Chapter 1: I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid
Dave felt electric.
This wasn’t something he would usually do.
He had never been one for the club scene, always a little too introverted, a little too bookish. The loud music was never anything he liked, and alcohol mostly made him nauseated. It wasn’t his scene. He used to allow himself to be dragged out by college friends when he was younger, but he had grown more stubborn with age; this was the first time he had wound up at a club in a few years. He was 27, and had told himself that he was too old for this kind of thing, until his coworker had demanded he came out with him and a few friends to the local gay bar. (Dave was chronically single, and there weren’t many other places to meet gay men besides Grindr, and, well… he had been feeling a little lonely. So sue him.)
So, he had gone with, had a couple drinks - just enough to feel a little bold.
And then he saw him.
A man with dancing green eyes, lined with smudged makeup, and dark hair, curling with sweat on his forehead. He was swaying to the music, movements strange, his expression rapturous - as if in a world of his own.
Dave felt want tug in his stomach. (This wasn't something he would usually do.)
Before he could second guess himself, he was moving through the crowd, a sea of limbs parting for him, the tide pushing him forward, until the stranger was close, close enough to touch. The man was spinning, wild, before he stumbled.
Stumbled into Dave.
Dave’s heart thumped a fast, tumbling rhythm against his ribs. Green eyes were locked on his face, and he was powerless to look away. Hands were clutched at his biceps, fingers slightly cold in contrast to the heat of the club. He had reached out too, hand steadying the other man at his waist - although, his hands had probably lingered too long at this point. Flushing, Dave pulled his hands back, face apologetic. “You okay?” he asked, half shouting to be heard over the music.
The man’s face split into a grin, before he ducked closer to speak into Dave’s ear. “All thanks to you,” he said, “my knight in shining armour!”
Dave made an embarrassing noise in his throat. “Could I- uh, get you a drink?”
“Oh well, if you’re offering,” the man said. He reached out to take one of Dave’s hands in his, and began dancing through the crowd, light on his feet, leaving Dave to lumber behind him. He darted in at the bar and managed to weasel to the front, waving down a bartender with practiced ease.
“What would you like?” asked Dave, fumbling for his wallet.
Those sharp, smudged eyes trailed down Dave, gaze heavy and suggestive.
“To drink,” Dave clarified.
“Oh, whatever you’re having,” came the easy reply.
Dave swallowed, before ordering a couple of beers - something neutral, he thought, that most guys liked. (From the other man’s slight wince at his first sip, he thought he might have guessed wrong.)
“I didn’t catch your name,” said Dave.
A wicked smile. “What do you want to call me?”
Dave blinked. He was taken aback, a little put-off; the line seemed straight out of a bad porno. “How about I call you by your real name?”
The man had a strange reaction to that - a laugh, but not a happy one. “I don’t go by my legal name anymore.”
“I didn’t ask your legal name,” said Dave. “I asked your real name.”
Dave watched as green eyes crinkled in a smile. He thought that it might have been the first genuine smile he had seen, and he was overcome with the desire to earn more.
“Klaus,” he said. “My name’s Klaus.”
“Nice to meet you, Klaus. I’m Dave.” He offered his hand, a reflex instilled by his mother.
Klaus laughed, but took his hand all the same, shaking it almost theatrically. “Well, aren’t you a gentleman.”
“My mother always used to say, manners maketh the man,” said Dave, half shy.
“I guess I can’t be much of a man then,” said Klaus cheerily.
“You seem pretty well-mannered so far,” Dave said.
Klaus quipped, “Give it time.” He tilted his head back and drained what was left of his beer, whilst Dave tried not to watch the motion of his throat. “Dance with me?”
“Oh, I- I’m no good at dancing,” said Dave.
“There’s no such thing as bad dancing,” said Klaus, with the air of someone imparting immeasurable wisdom. “Dancing isn’t about being observed, it’s about moving for the sake of moving.”
Dave blinked. “Well, I’m not sure how to- to move for the sake of moving.”
A laugh. “Then allow me to show you,” he said, tugging on Dave’s wrist.
He took one last sip of his beer, before abandoning it at the bar, resigning himself to the inevitable embarrassment. Still, Dave couldn’t feel too bitter about it when Klaus was grinning at him encouragingly. The music was loud enough and the lights dim enough that Dave couldn’t overthink things. Instead, he followed Klaus’ example, laughing when Klaus threw himself around, only half in rhythm with the music. Dave felt hot and alive and dizzy, the space between their bodies narrowing, eyes locked on each other.
Dave startled when a hand landed on his shoulder.
Behind him, Anthony - his coworker - stood with raised eyebrows, expression sparkling with mischief. He tried not to think about how quickly gossip spread in his office. “We’re heading out,” said Anthony, jabbing a thumb towards the drunken gaggle of office workers behind him. “You coming?”
With a glance back to check that Klaus was still there, Dave clutched at his courage, and said, “Nah, think I’ll stay. See you Monday?”
“Atta boy,” said Anthony. He shot a wink at Klaus, before starting back towards his friends.
Dave flushed. “Sorry about that,” he said.
“Friend of yours?” Klaus said archly.
“Coworker,” explained Dave.
“Hope you didn’t miss out on your ride,” said Klaus.
“Nah, I walked here. I don’t live far.”
“Well, in that case,” said Klaus, leaning in close, “maybe you could take me back to yours for some… coffee?”
Dave felt his stomach flutter. He had never been one for this scene, never one to take a man to bed for a night. He was old fashioned, most people said, or maybe just a prude. Truthfully, the thought had always made him too anxious - too many variables, too many unknowns. But here, with Klaus, it didn’t feel all that scary. “Sure,” he said.
They got outside, the cool night air pressed against their skin, Dave a little too buzzed to feel it properly, and Klaus threaded their hands together. His knuckles were knobbly between Dave’s fingers. Klaus gave a little after you gesture with his free hand, and Dave said, “This way.”
The pair of them started off, half stumbling, shoulders pressed together. Dave felt the body next to him shiver. “Shit, are you cold? Here,” said Dave, shucking his denim jacket. It wasn’t much protection against the cold, but it was better than the sheer, sparkly crop top that Klaus wore.
Klaus eyed him strangely for a moment. “It’s okay,” he said, “I’m always cold.”
Dave hesitated, jacket still held out between them. “Pretty sure you need it more than I do.”
A shrug, and then Klaus took the jacket, pulling it on with a speed that belied his casual expression. “Thanks,” he said.
“It’s no problem,” said Dave.
“You’re making me feel like a girl on her first date,” teased Klaus, fiddling with the cuffs a moment, before taking Dave’s hand again.
Dave smiled, a small thing. “Can’t say I’ve been on a lot of those.”
“First dates? Or dates in general?” asked Klaus.
“Both,” said Dave.
“Well,” said Klaus, “I can’t believe that’s true!”
“Because I’m so charming?”
“And handsome, don’t forget handsome!”
Dave laughed, a bubbling sound. “Of course, that too,” he said.
“So, come on, why no dates? Out with it!” demanded Klaus, poking him in the shoulder.
Dave said, “Oh, I don’t know. Grew up in a small town - well, you know the story. Conservative, everyone-knows-everyone place. Only moved out to the city when I went to college, and I guess I never really broke the habit.”
“That’s tragic,” decided Klaus. “Nice guy like you? You should have all the dates! All the dates!”
“Well, we can consider this a start,” said Dave, voice hopeful.
Klaus went quiet for a moment. “Not sure I’m boyfriend material,” he said, barely above a whisper, before adding, “or girlfriend material, for that matter!”
Dave laughed, but mostly because he felt like Klaus wanted him to. “Well, alright.”
“You should get a nice boy. Someone who drinks microbrews and has a dog.”
“That’s… weirdly specific,” said Dave.
“His name should start with a C,” continued Klaus. “Like, Clive, or Kyle or something.”
Dave’s forehead creased. “I’m pretty sure Kyle starts with a K.”
Klaus squinted at him. "Prove it," he said, before - inexplicably - making a shushing noise, flapping is free hand.
"I didn't say anything!" said Dave.
"Oh, no, not you," Klaus replied.
Dave shook his head. "You're a strange one," he said fondly.
"You don't know the half of it," Klaus said mysteriously.
They slowed to a stop outside and old apartment block. Dave tilted his head towards the door. "This is me," he said, "if you still want to come in?"
"Lead the way!" said Klaus.
Dave pushed forward, trying to be quiet; it was late, and he knew the family on the first floor had kids.
He stopped at the elevator. "Would you mind if we took the stairs?" Dave said. "I'm kind of claustrophobic."
Klaus looked at him with a complicated expression, before saying, "Sure! Besides, it's always good to do a warm up exercise, get the ol' thigh muscles moving." He winked as he pushed open the door to the staircase.
Dave lived on the fourth floor. He was acclimated to the hike up, but Klaus was quickly out of breath, cheeks flushed. When they got to the top, Dave murmured, “Sorry, I know it’s a bit of a trek.”
Klaus blew out a long breath. “It’s okay. Reminds me of my childhood.”
“Did you live high up?” asked Dave, flipping through his keys.
“Mm, something like that,” Klaus replied enigmatically.
Dave pushed open the door, mentally assessing how messy he had left it. He hadn’t considered that he might be bringing someone back. “Sorry for the mess,” he said.
Klaus looked around the space for a moment, before declaring, “You apologise too much.”
Dave had to bite his tongue on another apology for a moment. He felt, quite suddenly, very young and stupid. Klaus looked even more exotic in the bare, starched lines of the apartment. Dave wondered why he had agreed to come here.
“So,” started Dave, palming the back of his neck. He scrambled for a beat. “Do you want a coff-”
He was cut off by the firm press of lips against his mouth. Dave made a small sound of surprise, hands hovering awkwardly, heart hammering in his chest. Klaus was everywhere - mouth hot on his, hands clutching tightly, smelling of cigarettes and something sweet. Dave gasped for breath around the kiss.
“Where,” Klaus said lowly, “is your bedroom?”
Dave pulled back slightly, feeling dazed. “Uh,” he said. Klaus’ face was very close to his; Dave could see each dark eyelash, the way his eyeliner had creased slightly and smudged underneath, and he found himself in rapture with those fine details. “What?”
“Bedroom,” repeated Klaus. “Although, I am open to other suggestions.”
In the bright lights of the apartment, Klaus’ eyes were dark. Unnaturally so, Dave realised belatedly, the pupils huge, swallowing the irises until there was only a thin ring of dark green left. Dave withdrew a few inches, frowning. “Your pupils are huge,” he said absently.
A slow blink. “Sorry I didn’t share,” said Klaus. “I just took the last of it before we bumped into each other.”
Dave took a moment to process that, and found himself - well, not scandalised - he had gone to college, after all - but shocked, certainly. Concerned, maybe. Disquieted. “You’re high,” he said.
Klaus grinned widely, teeth glinting. “As a kite, baby.”
“Oh,” said Dave. Swallowing, he took a step backward, putting a little more space between them. “I didn’t realise-”
“What’s wrong?” said Klaus, voice needling. He followed Dave’s movement, reaching up to cradle his face.
“Well,” said Dave, quickly turning red, “I’m practically sober. I don’t want to take advantage or anything.”
Klaus snorted. “Take advantage? Honey, trust me, I knew exactly what I was doing when I came home with you.” He leaned forward to press his lips to Dave’s neck.
Dave choked. “Um. You…” He rallied himself, taking a firm step away, hands up between them. “No, really, it wouldn’t be right.”
Seeming to realise that Dave was being serious, Klaus deflated, pouting. “Fine,” he said, clumsily extracting himself from his borrowed jacket. “You couldn’t have had this little crisis of conscience back at the club? It’s gonna be hard to find someone new to take me home this late.”
Dave tried not to feel too hurt by that; he knew that, just because he had felt a connection, it didn’t mean Klaus felt the same. Nor did Klaus owe him anything. Still, it was a worrying statement. “You know, it’s probably not safe to go home with a stranger whilst you’re, y’know, out of it.”
Klaus smiled strangely. “I’m always out of it,” he said glibly, “and besides, it’s cold out, so the other option isn’t much safer.”
“You- what?” said Dave.
“Sleeping in the cold sucks,” sang Klaus, drawing out the last word.
“Are you-” Homeless, he didn’t say. “Do you have somewhere to stay?” he decided on instead.
Klaus wobbled towards the door. Now that Dave wasn’t walking at his side, his inebriation was much more obvious. “Oh, I’ll find somewhere,” said Klaus.
“Wait,” said Dave, impulsive for one brave moment. “You don’t have to go.”
A slow smirk. “Change your mind already?” he said.
“No,” said Dave, maybe a little too emphatically; Klaus twitched slightly at his tone. “No,” he repeated, softer this time. “I mean, you can sleep here. I can take the couch.”
Klaus frowned. “The couch?”
“It’s not too bad, pretty comfy really,” said Dave.
“But,” said Klaus, shaking his head slowly, “it’s your bed. Why would you…?”
Dave shrugged. “It wouldn’t be decent, kicking you out this late. Really, it isn’t a problem.”
“You don’t have to do that,” said Klaus, uncertain, his gaze flickering between Dave and something unseen. (Dave wondered just how high he was.)
"I'll only worry otherwise," insisted Dave. "It's cold out, and you're not sober. It's the least I could do."
"...Fine," said Klaus. "But I'll take the couch."
"Deal," said Dave. "Here, let me grab some blankets."
"You spoil me," said Klaus, all but collapsing into the sofa. Dave tried not to since at the honest gratitude in his voice, and resolutely didn't think about how people usually treated queer, homeless drug addicts.
"It's nothing," Dave said, retrieving a pillow and his spare blankets from a storage box in his bedroom. When he returned, Klaus was already half asleep, lips parted and breathing slow. “Nope,” said Dave, “Come on, up you get.” He pulled Klaus up by the hand, steadying him when he wobbled.
“ Dave,” Klaus whined.
“Let me make the sofa up before you fall asleep on it, okay?”
“It’s fine,” said Klaus, eyes drifting closed. “Slept on worse.”
Dave pretended that those words didn’t make his stomach hurt. “Look, all done,” he said cheerily.
“Yay,” muttered Klaus, dropping down onto it bonelessly.
“Get some sleep, okay? And I’ll make breakfast in the morning” said Dave, tugging a blanket up over the other man’s sprawling limbs.
“Waffles?” said Klaus, burrowing his face into the pillow.
“Think you’re overestimating my skills,” said Dave. “Eggs?”
“Eggs is good,” breathed Klaus. “Good eggs.”
“Alright. I’ll just be…” he trailed off, realising that Klaus had passed out. “Night,” he whispered, before retreating to his room.
For Dave, sleep didn’t come so easily. It had been a long time since he had anyone stay overnight, even on the couch, and this wasn’t just anyone. This was a stranger. Admittedly, a very cute stranger, with clever green eyes and a mysterious past, but a stranger all the same. Not to mention an addict. What was stopping Klaus from stealing his valuables and sneaking out? The guy clearly wasn’t in a good situation, financially.
Dave tried to reassure himself that Klaus wouldn’t do that. He seemed like a good guy - down on his luck, sure but a decent person. Besides, thought Dave, it wasn’t like he had much worth stealing.
There wasn’t anything to gain by worrying. He tried to put it out of his mind, and get some sleep. There would be time for all of that come morning.
(By the time Dave woke up, the couch was empty except for his sheets, neatly folded, and the faint smell of tobacco. His radio, cassette player, and knife block were all missing.)
Chapter 2: still be on my feet
some more of these idiots for y'all
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Things went back to normal.
Dave tried not to think about it too much. Every time he caught the smell of cigarette smoke on his couch cushions, his stomach twisted, and his head spilled over with noise. It was a strange mix of emotions - embarrassment, regret, pity - and it threatened to overwhelm him if Dave thought too long on it. Instead, he put it out of his mind the best he could. His coworkers teased him Monday morning, but gossip always burned fast, and soon someone else’s love life was the topic of office talk.
(Life went on.)
Dave’s apartment seemed flat and empty. The contrast that Klaus had bought had made Dave all too aware of his own boring life, the lack of personality in his own space. He bought a new radio, and knife block, and then a houseplant on a whim. He overwatered it, and killed it within three weeks. Then, he bought another houseplant, and a book on basic botany too.
Winter came, and Dave downloaded Tinder. A week later, he deleted it again, and joined the gym instead. He figured that getting back into shape was a better use of his time. His mom called, and Dave told her that everything was just fine. She suggested that he could visit during Hanukkah, and he told her that he would think about it, even though they both knew he wouldn’t. Dave tried not to feel guilty, and when that failed, tried to stop thinking about it altogether.
On New Years, he allowed his coworkers to drag him back to the same bar he met Klaus at. The whole night, he pretended not to look for him, and then pretended he wasn’t feeling disappointed when Klaus didn’t show up. At midnight, he counted down with a crowd of almost-friends, and took a sip of beer instead of kissing a beautiful stranger. (He had learnt his lesson, he promised himself.)
January came, and with it, snow. Dave dug out a scarf, and shivered at his bus stop, the world still half dark when he left the house, and inky black when he got home in the evenings.
On one such cold evening, Dave trudged home from the bus stop, toes going numb in his oxford shoes. He mentally reviewed the contents of his fridge; he hadn’t gotten around to grocery shopping, and he didn’t have the energy to do it that night. He thought that he might still have some tins of soup knocking around in the back of his cupboards, and he definitely had an emergency loaf of bread in the freezer. As long as it was hot, he thought, shoving his hands deeper into his pockets, he would be happy with it.
Dave was startled out of his thoughts by a wet, hacking cough.
He turned, reflexively, towards the noise. The street was quiet. No one around. He frowned to himself, disquieted.
Again. A rattling cough, the kind that came with phrases like ‘chest infection’ and the taste of antibiotics. It was close, Dave realised, closer than he realised. It was coming from the narrow alleyway to his right. “Hello?” he called cautiously.
A small whimper was his only answer.
Caught halfway between concern and anxiety, he stood still for a moment, torn. Then, telling himself not to be such a coward, he pushed forward, squinting into the darkness. "Hello? Are you okay?" He asked, eyes catching on a crumpled form against the alley wall. He stepped closer, only to freeze when the stranger flinched back.
"Don't-" they croaked, "please…"
Dave blinked. " Klaus?" he blurted, incredulous.
"Wha-" Another round of coughing interrupted him, and Dave winced at the sound.
“It’s me,” he said once the coughing died down. Crouching closer, he clarified, “Dave, I mean. From- It was a while ago, you might not remem-”
“Dave!” interrupted Klaus, voice breathy. “I remember Dave! Dave was nice, we like Dave.”
“Oh, uh, that’s… nice?” said Dave. His eyes had begun to adjust to the dark, and he could just about make out Klaus’ face, eyes bright and unfocused. He was wearing a coat this time, but it was a flimsy, patchwork thing, with a feathered collar that wilted under the damp of the last snowfall.
“Nice Dave,” muttered Klaus, eyes drifting closed.
Dave’s gut lurched with panic. “Hey!” he said sharply.
Klaus twitched, eyes blinking open. “What?”
“Don’t fall asleep,” said Dave. “Are you hurt? Sick?”
“Just a little cough,” sang Klaus.
“It sounds bad. The cold can’t be helping,” Dave said, expression pinched.
“Mm, you sound like Ben,” said Klaus.
Dave frowned, trying to remember whether a Ben had been mentioned before. He shook his head, moving on to more pressing matters. “Klaus, is there somewhere you can go? You really shouldn’t be out in the cold if you’re sick, it could be dangerous.”
“No,” said Klaus. And then, “ No, Ben, shut up.”
He must have a fever, thought Dave, that or he was high - or maybe a combination of the two. He ran his hands over his cold cheeks. “Then come with me,” he said.
“What?” Klaus replied slowly.
“Come back to mine, at least to warm up,” said Dave firmly.
“Haven’t you ever heard of- of stranger danger?” said Klaus, but he pulled his feet underneath himself, and attempted to stand.
“Woah,” said Dave, hands out and ready to catch. Klaus weaved unsteadily. “You good?”
“Mhmm,” hummed Klaus, before folding over to cough, chest heaving with the force of it.
“Shit,” said Dave. “Are you sure you can walk? It’s not far, but I could call a cab?”
“Jeez, and people say I’m dramatic,” Klaus said, shuffling towards the street with one hand on the damp alleyway wall for support.
Dave shook his head. “I’m being serious, dude, you look-”
“Careful, or you’re going to hurt my feelings.”
“Oh, no, I don’t mean-, I-” stammered Dave, “You look very handsome, of course, I just meant…”
At that, Klaus pushed away from the wall and into Dave’s space. “Oh, really?” he said challengingly. Dave thought it would be much sexier if Klaus didn’t look about a minute away from passing out, skin waxy and pale, eyes glassy.
“None of that,” Dave said, embarrassed. He gently manoeuvred them so that Klaus was at his side and Dave was taking some of his weight. They set off at a slow pace, and Dave worriedly listened to the way that Klaus rattled and wheezed.
“Gentleman,” muttered Klaus vaguely.
“Hmm?” said Dave.
“You,” said Klaus, the words choppy. “Very… gentlemanly.”
“If you say so,” Dave said patiently, internally worrying at how dazed Klaus sounded. “Are you sure you wanna be coming back with me, and not, like, going to a hospital?”
Klaus made a choking noise at that, before hurriedly saying, “No, no, please, don’t- No hospitals, please-”
“Woah, okay, okay,” said Dave, alarmed. “No hospitals, okay?”
“No hospitals,” Klaus repeated, his tone similar to Dave’s nephew, stubborn and all of three years old. (He must be five, now. Dave hadn’t seen him in a while. Wouldn’t be seeing him for a while. He put it out of his mind.)
“No hospitals,” Dave said reassuringly. He prayed that they wouldn’t need one. Dave was no doctor, but he knew how dangerous an untreated chest infection could be. He didn’t want to break his promise, but…
Well. He would burn that bridge when he got to it.
The pair continued on. It was slow progress, but Dave wasn’t willing to rush Klaus. He had half a mind to just pick him up and carry him - he certainly looked light enough - but it felt a little invasive, controlling. He wasn’t trying to kidnap the poor guy.
“This is me,” said Dave. He pushed open the door to the apartment block, and ushered Klaus inside. The other man made a small noise at the rush of warm air.
It was only then that Dave realised the problem. “Oh, uh,” he said hesitantly. “Guess we should probably take the elevator, huh?”
Klaus wrinkled his nose. “Stairs.”
Dave looked at him. “You’re barely standing.”
“I- I don’t like small spaces,” Klaus muttered mulishly.
“You-” Dave cut himself off. “Why didn’t you mention that last time?”
“Because last time, you wanted to take the stairs,” said Klaus, arms crossed.
Dave pinched his nose. “Well, we’re just going to have to suck it up.”
Klaus whined unhappily.
“I know,” sighed Dave, poking the up button.
“No,” said Klaus. He was pouting.
Batting his eyelashes, Klaus suggested, “Carry me?”
Dave stared at him. “Up three flights of stairs?”
“Please?” said Klaus. “Pretty please? Pretty please with a cherry on top?”
The elevator dinged, doors sliding open. Dave looked between the narrow space inside (his chest tightened just looking at it) and Klaus, eyes wide and hopeful, shivering pitifully.
“Fine!” said Dave. “I’ll carry you up.”
“Yay!” cheered Klaus, pumping a fist, before coughing hard, almost falling with the force of it.
Dave reached out to hold his elbows. “That sounds bad,” he said.
Klaus waved a shaking hand. “Not that bad.”
Shaking his head, Dave pushed open the door to the stairwell. “I can’t believe you’ve talked me into this,” he said.
“Me neither, to be honest,” Klaus agreed cheerfully. He leaned against the wall for a second, eyes fluttering, mouth parted as he wheezed.
Dave cleared his throat. “Okay, how are we doing this? I can give you a piggyback, as long as you promise that you’re not going to let go or fall off backwards.”
“Sure,” said Klaus. He pushed himself off of the wall, only to stumble, knees giving out on him.
Dave cursed, stopping Klaus’ fall by reflex.
“Oops,” said Klaus.
“Okay,” said Dave, defeated. Then, he grabbed Klaus from underneath his knees, and lifted him into a bridal carry. He shuffled him gently, making sure he had a solid grip. Klaus was much lighter than he should have been.
Klaus, for his part, buried into the crook of Dave’s neck, making him hiss as his icy cold nose made contact. “You’re warm,” slurred Klaus.
“You’re freezing,” Dave countered, starting the trek up the stairs. He was fairly in shape - he had been going to the gym regularly - but he was still working in an office most of the time, and Klaus was still a fully grown man. He tried not to grunt or breathe too heavily, suddenly self-conscious, especially with Klaus’ face so close to his own.
Klaus made a content little sound, which would have been adorable, if it weren’t accompanied by another round of wracking coughs. Dave could feel the way it rattled the other man’s body, as Klaus shuddered in his arms.
“Almost there,” said Dave, thighs burning as he went up those last few stairs.
“Mm… ‘very strong,” said Klaus.
Dave sucked in a breath as they reached his floor. “Sure,” he said, trying to dislodge Klaus without dropping him. “Come on, you can walk the last few steps.”
“But you’re warm,” moaned Klaus, regretfully breaking his hold from around Dave’s neck.
Dave fumbled with the keys, and said, “There’s blankets inside.”
Klaus just blew a raspberry at that, so Dave focused on getting into the flat, flicking the lights on and turning the thermostat up. Klaus was already wobbling over to the couch, arms wrapped tightly around himself.
Dave grabbed a towel from the bathroom, and then sat by Klaus, who was balled up in the corner of the couch. “Come on,” he coaxed, “let’s get that wet coat off.”
Klaus was pliant as Dave pulled him out of the coat, and wrapped a blanket around his shoulders instead. Dave thought that it was important to be dry, if you were trying to prevent hypothermia, though the fact that Klaus was shivering still was a good sign. He then started toweling Klaus’ damp curls, smiling when it fluffed up as it tried.
He was so distracted by his task that he almost jumped when Klaus said, “Why are you being nice to me?”
“What?” asked Dave, still holding the towel in the air.
Klaus blinked heavily at him, looking half asleep. “You’re being all…” He trailed off, shaking his head as if to clear it. “I stole your stuff.”
Dave swallowed noisily. “I know,” he said, with a shrug. He brought the towel back up to run over the dark curls at his temples, careful motions as not to startle the other man. Klaus watched him with dark eyes. Dave wondered what he saw.
His lips collided with Dave’s, rushed and clumsy. Klaus kissed ferociously, hands sliding along Dave’s jaw, leaving a cold line of goosebumps in his wake. Dave gasped into his mouth.
He pulled back.
“Klaus,” he said roughly. Dave watched as he blinked, brow furrowed, as if confused by this turn of events. “Klaus, you don’t- owe me anything, okay?”
“What?” said Klaus.
“I didn’t bring you back here to-” Dave broke off, uncomfortable. “I mean, you don’t have to earn your right to be here, alright?”
“Then why am I here?” demanded Klaus. Dave thought he sounded almost… angry. Frustrated, at the least.
Dave said, “Because you’re sick, and you needed somewhere to warm up.”
“Well, I’m warm now,” said Klaus, standing up on unsteady legs.
“If that’s all this is, then you won’t care if I leave, right?” Klaus challenged.
“Oh,” said Dave quietly. “I mean, yeah, of course, that’s fine. I just…”
“Just what?” said Klaus.
Dave shrugged stiffly. “I was going to make you some soup.”
Klaus looked at him for a long moment. And then he started laughing. “Soup,” he gasped out, dropping heavily back onto the couch. “Fucking- soup.” He put his face in his hands, shoulders shaking. “Shut up, Ben,” he muttered.
“Um,” said Dave, confused and a bit worried. “Is that- Do you want soup?”
Klaus coughed into the fold of his elbow for a second, before straightening up, wiping at where a tear had escaped. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, soup would be nice.”
as always, comments are greatly appreciated, because i live on validation i receive via strangers on the internet
Chapter 3: i could drink a case of you darling
some Klaus POV in this chapter. enjoy, and merry christmas to anyone celebrating!
“Do you have a bathtub?”
Dave looked up from where he was washing up their empty soup bowls. “Um, yes?”
“Can I take a bath?” croaked Klaus.
Frowning, Dave said, “Are you still cold?”
Klaus shrugged, shoulders folding inward. Stupid. He had already been given food and shelter, but he always had to push his luck. “I mean, I don’t have to, I was just…”
“Oh, no, I wasn’t-” Dave shook his head. “Sorry, I just meant, you shouldn’t get in a hot bath if you’re still really cold, it’s bad for you. I’m pretty sure you were mildly hypothermic when you got here.”
“Oh,” said Klaus with a laugh. “No, I’m nice and warmed up now. Blankets and hot soup worked a charm.” It was mostly true. A splinter of cold was still in his bones, making his muscles tremble, but Klaus suspected it was just a fever making him feel that way.
“Alright then, as long as you don’t drown in my bath,” joked Dave, drying his hands before going into the bathroom. Klaus tried not to think about accurate the joke was. “I have some, uh, grapefruit bubble bath stuff if you want?”
“Bubbles!” cheered Klaus, which quickly dissolved into coughing. His chest ached at the strain, and he tried to swallow the urge to cough more.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” laughed Dave, pouring a generous amount in.
"You're an angel," said Klaus, only half humourous. Dave was practically glowing - although, that night be something Klaus' overheated brain cooked up. Despite being on the wrong side of high, everything had taken on the slightly surreal glow that he usually associated with molly. He pushed himself up to standing, legs wobbling, and ignored how Ben reflexively reached as if to steady him. He could almost feel his hands, cold echoes at his elbow.
Dave was fussing with the taps, adjusting the temperature, before standing up and taking a folded towel out of the cupboard. “There’s soap and shampoo, if you want to wash your hair or whatever. Do you- holy shit, what are you doing?”
“What?” yipped Klaus, freezing halfway through wriggling out of his leather pants.
“Uh,” said Dave, averting his gaze, face turning a hot red. “I’ll just- leave you to, uh…”
Klaus watched with a dizzy confusion as Dave edged out of the room. He wasn’t sure what, exactly, he had done wrong, and his brain wasn’t co-operating as he wondered what. Shrugging it off, he stepped out of his trousers, grabbing at the towel rack as he wobbled, head pulsing and spinning. He swallowed down a rising cough.
He stepped into the bath, wincing as the hot water burned his skin, toes throbbing as the blood returned to them. He attempted to sink slowly down, only to slip and drop into the water with a loud splash.
“Klaus? Everything alright?” came Dave’s voice, muffled by the door he must have shut behind him.
“No! Everything’s fine!” trilled Klaus. He turned and coughed into the wet skin of his arm. Now the heat was seeping through his body, turning his tense, shivering muscles to jelly, and he sighed in relief. It was almost as good as a high.
“This seems good.”
Klaus startled, causing a clump of bubbles to fly up into the air. “Christ on a cracker, Ben!”
“I’ve been here the whole time,” said Ben, unimpressed.
“Yes, but I’ve gotten very good at ignoring you,” Klaus said before dunking his head under the water. Resurfacing, he spluttered and coughed for a moment, before combing his hair back with shaking fingers.
Ben watched him with steady eyes. “Try not to fuck this one up.”
“I always try not to fuck things up, Ben,” complained Klaus. “It’s not my fault that I’m chronically misunderstood.”
Pinching his nose, Ben said, “You’ve already stolen from this guy once.”
Klaus shrugged, unconcerned, scooping up some bubbles absently. “He made it too easy.”
Ben rolled his eyes and faded out of view.
Klaus jolted upright. He had been dozing slightly - lulled by the warm water and fever-tinged quiet - and slipped under the water. He sucked in a breath, triggering a coughing fit. Klaus winced at the way his ribs ached at the pull.
The water had gone cool at some point, and the bubbles were all but gone. Klaus considered running the hot tap, but he had been in there a while, and he didn’t want Dave to come in asking questions, so he heaved himself out. His knees shook and wobbled under his weight. The soup earlier had helped (after not eating for a few hours or days), but he still felt unsteady. He tugged a towel around himself, and fumbled to tuck the corner in, securing it around him.
Pushing his way out of the bathroom, steam billowing out behind him, Klaus sang, “Davey-boy? Could I borrow some clothes mayhaps?” He had left his shirt and pants balled up on the bathroom floor. They both had that particular smell of fever sweat, and Klaus had worn worse, but now that he was all clean and fresh, the thought of pulling on those clothes made his skin crawl.
Dave leaped to his feet. He had been sitting on the couch opposite the TV, but the sound was muted and he had been busy chewing his nails. “Oh, yes! Sorry, I should have thought-”
Klaus waved him off. “No worries, big guy! Is it through here?” He stepped through into the bedroom, quickly zeroing in on the wardrobe. “What do we have here?”
Quick on his heels, Dave said, “My comfy stuff in the drawer, here.” He picked out a plain t-shirt and some grey joggers, holding them out in offering.
None of it was Klaus’ style, but he wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the ass, so he took them with a cheerful thanks. The material was soft and worn, and maybe he could convince Dave to run his dirty clothes through the wash. He laid the clothes on the bed, and went to drop the towel.
“Woah, woah,” said Dave, hands reaching out as if to stop him.
Klaus blinked. “Yes?”
“Um, let me give you some privacy,” Dave said, back out of the door hastily.
Frowning, Klaus watched him go. Usually, people liked seeing him undressed, and yet Dave seemed almost repulsed. If it wasn’t for a long history of positive feedback, Klaus would think that maybe he had been a terrible kisser and put the guy off. It didn’t bode well for Klaus’ chances of hanging around for a while. Dave might be a good Samaritan, but in his experience, those good intentions stretched a lot longer when some good ol’ lust was added to the mix.
Klaus pulled the clothes on lethargically. His eyelids felt weighted, limbs uncoordinated. His cough had been keeping him up, and now that he was warm and fed, it was catching up with him. Once dressed, he padded back out.
“Mind if I stay the night? Promise I won’t, uh, steal anything this time.”
Dave blurted, “Yes! Of course, Klaus. Let me change the sheets on the bed for you.”
Klaus squinted at Dave, confused. “The- what?”
“The bed. I’m not going to make you take the couch when you’re sick,” said Dave.
There was a beat of silence. Klaus couldn’t quite make sense of it. Why would Dave sacrifice his own bed for Klaus, when Klaus had done nothing but cause him trouble? Unless-
Klaus let out a breath. Of course; Dave wanted him to suggest it. That way, Dave didn’t have to feel like he was taking advantage. “You know, we could just share the bed. It looked big enough for the both of us.”
Dave looked at him for a long moment, inscrutable, before saying, “No, I’ll be fine on the couch.”
Wrong-footed, Klaus chewed on his lip for a moment. Did Dave want him to keep asking? Some people liked to be begged, but didn’t want to have to ask Klaus to do it. Was Dave that kind of guy? He wasn’t sure.
Apparently, he had taken too long to find the right answer, because Dave softly insisted, “Really, it’s no trouble.” He smiled tightly, before going to, presumably, change the bed sheets.
Klaus didn’t move, still wrapped up in a dizzying mess of thoughts. Had Klaus missed his cue? Was it possible that Dave had been sincere, that he really wanted Klaus to take the bed? He huffed, running a hand through his damp hair. He was too sober, mind racing with thoughts and feelings, threatening to drown him, and right on the edges of his vision, dulled by his fever, the flickering shadows of ghosts.
He trudged over to the bedroom, leaning against the doorframe to watch Dave change the sheets. The man was nice to look at, all strong shoulders and dark blonde curls. Klaus thought that if the man was planning on fucking Klaus, once he was less ill and gross, he wouldn’t mind too much. He might even see how long he could stretch this. Maybe he could have a little holiday from being on the streets, provided that he could keep Dave entertained that long.
A cough rose up, doubling Klaus over. Dave turned sharply, brow low. “Are you okay? That really doesn’t sound good.”
Klaus wheezed, “I’m fine. Just a tickle.”
“The beds all ready,” Dave said, pulling the duvet back.
Klaus climbed in eagerly. The mattress was soft, easing away the ache in the small of his back, and he melted into it with a relieved groan. It had been a while since he had slept in a proper bed, and even longer since he hadn’t had to earn it.
“Night, Klaus,” said Dave softly, already heading towards the door, seemingly content to leave Klaus to sleep.
And then everything went dark.
Klaus felt his lungs tighten, a knee-jerk reaction. “Wait- Don’t-” stammered Klaus, too exhausted to find a smoother way of asking.
“What?” asked Dave. Klaus couldn’t read his tone in the dark.
“I don’t- could you leave the light on?” said Klaus, voice thin and childish.
The light quickly flicked back on. “Do you not like the dark?”
Was it a real question, or a barb? “Not really,” he replied.
Dave hesitated, and Klaus wondered if he would turn the light off anyway and leave Klaus to the shadows that pooled in the corners. Instead, he turned around and left. Klaus breathed a sigh of relief, sinking back down and letting his eyes shutter closed. The light above his head filtered through his eyelids, blood turning it red. It might be hard to sleep under such a bright light, but it was better than the terror filled silence he would otherwise be facing.
“Would this be better?”
Klaus twitched at the unexpected voice. He squinted against the light to find Dave hovering at the doorway, lamp in hand, looking uncertain. “I mean,” continued Dave, “You can have the main light if that’s better, I just thought-”
“You brought me a lamp?” questioned Klaus, dumbstruck.
“Uh, yeah,” said Dave, scratching the back of his neck. “It’s just the one from next to the couch.”
Klaus swallowed. “Yes. That would be-...”
Dave stepped into the room, fiddling with the cable. “I’ll just plug it in for you,” he murmured, ducking down next to the bedside table. The room was quickly filled with a warm glow, and Dave carefully placed the lamp on the table. “There,” he said, flicking the main light switch, leaving them bathed in the soft lamplight. He nodded to himself, before slipping back towards the door.
“Thank you,” blurted Klaus. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying not to watch Dave’s reaction.
“You’re welcome,” he said, voice hushed. “Goodnight.”
“Night,” breathed Klaus, allowing his eyes to flutter closed. He could hear the door being gently closed, and then quiet - or, almost quiet. On the edges of his hearing, his name was whispered, a threat of what to come when his blood was clean and his temperature less high, but for now, he could almost pretend he was alone.
“Night, Klaus,” said the last figure in the room: Ben. “I’ll keep an eye out.”
Klaus relaxed at the familiar words, the knowledge that he had someone watching his back. “Night, Ben,” he hummed, before succumbing to the lure of sleep.
Chapter 4: constantly in the darkness
warning for uh some blood/horror at the start i guess? nothing too bad i dont think
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Cold. Cold, everywhere, colder than anything Klaus had ever experienced. It was creeping in, leaching into his bones, his lungs. It stole his breath.
Klaus didn’t know where he was.
Beneath his knees, his palms, stone, hard and unforgiving. His hands reached out into the dark, searching for- something. He couldn’t see them through the darkness. It was like a living thing, thick and cloying, clinging to him like a malevolent force. He couldn’t see.
“Please,” he said. Klaus wasn’t sure who he was asking, or what he was asking for. Just: “Please.”
He shuffled forward, with no sense of direction. Stone scraped his knees. There had to be something here. This couldn’t be all there was. This couldn’t-
His hands stumbled into something- something fleshy and soft. A body. His heart stammered in his chest.
“Hello?” he croaked.
The body was still, unmoving. Dead.
“Christ,” he said. He thought he could see it now, the form of it taking shape in the dark, sprawling limbs pale and glowing. He thought that he could see blood, dark and sticky, leaking and pooling underneath.
For a moment, he was blinded by the memory of Ben- of when Ben-
He violently shoved the thought away, blinking fast until the scene resolved itself, and now he could see that it couldn't be Ben, not with limbs so long and skinny, skin so white. Not Ben. Not Ben.
With shaking, fumbling hands, he pressed his fingers the their wrist, searching for what he knew was long gone. Their flesh was cool to the touch. No pulse.
But maybe- maybe it was just too weak to feel it there. Wasn’t that what Grace had told them? He shuffled closer, until his knees were damp with congealing blood, and he could reach their neck. His bloody fingers ghosted over where their carotid artery would lie. A sob bubbled up in his chest, and he was trembling so hard that it was hard to keep his hand still long enough, but he waited until he was certain that there was no pulse. He was too late.
“I’m sorry,” he said. He wasn’t sure how, or why, but it was his fault, he knew it. Blood was on his hands - both metaphorically and literally. Klaus had something bad inside of him, something that curdled and leaked and bled over the people around him, and regardless of how quickly he bandaged himself up, he kept hurting people. Another victim of the thing lurking in his chest. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
He wiped his cheeks with the back of his wrist, swallowing down another sob. He reached out with a hesitant, twitching hand, to roll the body to face him; it seemed important that he knew their face.
His own eyes stared back at him.
Klaus shrieked, limbs numb and frozen in horror, tumbling backwards into the cold slick of blood when his knees gave out on him. The darkness came back for him, smothering him, like hands on him, ghosts clawing at his flesh, screaming at him, the sound wild and echoing in his ears, and his name being called, Klaus, Klaus, please-
“Wake up. Klaus, wake up-”
-but the hands on him were warm and gentle, not painful, and he wasn’t cold and sticky with red, the ground underneath him too soft and warm to be stone, and he felt dizzy with vertigo, nothing making sense-
“Klaus? Are you with me? You’re okay, you’re okay-”
-in fact, the room was resolving itself around him, softly lit by an overturned lamp, and at his side, someone living, someone speaking to him with quiet worry-
“Just breathe, you’re alright, it was a dream-”
But someone was still screaming-
“Hey, hey, it’s okay, you’re right here, your safe-”
With a sudden pang of realisation, Klaus choked on his scream, wrapping both palms over his open mouth as if to muffle the sound. His lungs burned as he held his breath, scared that if he let himself exhale he might start yelling again. The room was much quieter now. Dave’s steady stream of comfort was much louder in comparison, easier to focus on. “That’s it, that’s it, just breathe, alright?”
After a beat, the burning in his lungs became too much, and he exhaled in one huge gust, pushing out through his fingers noisily. His next breath was ragged, a broken thing. Now, with reality sinking in fast, his blood rushed to his cheeks, a red stain. He had been screaming.
"Well," said Klaus, voice pitchy. "That was dramatic." He peeled his hands away from his face, and - not looking at them, in case the blood had lingered - righted the lamp.
"Are you okay?" said Dave.
Klaus laughed at that, the noise sharp and unhinged. "Peachy. Did I wake you?"
"Oh, no, I wasn't asleep," Dave said unconvincingly.
"Right," said Klaus, roughly levering himself up from the floor. He tried not to flinch when Dave reached out, ready to catch him if he fell. "Well, you can go back to sleep now. In fact, you may as well take the bed; I'm not feeling sleepy anymore." Truthfully, even if he was, there was no chance that Klaus would risk sleep after that. Night terrors were rarely a solitary occasion.
“Well, hold on, you probably-”
“Really, I promise I’ll be quiet, and I won’t steal anything or sneak out, or-”
“Klaus,” Dave interrupted, “you don’t have to convince me.”
Klaus said, “Oh,” wrongfooted.
“I just-” continued Dave, “Do you really want to be alone after that? I know I wouldn’t.”
Brow wrinkled, Klaus squinted at the clock, and said, “It’s five in the morning.”
Dave blinked. “Yes.”
“So, you should be sleeping,” concluded Klaus, before turning to cough wetly into the crook of his elbow.
Shrugging, Dave said, “An early start won’t kill me. Come on, I can make you some tea, and we can put a movie on or something.”
Klaus stared. He felt like he might be dreaming, head woozy and heavy. Part of him - a large part - wanted to prod and question until he could find whatever strange motivation Dave had for being like this. Another, louder, part of Klaus was terrified that the kindness would be snatched away if he looked at it twice. “Okay,” he said.
He silently followed Dave out into the living room. A blanket was strewn across the carpet, like Dave had thrown it off in a panic. He picked it back up with ears burning red. “Um, how do you like your tea?”
Klaus smiled wryly. “This might come as a shock to you, but my lifestyle doesn’t afford much opportunity to explore the world of tea.”
“Right, uh- do you like camomile? Have you tried it, I mean?”
“Well…” Truthfully, Klaus had tried chamomile; it tasted like potpourri. Grace used to make it when he couldn’t sleep, until he discovered the handy sedating effect of pharmaceuticals. Speaking of which - the time since his last hit had been stretching on and on. He knew he had one last oxycodone in his coat pocket, and that if he didn’t indulge soon, he would start slipping into withdrawal - the last thing he needed when he was already weak and sick. Besides, with his head pounding and chest aching, it was practically a justifiable drug, medicine for his sore bones. He wasn’t sure Dave would agree, though. Was he willing to test the limits of Dave’s patience? No, not quite yet. When the ghosts came through properly though, when they managed to pierce the muffled veil of his fever and lingering high, all bets were off.
“Or something else? If you don’t like chamomile, I’ve also got green tea, or peppermint, or I can just make some breakfast tea?” Dave rambled nervously at Klaus’ lack of reply.
“Whatever you’re having,” said Klaus, dropping down onto the sofa before his quaking knees did it for him. The change in altitude make his temples pulse angrily.
“Alright,” said Dave, backing away to the kitchen. Klaus followed with his eyes. He moved slowly, still sleep addled, fumbling to separate the teabags from each other.
“He was sleeping,” Ben said suddenly, making Klaus startle on the couch.
He turned and coughed, lungs irritated by the sudden movement. “Yeah, no shit, Ben,” Klaus hissed breathlessly.
Ben looked thoughtful. “He must really like you, y’know.”
“Doubtful,” said Klaus between coughs. “Probably just happens to be one of those mythical good people I’ve always heard of.”
“Maybe,” said Ben, unconvinced.
Dave shuffled back over with a steaming mug in each hand. “Here,” he said. “I’ve added a little honey, for your throat.”
Klaus smiled, the expression feeling strange on his face. “Thanks.”
“Careful, it’s hot - I mean, obviously, uh - but you should probably give it a minute to cool,” said Dave, digging down the side of the couch cushions until he found the TV remote. “What do you want to watch?”
Klaus shrugged. It had been a long time since he last had a chance to sit and watch anything, and in all honesty, he couldn’t really recall what he used to like. “I don’t mind.”
“We can have a look through Netflix,” said Dave. “Just say if there’s anything you like the look of.”
“Sure,” said Klaus, blowing gently on his tea, watching the steam rise and curl lazily.
Dave flicked through some movies, pausing to read a few descriptions on the way. Klaus wasn’t paying much attention until Ben said, “Klaus.”
Klaus blinked at the screen. “Wait,” he said.
“This one?” asked Dave.
Allison looked back from the screen. Her smile was wide and brilliant, and to anyone who hadn’t grown up with her, very convincing. She looked good. Her hair had been dyed blonde, and her skin was glossy and healthy. She didn’t look too skinny either, not like she did when she first got into the world of Hollywood and stardom, and all the magazines had been singing praises for her weight loss diet that had sucked all the youthful strength from her form. It made something warm settle in his chest, despite the bitter taste at the back of his throat. “Yeah,” croaked Klaus. “This one.”
Dave nodded, hitting play. “I’ve heard it’s good. Allison Hargreeves is a pretty good actress, too.”
“Oh yeah?” said Klaus.
“Yeah, I think she won Best Actress at one of those award shows last year. I’m not sure. I don’t really follow that kind of thing, to be honest.”
Klaus hummed. “Me neither,” he said.
The movie, as it turned out, was good. Allison kicked ass and took names, and gave a nuanced performance that the original script probably didn’t deserve. Watching her, it was almost like being back home, nostalgic in some strange, half sad way. Klaus sipped his tea and tried not to miss his sister. Tried not to think about his family. And when Dave disappeared to the bathroom, Klaus swallowed his last pill with the too-sweet dregs of tea, despite Ben’s insistence, and tried not to think at all.
as always, comments feed the empty pit in my soul