“Klaus, this is a terrible idea.”
“I love bad ideas,” Klaus crooned.
“Am I a bad idea?” Dave asked with a laugh, and Klaus batted his eyelashes. He could feel Ben’s glare, like the wave of heat buffeting out from an explosion, but he really, truly didn’t give a shit.
“I have a personal policy,” he said with mock seriousness, “against fucking men in khakis.” He wagged his finger. “But I am making an exception for that jawline. Count yourself lucky.”
“I do,” Dave said, smiling down at him. He wasn’t any taller than Klaus—an inch or so shorter, as a matter of fact—but Klaus’s natural state, when drunk, was horizontal, and he leaned heavily on Dave’s shoulder as they made their wobbly way through the streets of Saigon.
“Klaus, it’s 1968. He’s going to die.”
You’re one to talk, Klaus scowled.
“You’re going to go back and he’s going to be dead, and you’re going to conjure him but it’s not going to be the same because he’ll be stuck and you’ll be miserable. You’re fucked up enough already, Klaus. Don’t do this.”
Being in Vietnam made Ben grumpy. He didn’t like hearing racial slurs, which was fair, and Klaus got the sense he didn’t like Dave, either, which was completely unfair. Dave was wonderful. He was so kind and so funny and so—so pretty. Somehow Ben didn’t find this a convincing argument.
Klaus skipped ahead a few steps and took Dave’s hands, swinging around in a drunken sway that might pass for dancing.
“You know what I want to do?” he said dreamily. “I want to live in the moment. Just—just fucking forget everything else, you know? Fuck the future, fuck the past. Just you and me, right now, and nobody else to bother us.”
“Flower child,” Dave teased.
“What are you talking about?! We have to go back!” Ben demanded, but Klaus slipped one hand around Dave’s arm and thrust the other right through his brother’s ghostly face, and ignored him. It was pretty easy to ignore him. His ears were still ringing with the music from the club, and he was distracted by the scent of Dave’s cologne. God, he smelled so good when he didn’t smell like sweat and mud.
Their hotel was a block away. It had the air of a respectable place that had recently lowered its standards to accommodate American servicemen; when they had checked in earlier she had given them rates by the hour, and now she watched them stumble into the lobby, clinging to each other, without batting an eye. Half the battalion was on liberty in Saigon, and most of the rooms were full. Full of soldiers and their guests, if the muffled noises behind the doors were anything to go by. Dave’s cheeks were pink by the time they reached the room, and he fumbled with the keys.
“You know, when you suggested we get a double room, I thought it was just economy,” Klaus mused, leaning against the wall. “But I’m starting to suspect you may have been planning to seduce me all along.”
“Mm, and you went out and bought a shirt two sizes too small for entirely innocent reasons,” Dave said with a significant look as he managed to jimmy the door open.
“This is how I dress!” he laughed. “This is modest for me.”
“Sure,” Dave said. “You’re very modest.”
He held the door open and indicated that Klaus should enter first, with a slight bow. Klaus curtseyed and sashayed over the threshold, but before he could take more than a step there was a hand on his wrist, tugging him around and into a kiss. That was smooth, he thought dazedly. God, maybe the alcohol in Vietnam was particularly strong, or his tolerance had been shot to hell in the time travel, because he’d been floating on air ever since they stepped foot in that damn club.
No, that wasn’t true. It had started when he’d crashed into Dave, loose-limbed and flailing, when he’d turned and Dave had given him that look. Something about that look. It raised goosebumps on his skin.
“I’ve never slept with a man before,” Dave mumbled against his lips.
“Oh my god, really?” Klaus cooed. “I’m going to pop your man cherry?”
“I’ve always wanted to,” he continued, cupping Klaus’s face in his broad hand. “I went looking for other men… I touched them, kissed them, I just couldn’t—cross that line. And then you…” He kissed Klaus deeply, rubbing his thumb back and forth over his cheekbone. “You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” he murmured.
There were probably better ways to respond to that than wagging one’s finger and saying “backatcha,” but the mix of alcohol and pheromones was pretty potent, and Klaus had no other response. Dave did him the courtesy of ignoring that.
They stumbled over to the bed, still kissing and grasping at each other, and by the time Klaus’s knees hit the mattress he was topless and Dave’s shirt was unbuttoned. He had a very nice torso, warm and firm, and Klaus ran his palms over it in appreciation before collapsing back on the bed. Dave followed him more gracefully, kissing down his neck, down his chest, grazing his teeth over Klaus’s hipbone.
“Oh, baby,” Klaus moaned breathily, half a joke, and he tangled his hands in Dave’s hair. Dave laughed, took hold of one hand, and kissed his palm.
“Why the hell did you get these?” he asked as he interlaced their fingers.
“Because I can talk to ghosts.”
“You were high.”
“Of course I was high,” Klaus scoffed, and Dave chuckled and turned his arm around to kiss the umbrella on his wrist.
“What about this one?”
“Not my decision. Hargreeves family tradition, and if you want to keep talking about it, there’s no point in you hanging around down there, darling.”
“I live to serve, Your Majesty.”
With his free hand, he slowly pulled down Klaus’s zipper, kissing every inch of skin he exposed, and Klaus’s eyelids would have fluttered shut if it weren’t for the fact that Dave was so goddamn beautiful. He had been half-hard all night, driven crazy by the not-enough touches and the heat in the air and the smell of cheap whisky on Dave’s lips, and he wanted to catalog every detail as Dave locked eyes with him and sucked the head of his cock.
“Oh baby,” he whispered, less of a joke this time. “Fuck, just like that.”
Dave was pretty good, for being an almost-virgin, and Klaus was generous in his praise. After just a few minutes, though, Dave pulled off and shook his head.
“You have to stop,” he begged with a grin.
“I’ve sucked dick before, Klaus. You sound like my high school baseball coach.”
“What were you doing with your high school baseball coach?”
“You’re three seconds away from saying ‘nice job, champ’ and patting me on the ass.”
“Damn right I am,” Klaus grinned, and he bent over for a wet, filthy kiss and ended up dragging Dave on top of him. That was when he realized that Dave was still wearing pants, and for a while the whole point was moot because he had better things to do with his mouth.
It was remarkable, how easy it was. They were almost effortlessly compatible, and when they weren’t, corrections were made with a whisper and a joke and a featherlight touch. The corners of Klaus’s mouth ached from smiling—every five minutes they got distracted and slowed down to exchange soft kisses. The only real problem was that they had trouble finding a condom, which was frankly hilarious, given how many the Army passed out. But they had used a lot of them to keep mud and grit out of the barrels of their M-16s, and they were still drunk and didn’t have the fine motor skills to fish the few elusive rubbers out of Dave’s full pack. Eventually Dave turned the whole thing upside down, dumping its contents on the unused second bed.
“Ha!” he declared triumphantly.
“My hero. C’mon, c’mon, let’s go.”
He was impatient, then, and so was Dave, and they crashed into each other and left bruises and bite marks and scratches. They didn’t use enough lube, but Klaus bit his lip and didn’t say anything because their bodies were tangled up together at every point—Dave’s legs bracketing his, chest pressed against his back, chin tucked over his shoulder, fingers laced together. He didn’t to untangle them. The room was silent except for the faint hiss of Klaus’s breath, Dave’s gulps for air.
“Christ,” Dave whispered. He nudged Klaus’s neck with his nose. “Okay?”
He meant it, too, but Dave pulled out and applied more KY to his cock. Klaus flipped over to watch.
“Next time you sneak off into the bushes to jack off, you had better tell me.”
Dave laughed and leaned back suggestively.
“You don’t think that might be a little bit suspicious?”
“Hey, watching someone jack off is not sodomy. Trust me, I’m an expert. Speaking of which, what’s the hold up?”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Dave mumbled against his lips as he pressed in again, and that was even more perfect. Klaus fumbled for Dave’s hand and guided his arm around his neck.
He wasn’t quiet after that—Klaus never shut up, didn’t know how to shut up—but most of what he said was obscene or nonsensical or both. Dave mostly just moaned his name over and over. Klaus had never been particularly attached to his name (was it even his name, really? was he any more Klaus than he was Four?), but God, in Dave’s voice it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard.
They collapsed together afterwards, a sticky, sweaty, breathless mess on scratchy sheets in a shitty Vietnamese motel halfway through America’s greatest military disaster, with a time machine tucked under the bed beneath them.
It was insane. It was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
“That was amazing. C’mere,” Klaus growled playfully, tugging Dave close by the shoulders and dropping kisses wherever he could reach.
“Yeah,” Dave panted. “Yeah, that was…”
He took Klaus’s face in his hands and kissed him once, deeply, and then they both flopped down on the bed and were silent for a while. Klaus was curled up against Dave’s side, with his arm draped around his shoulders, and he let out a contented sigh. At some point, the buzz had started to fade. He didn’t know exactly what would happen if he were sober in a country that was slowly turning into an open graveyard, but he knew it would be bad, and so far he had managed to avoid it. Weed was surprisingly easy to come by here, even on the front lines.
“Hey,” he mumbled after a few minutes. “You got a joint?”
Dave answered in the affirmative and leaned over to rustle through the refuse of his pack.
“You smoke too much,” he said, fondly, as he stuck the joint between Klaus’s lips and lit it for him. Klaus pulled a face.
“Don’t spoil it, darling, you’re starting to sound like my brother. And my other brother, and all the rest of them, and a half-dozen shrinks and some paramedics and—”
“Stop,” Dave chuckled. He took a hit himself and passed it back, sitting up against the headboard. “Tell me about your family.”
“I thought you wanted me to shut up.”
“Never. Sometimes you just need a little… redirecting. Come on, you’ve mentioned them a little bit here and there but you haven’t told me everything. I don’t even know for sure how many siblings you have.”
“Well…” Klaus hesitated. “It’s complicated. We were all adopted, you see, and there were seven of us. Five boys and two girls. I was the fourth, but we were all—more or less the same age. One of my brothers ran away when he was thirteen. Ben, he died when we were twenty-two. That leaves me, Luther, Diego, and our sisters, Allison and Vanya.”
“And what do they do?”
“We’re not very close,” Klaus hedged, not knowing how to explain “lives on the moon” and “vigilante masked crimefighter” in 1968 terms. Dave graciously moved on.
“What about your parents?”
“Mom’s a housewife. Dad’s an asshole. Actually, he died just a few days before I got here, so he’s a dead asshole now, and no one’s crying about it.”
“That’s mean,” he admonished with a bit of a chuckle.
“So was he.” Klaus inhaled and held his breath for a moment, and let out a thin stream of smoke. “He didn’t have… parental instincts or… or feelings . He had a shit-ton of cash and very high expectations, that was all. And he pitted us against each other, that was the worst thing. Luther wanted to make Dad proud, Diego wanted to beat Luther, Allison wanted to be everyone’s favorite. Poor Vanya wanted to be somebody’s favorite. I just wanted to get out. And I ended up in fucking Vietnam,” he laughed. “Jesus.”
Dave wrapped his arms around Klaus and pulled him up so he was practically lying on top of him. He kissed the top of Klaus’s head.
“My dad was in the Army, too,” he said. “Fought in World War II. Landed at Omaha Beach, wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, won some medals and shit. Growing up, I wanted to be just like him. Dad played baseball in high school, I played baseball. Dad went to Bard, I went to Bard. Joined the family business… joined the Army. I didn’t even think the war was a great idea, but I had the chance so I took it. And the funny thing is…”
He trailed off. He wrapped a lock of Klaus’s hair around his finger over and over as he thought, and Klaus kissed his chest.
“Funny thing is, I don’t think doing any of that made my dad like me one bit more. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good dad and everything. He says he’s proud of me. But deep down, I know I’m not doing any of this shit because it’s actually what I want to do, and he knows it, too. Which is pretty pathetic.” He squeezed Klaus tighter. “If I went home with you on my arm, he’d be pissed. He wouldn’t like you and you wouldn’t like him—but if I had the balls to say I was running away with you to live on a hippie commune in San Francisco, I actually think he’d respect me more.”
Klaus shook with laughter.
“Let’s do it, baby.” He plucked the joint from his mouth and straddled Dave’s lap, draping his arms around his neck. “You and me. Let’s win a bunch of medals, go home, chuck ’em in the Bay and live that free love life. Just disco, weed, and sunshine from here on out.”
“You’re crazy,” Dave laughed.
“And if I said I was in love with you, would that make me crazy, too?”
The smile faded from Klaus’s face. He stared down into Dave’s—absurdly beautiful—baby blue eyes and wondered when—if—someone had last told him they loved him. A couple of hookups, caught up in the moment, who meant not I love you but I love your body, and rightfully so. Some other addicts with the absolute sincerity that came only with a high. Maybe Vanya, when they were eight or nine, before she gave up. He remembered saying it over and over to Ben around the time of his death, but dying-Ben hadn’t said it back, and dead-Ben had reverted to the polite facade that they were too cool for that kind of feelings shit.
Klaus didn’t know what to do with someone who loved him, so all he said was “Yeah. Yeah, it would.”
“I won’t say it, then,” Dave shrugged. There was a gentle smile on his lips, and he ran his hands through Klaus’s hair and pulled him down for a kiss. “But I am,” he whispered softly, and Klaus closed his eyes.
They were both starving, so after a bit of making out, Dave dressed and went to seek out food. He came back complaining about the lack of take-out options and the general lack of restaurants open at 2 AM, but Klaus considered four bánh mì and a six-pack of bottled Coke to be a successful haul. They sat on the bed and ate, swapping more stories. Dave talked about his mother, who died when he was nineteen, and his younger brother, and their rough collie, Laddie. (“Like Lassie,” Dave explained while Klaus laughed himself silly. “Except male—shut up, it was Jim’s idea, he was only eight.”) Dave wanted to get a dog for the commune in San Francisco. Klaus wanted a cat. They compromised and agreed on a terrier, as long as Klaus had blanket permission to feed any stray cats he came across, even if it made them come back over and over again.
Klaus didn’t talk much. He didn’t have as many good stories to tell, and he was high and tired and didn’t trust himself to give away some of the stranger details. He offered little details about his siblings in response to Dave’s stories, but mostly he listened. They talked about Saigon and gossipped about the guys in their unit. They fucked again—slower this time, stoned, sleepy, nowhere to go and nothing to do but enjoy each other’s presence. Dave fell asleep afterwards with the dorkiest smile on his face.
Klaus got up to piss, and when he left the bathroom, Ben was sitting on the empty bed.
“Aw shit,” Klaus sighed. “You’re back.”
“I’m back.” Ben watched gloomily as Klaus climbed into bed. “We’re not really staying here, are we?”
“You know, it’s weird that you’re even here,” Klaus said with a yawn. “How can you be a ghost in 1968 when you haven’t even been born yet? What would happen if we went to 1998 or something? Can you be dead then if you’re still alive? It’s an interesting thought—”
“I don’t know. Maybe! What does it really matter, anyway?”
“Those guys are after Five, and they’re going to hurt the others to get him. We have to go back. You belong with them.”
Maybe I belong with him, Klaus thought, running his fingers through Dave’s hair, but he didn’t say it. That was the kind of fairytale bullshit other people could dream about, but not them. And Ben was right. Ben was usually right.
“I guess,” he mumbled. “Fine. Fine, I’ll go back. Once my tour is over. Don’t look at me like that—it’s just a year. They won’t even notice, and I’ll have done my part for these guys, too.”
“Fine.” There was a pause. “Promise me you won’t conjure him, Klaus.”
“Maybe I won’t have to. 2019, he’ll be in his—what—mid-70s? A silver fox, I bet.”
“Klaus. Promise me.”
His fingers brushed against the curve of Dave’s jaw. His skin was smooth with the faintest scratch of stubble. He thought about what it would be like to see Dave and not touch him. Not being able to clasp his hand, bump against him when they walked, wind their arms together. Not being able to feel his breath or the warmth of him.
“I promise,” Klaus said with a dramatic sigh. Pulling the scratchy blanket over himself, he laid down and settled into the mattress. He rested his forehead against Dave’s shoulder and closed his eyes without looking back at Ben. “Don’t know why you’re being so pushy about this. It’s not like he’s the first person I’ve hooked up with, and they’re all going to die eventually. All that moving to Frisco stuff—it was just a joke.” He yawned. “It’s nothing that serious.”
“Yeah, right,” Ben muttered, but Klaus was already asleep.