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Amidst the Chaos

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"Only the dead have seen the end of war." - Plato

People say 'war is hell' - and it is, but the statement is lacking in a way you can't understand until you live it.

There isn't a word, in any language, to describe the true horror of warfare.

Dave's been in country for a little over three months, and every day is worse than the one before. The weather is shit. Long, hard days spent hiking through the dense jungle in sweltering heat. Bugs the size of your head sucking your blood, leaving giant infected welts in their wake. Being drenched in sweat all day, no idea when your next shower will be. Air so thick you feel like you are drinking it. The disgusting stench of the jungle. Decaying plant matter and decaying bodies mixing together in a putrid perfume so strong you gag with every breath.

The sweet relief of the rain, until that relief becomes a whole new torture. Endless hours of downpours, monsoon rains pelting you until you can't see two inches in front of your face.

And then comes the mud. So thick you could lose your boot in the muck. And it gets everywhere. Caking every inch of exposed skin, seeping into your eyes, filling your mouth. Down your throat and up your ass. Every movement hindered by the thick film of filth on your body.

The weather is not the only challenge that comes with missions in the jungle. Predatory animals, poisonous snakes, giant fucking spiders. Never mind booby traps and jungle rot. Fevers and malaria, god damn yellow fever.

It never ends.

Dave knew it was going to be bad, but even his worst nightmares had nothing on the bleak reality he's living these days.

And that's not even taking into account the ceaseless violence. Dave has seen more men die in the past ninety days than any one man should have to. He's even killed two men himself in his short stint incountry. It makes him sick to think about it, and he thinks about it entirely too much.

There is too much everything in this godforsaken place. Too much death, too much blood. Too much rain, too much disease. Too much fear, too much hate.

Dave has felt like he was dying since the moment he stepped off transport and into his unit. He doesn't belong here. He's a teacher for Christ's sake, not a killer.

But looking around his squad, he realized a long time ago, none of these men were killers before they got here.

Who and what you were before matters little in the jungle. The only thing that matters is staying alive and killing Charlie.

Dave sighs, dropping down on his rickety cot in the tent he shares with six other grunts. He was glad to at least be back at the Firebase, and not sleeping in the god damn jungle again. His squad had been on patrol for days, humping the boonies, eyeballing the godforsaken bush for Charlie. They just crawled back to base camp as the sun was setting. The lines for the showers were ridiculously long, so Dave just scrubbed up as best he could out of a bucket by the front of the tent before falling down on his cot, exhausted.

Dallas, Ace and Winston were playing spades in the corner of the tent, laughing loudly and passing a joint between them. It had been a long day for them too. They had lost someone earlier that morning.

Collins was just a kid. Nineteen, drafted from some shit small town in Mississippi. He'd gotten in country just after Dave. He was small, and scared, and missed his mom. He wasn't cut out for this war, and it showed.

He'd been bitten by a two-step Charlie that the VC had nailed to a low hanging tree branch. The snakes were called two-step Charlies because the rumor was once you were bitten, you could only take two steps before you were dead.

It took much longer for Collins to die. Dave had sat with him in the Ward Tent for hours, watching him struggle to breathe until he finally just stopped. Dave had begged Doc for some fucking antivenom, only for Doc to reply that they'd been out of antivenom for months, still waiting on a resupply.

Collins had died from a treatable snakebite.

It wasn't the first pointless, preventable death Dave had witnessed incountry, but he had a feeling this one was going to stick with him. Collins' scared face as he gasped for breath, begging Dave to tell his mom he loved her.

Jesus fuck.

Dave closed his eyes, breathing deeply against the impending panic attack. There was no way he could lose his shit now. He had to keep it together.

"Yo, Katz, you wanna smoke some grass?" Dallas asks, pulling Dave out of his head and back into the room. Dave glanced over, and all three men had abandoned their card game and were passing a joint around.

Dave sat up, running a hand through the dirty curls atop his head before grabbing the joint from Dallas's outstretched hand.

This was another thing Dave didn't do before the war. Sure, he'd done his fair share of partying when he was in college, who doesn't? But he'd never been one to just get high for no reason.

Although, one could argue that this war was a pretty good reason.

He inhaled deeply, letting the acrid smoke fill his lungs until he was lightheaded, passing it back to Dallas and falling back down onto his shitty cot. He coughed a bit, weed in the bush was strong, but harsh. He blew out his hit, blinking up at the canvas roof of the tent. He was tired as hell and just wanted a little bit of sleep before the shells started falling from the sky again.

But of course, he couldn't sleep. His mind was going a mile a minute. Thinking about the men they'd lost this week, how much longer his tour was, and the life he left back in Philly.

Dave's life wasn't anything special back in the states, but he liked it. Or he had liked it before he shipped out.

Dave grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania with his baby sister and his parents. He'd lived the quintessential American childhood, with one glaring exception.

He was gay.

Not that anyone knew that back home.

As far as his family and friends were concerned, he was David Katz, practicing Jew, enthusiastic English teacher, moderately good bowler, still waiting for the right girl.

It had gotten easier when he moved to Philly, where no one knew him. He could frequent the gay clubs there, meeting all kinds of men he'd never come across in his everyday life.

But none of those men were anything more than a fling. Dave has yet to meet a man worth more than a few dates. A man worth risking everything for. He wonders sometimes if that kind of this is even possible for someone like him.

So yes, he was still very much 'in the closet.' (a term he'd learned when he'd moved to Philadelphia. It fit, though. He certainly was hiding.) He just doesn't know if he's brave enough to admit to the wider world that he's attracted to men.

Hell, he could have told the Draft board he was a Mary, and he wouldn't even be here right now.

But he couldn't do that. It would have been the end of his career. The end of his life.

Hell, his life may be already over, and he just doesn't know it yet.

Dead man walking, as they say.

But no, fuck that. He's gonna stick this shit out and make it home.

Cuz fuck Charlie for trying to kill him. And fuck the government for sending him to this hellhole in the first place.

Dave's surviving on spite and stubbornness at this point.

But in the long run, none of that bravado means shit. Because in the end, deep down, Dave is a coward.

He's brave enough to put his life on the line in this war, brave enough to take another human life, but too chickenshit to admit he's a faggot.

The irony is not lost on Dave.

He's afraid. Of who he is.

God, maybe that grass was a bad idea. Dave gets all introspective and melancholy when he smokes. He closes his eyes, tucking one of his hands behind his head, letting the high wash over him and the noise in his head fade away.

By some miracle, he's actually about to nod off. His body is loose from the weed, his mind quiet for the first time in days. It feels nice.

Until all hell breaks loose.

There's a noise. Not gunfire or mortars. No, it's this weird static zapping sound, like out of Star Trek or something. A bright light fills the room, making the back of Dave's eyelids glow red.

Dave must be higher than he thought.

He pries his eyes open and is shocked to find a stranger sitting on Collins' bed.

What the fuck?

The boys have stopped their game, all three of them staring at the newcomer with wide eyes and open mouths.

Dave sits up on his elbows, taking in this strange man that seemed to have materialized out of thin air.

He's a mess. That's the first thing Dave notices. He's wearing nothing but an open overcoat and a bloody towel. He's barefoot too, strangely. He's covered in blood and bruises, and looks like he hasn't slept or eaten in days. He's clutching a black leather briefcase like a lifeline, which is odd for a war zone.

The man looks perplexed and horrified. He doesn't even look around the tent, he just stares right at Dave, his head cocked to the side, his expression a mixture of confusion and shock.

Dave stares right back. How fucking high is he? Where the hell did this guy come from? Did he really just appear in the tent outta the blue? Is he really even here?

The rest of the guys look just as confused, glancing between each other with wary eyes.

The man opens his mouth, and Dave finds he's incredibly curious to see what he has to say.

But before the man can utter a single word, the shells start falling from the sky again. One hits not too far from Firebase, and the ground trembles.

Dave is up and moving in an instant. Sarg is at the mouth of their tent a second later. Screaming bloody fucking murder.

"Incoming!!" Sarg bellows. "Outside ladies! Charlie's on the water!"

The men scatter all over the small tent, knocking shit over and stumbling around each other in a clusterfuck of jerky movements as they struggle to get their gear back on.

The bombs are still falling, and now gunshots are ringing out around the camp.

The strange newcomer (who Dave is now certain is NOT a beautiful hallucination) is still sitting stock still on Collins' bunk, looking utterly petrified.

Dave has his pants on at this point and is pulling on his dirty, blood stained vest when Sarg looks over at the bewildered stranger and starts screaming right in his face.

"What the fuck is your malfunction, asshole? War's not gonna wait for you to get pretty. Get your scrawny ass in gear!"

The man shakes his head, mumbling out a low 'Oh no, I, no, you don't...' - but Sarg cuts him off, turning toward Dave with a scowl just as another mortar drops, shaking the earth beneath their feet.

"Katz! Get this man operational." Sarg says, shaking his head in disgust and storming out of the tent. "Don't look at me, get those pants on. Someone get him a gun."

Dave obeys the order immediately, handing the man his only other pair of pants. He turns to his buddies, eyebrows raised. "Someone get this cat a shirt and a fucking cover for Christ's sake."

Dallas chuckles, and it sounds odd in the fraught situation. He tosses a t shirt at the man, just as Ace plonks a dented helmet on the dude's curly head. The kid stands, dropping his towel and dressing as quickly as his spindly little legs will allow. He kicks his briefcase under his cot as he zips his pants and soon everyone is running out into the fray. Dave tosses Collins' rifle to the new guy, noticing the brief flash of panic that spreads across his face. It's gone as soon as it appears, and Dave doesn't have time to wonder about it anyway.

He follows his unit out into the dark unknown, gun up, senses on high alert. He doesn't think about the mysterious newcomer for the rest of the night, too engrossed in staying alive to wonder about much anything besides not getting shot.

 

***

 

Klaus fucked up. That's not new. But the magnitude of this particular fuck up is a rare thing indeed.

All he had wanted to do was escape his torturers. Maybe pawn their stupid luggage and get off E. He had been beaten senseless for hours, and he was dopesick as a motherfucker. So it was fair to say he wasn't thinking all that clearly when he'd shimmied through the air duct toward freedom.

The look he got from the bus driver was hilarious. The old bird had just glared at Klaus in his bloody towel, jerking her head toward the back of the bus. Klaus wasn't going to complain about the free ride.

When he'd opened the briefcase, he'd expected money or something pawnable. Maybe drugs if he was lucky.

But Klaus had never been lucky, and the moment those clasps clicked on that godforsaken case, Klaus had zapped out of existence in a surge of blue light and popped up in a whole new world.

He's been on autopilot since then. Just doing whatever the big loud dude says. He'd spent the entire night in some swampy ass hell hole, clutching a gun he didn't really know how to use and ducking every time he heard a noise. He stayed close to the other guys around him, but didn't say a single word. All he had to do was ride this out, whatever THIS was, get back to that dingy little tent, and figure out how to ride that god damn briefcase home.

He didn't belong here. Wherever this was.

The night was a drawn out blur of gunfire and screaming. Thick black smoke burned his lungs, fires raging on all sides of their position. Klaus held his gun in his arms, hyper aware of every little sound. He was jumpy and sick to his stomach.

The fact that he desperately needed a fix only compounded the gravity of the situation.

His throat ached and his eyes burned with tears he refused to shed. Fuck that. He wasn't gonna break.

He'd been through worse, he told himself.

After what felt like an eternity, the gunfire tapered off. The fires burned themselves out and the sun began to creep through the thick jungle canopy. Klaus was exhausted, having spent the last half hour dry heaving into the underbrush.

When the other soldiers stood and started marching out of the bush, Klaus followed. He kept his eyes down, watching his booted feet on the worn jungle path. His body ached, his muscles screaming for drugs. His stomach was still roiling, threatening another round of futile rebellion.

God, he needed to get straight.

Soon, the men were on a dirt road, the sun beating down on them over the mountain. An ancient looking yellow school bus stood in the middle of the road. Klaus followed the men onto the bus, hoping to God that it was taking him back to the camp where he'd left his case.

He fell into a seat, cradling his rifle between his spread legs. The bus groaned, jerking to life and starting down the winding mountain path. Klaus's body rocked with the motion as he stared off into space, contemplating this insane turn of events.

Someone sat down across the isle from him, but Klaus didn't look over. The less attention he draws to himself the better.

He doesn't want to find out what would happen to him if the higher ups learned he didn't belong here.

He's drawn out of his thoughts by a gentle hand on his shoulder. He turns to find the man from the previous evening sitting behind him. Klaus remembers him.

How could he forget him? He is wearing his pants, after all.

"You just get in country?" the man asks, and Klaus wants to laugh.

What country? He still doesn't know.

Klaus smiles. Can't help it. This guy is gorgeous. "Yeah." he replies simply.

"Shit's crazy, I know." the man replies, giving Klaus a smile of his own and Klaus can't look away.

"Yeah." Klaus says again, like a simpleton.

"You'll adjust." the man says, and the words are so kind, said so sincerely. "I'm Dave." and he offers his hand.

Klaus turns a little in his seat, hand out. "Klaus." when their hands clasp, Klaus swears a little thrill shoots up his arm.

Curious.

Klaus is eager to continue the conversation, but just then the Big Loud guy from last night makes his way up the bus isle, clearly gunning for Klaus.

"Explain yourself, soldier." the grumpy guy says.

Klaus is at a loss. "Excuse me?"

"That's excuse me sir, soldier." the guy spat. "And you call me Sargent Dix."

"Yes sir, Sargent Dix?" Klaus replies, more of a question than anything. Dave is trying not to laugh, hiding his face in his hand as Klaus fumbles through the interaction with their superior.

"I said explain. How the fuck did you end up in my unit? Where are your dog tags? Who's your commanding officer? Where the hell is your unit?" Sarg rattles off these questions and Klaus has to think quick.

He's still sick as shit, and beat to hell. He's got dry blood all over his face and bruises all along his neck and exposed chest.

So he decides to use his injuries to his advantage, praying to God that this works and he doesn't end up in some CIA black site, condemned as a spy.

"I uh, don't recall, sir." Klaus replies, trying to convey the utmost sincerity. "I woke up in the jungle. I was hurt real bad. Must've gotten separated from my unit. I lost everything."

"You lost your god damn dog tags? What kind of sad excuse for a soldier are you?" Sarg barks.

"I think I hit my head, sir." Klaus mutters, starting to sweat under the commander's intense glare.

"Well god damn it, what the fuck is your name? We're gonna have to get you a new set. We gotta be able to identify your corpse when you get your stupid ass killed."

Klaus grimaces at the statement. "Hargreeves, sir. Klaus Hargreeves."

"Well Hargreeves, you're stuck with us until we can figure out where you belong. Don't know when that's gonna happen, if you hadn't noticed, we got more important shit going on than babysitting asshole cherries. You keep fucking up like this, and I'll send you home with two broken legs myself, am I clear?"

"Yes sir." Klaus replied, more confused than ever.

He falls back in his seat, his head pounding and his anxiety spiking. He needs a hit, so fucking bad. If he's gonna be stuck in this hellscape, he's gonna have to either pilfer the Medical Tent or make some shady friends. He has his eye on a couple guys already. He can spot his own kind from a mile away. The prominent track marks on their arms, the glazed over look in their eyes, the lazy, slow way they move.

Klaus isn't stupid, he knows it's dangerous to get high in a war zone. He should be sharp, ready for anything at any moment.

But as he glances out the bus window and sees a young girl with her throat slashed standing in the tall grass at the edge of the road, Klaus knows sobriety will be worse than any torture this war can throw at him.

The longer they are on the bus, the more dead congregate on the side of the road. Soldiers with half their heads missing, civilians with limbs hanging loose from their bodies by shreds of flesh. One particularly troubling sight is a heavily pregnant woman with a gaping gunshot wound right in her swollen belly. Klaus almost puked all over himself when she cried out, one bloody hand reaching out for him as he rode past her in the bus.

Once they get back to their camp, Klaus heaves himself off the bus and walks right up to one of the guys he noticed on the ride. He doesn't have time to fuck around, especially when the dead pregnant girl seems to have followed him back to camp.

"Hey." Klaus says, waving to the nameless soldier with his 'hello' hand.

"Hi?" the guy responds, quirking an eyebrow.

"Um, this is going to sound odd, but I am in need of a bit of assistance."

The guy looks him up and down, taking in Klaus's appearance with a critical eyes. Klaus knows he doesn't look like the other soldiers, but all his make up was washed away ages ago in some biblical rainstorm they endured on their little jungle excursion.

"What?" the guy barks, and Klaus flinches.

"Um, I'm feeling a bit unwell, and I'd rather not bother the doctor with it if I could avoid it..." Klaus trails off meaningfully, his eyes flitting down to the fresh track marks on the guy's arms.

The guy laughs, scrubbing the back of his matted head with dirty fingers. "You got balls, man. What's your name?"

"Klaus, and you are?"

"Benny." the guy says, and Klaus's heart jumps. God, he hasn't thought of Ben since he landed in this bizarro world. It hits Klaus in that moment that he hasn't seen Ben a single time since he opened the briefcase. Klaus hopes he's okay, hopes he didn't lose him somewhere in the transdimentional shuffle. "I could probably help you out, whatcha got to trade?"

Klaus blanches, his hands moving to the pockets of his uniform vest. Nothing. He wracks his brain, coming up sadly empty. It's not like he packed for this trip.

Benny laughs. "Figured. I heard what happened to you. Lost in the fucking bush, that must've been scary. I guess I can help you out, but you better fucking get me back when the C's come in."

Klaus nodded, even though he had no idea what the hell Benny was talking about.

Benny glanced around, making sure the coast was clear before he stuffed his hand in his pocket and passed Klaus a small paper parcel.

"What is it?" Klaus asks, pocketing the package quickly. He didn't much care what it was, but it was good to at least have an idea what kind of high he was in for.

"Smack, kid." Benny laughed, shaking his head. "So go easy, yeah? If Sarge catches you stoned outta your gourd, he's gonna use your ass for target practice. And you didn't get it from me."

Klaus nods again, his body already reacting to a drug he hasn't even ingested yet. His muscles were stricken with a fresh wave of pain, his stomach clenching as a new layer of sweat formed on the back of his neck.

"You owe me." Benny reiterated. "I'll find you." it sounded moderately like a threat, but Klaus couldn't be bothered to care.

He nodded once more before turning on his heel in search of a quiet place he could be alone for a minute, trying to ignore the throngs of mutilated dead shuffling all around him.

Sweet relief was only moments away.

Suddenly, a thought occurred to Klaus. He stopped dead in his tracks, calling out to the other soldier as he turned to walk away.

"Hey, Benny?"

Benny turned, arms out. "What?"

"Um, where are we right now?"

Benny quirked an eyebrow. "What the fuck? What do you mean? We're in the god damn jungle."

"I know that, but which jungle?" Klaus pleaded. He knew he sounded batshit crazy, but he had to know.

"Jesus, you really musta hit your head hard." Benny chuckled. "We're in the A Shau Valley, kid. Vietnam? You know, where the fucking war is?" with that Benny turned, shaking his head as he walked away from Klaus.

Klaus swallowed, anxiety flooding his system.

Oh, he really did it this time.

 

***

 

Dave is lounging on his bunk, reading a letter from Suzy, a girl from his home town. His parents gave her his address incountry in hopes that the letters would lift his spirits. Dave can admit, it does help. That tether to the outside world, where everything isn't a crazy life or death situation. He clearly doesn't have any type of feelings for Sue, but he reads her letters over and over. News about the Phillies season, or the anti-war protests at Drexel University. Gossip about people back in their hometown, just little drabbles to distract Dave from the reality he's living right now.

He sits up on his bed, deciding to write back. He grabs his tiny pad of paper and an envelope. Resupply finally came today, and the helo dropped all those precious items the unit had been sorely missing for the past few weeks. Medical supplies, C-rations, cigarettes, new uniforms, blankets and canteens. Along with bullets, mortars, hand grenades, all that happy shit.

The simple pleasures of these creature comforts can not be overstated. Dave smiles for the first time in days. It's quiet in the camp now, and Dave's going to take advantage of it while it lasts. He pulls out his pen and starts writing. He keeps his letters home upbeat and impersonal. No one wants to hear what war is really like.

He's only got about two sentences done when the flap of the tent flies open and Klaus comes barreling inside. There's no one else in the tent right now, all the boys a few tents down drinking hooch and playing poker. Dave's not in the mood to be social tonight.

Looks like he doesn't have much of a choice now.

Klaus stumbles into the tent, mumbling to himself quietly. His eyes are bloodshot and his lips are twisted into a loopy smile.

Klaus has been with the unit for about two weeks now. Dave still isn't sure how he ended up here. The story going around the unit is that Klaus got separated from his own unit, hit his head and now has some kind of amnesia.

Dave's not sure he buys that, but it's not his place to challenge the guy. They have been friendly enough since Klaus showed up, but Dave has been purposefully keeping his distance.

There is something dangerous about Klaus, something that simultaneously enraptures and terrifies Dave. He's not like anyone he's ever met in the world or the war. He's louder than he should be for the situation he finds himself in. Some of the things he says are so bizarre, so suggestive. Words that could end with him getting his ass beat or worse. But Klaus doesn't seem to care.

Not only that, but he has zero survival instinct. The first few days Klaus was with the unit, he was nervous and reserved, but as time went on, he became more and more bold. Now he's the first one into the fray, every time. Dave thinks it must have something to do with all the drugs he's on. Klaus isn't even discreet about it. He has some kind of deal going on with Marshall. Dave knows Benny is a dope fiend. Heroin, which is sadly easy to come by incountry. But not only that, Klaus got hip to the meds Doc passes out when soldiers can't stay awake.

Stimulants. That's what Doc calls them. But Dave just calls it speed. Because that's what it is. Dave doesn't like taking it. Only ever does when Doc orders it, after a long night of fighting with no chance for sleep before the next patrol starts.

But Klaus can't get enough. Dave's not sure he's ever seen the other man sober.

It doesn't matter to Dave, though. Because Klaus is a good soldier. He keeps up with the unit, pulls his weight. He's mouthy sometimes, pisses Sarg off something fierce, but he gets the job done, every time. Dave is never worried with Klaus watching his six.

Sometimes, though, he can be a bit odd. Like right now...

Klaus startles when he sees Dave sitting on his bunk. His hand goes flying to his chest, a little yelp slipping past his chapped lips.

"Christ, Davey, warn a guy." Klaus sighs, dropping down on his cot like dead weight.

"I was just sitting here." Dave replies, laughing.

"Thought you'd be over with the boys playing cards." Klaus replies, his eyes flitting down to the paper in Dave's lap. "Writing home?"

"Not really, just a girl I grew up with." Dave replies, shrugging.

"Oh! Davey's got a lady." Klaus giggles, waggling his eyebrows.

"No, no." Dave shakes his head. "Just a old family friend. I, uh, don't have a girl." Dave's not sure why he shares so much, but he can't seem to help himself.

Klaus smiles, his eyes twinkling. "Yeah, I'm not the girlfriend type myself." Klaus knows it's a dangerous game he's playing, but he can't be bothered to care. He doesn't really feel like he's actually here at all a lot of the time. With the briefcase tucked safely under his bunk, he feels oddly emboldened to do and say whatever he feels in the moment.

But that's a dangerous way to think. He still doesn't know how to work the briefcase, it's not like he can just zap himself back home. He could end up in the stone age or a slave in ancient Rome. It's best to stay put until he figures it out.

So he really should reign in his behavior.

The only problem is Klaus isn't sure he's capable of reigning anything in. He's always been an act first, think later type of person.

Look where that got him.

"No? No one special back home?" Dave's gentle voice pulls Klaus out of his head and Klaus smiles at him. Sometimes, when Klaus is feeling especially good, (drugs in Vietnam are STRONG) he can fool himself in to thinking Dave sees him the way Klaus sees Dave.

Klaus knows it's crazy. He's crazy, after all. But now and again, Klaus swears he sees something in Dave's eyes. Something Klaus feels down to his very bones. Intrigue. Longing. Desire.

Klaus is probably off his damn rocker, fucked up on his own hormones and this increasingly debilitating crush he has on the handsome soldier. But sometimes he feels Dave's eyes on him, hot on his back. Klaus will turn around and Dave will look away quickly, a light blush breaking out on his neck like clockwork, every single time.

Klaus is probably building it up in his head, but he can't help himself. Dave is just so wonderful. He's by far the nicest guy in the unit, never loses his temper with Klaus. He is always willing to answer any questions Klaus has, no matter how outlandish or confusing Dave finds them.

He's also funny and smart and sexy as fuck.

Klaus has a serious problem.

Yet, here he is.

"No." Klaus answers Dave's question. "I've never had anyone special. Just wasn't in the cards for me." Klaus hold his hands out in a 'what can you do?' gesture, and Dave nods.

Dave eyes Klaus's curious palm tattoos, but decides that's a conversation for another day.

"I get that." Dave replies quietly. "It hasn't been easy for me either." Dave keeps his answer purposefully vague. He's not willing to expose himself. Not even to Klaus, who Dave is sure would never judge him.

"You? Really?" Klaus balks, sitting up straight. He looks Dave up and down with a little smirk. "But you're the total package, Davey. I imagine the ladies fall all over themselves to get to you." he's teasing, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Dave blushes again, and it's the cutest thing Klaus has ever seen, in any timeline.

"Yeah, well...." Dave replies cryptically, and Klaus's interest is piqued. He opens his mouth to retort when Dallas and Winston stumble in, clearly drunk on rice wine again.

"Boys!" Dallas grins, falling down on his cot. "What's good?"

And just like that the little bubble around Klaus and Dave has popped, and the tent erupts with laughter and chatter.

Klaus glances over at Dave, but the other man has gone back to writing his girl.

Klaus is an idiot. He has to keep reminding himself of the facts of the matter.

Dave is a good friend, and a good soldier. Nothing more.

Klaus decides to join the boys' conversation. They appreciate his tall tales. Or what they think are tall tales.

He spins stories of his childhood for hours on end. He keeps it vague, never mentioning the Umbrella Academy by name. Instead he talks about growing up rich, with an eccentric, distant father and a gaggle of adopted siblings. It's the abridged version of his childhood antics, but the boys eat it up regardless.

Everyone once in a while Klaus will glance in Dave's direction.

But the other man is never looking back.

It doesn't matter, anyway. Klaus is done for. Utterly smitten. Just like that. Right out of the blue. One look, one kind word, one careless touch to his shoulder, and Klaus is at Dave's mercy.

The briefcase is laying under Klaus's bunk, but opening it never crosses his mind.