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Snapshots of a (Mostly) Happy Future

Chapter Text

The rain in London reminds Kala of Berlin.  (Not that she’s technically been to Berlin yet, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like her second home.)  It’s cold and constant, soaking through her clothes and into her skin.  She finds she doesn’t mind it, though.  As Riley and Nomi work to find the cluster an adequate safe house in another city, they’ve been holing up in a warehouse on the outskirts of London.  (They know they can’t stay long, so they started looking for a new place as soon as they had Wolfgang back and he had begun recovering.  No matter how well they hide here, they know it is only a matter of time before the large BPO presence in the city finds them.)

They don’t leave the warehouse unless they absolutely have to.  At night, though, they occasionally venture onto the roof.  It’s still a risk, but the fresh air is necessary sometimes. Tonight is one of those nights. Kala is restless, unable to sleep. Which is how she finds herself standing on the roof at two in the morning, hoping the rain will drown out the sound of her thoughts.

Kala is not alone for long, though.  Within a couple of minutes, she hears the sounds of footsteps coming up the roof-access staircase.  With all of them on blockers, she doesn’t know exactly who is coming until the door opens.  It doesn’t really surprise her that it’s Wolfgang, though.  (He has always been in tune with her emotions.  Even with the psycellium being blocked, she feels more connected to him than she ever has to anyone in her life.)  He’s used to rain, but he still walks over and wraps his arms around her for warmth.

For a few minutes, they just stand there, taking in each other’s presence.  (Kala now understands exactly what Riley had meant by the word.) After so long apart, this is often enough for them.  Just to touch.  But eventually, Wolfgang leans down and asks, “Are you alright?”

Kala nods, turning around in his arms so she is facing him.  “Just couldn’t sleep,” she says quietly.  Wolfgang raises an eyebrow, not needing to speak to convey his question.  Do you want to talk about it?   "Thinking too much," Kala elaborates with a small smile.

“What about?”

Kala laughs.  “Everything.  My family, Rajan, BPO, the cluster….”  She trails off, but the unspoken and you sits between them.  Wolfgang is stone-faced, unreadable.  (And oh, how Kala wishes she could feel their connection.  But she still knows him well enough to understand this is him trying not to show her his worry and regret.)  Before he can lose himself to his own self-loathing, Kala leans forward and kisses him.

Wolfgang’s grip on her tightens.  The kiss is tender, each of them trying to push everything that they can normally feel between them into it.  The rain still falls, the water dripping down and cooling the heat between them.  It’s not the same as when they’re not on blockers, but it’s enough.  

When Kala finally pulls back, she looks up at Wolfgang with another smile.  This time, he is grinning back.  “I’m thinking a lot because these things are important to me.  But here is where I need to be right now.”  She gives him a quick peck.  “I’m not going anywhere.”

Chapter Text

Will is already half asleep when Riley joins him on their pile of blankets.  It had been a long day for all of them.  Finally, after everything, they have Wolfgang back. They’re not safe yet, but for tonight having the entire cluster together is enough.  (Being their main interrogator and negotiator, the whole ordeal had taken a lot out of Will.  He honestly doesn’t have the energy to worry anymore now that they are whole.)  Riley crawls up and pulls the rest of the blanket Will is wrapped in over herself. As she brings Will against her chest, he sleepily grabs her hands and scoots himself back against her.

“Mmm,” Will murmurs. He relaxes into Riley, allowing her presence to comfort him.

“How are you doing?” she whispers, nuzzling into the back of his neck.  (She hates having to ask, but Riley knows the blockers are a necessary evil right now.)

“Better now,” he mumbles. He slowly turns over in her arms so he is facing her.  “Always better when you’re here,” Will continues, a tired smile on his face. (It warms Riley’s heart to see. None of them have had much to smile about recently.)

She leans down and kisses him gently.  He is too tired to kiss back much, but the love between them is still palpable.  “Better now that we’re all here,” Riley adds, grinning against Will’s lips.  He nods, but his movements are becoming slower as he falls asleep.  Will’s head nods forward, coming to rest against her chest.  Riley pulls him tighter and finally allows herself to drift off as well. The last thought she has before she falls asleep is of how strange it is, that in this dingy old warehouse Riley finally feels at home.

Chapter Text

They normally don’t leave the safe house - that is sort of the point of it, after all.  But after nursing Wolfgang back to health, Kala reluctantly admits that she is running considerably low on medical supplies.  (She hopes they won’t have need for more any time soon, but she shudders to think of what would happen if they do and she runs out.)  They’re all still on her makeshift blockers at this point, so the debate about who should actually be allowed to leave to go to a pharmacy is intense.  Will of course volunteers to go, and Sun silently offers as well by nodding in agreement.  After much discussion, though, Kala manages to convince them that she should be there in person, rather than just sending someone with a list.  If the store doesn’t have exactly what she writes out, she wants to be able to find the closest equivalent, and the others reluctantly admit that she is the best for that job.  When it’s finally agreed that Kala will be going, no one tries to argue when Wolfgang states he will be accompanying her for protection.  (They’re all pretty sure they couldn’t stop him from going with her if they tried, recent injuries be damned.)

So that’s how a couple of hours later, Kala and Wolfgang find themselves walking down the side streets of London at 2:00 AM, Kala laden with things like gauze, antibiotic cream, and medical tape.  Wolfgang has one of his arms around Kala’s waist.  He listens as she talks excitedly, happy to be almost back to the safe house without event.

Which is of course the exact time when Wolfgang catches a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye.  His grip on her waist tightens, and Kala silences immediately.  She looks up at him with fearful eyes (trying not to think of how he looked when they rescued him).  He puts a finger to his lips, signalling her to stay quiet, and pulls them into an alley.  Kala nods and uses all of her willpower not to ask the questions running through her head.  (Wolfgang gets quiet when he’s scared, whereas Kala tends to ramble.  He usually finds it adorable, but right now they cannot take the chance that she may be heard.  She understands.)  After a minute or so, he pokes his head out of the alleyway, only to have a bullet whistle past him.

Wolfgang pulls his head back quickly, avoiding the gunfire as best he can.  "Shit,“ he mutters.  Kala tries to keep how scared she is from showing on her face, but even through the blockers, she knows Wolfgang can tell.  He pushes her behind him, but there is nowhere for them to go.  The alley they stand in is a dead end.  Their options are to make a break for it or wait to be cornered, and Wolfgang does not like the sound of that second option.  He takes a deep breath, then turns to face Kala.  "Do you trust me?” he asks her in a whisper.

Her nod is instantaneous.  Of course she trusts him.  "With my life,“ she replies.

Wolfgang nods back, then grabs the hand she is not using to hold their supply bag and grips it tight.  His other hand reaches into his leather jacket, pulling out the handgun there and gripping it just as tightly as her hand.  "Stay behind me,” he says under his breath.  After another moment, Wolfgang runs out of the alley, Kala moving as quickly as she can behind him.  She doesn’t like using him as a shield, but he can admittedly take care of himself.  He fires shots at the white vans that have stopped at the end of the cross street, the returning fire lessening as each of his bullets hit their mark.

They get to another cross street and Wolfgang tries to push Kala ahead, implying she should go back to the warehouse on her own.  "I’m not leaving you,“ she says.  He can hear the ache in her voice, knows she is thinking about his recent captivity.  Her grasp on his hand only becomes firmer.  (And in that moment, despite the danger, Wolfgang is struck by how fiercely he loves everything about Kala.)  He nods, then another bullet whizzes by and he is pulled back into the moment.  Wolfgang pushes her back against the wall of a building on this new street, hiding her behind him as he looks around a corner to try to see where the last shots are coming from.  After a couple moments of analysis, he takes a deep breath and fires off a few more shots.  It’s not clear at first, but it becomes evident after a minute they’ve all hit their mark.  Soon, there are no more bullets flying.

Wolfgang double checks that the coast is clear, then turns back to Kala.  Her eyes are still full of fear, but there is relief there too.  When it becomes evident to her that he feels they are no longer in immediate danger, she nearly flings herself on him.

“Are you alright?” he asks, still worried about her.

Kala nods against him, and he feels tears dampening his shirt.  He gives her a minute, just holding her and letting her process what almost happened to them.  After a few moments, she inhales a shaky breath.  "I thought I was going to lose you again,“ she sighs into his chest.

Wolfgang lifts her chin so she is looking up at him.  "I just found you.  They’ll have to try a lot harder if they think I’m going anywhere that easily.”

Chapter Text

The safe house the cluster has holed up in doesn’t have a working shower.  What used to be a shower is rusted over completely, the water coming out muddy at best.  After much scrubbing, though, they do manage to get the tub they find to be clean enough to be serviceable.  (The members of the cluster who are more used to luxury squirm a bit at the idea of bathing in something that they had just found, no matter how much bleach was used.  But the other option is just not to wash, and given how many of them are living together at this point, that’s not really an option at all.)

After they get Wolfgang back, it takes him a few days before he has recovered enough to bathe.  He is still sore and stiff, but he doesn’t want to be caked in blood anymore.  (Despite the groan of pain he gives when getting up, none of them exactly blame him for wanting to wash.  They don't want to be reminded of what had happened to him more than they had to be.)  So that’s how Kala finds herself supporting his weight as they walk from his makeshift bedroom to what has been serving as the bathroom in the abandoned building.  There aren’t many interior walls left, but the cluster have strung up blankets around the toilet and shower area to at least give the illusion of privacy.  Kala pushes back one of the quilts serving as a wall and guides Wolfgang inside.

She lets the blanket fall behind her, so they are alone.  (Well, as alone as anyone can be in a warehouse full of people.)  Wolfgang gives her a weak smile, but it’s clear he’s trying to hide how much pain he is still in.  Slowly, she helps him strip out of his sweaty clothes and step into the tub.  He eases down and leans back, hissing at the feel of the cool porcelain against his back.

Kala hears and winces.  "Are you alright?  Do you want to do this tomorrow instead?“ she asks, worry creeping into her voice.

Wolfgang shakes his head.  "I’ll be fine,” he grits out.  "I’d rather just get this over with.“

Kala nods and accepts his answer.  She wonders if she would feel the same if she were in his shoes, or if the pain would be too much for her.  She doesn’t let herself think too much about that hypothetical, though.  Fear won’t fix this.  What Wolfgang needs right now is someone to help him get back to feeling himself so he can be there for the rest of them, and Kala is more than happy to assist.  She turns on the tub’s faucet and listens to the creak before the water finally starts flowing.  She puts her hand under to gauge the temperature, and when it is warm enough she puts a rubber stopper in the drain so the tub begins to fill.

It’s not long before the hot water begins to soothe Wolfgang’s stiff muscles.  As the level rises, he sighs contentedly and slowly leans his head back against the edge of the tub.  Kala observes him with a small smile.  He may be injured, but he is here and safe and hers, which is all that matters right now.  Once she deems the bath to be full, Kala strips off her own clothes and slowly lowers herself in front of Wolfgang.  Despite the soreness, he grins at her as she does so.  She grabs a washcloth and dampens it, teasing him when she brings it up to start wiping off his face and neck.  His pain eases as the heat seeps into him, and she can’t help but return his smile the longer she helps clean him up.  (Without the dried blood there, she finally gets to see him as he truly is for the first time.  Kala’s heart flutters.)

“You know,” Wolfgang says, leaning into her touch, “I could get used to this.”

Kala dips forward and gives him a quick kiss on the lips.  With a small smile she says, “Me, too.”

Chapter Text

Once it is finally safe to do so, Kala insists they go on a date.  Wolfgang has never really been the dating type, but for Kala, he knows he can be.  Kala, for her part, has never exactly gone a western-style date either.  Back in Bombay, all of her dates with Rajan had been chaperoned, as is still the custom.  They’re not in Bombay now, though, but Paris.  And Kala wants to go on a date just like she’s seen in American films, because damn it this is supposed to be the most romantic city in the world and she wants to experience all of it.  (Wolfgang would honestly be content to just spend their whole trip in their hotel room, but he’s more than happy to indulge her on this.  Anything for her to give him that wide smile he loves.)

Even without BPO on their tail, Wolfgang still has to keep a relatively low profile.  But Kala doesn’t mind.  Rather than hit up the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, which they know will be extremely crowded, they decide to talk a walk by the Seine.  It’s still Paris, so it’s not exactly quiet, but at least they don’t have to compete with lines or guided tours.  For a while, they don’t talk, just happy to hold each others’ hands and be in each other’s presence.  After a bit, though, Wolfgang hears Kala’s stomach rumble and laughs.  Before she can protest, he is already pulling them toward a small cafe.  The only member of the cluster who speaks any French is Nomi, and it’s shitty by her own admission, so they stumble through their orders.  It’s worth the struggle, though.  Wolfgang orders a black coffee and a sandwich.  Kala has a bit more trouble, but in the end she manages to convey that she wants a latte and biscotti.  Once they pay for their orders, Kala pulls them back outside to find somewhere relatively quiet to sit and eat.

After some searching, they manage to find a somewhat unoccupied part of the river bank.  Kala goes to sit down, but Wolfgang takes off his leather jacket and puts it down before she can.  "I’ll be fine,“ she says with a giggle.

“I know, but your pants won’t be,” he replies with a chuckle, nodding at the bright yellow jeans she is sporting that day.  She looks down at her colorful ensemble for a moment, concedes with a sigh and sits crosslegged on the leather.  Wolfgang, wearing black as usual, is not as concerned with his own clothes.

They sit and eat, quietly enjoying each others’ presence.  (The fact that they can just be in companionable silence is something both of them love about their relationship.  Wolfgang has never been good with talking, but with Kala he doesn’t have to in order for her to understand what he’s thinking.  And Kala find herself rambling when she gets nervous, talking a mile a minute about everything on her mind.  But with Wolfgang, being calm is easy.  He grounds her, and she finds that for once in her life she doesn’t feel compelled to fill every silence.)

Even after they finish eating, the two of them just sit on the bank for a bit.  Kala rests her hand on Wolfgang's, and he gives her a smile.  As the sun goes down and all the streetlamps begin to come on, the City of Light really lives up to its name.  She leans into him.  Wolfgang wraps his arms around her, pulling her closer and breathing in her hair.

“It’s beautiful,” she says with wonder, taking in the new sights before her.

Wolfgang hums happily, nodding against the top of her head.  "Not as beautiful as you.“

Chapter Text

When Will gets home from his patrol that evening, he is welcomed by the savory smells of garlic and tomato wafting through his little apartment.  He smiles and walks toward the kitchenette.  There he finds Riley, headphones on and humming along to music as she cooks what promises to be a delicious sauce.  Will walks up behind her and gently places his hands on her hips.  She jumps, but any fear in her eyes disappears the moment she sees it’s just him.

“Don’t scare me like that,” Riley says as she pulls off her headphones, but the laughter in her voice betrays her.

Will leans in and gives her a quick kiss.  "Not trying to.  Just didn’t want to interrupt you.“  He motions to the headset now resting on her shoulders.  "You seemed to have a groove going.”

At that, she flat out giggles.  "A ‘groove’?“ she asks teasingly.

Will just nods with a grin, then leans over to look at the sauce currently on the stove.  "Whatcha making?”

Riley shrugs.  "Nothing special.  Just some pasta sauce.  I thought we could have spaghetti tonight.“

Will smiles and kisses Riley again.  "Sounds perfect.”  He lets go of her waist and walks over to their pantry, pulling out a box of noodles.  As she goes back to stirring her sauce, Will fills a pot with water and sets it on another burner to boil.  "What’s in the sauce?“ he asks, bumping Riley’s hip with his own playfully.  She bumps him back, grinning as she does so.

“You mean aside from tomatoes?”

Will pokes her in the side.  "Yes, aside from the tomatoes,“ he says with a chuckle.

"Just garlic, basil, salt, and pepper,” she replies.  "Want to try some?“

The pot of water starts to boil.  "Just a sec,” Will says, turning down the flame a bit on the stove and pouring the whole box of pasta in.

Riley just laughs.  "You know we don’t have to feed the whole cluster with one meal anymore.“  Her eyes are light when she says it.  (They are finally, finally free.  Finally safe.  They don’t have to hole up in abandoned buildings anymore.)

Will just chuckles again.  "Old habits,” he offers, knowing it’s not even that great of an excuse considering he was never exactly the chef of the cluster.

“Sure, sure,” she says.  She turns down the heat on her own burner, stirring her sauce a bit more.  "Ready?“  Will nods and smiles, leaning forward and opening his mouth playfully.  Riley takes a bit of the tomato sauce onto her spoon and and blows to cool it slightly.  She then puts the edge of the spoon to Will’s lips, her other hand underneath of it to catch anything that may fall.

Will closes his eyes as he tastes it.  The sauce really is delicious.  But honestly, it doesn’t matter to him what it tastes like.  What matters to him is them and their cluster, safe and sound and happy.

"How is it?” she asks.

Riley knows Will isn’t just talking about the sauce when he opens his eyes back up and replies, “Perfect.”

Chapter Text

When the cluster have left London and are relatively safe, Nomi and Bug set up a secure server in their new safe house. Once they’ve done this (and Nomi has assured the rest of them several times that yes, she’s sure it’s safe), Kala checks her email.

54 Unread Messages

She winces.  For a moment, she wonders what would happen if she could turn on her phone and see how many voicemails she has.  Kala is almost grateful that it’s too dangerous for her to do so.  Nomi gives her a hug in understanding, then leaves her to read through the emails.

Kala ignores the ones she’s received from work.  At this point, she figures her job is gone.  (It hurts a bit, but she knows she is where she needs to be.)  The first ones she reads are from her parents and sister. They start off excited, asking her how her time in Paris is.  (Even reading the word makes her heart ache.  But she reminds herself that Wolfgang is safe and they are together now, and that’s what matters.)  As time passed without Kala responding, though, the messages become more concerned. Blinking back tears, she takes a deep breath and opens a new email.  She writes her family a short message, telling them that she can’t talk much right now, but everything is fine and not to worry.  Even as she sends it, she knows they won’t believe her.  But there’s not much else she can do.

Last, Kala reads the emails from Rajan.  There are not as many of these, although she’s not sure why she expected there to be. He was the one who had sent her away, after all.  Still, the few emails he did send follow the same pattern as that of her family’s. First checking in, then growing worried at her lack of answer.  Rajan’s worry is not as much for her safety, though.  It’s clear in his emails that he believes sending her to Paris was the last strain that their short-lived marriage can take.  (Kala’s not sure how to feel about him being right for all the wrong reasons.)  She sighs, eyes wandering from the computer screen to Wolfgang sitting on the other side of the room.  He is still bruised, but he’s sitting with the others rather than lying on their ratty mattress, so it’s still a good day.  Lito and Daniela are telling some grand story, and Wolfgang has on that face he makes when he’s trying to hide just how happy he is about things.  Kala smiles to herself.  She can do this.

Kala asks Nomi for a burner phone.  Nomi says she can do her one better, and pulls up a one use number on her computer and passes Kala her headset.  “Are you sure you want to do this?” Nomi asks.  Even with the blockers, she’s always been sensitive to others’ pain.

After a moment, Kala nods. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Nomi nods back, instructs her on how the phone program works, and then leaves her to relative privacy. (There’s only so much privacy in a warehouse with almost no interior walls left, but it’s enough that Nomi tries.)  

Time seems to pass so much faster once Kala puts on the headset.  She knows the phone must ring at least twice, but before she knows it Rajan is on the other line.

“Hello?  Who is this?” he asks, suspicion in his voice.  (Right. The investigation, Kala thinks. She had almost forgotten, her own world having collapsed around her the moment the tazer had hit Wolfgang’s chest.)

Kala clears her throat. “Uh…it’s me,” she says.  She hopes he can’t hear her nerves through the poor sound quality.

“Kala?” Rajan asks, an almost reverence in his voice.  She can tell he didn’t expect to hear from her again.


“How are you?  Are you okay?  I got a call from the landlord in Paris saying you never arrived.  What happened?”

She takes a deep breath. Wolfgang has noticed that she is talking to someone at this point, looks up to catch her eye.  He raises an eyebrow.  Kala doesn’t need their connection to know his unspoken question.  Do you need me there?  Another shaky breath, debating whether his presence would make this easier or harder. She thinks about it for a moment, about what their relationship means and how hard she has already fought for it. Kala nods.

“Kala?  Are you still there?” Rajan asks on the other end.

“Yes, sorry.  Just a moment,” she replies.  Wolfgang excuses himself from Daniela and Lito’s story-time and walks over.  He stands behind her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders.  Even without the psycellium, his presence gives her strength. Kala inhales deeply.  “I can’t stay married to you, Rajan.”

For almost a minute, there is silence.  She worries that the call may have dropped, but the program on Nomi’s computer says the connection is still there.  Then Rajan finally speaks.  “I should have seen this coming.  A marriage can only handle so many secrets.  And to send you away when we’ve only just started living together –”

“No, that’s not it,” Kala cuts him off.  She lifts her hands to Wolfgang’s, squeezing them tightly.  “I mean, that’s part of it, but that’s not…I don’t love you.” The sudden admission surprises even her. She’s never admitted it out loud to anyone but Wolfgang before.  She had hoped to give it more context, more eloquence.  But it’s out there now, and she can’t take it back.

“I see,” Rajan replies cryptically.  “Why not take the apartment in Paris, then?”

The noise that comes out of Kala’s mouth is somewhere between a laugh and a sob.  “It’s…complicated.”

Rajan is quiet again for a moment.  “Is there someone else?”

Kala flinches.  She had hoped he would at least let her build up to that.  “Yes. But…he’s not the reason why I don’t love you.  I can’t – Rajan, you are a great man.  Even with…everything that’s happened, I believe you are a good man.”

“But?” he asks, expectant.

“But I think I convinced myself that if I tried hard enough, I would grow to love you.  And I tried.  I really, really tried.  I wanted so badly to love you….”  Kala trails off.  Wolfgang is stiff behind her, but he doesn’t move away from her either.

“But you can’t,” Rajan concludes eventually.

Kala exhales a sigh of relief.  “No.  I can’t.  I’m so sorry.”

Rajan is quiet once again. Kala hates it.  Her natural instinct is to fill the awkward silences with explanations, babbling on until the moment has passed.  But she knows that she has to let this one stand.  She has to give him time to process.  Kala leans back into Wolfgang.  He softens, squeezing her hands for a moment to show her he’s still with her.

“I guess part of me knew,” Rajan says at last.


“I’ve told you before, Kala. I hoped so badly that I could love you enough for the both of us.  And I wanted to believe that it had started to work.  But…if you cannot love me, I understand.  And I cannot keep you in a marriage you do not want.”

Kala smiles.  “Thank you.  For understanding.”  She takes another deep breath.  “For everything.”

“Thank you,” he replies. “Thank you for being honest with me.”

She tries to ignore how that stings.  Tries to remember Rajan still has his own secrets.  (It almost works.)  “Goodbye, Rajan.”

“Goodbye, Kala,” he answers sadly.  Kala selects the disconnect button on the phone program and ends the call.

Chapter Text

When the cluster and their families are relatively safe, and Wolfgang is finally well enough, they decide to celebrate.  Their new safe house is in Brussels, and Riley manages to find a few of her old connections to get them a decent amount of booze.  (Felix had suggested they get something a bit stronger as well, but Riley looked at Will and Wolfgang gave Felix a stern look.  The subject was dropped.)  After Nomi and Bug do another sweep for anything that may be hidden around the warehouse, and Will and Wolfgang double check that no one has followed them, they finally let themselves have some fun.

Drinks and laughs are shared equally through the group.  For the first time in a long time, they all know they can trust everyone around them. And although the non-sensates of the group don’t know each other outside of high-danger situations, the fierce loyalty between them all to their respective cluster members brings them together.  The conversation flows as freely as the alcohol.

Somewhere along the line Nomi sets Riley up with her computer to get music playing.  (They don’t pump it as loudly as they want to, still conscious of the risks.  But even the background bass is enough.)  Daniela pulls Lito and Hernando up to start dancing, and from there the rest of them can’t help moving to the beat.  Will dances like a goofball behind Riley, and she smiles back at him.  Kala, not having really been to large parties without family members, is the biggest lightweight of the bunch.  It’s only a couple drinks before she’s leaning heavily on Wolfgang and giggling.

Because at this point it’s basically their anthem, Riley spins up another remix of “What’s Up?” The family members who are not sensates are confused, but the cluster instantly comes together as one.  Even with them all taking blockers, the energy is tangible in the room.

“Didn’t I make you sing this one time?” Felix asks.

Wolfgang grins.  “Yes.  Thank god you did.”


But Wolfgang’s not paying attention to Felix anymore. His eyes are on Kala, swaying to the music and grabbing Sun joyfully with the hand that isn’t linked with his.  She starts singing along to the music, and her drunk enthusiasm is contagious.  Soon, the whole cluster is singing along, each of them knowing the words by heart.

Daniela just looks at Felix. “Isn’t this a meme?”

Felix nods.  But they can’t begrudge their family this moment of togetherness.  After so long, they need this.

When the bridge comes, Kala turns to look at Wolfgang knowingly.  She “oohs” at him with the music, and Wolfgang laughs when he realizes this time she’s the one who’s had too much to drink.

“Are you laughing at me?” Kala asks with a pout when the song is done.

Wolfgang shakes his head, then pulls her close for a quick kiss.  (Daniela and Felix cheer in the background.)  “Just realizing how much I love you.”

Chapter Text

After everyone is safe, Nomi and Amanita go back to San Francisco.  (They miss the rest of the cluster, but it’s not like they’re ever really that far away for Nomi.  And Amanita was going to be damned if she didn’t get everyone’s phone numbers before she left, including those outside the cluster.)  They’ve only been home for a month or so when Father’s Day rolls around. Nomi sends her dad a text, but there’s really no question whose family they’re going to be visiting.  Before she receives an answer, she’s hopping onto the back of Amanita’s motorcycle, wrapping her arms around her fiancée’s waist.

It’s not long before they’re parking outside of Neets’ mom’s house.  Several cars are already parked outside, and Amanita’s face lights up as she takes off her helmet.  As usual, her happiness is infectious, and Nomi finds herself smiling as well.  They walk up to the house with their hands linked. Amanita knocks on the door, and before she can even lower her arm her mother is there.

“Hey, Mom,” Amanita says, only releasing her hold on Nomi’s hand when her mother steps forward for a hug. Her mom quickly pulls Nomi into the hug as well, squeezing them both tight.

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” she says to them both.

“Aw, c’mon, Mom,” Amanita says.  “You know it’s gonna take more than a little secret organization to take us down.”

Nomi grins and Amanita’s mother laughs before pulling them inside.  Neets is only halfway through the door before she’s running off.  “Dads!” she shouts.  The three men are standing in the kitchen.  They turn to greet her, and she ends up pulling them all into one massive hug.  “Happy Father’s Day,” she says, closing her eyes and leaning into their love.

Chapter Text

When Felix asks Kala to be his and Wolfgang’s designated driver that night, Kala doesn’t mind saying yes.  On the contrary, there’s a part of her that feels like this will be a chance for her to see Wolfgang in his natural habitat, so to speak.  It had taken them a long time, but they were finally free of Whispers.  Wolfgang and Felix haven’t been out clubbing together since before BPO had taken Wolfgang, so Kala has never been with them in person.  Visiting and sharing were one thing, but she knew it would be different to be there for real.  This was one of the only things Wolfgang used to actually do for fun, so Kala wants see it for herself.

Just because she won’t be drinking doesn’t mean she doesn’t plan to have fun, though.  While Wolfgang and Felix pregame in the kitchenette of Wolfgang’s flat, Kala gets dressed in the bathroom.  She puts on a bright blue sequined dress, hoping to herself she’s not going overboard.

All doubts are washed from her mind, though, when she walks out where the men can see her.  Felix just stops mid-sentence.  (He’s never really seen her outside of grungy warehouses before.)  Wolfgang puts the shot he was about to take down on the counter and walks over to her, wrapping an arm around Kala’s waist.  She looks at him, and through their connection she feels his unspoken question.  May I?  Instead of answering, she leans up and gives him a chaste kiss.  When she pulls back, Wolfgang is grinning.  “Wow,” is all he says.

Kala smiles, then pulls back and gives him a pat on his back, lightly pushing him back toward the kitchen counter.  “Go finish up, I’m ready to go whenever you two are.”  She looks up at Felix, who finally closes his mouth and pours himself another shot.  Wolfgang walks back over and the two raise their glasses together before downing the vodka.

“Ready,” Wolfgang says the moment his glass is back on the counter.  Kala nods and grabs her purse.

It doesn’t take long for Felix to get over himself, and with the burn of alcohol at the back of his throat he begins talking again.  They mostly listen as he tells Kala all about the club they’re going to, explaining it while Wolfgang locks up the flat behind him and they walk down toward the car. Through the psycellium, Kala can feel Wolfgang’s buzz.  It doesn’t impair her driving in any way, but she feels warm and happy.

Once they arrive at the club, Felix practically runs in, excitement flowing out of him.  (Wolfgang feels so much affection for his brother in that moment, and through him Kala does as well.)  Hand in hand, Wolfgang guides Kala through the entrance.  The bouncers all look surprised to see him after so long, but greet him familiarly nonetheless.  They nod Kala, Wolfgang, and Felix through.  And before she knows it, Kala is being whisked over to the bar so Felix can order he and Wolfgang more drinks.  She just gets a water and toasts them with a smile as they down their beers.

A few more drinks later, and the two men are thoroughly drunk.  Both of their faces are red and sweating, and they both laugh too loudly at one of Felix’s jokes.  A particularly catchy song comes on, and Felix yells, “Wolfie, remember this one?” over the music.

Wolfgang laughs and gets up. “Was this the one you were dancing to when you met that girl, Angela?”

Felix nods enthusiastically. “God, that was a great night,” he says, and then he is pulling Wolfgang onto the floor to dance.  “Let’s make it another!”

Wolfgang resists for a moment, waiting until Kala gets up to follow.  This isn’t the kind of music she is used to dancing to at home, but she allows Wolfgang’s pleasant drunk confidence to flow into her and moves to the beat.  Wolfgang and Felix are dancing too, their intoxicated movements more erratic.  It’s not long before they’re all sweaty messes and Wolfgang is pulling off his t-shirt.  Kala takes a moment to appreciate the sight before forcing herself to look up from his chest.  They’re in public, after all.

Wolfgang, who lacks such inhibitions even when sober, doesn’t miss Kala’s reaction.  He raises an eyebrow as if to say, Like what you see?  Kala just laughs and grabs him by the hips, making him dance again with her.

A few songs later and Felix gets thirsty, so back to the bar they go.  Kala’s losing track of how many drinks he and Wolfgang have had each, but she figures they’re the experts and one more can’t hurt.  Until one more turns into two, and two into three, and wow even Kala’s starting to feel a bit tipsy with how much Wolfgang has had to drink.

Kala leans forward, putting a hand on Wolfgang’s forearm.  And to his credit, even in his drunken state he still turns to her instantly with concern in his eyes.  “What’s wrong?” he asks.

She giggles, then leans forward and says in his ear, “Nothing yet, but if you keep drinking like that I’m not going to be able to drive us home.”

And maybe he’s drunker than she thought, because his eyes light up like he hadn’t even considered that might be a problem now that they were this close to each other.  Then Wolfgang laughs too and leans over to Felix. “Hey, man, we gotta go.”

“What?” Felix cries loudly. “But the night’s just getting started!” Kala laughs again at that, considering how slurred Felix’s words are when he says it.

Wolfgang shakes his head, but he’s still grinning at his best friend.  “Kala’s, ah, getting a bit of a contact high,” he says, trying his best to explain without giving things away to anyone who might happen to be listening.

Felix looks confused at first, but then it clicks and he goes, “Right.  Riiiight.  Your thing.”

Wolfgang snorts and stands up.  He picks Felix up and wraps the other man’s arm around his shoulders to support his weight. Kala leads the way out of the club, but it’s slow going for the other two.  Wolfgang’s not much steadier than his brother.  (Kala wonders if maybe their tolerance went down after so much time away from the club scene.)  She manages to corral them out of the building and back into the car.  Felix crashes into the back seat, lying down as soon as he gets there.  Wolfgang slides into the passenger seat clumsily, the alcohol removing his usual grace. Kala can’t help but find it endearing.

In the end, Felix declares himself too drunk to go home alone that night, so she drives straight back to Wolfgang’s apartment building.  Kala helps them both up the steps, Felix leaning on her as Wolfgang fumbles with his keys for a moment.  When the door is finally open, both of them stumble through it.  Felix unceremoniously flops onto the couch.

“Wolfie?” he says, voice muffled by the cushions.

“Yeah?” Wolfgang asks from the other side of the studio apartment, where he’s laid on his back on the bed.

“I think we lost our touch,” Felix replies, sounding disappointed.

Wolfgang and Kala both laugh at that.  As the men take off their jackets and shoes to get comfortable, Kala walks to the kitchenette to get them both glasses of water.  She sets one down on the coffee table by Felix, then walks over to the bed and hands the other to Wolfgang.  He gives her a smile before taking a couple sips of water.  He puts the glass down on his side table after that, and Kala shakes her head.

“You’re really going to want to have more water than that,” she teases.

Wolfgang rolls his eyes and obediently picks back up the glass of water.  She sits with him until he finishes it, then gets up to take off her own shoes and change into something she can sleep in.

The next morning, Kala is the first one awake.  That in and of itself is a bit weird.  Wolfgang is usually up early in the mornings, eager to have his first cigarette and start exercising.  She shrugs it off and gets up, drawing the curtains after she’s gotten dressed.

From the bed, she hears Wolfgang moan.  (And then she feels his migraine and dear god, how much did he end up drinking last night?)  Kala closes the curtains quickly.  “Sorry,” she says softly.  She walks over to the bedside table and picks up Wolfgang’s glass from last night.  She goes to the sink and gets him a glass of water, then wanders over to his bathroom to find the ibuprofen.

He’s not exactly responsive when she returns.

“Here, take this.  You’ll feel better,” Kala says gently.

Wolfgang groans again, but slowly forces himself to get up.  She winces as his head throbs.  “Sorry,” he says as he accepts her offering.

Kala shakes her head. “Any time,” she replies.  And he can tell she means it.

Chapter Text

Over the year they had been connected to each other, Wolfgang had gotten a pretty good hang of differentiating between his own feelings and that of his cluster.  Even when he felt their pain, he could usually detach himself from it somewhat.  (He was pretty good at detaching himself from his own pain, anyway.)  But that was when they were all miles apart, spread across the corners of the world.

Living together was another thing altogether.  In such proximity, feelings bled from one and into another easily.  None of them had ever felt the collective part of themselves so strongly before, and it became evident that they really were all equal pieces of the same soul.

This had its upsides and downsides, of course.  On the one hand, they were more attuned to each other’s needs.  If one needed help, another member of the cluster would be there before the first could even think to ask.  Their happiness and pleasure was contagious, almost overwhelming at times.

On the other hand, though, the members of the cluster who menstruated synced up almost immediately.  Hormones and bloating and cramps were also easily shared, and the non-sensates of their family were left mostly helpless to watch as the eight of them experienced it together.

Kala, Sun, and Riley were used to having their periods, of course.  This was more intense, though.  The three of them going through it together was both awful and somehow bred a sense of comradery.  They’d been through a lot worse for their cluster, after all.

Not everyone else handled it quite as well.  Which is why Kala finds Wolfgang on the rooftop chain-smoking, grimacing with each exhale.  She walks over and wraps her arms around him.  He doesn’t stop smoking, but makes sure to exhale away from her face.

“You okay?” she asks.

Wolfgang nods, but he can’t quite keep the wince off his face.  After he finishes his cigarette he asks, “Why did you never tell me it was this bad?”

Kala laughs.  “I mean, this isn’t normal.  It’s not usually all of us at once.”

Wolfgang almost looks at her in awe.  “I can’t believe you can even laugh,” he says, although there is a bit of amusement in his voice.  “My stomach aches too much.”  She loosens her grip on his waist, looking up at him apologetically.  He pulls her closer again, though.  “Don’t.  The heat…it helps.”

She nods.  “Yes, heating pads and hot water bottles would really be nice right now.”

Wolfgang shakes his head. “This is enough,” he says.  He leans down and kisses her.  It is quick, and when he pulls away the look of pain is back on his face.  “Okay. Maybe a hot water bottle,” he concedes. Kala giggles and buries her head in his chest.

Chapter Text

When they first bring Wolfgang back to the safe house, he tells Will that he doesn’t want Kala to see him.  (Wolfgang would prefer none of them see him like this, but it’s too late for that now.)  And the rest of the cluster gets it, they do.  They remember when it was Will with Whispers in his head.  They’re on blockers, but they don’t need the psycellium connection to know what Wolfgang feels now.  When Whispers had found Kala through him, they’d felt all felt Wolfgang’s guilt, more painful than any of the torture.

It only lasts about a day, though.  Being on blockers now doesn’t mean the rest of the cluster hasn’t felt the pull between them in the past.  Kala is heartbroken and scared, and after seeing how miserable both of them are being apart, Sun and Nomi take it upon themselves to fix things.  It takes some convincing.  (Nomi may call Wolfgang an idiot more than a few times.)  But eventually they convince him that no, what happened wasn’t his fault it was Whispers’, and no, Kala isn’t going to stop loving him because of something that wasn’t under his control.  (It doesn’t alleviate his guilt completely, but it’s enough to at least agree to see her.)

That night, Kala tentatively enters Wolfgang’s room.  She’s moving slowly, turning to close the door behind her before she actually looks at Wolfgang.  He slowly raises himself to a sitting position.

And then Kala’s turning around and their eyes lock and that’s it – it’s over.  Wolfgang couldn’t have told her to leave even if he wanted to, and Kala knows she couldn’t go anywhere.  (He remembers their conversation about gravity, but the pull between them then was nothing compared to now.)  Before either of them knows what’s happening, Kala is rushing forward, wrapping her arms around him.  The soreness of his wounds melts at her touch.  Even through the blockers, neither of them have ever felt anything so intense.  Their skin touches, and it feels like sparks fly between the two of them.  They can tell that it’s muted, that without the blockers they would be feeling even more, but right now this is enough.

Slowly, Wolfgang lifts a hand to Kala’s face.  He feels the softness of her skin beneath him, and it’s more soothing than any painkiller he could take.  Kala’s eyes flutter closed, even this this small touch overwhelming.  Wolfgang’s eyes slip closed, too.  They just bask in this for a moment.

“I’m sorry,” Wolfgang finally whispers.

Kala opens her eyes.  “What for?”

His eyes are still closed, but he hasn’t moved his hand from her cheek.  “For doubting this.”

She’s not sure if the noise that comes out of her mouth is a laugh or a sob.  Rather than answering him, Kala leans forward and presses her lips to Wolfgang’s.  The kiss draws the breath out of them both.  Their movements go from slow and cautious to urgent, desperate.  Wounds be damned, Wolfgang pulls Kala close to him, nothing feeling like they are close enough.

“I love you,” Kala says when she finally pulls back to breathe.

Wolfgang doesn’t let her go far, still holding her against his bare chest.  “God, I love you.”

Chapter Text

The cluster is still in hiding when winter rolls around in Brussels.  Riley had used her connections to find them an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the city, and so far they have been able to stay safe.  It gets cold in the warehouse, but they’ve managed to get adequate winter clothing for the members of their family who come from warmer climates.

When the first snow falls, they all agree that it’s a good enough reason as any to celebrate. This is the first time Kala, Capheus, or Lito (and Hernando and Dani) have seen snow in person, after all. When it gets dark out, and after Wolfgang and Will have checked to make sure there is no one around, they go onto the roof.

Those who have never seen snow in real life take a few minutes to marvel at it, the rest of them looking on with affection.  And then Kala throws a snowball at Wolfgang, which Felix takes as a cue to throw one at Dani while she’s distracted by them.  Several of them join in.  There are no sides in the fight, and no one is safe.

After a bit, Riley gets a little tired and moves over to another part of the roof to start rolling a larger ball in the snow.  Will, attuned to her every movement (blockers be damned), sees her and walks over. “Building a snowman?” he asks, seeing her ball is already far too large to throw.

Riley nods.  “My dad and I always used to build them when I was a kid,” she replies, wearing a bittersweet smile.

Almost on instinct, Will leans down to kiss the sadness off her face.  “Do you want help?” he asks when he pulls away.

This time, Riley’s smile meets her eyes.  “Of course.” He grins back at her and together they push the giant snowball around their corner of the roof.  Soon enough, it reaches higher than Riley’s knees. They deem it a suitable base and leave it where it is, figuring it will be easier to bring the rest of the pieces to it.

Will starts working on the torso while Riley starts the head, both of them giggling at each other as they roll their snowballs side-by-side.  Riley finishes first, the head being the smallest part, so she sits on the base and watches Will as he continues.  When he turns away from her at one point to get to the fresh snow, she’s takes a moment to admire his ass.  When he rolls the snowball back in her direction she’s still looking.  Will gives smirks and quirks an eyebrow at her. “Like what you see?” he teases.

Riley laughs and replies, “You know it.”

He picks up the sizeable snowball he’s made and walks over toward her.  Riley stands up and grabs the smaller one she made, placing it on top of his after he’s set it down.  Will pokes eyes and a mouth into it, then looks around to see if they have anything they can add.  His eyes fall on Riley’s scarf.  “May I?” he asks.

She nods.  He carefully unwraps the scarf from around her neck, fingers gently brushing against her skin as he does so.  Riley shivers, and it’s not entirely from the cold. He turns to their snowman and loops it around the bulky head with a bit less finesse.

They keep looking around a bit, finding a couple stray pieces of plywood under some snow to stick into their snowman as arms.  Other than that, though, the roof is mostly sparse.  Still, when Will wraps his arm around Riley’s waist and the stand back to admire their handiwork, they can’t help but smile.  She looks up at him, noticing his nose is red from the cold. She leans up on her toes and kisses it.

Will laughs in surprise. “What was that for?”

Riley shrugs.  “Just wanted to.”

“I love that,” Will replies, pulling Riley closer and kissing her on the lips.  She kisses him back, trying to push everything she feels for him into it.  It’s not the same as when they can feel the connection, but it’s still good.

Riley and Will look at their snowman, and then out at their family on the other side of the rooftop. They know that they will have to clean everything up before they go to bed so it doesn’t look suspicious to anyone from the outside.  But for now, this is enough.

Chapter Text

At first, the safe house in Brussels had been a temporary plan for the cluster (and their extended family).  But before they know it, the seasons are changing and one month turns to three. Soon, those who hailed from warmer climates are finding the clothes they had brought with them to be inadequate. After some debate about who should go, Will and Riley end up volunteering to make as quick a shopping trip as possible to get some winter garments for Kala, Capheus, Lito, Hernando, and Daniela.

After ensuring that no one is following them, Riley and Will make their way to a second-hand store in the city.  Will isn’t sure where to start, but Riley immediately makes a beeline for a rack of heavy coats.  He follows after her, silently grateful that she seems to have a plan.  The first thing she picks out is a lavender down jacket, holding it out to Will for inspection.  “Do you think Kala would like this?” she asks.

Will takes it from her, inspecting the coat.  It’s in relatively good condition.  It’s clearly been worn, but there are no rips or stains.  “Yeah,” he says with a nod.  “Do you think it’s her size?”

He passes the jacket back to Riley, who holds it up against herself.  (She wishes Kala could just try it on, but unfortunately they’re still all on blockers.)  “I think so. And if it’s a little big, there’s no harm in that, right?” she finally answers.

“Nope,” Will chuckles in reply.

Riley puts the jacket over her arm and then continues down the aisle to look for more coats.  As they browse, Will comes across a black leather jacket and pulls it out.  “How about this for Lito?” he asks.

She giggles.  “He and Wolfgang can match.”

“Oh god,” Will says jokingly.  “Do we need to give them another reason to be smug together?”

“I think it’s cute,” she replies with a grin.  “Try it on. You two are about the same size.”

He takes off his own coat and slips on the leather jacket.  This one is also well worn, but it has a comfortable feeling to it.  He moves around in it a bit to see how the size works and finds that it’s a little roomy, but it will do.  “How do I look?” Will asks.

Riley looks him up and down. “You know, I could get used to the bad cop look.”

Will laughs.  “So perfect for Lito, then.”  She laughs and nods.  He takes the leather jacket off to put back on his own coat, then slings the new jacket over his arm to take with them.  They continue on, ending up selecting a grey wool coat for Hernando and a stylish pea coat for Daniela.  Now they’re just stuck on Capheus.

“Something colorful?” Riley suggests, looking around to see if there are any large enough men’s coats in anything but black or grey.

“I would say yes, but I don’t know if there’s going to be anything heavier than a windbreaker that would fit him if we limit our choices,” Will replies.

“Hmm.”  Riley goes down another aisle, flipping through jackets until she finally finds one she likes.  “What about this?”

Will turns down the aisle to see her holding a massive red ski-jacket.  He grins.  “Perfect.” Riley smiles with success, slinging the new coat over her arm with the others.

“So, do you think we should get them scarves and gloves, too?” she asks.

He thinks for a second, considering how cold it may get in the months going forward.  “Probably at least gloves.  The nights might get rough,” Will answers quietly.  (He’s pretty sure they’re safe, but he still doesn’t want to do anything to draw suspicion to them.)

Riley considers this and stands on her tip-toes to look over the racks of clothes around her, trying to find where the gloves are kept.  Will searches the small store as well until his eyes fall on a few shelves in the back with exactly what they’re looking for.  Rather than saying anything, he just grabs Riley’s free hand and starts leading her to the gloves.

When they reach the shelves, Will realizes they have a lot fewer options to work with here.  Most of the pairs are in children’s sizes, so it doesn’t take long for them to pick out some of the only adult sized pairs and grab them.  They are each laden with clothes when they walk up to the front counter.

“Getting a head start on Christmas shopping?” the man behind the cash register asks in accented English.

“Uh, yeah,” Will says, wishing Lito were in his head to make the moment casually believable.  But they’re almost home free, so he just hopes he can manage this one on his own.

Luckily, the cashier doesn’t seem to really care and rings up their purchases relatively quickly. When he’s done, Riley pulls out her purse and pays in cash.  Soon enough, the man is handing them their shopping bags and they’re leaving the store.

They’re cautious as they walk back to the safe house, but there is also a sense of success between them. Even if it’s something small, they are able to help their cluster.  Will takes Riley’s hand in his, and she smiles softly up at him.  “Mission accomplished,” she teases.

Will chuckles.  “Mission accomplished.”

Chapter Text

They have been safe for several months now, and things are finally starting to feel like normal again for Nomi and Amanita.  (Well, as normal as things can be when your fiancée has seven other selves, but Amanita was always a “more the merrier” kind of girl when it came to families anyway.) They’d had to let the lease on their old apartment go, so when they came back to San Francisco they had moved into a new place.  This one isn’t as close to the heart of the city, but they don’t mind.  Being somewhere a little quieter has its advantages.

Today, they get to enjoy one such advantage.  It’s a late December day, and snow is already falling by the time Nomi wakes up that morning. She doesn’t have her contacts in or glasses on yet, but she can see that the vague shapes of the trees are covered in white.  Nomi turns to the side to see Amanita still sleeping.  Slowly leaning over, she places a gentle kiss on Neets’ forehead before quietly getting out of bed.  Grabbing her glasses from her bedside table, Nomi makes her way to the bathroom to go brush her teeth.

When she comes back out, Amanita is up and looking out the window.  “Nom!  It’s snowing!”

Nomi laughs.  “First snow since we came back,” she says softly, walking up behind Amanita and wrapping her arms around Neets’ waist.

“Mhmm,” Amanita murmurs, turning in Nomi’s grip to place a small kiss on her lips.  After she pulls back, Neets playfully smacks Nomi’s ass. “Now get dressed.  I wanna make a snowman!”

“Yes, ma’am,” Nomi replies with a grin, quickly pecking Amanita on the lips again before walking over to the dresser.

It doesn’t take long for them to bundle up, and soon Amanita is pulling Nomi by the hand out of their apartment and out into the small yard outside the building.  She rushes forward and starts rolling together a snowball for the base of their snowman.

“How’s the snow?” Nomi asks.

Amanita packs the starter snowball together and smirks with satisfaction.  “Nice and wet.  None of that powdery shit.”

Nomi laughs in reply and starts her own snowball for the middle section.  Neets puts hers on the ground and starts pushing it through the snow to make it bigger.  It gets a little lumpy on one side, and Amanita makes a show of rolling it sideways for a bit to try to even it out.  Instead of rolling hers, Nomi has decided to just keep packing more and more onto the ball she started with.  As a result her snowball is rounder, but takes significantly more time to build up. By the time Nomi feels satisfied with the size of it, Amanita is about finished rolling around her significantly larger base.  Nomi picks hers up and sets in on top of Amanita’s, packing a bit of snow around where they meet so it doesn’t fall over.

“You wanna make the head while I get stuff for the face?” Neets asks.

“Sounds good,” Nomi answers with a nod, walking to an undisturbed patch of snow to get started on a smaller snowball.

Amanita walks back to where she rolled the base of their snowman, considerably less snow there now. She starts picking up rocks for the eyes and mouth, then walks back to their half-built creature to deposit them. Next Amanita walks over toward some trees and finds a couple of smaller branches that have broken off due to the weight of the snow.  She grabs them for the arms.

Nomi finishes up the head and puts it on their snowman as Amanita walks back toward her.  “What do you think?” Nomi asks.

“Lookin’ good,” Amanita replies smoothly.

Nomi giggles and holds out a hand for one of the sticks.  Neets passes it over, and they put one each into the sides of the middle section.

“Alright.  Our little man just needs a face, now,” Amanita says as she leans down to pick up the rocks she gathered earlier.  She places them on the head of their snowman, two large rocks for the eyes and several smaller ones to give him a smile. “Good?” she asks, stepping back to admire her handiwork.

“Aww, he’s cute,” Nomi replies.

Amanita stands on her tip-toes and kisses Nomi on the cheek.  “Not as cute as you.”

Chapter Text

When Wolfgang wakes that morning, he finds that he is alone in the bed.  For a moment, panic floods through him.  But then he smells something delicious coming from the little kitchenette in his and Kala’s Parisian hotel room, and he remembers that they are safe.  Wolfgang rolls outs of bed and puts on a pair of boxers, then gets up to see what Kala is making.

Kala is already fully dressed for the day, clearly having been up for a bit.  She stands over a skillet, cooking several sausages attentively. Wolfgang slides up behind her and puts his hands on her hips, pulling himself close to her.

“Mm, smells delicious,” he says.  Then he pauses a moment.  “What’s the occasion?”

She turns her head to plant a quick peck on his cheek.  “No occasion. We’ve made so many of my father’s recipes, I wanted to try to make something that was German for once.”

Wolfgang chuckles, then gives her a slightly confused look.  “I thought you didn’t eat beef?”

“Okay, they’re turkey sausages,” Kala admits.  “It’s not exactly traditional, but I didn’t think you would mind the compromise.”

He shakes his head no. For her, he never minds.  (He doesn’t need to say it.  She can feel it.)  “Do you want help with anything?”

This time it’s Kala shaking her head.  “I want to do something for you today.  You’re always taking care of me.”

With a sly smile, Wolfgang says, “I like taking care of you.”  (He can feel her heart flutter when he says that.)

“I know,” Kala replies, her own smile adorning her face.  She turns back to the sausages and pushes them around with the spatula. “But sometimes I like taking care of you, too.”

That’s not something he’s used to.  (Well, except from Felix, but that's different.  No one is trying to kick the shit out of Wolfgang today.)  Even after being part of the cluster for so long, it still isn’t in his nature to expect others to want to help him.  But Kala’s desire to do this is palpable to him, bleeds into him until he wants to let her.  Wolfgang kisses her temple, passing his happiness to accept her offer through the contact, then leaves to go take a shower.

By the time he’s finished and dressed, sausage isn’t the only thing he can smell coming from the kitchen.  The strongest thing is coffee, which Wolfgang is grateful for.  He opens the bathroom door to find Kala has placed most of the food on the little square dining table.  She is currently in the kitchenette grabbing the pot of coffee and two mugs.

“No chai for you?” he asks.

She gives a small laugh. “Chai’s not exactly German.”

Wolfgang shrugs and walks over.  “Need me to grab anything?”

“No, this is the last of it,” Kala replies, putting the coffee and mugs down on the table.

Wolfgang sits down and finally looks to see what else she has made for him.  In addition to the sausage, he finds several rolls, marmalades, and two bowls of raspberry muesli.  “Wow,” is all he can say.  He really hadn’t expected her to go this all out.

Kala smiles shyly.  “I hope I made it all right.  I found the muesli recipe online.”

He pulls one of the bowls of toward him, observing raspberries, oats, some assorted nuts, and milk in it. Wolfgang grabs a spoon and takes a bite. “Honestly?  Better than any I’ve ever had,” he says.  (His childhood hadn’t exactly lent itself to frequent homemade meals.)

She smiles with her success before handing a plate over to him.  “Make sure to eat some sausage before it gets cold,” Kala says, then pours him a cup of coffee.

Wolfgang grabs a piece of sausage and takes a bite before it even touches his plate.

“Good?  I know turkey sausage isn’t the same, but –”

“It’s delicious,” Wolfgang cuts her off before she can ramble herself into anxiety.  His answer makes her smile with relief.  While he puts more sausage and some rolls on his plate, Kala pours her own mug of coffee.  She picks it up to drink without adding anything to it.  “You’re just going to go straight for black?” Wolfgang asks her with a chuckle.

“I’ve always liked it when you drank it,” Kala replies.

Wolfgang’s not sure it works that way, but he can’t really argue with her logic either.  She takes a sip, letting the coffee settle over her tongue for a moment.  (He tastes it through her, the flavor of it filling his mouth before he’s even lifted his own cup.)  After a moment, she swallows it and smiles.  This time, it’s Wolfgang’s turn to ask, “Good?”

Kala nods.  “Just as delicious as I remembered.”

He grins, then takes a sip of his own coffee.  (Not for the taste he already has, but to wash down the food.)  Wolfgang takes a moment to really soak this all in. Commit it to memory. His whole life, a day like this was only something he saw in the movies.  Something far off, something that was too much of a fantasy to even try to aspire to.  Yet somehow, against all odds, he is here.  He is safe.  The people he cares about are safe.  (He cares about more than one other person, now.  That’s something that amazes him in and of itself.)  And as much as Wolfgang doesn’t feel he deserves her, he has Kala. The love he can feel pulsing between them is something even he can’t doubt.

“Thank you,” Wolfgang says quietly.  Knowing he’s not just referring to the meal, Kala smiles.

Chapter Text

Clearing her name hadn’t been easy.  But after taking down Whispers and BPO, Sun was pretty sure she could do anything. After a while away, she finally came home to Seoul.  When she arrived, Nomi helped her get a burner phone so she could contact Detective Mun.  Sun hadn’t been positive it was a good idea, but she didn’t really have any other options. Who else believed that she was innocent?

Luckily, despite all the odds, Mun was still willing to testify on her behalf.  And not just about the embezzlement.  He argued that given she had been the only one to see who had truly injured him, Sun’s actions had been an attempt to apprehend her brother. (Otherwise, why wouldn’t she have just killed him?  She had the motive and opportunity, after all.)  The fact that he was willing to testify against Joong-Ki at all was enough to cause a commotion in the court room.  No one else had dared.  But Detective Mun’s record was spotless, and the court had no reason to question his reputation.  In the end, justice prevailed.

(When it is announced that Sun is finally a free woman, she can feel her other selves celebrating behind her.)

Sun doesn’t see Mun for a little while after that.  Her first few weeks of freedom are mostly spent partying at all hours of the night, when the other members of her cluster are awake.  She is the last of them to be truly free, and now that she is they cannot contain their joy.  (Sun loses track of the different kinds of alcohol she tries on each of their lips. If they know how to do one thing, it’s party.)

After a while, though, even they get tired and crave normalcy.  As much as she loves her cluster, Sun in particular needs her alone time.  She likes routine, and she wants to get hers back.  So after a day or two of fixing her sleep schedule, she goes back to waking at sunrise to do Tai Chi.

It’s there, on the roof of her building in the early morning light, that Mun finds her.  She doesn’t hear him walk up, so lost in her routine that she is almost startled when she turns to find him there.  (Almost.  It’s not like she hadn’t exactly gotten used to people appearing from the corner of her vision the last couple of years.)

“Detective Mun,” Sun says warily.

He grins.  “Please.  You can call me Kwon-Ho.”

Sun’s not sure how to feel about that, but she nods in acceptance anyway.  “Kwon-Ho.  May I ask why you’re here so early?”

“I wanted to talk to you,” Mun replies.

“At six in the morning?” Sun quips.

Kwon-Ho shrugs.  “You haven’t been answering your phone.”

At that, Sun laughs.  “I don’t have that phone anymore.  I haven’t gotten a new one yet.”  (Sun hadn’t bothered going out to get a new one because the only people she had wanted to speak to didn’t exactly need phones to find her.)

“Oh.”  Mun’s smile falters for the first time.

“I wasn’t avoiding you, if that’s what you think,” Sun says.  She’s not sure why she feels the need to tell him, but she wants him to know all the same.

He nods.  “We don’t have to talk if you don’t want to.”

Again, not sure exactly why, Sun finds herself shaking her head no.  “We can talk.”  She walks over and sits down on one of the steps, leaving a space for him.

Kwon-Ho joins her.  “Thank you,” he says.

It is Sun’s turn to shrug this time.  “So what did you want to talk about?” she asks.  (Sun has never been one to mince her words.)

“Actually, that is what I came here to say.  Not just thank you for talking to me now but – for everything.”

“What did I do?” she asks. (If anything, Sun thinks, she should be the one thanking him.)

“At the gala, after Joong-Ki....”  Mun trails off.  The end of the sentence doesn’t need to be said.  “It would have been easy for you to use the distraction to escape.  You didn’t have to draw attention to yourself at all.”

“I was there for a reason.”

Mun nods.  “I know.  But you didn’t know I was going to be there.  Whatever your plan had been, that had to have put a bit of a dent in it. You must have known that if you acted after what happened that you would take the blame.”

“I could not let him get away with another murder,” Sun says, not even thinking about it. Kwon-Ho is here before her now, but at the time she (and her cluster) had been sure he was dead.

He tilts his head a bit in confusion.  “You didn’t kill him, though.  You walked away.”

Sun’s jaw clenches a bit. She’s still not sure whether or not she regrets that decision.  Part of her knows it was the right one to make, but a piece of her (maybe the Wolfgang piece) still wants to avenge her father.  She takes a deep, calming breath.  The choice was already made.  Dwelling on it wouldn’t change the past.  Sun accepts that she must take whatever punishment the law decides to give him as justice enough.  (The piece of her that is Will feels proud.)  In the end, all Sun says is, “He learned his lesson.”

Kwon-Ho nods in acceptance. “Well, thank you.  Your interference meant that he could not ensure he finished what he started.”  He thinks for a moment.  “And thank you for not killing him.”

She takes another deep breath.  Neither of these feel like things he should be thanking her for.  Sun accepts them anyway, the subtle influence of one of her cluster telling her to forgive herself.  (Maybe all of them.  It’s hard to tell who this comes from, but it’s strong.)  “You’re welcome,” she says.

They sit in comfortable silence for a few minutes.  Sun’s hands are resting by her sides, and after a bit Mun tentatively puts one of his on top of the hand she has between them.  He looks up to meet her eyes, wordlessly asking if this is alright.  In answer, Sun turns her hand over in his so they are palm to palm.  He twines his fingers through hers, and she gives his hand a small squeeze in return. After looking at their hands for a few seconds, he leans forward and kisses her.

Without really discussing it, they fall into an easy relationship.  Sun finds that Kwon-Ho fits comfortably into her routine.  He rises early to meet her in the mornings on her rooftop.  They do different exercises – she sticks to her Tai Chi while he does push-ups and sit-ups – but they both enjoy each other’s company as they work out.  Some days, if he has time before his shift at work, they spar.  Sun still wins handily, but his form continues to improve each time.

At first, she looks for new jobs while he’s at work.  She’s not exactly sure what she should be looking for at this point.  She’s only ever worked for her father’s company, which doesn’t exactly have the prestige it used to.  But it doesn’t bother her that much.  That was never the life she wanted for herself, anyway.  In the end, her teacher convinces her to go back to fighting professionally.

If Mun isn’t working a late shift, they often eat together.  Sometimes they cook, but usually Kwon-Ho brings take-out to Sun after she has spent a long day training.  After they eat, if they haven’t already sparred that day, they usually try to get a match in.  And many nights, they fall straight from their fights into her bed, moving together with a different rhythm then.

On one such night, after everything, they lay there naked on top of her sheets.  Sun has just finished smoking a cigarette when Kwon-Ho looks at her contemplatively.

“What is it?” Sun asks eventually.

He chuckles.  She’s always able to read him, whether it is his fighting or his feelings.  “Sometimes, your fighting style changes.”

For the first time in a while with him, Sun is guarded.  Kwon-Ho senses it, and she can tell he does.  (He may be getting pretty good at reading her, too.)  “I’ve been trained in many styles,” she replies cryptically.

Mun shakes his head.  “Sometimes it almost becomes…untrained.  I’m not sure how to put it.  I know what it feels like to fight you, though.  But sometimes…sometimes it feels like it’s not you I’m fighting.”

Sun feels both Wolfgang and Will appear behind her.  They know they are the culprits, but they are also both wary of what Mun may do.  BPO may be gone, but they did not survive this long without playing cautiously.  Their guilt and anxiety are on the periphery of her mind, but she does her best to block it out.  Neither of those emotions will help her here.  Out of the corner of her eye, Sun sees Riley appear.  This is a member of her cluster she is more grateful to see. Riley gives her resilience and trust.  (And love.)

She steels herself. Sun briefly considers lying. (Lito doesn’t appear, but she can almost hear him offering in the back of her mind.)  But despite the danger, she finds herself wanting this thing with Kwon-Ho to work.  And if that is going to happen, she knows he will need to understand who she really is. Sun gives Riley a nod.  Will and Wolfgang each put a hand on her shoulders.

Mun looks over his shoulder, vaguely toward where Riley is sitting cross-legged on the floor.  “Sun?”

“The reason you sometimes feel that way is because there are times when it is not me you are fighting,” she finally says.

His head whips back around to her.  “What?”

Rather than answering directly, Sun tries another tactic.  “You never asked where I went when I left the country.”

Kwon-Ho begins to look suspicious.  “I didn’t think it mattered.  You did what you had to do to avoid Joong-Ki’s men.”

She shakes her head.  “I didn’t run away from Joong-Ki.  He’s never scared me.”

“Okay,” Mun says slowly. “Where did you go, then?”

“London,” Sun answers. Then thinks about it.  “At first.  A few other places around Europe after that.”

He raises an eyebrow. “No one here knew where you were. Why did you have to move?”

She is glad he understands that it’s not the destination specifically that was she was getting at. “I have another family.  More of a family than Joong-Ki ever was.  And they needed me.”

“They?” he asks.  Sun can see the thoughts racing behind his eyes. “Do you have children?”

Wolfgang laughs behind her, and she can’t help but grin a bit herself.  “No.  They’re not my blood.  But they are part of me all the same,” Sun replies.  She knows it’s not really an answer, but it’s still the closest thing to the truth she’s ever said out loud.

“I don’t understand,” Kwon-Ho says.  “Did you learn to fight on the streets over there?”  It’s a joke, but she can tell he’s making it out of nerves.

“Sort of.  But more accurately, I was with someone else who already knew how.”  Sun takes a breath, then amends.  “I am always with someone who knows how.”

Mun sits up, away from her. “Is there someone else?”

“No,” she says immediately. “Not like that.  I mean it more literally.”


Sun knows she’s not doing a great job of explaining this.  There are others in her head offering to say the words for her, but she politely turns them down.  She wants to do this herself.  (Needs to.) “I have seven other selves.  Not past lives.  But alive and breathing, just like me.  We are like you, but not quite.”

Kwon-Ho’s brow furrows. “What do you mean, like me?” he asks tentatively.


He laughs.  She can tell he is still confused, but thinks this is some kind of joke.  “You had me worried,” Mun says.  “What is really going on?”

Sun shakes her head.  “This.  This is really going on.  You are human.  I am something else.”  She swallows hard.  “I am sensate.”  She pauses, giving him space to talk if he wants.  But he is speechless, unsure whether or not to take her seriously anymore. “Do you trust me?” she asks.

“Of course,” Kwon-Ho replies without thinking.

“Then trust me with this. I am not lying to you.”  He nods.  “There are others, like us.  But we are born in groups.”  Sun smiles to the people he cannot see.  “Clusters. No matter where we are in the world, we share our first breath.”

“And these…other sensates? How do you find them?”

“Your cluster finds you,” she says, her small smile widening a bit.  “You begin to feel the others.  I can see through their eyes.  I hear what they hear, taste what they taste.  I could no more stop being part of them than I could stop breathing.”

“I…I don’t know what to think,” Mun says after a few moments.

“What did you think before you knew?” she asks in reply.

“That you are strong. Amazing.  More skilled and disciplined than anyone I’ve ever fought. But you fight with a grace – you avoid hits if you can.  Until sometimes you don’t.  And you take a hit and give me a grin that doesn’t seem to fit on your face and your movements become much more aggressive.  You’re not watching me as carefully, instead reacting later and hitting harder.”

It’s odd, hearing this described through someone else’s eyes.  To Sun, these scenes play out differently.  She is sparring with Mun as normal when Wolfgang appears, itching for a fight.  (He doesn’t get to as much now that they’re safe and he’s with Kala.  He doesn’t miss the danger, but he still longs for the rush.) In those times, Sun steps out and lets Wolfgang take over for a bit, getting out his violent energy in one of the only healthy outlets he has.

Sun looks over her shoulder now to see Wolfgang still standing there.  His face would be unreadable if she couldn’t feel his thoughts. It’s okay, he thinks.

“That is one of them. He is the reason I had to leave.”

“Wait, you can…he can…fight through you?”

“We can all move through each other.  Not all of us fight with our fists, but I need each of them as much as they need me.”

“If you can do…that…why did you need to go to London?”

She and her other selves grimace simultaneously.  “There are always people who will hate what is different.  Some of those people found Wolfgang.  They blocked our connection.  So we had to go get him ourselves.”

After a few moments, Kwon-Ho nods with acceptance.  “Okay,” he says.

“Okay?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he confirms, still clearly nervous.  He starts to ramble.  “I mean, I have more questions.  But I think I understand.  These people are part of you.  And I love you, so okay.”  After he says it, he smacks his forehead.  This is the first time Sun has heard him say the words out loud.  “That’s not how I was going to tell you,” Kwon-Ho says apologetically.

Sun leans forward and kisses him fiercely.  Part of her cannot believe how lucky she is.  This man, despite everything, still wants her.  Still loves her.  (She’s not used to this.  No one outside of her cluster has ever accepted her without question.  Not once.)  “Don’t apologize,” she says afterward.

He grins up at her, still a bit sheepish.  “Why not?”

“Because I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

After the cluster had saved Wolfgang, he had been reluctant to see Kala at first.  He had been wracked with guilt over Whispers using him to find her name.  But it hadn’t lasted long – even through the blockers, the pull between them was too strong. Before he knew what he was doing, he had let Nomi and Sun convince him to at least speak to her, and then there was no going back.  Once they saw each other in person, Wolfgang knew he was hers as long as she would have him.

From there, things were easier.  Kala (and the rest of the cluster) nursed him back to health.  As soon as he was well enough to travel without drawing attention to himself, they left London for Brussels.  In a new city, no longer surrounded by the memories of what happened to him, Wolfgang and Kala finally start to feel like they’re in a real relationship.

It’s wonderful.  Even with the blockers, it’s the best thing Wolfgang has ever known in his life.  But it also brings up something he had not really had time to consider before – he had no idea how to actually be in a relationship.  Loving Kala?  That was easy.  It was more natural than breathing.  But being her boyfriend?  Even the word felt strange on Wolfgang’s tongue.

Wolfgang had never actually done this before.  He remembered deciding at a very young age, watching his mother and father fight, that relationships were not for him.  Not if they could breed such hatred.  (Even without a relationship, hatred seemed to come easily to Wolfgang.  It slithers through him, filling his veins just like his father’s blood.)  For Kala, though, Wolfgang was willing to try.  He knew there was nothing she could do to make him hate her.  That much he was sure of.  And no matter what he had done, no matter how many things should have scared her way, Wolfgang couldn’t seem to make Kala hate him either.  So for her, he’ll try.

So that’s how one morning, Wolfgang finds himself walking up to Will before the rest of their cluster is awake.  Both of them are early risers.  Will uses the routine of a regular sleep schedule and exercise to combat that itch he still occasionally feels for a needle.  Wolfgang has been in the habit of waking early longer, something left over from his childhood.  (One of the few things he could count on his father for was to be too hungover in the morning to be awake.)  They both know Sun will likely wake soon for her own routine, but for now it is just the two of them.

Will is doing push-ups under a row of windows, basking in the dim light of the early morning.  They don’t get to leave often, and almost never during the day, so even this bit of sunlight is something precious.  Wolfgang leans against the sill of one of the windows and lights a cigarette.  They stay in companionable silence for a bit, Will working out and Wolfgang exhaling smoke through the broken glass.  After Will finishes his set, he stands up and leans on the wall next to Wolfgang.

“What’s up?” Will asks, giving Wolfgang a knowing look.

Wolfgang figures he should have known Will would guess there was something on his mind.  Even before he was a sensate, Will had been a damn good cop.  Still, talking is not Wolfgang’s thing.  It’s not so easy for him to just come out and say what he’s thinking.  “It’s complicated,” is all he says.

“Try me,” Will quips back.

Wolfgang smirks.  Rather than answering directly he asks, “Were you ever with anyone before Riley?”

This surprises Will a bit, but he recovers quickly.  “I mean, I wasn’t a virgin.  But I don’t think that’s what you mean, is it?”

Shaking his head, Wolfgang replies, “I mean, seriously with someone.  Someone you loved.”  (He doesn’t need to ask about whether or not Riley was.  They all know the answer to that.)

Will pauses at this. He thinks carefully over his answer before speaking.  “There were a few relationships I thought were serious at the time.  I think I maybe even loved one of them.  But not like her.  No one was ever like Riley.”

Wolfgang takes that in. He’s not sure how much he wants to say, but in the end he realizes he’s worrying over nothing.  Will has already been inside his mind – what else does he have left to hide?  “I’ve never done this before.  I never even wanted to try.”  Wolfgang pulls out another cigarette and lights it.  He takes a drag before speaking again.  “I want to try with Kala, but I don’t know what she needs.” He laughs to himself, but there is no humor in it.  “I didn’t exactly have anyone to learn it from.”

Understanding crosses over Will’s face.  He gets it. Although his childhood had been nothing like Wolfgang’s, his parents hadn’t really given Will any reason to believe in true love either.  “What she needs is you.  I don’t think there’s much she doesn’t know about you at this point.  I don’t think you’re going to surprise her,” he says, trying to lighten the mood a bit.

Exhaling smoke as he does so, Wolfgang chuckles.  “I know how to love her in moments.  That’s all we ever had.  But now she’s here all the time and it’s....”  He trails off, searching for a word.  This has never been his strong suit.  (He longs for the connection between them to be alive, so he wouldn’t have to explain at all.  But that’s not an option right now.)

Luckily, Will seems to understand from experience.  “It’s overwhelming?”

Wolfgang nods.  “I feel like we skipped a step.  Like there was some part at the beginning where I was supposed to learn how to do the day to day things with her.”

This is a feeling Will knows all too well.  “Those things will come,” he says.  “Besides. It’s not exactly like Riley and I started off normally.”  Will motions around them.  “None of us are normal anymore.  I don’t think that’s what you should focus on.”

Wolfgang takes another long drag of his cigarette, and Will can see acceptance in the other man’s eyes. “What do you focus on?”

“How right it feels when I am with her.  How even when everything is terrible, she can give me hope.”  Will smiles.  “I focus on the way she looks when she’s sleeping, when she isn’t worrying about the rest of us.  But I also focus on the opposite, when she’s awake and fighting and so strong.”  He shrugs, more to himself than Wolfgang. “She makes everything worth it.” Wolfgang gives him a grin.  (Even a stoic like Wolfgang can’t help feeling joy at how happy his other selves make each other.)  “So what about Kala?” Will asks after a moment.

“What about her?”

“What about Kala makes you willing to try?” Will clarifies.

Wolfgang’s grin softens. He’s never really talked about his feelings to anyone except Kala, and even that had been after a long time. But with Will, for some reason, he feels he can admit it.  Maybe it’s because, despite all of their opposites, there has always been a mutual understanding between the two of them.  A knowledge that the other man understood the influence a woman in their cluster held over each of them.  Wolfgang had felt Will and Riley’s love flow through him, and he knew Will had felt the same between him and Kala.  “Everything,” Wolfgang breathes.

Will is looking at him with something halfway between affection and amusement.  “Care to elaborate?”

“Really?” Wolfgang asks.

“Humor me,” Will answers, giving his own smirk.

Wolfgang sighs and takes a moment to collect his thoughts.  He supposes if anyone, Will would be the one to understand.  “There is a lightness in her.  She genuinely believes in the good in people.  But it’s not because she hasn’t seen the bad, or doesn’t understand it.  She’s so fucking smart.”  Wolfgang pauses, hoping Will says something.  He doesn’t, instead continuing to look on expectantly. Wolfgang half sighs, half laughs. “I never believed in that ‘opposites attract’ or ‘true love’ bullshit before her.  But she makes me want to.”

Will pats him on the shoulder, his grin even wider than before.  “I think you two are going to be just fine.”

That draws a real laugh from Wolfgang.  “Oh?”

“If Riley has taught me anything, it’s that it’s worth believing in love.  And it looks like Kala managed to turn you, of all people, into a believer.”

“Believing in something doesn’t make it true."

“No,” Will agrees.  “But the thing about love is that it’s not a true or false question.  It’s a feeling.  Believing in a feeling only makes it stronger.”

“Love alone doesn’t make a relationship work,” Wolfgang says sharply.

“You’re right.  It takes time and effort.  But she’s worth it, right?”

“Of course,” Wolfgang answers instantly, almost offended that Will would even question it.

“Then you’ll make it work. Time and effort are the hard part. Have a little faith.  If not in love, have it in her.”

Wolfgang nods again. That he can do.  Having faith in Kala is the easiest thing in the world.

Chapter Text

After a month or so in their new safe house, Daniela’s birthday rolls around.  They can’t throw her a big party like she would normally have, but Hernando and Lito (and the rest of the cluster) want to do something to thank her for everything she has done for them.  From being there for Lito to trusting him enough to fly across an ocean for people she’d never met, Dani had made an impression on them all.

Riley found one of her old contacts to get them a considerable amount of alcohol without drawing attention to them.  Nomi and Bug set up the computers so they’re ready for Riley to mix some music.  After Will, Sun, and Wolfgang do some recon to double check that the area is clear, everyone lets loose.  Riley spins up the first track (not too loudly) and the fun begins.

Kala and Wolfgang are practically attached at the hip at the beginning.  Kala walks from one group to another, loving the rare chance to just relax and enjoy socializing.  Wolfgang follows, not saying much but glad to be by her side.  At some point, they end up wandering over to Felix, who is currently going shot for shot with Daniela.

“Wolfie!” Felix shouts excitedly.  He pauses for a moment, already drunk, then seems to realize that Wolfgang isn’t alone. “And Kala!  Beautiful Kala!”  Wolfgang grins and Kala smiles shyly.

“Hey, Felix,” Kala says, then turns to Daniela.  “Happy birthday, Dani!  I know it’s not what you’re used to, but I hope this gives you a little bit of home.”

Daniela grins and pulls Kala into a hug.  “This is the best birthday I’ve ever had,” she says, kissing Kala on the cheek. (Kala’s not sure if this is because Daniela is drunk or if her affection toward Lito and Hernando is starting to spread.  Either way, Kala doesn’t really mind it.)  Dani lifts the bottle of tequila that sits between her and Felix and adds, “I’ve got all the reminder of home I need here.”

“I’ll drink to that!” Felix says

Laughing, Daniela pours herself and him another shot.  They clink their shot glasses against each other, then down the tequila quickly. Wincing, Felix grabs a lime wedge. Dani takes a moment to just enjoy the burn before reaching for her own.

“Ah, Dani.  Do you mind if I go for a smoke break before we do another?” Felix asks.

Daniela laughs again. “I understand if you need a breather.”

“What?  Hey.  Sometimes a guy just needs a smoke.”  Felix stands up and starts to walk toward the stairs to what had become the designated smoking area, then turns back around.  “Wolfie, you coming?”

And as much as Wolfgang doesn’t want to leave Kala’s side, after the few beers he’s had a cigarette does sound nice.  Kala sees him hesitate.  She leans up on her toes and kisses him on the cheek.  “Go,” she says with a smile.  “I’ll be right here.”  Wolfgang nods and then joins Felix to go smoke.

When they leave, Kala realizes she’s never really talked to Daniela alone before.  (She’s been there when Lito has, of course, but that was different.)  For her part, Dani either doesn’t mind or is too drunk to care.  Kala’s not sure which.  Daniela easily smiles at Kala and motions toward the seat Felix has just vacated.  Kala sits down and smiles back.

“So,” Daniela starts, eyeing Kala mischievously.


“Wolfgang looks absolutely delicious.  You’ve done well, girl,” Dani says.  Kala laughs. “Strong and silent type, too.  Not necessarily my thing, but I can respect it.”

Kala grins.  Talking to Daniela doesn’t look like it’s going to be so hard after all.  “I didn’t think it was my thing, either.  But here we are.”

Daniela gives her a knowing nod.  “Mm, isn’t that always the way?”

“So what is your type?” Kala asks playfully.

“No, no, no,” Dani replies, shaking her head and laughing.  “I am not drunk enough for this.  Or at least, you’re not as drunk as me, and that’s just not fair.”  Kala raises an eyebrow.  “We have to both be drunk if we’re going to start asking questions. That way we’re both as likely to forget the answers in the morning.  What’s the point of drunk confessions if only one of you is drunk?”

Kala laughs again.  “I had a drink earlier.”

“One drink?  You’re nowhere near my level,” Daniela says. She picks up the bottle of tequila, pours a shot, and passes the glass over.  Kala eyes it warily.  “Come on, it won’t bite.”

She’s done shots before, but usually she prefers a glass of wine or a nice mixed drink to nurse over time. It’s Dani’s birthday, though, and Kala figures why not have some fun with the birthday girl.  “Oh, alright,” Kala says, accepting the shot and throwing it back in one fluid motion.  The tequila burns her throat and brings tears to her eyes, but she grabs one of the lime wedges sitting on the table and its sour juice makes it a bit easier to handle.

“Alright!  Like a champ, Kala!” Dani hoots.  “Okay.  So that earns you one question.  You wanna know my type?”  Kala nods. “I have terrible taste in men,” Daniela says with a laugh.  “Everyone I’ve ever dated was an asshole.”  She looks over to Lito and Hernando on the other side of the room.  “Or gay.  Although gay seems to be working for me right now.”

Kala looks over to Hernando and Lito as well, a fond look on her face.  “You could certainly do worse,” she says with a grin.  “But you really don’t mind just watching?”

“Ah, ah, ah,” Dani replies. “That’s a new question.  Are you willing to take another shot for that?”

She thinks for a second, but then Kala says, “Sure, why not?  It’s a party, right?”

“That’s the spirit!” Daniela says as she pulls the shot glass back to her, pours more tequila, and passes it back over.

Kala takes a deep breath, then downs the next shot.  This one doesn’t hurt quite as much, but the flavor is still harsh and she goes for the lime wedge all the same.  “So you really don’t mind?” she asks as she lowers the wedge from her mouth.

“Honestly?  For now, it’s perfect.  After Joaquin….” Daniela trails off, not quite looking at Kala for a moment.  Then she shakes her head, as if to bring herself back to the present.  Dani smiles.  “Lito and Hernando are amazing.  They took me in when I had nowhere else to go, and they love me unconditionally.  They let me into their family, with all of the benefits that has,” she says, smile turning into more of smug grin.  “And they never ask anything of me that I’m not willing to give.  It’s not like I haven’t thought of finding someone more, you know, for me.  But right now, I’m happy.”

Looking at Daniela’s bright face now (and comparing it to Lito’s memories of her bruised face after her last stay with Joaquin), Kala thinks she understands.  “I’m glad.”

“Alright, now my turn,” Dani suddenly says.

Kala is caught off guard. “Don’t you need to take a shot first?”

Daniela laughs.  “Oh, sweetie.  I’m already five in.  Plus, I don’t want to give Felix an unfair advantage.”

Nodding, Kala accepts this. She can already feel the alcohol affecting her, slowing her thoughts and easing her tensions.  She can’t imagine drinking as many as Daniela already has, let alone adding to that count, so who is she to argue.  “What do you want to know?”

“Honestly, what’s Wolfgang like with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, he seems nice enough, for a big scary German guy,” Dani says.  Kala can’t help giggling.  “But I’ve only heard him say maybe three sentences the entire time we’ve been here.  Do you just do all the talking, or is there more to him than meets the eye?”

Still a bit giggly, Kala replies, “He doesn’t talk a lot, but there is definitely more to him.  A lot more.”  She knows she’s at least a little drunk now, because she finds she wants to just keep gushing about Wolfgang.  “He says more when it’s just the two of us, but even then it’s not a lot.  But because of that when he does talk, you know it is worth listening to.  Overall, though, he’s just a much more physical person.”

Dani wiggles her eyebrows. “Oh, really?” she asks suggestively.

When she realizes what she’s said, Kala brings her hands to cover her face in embarrassment.  “Not like that!”

Now Daniela just leaves one of her eyebrows raised.  “Some of the noises I’ve heard at night beg to differ.”

Kala has not had nearly enough to drink for this conversation.  “Okay, but that’s not what I meant,” she concedes.  “I think I’m going to need another shot if you have any more questions.”

Dani shakes her head, now giggling herself.  “No, no, you’re okay.  I’m more curious about what you did mean.”

Smiling softly, Kala explains.  “Because of the…the connection between us,” she starts, not sure how to explain the irresistible draw she feels to Wolfgang, “Talking is not usually necessary for him to convey what he means.”

“I thought you were making those pills for all of you guys?”

“I am.  But even so, after a year in each other’s heads, it’s not hard for me to still understand.”

Daniela nods evenly for a minute, looking like she’s thinking it over.  “I guess that makes sense.”  She gives Kala a smirk.  “But he is good in bed, right?”

Kala buries her face in her hands and giggles again.  Possibly because she’s sitting like that, she doesn’t notice that Wolfgang and Felix have come back downstairs.  Wolfgang walks up and puts his hand on her shoulder with gentle affection, startling her slightly and then bringing on further laughter as a result.  He raises his eyebrow at Daniela in confusion, who also starts to laugh.

“What did we miss?” Felix asks, wanting to know what’s so funny.  He notices the shot glasses have moved since he last left.  “Get started without me, Dani?”

Daniela gives him a smirk. “You wish.”

Rather than letting Felix bring the conversation back around, Kala stands up and lets him have his chair back.  When she gets up, the world spins a bit and she leans hard onto Wolfgang.  “You okay?” he asks with a knowing grin.

“I might have had a few shots,” Kala answers, smiling back up at him.

Wolfgang chuckles and wraps his arms around her.  “Might have?”

“Okay,” Kala concedes. “Definitely had a couple of shots.”

He leans down and kisses her gently.  “I like you when you’ve had a couple of shots,” he whispers in her ear.

Kala feels her heart flutter a bit, and she grins up at him.  “You like me all the time,” she says cheekily.

He chuckles again.  “You’re not wrong about that.”  She beams up at him in response, and Wolfgang’s stomach flips. He’s not sure he’s ever going to get used to that smile of hers being for him, but he doesn’t know if he wants to get used to it either.  If he does, he might risk taking her for granted, and Wolfgang never wants to do that.

They stand there for a bit while Felix and Daniela get back to their competition.  Kala sighs contentedly against Wolfgang.  She’s not smashed, but drunk enough to be comfortable nuzzling into him right there in front of the others.  After a moment, she leans up so she can kiss him again.  He holds her to him still, wanting to just commit this to memory.  

When she pulls away, he’s smiling at her.  “Not that I mind, but what was that for?”  She wasn’t necessarily opposed to public displays of affection, but they weren’t exactly Kala’s style either.

Kala smiles back.  “Talking to Dani reminded me again just how lucky I am to have you.”

Wolfgang shakes his head, but the smile doesn’t leave his face.  “I’m pretty sure I’m the one who lucked out here.”

Chapter Text

After the cluster (and their family) has been in their new safe house long enough for it to start feeling almost like home, they start to fall into daily routines.  With so many of them living together, it’s easier this way. Part of the daily routine is each member of the cluster taking their turn at Nomi’s computer to check the news in their home countries.  Usually there is not much to tell, but they always keep an eye out.  They know BPO must be looking for them.

When they start to run low on blockers, they start to stretch the time between taking them.  It’s not as safe, but they don’t want to risk not having one to take if they absolutely need it in the future.  During the brief periods of time that they feel their connection, it’s intense.  All of their emotions rush into each other, crashing over the cluster like a tidal wave.

One morning, Kala is taking her turn at the computer, scrolling through a Mumbai news website. Wolfgang sits next to her, idly running his fingers through her hair as she reads.  As she skims the site, her eye catches on a name she hasn’t thought of in a while – Manendra Rasal.  A tendril of fear snakes through Kala.  Now that he has become an official political figure, she knows his life is in plenty of danger even without the threat of BPO.  Despite her tumultuous relationship with her (now former) father-in-law, she does not want him to have been hurt.  Without reading the whole headline, she clicks on the article.  Once she sees it, Kala wishes she had.

Manendra Rasal Speaks Out On Daughter-In-Law’s Disappearance

She knows this is probably not something she needs to read, maybe even something she should avoid. But now that Kala has already opened the article, her curiosity gets the better of her.

Manendra Rasal, CEO of Rasal Pharmaceuticals and prominent political advisor, has finally come forward about the disappearance of his son’s wife, Kala Rasal.  Mrs. Rasal’s last known location was in an airport in France, drawing speculation about a potential affair.  Prior to now, the Rasal family has kept quiet on the matter.  After almost two months of silence, Manendra Rasal held a press conference this morning to address the numerous questions the family has been receiving.

“My son, Rajan Rasal, was contacted recently by his wife,” Rasal stated to the press corps.  “She has confirmed that she is safe, but did not reveal her location.  Only that she will be ending their marriage.”

When asked for the reason for her disappearance, Rasal answered, “She was scheduled to take a trip to Paris.  It seems that some time before this was scheduled, though, she began having an affair with someone living in Europe.  When this trip was scheduled, she took it as an opportunity to leave my son.”

Regarding questions about the original reason for Mrs. Kala Rasal’s trip, Manendra Rasal had no comments.  He did, however, take other questions about Mrs. Rasal and the alleged affair.  “My son believes that his wife must have met this man when they were on their honeymoon in Italy,” Rasal stated.  “While on their trip, my son was injured and on bedrest by doctor’s orders.  He is a trusting enough man that he did not want his injury to spoil their vacation for her, so there were several days where she went out alone.  It seems that since she was unable to have a satisfying honeymoon with her husband, she went and found someone else to celebrate her new marriage with.”

Neither Rajan Rasal nor Kala Rasal’s family were available for comment.

Kala’s not sure what she expected, but Manendra’s words hurt her more than she anticipated.  As she finishes the article, she feels the sting of tears pricking the corners of her eyes.  She doesn’t want to worry the rest of the cluster by crying, though.  Everyone is safe, that’s what matters, Kala tries to remind herself.  It doesn’t really help.

Wolfgang is stiff behind her.  Kala turns around, expecting to see a look of concern.  Instead, before she even realizes the blockers have worn off, she sees her own pain reflected in Wolfgang’s face.  Then the depth of their connection comes flooding back, rolling over her all at once until she almost feels like she is drowning in their shared sorrow.

“The things he said about you,” Wolfgang mutters, anguish in his voice.  Kala has only heard him this way when discussing his past.  And even then, even when confronting his worst memories and ending Sergei Bodganow’s life, Wolfgang had pushed it down. Pushed it to where only Kala could feel it, sobbing for him in her office in Mumbai.  Now, though, this is not his own pain.  It’s Kala’s.  And there is nothing about Kala that Wolfgang wants to push away.

“It’s nothing,” Kala says, shaking her head.  She closes her eyes, trying to will away the tears that are threatening to fall.  She knows he has been through so much worse, knows that most of their cluster has at some point or another.

Wolfgang’s eyes become fierce, but the pain is still clear behind them.  “It’s not nothing,” he replies.  “This is something you care about.”

“It’s stupid,” Kala says, but she feels herself start crying even as the words leave her mouth.  “You’ve all had so many terrible things happen to you. I almost lost you,” she sobs.  Wolfgang puts his arms around her, pulling her into his chest.  Once they are touching, the connection is too much. It is all Kala can do to keep from falling apart against him.  “Why am I so upset about this?” she asks.

Her pain flows freely into him now, and Wolfgang doesn’t have to reach far into her mind to find the answer.  “You struggled with guilt about us from the beginning.  Because you are a good person, and you didn’t want to hurt Rajan,” he whispers into her hair.  “And now his father is telling people that you didn’t care at all and just wanted to sleep with anyone you found.  He’s lying to hurt you.  To hurt your family.”

As she listens to him speak, Kala lets herself cry openly against him.  (He’s right, of course.  Wolfgang has always been right when it comes to her.)  After a few moments, through their connection she feels that it is not just her own face wet with tears.  Kala looks up at him in surprise.  For the first time that she has ever seen, Wolfgang is crying.  Her heart breaks and swells with love for him simultaneously.  This man, who never lets himself express his own pain, is allowing himself to shed tears for hers.

Still choking back sobs, Kala pulls him down into a kiss.  It is messy, both of them still crying as their lips meet.  Her pain flows through her lips into him, and his love and strength caress her consciousness gently in return.  They hold each other tight, kissing fiercely as this new aspect of their connection overtakes them.  After a few moments, Wolfgang pulls away and rests his forehead against hers. “I’m sorry,” he whispers.

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Kala says immediately, already knowing where he is going.  It doesn’t stop him from saying it, though.

“You’re feeling this pain because of me,” Wolfgang replies.

She grabs his face gently, guiding him to meet her eyes.  Kala softly brushes a tear from his cheek.  “This pain is because of him.  You, on the other hand,” she starts, kissing him on the other cheek, “you have given me love that I would never have known with Rajan.”  Kala gives him a quick, chaste kiss on the lips.  “It doesn’t matter what he says.  You are worth it.”

“God, I love you,” Wolfgang breathes, tracing his fingers along her back to try to sooth her.

Kala rests her head in the crook of his neck, allowing his light touch to ease the pain between them.  “I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

When Felix left Berlin to look for Wolfgang, he didn’t expect to find himself hiding out in an abandoned warehouse with about a dozen people from all over the world.  But once Felix starts to get to know them (and sees how far they are willing to go to save his brother), he realizes that he’s actually beginning to like these people.  It had always been Felix and Wolfgang against the world before.  Felix had liked it that way, and part of him worried at first that he was going to lose his best friend to these people.  They share something with Wolfgang that he never can.  But rather than pulling Wolfgang away, these people (Wolfgang’s cluster, he tries to remind himself) accept him immediately as one of their own.  Over time, it dawns on Felix that Wolfgang doesn’t just share their feelings – they share Wolfgang’s, too.  Suddenly, Felix has a lot more brothers (and some sisters now, as well).

It is explained pretty quickly to Felix that not everyone here is part of their cluster, though.  He doesn’t say it, but he’s pretty grateful that he’s not the only one.  He finds himself talking with the other non-sensates often.  Although there isn’t that instant affection that he received from Wolfgang’s cluster-mates, all of them bond relatively quickly over just how surreal their lives have become.

As nice as it is, though, things are usually pretty tense.  They are all on the run from a multinational organization that wants to dissect the brains of the majority of the people in the safe house, after all.  So he’s happy when he learns that Daniela’s birthday is coming up and that the cluster have decided they can let loose for a night to celebrate.

When the night finally arrives, Felix learns something new about Wolfgang’s other selves – they know how to throw a party.  It starts with the realization of who exactly Riley is when Nomi sets her up at the computer to start spinning music.

“Wait a fucking minute,” he says as hears a low bass beat pulse through the speakers.  Up until now, Felix has only seen Riley in her role as a protector of her cluster.  But with the headphones on her ears and the music at her fingertips, she lights up in a new way.  All of the sudden it clicks for him that he’s seen her somewhere before.  “Holy shit, Wolfie,” he says, turning to his best friend.  “Are we living with The Riley Blue?”

Wolfgang chuckles at him, gesturing at Riley’s hair.  “Who did you think she was?” he asks.

“I’ve only ever seen her in YouTube videos before,” Felix says in awe.  “The quality is always shit, I didn’t know what she looked like up close, so I didn’t – how was I supposed to guess the random woman who told me to come to London to save your ass was a famous DJ?”  Wolfgang laughs again, louder this time.

Not long after the music starts, the booze comes out. They weren’t able to get Dani much for her birthday, but Riley’s contacts were able to get them plenty of alcohol, including a large bottle of tequila. Lito makes a show of giving the bottle to her, Hernando hugging Daniela tightly as the gift is given.

“So who’s taking shots with me?” Dani asks almost immediately.  Lito and Hernando each take one with her, and while Felix hasn’t had tequila in a while he’s never one to turn down shots.  (Riley’s contacts had been thoughtful enough to bring them a few limes to work with.)  By the time the three men have put down their lime wedges, Daniela is already pouring herself another shot.  “Any of you boys in for another?”

“No thank you, Dani,” Hernando replies with a smile.  “I think I’m going to get myself a glass of wine.  Do you want anything, Lito?”

Lito nods.  “I’ll come with you, I want to see if they have brought anything to make a decent mixed drink.”

Dani gives them both a fake pout.  “Going to leave me to drink alone?” she asks playfully.

Before he’s thinking about it, Felix says, “I’m in for more.”

She gives him a mischievous look.  “How many more?”

“How many were you thinking?” he quips back.

Daniela smirks, and both Hernando and Lito are grinning like they know where this is going.  “As many as you think you can handle,” she says, pouring Felix another shot.  “You in?”

Felix raises his shot glass to her.  “Only if you’re ready to lose.”

Laughing, she lifts her own glass and clinks it against his.  “I hope you’re ready to lose to a girl.”

Both of them take their shots, each of them trying to keep as straight of a face as possible while reaching for their respective lime wedges.  “It’s not about you being a girl,” Felix answers once he puts his down.  “I just know I’m going to win.”

Lito laughs, and Hernando looks like he’s holding back from doing the same.  “You two have fun,” the latter says after a moment.  “Let’s go see if we can’t find you some mixers, Lito.”  And with that, Dani and Felix are left together.

“Do this often?” Felix asks, smile reaching his voice.

“Well,” Dani starts, looking around the warehouse full of people, “Not usually quite like this.”

He laughs.  “I know what you mean.  This is nuts.”

Daniela nods.  “I almost thought Lito was going crazy when he tried to explain things to us before we flew over.  But we got here and all of these people were real.”  Shaking her head, she pours them each another shot.  “I knew Lito was a good actor, but I still can’t believe we didn’t know about any of this for a year.”  She grabs her shot glass and looks at him expectantly.

He lifts his and throws back the tequila almost too quickly.  Wincing hard, Felix reaches for his lime wedge before his glass is even back on the table.  Dani is giggling at him by the time he finishes with it.  “Wolfie’s always been a shit liar,” Felix says, ignoring the way his throat burns.  (So maybe it’s been longer than he remembered since he did tequila shots.  He’s still not about to give up after only three.)  “So instead of lying he just doesn’t talk at all,” he continues, almost laughing as he says it.  “I knew something was going on, but the most he ever told me was that he needed to take a trip to India.”

At this, Dani’s eyes fall to Wolfgang on the other side of the open floor of the warehouse, his arm wrapped tightly around Kala’s waist.  She doesn’t have to know either of them very well for the love between them to be obvious.  Daniela smiles fondly.  But then she thinks for a moment about what Felix said.  (She also briefly considers the awful days before the cluster had rescued Wolfgang.  Dani pushes those thoughts away, relevant though they are.)  “So they had never met in person before now?” she asks, curiosity getting the better of her.

“No,” Felix answers, shaking his head.  “At least, not that I know of.  There were, uh, a few months last year where I wasn’t around as much.  But I’m pretty sure Wolfie didn’t leave Berlin.”  He turns in his seat to follow Daniela’s gaze toward his best friend.  “And I don’t think I would have seen much of him if she had come to him,” he says with a laugh.

Dani giggles, already a bit tipsy.  “This whole thing is so weird.  Looking at them, you would think they’ve known each other for years.”

Felix turns back to her and nods emphatically, definitely feeling the alcohol himself.  “You don’t even know how weird it is to see him like this.  Wolfie doesn’t do girlfriends.”

“Looks like he does now,” Daniela replies with a smirk.

He shakes his head in response, but Felix can’t keep the smile off his face either.  “It’s almost harder to believe than the psychic stuff.”

“So he’s more of a ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ type?” she asks, eyebrows wiggling.

Felix laughs heartily at that.  “You could say that.  But it’s more like relationships would require him to talk.”

“Speaking of which, we are doing entirely too much of that,” Dani says.  “Too much talking and not enough drinking.”  She pours them each another shot.  “That is, if you’re ready?” she asks, grinning.

He grabs his shot glass quickly, nowhere near drunk enough to admit defeat.  “Oh, I’m ready.”

They each down their shots and suck on their respective lime wedges, then Dani gives Felix a questioning look.  “So if Wolfgang doesn’t talk to anyone, how did you two meet?”

“Detention,” Felix says with a smirk.  “It’s not that he never speaks,” he continues, tongue heavy in his mouth, “it’s just not really his thing.  He only talks if he’s got something to say.”

Dani nods with understanding.  “Detention, though?  Really?”

Laughing, Felix confirms, “Really.”

“What were you in for?” she asks, a faux-serious tone in her voice as if she was talking about them doing time in prison.

“I don’t even remember what I was in for that time,” Felix replies with a sloppy smile, a bit too wide for his face.  “Probably smoking.  But I know Wolfie was there for fighting.”  Daniela raises an eyebrow.  “These assholes were always giving him shit about being from East Berlin, calling him a commie.  Wolfie doesn’t take kindly to bullies.”

She looks over to Wolfgang now, observing his imposing demeanor that is only softened by the presence of Kala at his side.  “I can only imagine,” Dani says.  Her eyes light up as she sees that the two she’s watching are coming their way.  “Speak of the devil.”

“Wolfie!” Felix shouts excitedly.  Pretty drunk now, it takes him a moment to remember to greet the woman at his best friend’s side, as well.  “And Kala!  Beautiful Kala!”  Wolfgang grins and Kala smiles shyly.

“Hey, Felix,” Kala says, then turns to Daniela.  “Happy birthday, Dani!  I know it’s not what you’re used to, but I hope this gives you a little bit of home.”

Daniela grins and pulls Kala into a hug.  “This is the best birthday I’ve ever had,” she says, kissing Kala on the cheek.  Lifting the bottle of tequila that sits between her and Felix, Dani adds, “I’ve got all the reminder of home I need here.”

“I’ll drink to that!” Felix says

Laughing, Daniela pours herself and him another shot.  They knock their shot glasses against each other, then down the tequila quickly. Wincing, Felix grabs a lime wedge. Dani takes a moment to just enjoy the burn before reaching for her own.

“Ah, Dani.  Do you mind if I go for a smoke break before we do another?” Felix asks.

Daniela laughs again. “I understand if you need a breather.”

“What?  Hey.  Sometimes a guy just needs a smoke.”  Felix stands up and starts to walk toward the stairs to what had become the designated smoking area, then turns back around.  “Wolfie, you coming?”

Wolfgang hesitates for a moment until Kala leans up on her toes and kisses him on the cheek.  “Go,” she says with a smile.  “I’ll be right here.”  Wolfgang nods, then turns and joins Felix.

When they get up the stairs and walk over to the corner the smokers of the cluster (and Felix) have claimed for themselves, Wolfgang takes out a pack of cigarettes and removes two.  He lights one and then hands it to Felix before lighting his own.

“So,” Felix says after taking a drag.  “Dani sure knows how to party.”

Wolfgang gives him an amused look.  “I wouldn’t get any ideas if I were you,” he replies.

“Why not?  She’s hot, I’m hot, we’re stuck somewhere that almost everyone else is already having sex anyway.”

Chuckling, Wolfgang shakes his head.  “You’re also somewhere you can’t get away if things end up poorly.”

Now Felix is laughing, too.  “Why would they end up poorly?  You know I know how to show a girl a good time.”

Wolfgang’s expression shifts into a stern look of disapproval, one usually only reserved for when Felix is talking too loudly about one of their plans in public.  He takes a long drag off his cigarette, and he doesn’t wait to finish exhaling the smoke before speaking.  “She is not just a girl you can sleep with and leave the next morning,” he says.  “If you hurt Daniela, I am not going to step in to stop whatever happens to you.”

Felix’s surprise shows on his face.  (Neither he nor Wolfgang had been relationship types in the past.  It’s not that they didn’t respect the women they slept with - they were always upfront about their intentions.  Their lifestyle just wasn’t exactly conducive to keeping people around for the long-term.)  Trying to lighten the mood a bit, Felix jokes, “Wow, Kala’s really changed you, huh?”  When Wolfgang’s stare only grows more intense, Felix backtracks.  “Hey, sorry, I was just kidding.  I’m not going to lie to her or anything.  I just don’t see what’s wrong with having fun for a night.”

“She may think it’s fun tonight, but she’s drunk.  And she is not someone who needs this right now.”

“What do you mean?” Felix asks, giving Wolfgang a quizzical look as he takes another puff of his cigarette.

Wolfgang closes his eyes.  Memories of Daniela’s bruised face when he showed up at Joaquin’s house over a year ago flash into his mind, blurring with memories of his own bruises from his father as a child.  He takes a deep breath, pushing the memories down deep.  (Just like he does all of his others.)  Rather than answering directly, he asks his own question.  “Do you know why she lives with Lito and Hernando?”

Felix thinks about this for a moment.  He had been a bit confused about their situation, sure, but given everything else that was going on it hadn’t exactly been on the top of his list of questions he wanted answered.  He shakes his head no.

Nodding, Wolfgang says, “It’s not my place to tell you.  But Daniela is tougher than she should have to be.  She just hides it well.”

Recognizing the stoic look on Wolfgang’s face (the one that usually accompanies any mention of Anton), Felix nods back.  “Okay, okay.  No sleeping with Dani.  Got it.”

At this, Wolfgang breaks and gives his brother a small smile again.

The rest of the conversation as they finish their cigarettes is uneventful, mostly just Felix drunkenly rambling as Wolfgang listens fondly.  Once they stub out the ends of them, both men head back downstairs.  Daniela and Kala are giggling when they approach, and when Wolfgang places a hand on Kala’s shoulder they only laugh harder.

“What did we miss?” Felix asks, wanting to know what’s so funny.  He notices the shot glasses have moved since he last left.  “Get started without me, Dani?”

Daniela gives him a smirk. “You wish.”

Kala stands up to give Felix back his seat, which he not so gracefully plops himself into.  She is also not moving as easily as when she first sat, and she sways into Wolfgang.  As the couple get lost in quiet conversation with each other, Felix raises his eyebrow at Daniela.

“What?” she asks, feigning innocence.

Pretending to be scandalized, Felix puts one hand to his chest.  “We leave you for ten minutes and you get Kala drunk?”

Face flush from the alcohol, Daniela laughs again.  (Felix is struck by how beautiful she is in the moment, truly relaxed for the first time since he’s met her.  But he brushes the thought aside almost immediately.  What did Wolfie just tell you?)  Once she catches her breath, Dani grabs the bottle of tequila.  “You ready for round six?”

Felix flashes her a grin.  “You know it.”

They continue like that for much of the night, drinking, joking, and occasionally talking to others who stop by their table.  After round twelve and his stomach starts rolling at the thought of taking shot thirteen, Felix finally admits defeat.  Dani whoops triumphantly, jumping up so quickly she almost trips on the back of her chair.

About a week later, Felix volunteers to take the same guard shift as Wolfgang.  Felix hadn’t really been doing guard duty at first, as Will and Sun had insisted on taking it themselves exclusively.  Once they had rescued Wolfgang and he was well enough for them to leave London, he had been added to the rotation.  After a couple of weeks, though, the lack of sleep for them proved unsustainable.  Kala and Riley finally convinced them to at least allow others to rotate shifts, promising that whoever was on duty would wake them if anything happened.  So now everyone in the warehouse rotates through guard duty in teams of two to ensure they stay awake.

Before heading to bed for the night, Nomi helps Felix find digital copies of several action movies to watch.  (To keep the adrenaline pumping, he had explained eagerly when both Wolfgang and Nomi had raised their eyebrows at his initial suggestion.  Neither of them can really think of a great argument against it, though, and downloading movies is child’s play for Nomi.)  As the others around them all make their way toward sleep, Wolfgang and Felix sit near the door watching Conan the Barbarian on the lowest volume they can still hear.

By the time they get about an hour into the movie, the warehouse around them is silent.  Felix assumes that everyone else must be asleep until he catches a movement out of the corner of his eye.  He’s about ready to jump to alert when he realizes that it’s just Daniela.

“Hey, Dani,” Felix says, giving her a curious look.  Wolfgang looks up from the movie briefly to give her a small smile and a nod of acknowledgement, then turns back toward the film.  “Everything alright?”

She nods as she sits down next to Felix.  “Yeah, just couldn’t sleep.”

“Ah.  Well, have you ever seen Conan?”

Laughing, Dani shakes her head no.  “It’s on my list of movies to see, but I never got around to it.”

“What?” Felix asks incredulously.  “But I thought you loved action movies!  This is a classic.”

“I do,” she says.  (Wolfgang doesn’t look toward them, but it’s obvious he’s listening by the little smirk that shows up on his face.)  “But I’ve mostly seen recent movies and telenovelas.  I didn’t watch them as much when I was younger.”

“Wolfie,” Felix starts, “Do you mind if we start from the beginning?  Dani needs to see this masterpiece from the beginning.”

Chuckling, “Sure,” Wolfgang leans toward the computer and restarts the movie.

For the first half an hour or so, Daniela is really into the movie, quietly cheering for the action and asking little questions as they go.  Felix, ever the fanboy, is more than happy to answer and provide random bits of trivia that he’s picked up over countless rewatches.  As the movie goes on, Dani curls up on the old chair she’s seated in, getting comfortable.  Before he knows it, Dani is no longer asking him questions.  Instead, she’s nodding off, her cheek falling to gently rest against his shoulder.  When he notices things have quieted down and turns to see the situation, Wolfgang gives Felix a look.

“She just fell asleep like this, I swear,” Felix whispers.  Wolfgang laughs softly in reply.

Felix honestly does his best to try to forget about how attracted his is to Daniela.  He’s never really had friends other than Wolfgang, but he figures he can give this “just friends” thing a try.  It’s been working with the other people in the warehouse, after all.

At first, it is surprisingly easy.  He still notices how beautiful she is, of course - he has eyes.  But Felix finds himself much more interested in speaking to Dani.  They can talk for hours about anything, from their favorite action scenes to not-so-legal shenanigans they got into when they were younger.  (Felix doesn’t talk as much about his more recent less-than-legal activities.  He never lies - she knows he and Wolfgang aren’t exactly model citizens.  But Daniela seems less eager to talk about her own recent past, and if being friends with Wolfie has taught Felix one thing, it’s that some topics shouldn’t be pushed.)  Being friends with Wolfgang for years, Felix is used to having to carry conversations.  He’s surprised that he actually enjoys listening to Dani just as much as speaking to her.  After so long doing most of the talking, it’s nice to just sit back and listen to someone else telling their stories.

And Daniela has some great stories to tell.  She regales him with the tale of the night she found out Lito was gay, Felix nearly falling out of his chair with laughter as she mimics Hernando adjusting his glasses and telling her the problem was her lack of cock.  Dani tells him about their weekend at São Paulo Pride, about how full of love and acceptance they had all felt during their time in Brazil.  When she tells him about Lito’s speech, he notices her eyes light up with joy.

After a while, spending time with Dani becomes not only easy, but natural.  Things are still tense, with the cluster keeping an eye out of BPO and trying to plan their next move, but neither Felix nor Daniela have ever been ones to let danger stop them from having a little fun.

At nights, when it’s less dangerous for them to make a bit of noise in the warehouse, both Dani and Felix make an effort to keep the mood as light as possible.  Capheus and Amanita are all for it,  and movie nights become a regular thing for their large family.  (Well, as regular as anything can be when they’re constantly looking for information.  They do their best.)  First, they make their way through everyone’s favorite movies.  After that, someone suggests that they all  finally watch Lito’s films together.

When they finally get the time to sit down and watch the first one, Dani points out that she still has some of the alcohol leftover from her birthday party.  Before anyone knows how they’ve started, half of them are playing a drinking game.  Being the most familiar with Lito’s films, Hernando and Daniela make up rules on the spot.  (Lito acts bashful, but they can all tell he is loving this.)

Felix sits to the right of Daniela during the movie (as has become the usual thing for them), with LIto and Hernando cuddling up to her left.  When the movie actually starts, they can see Lito get a bit nervous.  Dani leans over and hugs him close.  Lito asks her something in Spanish.  Felix doesn’t need to speak the language to understand Daniela’s sentiment when he hears the warm tone in her voice - they’re gonna love it.

She’s not wrong, either.  The movie starts, and subtitles be damned Felix can quickly see that this movie is a gift to the action genre.  It has all of his favorite tropes - confusing plot lines (“So which twin are you here?” becomes a new inside joke for their family), amazing fight choreography, hot people gratuitously making out.  He decides that if all of Lito’s movies are like this, Felix might become one of his biggest fans.

“This is fucking awesome,” Felix declares after a particularly intense gunfight scene.  “Why don’t we get these in Germany?”

“Thank you, my friend,” Lito says, flashing him a smile.  He then says something to Dani and Hernando in Spanish again, this time with a more teasing tone.  Hernando laughs and Daniela playfully smacks Lito’s arm, then glances quickly at Felix.  Not wanting to be caught staring, Felix immediately turns his gaze back to the screen.

By the end of the film, those who have been participating in the game are all considerably drunk.  Felix opts to go upstairs for a cigarette.  Although Dani doesn’t smoke, she decides to go with him to stand next to the only open window, both the alcohol and numerous people sitting together making her warm.

When they get up there, Felix knows he’s drunker than he should be.  He feels fine, but he’s having trouble convincing himself not to say something to Daniela that could get his ass kicked.  As he lights his cigarette, Felix turns the idea over in his mind.  What if I ask her for something more than one night? he asks himself.  Would Wolfie be mad?  Or did he just not want me to fuck her and leave her?

Felix watches as Dani takes a seat on the sill of the only open window.  If it’s not just one night, what am I asking for? he wonders.  Daniela closes her eyes and smiles contentedly at the fresh air.  As a small breeze comes through, she tucks a lock of hair behind her ear to keep it from being blown across her face.  The unfamiliar tightness in Felix’s chest at the sight makes him feel like it might be worth even pissing off Wolfgang.  But he’s not even sure exactly what he wants this to be.  We’re in hiding, it’s not like I can just take her on a date.  He takes a long drag off his cigarette as he debates with himself.

When was the last time I even went on a real date?

“You alright?” Dani asks after a few minutes.

“What?” Felix asks in reply, having been lost in his thoughts.  “Yeah, ’m fine, why?”

She quirks an eyebrow.  “Jus’ unusually quiet.”

“‘m thinking,” Felix says.

Daniela gives him a smirk and teases, “Take some extra concentration ‘cause it’s been a while?”

“Hey!” Felix says in protest, but he can’t keep himself from laughing a bit.

“Really, though,” she says after a moment.  “You’re never this quiet.  You’re almost starting to worry me.”

He shakes his head quickly.  “No, no, s’nothing that important,” Felix insists.  “Jus’ drunk.”  She nods, but he can tell she doesn’t quite believe him.  They talk a bit about Lito’s movie as he finishes smoking, but he’s only half paying attention.  (Felix is pretty sure Dani can tell, but that’s just another thing to tack onto the list of swirling thoughts he is having about her right now.)

When Felix stubs out his cigarette, Dani hops off the windowsill and starts toward the stairs.  He doesn’t move, though.  When she notices he isn’t following her, she turns back to him.  “What s’it?” Daniela asks.

Just don’t be a dick, Felix tells himself as he takes a deep breath.  Wolfie said not to hurt her.  I can do that.  (He doesn’t admit to himself how foreign the idea of not caring about Daniela’s feelings seems to him now.  Felix isn’t quite sure when that started.  He’s only ever cared about Wolfgang’s opinions before.)  “When this is over,” he starts, licking his lips nervously, “would you want to…I dunno, maybe go see a movie together?”  Felix swallows hard.  “Just the two of us, I mean.”

Daniela takes a moment to consider his question before breaking into a grin.  Ruffling his hair affectionately, she says, “You’re really drunk.”

“No!” Felix says, but the way he almost stumbles when trying to move toward her betrays him.  “Okay, maybe I am,” he concedes slowly, noticing that he’s having a bit more trouble pronouncing his English.

She giggles.  “We’re both drunk.  Who knows if we’ll even remember this tomorrow?”

Felix knows she can hold her liquor better than him, and that she’ll probably remember all of this in the morning.  While he’s not blackout drunk, though, Felix can’t argue that his memory of this conversation will likely be fuzzy when he wakes up.  “What if I ask again when we’re sober?”

“You prob’ly shouldn’t,” she answers.

“Shit.  Sorry, ’m an asshole.  I’ll drop it if you want.”  The last thing Felix intends is to make Dani uncomfortable.  He didn’t think he was that far gone, but if he’s really misinterpreted things that badly he wants to back off immediately.

Swaying a bit herself, Daniela leans forward and kisses him on the cheek.  “Didn’t say that.”

“Oh,” Felix says, not sure how to respond.  (He can feel heat rising to his face, though, and he can’t blame the sudden blush on the booze.)  “Why shouldn’t I, then?”

“So many reasons,” Dani sighs dramatically.  “The first being that you prob’ly don’t mean to be asking me this.”

“What if I do, though?” Felix asks.

“This isn’t you,” Dani answers.  “I know you n’ Wolfgang aren’t just locksmiths.”  He opens his mouth to defend himself, but she continues before he can.  “’m not judging.  Lord knows with my family I’m in no place to.”  (This is the first Felix has heard her say anything of substance about her family outside of Hernando and Lito.  It makes him wonder about what Wolfgang said to him before.  Do you know why she lives with Lito and Hernando?  But he knows now is not the time to ask.)  “But I don’t know if I can…if I can do that again.  And after all of this, s’not like we’re even going to be living on the same continent.”  Dani pauses.  “You’re not exactly a commitment guy, so why fool ourselves?”

Felix is having trouble finding words for what he wants to say, his usually quick mind slowed with drunkenness.  All he knows is how he feels.  How Daniela makes him wonder what being a commitment kind of guy would be like.  He’s not exactly sure what she meant by “do this again,” but Felix doesn’t want to leave things this way.  “If you don’t - if you want me to leave it, I will.”  He meets her gaze, hopes she knows he means it.  “But it could be me, y’know?”

Dani gives him a confused look.  “What could be?”

He grins.  “This wasn’t me before.  But it could be.  Who knows who I’ll be after all this?”  Felix shrugs.  “I dunno if Wolfie is going to go back to Berlin, with the mobs n’ the police.  I dunno if he even wants to go back.”  His grin softens at this, thinking of Kala.  It reminds Felix of when he first got out of the hospital, and he had joked to Wolfgang about finding a girl and settling down.  Now that he knows that the India Plan was Kala all along, Felix better understands why Wolfgang was so ready to agree it wouldn’t be so bad.  Felix isn’t sure what it would actually be like to settle down, but he thinks he might not have been so eager to have Wolfgang talk him out of it had he known Daniela at the time.

She nods and smiles.  “Who knows?”  Putting her arm around Felix’s waist, Dani begins to lead them both downstairs.  “If you had talked to me two years ago, I would never’ve guessed I‘d be living with up and coming star Lito Rodriguez, let alone flying across the world with him to save some German guy because they’re not quite human.”  Both Dani and Felix laugh at that.

Felix doesn’t get up until after noon the next day, trying to sleep through the worst of his hangover.  By the time he wakes up, everyone else is already going about their usual business around the safe house.  As he heads to the bathroom and brushes his teeth, Felix tries to piece together what he can remember of the night before.  He knows that Lito’s movie was amazing, although he definitely recalls the beginning much better than the ending.  He remembers Dani being upstairs with him when he went for a cigarette afterward, although the details as to their decision to actually go up there are lost to him.  Felix pushes at his memory, trying to figure out what they talked about.  Bits of conversation come back until he latches onto one.

When this is over, would you want to…I dunno, maybe go see a movie together?  Just the two of us, I mean.


Flecks of toothpaste speckle the sink when he says it.  Felix just stands there for a few moments, letting as much of the conversation come back as he can while hoping he didn’t do something to get the whole cluster to beat the shit out of him.  He comes back to himself enough to rinse his mouth out, at least.  Further fragments of the conversation manage to filter through the haze, and Felix sighs with relief when he realizes that Dani and he left things on good terms.  He doesn’t remember all of the exact words that were exchanged, but he can recall the sentiments behind them.

As he leaves the bathroom, Felix is stopped by Lito. “Would you mind coming with me?” Lito asks.

(Felix is pretty sure he didn’t do anything seriously wrong, so he hopes the air of drama around the situation is just Lito being Lito. He’s not positive, though.)  “Uh, sure,” Felix replies.

He’s not sure exactly where Lito plans on taking him, considering there isn’t much privacy with this many of them living all together.  Felix follows obediently, though, as they head upstairs to the smoking corner.  Wolfgang is by the open window, finishing up a cigarette.  When he sees Lito and Felix, Wolfgang gives them both a look of amusement.  

Lito pulls his own pack from his pocket, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it anxiously.  He takes a couple long drags before pointedly staring Felix down.  (The stare is remarkably similar to Wolfgang’s when he’s angry.  Felix knows they’re all on some sort of pills to block their psychic stuff, but he wonders if they’ve rubbed off that much on each other over time or if Lito is just acting now.)  “So,” Lito finally says.

“So?” Felix asks.  He’s pretty sure he knows what this is going to be about, but he figures he should let them steer the conversation.

“So I spoke to Dani this morning,” Lito says.

Felix resists the urge to reply that Lito speaks to Daniela every morning.  He’s pretty sure he’s in trouble right now, and even he knows snarking might not be in his best interest here.  “Um, okay?”

Lito sighs dramatically.  “How much of last night do you remember, Felix?”

“Most of it, I think,” Felix answers quickly.  Wolfgang looks like he’s holding back a laugh.

“What are your intentions with Daniela?” Lito asks.

At this, Wolfgang loses his composure, laughing openly.  Felix is just in shock that this is actually happening.  “Are you serious?”  Lito continues staring him down as an answer.  “Uh, nothing bad?  I just asked her on a date, right?”

“Yes,” Lito replies.  “But she was pretty sure you wouldn’t have asked her if you weren’t drunk.”  Felix sighs.  “Would you have?”

Felix scrubs his hand across his face.  “I don’t know?”  Now Wolfgang looks less amused, and Felix is being stared down by both Lito and Wolfie.  “No, I mean - I totally would want to take her on a date.  I just don’t know if I would have asked ‘cause I don’t think she’d say yes.”

Both Wolfgang’s and Lito’s faces soften.  “I’m not sure she would either,” Lito concedes.  Wolfgang chuckles.

“Does she want me to back off?” Felix asks.  He’s pretty sure that’s not what this is about - given the way Wolfgang had spoken Daniela before, Felix gets the feeling it would already have been made clear to him if she wanted him to leave her alone.

Lito shakes his head no.  “I do not think so.  But I am under the impression she doesn’t think you want more than a night or two with her.”

Now Felix is sighing.  “How do I get her to take me seriously?”

Finally, Lito cracks a smile at him.  “Have you not had a girlfriend before?”

“Not one he actually cared about,” Wolfgang says.

“You choose now to speak up?” Felix asks, exasperated.  Wolfgang just shrugs, knowing Felix can’t deny what he said is the truth.  “Okay, fine.  It’s not like you did before Kala, either.”

Lito looks to Wolfgang and laughs.  “That’s a bit different,” Wolfgang says.

“How would I know?” Felix asks, tone teasing.  “It’s not like you ever told me how you guys met.  What did you do with her that was so different?”

“I don’t think that’s going to work with Daniela,” Wolfgang says.  Felix isn’t sure what to make of the air of mischief in his brother’s voice.

At that moment, Kala walks up the stairs.  “Wolfgang?  I thought you were just having one cigarette?”

Wolfgang holds up his hands to show they’re empty.  “Just got caught up with these two.  Felix here was wondering how you and I met,” he says, giving her a wicked grin.

“Oh,” Kala says, covering her face in embarrassment while Lito smiles widely.

“Okay, now you have to tell me,” Felix pleads.  “What did you do?

Moving from the window, Wolfgang walks over to Kala and wraps his arm around her.  She looks up to meet his eyes, and Felix can tell Wolfie is silently asking her permission to tell the story.  She smiles sheepishly and nods, then buries her face into Wolfgang’s shoulder to hide from their reactions.  “I was swimming one day,” he starts.

Felix raises an eyebrow, knowing where Wolfgang goes swimming.  Neither have ever been shy about swimming nude.  He gets the impression Kala probably would be, though.  At this point, it appears to be taking all of Lito’s self-control not to laugh hysterically.

“We didn’t know that what was happening to us yet,” Wolfgang continues.  “But as I was swimming, I felt like I was in the wrong place.  I didn’t understand it, but somehow I knew somehow this wasn’t my feeling.  Next thing I knew, I was standing in Bombay.  Sort of.”  This sensate stuff has always been a lot for Felix to wrap his head around, but he thinks he gets what Wolfgang means.  “Kala was getting married.”

“You showed up to her wedding naked?” Felix asks incredulously.  Lito loses it completely, and Felix is pretty sure that he hears even Kala giggling.

Wolfgang smirks.  “Like I said,” Wolfgang answers with a shrug.  “I don’t think it’ll work with Daniela.”

“No shit,” Felix replies, but he can’t help grinning at the story himself.  Only Wolfie.  Turning to Lito, Felix asks, “How do I get her to take me seriously?”

After taking a couple of deep breaths to quell his laughter, Lito replies, “There is no guide I can give you to the ways of the heart.”  (Felix has to stop himself from rolling his eyes.)  “But first, how serious do you want Daniela to take you?”

Felix is a bit taken aback by this question, not sure how to answer.  What am I doing?  Who even knows what will happen tomorrow, let alone after all this?  But he thinks about it, and Felix finds that no matter what version of the future he pictures, he wants Dani in it.  He’s not sure how it would work, given the completely different worlds they live in.  Given the last year of his life, though, Felix is also pretty sure he can’t exactly go back to his old life anymore.  Dani, though.  She has a life to go back to.  “I don’t know,” Felix finally says.  “I have no fucking clue where I’m even gonna live after you guys stop being on the run.  And who knows how long that’s even going to take?”  He looks around at them, feeling bad as soon as he’s said it.  Felix tries to steer things differently.  “I mean, none of that matters anyway if she’s not interested.  There’s something she’s not telling me, which is fine, but I don’t know if that something means I should stay away or what.”

Lito gives him a soft smile.  “That is for Dani to decide.  But I am curious, how interested are you?”

“You mean whether I’m just in it for the sex or not?” Felix asks.  Wolfgang chuckles and Kala looks a bit shocked that he was so forward.

“Not how I would have said it, but yes,” Lito answers, “That is what I mean.”

Felix laughs a bit.  “I mean, maybe at first?  But not now.”

“What are you interested in now?” Lito follows up.

“I don’t know.  I’ve never really gotten further than that before.  But I know I like spending time with Dani, and that I don’t want to stop being able to talk to her when all of this is over.  And yeah, maybe some day have sex with her, but that’s not really the point anymore, you know?  ‘Cause I also want to just watch movies or party with her just as much.  Maybe even more.”  Felix knows he’s rambling, but now that he’s actually started vocalizing all the thoughts he’s been having, he can’t seem to stop.  “And I know there’s something in her past she doesn’t want to talk about.  I want to know what it is, but mostly because if there’s someone who hurt her I want to kick their ass.”  Wolfgang smirks at this, which Felix takes to mean that he hasn’t fucked up yet.  “She doesn’t have to tell me.  If whatever it is means she doesn’t ever want to do more than just hang out, then that’s okay.”

Before Felix knows what’s happening, Lito pulls him into a hug.  After he realizes what’s going on, Felix wraps his arms around the other man.

“Uh, thanks?” Felix says, not sure exactly why this is occurring.  (Kala and Wolfgang both watch fondly, neither of them seeming to be confused like Felix is.)

Lito pulls back.  “Sorry, sorry.”  He gives Felix another wide smile.  “I don’t know what Dani will choose, but if you speak to her like that, I think you have a good chance.”

“Oh.”  Felix blushes a bit.  “Thanks.”

“If it counts,” Lito says in a stage whispers, leaning in closer to Felix conspiratorially, “I’m rooting for you.”

Felix laughs and nods, clapping Lito on the shoulder.  “Given you guys have been doing…whatever it is you’ve been doing,” he says, not really sure how to refer to the relationship Dani has with Lito and Hernando, “I think it counts for something.”

Now Lito is the one who looks bashful.  “Oh, that’s not - I mean, we haven’t -”  Felix raises an eyebrow at him.  Daniela may not talk much about her past, but she’s certainly told him stories of her life with Hernando and Lito.  When Lito realizes that Felix isn’t judging him, though, he concedes.  “Yes, I guess you’re right.  This doesn’t mean I am going to tell Dani she should date you, though.”

“Wouldn’t want you to,” Felix says.

“Good,” Lito answers with a grin.

Daniela is curious when Lito stops Felix as soon as he gets out of the bathroom and the two go upstairs to smoke.  Considering the conversation she had had with him and Hernando that morning, she’s got a pretty good idea of what Lito wants to talk to Felix about.  She knows something is up, though, when Kala goes upstairs to find Wolfgang and doesn’t come back down right away.

Going over to Hernando, Dani asks, “What are Lito and Wolfgang doing to Felix?”

“Nothing,” he answers, but his eyes flick over toward the stairs.  “They’re probably just talking.  We’d hear if they did something else, right?”

Giggling, Dani smacks his shoulder gently.  “I only meant talking.  Jesus, I don’t think they’re actually going to hurt Felix.”

Hernando relaxes a bit.  “Sorry.  I think I’m going a little crazy, being cooped up in here.”

“You and me, both,” Daniela replies.  Looking back over to the stairs, she continues, “I just hope they’re not interrogating the poor boy.  He was just drunk.”

He gives her a knowing look.  “Do you really believe that?”

“What, that he was drunk?” Daniela asks, feigning ignorance to what Hernando really means.

He sees through her, though.  “Dani….”

She sighs and pulls him over to a corner, so they at least have a modicum of privacy.  “Okay.  So he may have meant it.  But he may have also forgotten last night completely.”

“I think you give Felix too little credit,” Hernando says.

Daniela raises her eyebrows.  “Did you see how much he had last night?”

Shaking his head no, Hernando clarifies, “Not about his memory - you may be right about that.  I was referring to whether or not he meant to ask you.”

“You think he did,” Daniela says.


“Then why did he wait until he was hammered?”

He gives her a grin.  “Probably because he knew he would get the exact talking to that he is presently receiving.”

Daniela laughs.  “Okay.  I can see that.  But why are you so sure he did mean it?”

“I’ve seen the way he looks at you,” Hernando replies.  “At first, he was looking with lust.  But over time I saw it change.  Now he looks at you with…affection.  Adoration.  He doesn’t look at anyone else here that way.”  She smiles.  “But the real question, Dani, is do you want him to mean it?”

“I…don’t know,” Dani answers, her expression faltering a bit.  “I think part of me does.  He’s kind, and he’s cute, and so funny.”  She thinks for a moment.  “He’s loyal, too.  I don’t know everything about their history, but Felix came all the way to London and trusted us when he had no reason to, all for Wolfgang.”

Hernando can tell that that’s not all she’s thinking about.  “But?”

“But…after Joaquin, I’m don’t know if I’m ready….”  She trails off, looking down as the memories resurface.  Hernando pulls her in for a hug, and Daniela gives him a watery smile.  “And I love you and Lito.  I love whatever this weird thing we have is.  I don’t want to lose that.”

“Oh, Dani,” Hernando says softly, pressing a light kiss to the top of her head.  “Neither Lito nor I are going anywhere.  You are our family.”  Making a noise that is halfway between a laugh and a sob, she buries her face in his chest.  “I cannot tell you whether or not you are ready.  But I do know that Lito and the cluster trust Felix with their secret.  With their lives.  Regardless of what he may have done, I have to believe that means he is a good person.  So if you are worried about being ready because he may be anything like Joaquin, I do not believe you have any reason to be.”  He squeezes her tight.  “Lito would not trust someone like that.”

Daniela nods against him.  “You’re right.”

“If that’s not why you’re not ready, though, then do not force yourself into anything.  No relationship can work on such an unsure foundation.”

She leans up on her toes and kisses him on the cheek.  “Thank you, Hernando.”

“Of course,” he replies easily.  “I hope I was able to help make things a little clearer.”

Shrugging and smiling up at him, Daniela replies, “I think so.  Although this is all assuming that he doesn’t regret asking me.”

“If he doesn’t see how lucky he would be to have you, Dani, then he doesn’t deserve you.”

Before she has a chance to reply, they are both distracted by the sight of people finally coming down the stairwell.  Daniela turns to see Wolfgang and Kala quietly leading the way down the stairs, hand in hand, while Felix and Lito follow behind while conversing animatedly with each other.  From their good moods, she assumes that whatever conversation they had must have gone well.

When Lito parts ways with the other three and walks over to Dani and Hernando, she wastes no time.  “So?” she asks him quietly.

“Yes?” Lito replies, feigning innocent.

Daniela rolls her eyes at him.  “What did you say to him?”  (She asks this in Spanish, hoping Felix won’t figure out they’re talking about him.)

Lito smiles sheepishly.  “Nothing bad,” he offers, sticking to Spanish as well for Dani’s sake.

“What does that mean?”

“I just made sure that he has good intentions,” Lito answers.

Hernando chuckles quietly, bringing his hand up to his mouth to cover the sound, while Daniela just looks aghast.  “You didn’t,” she pleads.

“I did.”

Daniela sighs.  “I told you not to give him a hard time.”

“I didn’t give him a hard time,” Lito defends.  “I just asked him whether or not he meant what he asked you last night.”

She puts her face in her hands, but Hernando lets his curiosity get the better of him and asks, “What did he say?”  (Dani peaks out from behind her fingers in spite of herself.)

Lito grins.  “He means it as long as you want him to.”

Hernando wears a grin to match Lito’s.  He pulls Daniela close again, then pulls Lito into the hug as well.  “We are here for you, whatever you decide.”

She looks up at him.  “Thank you,” she says, then looks over to Lito as well.  “Both of you.”

“Of course,” Lito says.  “You are family, Dani.  We love you.”

Hernando nods, and for a few moments the three of them just enjoy the embrace.  After a minute, Daniela gives them a small smile.  “I guess I should go talk to Felix.”

Felix is finishing lunch with Wolfgang and Kala when Dani walks up.  “Hey, guys.”

“Daniela!  Hi!” Kala says, a bit too enthusiastic.  (Dani feels a warmth for Kala.  Despite the high emotions that run among the sensates, so few of them wear their hearts on their sleeves like she does.  Daniela hopes nothing ever makes that change.)

Wolfgang looks at Kala affectionately before turning and giving Dani a smile.  Felix looks like a deer caught in the headlights for a second, but he quickly pulls it together and gives her a cool smile.  “Hey, Dani.”

Kala’s eyes dart between the two of them, then she gives Wolfgang a look.  “It’s about time for us to go take our blockers, isn’t it?”

Face light with amusement, Wolfgang nods.  “I think so, yes.”  (Thank god he has Lito, Felix thinks with amusement.  If this is their idea of subtle, they would be fucked alone.)

“We’ll see you both later,” Kala says before grabbing Wolfgang’s hand and hurrying off toward their room.

Both Felix and Dani laugh at their departure.  “Do you want to sit?” Felix asks.

She nods, taking the seat across from him.  “So Lito talked to you?”

“Uh, yeah,” he answers, not sure where she’s going with this.  “Did he, um, did he tell you what we talked about?”

Dani smiles.  “Not everything.  But he said you remember last night.”

“Ah,” he says, smiling nervously.  “The important parts, anyway.”

“Well good on you for proving me wrong,” she replies with a smirk.

Felix chuckles, and for a minute they just enjoy each other’s presence.  After taking a moment to steel himself, he takes a deep breath and asks, “Do you want me to ask you again?”

Daniela looks down, focusing on her hands in her lap rather than on his face.  “I do.  But…I’m not sure what this would even mean, with how things are here.  And there’s…there’s something I should tell you about my past if we’re going to do this.  But….”  She trails off, not sure how to explain how overwhelmed recalling her time with Joaquin makes her.  She hadn’t even been able to say out loud how bad it was to anyone until he had confronted her that night at Lito’s old apartment.  More than anything, Daniela wants to forget that part of her life.

Nodding in understanding, Felix makes her an offer.  “What if I told you something about me first?”

She looks up.  “What?”

“You don’t have to tell me anything.  But I figured maybe, if I told you something about my past, it might be easier?”

Dani considers it for a moment, then gives him a small smile.  “It can’t hurt to try.”

Felix grins.  “So.  I told you that I met Wolfie in detention.  But I didn’t tell you what made us friends.”  She raises an eyebrow at him, and he explains.  “Sure, we got along at school, but neither of us actually went to class enough for that to have made us friends.”

“So what happened?”

“Well, first I found out that his dad almost never let him watch movies, so he only watched whatever was on tv during the day when he skipped school.  So I showed him Conan.”

She laughs.  “Of course you did.”

“To be honest,” he says, “I was just excited to have someone to hang out with.  I was just this scrawny kid from Wuppertal whose parents decided to move to Berlin after they tore the wall down.  I wasn’t from the city, I hadn’t been there when it happened.  But Wolfie didn’t care.”  Dani gives him a warm look.  “It helped that we were both outsiders, and Wolfie didn’t exactly go out of his way to make himself popular.”

Dani giggles. “Sounds about right.”

“Wolfie didn’t start many fights, but he sure ended a lot of them.  But what got me was that he never wanted me to get involved.  Even when we’d first met and a few kids ganged up on him, his first thought was for my safety.  He didn’t run with me - he stayed to make time for me to get away.”

“Oh, god,” Dani says.  “Was he okay?”

Felix chuckles.  “Just because he tells me to stay out of things doesn’t mean I listen.  I ran and got a pipe and knocked the biggest asshole across the head.  I wasn’t about to let them kick the shit out of him.”

She smiles, starting to understand why someone as quiet as Wolfgang would pick a friend like Felix.  “So you became brothers in battle,” Dani jokes.

“I wish those were the biggest battles,” Felix answers with a matching tone, but his smile no longer reaches his eyes.  “I’d take on a hundred of those guys over Wolfie’s family any day.”  Daniela’s smile falls.  “His dad was probably the worst but he…died while Wolfie was still in school.  So then he had to move in with his uncle, and I think we both pretty much gave up on having normal jobs after that.”

“Why?  If you don’t mind my asking.”

“Sergei, Wolfie’s uncle, was uh…how do I put this?  The mafia king of East Berlin?”

Dani had to stop herself from laughing.  “That sounds like one of Lito’s movies.”

Felix grins.  “Wolfie was already like an action hero before this whole being a psychic badass thing happened.  Now it’s just not fair.”  At this, Daniela gives in and lets herself giggle a bit.  “We just stuck to petty theft for a long time.  When he got old enough to move out, he wanted nothing to do with his family.  But then I got a really stupid idea.”

“What do you mean?”

“I knew Wolfie was smarter than all of them.  While the rest of them had moved on to breaking into safes with acid or drills, he kept learning how to crack every new safe he could get his hands on.  And I mean crack it the old fashioned way.”

“Are you serious?”

He nods.  “Wolfie’s the greatest boxman there is.  I haven’t seen a safe he couldn’t crack.  When I heard his dumbass cousin was planning on stealing these diamonds out of a supposedly uncrackable safe, I told Wolfie.  I wanted to show his family they weren’t shit, you know?  That no matter how fucked up they raised him, he was better than them all.”

“Did you get caught?”

“No,” Felix says.  “Well, not exactly.  Wolfie cracked the safe and we got out of there fine.  But I was so excited, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut no matter how much he warned me.  His cousin found out a couple weeks later.”  He touches his chest briefly, trying to soothe the phantom ache that comes with the memory.  “He shot me.”

What?” Dani asks incredulously.

“When I said I wasn’t around for a few months last year…that’s why.  Wolfie tried to fix things - he went to give the diamonds we hadn’t sold yet to his cousin, but the asshole tried to shoot him, too.”

“Oh my god,” she says, not sure what to think.  On the one hand, her family’s business was equally as unsavory.  But on the other, she hadn’t realized just how dangerous Wolfgang and Felix’s lives had been even before BPO showed up.  “What did he do?”

“I still don’t know all the details.  Although now that I know this sensate stuff had already started then, I figure they helped.  But I know that when I got out of the hospital, they were, uh, not going to shoot me again.”  Felix looks to Dani, sees the concern in her eyes.  “I’m sorry.  This probably didn’t help anything at all.  I don’t blame you for not wanting to have much to do with us.  With me.”

She shakes her head fiercely.  “No.  It’s…it’s more familiar than I would like to admit.  I mean, I’ve never been shot, thank god.  But my family aren’t exactly in the most legal line of business, either.  I learned to act as a child because my parents didn’t want to risk anyone acting suspiciously, even their daughter.”

“Still.  I can understand why you’ve been reluctant.”

“No,” Daniela insists again.  “It’s not that.  There was….there was a man who worked for him.  His name was Joaquin.”  She takes a shaky breath, trying to slow her racing thoughts.

He notices her anxiety.  “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.  Don’t feel obligated.”

Trembling a bit, Dani reaches across the table to take his hands in hers.  “It’s okay.  I want to.”  He looks down at their joined hands for a moment, then back up at her.  Felix nods.  “When I was in college in California, he would stop by whenever he was there for business.  And it wasn’t bad at first.  He was hot, good in bed, had lots of money.  But then he decided he was in love with me.  And he decided that when I finished college, we were going to get married.  I tried to break up with him.  It…it didn’t go so well.”  Felix inhales sharply, but she continues.  “He hit me.  I don’t know how many times.  The first time he apologized and said it would never happen again.  I went to my parents for advice.  You know what they told me?”

He has a bad feeling about this, but he plays along.  “What?”

Daniela laughs hollowly.  “They told me it was a sign of how much he loved me.  That he was so scared to lose me that he lose control, and that in Mexico that’s just how men teach their women to show them respect.  I knew my mom and dad fought, but they always kept it behind closed doors.  I - I didn’t know my dad had been hitting her, but when they told me a lot of things made sense.”

“Fuck that,” Felix says.

“That’s what I said.  So I left.  I left Joaquin, I left my parents.  But Joaquin wasn’t having it so I…might have fucked his best friend to drive the point home.”

Felix laughs.  “Hell yeah.  This is an approach I can get behind.”

Dani grins.  “Lito and Hernando ended up taking me in.  And it was great until I…how did you put it?  I got a really stupid idea.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as mine,” Felix says.

“I don’t know.  It was up there.”

“What did you do?”

“I may have taken pictures of Hernando and Lito having sex?”

“No way,” Felix says.  Dani nods.  “Holy shit, Dani,” he laughs.

“I like gay porn, okay?” she replies.

He puts his hands up.  “No judgement here.  But why were the pictures so bad?  I mean, you live with them.”

“Joaquin broke in one night.  As far as everyone else knew, Lito was my boyfriend and Hernando was his new bodyguard.  He was drunk.  When I tried to call the police, he took my purse, and I didn’t notice he managed to grab my phone until he texted Lito one of the photos the next morning.”


“Yeah.  And after everything Lito had done for me, I didn’t want to ruin his career.  He loves acting so much.  So I did what I thought I had to do.”

“Wait.  No.  You didn’t,” Felix says, hoping it’s not true.

Daniela nods.  “I went to Joaquin to see what I could do.  We…negotiated for a bit.  In the end, I agreed to marry him if he promised never to leak the photos.”

“Fuck, Dani.”

“It’s okay,” she says, giving him a weak smile.  “Lito, and I think Wolfgang, came to the rescue.”


Daniela’s smile grows a little wider.  “Lito and Hernando had seen I had a bruise when they dropped off my things.  I thought I was never going to see them again, but then a few days later Lito rolled up like a character in one of his movies and told Joaquin he didn’t care about the pictures anymore.  That I was coming home with him.  Joaquin tried to stop him, and Lito punched him.  But Lito doesn’t actually know how to fight, and it started going badly.  Joaquin actually grabbed me again.  But suddenly, something changed.  I thought maybe he was just remembering something from a role he had played, but when LIto explained why we were going to London he told me that we were coming to help the man who had saved us.  And looking back, it made sense.  Everything about Lito changed - his posture, his expression, even his ability to fight.”

“Damn.  Leave it to Wolfie to find an asshole to put in his place on another continent.”

Smile finally meeting her eyes, Daniela says, “I’m glad he did.”

“Me, too,” Felix replies instantly.  After thinking for a moment, he adds, “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me.”

She nods.  “I want you to understand where I’m coming from.  Because I like you, Felix.”  He grins widely.  “I like you a lot.  And I don’t want to let Joaquin have that kind of hold on me - I have a new family now.  One that actually loves me.  So as much as part of me is scared, I think maybe I want to try.”

“If it makes you feel better, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing here,” he offers.  “We can just go at your pace, whatever that is.”

“I think I can manage that,” Dani says, smiling softly.

Felix looks down at their hands, then back up at her.  “Would it be okay if I kissed you?”

She laughs.  “That would be okay.”

“Awesome,” he whispers, before leaning across the small table.  Felix brings one hand to her cheek, tilting her face up and kissing her gently.  She replies in kind, finding this feels more natural than she expected.  When then pull away, Felix is grinning from ear to ear.  “I think I could get used to that.”

Chapter Text

The trip to the new safe house had been taxing.  Relocating a group as large as theirs without being noticed required careful planning.  But no amount of preparation can rid them of the collective fear of what might happen if anything goes wrong.  The blockers don’t stop a tension from building between the cluster and their loved ones.  It grows as they split into small groups to travel, lifting only when the last member of their family arrives.  As the adrenaline ebbs away, an almost giddiness takes over.  They may still be in hiding, but they’re together and relatively safe.  It may not be much, but after the last year, it’s enough.

Wolfgang feels Kala relax beside him, turning his way and smiling widely.  Her happiness is infectious.  He had never thought he would be one for public displays of affection, but Wolfgang can’t help pulling her close.

“We did it,” she says, sounding like she can’t quite believe it.

“We did it,” he confirms with a grin.


After a while, people start to break off to head to bed.  Kala takes the opportunity, standing up and looking back at Wolfgang mischievously.  He doesn't hesitate in taking her hand and allowing her to help him up.  “We’re going to head to sleep,” Kala says to those who are left of the group.  (They both know they're not really fooling anyone, but they can't bring themselves to care.)

She pulls him toward what used to be an office, but is now serving as their bedroom, turning on a lamp as she enters.  As soon as Wolfgang closes the door behind them, Kala leans up and kisses him.  He wraps his arms tight around her waist and smirks against her lips.  After a moment he pulls back, chuckling.

“What?” Kala asks.

“Not that I'm complaining,” he starts, searching for the way to word what he's thinking.  “But you're not usually so...forward around the others.”

Looking down, she smiles shyly. “We’re finally safe.  Safe and together.  I know we still have to be careful but….”  She trails off, and Wolfgang knows she’s thinking about how they almost didn't have this.  He runs one hand through her hair.  Kala leans into the touch, taking comfort from it.  “But I think the little things are worth celebrating.  Don't you?”

Wolfgang gently lifts her chin so their eyes are meeting. He kisses her, wishing that he could just share everything he is feeling with her.  How can he put into words how much this means to him?  That she loves him, broken bits and all.  That when he'd been taken his only thoughts had been of her safety.  That she flew halfway across the world to save him.  (How much he hates himself for giving up her name, and how Kala makes him feel like maybe he can learn to stop hating himself some day.)  

But he can't.  They're on blockers, and as much as Wolfgang loathes them, he'd gladly take them for the rest of his life if it means he gets to keep kissing Kala.  So he does his best.  Blockers be damned, he does all he can to push everything he's feeling through the kiss.

The tender look on Kala’s face when it ends lets him know she understands.  “I love you,” she whispers, pulling him toward the bed.

He moves with her, helping her lay back on the mattress.  “I love you,” Wolfgang murmurs back.  Leaning down to meet her, he presses his lips to hers again.  Kala wraps her arms around him.  This kiss is hard, passionate.  She bites his lip gently, drawing a groan from him.  Wolfgang skims his tongue against her lips, coaxing them open.  Panting hard into the kiss, Kala’s fingers begin to tug at the bottom of Wolfgang’s shirt.  He sits back on his heels, taking his shirt off quickly before moving back to help Kala with hers.

When it’s been tossed over the side of the mattress, Wolfgang begins kissing Kala’s neck.  He sucks at her skin, dragging his lips and tongue down her.  Teeth scraping against her collarbone, his hands find their way to her breasts.  He squeezes them softly through the fabric of her bra.  Kala tangles her fingers in his hair, breathing hard and pulling him closer.  Moving to the middle of her chest, he slowly kisses his way down her stomach until he reaches the waist of her pants.  Wolfgang looks up to meet her eyes, silent question on his face.  Nodding, she brings her hands down to start unbuttoning her jeans.  He grips the edges of her waistband, pulling her pants off her legs as soon as she’s finished with the zipper.

As Kala leans up to start working on his jeans, Wolfgang just takes a moment to admire the view.  He’s seen her in her underwear before, of course.  But their previous safe house hadn’t had much light, and this is the first time since they’ve met in person that he has been well enough for them to be intimate.  Now that he can truly see her, Wolfgang wants to memorize every inch of her.

Kala hooks her fingers around his pants, slowly pulling them down and teasing his skin through the thin fabric of his boxer-briefs.  Wolfgang watches eagerly, lost in the moment until she reaches his bare skin.  Her fingers graze over a thin, faint line, so faded that Kala doesn’t even notice it.  But he sees her pass it.  Before he can stop himself, Wolfgang’s posture stiffens.

He regrets it immediately.  Kala pulls back, eyes wide with concern.  “What’s wrong?” she asks.

Wolfgang’s not sure what to say.  He can’t lie to Kala.  Wouldn’t want to, even if he could.  But how does he explain that he’s gone through life unafraid to show his scars only because he knew no one would care enough to ask where they came from?

It's not that he's ashamed, or even worried that she won't accept him.  But this is the part of his life he never wants Kala to have any part of: his past.  For once, Wolfgang finds himself grateful for the blockers - they allow Kala to be spared the flashes of memory playing through his mind.

“Wolfgang?  Is it too soon, did I hurt you?  We should have waited. I was too excited, I didn't stop to think,” Kala rambles, his hesitation to answer only making her more worried.

He shakes his head.  “No, I’m fine.”

“You are not fine,” she insists.  “I saw the look on your face.”

Of course she’s not going to let it go, Wolfgang realizes.  Kala has never shied away from any part of him, even those that he wants to keep buried deep.   Fuck it, he thinks.  Unable to find the words to explain, he pulls his underwear off, revealing several pale scars on the side of one of his thighs.  They’re old, only visible up close.  Kala gasps quietly, eyes moving over the numerous marks.

“How have I not seen these before?” she asks, an ache in her voice.

“I guess we’ve never been together in the light,” he replies with a hollow laugh.

Without thinking, Kala reaches toward his leg, then looks to his face.  “May I?” she whispers.  Wolfgang nods.  She tentatively runs her fingers over the scars, tracing them up the side of his thigh to where they end just under his hip.  “What happened?” Kala asks without taking her gaze off the faded lines.  When he doesn’t answer right away, she looks up to meet his eyes.  Kala finds his uncertainty there, the part of him that still wants to protect her from the darkest pieces of his past.  “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” she says quickly.  “But no matter what, it won’t change how I feel.”  Kala moves her hands to his.  “I’m not going anywhere.”

For a moment, Wolfgang considers not telling her.  Burying the memories deep again, hoping they never come back when they’re off blockers.  But he takes in the sincerity in her eyes.  Knows that she has seen him at his very worst, and somehow loves him still.  Remembers before they met (right before Whispers found him and they got in this whole mess), when Kala told him she wanted something true.  Wolfgang knows she won’t hold it against him if he decides not to say anything.  But in the end, he knows he is going to tell her.  If she is willing to accept all of him, then he is willing to give her anything she wants.

Wolfgang takes a deep breath.  Steadies himself.  He turns his hands over in hers, so they are palm to palm.  “It was the night after my mother’s funeral,” he begins.  Kala grips his hands tight, apprehensive at the rare mention of his mother.  “I couldn’t stop crying that day.  When we got home...I guess my father wanted to drink in peace.”  Wolfgang squeezes back on Kala’s hands, trying to draw strength from her despite the blockers.  “He kept telling me to stop.  But I couldn’t.  I don’t remember what he was drinking.  All I know is he threw the bottle to get me to shut up.”

Kala takes in a sharp breath.  “He hit you with the bottle?” she asks, horror in her voice.

“No,” Wolfgang answers, shaking his head.  “It hit the wall.  But then I tried to get away.”  Kala’s eyes are wide.  He wants to look away, but he forces himself to meet her gaze.  “I tried to get to my room.  But running was just as weak as crying.  So he stopped me from running.”

Welling up with her own tears, Kala leans her forehead against his.  “He pushed you into the glass?” she asks, voice low.  Wolfgang finally closes his eyes, nodding against her.  Carefully, she moves one of her hands back to his leg.  She ghosts her fingers over the scars.  When he lets himself look at her again, a few tears are rolling silently down her cheeks.

He brings his free hand up, wiping her face dry.  “I’m sorry,” he murmurs.

“No,” Kala says immediately.  “You did nothing wrong.”  She cups his face in her hands, presses a soft kiss to his lips.  “You have nothing to be sorry for.”  Wolfgang doesn’t know how to reply, so he brings her in for another kiss, fiercer than the one she just gave him.  It surprises her for a moment, but soon she returns it in kind.  It’s rougher than they usually are - not painful, but Wolfgang is not shy about channeling the cacophony of emotions swirling in his mind into the kiss.  She moves with him, ready to accept as much as she can from him with the psycellium blocked.  When he goes to lay her back on the bed, though, she pulls back.  “Wolfgang, wait.”

Wolfgang backs off immediately, sitting up and away.  “Did I hurt you?” he asks.

“No, I just...we don’t have to do this right now.”  She caresses his cheek, reassuring him that all is well between them.  “I know I was excited, but that’s not as important as you being alright.”

“Thanks to you, I will be,” he replies.  “I’ve never told anyone about that night.  Not even Felix.  But I could tell you.”  Gently, he takes one of her hands in his.  “My father took everything he could.”  Wolfgang places a small kiss to Kala’s fingers.  “I won’t let him take tonight, too.”

Kala nods.  Slowly, she pushes against his shoulders, urging him to lay back against the mattress.  “Then, tonight, let me take care of you,” she says warmly.  

After a moment of hesitation, Wolfgang accepts.  He’s not used to giving up control, and he knows Kala is still new to all of this.  But there is a calm certainty behind her eyes.  So he lets her lay him down, back resting on the mattress as he looks up at her.  Kala lightly touches his scars again, small flutters against the faded marks until she reaches his hip.  Next she leans down, retracing the path her fingers took with her lips this time.  She doesn't stop when she reaches his hip now, though.  Instead, Kala continues kissing him, up his stomach, making her way to his chest.

When she starts licking at his neck, Wolfgang groans.  He cradles the back of her head with one hand, the other finding its way to her hip.  Kala slowly drags her tongue up, stopping at the hollow of his throat to suck at the skin.  One of her hands wraps around his half-hard cock.  She strokes him, swiping her thumb across the head at the same time she nips at his neck.  “Fuck,” he sighs, growing harder under her touch.

Soon enough, Wolfgang's fully erect.  Satisfied with her efforts, Kala moves up so she can kiss him on the mouth again.  He meets her hungrily.  It's not the same as when they're off blockers, able to feel every sensation from the other as their own.  But her love for him is still palpable.  It's evident in her touch, soft in ways no one has ever been to him before.  He can see it in her eyes, always taking him in like she can't quite believe he's real.  Wolfgang doesn't know how he got so lucky.  Sometimes, he still thinks he doesn't deserve Kala.  But she's here, and Wolfgang drinks in her love like he's been dying of thirst.

Kala sits up, quickly unhooking her bra and tossing it over the side of the mattress.  He looks up at her with awe.  Flashing him a quick smile, she shimmies out of her underwear and sets it aside as well.  She reaches down, grabbing one of Wolfgang’s hands, bringing it to her folds.  He teases his fingers through them, then swipes his thumb across her clit.  Kala moans.  His other hand grips one of her breasts, rolling her nipple between his fingers while his thumb continues circling her clit.  She leans into the touch.

Deftly, Wolfgang slips a finger into her slick heat.  Kala gasps, leaning forward to kiss him hard.  He starts a slow rhythm, working her clit in time with each slide of his finger inside her.  She lightly rakes her nails down his chest, taking his cock back in hand when she gets to it.

“Let me make love to you,” Kala whispers into his ear.

In the past, Wolfgang would have scoffed if someone had said this to him.  Before her, sex had never been about love.  With Kala, though, he finally understands.

“Please,” he replies.  She sits up on her knees, and he brings his hands to rest on her hips.  Moving one leg over to straddle him, Kala hovers above his cock for a moment.  Then she sinks down onto him, taking in just the tip at first.  His grip tightens on her hips, steadying himself as she adjusts.  After a few moments, she slowly lowers herself.  She moans, taking him inch by inch until she is fully seated.  Wolfgang’s hips twitch, eager to move in her, but he waits.  Lets her set their pace.

When she’s ready, Kala starts circling her hips.  She raises herself slightly up, then grinds back down on him hard.  Wolfgang moans, meeting her movements with shallow thrusts.  Their movements are slow, deliberate.  She leans forward to kiss him, changing the angle so his cock is brushing against that soft spot inside her, drawing breathless sounds from both of them as their lips crash together.  The kiss is desperate, open-mouthed and messy.  He slides his hands down, gripping her ass and helping her move.

Kala’s hands are on his chest, bracing against him as she works to meet every thrust.  Fingers dancing across his skin, she brushes the tips of over his nipples.  The barely-there sensations send little sparks through Wolfgang.  He thrusts hard in her, causing Kala to throw her head back, gasping his name.  They keep their pace slow, savoring each deep thrust as their hips meet.

Wolfgang brings one hands forward, rubbing her clit in time with their rhythm.  Her walls squeeze his cock in response, eliciting moans from them both.  “Fuck, Kala,” he exhales.  Hair spilling over her breasts, her sweat-slick body above him, Wolfgang’s not sure if he's ever seen a more beautiful sight in his life.

Little tremors start to overtake Kala, legs shaking slightly as her orgasm rolls over her.  Wolfgang keeps moving, moaning as she tightens around him, sending shivers down her climax intensifies.  A few more thrusts and he is cumming, the hand still on Kala’s ass gripping hard.  They ride the waves out together.

When they are both shuddering and oversensitive, Wolfgang helps Kala off of him.  He moves to grab a shirt to clean up with, but she stops him with a hand.  “Just lay here with me for a minute,” Kala says with a small smile.  Not needing to be told twice, Wolfgang moves back to her side.  She drapes one arm across his stomach, nuzzling into the crook of his neck.  “I love you,” she whispers against his skin.

Wolfgang wraps an arm around Kala’s waist.  Pulling her close, he gently kisses the top of her head.  “I love you, too,” he murmurs.

Chapter Text

When the first snow falls that winter, Kala is thrilled.  She had been feeling down recently, the time they’ve spent cooped up in the safe house getting to her.  But this is her first time seeing snow in person.  It was one thing to experience it through Wolfgang the previous year, but getting to actually be there herself is entirely new.

That night, after they’ve checked that the coast is clear, the cluster and their family make their way to the roof.  Those who haven’t seen snow before take a few minutes just to appreciate it.  Kala, though, can’t help but be reminded of her first glimpse back in Berlin.  When Wolfgang looks away to talk to Lito, she hastily scoops up a sloppy snowball and throws it at him.  It hits Wolfgang square in the back.  He turns to look at Kala, who is failing to contain her giggles.  Felix uses the distraction to throw a snowball at Daniela, and soon everyone is tossing snow at each other.

Wolfgang kneels down to scoop up another snowball, and Kala sees an opportunity.  Running over, she smooshes snow right on top of his head.  He turns, catching her before she can get away.  Kala yelps in surprise.  He pulls her down so they are both on the ground, then drops a handful of snow on her face as revenge.  Sputtering, Kala wipes off her face.  He smirks, then leans in to give her a kiss.  Wolfgang’s lips are a bit chapped, but their warmth is pleasant compared to the frigid air.

Although they’ve gotten some cold-weather clothes for those who come from warmer countries, most of them still don’t have anything waterproof.  Between the lack of light to warm them and the snow soaking their clothes, it doesn’t take too long for the winter chill to drive them back inside.

When they get back in, Wolfgang notices Kala’s teeth are chattering.  He takes her cold hands into his own, trying to transfer some of his heat to her.  “Come on,” he says.  “Let’s get you warmed up.”  She nods, and he leads her back to their room, still holding her hand.

After closing the door behind him, Wolfgang helps Kala peel off her wet clothes.  He then removes his own as she changes into pajamas.  While he is putting on a dry pair of boxer-briefs, Wolfgang sees Kala is still shivering.  He doesn’t bother with the rest of his clothes. Instead he walks over to Kala, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her tight against his chest.

“How are you so warm already?” she asks.

Wolfgang chuckles. “Just hot-blooded,” he replies. “Is it helping?”

“Yes,” Kala says.  With a smile she adds, “But I think blankets would also help,” pulling him with her to the bed.  They curl up under the covers together, Kala snuggled against Wolfgang’s chest.  She sighs contentedly.

“Better?” Wolfgang asks.

“Mm, much better,” she confirms.  Her shivering has begun to subside, and he presses a soft kiss into her hair.  He rubs slow circles over her back, doing his best to warm her up quickly.  Soon, her shaking stops completely.  Tracing up her back to her bare neck, he feels that her skin is no longer cool to the touch.

Head nestled under Wolfgang’s chin, Kala’s eyelashes tickle his throat as her eyes flutter closed.  “Tired?” he teases.

“Maybe,” she replies, yawning.  Wolfgang lets out a soft laugh, and Kala feels the low rumble of it in his chest.

“Get some rest,” he says.

Kala nods against him, nuzzling closer to use his chest as a pillow.  “Love you,” she murmurs, voice drifting off.

“I love you, too,” Wolfgang answers.  Running his fingers through her hair, it strikes him how natural this all feels.  He’d never cared about love before Kala, and now he knows he would give anything in the world to make sure he can keep her in his arms.  “Sleep well,” he whispers.

Chapter Text

Kala isn’t surprised to find the bed empty when she wakes up.  Wolfgang has always been an early riser, an old habit from childhood that he’s never felt the need to break.  What does surprise her, though, is the smell of food wafting into the bedroom.  They haven’t been out of hiding that long, but Wolfgang hadn’t shown much interest in cooking in that time.  Curious, Kala gets out of bed and wraps a shawl around her shoulders, then heads toward the kitchen.  

When she gets there, the first thing she notices is that Wolfgang hasn’t bothered to get dressed either.  He is in front of the stovetop in just his boxer-briefs, his back to her when she enters.  The next thing she sees is the huge stack of pancakes on the counter.  Kala smiles to herself, just appreciating the moment.

“Good morning,” Wolfgang says without turning around, having sensed her presence.

She walks up behind him, places a soft kiss on his shoulder.  “Mm, good morning,” Kala yawns.  “What inspired this?”

“Just wanted to make something for you.”  Setting the spatula down on the plate, he turns to give her a quick peck on the lips.

“It smells delicious,” Kala says when he turns back to the skillet.  Wolfgang just nods in reply, leaning over to the counter to grab a bowl of berries.  Looking back to the finished pancakes on the counter, she notices that they are speckled with dark blue and red fruit.  “Oh, I haven’t had fruit pancakes in ages,” she sighs happily.

Wolfgang chuckles, because of course neither of them have.  Their life on the run hadn’t lent itself to many indulgent meals.  “These are the last of them if you want to go ahead and sit.”

“Do you want any help bringing things to the table?”

“No, that’s okay.  You’re still waking up.  I made you some chai, if you want.”

Humming happily, Kala and makes her way over to where she sees the tea on the counter.  She pours herself a cup, then sits at their small table.  Taking a sip, she lets the sweet flavor sit on her tongue.  It surprises her how much the chai tastes like her father’s.

“Good?” Wolfgang asks as he flips a pancake.

“Very,” she replies.  “Where did you learn to make chai?”

“I kept tasting yours,” he admits.  “But all the chai in Berlin was shit in comparison.  So I had to make my own.”  (At this, she notices he has a mug of his own.)

Kala giggles.  Wolfgang slides the last pancake onto the plate and turns off the stove.  While they’re cooling, he grabs a couple smaller plates and two sets of silverware from the cabinets, then places them and his cup on the table.  She raises an eyebrow at him as he heads to the fridge, but then smiles in delight when she sees him pull out whipped cream.  He swings back by the counter, grabs the pancakes, and sets it all down in front of her.

“Wolfgang,” Kala says, “This looks amazing.”

“It’s nothing,” he insists, but he can’t quite keep a grin off his face.

“Well, it’s seems like a very delectable nothing,” she jokes, using her fork to put a couple of the pancakes on her plate.  Wolfgang laughs, passing her the whipped cream before grabbing a few pancakes for himself.  Taking a bite, Kala’s eyes flutter closed.  “Wow,” she says after a moment.

“You like them?” he teases.

Kala nods, a soft smile on her face.  Reaching across the table, she takes one of his hands in hers.  “You’ll have to make these more often,” she says.  It’s a simple statement, but given their recent freedom, the meaning isn’t lost on Wolfgang.

“I will.”

Chapter Text

“What do you think about going out tonight?” Kala asks over dinner.

Wolfgang puts down his fork and gives her a look, eyebrows raised in surprise.  “Really?”

“Yeah,” she replies with a smile on her lips.  “We haven’t had a night out in a while.”

Compared to their time hiding from BPO, their couple of nights out in the past few months could be considered lively.  But in contrast to Wolfgang’s life before, he knows she’s right.  “You prefer nights in,” he says, shrugging.

“But it’s something you enjoy,” Kala insists.  “And I like going out sometimes, too, you know.”

“If you really want to go, sure.  There’ve gotta be some places around here that will still let me in,” he replies with a chuckle.

So that’s how the two of them find themselves at one of Wolfgang’s old haunts later that evening.  A few drinks in, and he’s even managed to convince Kala to come onto the dance floor.  They move with the crowd.  Their dancing is less formal than what Kala is used to, their bodies mostly swaying against each other to the pulsing bass.  Between booze running in her veins and the feeling of Wolfgang’s love, a warmth spreads through her.

“Is it just me, or is it hot in here?” Kala asks.

Wolfgang smirks.  “Yes.”  She giggles.  “Do you want me to go get us another round?” he asks.

“Yes, please,” Kala says.  Pulling her close, Wolfgang gives her a quick kiss before heading over to the bar.

She doesn’t stop dancing when he leaves.  Just the right level of drunk to overcome any self-consciousness, Kala keeps moving to the music.  Her skirt swishes around her legs as her hips swing to the rhythm, eyes closed and just enjoying the moment.

Unfortunately, with her eyes closed, Kala doesn’t notice the approach of two men.  “Hello, gorgeous,” one of them says.  The other bumps his hip against hers, throwing off her movement.

“Hello?” she replies.

“You’re not from around here, are you?” the first man, a blond, asks.

Kala raises her eyebrows at them.  “No….”

The second man, this one with brown hair, grins at her.  “You know if you’re looking for a good time in Berlin, you can do better than that guy you’re hanging around with.”

“Excuse me?” Kala says.  She tries to step away from the men, but bumps into other club-goers.

“Not your fault for not knowing,” the blond answers, “but he’s a Bogdanow.  You don’t want to get involved with them.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” she says.

“Oh, don’t be like that,” the brown haired man replies.  “We’re just saying, if you want to try local fare, why not try something more on the gourmet side?”

Kala scoffs in disgust.  “I am not ‘trying local fare.’  You have no idea what you are talking about.  I would like for you both to please leave me alone now.”

“You think you’re too good for us, that it?” the blond asks, stepping forward and into Kala’s personal space.  “That mobster probably pays you a pretty penny to keep him company, huh?”

Fear blooms in Kala, and for a moment all she feels is her fight or flight instinct warring inside her.  But her unease ripples through the psycellium.  She feels Wolfgang behind her, even as she knows his body is pushing its way back from the bar through the crowd.  Closing her eyes, Kala sighs with relief.

“You gonna answer him?” the man with the brown hair asks.

Taking a deep breath, she draws strength from Wolfgang.  She knows these men are no match for him and the rest of their cluster.  And through their connection, no match for her.

“I asked you to leave me alone,” Kala says, ferocity lent from her other selves in her words.

The blond man takes a step back in surprise.  Both of the men are taken off guard.  As the brown haired man opens his mouth to speak, Wolfgang steps up behind Kala.  “These guys bothering you?” he asks with a knowing smirk.

“No,” Kala says.  “They were just leaving.”

Wolfgang hands Kala her drink, then wraps now free arm around her waist.  While she takes a sip, he fixes both of the men with a steely gaze.  The brown haired man crumbles under it, grabbing his blond friend and dragging him away.

“You alright?” Wolfgang asks as soon as the men are out of sight.

Kala nods.  “Thank you.”

“Those guys were assholes,” he says, shaking his head.  “You could’ve taken them.”

Laughing, she leans in close.  “Maybe, but having you there certainly would have helped.”

Wolfgang puts his forehead against Kala’s.  “I’ll always be here for you.”

Chapter Text

“How did I let you talk me into this?” Nomi asks Amanita as they lace up their rental ice skates.

Laughing, Amanita answers, “‘Cause you love me, and I’ve wanted to go skating since before everything with the cluster, and you can’t say no to me.”

“All true,” Nomi concedes with a shrug.  “There is no way I’m not going to fall, though.”

Finished with her laces, Amanita stands up.  Nomi gives her a hesitant look.  “We’ll go slow,” Amanita offers.  “And I’ll hold your hand the whole time, I promise.”  Making good on her word, she offers a hand to help Nomi up.  Smiling, Nomi accepts her fiancée’s hand.  Amanita steadies Nomi when she wobbles a bit, and then the two of them make their way out onto the skating rink.

Amanita steps onto the ice first.  Nomi cautiously follows behind, her free hand gripping the short wall that surrounds the rink.  Turning, Amanita starts skating backward so she can help Nomi more easily. 

“When did you learn to skate so well?” Nomi asks.  She’s making slow progress across the ice, each shaky glide forward being done with Amanita’s help.

 “With my dads.  I had a huge crush on Tara Lipinski after the ‘98 Olympics and thought if I became a figure skater, I could meet her.”

 Nomi giggles.  “Of course you did.”

 “You never learned?” Amanita asks.

 “That was Teagan’s thing,” Nomi answers, shaking her head.  “I was always the indoor kid, remember?”

 “Right,” Amanita says with a laugh.  “Can’t learn to hack computers if you break your arm skating.”

 “You broke your arm?”

 “Just once,” replies Amanita, mock defensive.

 “But you kept skating.”  Nomi smiles warmly.  “That’s one of the things I love about you, you know?”

 “My propensity for danger or my lack of self-preservation instincts?”

 “Neither,” Nomi says, rolling her eyes. Then she squeezes Amanita’s hand and looks at her more seriously.  “I love that you never let being afraid stop you from doing what you want.”

 “Never have, never will,” confirms Amanita.

 Nomi tries to pull her fiancée in for a kiss, but instead ends up accidentally throwing Amanita off balance.  Stumbling, Amanita falls forward into Nomi, and pushing them both down.  Nomi falls hard on her butt, with Amanita landing mostly on top of her.  For a moment, they look at each other in surprise.

 “I told you I was going to fall,” Nomi says, and they both burst into laughter.

 “Still having fun, though?” Amanita asks.

 “With you?”  Nomi leans in and kisses Amanita on the cheek.  “Always.”

Chapter Text

Usually, Wolfgang is the first to wake between the two of them.  On Christmas morning, though, Kala can’t help waking early.  It’s their first Christmas as a couple, as well as the first after everything they went through with BPO.

Kala hadn’t really celebrated Christmas before the cluster came into her life.  Wolfgang had tried to tell her it wasn’t a big deal, that they didn’t have to do anything special for the day, but Kala told him that for her it isn’t about being a believer.  To her, Christmas means her new family, the unbreakable connections she’s made with her other selves.

“Besides,” she’d said, “just because I want to keep my traditions doesn’t mean I don’t want to start some new ones with you.”  Wolfgang had smiled, and from then on had made a point of introducing Kala to the few Christmas traditions he kept.

Now it’s Christmas, and excitement bubbles up in Kala.  She’s pretty sure part of it is coming from members of her cluster, some of their holiday celebrations already under way.  But she also knows part of it is her own.  After everything she and Wolfgang have been through to be together, there’s something to be said for enjoying a milestone in their relationship like any normal couple.

Careful not to wake Wolfgang, Kala slips out of bed and heads to the living room of their flat.  The small tree they bought sits in the corner by the window.  It’s decorated haphazardly, covered in a combination of the few ornaments Wolfgang already had, shiny red bulbs Kala purchased to add some color, and an ornament from each of the other members of their cluster.  She knows it won’t be featuring in any home decor magazines, but Kala loves their tree just the same.

Kala walks over to the window and looks down at the street below.  To her delight, she sees that it must have started snowing some time in the night, as the world is now covered in a layer of white.

“A white Christmas,” Wolfgang says.

She whips around, and he meets her with a sleepy grin.  Kala senses he’s visiting, his body still in their bed.

“Didn’t mean to scare you,” he says.

“It’s alright,” Kala replies, returning his smile with one of her own.  “Did I wake you?”

Wolfgang shakes his head.  “You’re up early,” he answers instead.

Kala looks down bashfully, but the smile doesn’t leave her face.  “I’m more excited than I expected to be.”

Chuckling, Wolfgang gets up and leaves their bedroom.  He steps into the living room to join Kala in person.  “It’s natural,” Wolfgang says.  After pressing a soft kiss into her hair, he wraps his arms around her.  Nodding, Kala embraces him.  After a few moments of just taking each other in, Kala looks up to Wolfgang with a playful grin.  “Yes?” he asks, his amusement evident in his voice.

“It’s traditional to open the presents when you wake up on Christmas morning, isn’t it?”

He laughs.  “Some people do, yeah.  It depends on where you’re from.”

“What do you do?” Kala asks.

“Usually it’s just me and Felix,” Wolfgang says with a shrug.  “We mostly just get drunk and give each other stupid shit for presents.”

Kala laughs, “I look forward to tonight, then.”

“We can open presents now, though,” Wolfgang says.  “Felix won’t care as long as we save the booze.”

“That’s good.  I don’t want to know what Felix would say about my gift for you.”

“Oh?” he asks, smirking.

Cheeks flush, Kala buries her face into Wolfgang’s chest and mumbles, “You’ll see.”

Rather than pushing the point, Wolfgang pulls Kala over to their little tree.  There are only a few presents beneath it.  He picks up a small box that’s neatly wrapped in plain orange wrapping paper.  “I can wait,” he says.  “You first.”

Kala takes the box, looking it over curiously before tearing off the orange paper.  Without the wrapping, it’s obvious that the black velvet box came from a jewelry store.  Her eyes light up.  Wolfgang watches with affection as Kala opens the small box.  Inside is a pair of earrings, thin gold chains with a small ruby at the end of each.

“Oh, Wolfgang,” Kala sighs.  “They’re beautiful.”

He kisses her in reply, then gestures for her to put the earrings on.  “They made me think of you,” Wolfgang smiles.

“Thank you,” she says, returning his smile in kind.  Kala puts on the earrings, then pulls Wolfgang close for another kiss.  When he pulls back, she’s looking down sheepishly.

“What is it?”

“My gift is much less…sentimental,” she offers, not sure how to explain without giving it away.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” he laughs.

Nodding, Kala pulls a shiny blue gift bag from under the tree.  She hands it to Wolfgang.  He shifts the tissue paper around until his fingers catch on fabric.  From the bag, he pulls out a red negligee.  The bust is floral lace, with the rest of the piece made out of a sheer gauze.  Wolfgang’s eyes widen.

“Shouldn’t I be giving this to you?” he jokes, but it doesn’t mask the pulse of arousal that she can feel course through him.

“That’s just the wrapping paper,” Kala says.  “You’ll get to unwrap your present later.”

Now Wolfgang isn’t trying to hide how turned on he is.  “Have I mentioned how much I love you?”

“Not this morning,” Kala giggles.

He puts the negligee down, puts an arm around her waist, and pulls her in to kiss her again.  “I love you,” Wolfgang murmurs against her lips.

“I love you,” Kala replies.  “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas.”

Chapter Text

Riley and Will have discussed getting married several times, but have never exactly sat down and decided they were engaged.  Given her history, Will had wanted to talk it over first, but deep down they’re both romantics.  Without it exactly being said, they both know Will wants to propose to Riley.  Now it’s just down to a matter of when.


One morning, Riley wakes up before their alarm.  Half-asleep and lying right next to him, she connects to Will without even thinking about it.  She catches wisps of his dream.  There is no coherent scene, but images flit across her consciousness.  Will on one knee.  A ring on her finger.  A sense of determination, and the feeling of tonight .


When their alarm goes off, Riley does her best to clear her mind.  She knows Will has wanted to wait for the right moment to propose, and she doesn’t want him to feel he missed that opportunity because she knew it was coming.  (Honestly, Riley’s pretty sure she’s going to be emotional anyway.  But Will’s a sap at heart, and Riley knows he wants to surprise her.)  By the time Will’s awake, Riley is focusing intently on what she wants for breakfast.


“Morning,” Will mumbles.  Then, scrunching up his face, “I’m really hungry.”


Riley laughs softly.  “Good morning.  Let’s get you some food.”


The two of them get out of bed and brush their teeth, then head to their small kitchen.  Will starts measuring out some coffee while Riley grabs the pancake mix from the pantry.


“What did you want to do today?” Riley asks, doing her best to sound nonchalant.  It’s Monday, the only day they usually both have off.  She knows he intends on asking her that night, but she has no idea if he has any plans before that.


“You’re sure awake this morning,” Will yawns.  He sets the coffee to brew, then walks over and puts his arms around her waist.


Riley gives him a quick kiss.  “Just in a good mood,” she says with a smile.


Will gives her a sleepy grin and says, “It’s contagious.”  Riley laughs.  “I was thinking we could just have a day together,” Will continues.  “That alright?”


“Sounds perfect,” replies Riley.




After breakfast, Will and Riley head to the bathroom to shower.  Riley is trying to tamper down her anticipation for that evening, but can’t seem to help the excitement that starts to overwhelm her.  Will brought light back to her life that she never thought she could experience again.  The idea of spending the rest of their lives together fills her, makes her whole.  From the smile adorning Will’s face, she can tell he’s feeling at least some of it from her.


The more she tries not to think about it, the harder it is to ignore.  So Riley stops pushing the feelings away.  Instead, she redirects them.  Returning Will’s smile with a coy one of her own, she slowly slips off her pajamas.


“You are in a good mood this morning,” Will says, already shirking his tank top and boxers.


Riley cups Will’s face in her hands.  “I just can’t stop thinking about how much I love you,” she whispers, then pulls him close and kisses him hard.


When they pull back to breathe, Riley wonders if Will can tell she knows something is different today.  He doesn’t look surprised by the fierceness of the kiss, and with how closely they’re connected, she’s sure he knows his feelings have bled into hers.  Neither of them press the point, though.  Riley pulls back the shower curtain and starts running the water.  Will steps behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pressing his body against her own.  He’s not hard yet, but she feels his cock twitch with arousal.  When the water’s warm enough, she leads him into the shower.


Once the curtain is closed, Will pushes Riley against the wall for another passionate kiss.  She pulls him closer, one hand in his hair and another on his ass.  Will groans.  He grinds into her, cock growing stiff.  Skimming over his waist, Riley moves the hand that was behind him between their bodies, gripping his member.  They both gasp at the touch, the sensations reverberating from Will and into her.  Rather than bringing his lips back to Riley’s, Will begins to suck the sensitive skin at the hollow of her throat.  He drags his teeth across her, making her tremble.  Will works intently.  Riley already knows he’s going to leave hickeys all down her neck.  With other partners, she had never liked that.  But with Will, there is no shame.  Riley is his, and Will is hers, and she wears the marks of their love proudly.  She sighs contentedly, stroking his slick cock to hardness.  


Will makes his way down to her chest.  He licks her collarbone, moaning into her skin as Riley swipes her thumb across the head of his dick.  When he can focus again, he cups her breasts and squeezes softly.  He runs his teeth gently over her left nipple and rolls the right between his thumb and forefinger.  Riley’s head tips back.  She rests her weight between Will and the wall, her knees going weak from the sensations.  The warm water runs between them, heightening the experience.


Laying kisses between her breasts, Will moves his attention to her right nipple. His tongue moves over her expertly.  While Riley’s attention is drawn there, Will slips his right hand between her legs.  Teasing her, he rubs her clit lightly just as he sucks hard on her nipple.


“Will,” Riley sighs.  Her grip on his cock loosens, concentration lost.  His fingers slide easily between her folds.  She’s already slick with her own juice, and he pushes a finger inside her as his thumb continues to rub her clit.  “Will, please.”


Removing his hand from between her legs, Will pulls Riley close and looks her in the eyes.  “God, I love you,” he says, and their lips crash together.  Riley licks his lips.  He opens them for her, their tongues twining together.  Will’s dream is the last thing on her mind right now, her thoughts consumed by need.


Gripping her tightly, Will lifts Riley so she can wrap her legs around his waist. For just a few seconds, he holds her above him, the tip of his cock just brushing against her entrance.  Then Riley begs, “Please,” again.  Will can’t hold back any longer.  He pulls her down, gravity helping her take his whole length in one movement.


Riley groans.  Giving her a moment to adjust to his girth, Will leans forward for another kiss.  This one is messy, rushed.  It’s full of love and heat, and they feel flashes of their other selves.  The rest of the cluster doesn’t fully join them, sensing that this moment is for Riley and Will.   But they are all aware, experiencing it with them nonetheless.


It’s not long before Riley’s rolling her hips impatiently.  “Fuck, Riley,” Will pants.  He starts moving with small, quick thrusts, unable to pull out further with risking dropping Riley.  She grinds hard against him to make up for it.  They gasp against each other’s lips, Riley’s hips rotating and adding to the delicious friction.


One of her hands is tangled in his hair, and she moves the other between them to rub her clit.  Sparks of arousal shoot through them both.  The connection between them is palpable, the line where one of them ends and the other begins blurring completely.  When Riley’s walls clench around his cock, they experience both of their body’s responses simultaneously.  Will thrusts harder into her, his consciousness controlling her hand to make sure the pressure on her clit matches his pace.


“I love you,” Will sighs.  Their bodies move in time, the mutual need driving their rhythm.  Water runs in rivulets down their skin.  Riley is struck by the sight of Will - she’s captivated by his openness, how completely lost he is in her.


With every stroke, they move closer and closer to the edge.  Leaning back against the wall for leverage, Riley changes the angle of her hips.  Will’s next thrust brushes right against that sensitive spot inside her, and they both gasp.


Will’s movements become erratic.  Riley’s toes begin to curl.  Shivers run up their spines, pleasure spreading throughout their bodies.  Will’s name spills from Riley’s lips over and over again like a prayer.


The orgasm rolls through them both.  A shudder runs from Riley into Will, waves of euphoria overtaking their bodies.  Her fingers circle her clit until she’s oversensitive, his thrusts gradually stopping once he’s spent.


“I love you,” Riley murmurs, smiling down at him.


“I love you so fucking much,” he replies.  Will pulls her in for a kiss, this one softer than those before it.  They bask in the afterglow for a few moments, before Will’s legs start to get a bit shaky.  Riley unwraps her legs from around his waist, and he lifts her off his cock before lowering her back to the floor of the shower.  Riley wraps her arms around him, and Will pulls her close and rests his chin on her head.


After a minute or two, Riley laughs, “We should probably actually wash up before we run out of hot water.”


Will chuckles.  “We did sort of get distracted, huh?”


“Today’s just about us being together,” she says.  “I don’t think we got distracted at all.”




Riley and Will finish showering and get dressed.  It’s a warm spring day in Chicago, and the two of them decide to go for a walk.  Not too far from their apartment, there is a small park.  Hand in hand, the two of them make their way over as blooming trees provide them with shade from overhead.  Near the entrance of the park is the start of a paved path.  They follow it, entering into the woods.


They don’t talk much while they walk, just enjoying the quiet peace of nature and each other’s presence.  It’s been a little while since everything with BPO, but being on the run taught them to appreciate calm when they can get it.  The path eventually leads them to a field.  Riley grins and pulls Will with her out into it.  She finds a patch of wildflowers and lies down, urging him to follow.


Will seats himself.  He picks a small flower, places it behind Riley’s ear, then lies down beside her.  “Bluebell,” he explains.


Riley laughs.  “Of course.”  Turning toward him, she places a kiss on his cheek.


For a little while, they just lay on the grass.  Will pulls Riley in for a kiss at some point, and the two of them end up making out right there in the field like a couple of teenagers.  It never ceases to amaze her how giddy being with Will can make her.  He always manages to draw out the softest side of her - a side she had once thought was gone forever.  So many years of her life are just a haze of depression and party drugs, and the bright clarity in her mind that began with the appearance of Will and their cluster stands out in sharp contrast.


“When you first saw me in that church, where Angelica died, did you have any idea we could be here someday?” Riley muses.


“Where did that come from?” Will laughs.


“I was just thinking about how much things have changed since then,” Riley says.  “I was living in such a fog.  When I first saw you, I thought it was the drugs.  I had no idea you were about to save me from myself.”


Will’s eyes soften.  “I had some idea.  Not what you were going through - that I had no clue.  But when I saw you, something inside me already knew I loved you.”  He gently caresses her cheek.  “I’ll admit, I’m pretty sure I started hoping that night that we’d end up like this someday, and I haven’t stopped since.”


“Thank you,” she says, closing her eyes and leaning into his touch.


“For what?” Will asks.


“For not giving up on me back then, even when I wanted you to.”


“Hey, look at me,” he says.  Riley opens her eyes.  “Giving up on you was never an option, okay?” Will insists.  “I love you.  Even if things get hard again someday, I’m not going anywhere.”


“I love you so much,” Riley says, giving him a watery smile.


“You’ve saved me from myself, too.  Over and over again.  You know that, right?”


Riley nods.


“I wouldn’t be here if not for you,” Will says.  “We’re in this together.”


A sense of permanence hangs between them with the statement.  Will’s hand moves, and for a moment Riley wonders if Will is going to pull out the ring right here.  But instead he reaches up to her face, wiping the tears from her eyes.


Will kisses her quickly, then pulls back with a grin.  “So if not at the church, when did it start for you?”


Riley ponders the question for a moment.  “Probably the next time we met - when I called you at the bar and Diego called me the chick with the weird accent.”


“Really?” Will laughs.


“You were funny and kind, and you cared more about what happened to me just from a few moments of knowing me than anyone else had in years,” she explains.  “I didn’t want you to get involved with my mess, but as soon as you were gone I was already hoping I’d see you again.”


Will smiles.  “It’s weird to remember how separate all of our lives were then.”


“I know what you mean,” Riley says.  “We had no idea that we didn’t have to be alone anymore.”


Pulling her close, Will runs his fingers through her hair.  “You’ll never have to be alone again.”




When they leave the park to get lunch, Riley can feel an anxious energy begin to bubble up in Will.  She can’t help being affected by it.  As they pass from morning into afternoon, ever closer to nighttime, the anticipation grows.  They stop to grab takeout on the way home, and both fall into nervous giggles when Will stumbles his way through his order.  Food in tow, the two of them head back to their apartment.


As Riley and Will eat, the nervous excitement rises between the two of them.  At this point, Riley’s pretty sure Will knows she’s figured something out.  He doesn’t ask, though, and she doesn’t say anything.  Each of them knows that the other has imagined this night a million times.  Riley doesn’t want to spoil it for Will, and she knows he’s likely thinking the same for her.  So they laugh and fumble their way through the meal, more awkward around each other than when they first met.


“Do you mind if I work on my set list for tomorrow?” Riley asks as they clean up.


“Go for it,” Will says.  “I’ve got a couple things I need grab from the store, anyway.”


“I can go with you if you want, I can always do my set list tomorrow while you’re at work.”


“Don’t worry about it.”


“I don’t mind,” Riley says.


“It’s, um, a surprise actually,” he explains, blushing a bit.


“Oh!” she exclaims.  Riley tries to keep calm, but she’s sure Will must feel the flare of excitement in her.  “Don’t worry then, I can work on my set list while you go.”


“Okay.  No peeking,” Will teases.


Riley laughs, “I promise.”


After he grabs his keys and stuffs them in a pocket, Will gives Riley a kiss goodbye.  “I won’t be too long.  See you in a bit.”


“Be safe,” she says, squeezing his hand for a moment before he walks away.


Will smiles.  “Of course.”


Once he’s gone, Riley grabs her laptop and sets it up in the living room.  A part of her feels the tug of anticipation from Will.  She does her best to ignore it, though, pointedly focusing on her music instead.  The beginning of her setlist is easy enough to fill out - Riley’s happy with several of her mixes from the last week, and she’s content to keep playing them.  But she also likes to add at least one new song to every performance.  So after figuring out the rest of her set, Riley starts skimming through her vast music catalogue to work on something new.


Riley’s mind keeps straying back to Will as she skips from song to song.  For a moment, she’s tempted to share with him - to see what exactly he has planned for her tonight.  Instead, she picks one of his favorite songs, putting all of her thoughts about him into her music.  The opening chords of “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC come through her headphones, and Riley sets to work.




Will comes home about an hour later, a couple of grocery bags in one hand, the other behind his back.  Riley pauses her music and goes to pull her headphones off, but Will shakes his head.  “I was gonna go ahead and make dinner, so take your time,” he says.


“You don’t want any help?” Riley asks, half joking.


He grins.  “I think that would ruin the surprise part.”  Riley laughs, and Will heads to the kitchen while she turns back to her computer.


While he was out, Riley was able to lose herself in her work.  With Will home, though, the mounting curiosity and excitement begin to distract her.  Given their connection, there are no secrets between them.  She can’t remember the last time Will has planned something without her knowing every detail.  Her hand idly moves the mouse across her computer screen, but Riley’s mind keeps wandering, playing various potential scenarios rather than the music.


Before long, Riley feels Will’s hand on her shoulder.  She pulls off her headphones and turns to look at him.  “Dinner ready?” she asks.


“Yup,” he says, moving his hand from her shoulder and offering it to her to help her up.


Riley closes her laptop and puts it aside, then takes Will’s hand and stands.  A mix of his anxiety and her anticipation bubbles up in both of them on their short walk to the kitchen.


When they enter the room, Riley barely recognizes it.  The overhead lights are off, the area instead lit with several candles.  A bouquet of various blue and white flowers sits in a vase at the center of the table, a plate of chicken parmesan and a glass of red wine set at each of their places.


“I know it’s not gourmet or anything, but I wanted to cook something for you,” Will says.


Riley turns and kisses him.  “It looks amazing, Will.”  Smiling bashfully, he gestures toward the chairs and they take their seats.  He watches for her reaction to the first bite of food, all nerves.  When she smiles, Will sighs with relief and digs in.  “So what’s the occasion?” she asks, feigning ignorance.


“I wanted to do something special,” he says.


“You succeeded,” she replies, grinning before she takes a sip of wine.  “No reason?”


Will swallows.  “I didn’t say that.”  Riley raises her eyebrows at him.  “It’s for a lot of reasons, really,” he clarifies.


This answer surprises Riley a bit.  “Like what?” she asks.


“Like what we talked about in the park this morning,” Will says.  “Riley, I have never loved someone the way I love you.  From the first time I saw you, part of me knew I was meant to be with you.”  A warmth spreads from Will to Riley as he speaks.  “We’ve been through hell together - you’ve loved me at my worst.  I want everyone to know how much I love you.”


Riley smiles, heart swelling with excitement as Will gets out of his chair.  But rather than kneeling like she expects, he heads over to the fridge.  He opens it, looking around inside until Riley feels Will’s stomach drop.  Closing the door to the refrigerator, he starts double checking the grocery bags still on the counter.


“Is everything alright?” Riley asks.


“Champagne,” Will sighs.  “I can’t believe I forgot it.”


“That’s okay,” she says, trying to push some of her excitement to him.  “We’ve got wine.”


“There was supposed to be champagne,” he says absently.  “Hang on, I can go get some.  I’ll be right back.”


Riley chuckles.  “Are you really going to leave without asking me the question you’ve been dying to ask me?”


Will stops in his tracks.  Eyes wide, he turns to Riley like a deer in the headlights.  Then, he cracks into laughter.  “I haven’t really been subtle, have I?”


“Not exactly.”


He walks back toward the table, then kneels down in front of Riley.  “Well then, Riley Gunnarsdóttir,” he starts, pulling a small jewelry box from his pocket, “will you marry me?”  Opening the box, Will reveals a sapphire set in a thin silver band.


Even though she knew this moment was coming, Riley is still overcome with emotion.  A lifetime ago, she was married to Magnus and wanted nothing more than to have a family with him.  After what happened in the mountains, Riley had been sure she would never want to marry again.  But now, just a few years later, nothing in her life is the same.  She lives in Chicago with a man she met in her head, and they have six other selves all over the globe as their family.  And as strange and dangerous as their lives became because of that, Riley knows she wouldn’t have it any other way.


Riley pulls Will up so she can kiss him.  Their lips meet hastily, the nervous tension of the day finally gone.  Eventually she pulls back, grinning.  “Of course.”