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älska, mwah

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It’s a beautiful day. It’s been a whole year since they got out of 1963, a whole eight months since the Sparrow Academy fiasco, a whole ninety days since Klaus finally got to say “we did something right after all!”, a whole six weeks since his inheritance showed up – who knew that Five managed to fix the timeline so that a Dallas property and entire estate and affairs of a ‘60s socialite would be legally bound to a “Klaus Hargreeves” who only just started existing in this timeli – you know what, fuck it. He’s not Five, he doesn’t care. He’s got money, babe. Also: A whole six minutes since a call announcing his rental application was accepted.

He’s city living. He’s an independent boy. He’s going to – like, finally discover himself, probably.

It seemed appropriate to get a place with a roommate in order to increase the possibility of getting the full experience.

“We’ve matched you based on your applications,” the clerk at the rental office had told him. Cool, cool. Klaus had lied his ass off on his, and it was as bland as bland could otherwise be, but he gets along with most people. And this is a fancy agency, not a crack house, so he figures it can’t possibly be as bad as that time -

Nah. That’s in the past. Which is very, very much behind him (or… to the side of him. Or… he doesn’t fucking know, he’s not fucking Five, who cares).

Klaus makes the trip across town to pick up the keys, and then again to his new digs. He unlocks the apartment – third floor! Oh the views! Of… other buildings! And – not dumpsters, or other people’s laundry (he is so done living in hostels) or, he doesn’t know, weird cult members – it’s so fucking normal. He’s in love.

His roommate isn’t here yet, which is fine. The main area and kitchenette came part furnished, but he’s got a bunch of IKEA shit being delivered like a bed and some tables and a chair, and maybe they’ll figure out the rest of what they need when they get there.

There’s a rattle at the door just as he’s unpacking the small amount of wardrobe he’s amassed this year – the room has a walk in closet! He’s dying, and hopes to god that being first really did mean he got to pick which bedroom he could have – and Klaus sticks his head out of the door in anxious excitement.

A tall, blonde man carrying a rucksack and a large box stops dead at the sight of him. Klaus waves.

“Hiya,” he greets. “I’m Klaus. Hope you don’t mind, I started unpacking in this one already, yours has the better view if you’re into that, I have a bunch of furniture arriving this arvo; I hope that’s not a bother, I’m super low maintenance I promise, I am so happy this place has a bathtub oh my God.”

The man looks at him for a minute longer than maybe is normal, and Klaus is about to get a little nervous about that, before the man says, “I am Axel.”

He’s sort of vaguely familiar, now that Klaus thinks about it, but then again that’s the peril of time travel. A lot of people are. Also – Klaus has met a lot of people. So…

“Lovely to make your acquaintance, Axel,” Klaus says. He gonna start this out polite.

Axel stands there another minute, and then deposits the box and rucksack in the second bedroom without a word.

 

Klaus is done unpacking, and Axel has moved in two more boxes and is now poking around the kitchenette.

“Do you have no plates?” He asks Klaus, and Klaus shrugs, hoping it comes across as fancy free rather than inept.

“Ah. I was kind of planning on getting take out,” he admits.

“No pans?”

“Take out,” Klaus repeats.

“Suppose I’m going shopping,” Axel says, and it takes Klaus a minute because that time he spoke, it wasn’t in English, and it was kind of probably Swedish but definitely not the svealand dialect that he’d learned as a kid.

“Wait,” he replies, på svenska. “Would you prefer to speak Swedish? I can do that. Just tell me if I’m butchering it,” he smiles, hopefully winningly.

“You speak Swedish,” the man says, in what is definitely the strangest Swedish accent Klaus has ever heard.

“Can do,” Klaus says. “I speak um. Nine or so languages.” He waves a hand. “If you have another one you’d prefer-”

“I haven’t spoken Swedish with anybody for a long time,” Axel tells him, suddenly, looking… it might be emotional. His mouth is doing a little downturn thing. Tiny really. Hard to notice.

“Oh, well,” Klaus tries to sound soothing, just in case. “Just. Let me know. If you want me to not.”

“No,” Axel says, somewhat decisively. “It’s good for me.”

 

The IKEA shit turns up while Axel is out shopping for kitchen things, and Klaus realises that he’ll now have someone else to make jokes about the names to. His bed is a town in Norway. His bedside table is called hunger. His lamp is a journey between a town in Denmark (he… thinks) and one in Sweden. He adores this wacky company.

He’s trying to assemble the bed frame when Axel gets back.

“Hey, Axel,” he calls. “Not wishing to go for the stereotype, but you do look like you’re pretty manly and good for instructions,” he uses Swedish, which he has decided to speak in their apartment forever because it sounds cool and, well, Axel is obviously more comfortable with it; and wonders if the diagrams would make more or less sense upside down. “Would you be up for-” a shadow falls over him and Axel appears to have dropped everything in the kitchen to get in here. “Oh, hey,” he greets. “Could you um. Help me with this? Please?”

Axel frowns down at him, takes the paper out of his hand. “A task I can assist with.” Replying in Swedish. Cool. That’s settled then.

Axel has his entire bedroom assembled within the hour.

 

Life with a roommate is pretty much everything Klaus had hoped for. There’s banter (Klaus talks to Axel, who sometimes responds). There’s companionship (Klaus bought an actual TV and Axel set it up and it turns out he will watch anything Klaus wants to. Anything. Even though it’s all in English). There’s… really, really fucking good grilled dairy-free-cheese sandwiches, because Axel, it turns out, is a great cook. And he will share.

“I’m just… I’m trying to find myself, I guess,” Klaus is telling him, licking grilled fake cheese off his fingers. Axel is cooking more, and Klaus is impressed at not only at his cooking but his efforts at kitchen safety – he’s got a full plastic apron on to avoid splattering his otherwise naked-but-for-tighty-whities bod. And he doesn’t let Klaus come anywhere near the hot pans and stuff – smacks him with the flipper thing if he tries. Klaus gets grilled cheese sandwiches delivered to him on the couch. Heaven.

“Not to get weird on you,” he carries on, “but it’s just that I’ve had a very weird life. And, like. I know I have this inheritance and could probably just be a layabout for the rest of my days, but that doesn’t feel like me. I want to do things. But not, uh. Like, big things,” he clarifies, hurriedly, remembering how out of hand Destiny’s Children had gotten at the end there.

“I understand,” Axel says, bringing over a second plate. He hands it over, and waits, and Klaus moves his feet so Axel can sit on the couch. He plonks them back down on his new friends lap without thinking. “For a very long time, I worked for people who had no care for me. I grew up poor, I didn’t know there was anything else to life. I retired here, and would like a quiet life. But I have never had one before. It’s been a strange transition.”

“I bet,” Klaus says. “I grew up – don’t hate me,” he says, “but I grew up pretty well off. But, the thing is.” He pauses, isn’t sure how much to share. “The thing is,” he settles on. “The money didn’t make it good. It was pretty shitty, actually,” he says, and puts his grilled cheese plate down on his lap.

Axel puts a hand on his ankle, holds it there.

“I have a confession,” he says, looking at Klaus.

“Go on,” Klaus encourages, immediately intrigued.

“We have met before,” Axel tells him.

“We… have?” Klaus screws up his face, tries to remember. Tall, blonde, mid-forties – “you’ll have to help me out with that,” he shakes his head, the grilled fake cheese suddenly not feeling so settled in his stomach.

“There was a large fight. At a barn. In 1963.” Klaus goes very still. “I was there. Just at the end. I killed the Handler. And then I put down my gun and walked away.” Klaus blinks, is taken back to the day. His memories are kind of shaky, to be honest. He puts it down to the gunfire and general… gunfire. Etc.

“You were the – you were that guy,” he remembers, and looks Axel up and down. It’s… okay. Yeah. “For real?” He confirms, frowning.

“Yes.”

“Oh. Oh. Oh my God.” Klaus puts a hand to his chest. “Oh thank God. Oh thank God, so you know about all the weird shit out there, and I don’t have to keep pretending that I can’t for the life of me figure out what I’m supposed to be doing because it feels like every five seconds before now there’s been some apocalypse or special training or an academy or something, oh God. Wait. Hang on.” He narrows his eyes at Axel, who is looking very much like Klaus has just smacked him around the face and told him his mother loved him dearly, or something. Klaus is learning his little expressions. “Why are you here?”

“I – after the barn, I was going to run,” Axel tells him. “But – I had to feed my cats. So I took a bus back to Dallas. It was full of people in blue who called themselves Destiny’s Children-”

Klaus groans and throws an arm over his face, thinking, oh for fuck sakes, for fuck sakes-

“-and they didn’t know who I was and were kind to me and dropped me off at my place. And I thought – if people so odd as they can get by, maybe I will be able to, too. And I fed my cats, and I stayed in Dallas until the last of my cats had died and employer released me from my contract. A few years. And I travelled to this city, and I had one last jump allowed to any time at all, and this seemed as good as any.”

Oh. OH. “Oh,” Klaus says. “So.” Axel does not strike him as a liar. At all. “So, what you’re saying is – this is fate. Like… proper fate, ending up in an apartment together like this.”

“Perhaps,” Axel tells him, and rubs at his ankle.

“How romantic,” Klaus tells him, and them removes the arm from over his face to gauge Axel’s reaction to that comment.

“It is?” is all he gets in return.

Klaus beams. “Absolutely.”

 

“Are we allowed cats here?” Klaus asks the lady from the rental agency.

“No,” she says immediately. “No pets. If evidence is found of your keeping of an animal-”

“No, no, we don’t I promise,” Klaus tells her. “I just wanted to check.”

 

He finds a dollar store stuffed cat that just looks ridiculously cute. He brings it home and presents it to Axel, who acts like he’s never been given anything nice before in his life.

 

It comes up when they’re watching TV and Klaus flips off a movie about some war somewhere.

“Is it weird that I hate watching shit like that now?” Klaus asks, because he feels like Axel might just tell him the truth. “Like. That time in the barn – I was never more glad to hear that it was ending. I’m so done with wars and fighting and, shit, just people being shit to each other.” He feels kind of like he might cry, actually, at the confession.

“I hate watching shit like that, too,” Axel says. “So maybe it’s just that we are both weird.”

Klaus flops sideways to snuggle up to him. Axel immediately starts petting his hair. “My God,” Klaus says, “you get me.”

 

“Hey,” Klaus says, conversationally. “So. Did I ever tell you I can see dead people?”

Axel looks up from his adult colouring book. “No,” he says. “But I should not be surprised. You’re tattooed like a human Ouija board.”

“You get me,” Klaus says, pleased, holding out his hands. “But,” he chooses his next words carefully. “Would you ever. Um.”

Axel puts his book and pencil down. “Are you trying to tell me that we have a visitor?” He asks.

“Not right now,” Klaus tells him honestly. “And generally, I keep them clear out of here because it can get a little… uh. Loud. Terrifying. Awful,” he says, and Axel leans towards him, concerned. “But. Um. If somebody had a really, really clear message for you that they were trying to bully me into passing on?” He holds out his hands, palm up, towards Axel, like a choice. Axel waits a moment, and then touches his fingertips to ‘HELLO’.

Klaus steels himself for a bad reaction, and takes a deep breath. “Your brother Otto really, really wants me to tell you that he does not blame you, and hopes that you don’t blame yourself, and wants you to feel peace.”

Axel lets out a shaky breath. “Is he here?” He asks, his accent – which Klaus is now used to and is kind of picking up himself, slightly – getting thicker, barely intelligible.

And – and Klaus decides to allow Otto to be. He’s been around before. He might have been an imposing figure, this guy, but as a ghost he’s chosen youth to stay in which kind of says a lot, and he’s just a kid with floppy blonde hair. He oscillates every now and then into a grown man missing an eye, but Klaus doesn’t push it with the dead any more, and this guy has just been really insistent that his brother was innocent of any crime and absolutely has to be told exactly what Klaus just said, in exactly that order. Klaus has no idea what went down, but it feels like a fair one to pass on. Axel can’t see him. Otto doesn’t feel like he wants him to.

“He is,” Klaus says, “just for a moment.” He looks down at his hands.

“Join Oscar,” Axel says, and it’s not to Klaus, “and be at peace, my brother. My only regret is that I could not send you on as you deserved. I will see you again one day.”

He moves his hand to ‘GOODBYE’, and Otto half smiles and Klaus watches him give his brother one last look before he stops clinging on; moves onward. Wherever that is for him. Axel looks like he should be crying, but Klaus would vouch that he stopped crying too long ago to remember how to do it, so he does it for him. And when Axel looks up, he looks dumbstruck. Klaus gives him a watery quirk of the mouth.

“Thank you,” Axel says, and it sounds like the words were hard to get out.

 

“Would you like to go on a date with me?” Klaus asks Axel, a week later. “I’ve never been on one, myself, and I’m supposed to be finding myself and all that. And – well. It would be nice for us to go somewhere, you think?”

Axel looks up from where he’s untangling Klaus’ knitting. “I have never been on a date,” he says. “What would we do?”

 

They end up at the aquarium. It’s a quiet day, no kids running about. Nothing loud and scary here. Very low possibility of running into anything upsetting – and the sting rays are fucking awesome.

“Look at their smiley little faces!” Klaus says in awe, watching yet another one wiggle around in front of them. “Wouldn’t it be lovely to be such a smiley little fucker all of the time.” He leans into Axel, arm already looped around his elbow. Axel gives him a long look.

“You should be a smiley little… you should smile. All of the time,” Axel informs him, sounding quite serious.

Klaus beams up at him. “Then I guess we should do this more often.”

 

Alright, so. The thing is. Klaus isn’t exactly sure what he’s doing here. Axel is hand feeding him a dairy free cheese grill, piece by piece, with this look in his eye. And Klaus knows that look. And they’ve been on two dates. And Axel has been increasingly doting on him recently; he painted Klaus’ nails yesterday, he asked him if he wanted him to maim the man who told him to ‘fucking speak English, this is America’ during their picnic the day before, and then had just looked at Klaus’ face and smiled and done nothing in reaction to that, and come home with a flower and put it behind Klaus’ ear with no explanation the day before that.

And Klaus has never in his life dated like this, and without even kissing a guy. He doesn’t feel particularly like kissing this guy, either – but he worries a tad that if they ever make it to sex, he’s going to find out that they’re not actually particularly compatible, or he’s going to be too – something, and this is someone for once where he actually would be quite upset about that happening.

And it’s weird, he thinks. The first time he fell in love, for real, it had felt romantic as hell. There had been quiet kisses, and passionate kisses, and sex but like – this time. This time. He wants – urgh. He wants to. He doesn’t know.

What if Axel wants quiet kisses and passionate kisses and Klaus hurts his feelings by asking if he wants to have some – maybe not quite conventionally romantic sex, this afternoon?

 

Two hours later, Klaus is face down into a pillow, on the spotty-black verge of consciousness, cumming for the second time in thirty five minutes which at this age – he wasn’t actually sure was possible. And he is very, very sore, everywhere, and when Axel is done, and gets his hands off his neck and rolls him over, Klaus cannot get the grin off his face.

Axel himself looks like he’s just seen heaven, or something, like he had no idea. He’s staring at Klaus like he’s in awe.

“You,” Klaus manages, and flops a hand his way.

“You,” Axel repeats, breathy, and touches him, lightly, all over, until Klaus has goosebumps, for a long enough time until he’s got enough energy back in him to jump on top of Axel and put his arms around his neck.

“Would you – would you like to try kissing, now?” Klaus asks, unsure of how this will go.

“Mm,” is the response he gets. Klaus leans in, and they press their mouths together, dryish, not quite light but nearly there, faces close. When they part, and Klaus opens his eyes, he sees that same expression as before, and Axel’s big hands are around his rib cage, and he says, again, “you,” and Klaus knows exactly what he means.

 

They’re sitting out in the park with their IKEA picnic set – Klaus’ favourite piece being sommardag, because it is a summers day and fucking flamingos! They match his sunglasses! When he hears, “Klaus?” from across the way. He swivels his head and sees his great big little-now brother, Luther, decked out in jogging gear, looking at him like he’s surprised to see him.

It’s a public park; Klaus doesn’t get what’s so surprising. He waves his fingers over, and unfortunately Luther decides that date-picnic is an appropriate time to have a family meet up.

“Haven’t seen you in forever, bro,” Klaus tells him, English feeling kind of funny on his tongue but swapping back easily into the cadence of American. “Looking good!” He flexes Luther a bicep in a nod to his jogging efforts. Luther, meanwhile, appears to be stuck looking between Axel and Klaus, like he’s horribly confused about something.

“I’m going to introduce you as my beloved if that’s cool with you,” Klaus tells Axel in Swedish, with a kind of thrill of anticipation. “It’s been six months, I’m sure we can change it up if you’d like something different.”

“To be beloved by my beloved,” Axel says fondly, and picks a little daisy from next to them and sticks it behind Klaus’ ear. “Never did I think I would find myself. I am found. Here, in this place, with you.”

Klaus – Klaus just fucking adores him.

Luther clears his throat, and Klaus remembers that he’s standing there.

“Oh yes, introductions! This is my darling beloved, Axel,” Klaus says, in English, knowing full well that Axel can understand every word. “Axel, this is my little brother, Luther.”

Luther opens and closes his mouth a couple of times. He seems – very stuck on something. Klaus cocks his head and waits for a him to get around whatever’s going on in there.

Then Luther visibly switches gears completely and frowns. “We’re the same age,” he complains.

“Uh, no we aren’t,” Klaus says. “I’m…” he does some quick math with what he remembers, “three years older than you,” he says, triumphantly.

Luther stares at him. “We were literally born on the same day,” he says, which, so?

“So?” Klaus repeats, out loud. “I spent ten months in the Vietnam war and two years, nine months and twelve days longer than you in the ‘60s after Five’s little drop-off mishap. That makes me three years older than you at least.” He thinks. “Depending on whether you want our birthdays to stay on the same day in every timeline or move them around.” He shrugs. “I’m not Five, I don’t care.” He looks back at Axel. “He’s my little brother,” he says, in Swedish, and Axel smiles and winks at him.

“What are you saying?” Luther says. “You know I don’t speak – whatever you’re speaking.”

“Swedish, darling. I’m sad for you, it’s a beautiful language. This is the problem with home schooling; the curriculum is so inconsistent.”

“You’re-” Luther stops, looks visibly sweatier. “And you’re-” he looks between them again. Axel doesn’t seem particularly bothered about it, is just watching Klaus with a serene expression.

“Yup, and yup, I guess to whatever you’re asking,” Klaus shrugs. “I did text you all my address ages ago.”

“What does that have to do with – oh,” Luther says, slightly softer. “You live together?”

Klaus nods at him.

“And you’re really…” Luther looks suddenly very resigned about something.

Klaus nods again, two for two Luther, he smiles benignly.

“I was going to suggest a family barbecue next month,” Luther says, out of nowhere. “I guess it was always going to be… interesting.”

“Cool, cool,” Klaus says. “Texty texty. Kind of on a hot date right now,” he fake whispers.

“Oh, sorry, yeah,” Luther starts to grin, and then looks back at Axel and just looks confused again. “Okay. I’ll see you later. Nice to. Um.”

Axel finally looks at him, gives him a little wave as he jogs away.

 

“Have you been keeping things from me, boo,” Klaus asks, later that evening, draped across Axel’s lap while Axel crochets little round pads for Klaus’ eye cooling masks and the phone in his lap blows up with texts from his siblings.

“Boo,” Axel repeats, frowning.

“Lover,” Klaus says. Axel looks down at him.

“Dear heart,” Klaus smiles, and Axel stops what he’s doing to pet his hair for a moment. Klaus shuts his eyes.

“I have antagonised a lot of people over the years,” Axel shrugs. “Some of them are likely to be angry about it.”

“Well, you seem to have antagonised a lot of my siblings over this one particular year… well, one very specific week, actually,” he says. He picks his phone up off his lap, reads aloud in English as it’s written, “Klaus, are you fucking kidding me, that guy and his asshole brothers tried to kill me and actually killed my friend and Luther had better have made a fucking mistake about this or I will fucking kill you and don’t think I don’t mean it.” He sighs. Back in Swedish, “Diegooooooo. You great big hypocrite,” he says. “Did you really kill his friend?”

Axel sighs. “I thought he killed my brother.”

Klaus blinks. “What.”

“Diego, you said. Diego Hargreeves. The Handler – our boss. She told us Diego Hargreeves killed Oscar. Revenge is fair turn. If it was not fair – there is a reason I stopped killing.”

Klaus frantically texts back, ‘he says his boss said u killed his brother also remember ur gf tryin 2 kill us all’

“Alright,” Klaus says. “Next.” Back to English. “Klaus, Luther had some disturbing news. There are things you don’t know. Call me when you can – ALONE.” Back to Swedish. “Hmm. Classic Allison. What’s she done?”

“Allison?” Axel says, as a new message arrives from Diego. It can wait a minute. “I don’t know who Allison is.”

“Ummm… tall. Says ‘I heard a rumour’ and makes you do – oh,” says Klaus, feeling the sudden tension in Axel’s rock solid thighs ratchet up to about 11. He looks up at his face. “Oh, no. Oh shit.”

“I need to be alone, just for now,” Axel says, quietly, and he doesn’t push Klaus off or anything, but something’s really wrong here. “Just for now, please.”

And Klaus lets him up and Axel goes to his bedroom that they’ve kind of both been sleeping in half the time, and he shuts the door.

Klaus tries to breathe.

‘what did u do’ he texts back, and goes back to Diego’s thread.

‘Not the fucking same Klaus. I see him I’ll kill him on sight.’

Klaus texts back, ‘come @ me when uve calmed down bby’ and puts him on mute for eight hours.

Now, for Luther: ‘thx 4 that, not like diegos gf tried to kill us all or vanya tried to kill us all or ne of us has never done shit 2 ne of us’

And he puts his phone down, and makes a cup of tea, and figures he’ll wait until Axel’s ready to come back out.

 

He doesn’t want to leave the apartment, so he starts to gather up things that he knows Axel will like. He does a bit of tidying up. He gets some blankets ready on the couch.

After it’s been so long that Klaus is wondering whether he has actually just climbed out of the window and left, he knocks on Axel’s door.

“Can I come in?” He calls, soft.

“Yes,” is the response, and when he opens the door his heart breaks a little bit. Axel isn’t crying, or huddled in a corner, hasn’t broken anything, nothing is out of place. He’s just sitting at the end of his bed, looking at the blank wall. Klaus can feel something akin to grief coming off him in waves, and he doesn’t understand what it is, but he knows what it feels like and he’d give anything to be able to make that better.

“We don’t have to talk about it,” he says, sitting very carefully by Axel’s side, enough to touch if he wants to, not if he doesn’t.

“Otto is at peace,” Axel says, and suddenly, Klaus almost rears back, because said dead brother materialises right in front of Axel, followed shortly by a second man who – judging by the matching blonde locks is probably Oscar. Otto, this time, is fully grown, eye missing.

Klaus – Klaus thought they moved on. He thought – like Ben had. He thought – fuck, wasn’t that how this worked?

Axel hasn’t moved or seemed to notice Klaus’ sudden distress at all, so uncharacteristic of him that Klaus is unnerved.

In front of him, Oscar turns, says, directly to Klaus in that same odd Swedish dialect that he’s beginning to kind of love, “he is not alone.”

“He’s not,” Klaus whispers back, and holds out his hands, palm up.

Otto looks between them, shakes his head.

“Are you fed up of people being assholes to each other too,” Klaus whispers, struck suddenly by how clearly they care so deeply for their brother’s depression and how utterly unequipped they seem to express it, how helpless they seem to allow themselves to help. Just like a bunch of kids raised by an asshole, who should hate each other for all they’ve been through but don’t. They stick together. Even in death.

“Do you know,” Klaus addresses them, barely audible, but they’re hearing it, he can see. “There’s a guy named Ben somewhere in the big old afterlife. He’s a bit weird but if you tell him – tell him your brother is dating his brother, and they’re actually madly in love and probably going to a Hargreeves family barbecue next month together – I promise you, you’ll have someone there to crack the fuck up with.”

The siblings just look at him, vague puzzlement crossing Otto’s face.

“I do not blame myself. I cannot forget what I did,” Axel says, suddenly, and Klaus jumps. “Of anybody I have ever killed. My brother stays on my mind. It is a correct punishment, in a way, for a lifetime like mine.”

Klaus turns to him immediately and holds out his hands.

Axel touches ‘GOODBYE’.

The siblings are gone, and Klaus imagines what it must be like, but he actually kind of knows; it’s not so often now that he sees Dave out of nowhere, that a flashback will take him by surprise, that the pull of the undercurrent of his mind threatens to pull him in.

He pulls at Axel until he’s up, takes him to the kitchen, and gives him water.

“Would you like to take a nap with me?” Klaus asks, formal as it comes.

Axel’s arms are gentle around him when they lie down, and Klaus keeps the stuffed kitty as their littlest spoon.

 

The next day, it’s like a breeze has gone by and nothing has gone wrong, but Klaus looks at his phone and drafts out a message.

‘hey. do u kno a tall blonde handsome swede whose brothers died in the dallas fiasco last year? if y – im dating him. u no commission cunts who snatch up vulnerable ppl n made u guys murder ppl better than me, best way 2 revenge them 4 ruining ur lives?’

Instead of a text, he gets a call in response. He picks up.

“Hey, Five.”

“Hey, Klaus.”

There’s a beat of silence. “If you start thinking like that, it will just eat at you and eat at you. Let it go. Live well.” Another long pause while Klaus purses his lips. “It’s not like there are any therapists out there qualified to deal with this. So. See you at the barbecue. Is… Axel there?”

“He might be,” Klaus says, and walks into the other room, where his man is getting started on a new adult colouring book.

“May I speak with him?”

“I’ll put you on speaker,” Klaus allows, tensing up.

“Hey,” he says, switching back to Swedish. “My brother, Five, would like to speak to you, if that’s okay.”

“Fine by me,” Axel tells him.

“Axel,” Five says, and then, in perfect Swedish, “welcome to this absolute disaster of a family. Don’t let any of them trick you into thinking they’ve never fucked up and nearly ended the world.”

Axel looks about as stunned as Klaus feels. Both of his eyebrows move. The silence goes on a beat too long.

“Many thanks,” Axel eventually responds, seriously. “And. It was nothing personal.”

“It never is,” Five responds, in kind. There’s a beat, and then, “goodbye.”

Klaus looks at Axel, who shrugs. Then, they settle down side by side, and Klaus shuts his eyes to the sounds of pencils scratching across the page and the feeling of an arm he can wrap his own around.

 

“I no longer care to find myself,” Klaus announces, sleepily, an hour later. “I can do that some other time.”