, with a salacious wink - or, the closest he could manage, with one eye still swollen shut. “That’s Diego’s job.”
“Okay!” said Diego, steering his sibling away by the shoulders, “Time to go.”
Klaus grumbled, but allowed himself to be led outside and into Diego’s car.
“You gonna let me take you back to mine?” asked Diego.
His sibling hummed, gaze distant. “Think you’d best drop stee- stree-” He dropped off, head sagging back against the headrest exhaustedly.
“Just let me take care of you,” said Diego quietly.
“Maybe I don’t want you to,” said Klaus.
An exhale. “Why can’t you let me go?”
Diego glanced away. “You’re family, Klaus.”
Klaus laughed harshly. “Sure, because we’re such a close family.”
“Vanya’s worried about you,” said Diego.
“Low blow,” Klaus hissed, his eyes narrowed like a cornered alleycat, shoulders drawn up.
“She is,” said Diego. “We just want you to be safe.”
Klaus scrubbed at his eyes with the heel of his hands. “You shouldn’t.”
“You shouldn’t care about me,” said Klaus.
“You don’t get to decide who cares about you,” snapped Diego, hands tight around the steering wheel. “You think you’re just hurting yourself, but you’re hurting me too.”
Klaus flinched, and pulled the door handle. Always running away. “Never claimed to be a good sibling, bro.”
“You’re gonna get yourself killed!” said Diego, voice verging on desperate.
Klaus grinned coldly, slamming the car door shut, and leant through the open window to say, “And then you won’t have to deal with your fuck up sibling anymore. I bet you can’t wait.”
Diego grit out, “Fuck you, Klaus. Come find me when you grow the fuck up.”
And with that, Diego sped away, leaving Klaus as a small, dark figure in the rearview mirror.
Chapter 17: Interlude: Rearrange Me Til I'm Sane
a brief interlude from klaus
trigger warnings for this chapter include domestic violence, drug use, implied sexual assault (just a vague sentence, but its there). take note of the updated tags and take care my dudes!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Klaus wasn’t going to cry.
He might have fucked up his last chance of having a family, his last chance of having a brother who cared about him, but he wasn’t going to cry.
“Gee, good to know I’m appreciated,” said Ben.
“A living brother,” Klaus amended. “You know what I mean.”
“You could go after him. Fix things.”
Klaus smiled grimly. “Time for a different kind of fix, mon frere.”
Ben groaned. “You’re not going back to Jack.”
“Aw, you’re too hard on poor Jack,” said Klaus, lighting up a cigarette as he walked down the grey street. It looked like it might rain, he thought.
“Yeah, well Jack’s pretty hard on you,” said Ben. “Specifically, on your face.”
“Pshaw,” said Klaus, waving his cigarette and wafting smoke around himself. “You gotta admit, I was kind of asking for it this time.”
“Klaus,” said Ben, voice sharp enough to cut. Klaus flinched, just enough for Ben to notice, to soften himself. “Klaus, don’t. He shouldn’t hit you. You know that.”
Klaus shrugged, the picture of carelessness. “It keeps things infer- nimf- ugh,” he said, taking a long drag.
“What, you like getting hit?” said Ben, scornful.
“If it means I can get a hit, if you know what I mean,” said Klaus.
“There’s easier ways to get high,” said Ben.
Klaus said, “But Jack has the most amazing cock.”
Ben sighed, seeing Klaus’ coarseness for what it was - a thin attempt at distraction. “Please, just talk to me.”
Klaus singed his fingertips, his smoke gone down to the filter. Cursing, he stomped it out under a heavy boot. “Not that great at talking, these days,” he said.
“You’re an idiot, Klaus Hargreeves,” said Ben.
“Then you’re an idiot for sticking around.”
Ben rolled his eyes, tugging his hood up. “You can’t push me away that easy.”
Klaus stopped at Jack’s apartment building, and took a moment to pray that the guy was in a good mood. “Yeah. Gotta try, though, don’t I?”
And at that, Klaus squared his shoulders, and went inside to face the music.
(That day, Jack was in a mellow and happy. He smiled at Klaus and called him baby, and only touched him sweetly, only hurt him when he helped ease a needle into Klaus’ vein, quickly soothed by the warm glow of heroin.)
(The next day, Klaus was too loud when Jack was on the phone. Klaus got bruised ribs for his troubles, but that night, Jack kissed it better, and pushed a bright yellow tablet onto the pink flesh of Klaus’ tongue, so that was okay, wasn’t it?)
(Sometimes, Jack would go a whole week without even a cruel comment in Klaus’ direction. Those weeks, Klaus could look at Jack, with his honey brown curls and grey eyes, and tell himself that he was loved.)
(Sometimes, Klaus would be left to pick himself up from the kitchen floor, to wipe away the blood and tears, and it wasn’t okay, it wasn’t okay, and Klaus knew that Dave never would have done that, but then Dave didn’t know all the dirtiest corners of Klaus, didn’t know the lengths he would go for a fix, didn’t know that he needed to be taught a lesson-)
(Sometimes, Jack would touch him so softly, so sweetly, and for a moment, the hollow spaces inside of Klaus were filled with it-)
(Sometimes, Klaus would be pinned and pushed and Jack would take what he wanted, but Klaus liked it rough, right? Right?)
(Sometimes Ben would look at Klaus with so much pity that Klaus wanted to scream-)
(Sometimes, Klaus thought that Jack might hit him and not stop, not until Klaus was a bloodied carcass.)
(Sometimes, Klaus didn’t think he would mind.)
(Sometimes, Klaus wondered how long he had left before Jack took things too far.)
As it turned out, Klaus lived - or rather, survived - in that aching terror between being loved and being hurt, at Jack’s side, for four months, two days, and seven hours.
And as Jack’s fist collided with Klaus over and over, and as Klaus hands went limp, and his vision greyed, he thought, would it be so bad, if Jack didn’t stop?
yeah... sorry my dudes
Chapter 18: Catch The Deluge In A Paper Cup
We're onto the third and final act my dudes!!
Diego hummed under his breath as he scrubbed the inside of his fridge.
After spending more and more time at Rodriguez’ place, somewhere bigger and homier than Diego’s little space, he had begun to neglect his usual chores. Rodriguez was big on cooking, and Diego was always happy to indulge him, but as such, some of the stuff in Diego’s fridge had gone bad. He hated having to chuck food out, reminded himself not to lose track of the days next time.
Still, he didn’t mind doing some cleaning. It reminded him of helping his mom as a kid. The ritual always felt good, calming, grounding. He had already mopped the floors and changed his sheets, windows cracked open to let a fresh breeze in. He still had a few hours until Rodriguez was done with his shift at work, and Diego was planning on cooking him something for a change. It wasn’t until 8pm that his night classes started; Diego had begun teaching self defence, after Vanya mentioned wishing she had more of their physical training. It felt good, being able to help vulnerable people to stay safe, with less of the masks and knives than usual.
In the background, his police scanner buzzed out a constant flow of noise. Diego would deny it until he was blue in the face, but he liked listening for Rodriguez’s voice over the radio, gruff and professional. It settled something in him, knowing that he was safe. He hadn’t used it for vigilante purposes in… a while.
He supposed that this was what ‘getting better’ looked like.
Once done with the fridge, he replaced the food that he still deemed edible, and moved on to cleaning the sink and surfaces in what counted for a kitchen in his place. They were already fairly clean, but he was procrastinating. He had a huge pile of ironing to do, his least favourite chore.
Diego winced as the dispatcher called in a 273D, and heard Rodriguez respond, “Ten-four, on our way.” He knew that his boyfriend hated domestic violence cases the most, knew that it dragged up things the Rodriguez would rather forget. Diego knew how that could be. He hoped that it wasn’t anything too bad, peeling his rubber gloves off, too distracted and worried to carry on with the cleaning.
It took Rodriguez an unreasonable amount of time to get back to the police radio, Diego thought. Time stretched weirdly when you were waiting for something, and even more so when you were worried about something. Diego fidgeted with a knife, a habit that he couldn’t kick unless he could play with his boyfriends hands instead.
“We need- shit- 11-41, we need an ambulance here now. Fuck-”
Diego jolted, blade biting into his thumb with a clumsiness that hadn’t been seen since he was ten years old, with hands too small for the blade’s handles to fit comfortably. Rodriguez sounded- he sounded wrong, panicked and unprofessional, like he was new on the job, and Diego had never heard him sound like that, not even when he saw really bad shit.
So it must have been- really bad. Something terrible, to make him sound like that.
“Ten-four,” said dispatch, “Ambulance on its way. 10-45, please advise on condition?”
“Critical,” said Rodriguez, voice pinched. “Stopped breathing, Johnson’s attempting CPR.”
Maybe, Diego reasoned, maybe it was just a particularly gruesome case. Not everyone had been desensitised as thoroughly as the Hargreeves’, so it would make sense that it could have shaken him up-
Except. Except for how Diego had seen him at the heavy cases, the really bad ones, the child murders and the tortured bodies, and Rodriguez had always been steady as a rock until his shift finished and he could finally fracture.
So- So, what? So this was worse? How could it be worse?
(The tiny voice at the back of his head niggled. You know, it hissed. You know how.)
He should be there. He should be there for his boyfriend, a shoulder to cry on, that’s what boyfriends did, right? Diego might be shit at comforting, might not know what words to use to ease pain, but he could at least be there.
Diego drove distractedly, earning a few horn beeps, and was flipped off by an elderly lady who almost rear ended him. He told himself that his anxiety was irrational, could feel his therapist's sigh from across the city, but it urged him on, the need to prove himself wrong.
Rodriguez’ voice echoed in his head.
We need- shit- 11-41, we need an ambulance here now. Fuck-
He was too familiar with the sound of horror, the way panic and terror distorted a voice, the way it pitched and warbled and thinned. He could too easily translate the way fuck had fallen from his boyfriends mouth. Recognised that Rodriguez must have seen something truly abhorrent to sound like that.
- shit- 11-41, we need an ambulance here now. Fuck-
He could feel his pulse in his fingertips. His heart stuttered and skid.
- 11-41, we need an ambulance here now. Fuck-
As he marched into the station, his brain caught, nonsensically, on the spiral of the coin donation box that they kept in the reception. In his mind’s eye, he followed the coin as it rolled around the funnel, gaining speed-
- need - ambulance - now. Fuck-
-gaining momentum, until it was horizontal, defying gravity, and he thought for a moment that it might stay there, whirling impossibly for all of time, and then-
He looked up, feeling dizzy, his head like it might float from his shoulders. Rodriguez was there, looking at him with wide eyes, as if he had seen a ghost. Diego stumbled towards his desk - he didn’t remember walking through the station. “Rodriguez,” he said.
“Diego, how did- what are you doing here?” said Rodriguez, taking a half step towards him.
“I heard on the- you sounded-” Diego couldn’t quite connect his thoughts, his mind full of fragments and half sentences.
“Di, I- Let’s go somewhere more private, yeah?” said Rodriguez, fighting hard to sound professional.
“No, what- Rodriguez, what happened?”
“Diego…” His eyes cut away, giving a hard look towards the other officers who were not so subtly watching them. “Di, come on, just follow me, yeah?”
And then he was being led through the station to the ‘family room’. The one where they told people bad news. Diego dug his heels in at the doorway, swallowing convulsively, because he knew what comes next. “R-Rodriguez, what-” he said, “No-”
Rodriguez looked grey, his face tight and drawn. “Di,” he said helplessly.
Diego shook-shook-shook his head, denial, denial. “No,” he said.
“Come sit down,” said Rodriguez, begged, really.
But if he sat, if he sat, then he would tell him, and he couldn’t, he couldn’t-
“R-R-Rodriguez,” he said, grabbing onto his boyfriends jacket with shaking hands. “ Mateo.”
“Diego- I’m so sorry, Di, I’m so sorry-”
Diego was trembling, vibrating, flying apart. “Tell me.”
“It was-” A ragged breath, and then, those words that Diego didn’t want to hear: “It was Klaus. Diego, I’m so sorry, but it was Klaus.”
Diego nodded faintly. “Okay,” he said.
And then he vomited into the waste paper bin.
Chapter 19: Battles Are Lost
another sad one guys/gals/nb pals, so take care and remember to hydrate! i love y'all and have fun reading!
“I n-need to tell Vanya,” said Diego, breaking the long stretching silence. “And- Five, and-”
“Take a breath,” said Mateo. He stroked a hand down Diego’s spine.
“My siblings…” Diego said, voice vague, absent. “They need to know.”
“Of course,” said Mateo. “Do you- I can help, if you like? Or-”
Diego stood woodenly. He had been sitting on the floor for- a while. Long enough for him to start aching, for his knees to feel unsteady. Mateo was quick to help him, holding him with careful hands. “No, I should- I should do it.”
“Then I’m driving you,” said Mateo, tone leaving no room for argument.
“Fine,” said Diego. He felt- distant. Quiet, in his head.
Diego allowed his boyfriend to lead him from the room, through the precinct. He might have stopped to talk to someone on the way, but Diego wasn’t sure, couldn’t hear around the ringing of his ears. It wasn’t until he was in the passenger seat that he thought to say, “What about- work? Is your shift over?”
Mateo gave him an unreadable look. “Don’t worry about that,” he said, reaching over to buckle Diego’s seat belt.
“But- what if y-you get in trouble?”
“It’s alright,” said Mateo, putting the heating up high as he pulled out of the lot.
“I d-don’t want you to get in trouble,” said Diego tonelessly.
“It’s alright,” he said again.
Diego had to direct them to Vanya’s place, somehow getting confused and taking them in circles before pulling up outside the familiar apartment complex.
“Are you sure?” said Diego.
“Huh?” said Mateo, brow creased.
“Are you sure he’s dead?” said Diego, gaze straight ahead.
Mateo swallowed noisily. “Yes,” he said. “Do you want me to come in with you?”
“No,” said Diego. “No, I’m okay, I’ll…”
“Are you sure?” asked Mateo.
Diego brushed his damp palms over his knees. “I-I- Yes, I-” He couldn’t quite manage to finish his thought, but gave up on it distractedly, pushing open the car door and half stumbling up towards Vanya’s apartment.
He felt- strange. Imprecise. His limbs were wooden and heavy, reactions dull and clumsy. He felt like he was in somebody else’s body, or like someone else was controlling his, marionette strings, a lumbering dead weight. He hammered a fist against Vanya’s door.
It was Five who opened the door, already half turned away by the time Diego caught a glimpse of him. “It’s just our brother,” he said flippantly, “The stabby one, not the oversized one.”
“Oh, Diego!” called Vanya from the kitchen. She was elbow deep in some sort of dough, flour smudged over her left cheek, like she had touched her face without noticing. “You’re about twenty minutes too early, if you’re hoping for cookies.”
“I don’t think that cookies go with the whole vigilante-emo-leather thing he’s got going on,” commented Five, picking up some sort of academic text, illegible under Five’s cramped notes.
Vanya made a thoughtful noise. “He always ate mom’s cookies, though.”
“A bold comparison,” said Five. “You must be terribly confident in your baking skills.”
His sister gave an undignified snort. “Hardly,” she said. “I’ll just be happy if they don’t expand into each other again.”
“I liked the monolith cookie,” said Five, which was the closest he got to kindness.
She just laughed in reply, a musical sound. “Everything okay, Diego? You’re quiet.”
Diego swallowed. “Yes,” he said, his voice sounding strange even to his own ears. “Or- no. No.”
Vanya frowned, and attempted to extricate herself from her dough. “What is it? Oh, hold on, let me just-” She scrubbed her hands with rushed movements, before turning fully to Diego, and pulling him further into the room. “Sit down. You don’t look so good. Are you- sick?”
He allowed her to guide him towards the couch. “No,” he said, “No, it’s not me.”
“Klaus?” she guessed.
“Oh Lord,” said Five, “What’s that idiot done now?”
Diego’s stomach felt hot and tight, like he might be sick again. “He- Oh, God-” he clamped a hand over his mouth, taking a sharp breath through his nose.
“Diego?” said Vanya, uncertain. She reached out with a hesitant hand, letting her fingertips rest against his shoulder. “Is it- bad?”
He nodded wordlessly. It was only now that he was beginning to truly absorb it, trying to put it into words, force an unimaginable pain into something bearable for his siblings.
“Really bad?” said Vanya, voice small, almost childlike.
“K-K-” Diego choked. “K-K-”
Five shifted forward, coiled like a spring. “Take a breath, Two.”
Diego’s teeth were chattering, which he vaguely thought was strange, considering he wasn’t cold. His lips felt numb, face tingling. He tongued at the inside of his cheek, trying to get control of his words. “K-K- Klaus,” he said. “Klaus, he, he-” Diego gripped hard at the soft flesh of his thighs, pushing forward against the haze that attempted to smother him. “Oh God, he’s dead. He’s- I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, but he’s dead.”
The air seemed to go still, flat. “What,” said Five.
“He-He-” Diego could feel his breathing picking up, slipping out of rhythm. “He d-d-died, he died, he-”
“But,” Vanya shook her head, almost in slow motion, face frozen like porcelain. “But-”
“It was, it was- domestic dispute- they tried to resuscitate, but-”
Five stood abruptly. “No,” he said, “no, fuck this.”
“Five,” said Vanya, beseechingly.
“ No, ” said Five, clenching his fists in front of him, and everything went blue, blue, blue-
- Diego hammered a fist against Vanya’s door.
Vanya opened up, looking wan and pale. “Diego,” she said, “Did we have plans? I mean- Come in.”
Diego walked past her on legs that felt like they were made of something insubstantial, like custard or cigarette smoke. He stopped at the sight of his little older brother, curled in on himself on the armchair, knuckles bloody and split, eyes tired and swollen.
“Five?” said Diego, uncertain.
“Oh,” said Five colourlessly. “It’s you.”
Vanya looked at him apologetically. “Five isn’t- feeling well,” she offered.
Diego thought he should feel concerned, but really, he just didn’t. The wasn’t anything left. “I need to tell you something.”
“What- Is everything okay?” said Vanya.
Five advised her, “You should sit down.”
Cautiously, she perched next to Diego, dark eyes wide and worried. “What is it? Is it- Is it bad?”
Diego closed his eyes, and let his fingertips dig into the sensitive spot under his kneecap. “It’s K-Klaus,” he said. His mouth was dry and barren.
“Klaus? Is he- What happened?” asked Vanya.
“He-” Diego fought to find words, trying to pin down something that might make sense. “He died. He’s d-d-dead.”
Vanya inhaled sharply, face twitching. “No,” she said, shaking her head, “No, he can’t-”
“I’m sorry,” said Diego, “Oh, God, I’m so fucking sorry, Van-”
“How?” she demanded. “How?”
But Diego had gotten distracted. He quietly dissected to conversation, it’s lopsidedness. “Five?”
“Yes?” said Five flatly.
“Why are you-” Diego didn’t finish the sentence, but he had said enough.
Five shrugged, the motion jarring and stiff. “Because I already knew.”
“What,” said Vanya, “But- how? You were here.”
“Because I already knew. I went back,” he said, tone almost bored.
Diego felt hot under his skin, and almost wanted to sigh with relief at the familiar rush of rage, something so comforting after the strange stillness of the aftermath. “What does that mean?” he said, rising to his feet, stance like an attack dog.
Five looked at him, gaze edged with imperiousness. “This happened before. I went back in time. Do the math,” he said.
Something was shaking. Diego was shaking. “Then you- you let him die,” he said. “You let him die?”
Five looked away. “It was what he wanted,” said Five. “He didn’t want to be saved.”
“He was depressed, ” said Diego. “He was fucked up, so, what, you just allow him to die?”
“I tried,” said Five, something hard in his voice.
“You didn’t try hard enough,” Diego said.
Diego- stopped. “What?” he said.
“I tried. Twenty-seven times, I tried. And every time- every fucking time, he found a way to get himself killed, so don’t tell me that I didn’t try!” Five’s chest was heaving by the end, face red with rage.
Diego took a step back, rubbing the heel of his palm against his sternum. “Oh,” he said, so quiet it was more of a shape than a sound. He took a look at Five, a proper look, and noted the way his eyes were shadowed so deeply that they almost looked bruised. His trigger hand was shaking, just slightly, and there was a drop of blood dried over his knee.
“I don’t-” said Vanya. “How?”
“This time? His asshole boyfriend,” said Five, tone just missing unaffected.
“Oh, god,” said Vanya, a hand pressing tightly over her mouth. “Oh, god, Klaus-” Her voice broke, bubbled into tears, face pink and crumpling. She bent slightly, arms winding around her rib cage, shoulders shuddering, collapsing.
Five made a pained noise. “Van-”
“Don’t,” gasped Vanya, “Please, I can’t, I can’t-”
Diego reached out, but his sister jerked back, shaking her head in denial, denial, denial. “Vanya,” he said. “Vanya.”
“I tried,” said Five, and his voice was so hollow that it sounded like an empty grave.
Chapter 20: The End Of The Road
waddup babes, heres some more sad times for y'all
They had to wait for two weeks to bury Klaus.
It made Diego feel nauseated, thinking about how long his sibling’s body was lying cold in the morgue, waiting. The police said that they had to delay things for a full autopsy, due to the circumstances of his death. It didn’t make any sense to Diego; his sibling’s murderer had been caught red handed, had still been beating at Klaus’ dead body when the police burst in. There was no question of who did it, or what had happened, so why did they need to investigate? Why did they need to cut his sibling open? Why couldn’t they let him rest?
It had fallen to Diego to make arrangements, as Klaus’ closest relative, the person who knew him best. Diego wouldn’t have it any other way, didn’t trust anyone else to get it right. He didn’t know why it mattered so much to him. Klaus wasn’t here to see it, after all - or, if he was, Diego wouldn’t know it. Still, he anxiously fretted over every detail, lying awake at night as he tried to decide what to put on the gravestone.
He had tried to have him buried next to Dave.
Klaus had never spoken about Dave, not really, but Diego could tell a lot from the things that Klaus didn’t say, from the way Klaus was constantly curled around an invisible wound. He might not have spoken much about him directly, but Diego knew that he had loved him, truly loved him. He knew from how Klaus called Dave’s name in the terror of his nightmares that losing Dave had been something too traumatic to discuss.
Klaus wore those dog tags until the day he died. (He was going to be buried in them.)
But Dave was buried in Arlington Cemetery, and Klaus’ service in the Army had been strictly off record.
Instead, Diego had decided to bury him in a local place - not his father’s land, where Klaus had been found half out of his mind in the mausoleum there, but somewhere untouched by all of that. It was the same place that he had buried Patch. (He hoped that she might keep him company, if Klaus was hanging around.)
So, for all his preparedness, when the actual day came, he wasn’t ready.
How can you ever be ready to bury a sibling?
“Come on,” said Mateo. “You’ve got to get up and eat something.”
Diego just buried himself deeper under the duvet. He had been staying with Rodriguez since he got the news; seeing his own bed, which Klaus had slept in so many nights, made his chest ache. The sheets here smelled of laundry detergent. Diego couldn’t get the smell of cigarettes out of his own.
“Di, please,” said Mateo.
Guilt make Diego’s gut twist. He hated worrying him, but he hated the idea of getting up and out of bed too. Still, he allowed himself to be pulled upright and pushed towards the kitchen, where Mateo had prepared a cooked breakfast and coffee for him. The smell made Diego’s stomach turn, but he tried to smile as he pushed the food around on his plate. Mateo squeezed his shoulder as he went past.
Getting into his funeral clothes didn’t take as long as he wanted it to.
Mateo drove them there. Diego could understand why his boyfriend was reluctant to let him drive; he was shaky and pale and absent. Besides, he thought that he would rather Mateo drove there. He didn’t want to be present for this, wanted to retreat inside himself for as long as he could.
Eventually, he had to face up to the reality of the situation. His siblings were waiting for him, a huddle of black at the cemetery gates.
“Hi,” he said in greeting, voice thick and croaky from disuse.
The group muttered greetings back. Allison was puffy eyed, leaning into Luther, who looked grey and stiff. Vanya looked fragile and thin, whilst Five looked like a firecracker, tense and furious at life.
“Who’s this?” said Luther, eyeing Mateo, who was hovering anxiously at Diego’s side.
Diego bristled, only to deflate when Mateo brushed his knuckles along his arm, a soothing gesture. “This is Rodriguez,” said Diego.
“Mateo,” he said, giving Diego a softly amused glance. “Sorry to meet you all under such bad circumstances.”
Allison gave him a questioning look. “He’s your..?”
“Boyfriend,” said Diego, fast, as to not second guess himself.
Vanya blinked and said, “I didn’t know that you were- gay?”
“Bi,” he corrected.
“You never mentioned,” she said.
“You never asked,” Diego countered, reaching for Mateo’s hand to steady himself. Luther was looking at him in a way that made him want to throw a punch. “What?” he snapped.
“Nothing,” said Luther. “I just- It’s weird that none of us knew.”
“Klaus knew,” Diego said. The use of his name effectively dropped a nuke on the conversation. Luther and Vanya twitched back as if physically struck, and Allison’s bottom lip wobbled.
It began to rain.
“Sorry,” muttered Vanya, face tensing in concentration. The shower passed as quickly as it came, leaving the sky a heavy grey. (It had rained the day he buried Eudora. Almost a year ago, now.)
“We should go in,” said Allison. “It’s time.”
Diego wasn’t ready. But then, he didn’t think he would ever be ready. Not for this.
“Let’s go,” he said.
The funeral was nice. Tasteful.
Klaus would have hated it.
Diego could almost imagine his sibling’s snarky comments, the way he would blow smoke and roll his eyes. There was too much ceremony and sincerity for this to be his sibling’s scene. This wasn’t for Klaus, though. This was for all the people that he had left behind.
As far as Diego was concerned, if Klaus didn’t want such a boring funeral, he shouldn’t have gone and gotten himself fucking killed.
There weren’t many people in attendance. Most of the people that Klaus associated with weren’t the kind who cared about whether he lived or died, nor were they the kind of people that Diego could send an invite to. It was just the siblings, and Mateo - unless Ben was around. With Klaus dead, there was no way of knowing.
The funeral conductor - some random guy who had never met Klaus, didn’t know how much had been lost - spoke grandly about loss and peace and a bunch of bullshit that only irritated Diego further. The man reminded him a little too much of his father.
Each of them scattered dirt onto the casket. It was too quiet. The thump of earth hitting the wood was harsh and piercing, and Diego flinched every time.
The gravestone read: Klaus Hargreeves. Soldier and Sibling. May he find his love and finally rest.
When the funeral conductor ducked out with an obligatory sorry for your loss, the family were left to stand at the open grave. (At Ben’s funeral, there was no casket. He had been cremated, or, what was left of him was.)
At last, Luther said, “Soldier and sibling. Weird choice.”
Diego stiffened. He attempted to remind himself that Luther didn’t know the hours of lost sleep that had led to the decision, that he wasn’t trying to be cruel. Still, his voice was sharp when he replied, “Why’s that weird?”
“Well,” said Luther, brow low, “We weren’t really soldiers, were we? Besides, Klaus never did much fighting anyway.”
Five sniped, “Don’t be obtuse, Luther. It’s a reference to Vietnam.”
“Vietnam?” said Allison, sounding small and lost.
“Wow,” said Five disdainfully. “Are you telling me that you guys were really too self absorbed to notice?”
Luther raised his chin, ready for a fight. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Guys, can we please-” said Vanya exhaustedly. “Please just not do this?”
Luther shrunk in on himself, cowed. “Sorry.”
“He got stuck in Vietnam,” said Diego tiredly. His gaze was fixed on the hole in the ground. “Time travel bullshit.”
“How did we not..?” said Allison.
Diego shrugged. “No one really paid him any attention, I guess.”
“That’s not true,” said Mateo, just soft enough for Diego to hear. “You tried.”
“I didn’t try hard enough,” said Diego. He breathed out a long breath from the bottom of his lungs. “I didn’t try hard enough.”
Chapter 21: Don't Dream, It's Over
some more sadness for y'all :))))
The strange thing about grief is that time still passes. Even when it seems like everything is frozen under the blanket of pain and grey. Even when you don’t want it to. Time did not consult anyone, just went right on marching. Dragging Diego along with it.
So he carried on.
He got up in the mornings and brushed his teeth, and Klaus was dead. He ate breakfast, and then ate lunch, and Klaus was dead. He went to work, picked up milk on the way home, and Klaus was dead. He went to sleep, held by his boyfriend, in a soft bed with sheets that didn’t smell of cigarettes, and Klaus was dead. And then he got up and did it all again the next day.
He was functioning. That was probably the most you could say about it. He tried, tried hard, to keep afloat - he couldn’t stand the thought of losing anything else in his life, so he worked himself to the bone to keep things the same. Still, he didn’t smile anymore. Didn’t tease Mateo, or visit Vanya. Didn’t do things for the joy of it. His joy had been buried along with his sibling.
He knew that Mateo was worried about him, worried about the fact that Diego wasn’t grieving the correct way (as if there’s a correct way to grieve, as if Diego had the power to do anything except hold his breath against the battering waves of aching pain). He couldn’t see the point in crying about it. Crying wasn’t going to bring Klaus back.
No, he didn’t want to talk about it.
He was fine. Look at him, functioning. Doing the stuff he needed to do. Wasn’t he doing fine?
Really, he didn’t want to talk about it.
Which had led to this conversation:
“When did you quit therapy?”
“What?” said Diego, taken off balance.
“It’s Tuesday. Wasn’t Tuesday your therapy day?” said Mateo. Diego could see how he was trying to be gentle, the careful way he was holding himself still and open, despite the anxiety that this sort of confrontation always brought him.
Diego shrugged, hoping that he looked more casual than he felt. “It was costing a lot.”
Mateo bit his lip. “If it’s money, I could help, y’know?”
“You don’t have to do that,” said Diego woodenly.
“I just want you to be happy,” said Mateo, reaching out to tangle his fingers with Diego’s.
“I’m okay,” said Diego.
Mateo looked at him for a moment. “You don’t have to be okay all the time.”
Diego pulled away. “I’m tired,” he said. “Gonna take a nap.”
“Alright,” said Mateo, brows low and furrowed.
Diego hadn’t been sleeping well since Klaus’ death. He often found himself jerking awake when he sank down to the edge of sleep, or lying awake for hours at a time, the sound of his boyfriend’s heavy breaths failing to lull him to sleep. Truthfully, he doubted he would be able to get any sleep, but he was exhausted, desperate for his brain to just be quiet for a while.
His body felt heavy, and the bed too big. Was he pushing Mateo away? He wasn’t sure, didn’t intend to. Maybe it was safer that way, to have a measure of distance there. For Mateo, as well as him. He didn’t want to hand over his grief. He wanted to keep Mateo as far as possible from the pain sitting in his chest.
Sleep came faster than he expected.
He was in his childhood bedroom.
It was quiet, but an unsettling sort of quiet, the kind that only existed under the watchful gaze of their father. Quiet, but not peaceful. Something was wrong.
The floor was damp.
It was soaking into his socks, making his toes go cold. Where was the water coming from? He couldn’t see any leaks, not in his bedroom.
He opened the door.
Water was rushing from under the bathroom door.
He glanced around, but no one else was around, his siblings doors all shut.
“Hello?” he called out. His hands were on the doorknob, but he felt frozen with fear. He didn’t know what he would find inside - who he would find - but he knew it wouldn’t be good.
He opened the door.
The tub was empty.
He glanced around, but the water on the floor was gone, disappeared like it had never been there. He retraced his steps, but the hallway was dry and pristine. He was losing his fucking mind.
He could smell smoke.
Diego twisted around. He wasn’t imagining it; the air was starting to cloud, a haze descending from down the hallway.
From Klaus’ room.
“Klaus!” he cried out, running before he could think about it. He grabbed hold of the door handle, only to yelp and jump back when his hand was singed. “Fuck! Klaus?”
There was no answer.
Take a gulping breath of hot air, he slammed his shoulder into the door, stumbling when it gave way easily.
Klaus’ room was perfect, unmarred. It smelled of fresh air and his mother’s perfume.
“What the fuck,” he said. He span, dizzied. Nothing made sense. “Fuck this. Fuck this.”
He was running, running, running. Down the stairs, and out into the foyer. He slammed out of the heavy doors, a wild thing, pure instinct.
Where was he?
This wasn’t the right street. Maybe not even the right country.
The air was hot, and wet, humid and sticky. The ground was soft and muddy under his boots - and when had he put shoes on? In fact, what was he wearing? Military gear? What the fuck?
There were trees, tall and proud and nothing like what Diego was used to. This was jungle.
All the air left his lungs. He knew that voice. God, he knew that voice. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t.
“Di? Is that- Is that you?”
Someone touched his shoulder.
He whirled around, electrified. His knees wobbled. His skin was buzzing.
“Klaus,” he breathed.
And there he was, looking whole and strong and alive , army vest hanging open and helmet askew on top of his curls. He looked at Diego with open mouthed amazement. “How are you here?”
“Klaus,” said Diego brokenly. He couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe.
“Are you- you didn’t die, did you?” said Klaus, expression folding.
“What? No, I-” said Diego, before rationality set in. “You’re- This isn’t real.”
And Klaus- Klaus laughed, clutching his stomach with mirth. “Oh bud,” he said. “I wish!”
Diego took a step back, holding himself tight. “This isn’t real. You’re not real.”
“I’m as real as they come,” said Klaus. “The question is, are you real? Because this-” he waggled a finger at the jungle around them- “This is definitely in my head.”
“I’m dreaming,” said Diego, but he wasn’t sure who he was talking to, Klaus or himself.
Klaus tilted his head in thought. “Are you? I’m pretty sure I’m the one dreaming. Or, hallucinating. In a coma. It’s a fine line.”
“I need to- I need to wake up,” said Diego, clutching at his own elbows, shoulders shaking. “You’re dead, I need to wake up.”
“Not yet, not right now,” said Klaus. “Pretty soon, I think. Yeah, pretty soon.”
Diego blinked. “What?”
Klaus blew out a long breath. His lips were turning purple. “Yeah, I’m out of time. Gotta go yell at a little girl. See you around, bro!”
“Klaus,” Diego cried, reaching out for his sibling, only for his hands to go right through. Because Klaus was gone. “Klaus?”
This was a different voice now, not Klaus, because Klaus had disappeared-
“Di, wake up!”
Diego startled awake, sweating and trembling, Klaus’ name on his lips. Mateo was clutching his shoulders, face tight and eyes wide. “Breathe,” he said. “Breathe, it was just a dream. It was just a dream.”
“Just a dream,” echoed Diego. He collapsed back into sweat soaked sheets. “Just a dream.”