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Pretend That We're Safe at the End

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It’s Klaus's fault.

Diego sighs and shakes his head. That’s not fair. Klaus didn’t mean to start anything this serious. Sure, he was looking to pick a fight, but it’s not fair for Diego to blame him for plucking the particular thread Diego’s about to pull on and unravel.

It started with Klaus, anyway. It started with Diego, Luther, Klaus, and their goddamn brotherly bonding time, by which Diego means they were playing pool in the basement like civilized men to avoid beating the shit out of each other. (Okay, mostly to avoid Diego beating the shit out of Luther. He’s man enough to admit that much.) Tensions had been high even with the apocalypse averted. Diego figures it was easier to tolerate each other when they were working towards a common, time-sensitive goal. Now that they’ve got time to kill, it’s even easier to fall back into old habits and poke at old wounds.

It's even easier when you're actively trying to badger someone with a sore spot, Diego finds.

"You only brought that up because it's my turn," says Luther, circling the pool table to get a better look at the angles between balls.

"Does that mean it's not working?" Diego asks, fighting back a grin.

Luther gives him a stony look in reply. "For the last time, I was the leader because I was the best."

Klaus laughs around a mouthful of beer. "Best at giving head, maybe."

Luther's head snaps around to look him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Klaus finishes swallowing then claps his hands together. "When a woman loves a man, or a man loves a man, or a non-gender-conforming person with a certain subset of genitalia - "

"Stop," says Luther, waving him off. Diego actually laughs. "I got that, I just don't... you know what, never mind." He leans over the table, propping his cue up behind the white ball.

"I meant," Klaus starts up again, "that it was probably easy to stay leader of the pack given how often Daddy Dearest had you suck his dick."

Diego snorts against his will. Luther's hand twitches on his cue stick, but he's surprisingly quiet.

"No, no, I get it now," Klaus rambles, "that's the real reason you were Number One, wasn't it, buddy? God, he was rating us was on a scale of hotness, not usefulness!" Klaus turns to Diego and winks. "Not so bad for you, Number Two."

"Can we please focus?" says Luther, still frozen lining up his shot.

"Oh, but with that face, and that body," Klaus continues, once again turning his attention on their brother. "Once Sir Reginald didn't have those sweet, sweet abs around to distract him, he had to send you to the moon. Couldn't get it up anymore with the Hulkified version of his favorite rent boy hanging around and dragging the vibe of the place down."

Luther's massive shoulders hunch even more, and he glares over at Klaus. "You don't know what you're talking about," he says.

Diego hasn't moved, but he feels like he tripped somehow. He doesn't know what they're talking about anymore. Klaus is being Klaus, saying dumb shit like always. Luther should know that. And sure, it's just like his brother to get defensive, but he isn't usually this guarded about it. There's typically a bombastic speech or fists involved in his posturing.

"Oh, no, I understand, Luther," Klaus replies. "I'm sure you got plenty tired of all the debriefings over the years, too, hmm?"

The pun is so bad Diego has to groan. Luther huffs and finally takes his shot. The balls all ricochet, not a single one going into a hole.

Five's entrance saves Diego from dwelling on it any further. It gives Klaus a new target to mock and Luther a new target to lecture once Five decides he's bored enough to join their game. That's the end of it.

At least, that should be the end of it.

Except Diego can’t stop thinking about it. He worries that afternoon over in his mind while on patrol that night, replaying Klaus’s words and Luther’s micro-actions, over-analyzing every detail. The more he thinks, the worse he gets.

It’s stupid, worrying about his oaf of a brother. Luther’s a dick; he’s always been a dick. Still, Diego knows, being a dick and being a victim aren’t mutually exclusive.

It makes Diego’s stomach turn, how easily he can picture it happening. Luther met with Reginald in private after every mission. Sure, they’d all always had some kind of meeting with dear old Dad afterwards, but Luther was the one he spent the most time on. It wasn’t like anyone kept track of how long he was in Dad’s study. No one would have thought to check in on them, to stop them, and Luther would have been too proud to tell anyone back then, not even Mom. He never did trust their family as much as Diego did, despite living with Mom and Reginald well into adulthood.

Diego stops dead in his tracks, for a moment so disoriented he doesn’t know where he’s standing. Did Luther ever actually deny being a virgin when Diego had asked him all those weeks ago? God, Diego hopes he's wrong, hopes he's having an overactive imagination for once, but the signs are stacking up and they aren't in his favor.

Once the lead is there, not knowing is always worse than knowing. That's why Diego finds himself breaking into Luther's room at the mansion in the early hours of the morning. Sure, he could wait until later, but he needs to know they won't be interrupted. Besides, something tells him Luther won't be sleeping tonight.

Sure enough, his brother is awake. Luther's standing by his dresser and flipping through his record collection, gloved fingers a bit clumsy with the cardboard sleeves. He glances up as Diego pries his window open and rolls into his room, but he doesn't react otherwise.

Diego takes off his mask and takes a second to mentally regroup. "Luther."

"Something I can do for you?" his brother asks, voice flat. The shadows of the low light make him look even more tired than he sounds.

Diego shifts his weight between feet. There isn't a good or easy way to do this.

"What did he make you do? Hargreeves?"

Luther flinches. It's easy to miss with how he tends to carry his 'new' body, but something about the bristling of fur ruffling his shirt's fabric is just noticeable enough for it to be a tell.

"I don't know what you mean," Luther replies.

Diego sighs; he knows he shouldn't have come out swinging. It only put his brother even more on defense. But God does he not want to be explaining his fucking thought process right now because it's disgusting enough as is.

"This afternoon," Diego says slowly, like he's talking to a child. "Klaus said - "

"Klaus said a lot of dumb things this afternoon," Luther argues. "He made a stupid joke, just like always, so you can drop it and go home, Diego."

That gives Diego pause. Usually when he's mad, Luther's the first to pull rank. Usually he'll forego names and play the "Number Two" card. Hell, he'll even use their codenames before using Diego's real name. This isn't right.

"Deny it then," Diego insists, crossing his arms over his chest.

Luther groans and leans his head back to glare up at the ceiling. "Dad was a good man," he says.

"Bullshit," Diego snaps. Reginald Hargreeves was a monster. Diego didn’t realize just how much of one until today.

Luther squeezes his eyes shut. "We are not talking about this," he grits out. "It was nothing."

Diego wants to cross the room and shake him. "It wasn't nothing," he argues instead. "I don’t know what it was, but…" He pauses; he's still angry, but it's settling into something else now, something like dread and compassion mixed together.

"You don’t have to keep defending him," Diego continues. "You don’t have to tell me anything either, I just… want to know. I mean, you lived here alone with him after we all left, and you were a fucking jackass sometimes, but God, you shouldn't..." He has to stop to clear his throat. It feels tight for some reason.

There's a long pause. Luther doesn't move, neck still bent, eyes still closed.

"Why does it matter?" his brother asks finally. His voice is hoarse even though he hasn't spoken in minutes.

Diego shrugs, suddenly feeling self-conscious. "Because you're family? Because you were just a kid like the rest of us?" Luther always seemed so untouchable, the Golden Boy, Number One. Diego should have figured there wasn't anything beneath that pedestal he'd put his brother on.

It's quiet again for a long time. Luther breathes in and out like it's all he cares about. Diego watches him, then clears his throat.

"Say it didn't happen, and I'll leave," Diego says.

Luther opens his eyes. "It didn't..." he starts. His voice cracks on the second word, and he trails off, blinking up at his model planes strung up above them.

"Luther." Diego's tense all over. He wants the truth, but part of him also wants Luther to deny it, to say Diego's in the wrong and to hustle him out the door. He isn't sure what to do if he winds up being right.

Luther shakes his head slightly. "It wasn't... Every time." He clears his throat. "It wasn't every time. It was just... when I did good, I guess. When a mission went really well or I set a new record during training. It was... probably some kind of reward. I don't know, I tried not to think about it too much when it was happening."

“Jesus fuck.” Diego acts on instinct, crossing the room in two strides. His fists find the front of Luther’s coat, clutching and pulling almost hard enough to tear. His brother resists, but Diego pulls him closer and snakes his arms around Luther’s broad back. “Fuck.” His fingernails scrabble at the back of Luther’s coat. He’s so angry he’s shaking.

Luther hisses like he’s in pain. “Diego,” he growls, voice rumbling into Diego where they’re pressed chest-to-chest. “Let me go right now, or I swear – "

“Shut up,” says Diego. “Shut up, shut up, shut up.” He swallows hard against the bile rising in his throat. He doesn't want to be hugging Luther, but he doesn't know what else to do to show his support, his anger and grief. If he keeps talking, he's going to scream.

Luther stands completely still for a minute. That's fine, Diego thinks. God knows they're both still processing whatever the hell Luther just said.

He feels Luther's hands hovering over his back before Luther actually touches him, huge paws carefully coming to rest around Diego's shoulders.

Luther sniffs, so quiet Diego would have missed it if he hadn't stopped breathing. Shit.

Luther sniffs again, and the next breath he takes is watery. His whole, hulking body shudders under Diego's grasp. This is so much worse than being pushed away and yelled at, Diego thinks, but he holds on even tighter.

Luther's grip on Diego goes from gentle to crushing, and then his brother is breaking down around him. It's like his feelings go everywhere. It's been building for years, and as he's towering over Diego, Diego can practically feel the waves of sadness breaking around him.

"He did... so much... I don't even know..." Luther probably doesn't even realize he's talking. He isn't making sense; Diego could string the fragments into something coherent if he tried, but he isn't trying, not right now, he can't anymore. Fuck if Hargreeves didn't sink to a new low every single day, even in the afterlife. Their 'dad' is a soggy pile of ashes in the courtyard downstairs, and that's still better than that bastard deserved. Jesus. A couple of furious tears burn their way down Diego's cheeks.

Diego doesn't know how long they stand like that, him clutching at Luther's jacket as Luther cries over him. Eventually, his brother starts to burn out. His sobbing quiets into hiccups. His arms loosen a little but don't let go of Diego completely.

"Who else knows?" Diego mumbles into Luther's chest. It's not the most pressing question he has, but he isn't sure he can stomach the answers for anything else tonight.

"I don't know," Luther replies. His voice is ragged but not completely wrecked. Maybe he feels better now that he's gotten some of the pain out. "I never told anyone. I doubt it's on the tapes, and I don't know if anyone else figured..."

"Probably not," says Diego. He can tell it was the right thing to say by the way Luther relaxes against him.

Luther keeps breathing, in and out, in and out until it evens out. He gives Diego a final squeeze before pulling back. His face is a mess, red and blotchy and streaked with tears. He looks embarrassed, but he doesn't bother to wipe it off.

Luther swallows and looks away from Diego toward the window. Then he looks back at his brother. His eyes well with tears again.

"I don't know what to do," he confesses quietly, brokenly.

Diego exhales and claps him on the shoulder. "Sleep on it," he says, tone brokering no room for argument. "I'll be down the hall if you need anything."

Luther frowns. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," says Diego, taking a step toward the door. "We can talk more in the morning if you feel like it."

Luther sniffs again, then moves toward the bed. "Yeah," he says again. "We'll see."

Diego watches him from the doorway, then flicks off the lights once Luther is settled on his mattress. He closes the door to Luther staring at him as the space between them grows.