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the violent tenderness

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It seemed too big and too pristine, clashing with the mud on his worn soles and the animal clawing and begging to be let out in his chest. The Umbrella Academy.

As soon as Dave’s mind made sense of the how and the why and the when - time travel, briefcase, 2019 - he only knew one thing for certain. He had to make his way to the Academy. It was the only right and just and fair thing he could think to do, after falling apart and accidentally going MIA with Klaus’ briefcase.

Oh, God. Klaus.

David Katz tried to steel himself on the front steps of the beloved Umbrella Academy. Once he’d started asking, there were a few kind strangers that gave him the directions to this place. Popular. Renowned. More like a museum these days than an Academy, she said. 

He went through crowded streets, glanced over the new kinds of cars, the new technology, the new people. Several asked if he was alright along the way. He ignored them, lost in his self-imposed quest with a single-minded intensity. If he was really in the future, there was only one thing in the fucking world he knew for certain, and that was that he had to let Klaus’ family know what had happened. That was his next and only objective.

After that, he didn’t know.

Maybe they’d fix the suitcase and send him home. Maybe right back to Vietnam to keep on killing and spilling blood. Or maybe he’d stay in the future that Klaus had known and semi-hated. He didn’t know which sounded worse. It’d just be a bastardization of what they had planned out together. And Klaus had always insisted on making sure that Dave meant together . He worried a lot for such a firecracker of a personality. He didn’t say much about it, but Dave saw it. He didn’t want to be abandoned. Didn’t want to truly go all in until he knew he’d have a safe place to land.

But God, eventually the half-joked planning for a cabin in the woods somewhere or a piece of land- they started sounding more and more real. Klaus wanted big windows, thought a rocking chair and a big porch sounded nice, and needed their future home to be ‘as far as fucking possible from a major city, because they’re major haunted’.

He had been thinking about dog names, last Dave heard. He wanted a pet so badly.

Past tense. Now everything in front of him seemed empty and wrong because he knew he wouldn’t have Klaus by his side for any of it. 

He shook his head and clenched his jaw, deliberating for one more awful second before reaching forward to loudly knock on the door.

Nothing happened.

He knocked again, louder. Nothing, nobody. He didn’t think about what might happen if nobody was home. Maybe everyone left town again after the funeral. Maybe it wasn’t even their house anymore.

Frustrated tears brimmed in his eyes and he launched forward to slam a fist on the door with his free hand. He did that a few times before giving up and pacing back and forth. He looked crazy, he knew. He’d draw attention if he kept acting out like that. Fuck. 

His eyes lowered and he sent up a silent prayer. He tried the doorknob. The lock was messed up, and the door swung open. He didn’t have the energy to feel stupid, only to take slow, numb steps inside.

He heard an unmistakable click and threw himself to the ground beside a pile of debris. A chandelier, he thought distantly. “Don’t shoot!” He shouted, his voice ringing throughout the large foyer. “ Đừng Bắn ! Đừng Bắn ! “ Nothing happened for a long moment and Dave peeked his head out from under his arms, blinking in confusion.

He knew a lot of people had a hard time returning to civilian life, sometimes saw or did things strange after coming home, but he could’ve sworn he heard-

“Sorry about that.” A slightly nasally voice said, “You aren’t exactly who I was expecting.”

Dave snapped his attention to the sound and found a young teenager in a schoolboy outfit, holding a hunting rifle that, a moment ago, he knew was pointed at him. The child scrutinized him, and Dave slowly, shakily rose to his feet with his hands inching up, trying not to provoke anything violent. If only his hands weren’t still covered in grime and drying blood. Should he have cleaned up somehow before coming here?

“Nice briefcase, soldier.” He was told mildly, as if the child were commenting on the weather. 

Dave worked his jaw while he eyed the patch and insignia on his blazer. “You mind dropping the rifle, kid?”

The kid shot him a toothy grin that promised trouble. “Well usually I just shoot trespassers, but you seem like you’ve come a pretty long way- and I don’t need a gun to kill you if I have to.” The child’s eyes stared almost greedily at the briefcase before he reached over and set the rifle down on a shelf. “What are your orders?”

“Orders?” Dave asked, furrowing his brow, “I’m- I’m in the U.S., aren’t I? I don’t have orders now.” He swallowed past the pit in his throat. “AWOL. MIA, even.”

“You’ve peaked my interest.” The kid decided. “Need a drink?”

“What-” He squinted, tilting his head to the side, “ What ? Aren’t you like, 12? Are you a member of the Academy?”

“First things first, hand me that briefcase. You obviously don’t know what you’re doing with it.” Ignoring him, the kid strode over and reached for the handle. Dave’s hand clenched around it and he backed away before the kid could reach.

No .” He said, the word sounding punched out of him. “No, it doesn’t belong to you.”

“So we’re doing things the hard way, then.” The child asked as if to clarify. Dave took another step back.

“Kid, I don’t know what you’re talking about or what you want,” Dave stressed, “I just need to find the Hargreeves and then I’ll go. Please.”

“You and everyone else.” The dangerous glint in his eye was not ignored. Dave knew children could be deadly. He’d seen kids not much older than this one holding guns still too big for them to properly handle, all aiming to kill him. He listened close when the kid said, “What do you want with my family?”

“I have.. some bad news. That I need to deliver to them personally.” He said, his voice growing quieter. “Please, kid, I just need to see his siblings.”

“‘His’?” The kid asked. Before he could question further, someone dressed entirely black strode into the room on his way to the front door. He slowed at the confrontation happening near the door. 

“Woah, woah. Who’s this?” He demanded, a knife appearing in his hand with barely any effort. 

“I have to talk to the Hargreeves.” Dave insisted, eyeing the knife with caution and the sense he was forgetting something.

“Another time traveler, by the looks of it.” Kid commented, “And he’s got something I need.” 

The knife twisted between black gloved fingers more clearly now. He dredged up a hazy memory, a story or two from when Klaus was open and willing.

“Diego?” Dave asked, staring him in the eye.

“..who’s asking?” He replied, flint in his eyes.

“I’m a friend of- of Klaus’.” He explained.

They stared each other town for a few more beats before Diego raised his head to look at the ceiling in.. exasperation? “..okay, look, I don’t know what he did to you or what you want from him,” Diego sighed, his demeanor sagging as he seemed to realize Dave wasn’t particularly a threat. “But you gotta go. And if you’re here for money -”

“Diego, wait, something’s wrong.” The child stated suddenly, his voice sounding uncertain for the very first time. “Did you hear me when I said time traveller? What does Klaus have to do-”

“He’s not a time traveler, Five,” Diego scoffed, “He’s some junkie friend or dealer.” His face turned dark. “Or a boyfriend.”

Dave felt like he might vomit, but he was a fucking soldier and he had the discipline to try and keep the situation under control despite his brain screaming about how all of this was wrong . “A friend. I’m a friend.” He repeated. “And I’m not those- those other things, either, we served together.”

“Prison?” Diego asked, flipping his knife as his eyebrows raised. “Who’s blood is that, GI Joe?”

“What? No, what?” He raised a hand to the side of his head where he felt flaking residue down the side of his face. One last caress. He shivered, staring down at his hand numbly.

“What year are you from?” Kid was suddenly standing much closer, looking Dave up and down and muttering to himself about the type of clothes and the mud and dates.

He took in a deep breath, pushed it out. “1968.”

“Vietnam.” Kid stated. “You were serving in the Vietnam War.”

“What’s any of that got to do with Klaus?” Diego demanded, “Where is that shithead, anyways?”

Dave stared at them both with tired, hollow eyes. These were his brothers. Diego he definitely knew about, probably the most aside from the obvious. Five was a little more elusive, but Klaus had still painted a decent picture. Younger yet older brother. Dave didn’t understand at the time, but he was beginning to put two and two together.

He took a shaky breath, watched as Five slowly started to shake his head. Standing up straight, Dave forced himself to meet his eye.

“Don’t.” Five said.

“My name is Private First Class David Katz. I’m- I was- I am a member of the 173rd Sky Soldiers.”

“Don’t you dare .” Five said, his voice darkening despite the panic in his eyes.

“I served alongside your brother, Klaus Hargreeves, in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam in 1968 until 1969.”

Five walked forward, yanking him by the vest down to eye level. He looked furious and terrified and feral . Maybe that’s how Dave first looked when the news first set in. That Klaus, beyond a shadow of a doubt, didn’t make it. Never made it.

He forced his voice not to shake when he said, “Three nights ago on the front line, Klaus was hit by enemy fire.” It was a speech he’d memorized in his head, the details going over and over in his mind. That was the only way he managed to croak out a small,  “He didn’t make it.”

Five slapped him as hard as he possibly could, which was.. surprisingly hard. It sent Dave reeling backwards, and Diego shouted in alarm. Five got his fists full of Dave’s military issued vest and grabbed viciously for the twin set of dog tags he now wore around his chest like perverted medals.

“Hey, hey, hey, Five- calm the fuck down, what is he talking about? W-What is this?” Diego demanded, a hand on Five’s shoulder trying to drag him back. “C-C’mon, this guy is- is- h-h-he can’t-”

“Diego.” Five said, looking his age for the first time in the entire conversation. His grip on Dave weakened to nothing, and he looked up at his brother and said, “Diego, I think Klaus is dead.”

“No.” Diego hissed, “ No . We don’t know if this guy is legit. What if this is those two psychos, huh? With the masks? It c-can’t be- no, no way.” He was vibrating with anger as he looked to Dave. “You’re a sick freak, coming in here, doing sh-shit l-like this after- after-”

“After Klaus being kidnapped?” Dave replied woodenly, taking multiple steps back as he clenched at his four dog tags. Five had found Klaus’.

“Klaus was kidnapped ?” Diego demanded.

“He was right.” Dave said, mostly to himself. But it seemed relevant. “You didn’t notice he was gone.” And after so much time trying to convince him that he was sure his family knew Klaus was missing and that of course they were worried. “Did anyone? Did he have- anyone?”

“He had me , asshole!” Diego’s voice was sharp and flooded with emotions. “He had me, I would’ve noticed if he was gone-”

“When was the last time you remember seeing Klaus?” Five asked, staring at the floor.

“I gave him a ride earlier, the day those psycho’s in masks came and--”

“And?”

Diego’s words took a moment to come back to him. The gears were working in his mind.

“And,” He said indignantly, “I thought- I thought he ran when they attacked and haven’t.. seen him..” Something dawned on his face. “...They left that note. ‘We have your brother’. They took him.” He said, hushed, horrified.

“It’s a good tactic.” Five said, sounding as numb and as lost as Dave felt. “Standard for a botched infiltration job. That,” Five pointed at the briefcase, “Is a standard issue time travel device from my former employer. The ones trying to find me. All Klaus would’ve had to do was find a way to open it, and he could’ve been.. Anywhere.” He swallowed, “But he picked Vietnam. And he- paid for it.”

“He didn’t choose .” Dave said, his voice starting to crack. He cleared his throat. “He didn’t know. Don’t put this on him.”

“F-Five?” Diego asked, his voice close to broken.

“It… it all adds up. We can find physical evidence, maybe, but confirming this is-” Five’s eyes sharpened with one last desperate attempt. “What are some things only Klaus do? Describe the person in question. The one you served with.”

“Klaus- Klaus was- colorful unless he wasn’t.” Dave said, looking away and clenching his jaw so he could stop the tears from brewing in his eyes. More like colorful until he couldn’t . His eyes stung, but Dave couldn’t cry right now. It wasn’t manly. “He made the world brighter, joked around. All of us needed someone like that. But then he’d turn around and do or say something more morbid than a funeral.” Dave sniffed, “He was a chatterbox. Always mouthing off to superiors. Always hiding from his ghosts.”

“You know about the ghosts.” Five nodded slowly, gaze dropping to the floor. “I need a drink.” Before Dave could process it, The kid started walking and a wash of blue enveloped him. He was gone.

He blinked in confusion, jaw dropping open, but Diego only walked forward like his feet were made of lead. Dave followed him to a lavish, tacky room that had seating and a bar. A living room, but it didn’t look like much living was done in here.

A greedy little part of him was trying to suck all of the information he could about Klaus’ home. Anything he could possibly keep with him and remember and cherish.

The kid had reappeared at a barstool, pouring himself a generous glass of whiskey. “How did you get his belongings?” He asked without looking up, hearing them both walk into the room.

“We were close.” Dave forced himself to say, “He didn’t have any family on the books at the time. A friend made sure I got what was left of his.”

“You don’t seem confused about the time travel aspect of this.” Five stated. “You knew what it would do if you opened it, didn’t you.”

“I knew some.” Is all Dave could bring himself to say. “I wanted- I wanted to personally tell you all. Your- your brother was-” He shook his head, tears brimming in his eyes again. He wanted to shout and scream and throw things, but he shoved it back down inside. “He was an incredible person. He was brave and unique and just--” He was laying it on too much. He couldn’t talk about that. He decided to settle on something he knew they’d want to hear. “He was a damn good soldier ‘til the very end.”

“Klaus? A good soldier?” Five snapped, “Maybe time travel does mess with the mind. He got himself killed .”

“Shut the fuck up, Five.” Diego said, voice thick while he paced back and forth.

“No, no- I.. don’t..” He knew Klaus’ siblings weren’t exactly the most straightforward people, but he’d never described them as cruel. No, that was just his dad. God rest the spineless, evil bastard. “Can I ask- where are the rest of you?”

“Out.” Five replied sharply.

“Five. What are we going to do about this.” Diego asked, his voice low and dark. “This is s-serious- our little brother is- is--”

“Dead as a doornail in wartime, Vietnam, yes , Diego.” Five snapped, glaring at him, “I’m thinking . I can- I have to do so many equations, this variable is completely unprecedented-”

“We have to go save Klaus, Five!” Diego shouted, “We have to take that fucking briefcase and go get our baby brother so he isn’t dead !”

“It’s not that simple!” Five argued, standing up and planting a hand on the bar. “We can’t! There are so many tiny ways to be tracked through time, and the slightest change could be catastrophic. Messing with time is- is- I need time.” He decided, nodding resolutely, “I need more time, but we need that briefcase.”

Dave closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. He didn’t know what they were talking about. But he knew, deep in his core, that Klaus was dead . Common sense told him he’d stay there. If he held onto hope for even a second.. “It’s all he really had.”

“And we’re his family , so we’ll be taking it.” Five said darkly, appearing in front of him in a blue flash. He yanked the suitcase out of Dave’s hands and vanished, reappearing a safe distance away. 

“No, please, hang on-” They were right. He knew they were right. He was lucky they even understood the utter nonsense going on. He just- That suitcase was Klaus’. He was fiercely protective over it and almost broke someone’s wrist for trying to break into it once. It felt wrong just giving it up.

Dave’s now-free hand went to the dog tags around his throat, worrying them like it was his damn job. The kid downed an entire glass of scotch, slammed his glass onto the countertop and then announced, “I need to think.” He was gone in a flash.

“I..” Dave started, voice weak. Primary objective. Right. “I need to.. Need to tell the others, if you could point me-”

No .” Diego turned on his heel and stared at Dave with a kind of fury he only saw on desperate, demanding bastards that refused to calm down after they were told their buddy didn’t make it. It broke something deep inside them and they lost all traces of civility and good graces.

Dave would know, after all. He hoped Andrews’ jaw was alright.

“Y-you- You don’t t-tell them a-a-a-” Diego clenched his fists and shut his eyes tightly, forcing a deep breath through his noise. “Anything. Don’t tell them anything .”

“But-” Dave tried.

“No. No, we’re- I’m his f-fucking family, I decide how this happens.” Now that he’d regained his words, Diego spoke with venom , jabbing a finger to emphasize his point. “Don’t you fucking say a word to the others until we’re sure beyond a goddamn shadow of a doubt that you aren’t a ch-cheating, lying b-bastard trying to stir up trouble.”

Ever the man of action Klaus described him as, Diego stalked forward and knocked shoulders with Dave as he passed, back on his way out the front door. “ Don’t go far.” He ordered as he walked away.

Dave let out a slow, measured, shaky breath, eyes wandering around the now truly empty mansion.


“What… the… hell.”

Klaus heard his brother, but he was still pretty good at ignoring him, apparently. He was too busy hyperfocusing on Dave. Stupid, brave Dave that had opened the fucking briefcase, knowing exactly what would happen. Klaus is lucky he managed to come along with it.

His boyfriend was crouched on the sidewalk, covered in blood and dirt and grime, clutching the briefcase to his chest like a lifeline as his unfocused, hollow eyes tried to make sense of the trip he just took.

Dave wasn’t doing very well, to put it lightly.

“Klaus?” His brother asked, but he busy was crouched by Dave’s side trying to put an arm around him, whispering assurances, tell him how stupid he was for doing something like this, and what the hell do you think you’re doing? It all fell through, though. Nothing happened.

After all, Klaus was dead.

“..Klaus?”

He looked up, because he hadn’t heard Ben sound so broken in a very long time. He tried to smile at his brother, but it was more of a grimace. There was a giant sucking hole through the middle of Klaus’ chest, oozing blood, and Ben stared at it carefully before looking up at his brother’s face.

Klaus lifted his ‘hello’ hand. Ben tackled him.

Ben tackled him. Oh, finally, one whole benefit to being dead as doornails. 

“What the fuck? What the fuck, Klaus?” Ben demanded, fisting his hands in the vest Klaus had died in. “Where did you go? What happened? How did this happen? Who did this?”

“Isn’t it obviously, Benny?” Klaus carefully reached up and placed a hand on his brother’s cheek. It was weird. He couldn’t quite feel things- or, well, he could, but it was complicated. More like a distant echo than a real feeling. But he met Ben’s ghostly skin and didn’t phase through him, and he was elated for the first time since he bit the dust. “Oh, God. Ben.”

Instead of finishing his explanation, Klaus launched forward and wrapped his arms around his brother. Ben, stunned, took a moment before gripping him back just as tightly. 

“Klaus,” Ben whispered, “No.” Typical, the one time he gets out from Ben’s ghostly, nagging thumb, and he actually does die. After all the bullshit he lived through, it took a vacation to Vietnam to seal the deal.

He was glad to be back, at least. But he’d been planning on haunting Dave throughout the rest of his service and then the rest of his life, waiting for his soldier to come home to him. What the hell was Katz trying to pull with this briefcase stunt?

“How? I don’t understand, I saw you an hour ago- how?” Ben asked.

“Time travel.” Klaus shrugged a shoulder, adjusting his hold on his brother so he could check on Dave. “The briefcase.” He was slowly rising to his feet, looking around. He looked like a fish out of water in his army fatigues and dirt alongside all the civvies.

“Where?” Ben asked, twisting his head so he could stare at Dave too. “Who?”

“That’s Dave.” Klaus said softly, “I met him in Vietnam.”

“Vietnam.” Ben repeated.

“Yeah.” He laughed a little at the absurdity. “Yeah. I fell in love with him during the war. I love him more than I ever loved myself.” He paused, “Enough to die for him.”