There never was a time when his brother didn’t pick him up.
It just didn’t happen.
It was like clockwork.
Klaus would sneak out after curfew. It was a given. You couldn’t keep him still once he turned sixteen. Nine times out of ten he’d go to town with an older guy, probably end up at his apartment, spread out on the kitchen table. Messy, always messy.
But after a rushed, unsatisfactory climax, when Klaus was unceremoniously kicked out with his clothes in a bundle, who would he find outside in the pouring rain or sleet or snowstorm? Whose car would be parked under a streetlight with the headlights signaling their angry disapproval?
He hated doing it, and that’s why he did it.
He was a glutton for punishment.
The first time it happened, Diego followed Klaus because he did not trust Luther to watch over the family.
And he was right.
Number Four was getting into trouble, drinking like a sailor, taking drugs like candy, sleeping with older men he never really fooled with the fake ID, being taken advantage of while pretending he was having the time of his life.
It was a recipe for disaster.
Meanwhile, Number One was sleeping like a baby, oblivious to what was happening right under his nose.
It was up to Number Two to handle the situation.
Bring Klaus to heel.
When Klaus first saw him standing in the hotel parking lot, leaning casually against the car (a sixteenth birthday gift from Grace), he didn’t recognize him. It must’ve been the Ecstasy he’d washed down with a whole pitcher of margaritas but he forgot that was his brother. It was 4 AM in the morning and in the dark grey of almost morning, the stranger looked like his fantasy, a beautiful boy he’d conjured to quell the disappointment of his latest fling. A wave of lust hit him so hard he thought about running towards this phantom lover and kissing him straight on the lips without introductions.
He started running. Maybe if he ran really fast his self-loathing wouldn’t catch up with him.
Diego grabbed him as his brother launched himself at him.
He held him tight, trying to restrain him.
“It’s me, you nutjob! Settle down! Settle down!”
Klaus felt Diego’s breath on his cheek. His strong grip around his chest, making sure he couldn’t get away.
Then Diego’s hand was on his jaw, forcing him to look up.
“Fuck. Your pupils are d-dilated as shit.”
Klaus laughed. “I can’t believe you’re here.”
“ I can’t believe you’re pulling this crap, Klaus. This stuff’s illegal.”
“Mmm, which part?”
“ All of it. If D-Dad caught you -”
“Oh yes, what would Father say? I bet he’d be appalled . Will you be a good boy and tell him?”
Diego glared at him.
“I’m no snitch. You’ll tell him yourself.”
Klaus leaned forward and growled, teeth chomping, as if to bite. “Will you make me, officer?”
Diego pulled back.
Their mouths breathed out clouds of steam in the cold.
“Come on. Get in.”
He opened the door and threw Klaus in the backseat, making sure he hit his head on the way.
Klaus kept laughing, pointing his finger at Diego.
“What about the handcuffs, officer? You can’t let me get away so easily.”
Diego gripped the steering wheel until he felt his bones ache.
Klaus was a glutton for punishment too.
Afterwards, it became a habit.
A really bad habit.
Just as bad as Klaus.
Diego fooled himself into thinking that if he showed up enough times and gave him a stern lecture and roughhoused him, it would make him be more careful. It would make him stop.
Diego practiced self-loathing too. He knew, deep down, that he was the person you called to kill a party.
He’d wanted to kill the party for Klaus.
But actually, now that he had a free ride home, his brother became more reckless, more promiscuous, less awake.
He was freed, in a sense.
Someone else was shouldering the burden of his existence, for once.
By the time Diego understood this, it was too late.
He couldn’t let Klaus come home alone. He had to make sure - make sure he didn’t completely destroy himself. For the sake of the whole family.
“Why do you want to die so b-badly?” Diego asked him once as Klaus re-applied lipstick in the rearview mirror.
Klaus pursed his lips. “I’d make a really hot corpse.”
Diego rubbed at the half of his face his brother couldn’t see. “Is this s-seriously how you want to live out the rest of your life?”
“It’s a life, at least,” Klaus replied with a crumb of malice. “What do you have, pretty boy? A sterling knife collection?”
Diego reached out and punched his brother’s jaw.
He never did it with much gusto. It was a harmless touch, half the time.
Klaus sometimes thought it was just a pretext. To touch him.
He kept fiddling with the radio stations when Diego only wanted silence.
He was often in a good mood, kept humming and tapping his fingers against the dashboard, tried to coax him into a game of “I spy…”
“You can’t see shit outside,” Diego would mutter, ruining the game. Because he was right. They always drove under the cover of illicit darkness.
“I see the big white moon,” Klaus said, staring out dreamily. “It’s shining just for me.”
He rolled down the window. He inhaled the cold air and let his hand dangle out of the car.
Diego wanted to tell him, you shouldn’t be so fucking happy, you should feel bad for what you did.
But he also didn’t want to tell him that.
Klaus was smiling, really smiling without sarcasm, without irony, without the usual shadow of grief. It wasn’t pretend. It was a flash of innocence. Or maybe oblivion. Maybe he was just high off his ass.
That was probably it.
Still, Diego kept silent. He watched his brother and the moon.
One time, he undressed in the backseat. Well, his shirt was drenched in vodka and vomit, so it was the polite thing to do.
Diego rolled down all the windows.
“Ugh, you’re an animal.”
Klaus blew him a weary kiss.
He took off his clothes to a song only he could hear.
He started humming it. So Diego could hear it too.
“Take my breath awaaaay...mmmm, take my breath awaaaaay….”
Klaus arched his bare back, felt the bones crack. He massaged his neck. He kept singing, croaking it hoarsely.
Diego’s eyes followed him in the rearview mirror. He could see faint bruises on the expanse of white.
“I said shut up.”
“You can’t silence me,” Klaus mumbled drunkenly, humming Berlin in an eerie, depressing falsetto.
Diego braked and pulled the car over.
He leaned back and grabbed the side of Klaus’ face, sank his fingers in the damp curls. He dragged his brother’s head forward, put a hand around his throat. It felt sticky.
Klaus’ bare chest rose and fell quickly.
His mascara-laden eyes stared Diego down.
He’d stopped singing, but Diego could hear it in his head now.
Take my breath away.
His brother was that breath, that spark of life that wouldn’t go out.
“I said...s-shut up-p.”
The stutter was worse than capitulation.
Klaus leaned into the touch.
He gently rubbed his nose against his brother’s nose.
He put his hand over Diego’s hand around his throat.
“You wanna apply pressure...if you want to shut me up.”
Diego blinked. He thought, this is what those guys do with him.
That’s what the bruises were for.
He felt so sickened, so ashamed, so sorry. His eyes must’ve reflected that cocktail of pity and disgust, because it was Klaus who pulled away abruptly.
“Just fuck off and drive already.”
He lay down with his back to him, head buried in the crook of his arm.
It was like a slap.
Diego worked his mouth without saying anything.
He turned away and started driving.
Of course there was the one time where he had to go up to this creep’s apartment and get his brother out.
Diego was only seventeen, but people told him he looked older. He pretended that he was older that night. Not that he was afraid. He was never afraid. He was a weapon. But sometimes even weapons failed. Hands shook. Breath stuttered. Words didn’t come out right. It’s because he wanted everything to be perfect all the time.
He didn’t want to fail tonight. It was paramount that he didn’t.
By the end of it, he was proud.
He’d given clean cuts, nothing an ER visit wouldn’t fix.
Recovery time: three to six months.
Diego stomped on the guy’s legs for good measure.
He walked away, feeling strong.
Feeling like maybe the heroes in the comic books worried too much about tipping over to the dark side. There was nothing too profoundly bad about a little violence.
Diego came to a halt.
Klaus was lying sprawled on the queen size bed, arms and feet wide, stark naked. Crucified.
His face was a blank, though he was shaking slightly.
Later, Diego found out Klaus had been channeling dead people. That’s why the faraway look, the tremors. That’s why.
He often turned to it, he said, when it got a little too rough.
It was so fucking funny. He was doing all this to escape the ghosts, but the ghosts helped him escape all of this. It was a roundabout way of going insane.
Diego wrapped the sheet around him, picked him up gently.
His brother felt so small.
He carried him to the car with Klaus’ head on his shoulder.
A few days later, Klaus thanked him by running away for good.
He left a message with Grace.
Grace told Diego kindly, “he said couldn’t face you after what you did for him”.
Diego swallowed, nodded, lowered his head.
That’s family for you.
The people you love resent you for loving them.
He never understood that.
When Number Six died Klaus wouldn’t come out of the bathtub. He felt that the water was a better conductor for his seances. Six was just being coy, playing hide and seek. He wanted Klaus to make an effort. Klaus wanted to learn how to breathe underwater, or maybe just breathe in the water until he saw Ben.
The family took turns pulling him out, but half the time, it was just Diego.
He was the one who heard him turn on the tap, even a hallway apart.
He’d memorized his brother’s shuffle, the faint slap of his flip flops against the carpet.
Diego tried not to touch him too much. He felt a strange, guilty burn every time he did. Like he had to wash his hands. He always grabbed a towel.
Klaus could tell when it was Diego pulling him from the water, because he was the only one who avoided contact. Was skin-shy.
He was still skin-shy a decade later.
Angrier than was probably appropriate for their father’s funeral.
Klaus felt his eyes burning holes into his skull.
Diego’s gloved hand shoved him back on the couch, told him to quit being a goddamn waste of space. A complete fuck-up.
So much pent-up resentment.
Klaus felt bad, but he felt flattered too.
Diego was so wrapped up in his hatred, still fighting an argument Klaus had forgotten.
They hadn’t seen each other properly in years, but it didn’t feel that way. There was no distance, or at least anger bridged it, made it crossable.
Klaus asked him for a ride after the funeral.
It’d been a weird day. Seven’s return, Five’s untimely arrival, suspicions of murder brewing in the air, Reginald’s ashes scattered to the four winds.
Klaus hoped he was awake, hoped this wasn’t just a bad trip.
He wanted to be here, with him.
Diego drove in silence, jaw locked.
Klaus could’ve done many things at this point to try and make it up to him.
First, he could’ve said, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I left like that . Second, he could’ve said, Thank you for all those shitty times you were there . Third, he could’ve added, It wasn’t fair to you.
But he wasn’t that kind of brother.
“I know you still follow me sometimes,” he said instead. “At first I thought I was just…” he twirls his fingers in the air, “seeing ghosts, haha . Got me scared for a moment you’d died. But no, you were just stalking me. Thank God for that.”
Diego stiffened visibly.
He kept his eyes on the road.
Klaus hummed under his breath. He leaned back in his seat, spread his legs and arms out, almost touching his brother.
“You look good, by the way. I like what you did with your hair. Couldn’t recognize you without the fringe. I like the ninja outfit too. Very you.”
Diego finally pulled by the docks, next to an empty lot.
Klaus thought his brother was going to kick him out, but instead, Diego got out of the car and walked to the dark water’s edge.
He threw something in. Klaus heard the splash.
He wondered if it had something to do with today.
He knew better than to ask.
Diego walked back slowly.
He sat down in his seat and stared at the glimmering dots on the horizon.
“I don’t follow you around. I got better things to do. You saw someone else.”
Klaus chuckled. “Yeah, I tend to see a lot of people.”
Diego winced. “I didn’t mean -”
“I know. I’m just screwing with you. I always screw with you, don’t you know.”
Diego scowled. “Yeah, how about you get the hell out of my car and disappear? That’s what you’re good at.”
Klaus groaned. “You’re so sensitive.”
“I’m what?” Diego’s fist was clenched at his side.
“Sensitive,” Klaus said.
He unclasped his seat belt and clambered over to his brother’s seat. It was so fast, Diego didn’t have time to react. Klaus found his footing quickly. He’d done this before with other men, less available, less concerned.
He straddled his brother’s lap, the steering wheel pressing into his back.
He was completely helpless. All his acuity, all his training, all for nothing.
He couldn’t even push him off, couldn’t feel the bones in his body. Couldn’t feel his spine.
“Needy,” Klaus continued, leaning down, planting both hands on Diego’s headrest.
His mouth, soft against his stubble. Breath meeting halting breath.
Diego looked into his brother’s eyes. Afraid, so afraid. The moment could break on a single wrong move.
But Klaus had no wrong moves.
He teased it out of him.
He licked Diego’s lips, like sealing an envelope. He gently dragged his tongue up and down, left and right... until his brother opened his mouth shyly, shaking, and the tip of his tongue met his. Diego felt it everywhere. The brush with electricity. Klaus’ taste. Their tongues met again, slick and soft and delicious, lips never touching. The blood roared in his ears. He wanted to put his hands on him. But it was just the brush of tongue against tongue. It was enough, it was too much. He knew he was getting hard. He knew he wanted to fuck that mouth. He knew he was just as bad as all those men who used Klaus and threw him away. But maybe one of them didn’t throw him away. Maybe one of them treated him right. Maybe people weren’t so rotten. Maybe they could get away with this.
Or they could pretend it never happened.
Klaus pulled back, breathless.
Diego kept his mouth open, breathing hard.
Klaus was looking over his shoulder. In the backseat.
“W-What?” Diego mumbled, scared.
“Ben is watching us,” Klaus said, neither sad nor happy. There was something close to want in his voice, a desire for something beyond his brother.
Diego lowered his head.
He was never enough.
Klaus shifted, rolled away from him, fell back into his seat.
They sat in silence, staring at the glimmering city lights.
Diego licked his lips.
“Is he still there?”
Klaus nodded, turning his head away.
Diego drove away from the docks. He dropped off Klaus in front of a dingy looking building.
“Is this the place?” he asked stiffly.
Klaus smiled perfunctorily. “Sure is.”
He got out of the car and leaned his arms against the window. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
Diego frowned. “No, you won’t.”
“You’ll be here,” Klaus said, staring at him and Ben, in the backseat. “You always are.”
Diego swallowed the lump in his throat.
Klaus grinned, though his eyes were lost, shuttered. “I love you too.”
Diego sat alone in the car with Ben’s ghost hovering over his shoulder.
He ran his hand over his mouth.
He could wash away the taste. He could go find Eudora and mourn together. He could save someone tonight. Someone who deserved it.
He could leave his brother to the dogs.
Ben smiled sadly.
Diego couldn’t hear him, but he said it anyway. “No. You’d rather die than leave. I did, anyway.”