Actions

Work Header

Amidst the Chaos

Chapter Text

"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.

Chapter Text

Klaus is sitting on the floor, alone in his tent. His back pressed up against the edge of his cot, his eyes closed as he rides out the last blissful waves of his tapering high.

Klaus can't believe he's been in Vietnam for almost two months already. It doesn't feel like it's been that long. The war is simultaneously the worst time of Klaus's life (which is saying a lot) and the best.

The worst, for obvious reasons. The violence. The death. The god damn ghosts everywhere he turns. He can never get enough drugs to stay straight all the time. Often he finds himself quaking through his dope sickness, clutching his rifle in a muddy foxhole as rain pours down on him relentlessly. In those moments, he wonders what the fuck he's doing. He wonders why he doesn't just open that godforsaken briefcase and ride it back to his home in the future.

But in those moments, without fail, Dave will materialize out of nowhere, drop down next to Klaus and totally annihilate all those thoughts.

No matter how sick Klaus is, how scared he is, or how haunted he is, Dave is always there to ease the pain.

And Klaus just isn't ready to give that up yet.

He knows he should. He should go back to his own time. He can hear Five's irritated voice in his head, castigating him for altering the time line. But he doesn't care.

Fuck Five, and fuck the future. Klaus is the closest thing to happy he's ever been, in this mud drenched, ghost infested hell hole. And he wants to hold onto that a little bit longer.

He knows it's pointless. He's crazy, not stupid. He won't have any effect on the outcome of this war, and he'll never have Dave the way he wants him. But it's not really about getting what he wants. It's about the way he feels.

In this squad, with these men, Klaus feels like he has a purpose for the first time in his life. He didn't ever feel this way at home, or in the Umbrella Academy. He'd always been silly, stupid Klaus, with the bad jokes and worse habits. Not one to be trusted or taken seriously. He knows that is partly his fault. He hasn't been the most reliable or trustworthy person. He's got his demons, and often times he loses battles in his constant war against them.

But here, in the Ah Shau Valley, with this ragtag bunch of misfits, he's found the camaraderie and friendship he's always longed for, but never quite attained in his own life.

He misses his siblings, but he's not certain they miss him.

Hell, they may still not even know he's gone.

Around here, it's impossible to go missing. If Klaus is out of earshot for more than two minutes, there are no less than three men looking for him. It can be bothersome when he's trying to find a solitary spot to get high, but at the same time it makes him feel safe and looked after in a way he never has before.

And then there's Dave.

Since that very first 'hello' on the bus, Dave has become an integral part of Klaus's life in the army.

There was no way Klaus could hide the fact that he was not Army trained. Sure, he was accurate as fuck with a gun, and skilled in hand to hand combat (thanks Dad), but when it came to Army policy and procedure, Klaus was utterly lost.

Every time he had a question, or made a stupid mistake, Dave stepped in to help him out. Dave was there with a kind word, helping him correct his behavior without ever losing his cool. He never cursed Klaus out or called him stupid. Never made fun of him or belittled him.

Klaus didn't know what to do with any of that. Even Diego, who was the kindest to him out of all his siblings, still spent an inordinate amount of time outlining all the ways Klaus was a fuck up. Klaus knows it comes from a place of love, but it still stings. That idea that not even the people he loves the most can see beyond his shortcomings.

Hell, even Ben gives him grief constantly, and he's been dead for years.

But Dave never treats him that way. If he considers Klaus dumb or annoying or weird, he hides it well. Never treats him with anything but respect and kindness. He's patient with Klaus when he doesn't understand some arcane Army rule, he never gives him shit for being a little fucked up on patrol, he never says a word when Klaus wakes up screaming in the middle of the night, or when he finds Klaus talking to thin air.

Dave always just smiles, assuring Klaus that everyone in the unit has their own weird shit.

That kind of acceptance is a rare thing indeed. So it's no wonder Klaus isn't too keen on giving that up to go home. A place he doesn't feel comfortable in. A place he doesn't feel welcome.

The only thing he'd change if he could would be the blatant homophobia he sees on a daily basis. It's not the guys' fault, not really. Klaus knows his history. He knows what it's like for gay people in the 1960's. The gay rights movement is in it's infancy right now. Hell, Klaus lives in 2019, and he still faces rampant hate and judgement.

So no, he doesn't get mad when people throw around words like 'faggot' or 'fairy' or 'cocksucker'. It hurts, but he hides it well. But there is only so much he can do to hide his queerness, and he's never had to before.

He finds himself limiting his movements, desperately trying to curb his flamboyant nature. He's also being more careful with his words than he ever has in the past. He is unused to filtering his language or his behavior, and often times he worries he's missed the mark.

It doesn't feel right. Klaus is who he is, and he's fucking proud of that. It took him a long time to get there, and he's still far from perfect. But he loves his queer little self, scars and all. So the fact that he finds himself dulling his sparkle to avoid detection makes him feel like a coward.

Like a fraud.

But, it is what it is. Klaus doesn't want to find out what happens to outed gay soldiers in the 60's.

So he doesn't really have a plan. It's not Klaus's style to have a plan. He usually just does what feels right.

And this feels right. Even if he's staying in war he doesn't agree with, in a time he doesn't belong in, clinging to a man he can never have. It just FEELS right. So he's just gonna ride it out and see where it goes.

He's just going to trust his gut, and hope for the best.

As he picks up Billie, his rifle and starts to clean it, his mind wanders to Dave once more. He wonders where he is, and what he's thinking of....

 

***

 

Dave has a serious problem. Namely, Klaus.

Dave has never met anyone like Klaus in his life. He's careless and loud and has no clue what he's doing in the unit. He's high all the time, jumpy and nervous. All bad things when you're in the middle of a fire fight.

But he's also funny and smart and sarcastic as hell. He's won over most of the unit despite his insane ramblings and wacky personality. He's utterly luminous, lighting up the world around him like a beacon, and Dave finds himself hypnotized. Drawn to the other man like a moth to a flame. Certain he'll eventually be devoured in the blaze.

He has known Klaus for two months now, and in that short time they have gotten much closer. Not in the way Dave craves, but it's still nice. He's one of the best friends Dave has in the unit now.

They spend a lot of their down time just talking. Dave tells him about Philly, about being a teacher, about his family. His hopes for the future after the war. He keeps it all very surface and vague, not wanting to give too much away about who he really is deep down. It's just not safe to talk about that stuff, even with Klaus. He trusts Klaus, but the camp has ears all over, and it's not safe for either of them to discuss their personal proclivities, even with each other.

Klaus keeps his cards close to the vest too, never revealing too much about his life back in the states or his upbringing. Dave often finds himself sitting in the tent, listening to Klaus spinning tall tales to the rest of the boys about his odd childhood. Apparently Klaus is adopted, and has a gaggle of siblings, also adopted. Klaus tells fantastical stories about the trouble he and his siblings got into as children. Ridiculously rich, running some kind of philanthropic community service brigade. Dave assumes it's all bullshit. There's no way it can all be true.

But Dave doesn't care. He and Klaus may be friendly now, but that doesn't mean Klaus owes him anything. Not even the truth.

Dave has a feeling Klaus's life back home is not nearly as glamorous as he makes it out to be. First of all, he's clearly a fairy. And he is not lucky enough to be able to hide it like Dave can. For whatever reason, God saw fit to make Klaus ridiculously flamboyant. Dave can't imagine that makes his life very easy back home. Dave has seen what happens to obviously gay men in the states, and it's a bloody reality Dave is intent on avoiding himself.

But Klaus doesn't seem to care. He is just unapologetically himself, and amazingly, the men in the unit accept it and respect him for it. It may have something to do with the fact that he's a beast with a gun and can kill a man with his bare hands without breaking a sweat.

Dave imagines those skills would make up for Klaus's overtly effeminate tendencies in the eyes of the other soldiers.

"Katz, throw a damn card." Winston barked, pulling Dave out of his head. He's been spending far too much time daydreaming about Klaus lately. Which is dangerous on a few different levels. He glances down at his cards, throwing one down without much thought. His head clearly isn't in the game.

Dave would be smart to put Klaus out of his mind entirely. If he'd have known this would be the result of a simple 'hello' he may have kept his distance.

No, that's a lie.

Dave couldn't stay away from Klaus if he tried. The man is like a cyclone, sucking everyone in his orbit into his center and spitting them back out, completely transformed. Dave has been altered beyond recognition, and it's only been six weeks.

He can't see how he's supposed to survive the rest of this tour, sharing space with a god damn supernova.

He's going to be consumed entirely.

But he can't deny, it would be quite a way to go.

"Katz, man. You're out." Dallas chuckled. "Where the fuck is your head at? That is like the shittiest card to play."

Dave chuckled, tossing his cards down with an indignant huff. "Fuck you guys, I'm outta here." he stood from the floor, wiping off the back of his fatigues.

"Careful if you're going back to our tent, man." Dallas laughed, shaking his head. " I bet Superfruit is in there talking to his imaginary friends, mark my words."

Dave bristled, irritated. "Watch your mouth, Micthum." Dave said, voice low. Dallas knew he was in a world of shit, since Dave never used his surname like that. "Hargreeves saved your ass yesterday, pulled you right outta the line of fire."

Dallas blushed, grimacing as he looked away.

"Yeah, but Dave, he's so weird." Winston piped up, always willing to offer his unsolicited opinion. "He's always flouncing around like some fairy, saying that oddball shit that comes right outta left field." Winston caught Dave's sulfurous look and immediately started backtracking. "I mean, Hargreeves is a good guy, but he's stoned out of his mind all the damn time, and you never know if he's talking to you or one of his phantom buddies."

"Alright, enough." Dave said, losing his patience.

"You know what I wanna know?" Dallas continued, totally disregarding Dave's warning. "Where the hell did he come from? I mean, you guys were there. What the fuck was that? It's like he dropped right outta the sky. Is he like, an alien or some shit?"

"Fuck off, Mitchum." Dave barked, pointing his finger right in Dallas's face. "We were stoned off our gourds that night. We probably totally missed him coming in. The only thing that matters is he's here now, and he's saved both your sorry asses more than once at this point. So keep your shitty opinions to yourself, okay?"

Dallas stared at Dave, mouth hanging open in shock. Katz never lost his cool like that, and Dallas was certain he'd crossed a line. He knows that Hargreeves and Katz have become good buddies, but he had no idea a little harmless ribbing would put him in the doghouse with his friend. He put his hands up, placating.

"Yeah, Dave. Sorry. We were just joshing around, right Winst?"

"Yeah, man. We dig Hargreeves. The little weirdo is a brother now, you know that."

Dave nodded, the sudden realization that he's tipped his hand hitting him like a ton of bricks. He could feel a blush breaking out along his neck and he knew he had to get out of there.

"Yeah, okay." Dave muttered, making his way toward the mouth of the tent. "You two are on watch at midnight, don't forget. And for the love of god, don't get too stoned before you go out there. Charlie's everywhere, don't forget it." with that he exited the tent without looking back.

Dallas and Winston just stared at each other for a moment before picking up their card game again.

Apparently, joking about Hargreeves and his odd mannerisms was off the table from now on.

The last thing anyone in the unit wanted was beef with Dave.

 

***

Klaus grinned at his newly cleaned rifle. He's never been a super cleanly guy, not at all put out by a little dirt and grime. But even though he is always filthy in the jungle, there are a few things that always need to be kept as clean as possible. His feet, his junk and his gun. If any of those things acquire too much scum, it could spell the end of Klaus's tour. And his life.

So he takes pride in keeping his rifle clean and in working order. Billie has saved his life on more than one occasion, and he thinks he owes it to her to keep her in tip top shape.

He lays Billie on the floor under his cot, nestled closely to his briefcase, but close enough that he can grab her at a moment's notice.

He pulls his dingy t shirt over his head and tosses it on his bunk. He reaches under his pillow and pulls out a joint he stashed there earlier. It's laced with something, but god knows he can't remember what. H? Coke? He couldn't say. But he does know it will get the job done. He glances over into the corner of the room, his eyes catching on that same soldier that's been haunting the tent since Klaus got incountry. Klaus has learned a bit about the ghost in the past few weeks. His name is Martin Collins, he died from a Two Step Charlie bite, and he misses his mom. He kicked the bucket just before Klaus arrived, and he's got no idea why he's stuck in this godforsaken hell hole. Klaus would like to help him, but he's just as clueless as the ghosts are concerning the afterlife.

Collins is also pretty peeved that Klaus is sleeping in his bed. Klaus doesn't get that. It's not like Collins can use it anymore.

He glares at the apparition, waving the joint at him. "Sorry friend. I'm closed for business tonight. But I have a feeling you won't be going anywhere. We can reconvene at a later date, yeah?" he placed the joint between his lips, lighting it with a match and inhaling deeply. He fell back against his shitty pillow, staring up at the top of the tent for a minute before glancing back toward the corner warily.

Collins was still glaring at him, arms crossed over his chest and fire in his dead eyes. God, Klaus is so tired of this shit. "I said get lost, man. I can't fucking help you." Klaus shooed him away with his 'good bye' hand, taking another hit off the joint.

"Jeez, Hargreeves, I had no idea you felt that way. Way to make a guy feel unwanted." a voice startled Klaus. He sat up quickly, dropping the joint on the dirt floor as his hand came flying up in defense.

"Fuck!" Klaus yelped, his chest heaving.

And there was Dave, giving Klaus his signature 'slightly confused, slightly fond' look that gives Klaus all the butterflies.

"Jesus, Katz, what is it with you and sneaking up on me? You're like a damn ninja."

Dave ignores the way his heart sinks at Klaus using his surname. He likes being on a first name basis with Klaus. It's such a small thing, but those inconsequential things mean a lot to a man like Dave. He gets so little in his life, he grabs up every tiny thing he can.

And the way Klaus calls him 'Davey' is one of those little things Dave relishes.

"Sorry, Hargreeves." Dave shrugs, pointedly ignoring Klaus's bare chest as he kneels down to pluck Klaus's discarded joint off the ground. He has it to his lips before Klaus can get a word out.

"Dave! You may...awe shit..." Klaus trailed off as Dave took a big hit and passed it back. He exhaled, coughing harshly before dropping down on his cot like dead weight.

"Holy shit, Klaus." Dave chuckles, running a hand down his face. "Do you ever smoke regular weed, or is it always laced with some crazy shit? What the fuck did I just smoke?" his face felt numb, his limbs already tingling with pins and needles.

"That's the thing, Davey, I honestly have no idea." Klaus muttered, glancing over at his bunk mate with wide eyes.

Dave stared back at him, dumbfounded, before bursting into a fit of laughter. "Of course you don't, you fucking spacecase."

"That's my brother, actually." Klaus replies cryptically, earning himself a skeptical eyebrow raise from his crush.

"You say the weirdest shit, man." Dave muttered, sitting up and pulling his shirt over his head.

"Well, I'm the weirdest person, so that makes sense." Klaus retorted without missing a beat. He took a split second to indulge in the beauty that was Dave's bare chest before averting his eyes just in time to avoid detection.

"You are for sure one of a kind, man." Dave agreed with a little chuckle. "But it suits you." he added, glancing over at Klaus.

Klaus was already looking back at him, with that awe-stricken, doting expression that never failed to turn Dave's insides to jelly.

He can't be imagining that shit, right?

There is no doubt in Dave's mind that Klaus is gay. The question is, can someone as unique and mysterious as Klaus be interested in someone like boring, white bread Dave?

Just the thought is preposterous.

"Hello? Davey?" Klaus is waving his 'hello' hand in Dave's face, concern in his gorgeous green eyes. "Where'd you go? Was that weed too much for you?"

Dave shook his head, reddening with embarrassment. "No, I'm good. I was just thinking about your tattoos." Dave lies, unable to divulge what was really on his mind. He motions toward Klaus's upturned palms.

Hello. Goodbye.

"Oh, these old things?" Klaus scoffs dismissively. "Just a token of my misspent youth."

Dave didn't believe that for a second.

"What's it supposed to mean?"

Klaus stares at Dave, utterly at a loss. He is way too high to be having this conversation. He wracks his brain for some kind of lie, but is horrified when the truth slips out instead.

"It's a nod to the Ouija board. Have you ever played?" Klaus looks nervous as he says it, but Dave can't imagine why. Sure it's bizarre, but he's come to expect that with Klaus.

"Yeah, it's the demon summoning game, right?"

"No, no." Klaus laughs, rolling his eyes at Dave. "Ghosts, Davey. You are supposed to be able to conjure spirits with the Ouija board."

"Okay...." Dave replies, growing more confused by the moment. Klaus's weed is crazy strong, and Dave is having a really hard time keeping up. "But why would YOU get THAT tattooed on your hands?"

"Well, Davey...I got it because I can see ghosts." Klaus murmurs quietly, instantly regretting his words.

Dave's face falls, his brows knitted in confusion. He just stares at Klaus for a moment before scoffing loudly. "Okay, yeah, whatever you say, Klaus. If you don't want to tell me you don't have to. But you don't have to lie either."

Klaus expected that. It's not like anyone takes him seriously, ever. And it's not really Dave's fault. Klaus did just say some incredibly ridiculous shit.

But now that he's said it, he discovers he doesn't want to take it back or laugh it off.

He oddly wants Dave to believe him. He doesn't want to lie to him. It's such an strange feeling for Klaus, he wonders for a moment if it's the drugs compelling him to make a fool of himself.

But looking over at Dave's face, he knows it's just the effect the other man has on him. Dave never pushes him or doubts him. He just accepts Klaus as he is, no strings attached.

So Klaus decides 'fuck it', the worst that can happen is Dave finally deciding Klaus is irrevocably insane, and ending their friendship. That would suck, and hurt. But Klaus knows from experience that he can't hide who he is forever. His abilities and his proclivities always come to light sooner or later.

"It's true, Dave." Klaus replies, voice still low, unsure. "I have been able to see and commune with the dead since I was a small child. That is a long, sad story and I don't really want to get into it now. But that's what's happening when you see me talking to no one." Klaus sighed, feeling exposed in a way he did not like. "It's also why I have nightmares." he tacked on, cuz why the hell not?

Dave was silent for a long time. He just watched Klaus, an unreadable expression on his face. Klaus starts to panic, suddenly certain he's just talked his way out of Dave's life.

But after a moment, Dave just sighed, nodding. "Okay, that actually makes sense."

"What?" Klaus balked, unable to comprehend what Dave just said.

"I said I believe you." Dave replies, a small smile splitting his lips. "I mean, it makes as much sense as anything else about you does. I'm actually glad it's something like that and not an undiagnosised medical condition."

"What?" Klaus repeated, eyes wide.

"I said I believe you Klaus." Dave said, voice sure. "And I'm glad it's something metaphysical, and not a brain tumor or psychiatric condition."

"Oh, I'm crazy." Klaus said, dead serious. "This shit has made me that way." he pointed an accusatory finger in Collins' direction, confusing Dave further.

"Klaus, your not crazy." Dave sighed, boldly standing from his own cot and dropping down next to Klaus on his. They were sitting close enough to touch, but Dave didn't move to bridge the gap. "My aunt had visions. She was big into Mysticism. She saw all kinds of shit no one could explain. Not even our rabbi. She even predicted future events a few times. I trusted her implicitly, and her advice changed my life more than once. So I'm not about to doubt you when you tell me you have some sort of psychic ability. If mystics and saints can preform miracles, I think ordinary people can too."

Klaus just gaped at Dave, soaking up his words before his usual defenses went up again. He just doesn't know what to do with such kindness.

"I am no miracle worker, Davey." Klaus laughs, though it sounds strained even to his own ears.

"It's sad to me, that you don't know how special you are."

Dave knows his words are dangerous, but he means them. And he can tell Klaus needs to hear them. He has never in all his life met someone like Klaus. He's smart and sassy and indeed crazy, but in the most endearing way. He's sweet and thoughtful and kind. He's always willing to help anyone in the unit, even when he himself is sick with withdrawal. He's a hell of a man to have your back in a battle, always sharp and never panicky. Dave knows Klaus isn't perfect, but he thinks his good qualities makes up for any shortcomings he may have.

Of course, Klaus didn't know how to respond. He never did when Dave said these sort of things. Kind, heartfelt things Klaus has never heard before. He just stared at Dave as his brain tried to process the words that just spilled from his lips. In Klaus's life until this point, there have been two distinct reactions when someone learns of his powers.

Either they are like his father and siblings, insisting Klaus's powers are a gift and to be used for the good of mankind. They pushed him to explore them, conquer them, grow them until he could wield them as a weapon.

That didn't work out so well.

The other reaction was the one Klaus usually got. People were scared. Disgusted even. Like he was some demon escaped from Hell, like he was here to torment people with his army of undead ghouls.

Needless to say, that was not the case at all.

"I get it now." Dave spoke, dragging Klaus from his thoughts. He gazed into Klaus's eyes, expression soft and warm. "Why you.. you know." Dave motioned toward the stubbed out joint still resting between Klaus's fingers. "Does it help? Quiet the spirits?"

Klaus nodded, horrified when his eyes started to sting. Shit. He was not going to cry.

"It's just a lot, all the time." Klaus choked out, rubbing at his eyes with his fingers. "They never really leave me alone, but the drugs get rid of them, at least for a few hours."

Dave nodded sympathetically. "It's dangerous, though. Especially out here. You could get yourself killed being so fucked up all the time."

A dark chuckle slipped past Klaus's lips and he shook his head. "I don't think I have to worry about all that. God doesn't want me."

"Oh, Klaus, don't say that." Dave murmured, giving into the urge and laying a gentle hand on Klaus's wrist. Klaus jumped a little at the contact, but didn't pull away. Dave's heart swelled at the simple contact.

Klaus laughed again, shrugging. "Just sayin' it like it is." Klaus keeps a calm facade, but his heart is hammering in his chest.

Dave is TOUCHING him.

That simple press of fingers feels more intimate than any sex act Klaus has ever engaged in.

Dave decided to let that go for now. He could discuss God's love with Klaus at a later date.

He had something else he wanted to ask...

"So, was there someone here with you? When I came in just now?" Dave asks the question, almost positive Klaus will dodge the inquiry. Klaus usually laughed off serious questions. This is probably the most substantive conversation Dave's ever had with him.

So imagine Dave's surprise when Klaus nods again.

Dave asked the question not expecting an answer, and now that he has one, he's not sure what to do.

"Who is it?"

Klaus sighed, his eyes flitting over to that empty corner of the tent again. He shrugged. His voice was low when he finally responded. "He's gone now, thank god. He said his name was Collins. I told him to get lost."

"Collins?" Dave balked.

What? What the fuck?

"Yeah. He, uh, he said you were always kind to him, and he's grateful. He wanted me to remind you to tell his mom he loves her." Klaus replied, fully aware of how insane he sounded in the moment.

Dave, for his part, was quietly losing his mind. Of course Klaus knew about Collins. Everyone in the unit still talks about him.

But no one knows about Dave's promise to Collins on his deathbed. His promise to contact his mother.

"Jeus Christ, Klaus." Dave whispers, totally overwhelmed.

There was much more to this oddly alluring man than meets the eye.

"Yeah, well, he's gone now, but I can't guarantee he won't be back. So if you see me talking to myself again, or freaking out here and there, at least now you know why that is." Klaus shrugged again, desperately trying to resist the urge to cuddle closer to Dave. A hand on his wrist was one thing, but grabbing someone and holding on was another.

It's just that Klaus needs a little human contact once in a while. And that's been woefully in short supply since he landed in the past. When he's seeing lots of ghosts or having an all around bad time, his first instinct is to bury himself in the arms of whoever is closest and ride it out. It wasn't hard to find a warm body to snuggle up on back home, but now, it's just not possible, and it leaves Klaus feeling alone and adrift.

"Well, if you ever need anything, I'm here." Dave says, surprising Klaus once more. "I've already taken some of the guys to task for talking shit, so I don't mind getting your back if you need it." Dave was blushing, he could feel it, but the warm smile Klaus bestowed upon him was worth the embarrassment.

"Yeah? You've been defending my honor? How Gallant of you, Private Katz." Klaus waggled his eyebrows dramatically. He knew he was treading a dangerous line, but Dave's kind words and warm smile had emboldened him.

Dave chuckled, blushing harder.

"You need someone to watch your six, man. You're a god damn mess."

Klaus laughed loud at that, throwing his head back and whooping at the roof of their tent. Once he had calmed himself enough to retort, he fixed Dave with a playful glare. Before he could speak though, the tent flap flew open and Dallas was standing in front of them.

Dave stood quickly from the cot, eyeing Dallas warily.

What did he see? How much had he heard?

"Yo, doc is handing out the dexies and the pinks. We got night patrol. Get your gear and head down to the Ward and get fixed up. We march in twenty."

Before Dave could muster a response, Dallas was gone and Klaus was standing too.

"Oh! My favorite part of the day. I tell you, Davey, night patrols are positively dreary, but I can't say enough good things about the drugs. Leave it to the US government to introduce me to speedballs." Klaus giggled, winking at Dave and saluting him with his 'good bye' hand. He was out of the tent and on his way to see Doc before Dave could even pull his shirt on.

He better get down to the Ward tent and get dosed. Sarg will have his ass if he's not ready to roll with the rest of the boys.

As Dave makes his way to the med line, he can hear Klaus up ahead, entertaining their squad with another one of his (true?) unbelievable tales.

Dave shakes his head, smiling. He had no idea a simple 'hello' to a new soldier a few weeks back would have such an incredible impact on him. Klaus cannon-balled into his life, turning everything on it's head, and Dave is certain he'll never be the same.

Out of all Klaus's bizarre habits and strange quirks, the fact that he can see and speak to the dead is not as shocking as it would be if it were any other man in the unit. Klaus just has this otherworldly, spooky vibe to him. And to Dave, that makes him all the more enticing.

He's still not sure what the outcome of all this will be, but for the first time since he landed incountry, he's excited to see what happens next.

Klaus has that effect on him.

 

***

Klaus is chatting with his squadmates as he waits his turn to get drugged up, but his thoughts are a million miles away.

When he accidentally landed in the middle of the Vietnam war, his first and only thought was to get the fuck out of there and find his way home.

But ever since that first hello from Dave, Klaus has been thinking about home less and less. All his waking moments consumed with either staying alive, or trying to get closer to his new friend.

Klaus has discovered that he can withstand a lot of things, if it means he can stay by Dave's side. Withdrawal, battle, injury, his nightmares and the dead. He's been facing it all as best he can. He faces it all without complaint, all for a few moments of kindness, a few stolen glances, a few sweet words. It's enough. Enough to inspire him to keep going, keep trying.

Klaus is surprised, that after all the shit he's endured in his life, all it took was a simple hello to change everything.

Chapter Text

Since Klaus dropped his little bomb on Dave, Dave has been watching him much more closely, trying to decipher which of Klaus's odd mannerisms are due to his mediumship, and which are just Klaus being Klaus.

It's a strange situation for Dave to find himself in. Sure, his Tante Rachel had visions. She knew when his Zayde Aaron was going to die, down to the hour. She knew when Dave's appendix was going to burst, and got him to the hospital in time to save his life.

So yes, he knows there is more to the world than meets the eye.

But this thing. This thing Klaus can do is something else entirely.

First of all, it weighs on Klaus much more than his Tante's gift did. Klaus is always on edge, always scared. Always hiding behind his dark sense of humor and his self deprecation. But Dave has known him for three months now, and he knows what it means when Klaus gets into one of those mood. When everything is a joke, and he can't get high enough.

It means that he can't bear the pressure anymore. The pressure of a thousand voices screaming his name, begging him for something he can not give them. Klaus doesn't talk about it a lot. But he's told Dave just enough to solidify in Dave's mind that he hates it, and would do anything to not have this power any longer.

Of course, Dave can't help him with that. No one can. So Klaus's gift is more of a curse, and Dave can unfortunately do nothing but watch him suffer and slowly kill himself with drugs.

Dave knows he shouldn't get attached. Not only is it stupid to fall for an active drug addict with no intentions of ever getting clean, but there is the bigger issue that Klaus is a man, a solider in his unit.

Just the hint of homosexuality is enough to get them both court martialed. Not only that, but a dishonorable discharge would be the end of both of them back stateside. It's just not socially acceptable to be a fag, and Dave doubts it ever will be.

He can't even think of what it would do to his family. Dave is not devout, but his parents are. His grandparents. And they are very old fashioned. Their view on homosexuality is rigid and archaic. It is a sin. An abomination. Deviant.

And although Dave does not agree, he's not too keen on fighting that battle with the people he loves. A battle he would lose, going against the God of his parents.

So yeah, it would be best for Dave to keep his distance from Klaus. Safer for him and the other man. Klaus has enough problems as it is, without dragging Dave and his stupid crush into the mix. Not that Dave is conceited enough to think Klaus would ever even be interested in him. But drawing attention to either of their homosexual tendencies would be enough for Sarg to bring charges against them in military court.

In another time, or another place, Dave might just grow some balls and tell Klaus how he feels.

But this is not the place, nor the time.

So Dave keeps telling himself he's going to start pulling back. Not seek out the other man during down time, not stay so close by on patrols, not spend every available moment within arm's reach.

He tells himself, over and over, but it never happens.

Like right now.

The men were up to their eyeballs in mud, redigging the trenches around Firebase after a monsoon of a storm filled them all with mud and debris. It's back breaking work, and it's made infinitely worse by the high noon sun beating down on them. The men are miserable, grunting and swearing as they use their stupid collapsible shovels to heave heavy mud and rocks out of the trench that runs the perimeter of the base.

No one is speaking, except for the rare vulgar expletive now and again.

That is until Klaus starts talking.

"Hey, did I ever tell you guys about my brother Luther?" Klaus starts out of nowhere. The men pause in comical synchronicity, glancing up at Klaus. He has that effect on the unit, commanding attention. He's charismatic as hell, and all the guys are always keen on hearing what crazy shit he has to say.

He's standing over them like some kind of fallen angel, perched on the lip of the trench, hands on his hips, his new dog tags gleaming against his bare chest in the blinding sunlight.

Dave smiles, he can't help it. Klaus is just so fucking beautiful.

Dave quickly remembers himself, running a dirty hand over his mouth before picking up his shovel again, suddenly very consumed with his work. He turns his back on the group, stabbing his spade into the mud and throwing a shovelful over the lip of the trench.

He can hear Klaus behind him, spinning one of his outlandish tales about his curious family back in the states. All the boys know it's bullshit, but Klaus is one hell of a story teller. He tells these tales like he really believes them, and that's the key to captivating an audience.

Dave plays it off like he's not listening, but he could never ignore the sweet sound of Klaus's voice.

"...so you see, Luther wasn't smart enough to run when the rest of us did. He had to be Daddy's number one, always. So stayed, the only one left in our little family of heroes. He put himself in harm's way, over and over, trying to prove something to the old bastard, or maybe himself, I don't know. But anyway, this one time, the villain got the drop on him..."

"Villain? What the fuck, Hargreeves. Is your brother Superman or something?"

"No, Dallas. He's not. He's just a guy trying to save the world." Klaus doesn't know why he does this shit. Talk like this. It's probably dangerous to speak about the Umbrella Academy's hijinks or the future in general. But the men get so down when they have to perform these mindless menial tasks. And Klaus knows how healing a good tall tale can be. He used to lose himself in books and movies when his life back home was too hard to face. He keeps it all purposefully vague, just enough detail to keep the story interesting.

The stories also help keep him focused. On the details of his tale, and the men listening. He focuses on those things instead of the collections of hellish looking ghosts convened around the trench. Dozens of dead Vietnamese surround the unit. Women with missing limbs, children with Agent Orange burns all over their thin, frail bodies. VC soldiers with half their heads missing from a sniper's rifle shot.

His last high has diminished considerably, and as sobriety regretfully returns, so do his unwelcome companions. He shakes his head, desperate to focus on his living squad mates and not the vengeful dead closing in on him.

"So anyway...don't interrupt, Dallas, it's rude. Dear old Number One got hurt real bad. Shot, if I recall correctly. So Daddy dearest pulled out all the stops to save his life. Unfortunately for poor Luther, saving his life entailed injecting him with ape DNA. So it's safe to say my lovely brother now looks like a Planet of the Apes reject. Huge, I tell you. Muscles on muscles, and he's so hairy, like, you have no idea. Although he's strong as a motherfucker, could probably take out a whole VC unit with his bare hands and not break a sweat. So he has that going for him at least. Too bad he's not here right now."

"You are such a bullshit artist, Hargreeves." one of the grunts, Eddie, laughs, turning back to his work.

"I am indeed." Klaus nodded sagely. "But at least I got you laughing for a minute."

"What the fuck is Planet of the Apes?" Benny asks, scratching his head. Klaus has a mini heart attack.

When did that movie come out?

Shit. Fuck.

Luckily he's saved from his slip up by Wiston's horny ass.

"Tell us about your sister." Winston begged. "The one with mind control powers."

"Eh." Klaus shook his head, his face twisting into a grimace. "You just want to imagine my sister using her powers to seduce you. And I will not subject my innocent Allison to your depraved fantasies."

"Fuck off, Klaus." Winston chuckled, shoving Klaus with an open palm. Klutzy as always and still a tiny bit under the influence, Klaus went tumbling backward, tripping over a rock in the ditch and careening toward a giant mud puddle.

But of course, Dave was there. He wrapped his big, strong arms around Klaus's thin waist, pulling back from the edge of ruin like a prince in a fairy tale.

"Careful there, Hargreeves, you won't be getting a shower for a good long while. Don't wanna get your shit all muddy." Dave murmured, his mouth way too close to Klaus's ear. Klaus could feel Dave's warm breath fanning along his cheek bone and he had to physically suppress a shudder.

Dave steadied Klaus on his feet again, then put some much needed distance between them. His body reacted so quickly to Klaus, he's never experienced anything like it. It's embarrassing, and dangerous.

"My hero." Klaus whispered, winking at Dave before walking past the stunned man and grabbing up his abandoned spade. "Fine, you guys wanna hear about Allison? How about I tell you about the time she convinced a bank robber to shoot himself in the foot?"

Klaus was off and running again, feeding off the attention of the unit. Dave took a step back, picking up his spade and turning his back on the group once more. It was easier this way. At least with his back to everyone, no one could see how much he was smiling.

 

***

 

Klaus is exhausted. He's done more manual labor in the past nine weeks than he has in his entire life. He's never even had a real job. So all this physical work is a bit much for him. His body is sore in a way he didn't know was possible. The ache of his tender muscles, coupled with his withdrawal was overwhelming him. He feels like he may vomit.

The rest of the men were still outside, sitting in a circle around a small fire, eating their disgusting C rations. Klaus couldn't stomach it tonight. Too dope sick to do much besides chug water and dry heave.

He made his escape as quickly as possible, retreating to the relative safety of his empty tent.

He's got something waiting for him, courtesy of Benny. Klaus knows he's already pretty deep in debt to Benny, but he can't pay him off the way he would back home.

Klaus has a feeling offering the Italian soldier a blowjob would end poorly for him.

So they had worked out something else.

But first thing's first. Klaus needs to get straight. Collins is back again, muttering under his breath about his mother and how useless Klaus is.

"You know what, Collins?" Klaus sighed, scowling at the ghost. "Your attitude needs a serious adjustment. You're awfully rude to the one guy that can see your bitter ass."

Collins is off and running again, rolling his milky white eyes at Klaus and launching into another long diatribe.

"We can pick this up later, friend. I have something I need to do." Klaus waves the ghost off, intent on getting at least a few moments of peace.

He pulls the loaded rig from under his pillow. He set up the shot before trench duty, knowing he'd need it after a long day of chucking mud.

The needle itself is unlike anything Klaus has ever seen before. It's like getting high with a relic from a museum or something. It's glass, for one. Has this huge, detachable tip for two. Big metal plunger. Klaus feels a bit like Doctor Death holding it in his hand. The thought makes him chuckle.

He collapses on his bed, utterly spent. He pulls his belt out of his uniform pants, wrapping it around his bicep and placing the leather between his teeth. He flexes his muscle a few times, causing the vein to bulge out, nice and juicy.

He sticks the needle in his arm, popping the vein quickly and depressing the plunger. The last thing he wants to do is get caught with a needle in his arm. The high hits him instantaneously. Warmth spreading through his chest and into his extremities, congregating in his head, making him feel loose and blissfully empty inside.

Collins is screaming at him as he fades away into oblivion, but Klaus can't be bothered to care. Not when he knows the ghost will be back to haunt him again in a matter of hours.

He places the dirty needle back underneath his pillow, he's sure he'll be using it again soon. He drops his belt under his bed and picks up his sketch pad. Better get on his payment for Benny.

He pulls an old, worn photo from the front of the notebook, laying it on his pillow for reference as he grabs his pencil and starts to draw.

It's a fair trade, if you ask Klaus. One hypodermic needle from the Ward Tent from Benny, one hand drawn portrait of Benny's girl from Klaus.

Klaus has a lot of talents, epic oral skills only being only one of them.

He's so deep into his high and so engrossed in his work, he doesn't even hear Dave come in.

"Whatcha got there, Klaus?" Dave's voice startles Klaus and he jumps, again. His pencil goes rolling under Dave's cot. Klaus sighs, shaking his head.

"Davey, Davey. We've talked about this. You can not keep sneaking up on me like that. I have an excitable personality."

Dave chuckles, shaking his head. He spies Klaus's pencil by his feet, scooping it up and passing it to Klaus with a smile. "It's not sneaking up if I announce myself. It's not my fault you're always so god damn jumpy."

"No, I suppose it's not." Klaus sighs, dropping back down on his cot. "The blame for that goes to dear old Dad and the ghosts that follow me around like I'm John Lennon."

"You like the Beatles?" Dave asks, sitting on his cot across from Klaus.

"Everyone likes the Beatles, Davey. They're timeless." Klaus giggles at his own joke, though it goes right over Dave's head.

"What are you doing?" Dave changes the subject, his eyes traveling over Klaus's notebook. It's a drawing of a girl. Dave's heart sinks. He keeps setting himself up to be hurt. Maybe Klaus isn't gay at all. Maybe he's just one of those oddly girly men. Like that actor, Anthony Perkins.

"It's a picture of Benny's sweetheart. I told him I'd draw it for him in exchange for some goods and services."

Dave is conflicted by Klaus's answer. He's glad the girl isn't of romantic interest to Klaus, but he's saddened, because he knows what Benny did for Klaus to get this drawing.

Benny works in the Ward tent. And those fresh track marks on Klaus's arms give Dave a pretty good idea of what kind of favor Benny did for Klaus.

Dave can't be mad. He's not Klaus's keeper. But he worries about him. It's just so dangerous. The drugs in the bush are strong, cut with weird shit. Guys OD all the time, and some of them don't recover.

But Dave keeps his trap shut. It's not his place to say anything. And now that he knows what Klaus is dealing with, he can't be too mad at him. Dave can't imagine seeing the bloody, rotting, dismembered corpses of his brothers. Walking, talking dead, accosting him at all times.

Dave wouldn't survive that shit. But Klaus just keeps going.

He's much stronger than he knows, and Dave respects the fact that he's even still trying after all he's been through.

But Dave doesn't know how to say any of that shit, so he just changes the subject.

"So, you draw, you tell epic tales, you speak to the dead. What other hidden talents do you have?"

Is Klaus blushing? Oh dear. Dave has never seen anything so adorable in all his life.

Klaus is put on the spot. No one ever asks him about himself. But Dave is always interested in what Klaus has to say, even if Klaus is fairly certain Dave thinks he's bullshitting ninety percent of the time.

The irony is that Klaus has been more honest with Dave than he ever has with anyone else. It's not Klaus's fault his truth is unbelievable.

"Nah, let's not talk about me tonight." Klaus shakes his head, shooting Dave a little smirk. "Tell me more about you, Davey."

Dave gapes at Klaus for a moment, confused. How can such an incredible, interesting, enthralling being like Klaus be interested in Dave?

It just makes no sense.

"Uh, what did you want to know?" Dave asks, feeling another Klaus-induced blush breaking out on his neck.

"Oh, just everything." Klaus grins. "You said you're from Philly. You teach there. What do you teach?"

"English." Dave replies quietly. "I know, boring."

"Au contraire, my dear." Klaus shook his head, drawing his attention back to his drawing. He spoke to Dave as he used his pencil to add some depth and shading. "I love english. Literature especially. Are you an avid reader, Davey?"

"Oh yes." Dave nodded, grinning. This he could talk about. "I love to read. What's your favorite book?"

"Catcher in the Rye." Klaus replied without hesitation.

"Of course it is." Dave chuckled, unable to temper his wide smile. Klaus is just so...everything Dave ever wanted.

Dangerous. Dangerous thinking.

But it's just a conversation.

No harm in that, right?

Klaus sits on his cot drawing for god knows how long, asking Dave questions about his life back in the states. He learns a lot. But most of all, he learns that he is falling fast for the kind, handsome soldier.

He learns that Dave is a year younger than him in this universe, but leaps and bounds ahead of him emotionally. He teaches at a public school in Philadelphia, has a good relationship with his parents and extended family. He's Jewish, which Klaus just finds so endearing. Klaus isn't sure what he believes. Even God herself couldn't convince Klaus that religion was the answer.

He supposes being exposed to so much death and pain for decades without reprieve will sour anyone on God and the afterlife.

Dave tells him about Vietnam before Klaus arrived, and Klaus is just that much more impressed. Dave is smart and strong and respected in the unit. He's saved lives and taken lives, remaining cool under pressure no matter the circumstances.

It's an incredible turn on. Even though Klaus knows it will never go anywhere, he can't deny it. He wants Dave. So bad. Just the image of him holding a gun is enough to get Klaus all hot and bothered.

Jesus, he's a mess.

"Hey, can I ask you a question?" Dave says after talking about himself for the better part of an hour.

Klaus doesn't really want to answer any questions. He'd rather just hear more about Dave. But if you're going to get, you have to give. So Klaus places his finished drawing to the side and gives Dave his undivided attention. He sits on his cot, pulling his legs up indian style, palms upturned on his knees. Tattoos clearly visible.

Hello. Goodbye.

And that oddball umbrella. Dave asked about it once, a couple weeks back. Klaus had scoffed, waving Dave off dismissively, mumbling something about a 'family brand'. The answer had confused Dave, gave him a nasty feeling in the pit of his stomach. He hasn't had the balls to ask about it again. He's got something else on his mind right now, anyway.

"Um, well, those stories you tell the guys. About your family...." Dave trails off when he sees Klaus roll his eyes. "I'm sorry, never mind."

"No, Davey, no. It's fine." Klaus insists, reaching out like he wants to touch Dave. He doesn't. He stops short a few inches away, pulling his hand back into his lap. "I tell those stories to boost moral."

"I know, and it's nice. You do good by the guys. They love it." Dave says, voice earnest. "But, well, since I know....about your...."

"Power?" Klaus supplies when Dave flounders. Dave nods slowly, focusing his eyes on his hands.

"Yeah. Your power." he replies. "Since you're telling the truth about seeing the ghosts, I have to ask; those stories you tell about your family, are they also true?"

"If I said yes, would you believe me?"

It was a fair question.

Dave considers the question for a minute. Does he believe all the crazy shit Klaus says? Does he trust the other man to be honest? Is there any way in hell any of the shit he says is true?

Dave glances over at Klaus. He's just sitting there, waiting for Dave to answer him. He doesn't look nervous at all. He looks resigned. Like he already knows Dave doesn't believe him. Like he's used to being doubted, being called a liar.

Then, Dave thinks about all the times Klaus has been reliable. Every time he's pulled someone out of the line of fire, every time he's helped the squad dodge a bobby trap. Every time Klaus has offered a kind word or his last cigarette to a man in need. Every time Klaus has listened to Dave talk about his problems, his fears, his doubts.

He gives Klaus what he hopes is a reassuring smile. "I trust you Klaus. I'm not going to call you a liar to your face."

"Just behind my back, then." Klaus grinned, waggling his eyebrows.

Dave huffed, not at all impressed with Klaus's diversion tactics. "Klaus, I'm being serious. Are some of the things you say unbelievable? Sure. Do I think you are pulling it all out of your ass? No. You have shown me more than once that there is more to this world than what I can see with my eyes. I believe you. But I also believe there is much more to you, and your stories than you let on."

Klaus's face fell and he glances away quickly. He started picking at a fresh bruise on his arm, and Dave knew it was a new injections site. God, it made him so mad, worried him so much.

"How are you feeling?" Dave asks, instead of addressing his actual concerns.

"Better now." Klaus replies cryptically, another enigmatic smile on his lips.

Klaus doesn't know why he tortures himself so. Being this close to Dave while trying to keep the 'platonic buds' vibe going is exhausting. Sometimes he slips. He's too flirty, too suggestive. He sits too close, his gazes lingers too long, his eyes are too soft. It's just so hard to pretend he's anything but utterly smitten with the other man.

But he tries.

Because being friends with Dave is better than being nothing at all.

It's quiet between them for a few moments. The only noise is the men outside the tent, talking in hushed voices, and the distant sound of bombs dropping far away. Dave lights a cigarette, taking a few calming drags before passing it to Klaus.

Klaus smiles, nodding his thanks as he put the butt to his lips and inhaled, letting the nicotine soothe his constantly frazzled nerves.

"It's all true." Klaus says after the silence stretches into uncomfortable territory. "When I tell the boys those stories, I keep it light and fluffy. Make it sound unbelievable, like I'm some kind of madman, spitting epic tales for laughs. But Dave, I don't want to ever lie to you." Klaus says all this, knowing full well he's still lying about the most important part.

The fact that he is from fifty years in the future conveniently never comes up.

"So, you're telling me that you're a medium, who was adopted, along with six other children with what? Super powers? To what end?" Dave can't even believe he's asking this. Is he perpetuating Klaus's delusions? Or is he finally giving his friend a chance to speak a truth that is eating him up inside?

Dave has no idea.

"To save the world, Davey. Always to save the world. Good old Reggie was a man of singular focus. He didn't give a damn about us kids, our feelings or well being. We were tools, weapons he honed to fight his battles. My siblings and I were nothing more than cannon fodder for Sir Hargreeves. And we paid dearly for his hubris." Klaus looks stricken as he speaks, and Dave regrets asking all together. But now that Klaus has started, he doesn't seem to be able to stop.

"He got my brother Ben killed. He almost got Luther killed. Five ran away to be free of him. I got hooked on drugs to counteract the pain he inflicted upon me for years on end. Vanya is a shell of a human being after years of being told she's nothing. Diego is incapable of forming any meaningful relationships. And Allison ruined her life irrevocably, all because Father told her she could take whatever she wanted without consequence." Klaus scoffed, his eyes burning. He would not cry. Not over this. "He destroyed every single on of us, in unique and irredeemable ways."

Dave sat there, absorbing Klaus's words, his body vibrating with rage. The happy fact that Klaus was finally opening up to Dave about his family sadly took a back seat to the fire hot rage burning Dave's insides on Klaus's behalf. Whoever this monster was that dared to call himself a father was well overdue for a beating.

"I am so sorry, Klaus." Dave said, even though he knew it meant little. He couldn't do a damn thing to fix it. He was learning that there was a lot of things Klaus suffered that Dave could not fix.

That thought only infuriated him further.

"It's okay, Davey." Klaus replied, voice soft. "It was a long time ago, and the sick bastard is dead and gone now, so there's that. I just thought you should know why I am the way I am. Not that it's an excuse. I'm an addict, I own it. I'm just saying, if things had been different for us growing up, maybe my siblings and I wouldn't be such a scary little troupe of psychopaths. Pathetic, really. Especially me."

"Klaus, I really wish you wouldn't talk about yourself like that." Dave replied. He was not at all surprised to see Klaus's contrite expression in response to his words. "Come on now, none of that sad sack shit. You're stronger than that, Hargreeves."

Klaus is rendered speechless. That is a rare occurrence. He just stares at Dave for a second before getting his wits about him. He scoffs, embarrassed when he feels his face heating up.

"I am not strong, Davey. I am the antithesis of strong."

"Don't you ever say that." Dave replies, voice hard. Klaus flinches, but Dave is right there, dropping down on Klaus's cot. Taking his hand.

Klaus, startles, staring down at their clasped hands, completely stuck.

Dave's hand is so big and warm. Calluses dot his palm and fingertips. His hand is so much bigger than Klaus's, it dwarfs it entirely. Klaus's spindly fingers intertwined with Dave's meatier ones. It feels so nice.

Like it belongs there.

Dave's heart is hammering in his chest. He knows he's taking a huge risk. Dallas could be back at any minute, and Dave has no idea how Klaus feels about him. But listening to Klaus talk so lowly about himself set some kind of fire inside Dave, and he acted without thinking.

Holding Klaus's hand feels good. Feels right. It feels just like Dave dreamed it would.

Perfect.

"Klaus, I know I've only known you for a few months, but in that time I have seen you charge the enemy all by yourself. I've seen you diffuse bombs and throw men out of the line of fire. I saw you save a Vietnamese woman and her baby from a fire fight. I saw you pull a rusty spike from Johnson's foot without flinching. I've seen you do things that would make seasoned grunts puke all over themselves. So don't you ever try to tell me you don't have balls."

Klaus chuckles, but it's a sad sound. He pulls his hand free of Dave's, though it pains him to do so. He runs his fingers through his hair, pulling the strands in frustration.

"That's not the kind of strong I'm talking about, Dave." Klaus pinches his eyes shut. God he hates talking about this shit. When he opens his eyes, Dave is watching him with the most earnest, honest expression he has ever seen.

And it breaks his heart.

"I am weak because I can't face myself. No matter what I do in this war, no matter how many lives I save, or how much good I do for the US Army, I'm still just Klaus. Still just a coward who can't face the spirits who are asking him for absolution."

"And who says it's your job to absolve them?" Dave demands, surprising Klaus yet again. "It's not your job to save their souls, Klaus, it's your job to save your own. Please, you have to know that."

Klaus just stares at Dave for a moment, utterly blown away by his words. How is it that this man knows just what to say, at any given moment?

Before Klaus can muster a response to beautiful Dave's question, the tent flap flies open once more and Dallas and Winston stumble in, clearly wasted on one thing or another.

"Hargreeves!!!" Dallas bellows, dropping down clumsily on his cot. "Tell us more about your sister."

Dave is up and away from Klaus in a heartbeat. This is happening much too often. His plan to keep a safe distance between him an the enigmatic soldier has gone terribly awry. If he's not careful, they'll both be discovered.

Klaus can't help himself, so Dave will just have to do better. For both their sakes.

Klaus giggles. That maniacal, high giggle that makes Dave's skin crawl, and immediately launches into a long and sordid tale about his sister seducing a crew of criminals into beating each other bloody.

Dave's not interested in Klaus's horror stories. Because that's what they are to Dave. Because unlike his squad mates, Dave knows they're true. He knows the sad truth behind the tall tales.

About halfway through his epic tale,, Klaus locks eyes with Dave. His expression is sad, resigned. And Dave knows in that moment that he needs to do whatever he can to save Klaus. From his past, from the ghosts that haunt him, and most of all, from himself.

Dave just wants to keep Klaus safe.

He knows it's not his job, Klaus is not his responsibility. Klaus is not his anything.

But that does not change the way Dave feels, or what he's going to do about it.

And now it's seems like his number one job here in this jungle war zone is to do just that.

Protect Klaus.

 

***

 

Klaus falls into some kind of routine over the next few weeks. He goes on missions, kills some people, saves some lives. When they are not marching or hunting for Charlie, Klaus and the rest of the grunts do work around fire base. Burning brush, setting traps, clearing the river of dead bodies, burying them in hastily dug mass graves. It's macabre work, but Klaus is used to the dead, so it doesn't phase him like it does the other men.

Then, they'll all return to fire base for some disgusting food and decent conversation, almost always ending the night with the men congregated in Klaus's tent. The men with listen with rapt attention while Klaus spins yarns about the insane missions of his youth.

Klaus doesn't mind it at all. It's the most structure he's had in his life since he ran away from the academy at seventeen. And here, he's got Dave. With his warm smile and his kind words. It makes the grueling days in the sweltering jungle bearable.

It's well after dinner now, and Klaus is feeling loose from the benzos Doc supplied him a few hours ago. He's got his little troupe circled around him, Dave sitting off to the side, that sideways smirk he reserves for Klaus splitting his pretty lips.

Klaus is finishing up his last tall tale about the Umbrella Academy. He's been talking for a good long while now, every single man in his unit hanging on every word.

He'd been wary about telling these tales at first, but then he'd decided that the intrigue and excitement he saw in the men's eyes was worth a million temporal anomalies. Five can get fucked, with his equations and his rigid opinion about how life is supposed to unfold. Klaus honestly doesn't care if these stories cause a rift in time. His words are bringing a little joy to some men who are in desperate need of an escape from the hellish reality they are living.

His last tale comes to and end and he yawns. His high is tapering off once again. He claps his hands together, smiling.

"That's enough for tonight, boys. I'm about ready to get my smoke on and hit the hay."

Dave glances at his watch, surprised to find it's well after ten pm. "Shit. We gotta march at zero six hundred. You assholes get back to your own tents, or Sarg is gonna have all our asses in a sling."

Winston and Benny grumble, but get up and head out. Dallas smirks at Dave, giving him a mocking salute.

"Ten four, Sarg." Dallas giggles, nodding to Dave before glancing over at Klaus. "Thanks man, it's nice to get outta my own head for a bit."

"Yeah, your welcome." Klaus smiles, nodding almost shyly. "I know the feeling, so I'm glad I can help."

Dallas grins once more. "Well, I'm gonna grab some water from the Ward tent before I turn in, you want some, Klaus?"

"That'd be nice, thanks." Klaus says, still smiling brightly at Dallas. It's nice to have friends in the unit. People who appreciate Klaus for who he is. People who would offer him something as simple as a drink of water with no expectations of payback.

Dallas is gone from the tent and it's just Klaus and Dave again. Dave is getting undressed, getting ready for bed. He sits on his cot, his chest bare, brushing his teeth with no water and no toothpaste.

He's trying to keep composed, but he can't help the bubble of irrational jealously that is boiling in his gut.

What the hell is up with Dallas? Fawning all over Klaus like he's Brigitte Bardot or something. Dave knows he's probably way off base, but he can't help but over analyze each interaction Klaus has with his squad mates now. Dave knew this stupid crush was going to get him in trouble sooner or later, and now it has him obsessing over a couple of sentences between friends.

But, why would Dallas offer to get Klaus water like that? He's never done it for any of the other soldiers in their unit. Is Dallas even gay? Bisexual? Is Dave really that obtuse? Could he really serve in this unit for all this time and not notice another gay man in his ranks?

Klaus made it easy. Almost too easy. He couldn't hide his queerness if he tried. Not that he did try.

But Dave did. And he hid it well. So it would make sense that there was another gay man in the unit, who was just as adept at passing for straight as Dave was. Was Dallas that man? Was he looking to get in good with Klaus? Was Klaus interested as well?

Was Dave going to have to sit back and watch as Klaus and Dallas launched into some poorly hidden secret affair?

God, just the idea made him sick.

He glanced over at Klaus, not at all surprised to find him rolling yet another joint. Klaus was singularly focused, his eyes trained on his work.

"So, does Dallas do that kinda shit for you a lot?" Dave was surprised when the question passed his lips. Why the fuck did he ask that?

Klaus peered up at him, clearly perplexed himself. "Do what? Get me water?" Klaus asks, brow knitted in confusion.

"Uh, yeah, I guess." Dave murmured, growing more uncomfortable by the moment.

"Not really." Klaus shrugged, lighting the joint and taking a long hit. He offered it to Dave, who took it after a moment's hesitation. "I don't think he's ever asked before. But I'm thirsty, and I'd rather not get up, so..."

"You gotta be careful, Klaus." Dave says, bringing the joint to his lips and inhaling. It seems to be just regular weed this time, and Dave is grateful for that. Klaus's other shit is too much for him sometimes. "Dallas is a good guy, but you don't wanna give him the wrong idea...fuck, I don't know what I'm saying." Dave trails off, frustrated with himself. He glances away, castigating himself for being unable to articulate his thoughts.

Weed has always made him stupid, and Klaus just makes him tongue-tied.

Klaus's responding chuckle has Dave glancing back up at him. "You know, Davey, if I didn't know better, I'd swear you were jealous." he takes another long hit off the joint, enjoying the burn in his lungs.

Klaus doesn't know what possessed him to say something like that. He's got loose lips when he's stoned, and more often than not, it lands him in hot water.

Dave is looking at Klaus like he's holding a loaded gun on him, and Klaus immediately starts backpedaling. "Oh Dave, I'm just kidding. I'm sorry, please. Let's just forget it. Dallas just wants some of this weed." he waves the joint in Dave's face. When Dave didn't respond, only continued to gape at Klaus, Klaus started to panic. And when Klaus panics, his mouth gets away from him. "He's straight as an arrow, and whatever I am has no bearing on any of this. I know I have a tendency to be girly or what have you, but I promise, I don't mean to make you uncomfortable...You know what, I should just go. I'll talk a walk around the perimeter, give you some space, come back after everyone is sleeping." Klaus stubbed the joint out, placing it back under his pillow, scowling at the floor.

God damn it.

Klaus is up and heading toward the mouth of the tent before Dave's addled brain can catch up. When he does get his wits about him, he launches himself at Klaus, his hand wrapping around the other man's thin wrist and tugging him back into the tent. He thinks about his plan. To keep his distance from Klaus, protect them both from military justice, and he just can't stomach it any longer. He has to be honest, or he'll go mad. No matter how Klaus feels, or if he loses him as a friend, Dave has to tell him the truth.

Klaus rounds on him, fist up to defend a blow that doesn't come. Dave doesn't let go of his wrist, he just tugs Klaus further back into the tent until he can push him to sit back down. Klaus stares up with at Dave with wide eyes, and Dave heaves a heavy sigh.

"You aren't even going to let me speak? You're just going to run?" Dave asks, voice soft. He locks eyes with a confused Klaus and gives the other man a weak smile.

Klaus, for his part, is completely bewildered. The weed is hitting him hard and he just can't keep up with the fluctuating mood in the tent.

"I, uh, just thought you may want me to go?" Klaus responded, his eyes flitting between Dave's imploring blue eyes and his fingers still wrapped around Klaus's wrist.

"No, I don't want you to go." Dave murmured, finally releasing his grip on Klaus. He sits down next to him, but leaves a fair amount of distance between them. He clasps his hands together in his lap to stop himself from reaching out again. "Klaus, I need to tell you something. And I know it will probably fuck everything up, but I can't keep it to myself anymore. It's messing with my ability to be a good soldier, and I can't afford to be distracted or emotional on patrol."

Klaus nodded, his eyes widening at Dave's serious tone. His heart was hammering in his chest, anxiety overwhelming him despite his high. The atmosphere between them was no longer lighthearted or fun. There was a heaviness in the air that Klaus didn't know what to do with. Serious conversations were not his forte, made him feel nervous and self conscious.

"Listen, Dave." Klaus interrupted, wanting to spare them both the embarrassment of having this conversation. "I get it, it's fine. I know everyone thinks I'm gay. And while that's not far from the truth, I don't plan on outing myself. I'm not going to do something stupid like proposition Dallas or any of the other soldiers. I know i's impossible for me to play it fully straight, but I've toned it sooo much since I landed here, you have no idea. If you think it's still too much, I suppose I can try harder. But I think the guys have taken to me just as I am. As long as I don't drop to my knees in front of them and beg for cock, I think they'll continue to overlook my limp wrist. Don't you think?" Klaus spewed the words out without thought, his voice dripping with irritated sarcasm. It was like he couldn't help himself. He knew he had been a bit rude, but he just couldn't stand to hear the words he just knew were going to spill from his crush's lips.

'Your blatant gayness is a distraction to the squad.'
'You don't belong in this unit, faggot.'
'You're just too much. Creepy, and queer. We can't be friends anymore.'

Klaus can't bear it. He wishes he'd never said anything. He wishes he never opened that damn briefcase. Being tortured by those masked maniacs feels like a less painful fate than being snubbed by this beautiful man.

Dave grimaces, utterly thrown by Klaus's vulgar language. He's never heard another man speak so casually about something so deviant. He is so distracted by Klaus's filthy mouth, he almost loses his train of thought entirely.

Almost.

"Klaus." Dave sighed. God, he's already fucking up and he hasn't said anything yet. His nerves are making him sweat. He's sick with anxiety. But he has to say this shit while he's got the balls. "I don't want you to change at all. I think you are perfect, just as you are. I like you, Klaus, a lot."

Klaus blushed, though he was still thoroughly confused. The weed was making him much slower on the update, and he was never the sharpest crayon in the box to begin with. He smiled, glancing over at Dave like a smitten little girl. "I like you too, Dave." he murmured, running a hand through his knotted locks nervously. "You're a good friend, and a good soldier." Klaus says the words, all the time giving himself an internal pep talk.

'Keep it casual, Klaus. Don't tip your hand, stay friendly, bros. Keep the relationship solid. Don't scare Dave away with your gay clinginess. He's not yours, he can't ever be.'

"No, Klaus..." Dave huffed, shaking his head. Why is this so damn hard? It's not like he's inexperienced with men. Sure, he may have never been in a relationship before, but he's dated a bit when he lived in Philly. He's no stranger to speaking about how he feels. No stranger to flirting or making conversation with enticing men.

But of course Klaus would be the exception to that rule too. Leaving Dave utterly at a loss, unable to articulate how he feels. Now they are both frustrated.

"Dave, it's okay. I get it." Klaus murmurs, his voice low. He had no idea how to deal with this rejection. Was Dave trying to say they couldn't even be friends any more?

"You don't." Dave says, adamant. "You don't get it, because I'm not saying it right." Dave took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Okay, here goes nothing. "I like you, Klaus. Yes, you are a good friend, and I appreciate that, but that is not at all the way I mean it." Dave glanced away, unable to look into Klaus's gorgeous green eyes as he spoke a truth he'd been avoiding for months now. "I know, it's the stupidest thing that I could do, in this army, and in a war zone, but I do. I like you, a lot. Honestly, like is too weak a word for what I feel for you." Dave chuckled, shaking his head. In for a penny, in for a pound. "I adore everything about you. Your work ethic, your bravery. I love it when you tell crazy stories to the whole squad, and I love it when it's just us quietly talking about our day. I love your sense of humor, I love your smile, your laugh. Not to mention the fact that you're stunning, Klaus. Jesus, so, so beautiful." Dave finally grew a set and glanced up, only to find Klaus on the verge of tears. "Klaus? What's wrong?" he asks, subconsciously leaning closer. He was within reach of Klaus now, but still made no attempt to touch him. "Don't cry. I never meant to upset you."

"I'm not upset." Klaus whispered, wiping at his eyes with his dirty fingers. He gave Dave a watery smile, leaning in dangerously close. "That is the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me. You mean it?"

Dave laughed, relief flooding his system. His shoulders slumped and he sighed heavily. "I do. God, Klaus, I do."

Klaus feels like he's having some kind of fever dream. This kind of shit never happens to him. The gorgeous, kind, intelligent, talented soldier was honestly interested in Klaus of all people? Dave is gay, in this macho, blood drenched war zone? Gay, and hot for Klaus? What world is this? Where did that briefcase really take Klaus, Bizzaro Land?

Klaus beamed at Dave, fresh tears welling up in his eyes. Jesus, he can never keep it together. The weed isn't helping him stay even keeled at all, but Klaus is glad to not have a ghostly audience to this conversation. "I like you too, Dave. Like, more than I can express in mere words. Honestly, I've been hot for you since that very first moment. That night, in the tent, I laid eyes on you, and just...yeah."

Dave just stared, mouth hanging open in shock. Could it be true? Could someone as amazing, someone as interesting and sexy and complex as Klaus really be interested in Dave of all people?

"Klaus, I know I'm just some guy. A soldier here, a teacher back home. I know you are probably used to a much more glamorous lifestyle...people much more interesting than me." he paused when Klaus burst out laughing, quirking an eyebrow.

"Davey, my darling, my life is not at all glamorous, trust me." Klaus chuckled, before sobering. He glanced at Dave, suddenly feeling shy again. "And don't dismiss yourself like that. You are so much more than what you think. So much more than meets the eye. You are one of the kindest, most interesting people I've ever met. You have helped me so much since I've been here. You never lose your patience, you believed me when I told you about my supernatural condition, and you're god damn gorgeous. What self respecting queer man wouldn't be smitten?"

"Klaus." Dave whispered, glancing toward the mouth of the tent. "Please, keep your voice down. You can't call yourself a queer out loud like that. Dallas could be back any minute."

"Oh Dave." Klaus murmured, running his fingers along Dave's arm. "I don't think it's a big secret that I'm a little bit gay." he winked. "But you know what? You're right. Where the hell did Dallas go? I'm so thirsty." Klaus mutters, smacking his lips together dramatically. "Ugh, cotton mouth."

Dave chuckled, shaking his head. "You know Dallas. He probably got distracted by something shiny and forgot all about you." Dave's mind was still reeling. He'd just confessed his feeling to Klaus, and Klaus shockingly reciprocated. Then, in the next breath, it was like it hadn't happened at all. They'd gone right back to bullshitting and making fun their squad mate. Dave honestly had no idea what to do with any of it.

Klaus huffed out a laugh, shaking his head. 'Y'know, you're right. And the guys think I'm the harebrained one."

"Fuck what anyone else thinks, Klaus." Dave said, no hint of teasing in his tone. "There's nothing wrong with you. You're perfect just the way you are." and just like that, Dave's thrust them right back into serious conversation territory. It's like he can't help himself.

Klaus laughed sadly, shaking his head. "Davey, I'm far from perfect. I have so many demons, so many issues."

"I don't give a damn about any of that." Dave insisted. "To me, you are just...christ, Klaus, you're everything."

Klaus's stomach dropped. His mouth fell open in shock, a swarm of butterflies swirling in his stomach. What had he done to deserve this? It made no sense.

"Well, Davey, you're not so bad yourself." Klaus grinned, just barely holding back from saying what he really felt. That he's been falling hard for this guy for weeks now. Klaus just isn't quite ready to put himself out that far out there. He's been burned so many times, it's hard for him to be vulnerable.

"Oh yeah?" Dave replied, feeling emboldened. He scooted closer to Klaus on the rickety cot, reaching for his hand. "What do you...."

Before Dave could get the words out, Dallas was in the mouth of the tent again, grinning at them and panting like he just ran a marathon.

Dave pulled his hand back like he'd been burned. Klaus and Dave separated on the cot, putting a fair amount of distance between them. It didn't feel right to Dave. He wanted to be as close to Klaus as possible. The mere inches between them felt like miles.

Klaus stared at Dallas, irritated at the interruption. "Dallas, where did you get off to? And where's my water?"

"Fuck that noise, Hargreeves, I got real news." Dallas crowed, doing a weird little jig in the front of the tent.

"What is it, Dallas? We got movement by the river?" Dave asks, already getting up to prepare to march on orders.

"No, no. Chill out, Katz. Nothing like that. This is good news, my friend."

"Oh!" Klaus said, glancing over at Dave before looking back at Dallas. "What? Tell me. I love good news. We hardly ever get any. Are they finally going to deliver on that promise of chocolate? I'd kill a man with my bare hands for a candy bar right now."

Dave chuckled, shaking his head. Klaus had the meanest sweet tooth of any man he's ever met.

Like most things about Klaus, Dave found it ridiculously endearing.

"You're thinking too small, Hargreeves." Dallas laughed, still bouncing up and down excitedly.

"Oh, boo." Klaus huffed, waving Dallas off. "I hate this game. Just tell me."

Dallas paused for dramatic effect, earning himself twin death glares from his friends. Finally, he relented, too excited to keep it to himself any longer.

"We got Leave!" Dallas cheered. "I just ran into Sarg outside the head. We get three whole days off at the end of the week! Sarg says we can go down to Saigon, don't have to be back at Firebase til Monday! Can you believe it?" Dallas's voice was awed, like couldn't comprehend his own words. "I'm gonna get a hotel room. Get fucking blitzed, find me a boom boom girl and get my dick sucked. I can't fucking wait." Dallas dropped down on his cot, grinning at the two men, totally oblivious to the tension radiating between Klaus and Dave.

Dave perked right up. "No shit? Leave, huh? It's been months since we've been outta this mud hole."

"It's gonna be boss, man." Dallas smiled, glancing over at Klaus. "Damn, Hargreeves, I just know you're gonna rain hell all over the city. It's gonna be a gas for sure."

Klaus grinned back, nodding. Just the idea of getting out of the jungle and into a honest to god bar was enough to set Klaus off. God, he was gonna take a bath, get so fucked up he couldn't see straight...and maybe, just maybe, have some real fun for once.

Dallas picked up his cards and started shuffling them, still twitching with excitement. Looks like Klaus's alone time with Dave has come to an end for the night.

"Whatchu guys doing? Wanna play spades?"

Dave wants to remind Dallas that it's late at night, and they should try to get some shut eye. But just the wild, excited look in the boys' eyes is enough to show Dave that they will be too excited to sleep for some time now. Leave does that to the men. So he keeps his opinions to himself. Let them be happy for a bit.

Klaus sighed, glancing over at Dave before nodding to Dallas. "Sure man, deal 'em out. I'm always ready and willing to beat your ass at cards."

Dallas scoffed, shuffling the cards once more and dealing them out.

Dave took his cards, but said nothing as they played. His mind was a million miles away.

Leave. Three whole days away from base. Three whole days with Klaus, away from the constant gunfire and prying eyes of the squad.

After their conversation tonight, Dave is feeling emboldened. He's going to make his move. Klaus is clearly receptive, and Dave's not going to let this opportunity pass him by.

Stuff like this doesn't happen to Dave.

Klaus, for his part, is barely able to contain his excitement. He does a good job while he beats both Dave and Dallas at three hands of spades. He does just fine holding in his elation as the other men filter in and everyone tucks in for a fitful night's rest.

It's not until he's in the relative silence of the darkened tent does Klaus finally loses his cool. He lays there in the dark, practically vibrating with excitement. His hands shake and his legs twitch. He's smiling so wide his face hurts.

Not even Collins' specter, chillin' at the end of his bed like some demented guard dog, can bring him down.

Dave likes him. Dave likes him and wants him and Klaus just can't believe it.

And now it seems the Gay Gods have smiled upon Klaus, blessing him with three whole days with Dave. A brief reprieve from the horror of war, to spend with this incredible man.

And Klaus plans on making the most of this gift.

Chapter Text

Predictably, the rest of the week dragged. Every day felt like three. All the men were excited, eager to get out of the mud and into the city. Dave kept having to remind the guys to stay sharp, not get complacent or let their daydreaming about cold drinks and hot women distract them from their remaining missions.

It happens, sometimes, that a grunt will get so in his head about leave, that he ends up getting his ass killed before he can even step foot outside the jungle.

Dave doesn't want to see that happen again. And even though he's just a private like most of the guys in his unit, the men respect him, and trust him when he tells them to quit acting like a bunch of fools.

And that's what Dave finds himself doing now. It's an hour before they are set to leave. Their little yellow short bus loaded up with supplies and gas, ready to take them away from Firebase and into Saigon.

Dave is sitting in a foxhole, near the perimeter of the base, cradling his gun in his lap and whistling a tune he can't remember the name of. They're pretty much just killing time now until Sarg relieves them of duty. It's been oddly quiet around the base today, and that always makes Dave a little nervous. He knows just what to do in the chaos of battle, knows what to do when the men are acting up in the tents, knows what to do when there is one emergency or another. But he is utterly at a loss when things area relatively peaceful. It gives him anxiety. Like he's constantly on edge, waiting for the quiet to be shattered with a fresh burst of gunfire or a new cluster of bombs dropping from the skies.

Of course, it's only quiet for a handful of minutes before Klaus starts chatting again. Dave grins down at the dirt. Klaus is allergic to silence. It makes him itchy, and he has to remedy the situation quickly before he spends too much time lost in his own thoughts.

Dave's learned a lot about Klaus in the past couple of months. And it's obvious that Klaus detests the quiet, and he hates being alone. At least he does here, in the war. Dave's not sure if that's because of his personal struggles, or the ghouls that follow him around all the time. But Klaus always seems most at ease when he's surrounded by his friends and their laughter.

Dave can't disagree with that. A smiling Klaus is a sight to behold.

"So anyway. Diego thinks he's so damn funny, right? So he has this bright idea to put super glue all over Luther's water glass. We were only ever allowed water, something about keeping our bodies pure. Which is hilarious if you consider how I ended up, but anyway. So Diego goes all stealth mode right before dinner. Oh! and we're not allowed to talk at meal times either, that's important. So, Diego had slathered Luther's water glass with so much super glue, it's like dripping down the sides and shit. We're all sitting there, listening to Dad's stupid records about the best way to disembowel someone. Only me, Diego and Five know about the glue..."

"Wait." Dallas interrupts, scratching at a bug bite under his chin. "Why is one of your brothers named after a number?"

"Dallas, man." Klaus shakes his head tiredly. "You never did learn manners, did you? Interrupting again. Five obviously kept his number when we were given the option to be named."

"Huh?" Winston interjected. "You were't given names when you were born?"

Klaus chuckled, shaking his head once more. "No, we weren't. How many different ways do I have to explain this? Reggie didn't see us as children, or people at all really. He saw us as test subjects. Part of his grand human experiment. Therefore, we were numbered, like you do with scientific studies. He numbered us in the order he acquired us from our birth mothers. So, he bought Luther first, hence Number One. And so on....you follow?"

"Man, that's cold." Winston said, gawking at Klaus like he couldn't comprehend what he'd just heard.

"Oh, that was the least of it, trust me." Klaus chuckled. "Anyway, you guys stay on target, will you? Or I'll never finish this story. So Diego slathers the glass in superglue, but when we are all sitting around eating in utter silence, we hear Sir Reggie complaining. 'Oh Grace' - that's Mom- 'this glass is filthy', talking about his own glass. Then, to our collective horror, he switches out his glass for Luther's. Takes a big ol' sip. His lips sutured to that glass so fast. And of course, we didn't open our mouths to warn him. Not only would it have given us away, but we're not ALLOWED to speak at all. We all just sat there, staring at our plates while he mumbled around the glass, flailing his hands. I thought I was gonna pop a lung, holding in my laughter. It took him over an hour to get the glue off, with fucking paint thinner. Incredible, I tell you. Needless to say, all seven of us were punished severely for that. But Sir Hargreeves never did find out who did it." Klaus smiled, remember how apoplectic Reggie was that night, his face all red and swollen after using solvent to remove the glue.

He'd spent the night in the mausoleum for that stunt. Klaus never found out what the other kids got as punishment. He did knows Sir Reginald's punishments were brutal, and tailored to each child, so he can imagine it was torture for his siblings too.

"Damn, Hargreeves, you were a bunch of savages, huh? My ol' man woulda tanned my hide." Dallas laughed, shaking his head.

"You don't have to hit a child to damage them." Klaus replied, all humor gone from his tone.

"So!" Dave interrupted, voice loud and overly cheery. He could tell Klaus's mood had taken a nosedive toward the end of that last story, and thought it'd be best to change the subject. "What's the plan for when we hit the city? We going straight to the bar, or did you guys wanna check in and drop your gear at the hotel first?"

That was all it took to get the attention off Klaus and onto the upcoming leave. As the men talked excitedly over each other, Dave snuck a quick glance at Klaus. The other man was giving him a grateful smile. Dave nodded with a little grin of his own.

Klaus might like to be the center of attention, but Dave can always tell when he needs a break from the spotlight.

Soon, Sarg was wandering over, standing over the foxhole with his hands on his hips, glaring down at the men huddled below.

"Get your nancy asses up and gear up. Transport leaves in twenty. If you're not on it, you're staying here with the replacements and you're on latrine duty." he barked, shooting his customary death glare over the assembled crowd. When it took the men a little too long to get in gear, Sarg started screaming. "Now, you lazy assholes. Get the fuck up and get outta my foxhole. Hup-to! Go, go, go!"

It was like boot camp all over again, and if Sarg wasn't dead serious, Dave would have laughed.

Things being as they are, he just obeyed orders, jumping up from his seated position, securing his weapon, and hightailing it back to his tent to grab his gear.

Ready or not, Saigon, here we come.

 

***

 

Klaus is sitting on the bus next to Dave, watching the jungle outside morph into grasslands, then a neighborhood. It took them about an hour to get to the city from the Firebase, and now Klaus is gawking through the dirty glass at the majesty that is Saigon.

The city seems totally untouched by the war, which boggles Klaus's mind. He can't imagine how so much carnage goes on just outside the city limits, yet these people go on like it's all business as usual.

But Klaus knows his history. And in six short months, the Tet Offensive would rain hell down on this picturesque city.

Klaus swallowed, turning away from the window. There was nothing he could do to change the future. Or the past, depending on the way you look at it. There is nothing Klaus can do to stop the battle or save the soon to be dead. He's powerless, so it's best not to dwell on it.

So instead, he turns to Dave, big smile on his face. "So what's the plan, Davey? I have no money, nowhere to stay and no clothes. If you think I'm hitting the town in this godawful camo shit, you are sadly mistaken." Klaus splays his hands across his chest, gagging dramatically.

Dave chuckles, rolling his eyes. "Sarge still hasn't figured out your pay, huh?"

Klaus looked away real quick, shaking his head. Sarge hadn't figured out his pay yet because he wasn't really an enlisted soldier. Sarg got his dog tags as an under the table favor from a buddy in administration, but they still had no record of Klaus. He was a stowaway in the damn Army, and Sarg was apparently part of the cover up now. "No, they haven't. I'm destitute, Davey, and it's honestly rather embarrassing.

Dave shot a quick glance around the bus, making sure none of the other guys was paying them any attention before he reached out, giving Klaus's knee a little squeeze. "Don't worry about it, Klaus, I can help you out."

"Oh Dave, no." Klaus replies, his eyes locked on Dave's hand on his knee. "I can't ask you to do that." Normally, Klaus would be all about free money. But he didn't want to leech off Dave. Klaus cared about him to much to do that.

"Klaus, please. Let me help you. I don't have anyone to send the money home to. It's just burning a hole in my pocket, see?" Dave pulled a wad of MPC's out of his pocket, flashing it at his friend.

"Dave, what the hell is that? Monopoly money?" Klaus balked, looking down at the brightly colored notes in his hand.

"Um, no. They're MPC's, Klaus, you know, military money? The Army gives it to us so we don't spend our money on drugs or whores. But jokes on them, cuz the gal down at Mimi's always trades me. I give her two hundred worth of MPC's, she gives me a hundred and fifty American dollars. That's more than enough to live like kings for three days, so let me help you, okay?"

"Okay." Klaus replied, blushing. God, what did he ever do to deserve such kindness?

Klaus is so happy Dave is going to be with him on this adventure.

Since that night in the tent, where they both confessed their feelings, they haven't really had a chance to discuss it again. Klaus is hoping that this leave will give them an opportunity to talk more about it. Maybe make out a little.

When Dave told Klaus that he was into him, Klaus's mind was off and running. How far in the closet is Dave? Is he out in Philly, away from his parents? Has he had a lot of boyfriends? Has he had girlfriends? Is he into whatever, like Klaus is? Or is he strictly dickly? Would he be willing to fool around a little bit this weekend? Because Klaus would for sure be into that.

But...Klaus still has no idea where they are staying, or if they will even get any time alone.

He's getting ahead of himself. As usual.

"So, where are we staying? Do we all get like, one big room? Like the YMCA or something?" Klaus really hopes that's not the case. He loves the guys, but the whole point of leave was to get a little time to yourself, wasn't it?

Dave chuckled, shaking his head. "Oh god, Klaus! No. Not at all. We all get rooms at the Rex Hotel. It's popular spot with the army. Usually, two or three guys will get a room and split it, to save money. It can get a little weird when guys start bringing boom boom girls around, but it's not anything we haven't seen before, right?"

Klaus giggled, nodding. "Okay then. So what's the plan?" Klaus is hoping Dave is on the same page as him, but shockingly, Klaus finds he's too chickenshit to just ask outright.

"Well, Dallas asked if I wanted to room with him, since I did last time..." Dave said, and Klaus's heart pretty much shattered.

"Oh."

"But I told him I was gonna bunk with you this time." Dave said, a wide smile splitting his lips. "Y'know, cuz it's your first time and all. You need someone experienced to keep your crazy ass outta trouble. If that's good with you, of course."

And just like that, Klaus's heart went from splintered to soaring. "Really now?" Klaus purred, unable to contain his excitement. "I like the sound of that, Davey."

"I was hoping you might."

 

***

 

"Hi, um." Dave scratched the back at his head, grinning at the confused looking woman behind the desk. "Chúng tôi có phòng dành riêng. Sargent Richard Rollins." Dave just knows he butchered that Vietnamese.

The woman giggles.

"Sir, I speak english." she replies, still grinning. "Sargent reserved three rooms, six beds. Is acceptable?"

"Oh, yes ma'am. Thank you." Dave replied. He was relieved he didn't have to continue this conversation in a foreign language. He's no translator.

The woman wrote something down in a big leather bound ledger before reaching under the counter and taking out three key rings.

"Elevator. Floor seven. Rooms 7F through 7H. Thank you."

"Thank you, ma'am." Dave replied politely before taking the keys from her outstretched hand. He turned around, coming face to face with six excited men from his unit. Dave is glad there's only a small group of them on leave together. The more grunts you get together in one spot, the more likely you are to end up with a melee on your hands.

"Dallas, Winston, you guys take 7F, O'Connor and Ace, you're gonna be in 7G, and Klaus and I will take 7H. Is that cool with everyone?"

When everyone agreed, they headed toward the elevator, excited to get their shit put away and hit the town.

Klaus leaned up against the back wall of the elevator as it lurched toward the seventh floor. He smiled to himself, still a little shocked that he was even here. It's just such a mindfuck. Three months ago, he was barely surviving in 2019. Hopping from detox to shelters, trading sex for a bed for the night. Stealing to feed his habit. Totally estranged from his family and utterly friendless. Klaus had been at the end of his rope. If he could have died, he's sure he'd be rotting in the ground right now.

But, life was always just one fucked up decision away from a totally new reality. And one split second decision to swipe that briefcase when he fled from those masked sociopaths had landed him here. Sure, he was in a war zone, but he was also surrounded by men who called him their brother and meant it. He had purpose, people trusted him. He was useful, and appreciated.

Leave it to Klaus to have to throw himself into an unwinnable war to find happiness.

Klaus glanced up at the elevator dial, watching the little hand moved from six to seven. He locked eyes with Dave over Ace's head and smiled.

Yeah, Klaus wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

 

***

 

"This is nice." Klaus murmured, running his fingers along the crisp, clean duvet on one of the two beds in the room. "So clean."

The room was small, but well appointed. Two full size beds ran down the center of the room, a dark wood nightstand tucked in between the two beds. A tall dresser stood in the corner by a set of large french doors that led out to a small balcony.

Across from the beds was low table, with a radio and a bible perched on top. No TV in the room, but Klaus didn't mind.

The other side of the room was dominated by two dark wood doors. One a closet and the other the bathroom. Klaus peeked inside, thrilled to find a claw-foot tub inside.

"I know, it's hard to remember what clean sheets feel like, but I'm eager to find out." Dave replied, dropping his canvas bag down one of the beds. There wasn't much in it, just his toothbrush and other random toiletries from Firebase. He didn't have any civilian clothes either, so he and Klaus were gonna have to hit the shops.

Dave was looking forward to slipping into some civvies and feeling like a regular guy for a little while.

Klaus hummed, dropping down on his bed with a gleeful giggle, starfishing out on the comforter and fanning his arms and legs out like he was making a snow angel.

"Klaus, what are you doing?" Dave chuckled.

"Stretching my muscles, Davey. Do you have any idea how much strain it puts on my spindly limbs to be hunched down in those icky foxholes for hours on end."

Dave nodded, opening his mouth to reply when his eyes caught on Klaus's taut stomach peaking out from under the hem of his too-tight uniform t shirt. Klaus's skin was so pale. The muscles of his abdomen pronounce just underneath his milky skin. God, it looked so soft. How is it possible that Klaus is still so soft after so much time at war?

Klaus clears his throat and Dave's eyes shoot up to lock with Klaus's green gaze.

"See something you like, Private Katz?" Klaus grins.

"You know the answer to that question." Dave replied quietly, dropping down next to Klaus on the bed. He remained sitting up, leaning over Klaus. He took one of Klaus's hands in his own, running his thumb along the knuckles of Klaus's hand. "But you know we need to play it cool when we are out with the boys, yeah? I know most of the guys have their suspicions about you, Klaus. But they need to stay just that: suspicions. We can't do anything to draw attention to ourselves, okay?"

Klaus sat up so fast, Dave had to lurch backwards so they didn't knock skulls. "Dave, I'm not stupid. I know how to act in public around a shit ton of homophobic pricks."

"Homo-what?"

"Dave." Klaus sighed. "You don't have to worry about me embarrassing you. I won't do anything overtly faggy. Okay?"

"Klaus, that's not at all what I meant." Dave replied, defensive. "If word gets back to Sarg that we, y'know, like each other that way, we could be separated. Put in different units, forbidden to speak again. And that's best case scenario. Sarg could have us both arrested for sodomy, get us tossed in the brig. We could be dishonorably discharged." Dave sighed when he saw Klaus's stricken expression. "You gotta know, it's not because I'm ashamed to be gay, or because I'm ashamed to be seen with you. It's because it's the law, and I don't want either of us to get in trouble."

"Well, the law is stupid." Klaus spat, crossing his arms over his chest like a pouty child. "I can't wait until this thing is overturned. God, I would kill to see Sarg's face when they lift the ban on gays in the military."

Dave just stared at Klaus. What is he talking about? They will never lift the ban on queers in the military. Dave can't even imagine a world where that could happen.

"Klaus, you have to know, that's not going to happen in our lifetime." Dave replied quietly. He didn't want to upset Klaus, but he needed him to understand the reality.

"Oh, poor Dave." Klaus replied, smiling sadly. "You have no idea."

Dave's face contorted in confusion, but before he could ask Klaus to elaborate, the other man patted him gently on the cheek and rose from the bed.

"I am going to take the longest, hottest bath ever." Klaus decided, pulling his t-shirt over his head and tossing it to the floor. He glanced over his shoulder, shooting Dave a smoldering look that set the other man's insides alight. "I'd ask you to join me, but I don't think we're quite there yet." Klaus winked, making his way toward the bathroom. "I'll be out in a few and we can go shopping, okay?"

"O-Okay." Dave replied, rendered speechless once again by Klaus fucking Hargreeves.

 

***

 

Klaus ended up getting two outfits. A sweet retro looking orange and white striped shirt, that he paired with an even sweeter pair of black and white striped pants. They were both crazy tight. The shirt cut off just above his midriff, exposing Klaus's belly the way he always liked. The second outfit was a little tamer by Klaus's standards. A tad bit too formal for Klaus's normal wardrobe. A tight, black long sleeve shirt with a high collar and a pair of charcoal grey tweed pants, that flared out like bell bottoms.

He looked like a high class motherfucker in that one.

It would have been better if he could have sprung for a that pair of platforms he'd fallen in love with, but not even Klaus can pull of white patent leather heels in a crowd of testosterone driven men with guns. He went with a much more sensible, much less feminine pair that did not stir his spirit, but still made him look hot. So at least there's that.

Dave had gone the safer route, getting himself a couple pairs of khakis, one brown, one grey. And a couple of really cute button down shirts. A white one, which was nice and all, but it was the blue one Klaus really loved. It made Dave's blue eyes shine so bright. Klaus had stood outside the dressing room, watching Dave turn one way then the other in the mirror, just beaming at him. It had always been hard for Klaus to play it cool, but it was damn near impossible with Dave.

Klaus is sure it's only going to get harder once they start drinking.

They were back in their room now, bags strewn over both the beds as they rushed to get ready before the guys came to collect them.

"You look nice." Dave smiles as fiddles with the collar of his shirt. Klaus smirked. He'd gone with the orange shirt and striped pants. He had a feeling Dave would appreciate that one.

"You look good too, Davey." Klaus replied, stepping up to him and batting his hands away so he can fix his collar himself. "I have to say, though, you look incredible in anything. You could be standing in front of me in your mud covered fatigues and I'd be swooning."

Dave blushed, rolling his eyes. "You are such a sweet talker."

Klaus shot him another stunner smile, leaning close. He licked his lips, his eyes flitting all over Dave's face.

Alas, before he could make his move, a strident knocking on their room door had them separating like startled birds.

"Katz! Hargreeves! Get a move on!" Ace's boisterous voice filtered through the thin wood of their door, causing both men to groan.

"He's been drinking already." Klaus chuckled."I can always tell when he's tipsy. He has no concept of the words 'indoor voice."

Dave grinned, nodding as he made his way toward the door so they could hit the bars with their buddies.

Klaus was right behind him as always. But Dave found the distance to be too much.

 

***

 

The bar was really just one big room, separated into a few different sections. The bar was on the left when you walked in the door. To the right was the dance floor, a cluster of small tables in the back corner. The far wall was lined with dramatic arches, giving the dingy little room an architectural feel Klaus really appreciated. In the back left corner was a small hallway, separated from the rest of the club by one of those tacky beaded curtains.

It was clear to Klaus that Mimi's was a soldier's bar. There were American men dotted all over the space, some in uniform, some in civilian clothes like Klaus and his squad mates.

There were also a fair amount of locals. Women only, however. Some just girls looking to bang an American GI, and some making their living doing so. Klaus could pick out the working girls easy, since it takes one to know one and all that.

The men sat at a table in the center of the room. Klaus and Dave on one side with Winston, Ace and Dallas on the other with O'Reily. They didn't hang out with Liam O'Reily too much, but he was the only one in the unit who could keep up with Klaus at the bar, so he always ended up hanging around when the booze was flowing. Ace banged on the sticky wooden table top loudly. "We need drinks! Mimi!"

Klaus grinned, thinking perhaps Ace didn't need another drink just yet. Not that he'd ever say that to the other man. Let him get as shitty as he wants, he's earned a little down time.

A short, pretty Vietnamese girl wandered over, gracing the men with a sweet smile. "Gentlemen, back again." she said. "I knew it wouldn't be too long. Miss Mimi is too good to you."

"You are, Miss Mimi, and we are eternally grateful." Dave said, giving their hostess his warmest smile. "What are you thinking tonight, boys? The old stand by?" Dave's eyes lit up in a mischievous was Klaus had never seen before.

Klaus knew he was in trouble.

"What...what's the old stand by?" Klaus asks Mimi. She only giggled in return, nodding at Dave before turning on her heel and heading to the bar. Mimi was a pretty lady. Probably about five years older than Klaus. Wearing a pink mod mini dress and white thigh high boots. Her hair was intricately braided, piled on top of her head like a bee hive. She swayed her hips as she moved through the crowd, dancing along to the catchy tune flowing from the bar's speakers.

"Hey Klaus, tell us a story." Winston said, drumming his fingers on the table while they waited for Mimi to come back with their drinks.

"Awe, come on, Wist. Klaus is not a damn nanny, it's not his job to entertain your simple ass all damn day." Dave groused.

The fact of the matter was, Dave didn't want to hear any of Klaus's sad stories tonight. Whereas the other men laughed it all off as the ramblings of their crazy friend, Dave knew the truth. And he knew how much it took out of Klaus to tell these tales so often.

"It's fine, Dave, really." Klaus said, shooting Dave a little grin. "So! Let's see. Something new. Something interesting. Oh! How about I tell you about the time Diego accidentally stabbed Five with one of his melee weapons! That's always a crowd pleaser."

And so Klaus talked, and Dave listened, along with the rest of the boys. It was an outlandish tale as usual, but Dave wouldn't expect any less from Klaus.

This is one of Klaus's favorite stories from his childhood. Five's injury notwithstanding, it's one of the only times he can remember all his brothers banding together on their own to solve a problem.

He actually kind of cherishes the memory.

"So, you have to understand, Diego is a master knife thrower. Like, defies the laws of physics, he's that good. But this one time, I don't know what happened. We were in the back yard. Me, Diego, Ben and Five, cuz fuck Luther, honestly. We're playing some dumb game, like hide and seek, but with knives. It was Sir Reggie's ingenious plan to get us to work on our reflexes. And I'll tell you what, it worked! You wouldn't believe how fast you can move when a six inch razor sharp blade is flying toward you face."

"Klaus..." Dave murmured, already feeling very uncomfortable with where this story was headed.

Klaus ignored him, of course.

"So we're in the yard, Diego in the middle, the rest of us in a circle, running around screaming, dodging all the knives he's chucking at us. Hiding behind trees, the stone wall, whatever. He clipped me pretty good on the arm." Klaus pulled up the tight sleeve of his striped shirt, showing the men a deep scar on his bicep, about two inches long.

"What the fuck, Hargreeves." Dallas breathed. "You're telling me your brother actually threw knives at you?"

"Not just me." Klaus grinned. "So anyway, the game goes on for a long ass time. None of us willing to admit defeat. All of us are covered in cuts at this point, bleeding all over the place, but no one is really hurt. It's all still in fun at this point. Until Five disappears, and pops up at just the wrong time. One of Diego's knives is flying right toward Ben's back, he doesn't even see it coming. But as luck would have it, Five popped back up right at that moment, took all six inches right in the thigh. Oh god, I've never heard Five scream so loud. He's usually the stoic type, y'know?"

Klaus paused his story as Mimi came back over with a two tall bottles and six shot glasses.

"Thank you, Mimi. This is wonderful." Dave says, taking the bottle from her hand as she passes out the glasses.

Klaus opens his mouth to continue his story when his eyes land on the bottle Mimi had brought to the table.

"What the ever loving fuck is that?" Klaus screeched, pointing an accusatory finger at the bottle.

The rest of the table broke into a loud fit of laughter. Klaus just sat there, utterly flabbergasted as his squad mates laughed their asses off. He didn't know what was so damn funny. There was literally a bottle on the table with a pickled snake in it. Not only that, but the dead snake had a flippin' scorpion wedged between it's fangs.

Now, Klaus has drank a lot in his life. He's had all kinds of unusual and rare liquor. But never in his long an historied career as a drunk has he ever seen anything like that shit.

Dave gained his composure first, his boisterous laughter tapering off to a giggle before he quieted entirely.

"Klaus, it's Cobra Whiskey. The old stand by when we get into the city. See those herbs floating in there?"

"Yeah, Dave. I also see a whole pickled snake in there." Klaus grimaced. "Why would you drink that? What's wrong with this?" Klaus pointed to the other bottle. Just a plain old bottle of whiskey. "That's more my speed. I don't usually drink booze laced with arthropods or reptiles."

"It's medicinal, Hargreeves." Dallas interjected. "And we all know how much you love your medicine." that got another round of giggles from the group.

"It's supposed to help with inflammation and pain." Dave offered, grinning at Klaus's disgusted expression. "And, you know, increase virility."

"Oh, it makes perfect sense now." Klaus laughed. "You think this snake juice will keep your dicks hard. Jesus, you silly, silly boys."

"Just do a shot and shut the fuck up." Winston replied, pouring out the shots. "We only ever do one and then switch to regular whiskey. You're not a pussy, are you, Hargreeves?"

Klaus scoffed, never one to turn down a challenge. "Give it here."

And that's how Dave got the immense pleasure of watching Klaus gag his way through his inaugural shot of Snake Whiskey.

After everyone did their shot and Mimi took the bottle back, they did indeed switch to regular whiskey. And Klaus finished his tale about Five's first ever stab wound.

"So, we all grabbed him up and snuck him down to the infirmary, since we obviously couldn't tell anyone. There I am, holding Five's legs down, getting blood all over my hands. Gross. Diego's got both his shoulders, pinning him down hard to the gurney. Five had a belt between his teeth, muffling his screams. If we got caught, the punishment would have been severe. Poor, sweet, innocent Ben had to stitch Five up. He had no idea what he was doing, but he was the smartest out of all of us, besides Five of course. Oh god, what a botch job that was! Five had to wear long pants for weeks after, so Reggie couldn't see the bandage. He's got the sickest scar too, all jagged from Ben's poor stitching technique." Klaus laughed, shaking his head at the memory. "You better believe Five beat the snot out of Diego as soon as he was healthy enough."

"Man, Klaus, I know I tell you this all the time, but your family is fucked." Dallas chuckled.

"You don't believe this shit, do you?" Ace asks, skeptical as always. "Hargreeves is full of shit."

"I am." Klaus grinned.

After that the group split up, some of the men wandering off to dance with a few of the girls milling around the bar. Winston went over to the bar to chat Mimi up, leaving Klaus and Dave sitting at the table alone.

"So, what do you think of your first night in Saigon?" Dave asks, glancing up at Klaus. He did another shot, grimacing.

"I'm having fun." Klaus replied, running his finger along the lip of his shot glass. "But honestly, I think I'd be having more fun if it were just you and I."

Dave didn't know what to say to that, so he just hummed, pouring them out each another shot.

A couple hours went by. The guys would filter back to the table now and again, but Dave was content just to sit at the table with Klaus and talk. They had two days in the city to dance and drink and party their asses off. Right now, this is the only place Dave wants to be.

"So, what are your plans for after you rotate back stateside?" Dave asks, feeling the warmth of the booze swimming in his blood. He's feeling pretty good.

"Oh, I don't know." Klaus hummed. He didn't know what to say to that. He wants to tell Dave that he plans on going back to 2019 at some point, but he doesn't think either of them are ready for that conversation yet. "What about you, Davie?" Klaus leaned in close as he spoke, not wanting anyone to hear him use his little nickname.

"Well, I'd always thought I'd go back to Philly. I'm on leave from my teaching position right now. I suppose I could go back to that. Just pick up where I left off."

"And that's what you want to do?" Klaus pressed, unsure why he was asking.

That's a lie, he knows exactly why he's asking. It's a selfish thought. They don't even know each other that well. But Klaus has always been a romantic, and the idea of running away with Dave and making a life, no matter which timeline, that sounds just grand to Klaus.

"Well, if I can be honest with you, my whole outlook on life has changed in the past few months." Dave could feel his face heating up as he spoke, but he pushed through it. "A lot of things that never seemed possible before feel like they're within reach now." Dave glanced up, locking eyes with Klaus. The other man was smiling so wide, Dave was worried his face was gonna split wide open.

"Oh, Davey, you can't say shit like that and expect me to keep my cool." Klaus murmured quietly, leaning in.

"Guys!" Dallas bellowed, stumbling over to the table. Once again, Klaus and Dave separated quickly, the spell broken. "We're gonna go get tattoos! Get the fuck up, let's go."

"Oh, Dallas, I don't know about all that." Dave replied. He had no idea how sanitary tattoo shops in Saigon were.

"Nope, you don't get a say. Get the fuck up. We're doing it. Now." Dallas was pulling Dave out of his seat before he could protest any further.

Klaus stood on wobbly legs, giggling. He was really fucking drunk. And he could tell Dave was too.

He only hopes they both don't end up with naked ladies tattooed on their asses or something.

Now that would be ironic.

 

***

 

Klaus groaned, pinching his eyes shut against the blinding sunlight. He rolled onto his stomach, pulling the sheet over his head.

God, he never gets hungover, but he feels like microwaved dog shit right now. Fucking Snake Whiskey. Never again. He can't even remember how they got back to the hotel last night.

They are at the hotel, right?

Shit.

Klaus rolled over onto his back, blinking up at the molded ceiling. Yeah, this is the hotel. Thank Christ.

He sits up slowly, his head swimming with the movement. He groans, running a hand through his knotted curls.

"Ah, shit." he hissed, pulling his arm back.

Oh yeah. The tattoos.

Looks like they went through with it.

He stands on shaky legs, making his way over to the bathroom. Dave is still asleep, in his own bed, much to Klaus's dismay.

He hadn't meant to get so drunk last night. He'd had plans, god damn it. And now he's wasted a perfectly good evening he could have spent locking lips with his crush. Drinking fucking snake juice and getting tattoos.

Good going, Klaus.

Klaus stands in front of the mirror, taking in his sallow skin and sunken eyes. Shit, he needs to get straight. Over his shoulder he sees a naked girl. She can't be older than sixteen. She's laying in the bathtub with her wrists slit. She grins up at Klaus, speaking rapid fire Vietnamese.

"Sorry, honey. No habla." Klaus waved her off, pulling two pills out of a small paper bag on the vanity. He scored a plethora of pills from one of the boom boom girls last night. He can't remember how he paid her, but he's always wanted to try old fashioned reds and bennys, and there's no better time that the present. He pops two each, hoping the mixture of uppers and downers will keep him even keeled, while solving his apparition problem.

The dead girl rolls her eyes at him and just keeps talking. Klaus ignores her the best he can, twisting in the mirror so he can see the new ink on his bicep.

Shit, he's actually pretty impressed.

It's the squad's insignia. 173rd Airborne Brigade. Sky soldiers. With a pretty sweet skull underneath it, adorned with a rifle and some banana leaves, symbolizing the jungle they kill in.

Klaus digs it. It's pretty fucking badass. He grins at his reflection, promising himself he get at least one more tattoo before he leaves the jungle.

"Klaus?" Dave calls out to him from the other room, voice thick with sleep. God, Klaus loves that sound.

"Yeah, coming." Klaus replies. He wanders out of the bathroom in his underwear to find Dave sitting up in his bed, sheets pooled around his bare torso. Klaus swallows, looking away quickly. Popping a boner right now would be embarrassing. "Morning."

"Good morning." Dave smiled, scratching the back of his head. "I'm surprised you're even moving, you got so fucking blitzed last night, man. I stayed up half the night to make sure you didn't aspirate on your own vomit.

"Oh, Davey, you big ol' romantic." Klaus chuckled, boldly making his way across the room and dropping down on Dave's bed.

"I was just looking out for you." Dave replied honestly. "It doesn't seem like anyone does that for you."

Klaus's smile slipped, his thoughts going to Ben. He hasn't seen him once since he landed in the past, and that worries Klaus. He hasn't ever been apart from Ben, and he doesn't know what is happening to his brother while he's away. It's strange for him to go through his days without his brother by his side, sharing his opinions on all Klaus's dumb decisions.

"Not really, no." Klaus replies instead of getting into the whole 'ghost brother' thing. It's too early for that, and Klaus isn't nearly fucked up enough for a conversation that serious.

"Well, I don't mind at all." Dave said, voice low. He reached out tentatively, running his fingers along Klaus's palm. He traced the letters with his fingertips.

HELLO

"What even happened last night?" Klaus asks, surprised to find he'd blacked out. That never happens to him.

"Well, we all went down to Sir Him's Tattoos. All the boys got the Sky Soldiers one." Dave said, showing Klaus his own tattoo. "And you made another appointment for the next time we're on leave. That guy loved you, even though he could barely understand what we were saying. He said you had good energy."

"Ha, well, that does sound like me." Klaus grinned. He inched closer to Dave slowly, as not to startle him. When Dave made no move to rebuke him, Klaus carefully laid his head on Dave's shoulder. "Is that all? We just got our ink and came back here?"

"Well, yeah Klaus. You were so god damn drunk, I pretty much had to carry you back to the hotel. The guys went to the whore house, but I have no interest in that. I used your state of profound inebriation as an excuse to avoid the boom boom girls."

Klaus hummed, grabbing up Dave's hand in both of his. He played with his fingers while he mulled over his next question. He had to broach the topic carefully. He didn't want to upset Dave.

"So, you don't want to sleep with the working girls cuz they're nasty? Or do you, you know, not sleep with girls at all?" Klaus murmured, keeping his eyes focused on Dave's fingers as he spoke.

Dave laughed, jostling Klaus a little. "Is that your roundabout way of asking me if I sleep with women, Klaus?"

"Well, I guess. If you're going to be crass about it." Klaus huffed.

"You? Calling me crass? Now that's rich." Dave laughed. "And yes, I don't want to sleep with them because they're hookers. They carry all kinds of diseases, Klaus. I don't want anything to do with that. And some of them are VC. They lure GI's with the promise of sex, and kill them with their pants around their ankles."

Klaus grimaced. "Ew."

"Exactly."

"So, you would sleep with a girl if she were clean and pretty?" Klaus pressed.

"Klaus, if you're asking if I've ever been with a woman, the answer is yes. Of course I have. Before I moved to Philly, I was still trying to fix myself. Make myself normal, so to speak. I had girlfriends, what have you. But it never really did it for me. I was just lying to myself."

"I like girls." Klaus said suddenly, confusing Dave.

Klaus figured being honest was probably the best route to go. Dave deserved to know. He decided to keep it simple, however. Klaus has a feeling Dave might get even more confused if Klaus started talking about gender nonconformity and pansexuality. "I have been with men and women, and enjoyed both. But I lean more toward guys, honestly. I've slept with plenty of women, but I've never fallen in love with one."

"Huh." Dave replied, a little stunned. The idea that Klaus may be bisexual never occurred to him. He just sees so.....gay.

Goes to show you what happens when you assume.

"Yeah." Klaus nodded, feeling oddly embarrassed. "There's a little more to it than that, but why don't we leave it there for now?" Klaus wasn't about to get into the fact that back in his own time, he preferred to dress a little more....feminine? That word doesn't feel right, but Klaus knows Dave would understand it. The make up, the painted nails, the skirts and stockings, panties and corsets. Klaus hopes to someday be able to share those parts of himself with Dave. That's assuming this thing between them goes anywhere. (that's Klaus jumping to conclusions again)

But for now, Klaus keeps his gender fluidity to himself. Shockingly, the middle of the Vietnam War in the 1960's just doesn't feel like the time or place to flaunt his incredibly queer self, not even to Dave.

"Sure, Klaus. It's not that big a deal anyway." Dave assured him, sensing that Klaus was growing uncomfortable under Dave's questions. That wasn't Dave's intention at all. Klaus is just so different from anyone he's ever met, and Dave is excited to learn all there is to know about this incredible man.

"Damn Dave." Klaus chuckled, grinning. "How are you so damn perfect?"

Dave scoffed, shaking his head. "Klaus, I keep telling you, I'm far from perfect. I just don't want you to feel any pressure to talk to me about things you don't want to. I'm not your interrogator, Klaus. I'm your friend."

"Oh Davey, you're much more than just a friend." Klaus giggled, inching closer to the other man on the bed.

Dave was stuck, paralyzed under Klaus's gorgeous green eyes. His breath caught in his throat, his heart thudding painfully in his chest.

Klaus leaned in, his fingers dancing along the back of Dave's hand. "You're the best living friend I've ever had."

Dave glanced down at Klaus's fingers, still sliding gently along his knuckles. Emboldened by Klaus's kind words, he flipped his hand over and laced their fingers together. He was rewarded with a little gasp from Klaus.

Dave looked up and their eyes locked. "That's quite a compliment Klaus." Dave smiled, squeezing Klaus's hand. It felt good to hold his hand. Felt right. Dave can't even remember the last time he held someone's hand. Such a small thing, so innocent. But there wasn't much room for simple innocence in war.

"Dave, I.." Klaus starts, but is interrupted, yet again, by loud knocking on their room door.

"Soldiers! Breakfast!" Winston's deep voice bellows from the hallway. "Up and at 'em."

Klaus sighs, shaking his head. "I love them to death, but god, don't we see enough of them at the base?"

Dave chuckled, shaking his head. "The perils of being popular."

Dave reluctantly stood from the bed, stretching his back out. Klaus followed suit and soon they were dressed and ready for another day on the streets of Saigon.

"We going out again tonight?" Klaus asks, slipping his feet into the black platform shoes he splurged on yesterday. They weren't the gorgeous white ones, but they'll do in a pinch. He decided to wear the same outfit he wore yesterday. It was still clean, and he looked much cuter in this one than the boring black and grey number.

"Only if you want to. We could do something else." Dave offered, grinning at Klaus in the mirror as he attempted to tame his hair.

"I want to dance." Klaus decided.

"Sounds fun."

"I wish I could dance with you." Klaus sighed, a bone deep longing swirling inside him.

"Me too, Klaus." Dave sighed, a sad smile curling his lips. "Me too."

 

***

 

Klaus is exhausted. He glares at his reflection in the bathroom mirror before popping a handful of pills from his little paper bag of treats.

Three each this time. Three reds, three bennies. The ones from the morning wore off hours ago. The moment he spied the ghost of a grumpy old man staggering down the street, Klaus demanded they stop so he could use to bathroom.

Swallowing his pills with some nasty water from the tap, he stuffed the bag back into his pocket, waggled his eyebrows at himself in the mirror and left to join his friends.

He wanders out of the restaurant bathroom to find his squad mates arguing in the street over where they should go next. Dave glances over at him and smiles, rolling his eyes at their friends' childish antics.

When Klaus had agreed to go to breakfast with Winston, Dallas, Benny and Dave, Klaus had anticipated it being a quick thing. Maybe an hour tops. But a simple morning meal had morphed into a long and arduous journey around the city, Winston leading them along like a group on a school trip, pointing out important landmarks and historical spots. He looked more like a ridiculous tourist than a GI, with his giant map unfurled in his hands.

Klaus couldn't even keep a straight face as Winston of all people extolled the virtues of the country they had invaded.

Klaus saw the Jade Pagoda, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and even the Bin Tay Market. Klaus got the most delicious Pho he'd ever eaten from a street vendor named Hein. Klaus had slurped the noodles right up, standing in the street, moaning like a porn star the entire time.

Klaus had a blast, even if he could have done without Winston's rigid schedule and rushing around. It was like his comrade had turned the sight seeing trip into another mission.

Klaus supposes some guys just can't help themselves.

It's later now, the sun already set. The city is lit up in bright, colorful lights. Motorcycles and bikes zipping through the crowded streets as Klaus and Dave make their way back to Mimi's with their sight seeing group to meet back up with the rest of guys.

"Today was nice." Dave murmured, glancing over at Klaus. The other man was smoking a cigarette, his fingers twitching as he brought the butt to his lips. Klaus nodded slowly, the weight of the drugs taking effect, making his body sluggish as his brain fired off signals faster than he could comprehend them.

Honestly, Dave doesn't like it all that much when Klaus is so blitzed he can barely walk. He understands why he feels the need to medicate away the ghosts. Dave gets it, but that doesn't mean he has to like it.

It's like Klaus is never really with him. Not all the way, anyway. He's either distracted by the spirits calling out to him, or he's so fucked up he's just a shadow of himself. Dave feels helpless and anxious, but he never says anything.

It's not his place. It never will be his place.

"So, back to Mimi's, then." Klaus says, stepping into the bar, Dave right behind him. Benny goes straight to Mimi, who was anticipating their arrival. She's sitting at a table in the center of the room, a big bottle of Tequila on the table, a bunch of shot glasses dotting the surface. Winston moves immediately onto the dance floor with one of the working girls, holding her close as they sway to the music.

Klaus takes a seat and immediately pours himself a shot. Dave does the same, not bothering to mention to Klaus that he probably doesn't need to get any more fucked up.

Not his place.

They fall into easy conversation with their squad mates. Chatting about the tour of the city earlier in the day, some pretty girls they saw along their travels, and rumors they've heard about troop movements and happenings back home.

It's nice.

Dave hasn't had this much fun since he landed incountry. Ever since he stepped off that bus and into the shit, it's been all chaos and blood and gunfire. Dave's a good soldier. Does what he's ordered to do without complaint or backtalk. He doesn't hesitate to act, moving swiftly and with precision.

But that doesn't mean he likes it.

He hates it, actually. He hates holding his rifle. He hates shooting it more. He detests taking life and he abhors losing his friends. But he does it, because that's his job.

Not tonight, however.

Tonight, Dave is not feeling any of that sick twisting in his gut. He's not stressed out or scared. He's not anxious or worried he's gonna make the wrong move. He's not watching his steps for booby traps or scanning the dark woods ahead of him for Charlie.

Tonight, he's sitting next to Klaus while their friends drunkenly talk over themselves. Tonight, Dave's relishing in the simple pleasure of interlocking his arm with Klaus's so they can do a shot of Jameson. Dave swears heat shoots up his arm at the incidental contact.

Jesus, he needs to collect himself. He stands from the table, needing a moment to get his shit together.

Dave decided to hit the bar to get another drink. He doesn't even have time to place his order before Klaus is standing next to him once more.

So much for getting his shit together...

As soon as he settled next to Dave, that familiar tension was back, bubbling between them.

'Say something.' Dave admonished himself silently. He and Klaus had been dancing around each other since they got to Saigon. Two steps forward, one step back. Sort of, almost flirting, but not quite. Hinting at something neither of them could quite articulate. Dave had hoped that conversation all those weeks ago would be some kind of catalyst, yet they were still standing still.

But this is their last night on leave. Tomorrow afternoon they head back to Firebase, and Dave has no idea when he'll get this opportunity again. Hell, it may never happen again. Dave could be dead by this time next week. He has to make his move, tonight.

Dave glances over at Klaus, his lips parting to speak, even though he still has no idea what he's going to say...

It doesn't matter, because the moment their eyes lock, two pretty Vietnamese girls pop up out of nowhere and drag both of them onto the dance floor.

Dave curses under his breath, though he smiles at the girl. He's a coward, and now he's lost his chance again.

 

Klaus loves dancing. Always has, and it's no different here in Saigon in the sixties.

"Oh, I love this song!" Klaus crows, swaying with the nameless girl on the dance floor. He shakes his ass, stumbling backward drunkenly. He collides with someone. He's still laughing when he glances over his shoulder to find Dave already smiling at him. Of course it was Dave. Klaus felt like they were magnets. Drawn together by something greater than themselves. The girl he's dancing with may as well not even be there. Klaus only has eyes for Dave. He shakes his fist at Dave in mock outrage, grinning. "It's such a classic. I've loved it since I was just a kid."

Dave gave Klaus his 'what the fuck' face. "Klaus, this song came out like a month ago. I just heard it on the radio for the first time last week."

Klaus's face fell. Eyes wide, mouth run dry.

Shit, fuck.

He's gotten so much better, he hasn't had a slip like that in a while. "Oh?" he says, cocking his head to the side. "Must sound like some other song I love."

Dave's face scrunched up in confusion. "You've heard music like the Doors before? Really? What planet are you from?"

Good question, Klaus thought.

He just shrugged, hoping Dave would let it go and just dance. He swayed his hips, waving his arms around like a loon. Dave laughed, unable to look away.

Both girls were as good as gone now, Klaus and Dave solely focused on each other. They weren't dancing together, not like they both wanted too, but it was close, and Dave couldn't have been happier. They moved around the dance floor, eyeing each other and smiling as their bodies swayed and rolled to the music.

Dave couldn't take his eyes off Klaus. Even his dancing was otherworldly. Dave had never seen anything like it. Klaus danced like he was the only person in the room, like he didn't give a single shit what anyone thought about his moves.

He danced like he was free.

And swaying next to Klaus, watching him make an utter fool of himself on the dance floor, Dave feels free too.

The song ends, and Klaus gives him a look he can't decipher. "I'm gonna hit the head." Klaus said, pointing over his shoulder toward the back room, behind the beaded curtain. Dave nods, and Klaus smiles, turning on his heel and flouncing off across the room.

Dave follows. Of course he does. Dave follows like he's drawn by an invisible string. He stands outside the bathroom, waiting for Klaus to emerge, like some kind of deranged stalker. He can't help himself, though. He just wants to spend this entire leave next to Klaus.

It will be over too soon, and they will be thrust back into their grim reality.

Dave wants to hold onto the fantasy for just a little bit longer.

 

Klaus stares at himself in the shitty, clouded mirror of the men's room. He fucks with his hair, running his fingers through the curls while he inspects his face.

God, what he wouldn't do for a little eyeliner. Some lip gloss. Any of his costume jewelry from back home.

Of course, that would probably get him killed, but at least he'd feel at home in his own skin, and leave a fabulous looking corpse.

Klaus giggled at his own insane thoughts. Okay, enough stalling. He had a plan, and only dipped into the bathroom to give himself a little pep talk.

He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he stumbled out of the bathroom. The pills he'd taken earlier were hitting him hard now, and he felt oddly amped and sluggish at the same time.

Just outside the bathroom door, casually leaning up against the wall was Dave. He gave Klaus one of his adorably shy smiles as Klaus walked over to him. Klaus leaned up against the wall, mirroring Dave's posture. He turned toward the other man, crossing his arms over his chest with a little grin on his lips.

Dave's breath catches in his throat when he goes to speak. It's like all the thoughts in his head just dissipate when he lays eyes on Klaus. He's just so beautiful, and Dave has a hard time believing Klaus feels any one way about him at all.

"Are you having fun?" Klaus asks, fiddling with the hem of his too-tight, too-short shirt.

"Yeah." Dave nods, his eyes laser locked on Klaus's midriff. "I'm not much of a dancer, but it's fun."

"Oh Davey, don't disparage yourself so. You've got moves for days, my dear. The way you move your hips, you give a guy all kinds of ideas." Klaus bit his lip, letting his eyes wander over Dave's toned chest. The first few buttons of his shirt are undone, and Klaus can see just enough skin to make his mouth water.

"Klaus, I wanted to talk to you." Dave says suddenly, swallowing his nerves.

"What is it?" Klaus asks, growing a bit nervous at Dave's serious tone. What did he do wrong?

"It's just..." Dave starts, but then stops again. It's like he's choking on the words. What is it about this man that makes him such an imbecile? "It's just, I really like you Klaus. More than I've ever like anyone else in my life. You're just, jesus, you're amazing. So unique and unafraid to be yourself. And so damn strong. You deal with so much, with your, erm, companions. And you are still one of the best soldiers in the unit, even hopped up outta your mind." Dave let his eyes roam all over Klaus's face. "You're just incredible, Klaus. And so, so gorgeous. I want to say pretty, but..."

"Pretty works." Klaus beamed. "I like pretty."

Dave chuckled, shaking his head. "Well then, you're the prettiest man I've ever laid eyes on." Dave knows it's a bad idea. They're in public, and their squad mates are mere feet away. But Dave doesn't care anymore. The thought of their impending return to battle spurs him into action.

He reaches up with a tentative hand, running his fingers through Klaus's hair and down his face, resting his palm on Klaus's cheek. "You're so fucking beautiful, Klaus. Inside and out. Anyone that ever told you different is a liar."

Klaus smiled, his eyes soft as determination set inside him. Fuck this war, and fuck the army.

Klaus is going for it.

Klaus leans in slowly, giving Dave time to back out if he has to. Klaus won't push him.

To Klaus's delight, Dave does not pull back. He leans in. Klaus closes his eyes, his heart hammering in his chest as he closes the last bit of distance between them.

Dave's lips are soft. Softer than they should be after living in the jungle for a year. Klaus kisses him sweetly, the barest press of lips.

Then, Dave's hand is curling around the back of Klaus's head, pulling him in closer. Klaus groans. A low sound in his throat as Dave's tongue slips into his mouth.

Jesus christ, Klaus tastes amazing. Like liquor and cotton candy somehow, and undeniably Klaus. Just how Dave imagined it, the hundred times he's fantasized about doing this.

Klaus is kissing him so passionately, Dave is having a hard time controlling himself. But he does. He keeps it as PG as two men kissing can be. He licks into Klaus's mouth languidly, delighting in the shallow gasps Klaus is letting go between kisses.

Dave breaks the kiss, even though he doesn't want to. It's just not safe here. And though he's glad he finally did it, he knows it needs to end now. At least for the moment.

"Dave, I...shit, Dave I want you." Klaus whispers into the space between their mouths. "Let's get outta here. Go back to our room." Klaus boldly runs his fingers along the waistband of Dave's khakis, glancing up at him with heat in his eyes.

"Yeah?" Dave replied, like a moron. Logically, he knew this was where they were headed, but now that the moment has come, he finds himself oddly nervous.

"Yeah." Klaus nods, gripping Dave's hip in his hand and pulling them flush together. "There's something I want to show you." Klaus winked, bypassing Dave and making his way back out to the main room.

Dave followed, of course.

Dave is coming to find he'd follow Klaus anywhere.

When they first heard about this leave, Dave had been excited for a momentary reprieve from the hell of war. What he got instead was going to change him forever.

Chapter Text

Klaus stumbles through the room's door, giggling like an idiot as he lurches further into their hotel room.

Dave wasn't much better. He'd had more to drink than he'd meant to, and the alcohol was making him slow and clumsy. He watched through heavy-lidded eyes as Klaus stripped his tight shirt off and tossed it behind him before his fingers traveled down to his pants and started working on his zipper.

That sobers Dave some.

"Klaus." Dave says, wrapping his fingers around Klaus's wrist, stilling his movements. Klaus glanced up at him, confusion in his eyes.

Dave offers him a weak smile. "Let's just take it slow, okay?"

"Slow?" Klaus balked. "I don't do slow."

Dave sighs, smiling wider. "We don't need to rush, darlin'. We have all night."

Klaus grins back, not really knowing what to do with a statement like that, or Dave in general.

Klaus has been having sex since he was thirteen. Fucking anyone and everyone that caught his eye. He knows what he likes, and he's not afraid to ask for it. But everything is different with Dave. What if he's not into what Klaus likes? What if he's disgusted? Klaus knows he's not normal, and that's just fine with him. But he wants to be good for Dave. Wants to please him.

Klaus is horrified to discover he doesn't know how.

Dave is just so different than anyone else he's ever been attracted to. He's so sweet, almost pure, and Klaus is afraid to get him dirty with his perversion.

"You're so beautiful." Dave murmurs, stepping up to Klaus. All of Klaus's self deprecating thoughts fly right out the window at the first touch of Dave's palm on his cheek.

Klaus doesn't care about his past or his kinks in that moment. All he cares about is Dave, and the way he's touching him.

Dave lets out a stuttering breath as his hand glides along Klaus's cheek and down his neck. He grips Klaus's neck, pulling him close. Klaus comes easily, knocking his forehead against Dave's as their lips meet.

Jesus Christ, Dave can't breathe. His lips work against Klaus's and he just loses himself in the moment. Klaus's fingers tangled in Dave's hair. Klaus's hot skin under Dave's trembling fingers. The soft, tentative push of Klaus's tongue into Dave's mouth.

But Dave's had just about enough of tentative. His arms wrap around Klaus's waist, bringing their bodies flush together as he licks into Klaus's mouth hungrily. Dave has been playing it safe since the moment Klaus appeared in his life, but Dave just can't do that anymore.

He needs Klaus. Now.

Dave walks them backwards toward the bed, his whole body tingling with want. The kiss never breaks, neither man willing to relinquish their connection. Klaus deepens the kiss, pulling Dave closer, pushing his tongue deeper into his mouth until all he can taste is Dave.

And it's fucking glorious.

Klaus's legs hit the bed and he tumbles back onto the quilts, Dave following him down.

Dave cages Klaus in, a hand on either side of his head, grinning down at him as his heart hammers away in his chest.

Dave is swimming in uncharted waters right now. And he needs to tell Klaus before they go any further.

When Klaus rolls his hips, grinding their erections together, Dave knows the time to be honest has come. He reluctantly sits up, leaving Klaus utterly bereft.

"Davey? What's going on?" Klaus asks quietly. He sits up against the headboard, pulling his knees up to his chest.

"It's just..." Dave starts, then huffs, shaking his head. "I haven't ever done this."

"What?" Klaus asks, cocking his head to the side. "You've never been with another man before?" Klaus is certain they've talked about this before. About dating and Dave being closeted. Klaus is not that stoned all the time. He KNOWS Dave told him that.

"No, Klaus." Dave says, pinching the bridge of his nose. Why was this so damn hard?

He shouldn't have drank so much. He's a fucking idiot when he's drunk.

"I've dated men." he said slowly. "I've kissed men and done...other things. But I've never been with another man....that way. This way." he motions between their bodies, mere inches apart on the bed.

"Oh, Davey. You mean, you mean you've never actually had sex with another man?" Klaus asks carefully.

Dave can feel his face heating up. He glances away, focusing his eyes on the lamp by the window.

Klaus isn't having any of that. He grips Dave under the chin and turns his face back so they are eye to eye. "Dave, c'mon. There's nothing wrong with you being a gay virgin." Klaus chuckles. Dave rolls his eyes, but Klaus isn't done talking yet. "I'm not at all surprised, really. This backward day and age, I'm guessing lots of men wait, or deny themselves entirely. I just can't imagine. Tragic, really."

"This backward day and age?" Dave asks. "Klaus, this is the reality. You are living it too. I swear, sometimes you talk like your from another planet."

"Something like that." Klaus sighs. "But what I'm trying to say is I get it. If you don't want to..."

"I want to." Dave cut him off. And god, does he want to. He just isn't sure what that entailed exactly. He wants to please Klaus, but he isn't sure he knows how to. "I just don't know what to do."

Klaus smiles, all sweet and predatory. "I can show you, baby." he purrs, pushing Dave down on the mattress and straddling his waist. He leans down, kissing Dave slowly. Dave groans, relaxing entirely under Klaus's weight. His hands trailed up Klaus's thighs, curling around his hips and Klaus kissed him breathless.

Klaus broke the kiss, panting as he sat up on Dave's thighs. "Okay, big guy. I guess we need to have a talk before we do this."

"I don't want to talk, Klaus." Dave groaned, his dick painfully hard under the pressure of Klaus's ass on top of him.

"I don't either, Davey, but it's necessary, my dear." Klaus is not usually one to stop a hot make out session to talk, but the knowledge of Dave's inexperience kinda changes things. "How do you think you might want to do this, hun?"

Might as well get the awkward part out of the way.

"What do you mean?" Dave asks, running his hands up and down Klaus's bare back. His skin was breaking out in goosebumps, and for whatever reason that delighted Dave.

"I mean, fuck, I mean how do you want to do this?" when all Klaus got was a confused look from the man beneath him, he sighed again. "Okay, how 'bout we do it this way: I like all kinds of things. We can get into the weirder shit at a later date, but the basic premise is I like to get fucked."

Dave made a strange sort of choking sound, blushing like a tomato. Klaus continued, undeterred.

"I want you to fuck me, Dave. I want to feel you inside me. That's what I like." Klaus stated matter-of-factly. "So when I ask you 'what do you like?', I mean, top or bottom? Fucked or fucking?" He grinned down at Dave's gobsmacked expression.

"Top or what? Klaus, jesus."

"Dave, my darling, you are so adorably sheltered. I have so much to show you." Klaus leaned back, pulling Dave to sit up. Dave watched with wide eyes as Klaus started slowly working the buttons of his shirt open. Klaus fingers graze his chest and Dave sighs, his eyes slipping closed.

"You still haven't answered my question, baby. How do you want me? I'm honestly down for anything with you, and since it's your first time, dealer's choice."

"I, uh, well. What you said...what you said earlier sounds nice." Dave stammers as Klaus slid his shirt off his shoulders, throwing it behind him with a little flourish.

"Yeah?" Klaus grins, shoving Dave back down on the mattress and curling over his body. "You wanna fuck me? Oh man, that makes me so happy, Davey." Klaus giggles, trailing his tongue along the tendon in Dave's neck. He was so turned on, utterly overwhelmed by Dave. Klaus is not new to intimacy, but this feels like a whole new experience.

"I just, shit." Dave lost his train of thought at the first touch of Klaus's lips to his neck. Dave's hand instinctively went to Klaus's ass, squeezing the muscle as Klaus moved on top of him.

Klaus grins against Dave's skin. God, he smells so good. Klaus bit gently at Dave's collar bone, soothing the mark with his tongue before going back to licking and sucking on his neck. Dave groans, tilting his head to the side to give Klaus more room to roam.

It took him a second to get his wits about him. Klaus just feels so good. His hand in Dave's hair, the comforting weight of his body blanketing Dave's, the sharp bite of his teeth.

"I just want to be good for you." he finally stuttered out. "I want it to be good for you, Klaus."

Klaus stills, finally pulling back to look into Dave's eyes. The other man looks so earnest, so legitimately scared. Like Klaus is something precious he's afraid to break.

"You are good." Klaus smiles. "Forget about that at all. You're perfect. This is perfect. Don't worry, Davey, it will all just happen naturally. Let me show you..." Klaus backed down the bed, kissing and licking his way along Dave's toned chest and stomach. When he got to Dave's waistband, he glanced up to find Dave propped up on his elbows, watching Klaus with wide eyes. Klaus beamed up at Dave, sitting up on his knees and carefully going for Dave's zipper. Dave's eyes stay glued on Klaus as the other man stripped his pants and underwear, shoving them off the edge of the bed. Klaus stands quickly, wriggling out of his own tight pants before crawling back on the bed. Klaus feels good to be naked, so close to the object of his desire. His own cock is painfully hard, laying heavy away from his body, but he ignores it.

Klaus glances down at Dave's erection, and his mouth started to water. Klaus has been fantasizing about this exact moment for months now. He can't believe it's actually happening. Klaus is not typically the type to think these things, but Dave's dick is really pretty. Long and thick, cut. The head is red and swollen, precome pooling at the tip. It's fucking perfect. Klaus keeps his eyes locked with Dave's as he wraps his long fingers around Dave's erection, squeezing a little.

Dave gasps at the simple contact and Klaus grins again.

Oh yeah. This is gonna be good.

Klaus licks his lips. "Can I?"

Dave nods, unable to look away as Klaus smiled that predator smile again, before opening his mouth wide and swallowing Dave down.

Now, Dave's no stranger to blow jobs. He's no expert either, but he's given and received his fair share.

Klaus totally puts all that past experience to shame. Of course he does. He's sucking Dave off like he was born to do it, his head bobbing in his lap, his fingers digging into the meat of Dave's thigh.

Klaus is in heaven. Dave tastes incredible. Just like Klaus knew he would. Klaus takes him deep into his throat, humming around him. Dave is whimpering, his body shaking under Klaus's talented mouth. Klaus hollows his cheeks, undulating his tongue on the underside of Dave's cock, earning himself a delightful moan from his lover. Klaus pulls off slowly, swirling his tongue along the head slowly.

"Klaus." Dave whispers, running his fingers through Klaus's wild hair. "Jesus."

Klaus grins, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "I take it you approve."

Dave laughed, surging up and wrapping his arms around Klaus's waist, throwing him onto the mattress. Klaus's back hits the bed and he giggles, spreading his legs so Dave can settle between his thighs.

Dave is shaking a little bit as his eyes take in the sight of Klaus lying underneath him, naked and ready.

"What now, darlin'?" Dave asks quietly. "Whatever you want."

"It's simple, baby." Klaus replied, curling his legs around Dave's hips and threading his fingers through his hair. Klaus pulled Dave down, kissing him fiercely. Dave melts into it, his tongue tangling with Klaus's in a filthy way he'd never experienced before. "In the nightstand drawer is some Vaseline." Klaus mutters between kisses. "Not to be presumptuous, but I hoped this might happen." Klaus bit Dave's lower lip playfully. "Grab it, would you?"

Dave nods, leaning up on one elbow and opening the nightstand drawer. He grabs the little tin, opening it to see the thick yellow sludge inside.

"I know, it's icky, but it's better than spit, trust me." Klaus smiled. Dave looked utterly befuddled, and Klaus just found it so endearing.

Dave knew what came next, but his nerves were getting to him. The thought of fucking this up somehow, of hurting Klaus was weighing on him. He took a deep, steadying breath, glancing down at Klaus. The other man was looking up at him with so much heat in his eyes, it made Dave's stomach flip.

Okay. He can do this.

He plunged his fingers into the jelly, smearing the mess all over his index and middle finger.

"That's good." Klaus says, voice low. He spread his legs wider, inviting. "I don't think I have to explain this part too much, yeah? Just, y'know, stretch me out a bit. Make a little room for yourself."

Dave nods, swallowing hard. His dick jumped at Klaus's words. God, he wants it. Wants Klaus. To be that close to him, to be inside of him. To be connected to him like that.

He leaned back a little, bringing his hand down between Klaus's spread legs. Klaus gasps at the first touch of Dave's fingers against him.

Klaus closes his eyes, breathing slowly through his nose as Dave breached him with a single finger. Klaus hasn't had anything close to sex since before he landed in the past. He's tight, and it stings, but god, it feels good.

Dave moves his fingers slowly, carefully. He is still perched up on one elbow, his eyes fixed on where his hand meets Klaus's body. The visual is entrancing.

Klaus is making all these noises. Noises that go straight to Dave's dick. Little sighs and gasps as his body jerks and bows off the bed. His eyes are pinched shut, his chest heaving as Dave reverently works him open.

"Dave." Klaus sighs. "More, baby."

Dave nods, though Klaus can't see. His head is tipped back, eyes still closed. His hips are rocking into Dave's hand as he carefully adds a second finger, twisting them around a little. He's becoming more confident with each one of Klaus's encouraging words and sexy little moans.

Dave grins, moving his fingers faster, deeper. This is by far the sexiest thing that's ever happened to Dave, and it's just beginning. Klaus was right, it does come naturally to him. Pleasing Klaus, making him feel good, it's the most natural thing in the world.

Klaus groans, rolling his hips down onto Dave's probing fingers. Dave grazes his prostate and a hot jolt of pleasure shoots up his spine. Klaus's whole body jerks.

"Holy shit." he gasps, his back arching.

Dave immediately stills his hand, his anxiety spiking. "Klaus? Baby, did I hurt you?"

Klaus peels his eyes open, a wide smile splitting his lips. "No, no. Davey, I swear I just saw heaven."

Dave chuckled, shaking his head. He has no idea what's going on, but he trusts Klaus to be honest with him. "Do you want me to stop?" he asks, because he needs to know Klaus still wants this.

"Davey, no." Klaus grinned. "But I think I'm ready. Come up here." Klaus grabbed Dave's shoulder, pulling him up to lay over him again.

Dave's heart is pounding in his throat as he lays over Klaus's body. His hips fit perfectly between Klaus's spread thighs, and for whatever reason that soothes him. Klaus has one hand on the back of his neck, holding their foreheads together, as the other one snakes it's way between their bodies, gripping Dave's dick in his long, thin fingers.

Dave shifts slightly as Klaus starts guiding him where he wants him. Klaus keeps his eyes locked on Dave's as he presses him against his body, still slick with all that Vaseline.

"Okay." Klaus smiles, nodding a bit. "I'm ready, Davey, go ahead." he lets out a slow breathe, concentrating on relaxing. Klaus is not sober right now, but he's significantly less fucked up than he usually is when he has sex. And this is Dave we're talking about. Klaus is anxious as fuck, but he's trying to keep up his calm facade. The last thing he wants is to scare Dave out of this.

Dave nods back, falling down on one elbow so he can kiss Klaus again. Klaus hums, his hands going to Dave's hips as Dave finally presses forward.

He slips inside Klaus's body with little resistance. It's tight and warm and so fucking good. "Oh, Klaus." he mutters, like an idiot. He collapses on top of the other man, unable to hold himself up under the intense pleasure of the moment.

Klaus gives him a second to collect himself, a little bubble of pride swelling up in his chest. Soon, though, he can't take it anymore. "Davey, please." Klaus whispers, rolling his hips up.

Dave gasps. He's never felt anything like this, and he's certain he never will again. He's had sex with women before, but this is something else entirely.

This is Klaus.

Dave buries his face in Klaus's neck, inhaling deeply. Klaus smells so incredible. Uniquely himself. Whiskey and smoke and skin. Klaus's soft, pale, sweet skin.

Dave can't take it anymore, he pushes up to his elbows and thrusts forward. Klaus cries out, arching into the feeling. His legs curl around Dave's hips, his fingernails scraping at his shoulders and chest.

Oh god. Klaus knew it was going to be good. He just knew sex with Dave was going to be different. But even Klaus wasn't prepared for this.

This isn't just fucking.

This is tenderness. This is Dave's body resting on top of Klaus's, his fingers skimming along Klaus's rib cage, gripping his hip gently as he whispers sweet words into Klaus's ear. This is Dave nuzzling his face into Klaus's ear, kissing his neck. Telling him how perfect he is, how good he's making Dave feel.

And Klaus has never experienced anything quite like it. He's not sure what to do with it.

Dave rocks into him agonizingly slowly, his dick dragging along Klaus's rim with this delicious friction that just adds to his overwhelming emotions. It actually brings tears to Klaus's eyes. He blinks them back, embarrassed.

He needs to reel back his emotions somehow, before he completely loses it.

So he reverts back to what he knows.

He twists his fingers in Dave's hair, yanking his head up and shoving his tongue into his mouth, biting his bottom lip savagely. Dave groans when Klaus tugs his hair harder, pulling tight and he drags their mouths together again and again. He digs his nails into Dave's back, feeling the skin tear under the pressure. Klaus suddenly feels desperate to bring some heat to this encounter, a little pain maybe.

If Dave notices, he doesn't mention it. He just huffs out a laugh, driving into Klaus harder and faster. He grips Klaus's hip in his hand tight enough to leave marks as he mouths at his neck. He even rewards Klaus's odd shift in mood with a little sting of his own, nipping at Klaus's throat hard enough to have Klaus shivering.

Klaus chokes out a moan as Dave fucks him harder. Yeah, he needs this. This is what he knows. He scrapes his nails down Dave's back again, earning himself a hiss of pain from his lover.

Dave doesn't stop, though. He doesn't slow down or ask if Klaus is okay. It's like Dave knows, on some level that Klaus needs this right now. Something to dilute the emotion of the moment.

He's just not ready yet.

Dave reaches down, grabbing Klaus's thigh and wrapping it higher up on his hip. His hand slides down until he's cupping Klaus's ass cheek in his hand, holding him in place as he thrusts into him, more desperate by the moment.

"Ah, Dave. Fuck." Klaus cries out, uncaring that anyone could hear them. Their squad mates are right next door. If they are back from the bar, they can probably hear it all. Klaus doesn't give a fuck. "Please, don't stop." he sighs, peeling his hand off Dave's shoulder so he can wedge it between their bodies and jerk himself off. Dave's never done this before, and Klaus will hopefully have plenty of time to teach him proper sex etiquette.

Besides, he doesn't mind finishing himself off if it means he can watch Dave unravel above him. Dave's movements are becoming erratic, more jerky. He plunges into Klaus's pliant body fervently until he pinches his eyes shut, going stock still on top of Klaus, buried to hilt. He chokes out an aborted moan, coming harder than he ever has in his life.

Klaus watches it all unfold. Time seems to stand still as he watches bliss wash over Dave's face like a tangible thing. Klaus can feel Dave letting go inside of him, and he only has to jerk his cock twice more before he's spilling between their bodies, waves of pleasure rolling through him like the best drug ever.

"Shit, fuck." Klaus whispers, slowly coming back to himself.

Dave hums, suddenly feeling embarrassed now that the heat of the moment has dissipated. He pulls out slowly, frowning when Klaus grimaces.

"Did I, did I hurt you?" Dave asks quietly, falling down on the bed and turning to look at Klaus.

Klaus's chest is still heaving, his body still buzzing. He turns his head, giving Dave a warm, loopy smile. "No, Davey." Klaus sighs, blissful. "That was, that was incredible." he drags his index finger through the mess of cooling come on his stomach, popping the digit in his mouth and licking it clean.

"Eh, Klaus." Dave chuckles, cringing. "What the hell?"

"Oh, Davey." Klaus says, like he always does when Dave does something impossibly adorable. "You just wait, darlin', this is nothing." to Dave's horror, he does it again, dragging his pinky finger through the white mess on his chest and running his tongue along it until it's clean again.

Klaus chuckles at Dave's disgusted face. "You sweet, innocent little gay. Don't worry, Klaus is gonna show you the ropes." with that, Klaus leans over him, kissing him hard on the mouth. His tongue snakes it's way into Dave's mouth, and Dave can taste the remnants of Klaus's release on his tongue.

Dave still has no idea what Klaus means, but he finds it matters little. He's in this, and he'll gladly learn whatever Klaus wants to teach him.

 

***

 

It's late. Klaus isn't sure how late, but it's late. The drugs he took earlier in the night are starting to wear off. Klaus can tell, because suddenly there is a man standing at the end of the bed.

Dave is fast asleep. On his back, Klaus curled into his chest. Dave's arm around his shoulder, Klaus's arm draped over Dave's muscular stomach.

Klaus tries to ignore the ghost. He's comfortable, wrapped up in Dave's embrace. He's actually happy he's sober enough that he'll remember this moment in the morning. The soft rise and fall of Dave's chest, the way he holds Klaus, like he's afraid Klaus will disappear if he doesn't hold on tight enough.

But the ghost is impossible to ignore. He steps right up to Klaus's side of the bed, leaning over so he's right in Klaus's face. Klaus can fucking smell him. That doesn't always happen, but sometimes it does. And this guy smells like stale booze and gunpowder and blood.

So much blood.

Klaus doesn't want to look, but it's hard not to.

This man didn't die in the war. He's not a soldier, that is clear. He's wearing a suit and tie, and the back of his head is blown off. Just a wide open, bloody mass of tissue, bone and brain matter where the back of his skull used to be. He's got blood dripping out the sides of his mouth and Klaus knows instinctively that this man committed suicide. Shot himself. In the mouth.

Ew.

What is it with this town and suicide? First, Bathtub Girl. Now Business Suit Guy.

Fucking wonderful.

Klaus shimmies out from under his lover's arm, moving as stealthily as he can as to not wake poor Dave. He tiptoes toward the bathroom, squinting in the dark so he doesn't trip over something.

Once inside, he closes the door behind him, picking up his paper bag and dumping the contents into the sink so he can see what he's got left. He's shaking a little bit, and his skin is sweaty. He knows he's on the verge of getting sick, but he really wishes he wasn't.

For the first time in god knows how long, Klaus resents his addiction. He's come to accept it as part of who he is, something that will never change, until it kills him. But now, with Dave sleeping the sleep of the innocent in the next room, Klaus is horrified to find he suddenly feels very different.

Not that he's ready to stop. It's not that he even wants to get clean.

He just doesn't want to risk his relationship with Dave ending up like all his other relationships. He never wants Dave to look at him like Diego does, or Ben. He doesn't ever want to see that disappointed, angry, resigned look in Dave's eyes when he catches Klaus passed out on the floor, covered in his own vomit. Or worse, with a needle in his arm, on the verge of yet another death.

But Suicide Suit glaring at him from the other end of the bathroom urges him to act. He can get clean any time he wants to.

Now is just not that time.

He pops two reds. He only has a few left, he's going to have to figure something else soon. But this will do for now. He swallows them down with some more of that nasty Saigon tap water, gagging a little.

He shakes his limbs out a bit, shivering off the heebie jeebies that come from his otherworldly visitors, and opens the door to sneak back to bed, careful to be quiet so as to not wake Dave.

It doesn't matter. Dave's awake. Sitting up in bed with the little bedside lamp on. He looks gorgeous, of course. Leaning against the headboard smoking a cigarette. His hair is all messed up, and he's got bruises and scrapes all over his chest and neck from Klaus's searching fingers and savage mouth.

It's a good look for him.

"Hey." Dave says lowly, his eyes sweeping down Klaus's naked form. "Thought you might have left."

"What?" Klaus balked, crossing the room quickly and jumping back into bed. The motion jostles Dave and he almost drops his cigarette. Klaus is quicker, though, plucking it from his fingers and putting it to his own lips. "Where would I go? This is my room too."

Dave sighs, running his fingers through his hair in irritation. "I don't know, Klaus. I'm obviously not thinking clearly."

And he's not. When Dave had awoken to find Klaus gone, he hadn't even considered the idea that he'd been in the bathroom. His brain had automatically gone worst case scenario.

Klaus had gotten tired of him. Bored. Fed up with Dave's dull ways and sexual inexperience and gone to find someone who could truly satisfy him.

Dave knows it ridiculous. Klaus hasn't even hinted at feeling anything other than happy to spend time with Dave. They had a wonderful night together, and Dave has never felt closer to Klaus. But it's still hard for Dave to accept the fact that someone as incredible as Klaus would be into someone like Dave. Just a basic, boring guy from Philadelphia. A teacher, a decent soldier and a lousy dancer.

"Davey? Hello? Why would you even think that?" Klaus is waving his 'hello' hand in front of his face and Dave blushes. Klaus offers him his cigarette back and Dave takes it with a little nod.

"I'm sorry." Dave replies lowly, shaking his head. Might as well be honest. "I thought you left. Y'know, decided you didn't want this. Whatever this is."

Klaus's face fell. His eyes wide and his mouth flapping open and closed like a fish. "Davey." he whispers, gently caressing the side of his face. Dave leans into it. He doesn't mean to, he's never been like this before.

Insecure and needy.

But Klaus just makes him feel so much, vulnerability only being a fraction of the emotional storm brewing in Dave's chest at the moment.

"Dave." Klaus says, breaking Dave out of his thoughts. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else." Klaus's eyes are boring into Dave's, and Dave has no choice but to believe him. Klaus's eyes are bright, shining with adoration, and Dave feels his face heating up again.

But just like that, something in Klaus changes. He bites his lip, breaking the eye contact and sitting up a bit. Klaus looks serious, and that always makes Dave just a tad bit nervous. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course." Dave replies immediately. He reaches up, cupping the back of Klaus's head and dragging their foreheads together. Klaus springs a quick kiss on him before he takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

"So, I know." Klaus starts, pulling back just enough so he can gaze into Dave's pale blue eyes. "You clearly know by now that I like you. Like, a lot." Klaus says, cringing at his own words.

Like you-like you. Like they are in middle school or something. He shakes it off the best he can, soldiering on.

"And I know, this is poor timing, and with the army and the homophobic bullshit and the war and death and ghosts and drugs and...."

"Klaus." Dave cuts off his rambling, giving him a reassuring smile. "It's okay. Spit it out."

Klaus sighs, nodding to himself. He knows this is stupid. He's being stupid. But he can't help himself. Not concerning Dave.

"Do you....do you see this going anywhere? Like, between us? Say we both survive, make it home. Would you just go on with your life, like we.... like this never happened?" Klaus motions between their naked bodies, dreading Dave's answer.

Dave is confused by the question. Like he could ever forget Klaus.

"Klaus, do you really think that I'd let you go? I just found you." Dave is almost offended by the question. "Is that what you think of me?"

"No, no." Klaus replies, panicking. He's fucking this up, of course he is. "It's just, you don't know me that well yet, and there might be things about me that could be a deal breaker. Honestly, no one ever stays. I know I'm not the forever type of guy. I know I'm a fucking mess, Dave. And I just want to, I don't know, minimize the damage. Before I get in too deep." the drugs must be kicking in now, because Klaus never talks like this. About his insecurities, his innermost fears of being disposable, forgettable.

Dave just gapes at him, his eyebrows knitted together in confusion. "Klaus, darling." Dave says slowly. "I don't give a damn about how it was before. I don't care what happened in your past. How many men you've been with, what kind of vices you have to overcome, or how crazy your family is. I don't even care that there are probably a dozen ghosts sharing this space with us right now."

That drew a little chuckle from Klaus.

"What I do care about is you, Klaus." Dave sighed when he saw legitimate disbelief cross Klaus's face. Dave's going to have to help Klaus accept the fact that he's worthy. Of love, and many other things. "I don't know what's going to happen with this war. We could win, we could lose. We could both die here. I sure fucking hope not, but anything is possible. What I do know is this: if we make it out of this alive, and we do make it back to the states, I'd follow you anywhere, Klaus."

Klaus's face fell, his wide eyes stinging with fresh tears. God, how the hell did he end up so fucking lucky? It just makes no sense.

"Anywhere?" Klaus asks. When Dave nods with a wide smile, Klaus almost tells him right then.

It's on the tip of his tongue to tell Dave about the future, the briefcase tucked under their bed right now, the whole nine yards. About 2019, and how they can be their most free, best gay selves there. About all the things in Klaus's life Dave doesn't know about yet.

He wants to tell him, but he holds back. It's a lot, and Klaus doesn't want to appear any crazier than he already does. Sure, they are making some real headway toward what Klaus wants: a real possibility of a future with Dave. But they haven't known each other for more than a few months, and Klaus's reality is a lot to spring on a guy you are just getting to know.

"Anywhere, Klaus." Dave confirms, pulling him close and kissing him hard. Klaus lets Dave push him down onto the mattress, laying heavily on top of him as he licks into his mouth. "Anywhere, I'd follow you anywhere."

Dave means it too. He knows it's rash, and irresponsible. Abandoning his whole life for a man he just met. He knows Klaus has issues, a lot of problems that need to be addressed at one point. Klaus is the most amazing, most complicated man he's ever met. Dave knows the world is not a welcome place for men like him and Klaus. Dave knows making a life with Klaus would be hard, for many different reasons. But Dave doesn't give a shit about any of that.

Because for the longest time, Dave didn't think he'd ever find something like this. This feeling, this...fuck it...love he has for Klaus.

"Good to know." Klaus replies, smiling up at Dave. He curls his fingers into the short hair at the back of Dave's neck, pulling him down into another filthy kiss. Dave's hand come up to cradle the back of Klaus's head, pulling their bodies flush together. He can feel both their bodies starting to tighten up, harden again. Klaus groans and Dave swallows up the little noise, his tongue darting into Klaus's mouth.

As they make love for the second time that night, all worries and nagging thoughts dissipate, leaving only the desire and affection boiling between them.

The war and the future and the ghosts can all wait.

Right at this moment, nothing exist but Klaus and Dave, and the love they share.

 

***

 

When the sun finally peaks through the curtains, rousing Klaus, he feels like shit. He's gonna have to pop those last two pills and go looking for some more drugs at some point.

This is the last day of their leave, and Klaus is surprised to find Dave left the room without him. After everything that happened last night, Klaus knows they've turned a corner.

Are they boyfriends now? Klaus isn't sure. It has to mean something that Dave said he'd follow him anywhere. That's commitment. Right?

Klaus still isn't sure what he's going to do when they finish their tour. Dave will be done before him, but Klaus would most likely just go AWOL. It's not like he's really in the army anyway. He's more like a temporal volunteer, honestly.

Does Klaus even want to wait for Dave to finish his tour? What if something happens between now and then? What if one of them gets hurt? Or fucking dies?

No. No. Fucking no.

Klaus won't go there. He just won't.

Instead he stands from the bed, stretching his back with a groan. His body is sore in that delicious way that only comes with a night of epic sex.

Dave certainly got over his first time jitters by the end of the night. Klaus grins to himself at the memory.

Klaus lost track of how many times he came last night. There was that first time. Sweet and beautiful, how Klaus would have wanted his first time to be. If he could remember it, that is.

The second time, after their talk, the one where Klaus was so close to telling Dave he loves him. The second time was faster and harder, more like Klaus is used to. Klaus on his knees, leaning heavily against the headboard as Dave took him from behind, whispering into his hair how perfect he is, holding him close as he worked his body just right.

Then, in the wee hours of the morning, Klaus had woken with a start, scared and unsure of where he was, only to find Dave in the dark. Klaus had crawled on top of Dave and woke him from his slumber with tender kisses. Klaus ended up riding Dave, all slow and languid, pulling pleasure from his body with each roll of his hips until they both came, covered in sweat and crying out each others names.

Klaus probably couldn't get it up now if he tired, his body so worn and sore.

But god, was it worth it.

The fact that Dave has seemed to disappear puts a damper on Klaus's mood some. He grabs a cigarette and lights it, leaning his back against the headboard as he smokes, trying not to let his anxiety brain run away with him.

Long minutes go by and still Dave doesn't return. Klaus gets up, rummaging through his paper bag and regretfully finding it empty. He could have sworn he had two pills left.

Shit. Now he really has to go out. He needs cigarettes too.

He sighs, trudging back into the room and sitting in the chair. He pulls the grey pants toward him, pulling them up his legs. He shakes his head out, feeling the beginning stages of a headache.

Right after the headache comes the ghosts.

And that just won't do.

Klaus has his pants on, and is searching the room for one of his shirts when the door swings open and Dave walks in, carrying a crumpled up paper bag in his hand.

"Davey-baby." Klaus crows, abandoning his shirt search and launching himself into Dave's arms. Dave chuckles, closing the hotel door with his hips and wrapping his arms around Klaus. Klaus is climbing him like a tree, and Dave can't say he minds at all. "Where on earth did you get off to this early?"

"I, uh. Well, I thought we could spend the day here. Instead of going out with the guys." Dave says, biting his lip. He should have asked Klaus first, but he really just wants to spend the day with Klaus alone, while he has the chance.

"Oh yeah?" Klaus waggles his eyebrows and Dave blushes.

"Not like that, Klaus." although Dave is not opposed to being...intimate...again with Klaus, that is not the only reason he wants to stay in today. "I just want to spend some time with you, just us, before we go back to the front lines." Dave didn't mean to sound so sad when he said it, but his voice betrayed him, cracking at the end of the sentence.

"Oh." Klaus says, his own heart sinking a little. "That sounds nice Davey. But I do need to go out and, well, resupply, so to speak."

Dave smiles, but it's a sad thing. He tosses the paper bag in his hand to Klaus. Klaus catches it easily, Academy reflexes and all. He gives Dave a questioning glance, opening the bag and looking inside.

"Dave? What the fuck?" Klaus asks, dumping the bag out on the bed.

Inside the bag are two packs of american cigarettes, and a bottle from a Vietnamese pharmacy.

"I, uh, I know a guy who knows a guy who has an arrangement with a pharmacist in Saigon. I couldn't get you what you usually like. The speed or whatever, but it's something at least." Dave doesn't feel right, giving Klaus drugs. But he knows it's the only way the other man knows to quiet the ghouls that haunt him.

Klaus's brow furrows, confused. Did Dave really just say he scored drugs? For Klaus? He grabs the prescription bottle, reading the label.

It's in Vietnamese. Of course it is.

"Davey? What are these?"

"I'ts, um, it's called Methaqualone."

"Metha-what?"

"Quaaludes, Klaus. They're quualudes."

Klaus's eyes bug out of his head. Fucking quualudes? He's only ever heard of these. They were outlawed by the FDA before he was even born. Jesus christ. Leave it to Dave of all people to bring Klaus a new drug experience.

"Go easy, though, okay? My friend said they're heavy shit. And I don't want you to hurt yourself." Dave says. He feels like the biggest asshole. Like he's enabling Klaus's addiction. But he just can't stand to see him in pain. Maybe after they get back stateside, they can figure out a better way to deal with Klaus's hauntings. But for now, this seems like the only solution.

Dave can't watch him suffer.

Maybe that makes him weak. Who knows.

Klaus nods, a giddy little grin on his lips. He pops one of the pills, swallowing it dry. He's going to heed Dave's warning, try one out, see how it affects him.

If it was just Klaus, he'd dump a handful in his mouth, roll the dice. But it's not just him.

As soon as Klaus has popped his pills, he's stripping out of his pants again, crawling back in bed naked. "C'mon, Davey. Let's just lay here."

Dave strips his shirt quickly before stepping out of his pants. He throws himself onto the bed next to Klaus, pulling him close. Klaus curls up against Dave's broad chest, that familiar feeling of comfort and peace settling over him. Like it always does when he's in Dave's arms.

God, he really wants this forever.

Dave had said he'd follow Klaus anywhere. Now Klaus knows he would do the same. When the time comes for Klaus to spill his guts about the future and all the other fucked up shit he's hiding, Dave might not want to go to 2019 with him.

There is a very real chance Dave will want to stay right here, in the late 1960s. And Klaus knows now, he'd stay too. In a heartbeat.

They lay together in the bed for a long time, just basking in comfortable silence. There's a radio on the bureau, but Klaus doesn't want music. He's happy as he is. His arm slung over Dave's chest, his leg curled up over Dave's hip. Dave's arm around his shoulder, his fingers playing with Klaus's unruly curls. The steady beat of Dave's heart under Klaus's ear.

After a while, Klaus pulls back, glancing up at Dave. "How long do you think we can just be like this until Dallas comes hollering for us to hit the bars with them again? I mean, it's our last night in the city."

"Oh, don't worry about that, darlin'." Dave chuckles, massaging the back of Klaus's head until he's purring like a cat. Dave smiles. "I told him we got food poisoning from that Pho we at from the street vendor. Told 'em all you're puking your guts out, and I'm not much better. They went out without us, and I doubt they'll be checking in again 'til it's time to get back to Firebase."

"David Katz! Did you lie? To our squad? Just to spend the day alone with little old me?" Klaus is teasing Dave to distract from his own blushing face.

Dave is just the sweetest, kindest man Klaus has ever met.

Thank god for those murderous, briefcase wielding psychopaths, or Klaus would never have found him.

"So what if I did?" Dave grins, rolling on top of Klaus and pinning his hands above his head. The longer he stares into Klaus's bright green eyes, the more his smile fades. Klaus's smile fades too, watching Dave's expression turn so serious so fast.

"Davey? What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Dave shakes his head, his smile coming back twice as bright. "I'm just realizing now how much I love you, Klaus."

Klaus freezes, his eyes going comically wide. Dave swallows hard, quirking an eyebrow.

Maybe it's too soon for declarations of love.

But Dave can't help himself. They are going back to Firebase first thing in the morning and Dave needs Klaus to know where he stands. Just in case.

A few torturous moments of silence go by. Dave staring at Klaus, Klaus staring right back, all deer in the headlights.

Dave starts to waffle, wishing he could take it back. He's never been more unsure of himself than he is with Klaus. Always second guessing himself.

He knows he loves Klaus. He probably has for a while now. And he was almost positive Klaus felt the same way, or at least close. But now he's not sure of anything.

Klaus for his part, is quietly losing his mind. Dave loves him. Dave LOVES him. He can't remember the last time anyone said that to him. He doesn't know if anyone's ever meant it.

Not like Dave does.

Klaus stares for a long time, finally getting his wits about him as Dave starts to shrink back, fearing rejection.

Klaus wraps his hands around the back of Dave's neck, pulling him down into a heated kiss.

"Fuck, Dave. I love you too. So, so much."

Dave grins against Klaus's lips, relief flooding his system like a shot of morphine from Doc.

God, it just feels so good. Loving Klaus, being loved by Klaus.

"Davey-baby." Klaus purrs. "We could do anything we want. Anything. We could be so good together."

Dave smiles, kissing Klaus passionately. "Darlin', we're already good together. Better than good."

Klaus smiles back, unable to control the pounding of his heart. He's never felt more alive than he does in this moment. He kisses Dave again, leaning heavily into him as he licks into his smiling mouth.

They spend the rest of their leave like that, wrapped up in each other in their bed. Kissing, making love, whispering quietly to each other about their hopes for the future.

Klaus knows now. He has to tell Dave the truth. He probably should have a while ago, but the stakes are so much higher now.

Klaus can't keep this from Dave. This huge secret. Not anymore.

Dave has nodded off, his eyes closed, a small smile on his gorgeous lips. Klaus props himself up on one elbow so he can look down at him. He's so pretty, Klaus can't stand it.

Klaus reaches up with one hand, running his fingers through Dave's hair. Dave makes a little noise, curling into the touch unconsciously. Klaus smiles.

"Oh Davey." he whispers quietly. "Do I have a story to tell you." Klaus's smile fades as he runs his fingers down the side of Dave's face. "I just hope you don't change your mind about all this after you know the truth."

Chapter Text

The ride back to Firebase is silent. No one says a single word the entire way back. It's like the fun weekend in Saigon had slipped right through their fingers, and now the weight of the war was heavy on their shoulders again.

In one short hour they would be back in the shit.

It's a heavy moment.

Klaus fidgeted in his seat, picking at his nails beds and glancing surreptitiously at Dave from under the brim of his army issue hat.

Before they'd left the hotel, Dave had sat Klaus down and had 'the talk'. The dreaded talk where Dave explained to Klaus how things had to be once they were back at base. Klaus sighs, glancing out the window, memories from that morning filtering back unbidden....

 

***

 

Klaus sits down heavily on the unmade bed, glancing at Dave warily as he sits a few inches away, his fingers clasped over his knees.

"Davey, what's wrong?" Klaus asks, reaching out. He places his hand over Dave's, pulling his palms apart and threading their fingers together instead.

Dave sighs, shaking his head. He won't look at Klaus, and that has Klaus worried.

"Dave, you're kinda freaking me out." Klaus whispered. He didn't mean to sound like such a baby, but things have been going so well. This leave has been incredible. Klaus hasn't ever felt closer to anyone, even if he's still only giving Dave vagaries and half truths about so many things.

Klaus's guilt about his dishonesty aside, he clicks with Dave in all the right ways.

So why is Dave upset now? What did Klaus do wrong?

"It's just, when we go back to base, we have to...you know, cool it. Between us, I mean." Dave spoke quietly, the words heavy on his tongue.

"Oh." Klaus replied, even quieter.

"I don't want to, Klaus. You have to know that." Dave insisted, finally looking up. Klaus was already watching him with those big green eyes, his expression somber. "If it were up to me, we'd be free to do whatever we want. I could hold your hand." Dave squeezed Klaus's hand as he spoke. "Kiss you whenever I want, hold you at night to keep the ghosts away. I'd do all that in a heartbeat, darlin', and be grateful for the privilege. But we are soldiers at war, Klaus, not just lovers. There is no place for us in this army."

"Oh Dave." Klaus sighed, leaning his head on Dave's shoulder. "I know all that. I would never jeopardize your position in the army."

"It's not just me I'm worried about, Klaus. It's your life too. I'd never forgive myself if you were punished for my carelessness."

"I can take care of myself, Dave. You don't need to worry about that. I'm not scared of the US army."

"You should be. They could ruin your life. Back in the states your are finished if you are dishonorably discharged."

"Davey, that is the least of my worries." Klaus replied sadly. "But if you want to put an end to things with me, I understand. You have your whole life..."

"What?" Dave interjected, his eyes wide. He's screwing this up. Of course he is. "No, no, Klaus, just no..."

When Klaus gave him a quizzical look, Dave sighed again. "I want you, Klaus. Only you, as long as you'll have me. Nothing could change that." Dave smiled when Klaus's face lit right up. "All I am trying to say is that we have to be careful. I don't want to hide how I feel about you, darlin', but it's necessary. At least while we're still in country. Once we get home, we can do whatever we want. Do you understand?"

Klaus nodded, chills shooting up his spine. Dave talking so casually about their future together just thrills him. Like it's a forgone conclusion that there will be more for them beyond the mud and blood of war.

"Yes, I totally understand." Klaus replied. Dave was right, as usual. "But I'll be honest, it's gonna be hell going back to not touching you. Three days and I'm hooked." Klaus leaned in and pressed a sweet kiss to Dave's lips. "But I promise to keep my hands to myself and my dick in my pants, no matter how much it pains me to do so."

Dave chuckled, smiling. "Hey now, no one said anything about going cold turkey." he said, grabbing Klaus around his waist and throwing him to the bed. Dave hovered over him, grinning down at Klaus's beautiful face. "I said we had to be careful."

Klaus's confused expression is so damn adorable. "What?"

Dave rolled his eyes, leaning in for another kiss. God he loved kissing Klaus. He was going to miss it to when they got back to the base. He slipped his tongue past Klaus's lips, drinking in the taste of him.

Something to hold him over until the next time.

"I said we need to be careful, darlin'. We can't be all touchy-feely around the guys. We can't be making eyes at each other or standing too close. I know playing it safe is not your thing, but it's too important to risk." Dave said, eyes soft. "You're too important."

Klaus smiled, tears welling up in his eyes. "Okay, Davey." he nodded. "Whatever it takes."

 

***

 

Klaus is still reliving the memory as the bus pulls up at Firebase. He tempers his smile, tucking it away for a more appropriate time. He grabs his duffel and files off the bus after Dave.

Once they get their shit stowed in their tents and get their gear back on, it's right back in the mix. Sarg has Klaus and Dallas on perimeter duty, Dave and some of the other guys going on a recon mission. Klaus waves to Dave as casually as he can. Dave smiles ruefully, saluting Klaus before turning and disappearing into the bush.

Now, Klaus is used to the anxiety that comes any time Dave is on a mission without him. Dave is a more experienced soldier, and a hell of a lot better than Klaus in battle. So often times Dave will go out on dangerous missions with Wiston, Ace and O'Reily, and Klaus will be stuck back at the base, clutching his rifle as he walks the perimeter with Dallas, nervously jumping at every strange noise and obsessing endlessly about Dave's safety in the field.

But this is so much worse. After everything that happened on leave between them, after all they shared, everything they said, Klaus is petrified to lose Dave. He's so afraid something awful is going to happen and the next time he sees Dave, it won't be Dave at all, but just his ghost.

That can't happen. It just can't.

Klaus is trudging along the perimeter of the base, listening to Dallas drone on and on about some Vietnamese hooker he banged on leave. Klaus is barely paying attention, nodding and humming along at certain points, but his mind is miles away. He can't go on like this. His anxiety has never been worse. Somewhere out there in the jungle, Dave is crawling on his belly through the mud, dodging bullets and praying he makes it back.

Just the thought makes Klaus sick.

Of course, the speed Doc gave them the second they stepped off the bus is only making Klaus feel worse.

Again, he's hit with the notion that he should just be honest. Tell Dave they can leave whenever they like, that they can do like they talked about. Make a life together, far away from the hell of war.

But Klaus is just so scared. He trudges across the dry grass, swatting at flies and other nasty biting things as his mind wanders further and further from his work.

It's not like Klaus has any real reason to be nervous. Dave knows everything else about him now, and hasn't run for the hills yet. Klaus told him about the ghosts. Which, to be fair, isn't that big a secret back in 2019. He is The Seance, after all. But here, in the 60's, no one knows shit about the Umbrella Academy. It would have been totally fair for Dave to write Klaus off as a whack job drug addict, hallucinating these ghouls and horrors.

But he didn't. He barely blinked. He believed Klaus, which is something no one else in his life ever does. When Klaus first started seeing Ben after his death, not a single one of his siblings or his father believed him. It took over a year of Klaus's constant comments before anyone in his family would even entertain the idea that he was being honest. And yeah, maybe part of that is on him for being a shit person and a liar, but he'd never lie about Benjamin.

Dave though, Dave just listened and believed him.

And that's not even touching on how Dave dealt with the reality of Klaus's addiction. They spent hours in their hotel room, talking about Klaus's drug problem. Klaus told him everything. How it started, why he can't stop, the awful, shameful things he's done in pursuit of drugs. By the time he was done talking, Klaus was red faced with embarrassment and sick to his stomach. He had been so certain that would be the end of him and Dave. Someone as wonderful as Dave wouldn't want to sully himself by being with a junked out prostitute thief who happens to talk to the dead.

But Dave had just...been Dave. He'd held Klaus tight and whispered to him over and over that he was perfect. Not dirty, not damaged. Told him he wasn't his addiction, told him his sickness didn't define him. Promised to help him any way he could, promised to never abandon him when he struggled.

Klaus just isn't used to that kind of support. Diego and Ben are probably the closest thing he has to support he has in his life, and that is the typical brand of Hargreeves tough love. Klaus knows they care, but it's in that abrasive, sarcastic way that always leaves Klaus feeling like a failure.

Dave is just so different. He's kind and gentle and understanding. And for the first time since he started using, Klaus has hope that he may just find a way to stop someday.

Then, after all that was out of the way, Klaus let his final secret slip. Klaus didn't think it was a big deal at all, but this is 1967, and Dave could feel very different.

Klaus kicks a rock across the muddy ground as he recalls that conversation...

 

***

 

Klaus was so comfortable, laying in the tub with his eyes closed. Dave was sitting on the closed toilet lid, leaning over the lip of the bathtub so he could run his fingers through Klaus's curls.

They were leaving for base in a couple hours, and Klaus wanted one more hot bath before he went back to bathing in the river.

"You're so gorgeous." Dave murmured, grinning down at Klaus. He looked so peaceful, submerged in the water, smoking a cigarette with his eyes closed.

"You think I look good now? You should see me in a skirt." Klaus chuckled. He snapped his jaw shut so fast he almost bit his tongue off.

Fuck.
He didn't mean to say that.

Klaus internally winced, peeling his eyes open slowly. He tipped his head back, glancing up at Dave from his upside-down vantage point.

Dave's brow was furrowed, his lips quirked into an odd little smile. "Klaus, are you telling me you're a transvestite?"

Well, looks like they're having THAT conversation now...

"Ew, Davey. Don't use that word." Klaus shivered dramatically. "And no, I am not transgender or I guess you people may still call it transsexual. And I'm not a drag queen or what have you. Shit, how do I explain this?" Klaus sat up in the tub, water and bubbles sloshing over the side, soaking the floor. "I suppose the best way to describe it is I feel... I don't know. I'm a boy, right? I love being a boy, I love my dick, all that shit. But that doesn't preclude me from enjoying pretty things. Dresses, stockings, make up. In my room at home I have like a hundred bottles of nail polish. I just enjoy exploring that feminine side of myself. I like feeling pretty."

Dave smiled, cupping the side of Klaus's face. "Darlin' your gorgeous just as you are."

Klaus huffed, ready to go on the defensive, but Dave cut him off.

"But I have to admit, now you've got me curious." Dave shot Klaus a cheeky grin. "I bet you look stunning in a dress. You certainly have the body for it."

Klaus laughed, shaking his head as his face broke out in a hot blush. "What is with you?" he wondered, totally blown away by Dave once again. "It's like nothing I say effects you at all. It all just rolls right off your back."

Dave's smile faltered, his expression turning serious instantly. "Klaus, I told you already. There is nothing you can say to change how I feel about you. And I hate to break it to you, but the fact that you like to wear more...feminine...clothing is not all that much of a shock. I mean, look at what you bought for this trip."

Klaus stammered, huffing indignantly. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Dave chuckled. Klaus was just adorable. "I mean not just any man would have the balls to rock a half shirt and platform heels in a GI bar. Your confidence and sense of self are what drew me to you in the first place. You can't honestly believe I'd be turned off by the thought of you in, what, a corset and garters?"

"David Katz! No one said anything about lingerie."

"Are you going to deny it to my face, Klaus?" Dave replied, laughing.

"Oh, fuck you." Klaus laughed, splashing water at Dave. "So what if I like lacy things? Feels glorious on your body. Don't knock it 'til you try it, you square."

"Maybe I will." Dave laughed, waggling his eyebrows.

"Don't you dare joke about that." Klaus yelped. "I have an excitable personality, David. You know this."

"I'm not joking, Klaus." Dave replied. "Remember when you told me you had so much to show me? I want that. I want you to show me every little thing about you. Even the parts no one else understands or appreciates. I want to see you, darlin', all of you."

 

***

 

Klaus had cried then. Too overwhelmed by emotion and not high enough to mask his feelings. Dave had pulled him from the tub and wrapped him in a big towel, cradling Klaus to his chest and whispering sweet words and gentle assurances to him until he'd calmed again.

Now, as Klaus kicks mud from his boots as he makes his final trip around the base's perimeter, he knows what he has to do.

He has to be honest with Dave. For real this time. He has to tell him about the briefcase, and his actual life in the future. Dave has been nothing but supportive, and if Klaus continues to keep this secret, it will only open a chasm between them. Because that's what lies do.

Klaus should know.

His mind made up, he smiles.

Okay, he can do this. What's the worst that can happen?

Nope, Klaus isn't even going to entertain the idea.

"Yo Hargreeves, whadaya think is for dinner?" Dallas asks, taking a drag off his cigarette before passing it to Klaus. Klaus nodded his thank, swiping the butt from Dallas's fingers. He took a drag, letting it out slowly with a smile.

"Dallas, you silly little boy. We're having the same thing we always have. Canned shit. With a side of stewed trash. US Army gourmet."

Dallas laughed, shaking his head. "You're a trip, man."

"So I've been told." Klaus replied dryly.

They walked silently for a few minutes, passing the cigarette between them until there was nothing left. After side-eyeing Klaus for five minutes straight, Dallas cleared his throat.

"Hey, Klaus, can I ask you a question?" Dallas asks carefully. Klaus immediately stopped marching toward the base, spinning on the spot and turning to face Dallas. Klaus knows that tone of voice well.

That is a 'serious conversation' tone.

"Uh, sure." Klaus replied carefully. He curled his rifle's strap over his shoulder and gave Dallas his undivided attention.

"Well, let me just preface this by telling you my sister Sally is a dyke." Dallas said, surprising Klaus.

"Dallas, what the ever loving fuck are you talking about? And why bring sweet Sally and her lesbianism into this? By the way, that word is repulsive, so..."

"Huh?" Dallas waffled. When all he got from Klaus was a stern look, he continued. "Sorry, man. Okay, I guess I just wanted to tell you that I don't care if you're a, y'know.... a fairy or what have you."

Klaus blanched, all the blood draining from his face. "W-what?"

"I mean, I don't know for sure or anything. Just cuz of Sally and her group of friends back home. You remind me of this one guy, Damian. He's pretty cool, but not like anyone else I've ever met, until you that is. Very unique, let's say."

"Jesus, Dallas, why are you even bringing this up?" Klaus wondered. Dave's words of warning were blaring in his brain like an air raid siren.

FAG. FAG. FAG.

Shit, Dave was right. What now?

"I, damn it. I had it all planned out in my head and now I'm screwing the pooch." Dallas kicked a rock in irritation, sending it sailing into the jungle.

"Dallas, just say it, whatever it is. All this suspense is boring me to tears." Klaus said, though his heart was pounding in his chest. This conversation is giving him major anxiety, and he's just sober enough to catch sight of a mangled VC soldier trailing them from the treeline. He's got a gaping wound in his stomach, his intestines sagging outside his abdomen. Klaus holds in a gag, turning away from the spirit and toward Dallas's inane ramblings.

"I'm just trying to say it don't bother me none, man." Dallas finally said. "I won't tell anyone, and you can, y'know, trust me. As your brother. I don't give a shit who gets your motor going, Klaus. I know some of the other guys say shit about the queers. I know you heard them when we were in Saigon. I saw your face, Hargreeves. You looked like you wanted to lay Manny out. I know I laughed along, and I'm sorry. That ain't me. I just wanted you to know I got your back."

"Wow." Klaus breathed, unsure of what to say and kinda wishing he was anywhere but here having this talk right now. Yes, he'd heard some of the guys talking shit about 'faggots' when they were on leave, and yes, he'd gotten pretty heated. He'd thought he'd hidden it well. Guess not. "Okay, thanks, I guess." Klaus's mind was going in a million different directions. How much did Dallas know? What did Klaus do that gave him away? Is really that blatant a fag? He'd tempered his personality so much since landing in the past.

Not enough, apparently.

What about Dave?

Shit. Fuck.

"So you are then?" Dallas pressed. "Queer, I mean."

Klaus grimaced, nodding. No use trying to deny it now.

Dallas nodded, like he knew already and Klaus was just confirming his suspicions.

Who else in the unit is talking? What are they saying?

"I know it must be hard too, y'know, being the only one in the unit." Dallas said, surprising Klaus yet again.

So he doesn't suspect Dave. And he's not suspicious of his Klaus's relationship with Dave.

Good, okay. Klaus can work with this.

"Oh yes, it's impossibly lonely." Klaus sighed dramatically, laying it on thick. "But you have been so kind to me. Treating me like a member of the team, in spite of my odd behaviors."

"You're not odd, Hargreeves." Dallas said. The two men shared a look and both burst out laughing. "Okay, you're a giant weirdo. But I've got your back, just the same."

"Thanks, Dallas." Klaus replied quietly. "That means a lot." Klaus is overwhelmed by Dallas's kindness. It's one thing to be accepted by Dave, who shares Klaus's identity and understands what it's like to be different. But Dallas is just a straight guy in 1967 who happens to not give a shit that Klaus isn't straight. Klaus didn't expect that at all.

Goes to show what happens when you assume.

The men made their way into base and split up. Klaus was halfway to his tent when a blood curdling scream echoed across the camp.

Klaus's head shot up, glancing around quickly.

What the fuck?

Another scream rips through the air and Klaus started running toward the sound.

The Ward Tent.

Klaus runs as fast as his skinny little legs will carry him, scanning his surroundings the entire way for new ghosts. He doesn't see any of his brothers among the dead. Just your every day VC ghosts, and Collins.

Shit. Collins. He's waving Klaus over to the Ward Tent. The kid looks terrified.

Fuck.

The rest of the unit is standing around outside, each man looking scared and stricken. Klaus spots Dallas by the tree line. Guess he didn't make it very far either.

"What's going on?" Klaus asks no one in particular. His eyes search for Dave, but he's not outside the tent with the rest of them.

Oh fuck.

"Hargreeves, don't go in there." Olly barks, grabbing Klaus's shoulder. Olly's a dumbass who thinks he Sarg. Klaus never listens to him, and he's not starting now. He shakes him off and lurches toward the tent flap.

Klaus stumbles into the Ward Tent and into utter chaos.

It's Winston.

It's Winston, and he's lying on his back on a cot, being held down by Dave and Miller as Doc tries and fails to get a IV line into Winston's arm.

"Katz! Hold him down, for God's sake." Doc bellows. Klaus's eyes shoot over to Dave. His beautiful Dave looks utterly horrified, covered in mud and blood, his eyes wide as he obeys Doc's orders. He lays heavily against Winston's body, pinning him down to the cot as Doc finally gets the needle into his shaking arm, sending a monster shot of morphine into Winston's bloodstream. Miller is holding a glass bottle of saline solution up high over his head, in leu of an IV tree.

Winston wails in pain and Klaus grimaces, tears stinging his eyes.

Klaus takes in the hellish scene and almost throws up when he realizes the gravity of Winston's injuries...

He stepped on a land mine. It had to be. His right leg is mangled below the knee. There's just nothing there but bits of bone and shredded muscle. And so much blood.

He's bleeding out.

Klaus is watching Winston die.

"Where's the helo?" Dave asks, voice wavering. "He needs evac."

"No time." Doc shot back, turning to rifle through his tools on the makeshift bench. "He's bleeding out."

Klaus catches Winston's eye in the middle of the madness. He's scared to death, tears spilling freely from his eyes as he starts to hyperventilate. Wiston breaks the eye contact first, closing his eyes as he screams in pain again.

"Miller, tie off his leg. I'm taking it." Doc says. His voice is so calm, and that disturbs Klaus even more.

Winston's body sags on the gurney. He goes completely limp as the Doc moves around the space, grabbing a huge bottle of antiseptic and a fucking bone saw.

Miller jumps up, grabbing the tourniquet and tying it high up on what's left of Winston's thigh.

Klaus wants to tell Doc not to bother. Winston's not moving, he's barely breathing anymore.

Klaus will see him soon.

Dave locks eyes with Klaus across Winston's mutilated body. "Hargreeves, get outta here." his voice is cold, detached. Klaus nods numbly, taking one last look at Wiston before turning on his heel and bolting out of the tent.

He makes it about three steps before he's leaning against a tree and vomiting up whatever was in his stomach. He heaves and coughs, dizzy and sick with anxiety.

Once his nausea has passed, Klaus goes back to his tent. He needs to get the fuck away from this. All of this. This is the worst possible place for someone like Klaus.

He shoves his rifle under his bed, angry and scared and sad. He hates his rifle. This implement of war and death.

He doesn't belong here.

When he drops the gun under his cot, his eyes catch on the briefcase. He rolls his eyes, shoving the case and the gun further away from him before throwing himself down on his cot with a huff.

"What am I doing?" Klaus whispers to himself.

"Certainly not writing to my mother, sir." a voice calls out, startling Klaus. He springs back up, hands out to defend himself. He sighs when he sees Collins standing at the end of the bed.

"God damn it, Collins. I told you about that shit." Klaus groaned. "Please don't sneak up on me."

"Sorry, sir." Collins replies, standing at ease. The ghost often treated Klaus like a superior officer, no matter how many times Klaus insisted he was barely a soldier.

"Collins, dear, now's not really a good time." Klaus said tiredly. He was barely holding it together at the moment, and the last thing he wanted was a ghost hounding him.

"It's never a good time. What about my mother?" Collins replied, his voice hard. "She's suffering, I can feel it. I need you to do this now."

Klaus sighed, shaking his head. Why does Collins have to guilt him so? On the other hand, Klaus could use a distraction at the moment. "Fine. Fine, whatever. If I do this will you please leave me be for a while?"

Collins nodded, a small smile appearing on his pale face.

"Good." Klaus said, stuffing his hand under his pillow and coming back with his notebook, pen and a joint he'd saved for emergencies.

Wiston dying a few feet away certainly qualified as an emergency in Klaus's book. He lit the joint with a match and took a deep drag. He held the smoking in his lungs as he got himself situated, motioning for Collins to come closer. He stubs the joint out after two hits. He can't write a letter for Collins if the kid disappears half way through.

The things he does for this ghost. Honestly.

"Okay. Klaus's dictation services are open for business. Lay it on me."

And that's how Klaus ended up writing his first ever letter from beyond the grave. He wrote to Collin's mom. Told her everything Collins never got to say before he died. That he loved her, that he hoped he made her proud, that's he's not afraid of death, and if he never makes it home, she should be at peace knowing he died with his brothers, serving his country.

Klaus signed Collin's name, jotting down his mother's address on the envelope and sealing it.

"There. Done." Klaus said, voice low. "She'll probably get it after she hears the news of your death, but she'll think you wrote it before you died." he tapped the envelope against his pillow. "Anything else I can do for you this evening?"

"No sir. Thank you, sir." Collins said. His face was almost glowing. He had that strange ghostly ethereal quality to him, but Klaus had never seen a ghost glow before.

But just a quickly as it came, the luster was gone. Collins looked stricken.

"What?" Klaus asks, standing from his cot. The weed had gone straight to his head, but he wasn't high enough yet to dispel Collins or the other ghosts. Klaus had a bad feeling, and getting any higher would only make it worse.

"Winston." Collins replied, voice low. He pointed to the mouth of the tent and Klaus didn't want to look.

No. Please. No.

"Hargreeves." Winston's petrified voice filtered into his ears and Klaus pinched his eyes shit, shaking his head violently.

"No." he whispered pathetically.

"Klaus." Winston demanded. "What the fuck is happening to me?"

 

***

 

Dave should move.

He should get up.

He should be helping Doc and Ollie clean up the mess. He should be relaying this intel to Sarg, who's out on the perimeter right now, tracking enemy troop movements.

He should at least get up and clean the blood and tissue off his hands and face.

But he can't.

He's stuck. Sitting in a chair next to Winston's body, just staring at his dead friend. Winston was just a kid. Nineteen years old, from Brooklyn. He wanted to be a musician. He played the trumpet in a jazz band.

It's funny how much you learn about a person when you serve side by side with them.

And then they die. And all your left with is memories and useless trivia about a life they'll never live again.

It's not like this is the first time Dave has lost a friend in this pointless, bloody war. It's not even the second or third.

But Dave has been feeling differently for a while now, and things that used to hit him hard utterly devastate him now. His war-hardened outer shell has been shattered, exposing his vulnerable inner core.

Klaus. It's all because of Klaus. He opened Dave right up, stirring emotions and sensations inside of him he'd buried the moment he stepped foot on Vietnamese soil. And now that Klaus has opened him up again, Dave can't get back to that cold indifference. It shouldn't be a bad thing, but it is when he's at war.

Dave glances over at Winston, shaking his head. It was such a stupid way to die. Dave had told him a million times to stay on the trail, to stay behind Dave as he led them through the jungle on their recon mission. But Winston was a wanderer. Not on purpose, his steps just swayed wide, left to right, as he patrolled the jungle.

He'd stepped on the wrong spot, got blown sky high. His leg had vaporized, sending pink mist and tissue flying in all directions. Including Dave's face. Dave has never seen anything like it, and he's sure he's never going to get that image out of his head.

Dave and Ollie had carried Winston back to base in their arms. Dave had been certain he'd be delivering a body back to camp.

And that is what he did.

He failed. He failed his mission. He failed the squad. And he failed Winston most of all.

Dave huffs, angry with himself. He wipes at his wet eyes with his bloody fingers, grimacing. He really needs to wash up.

He stands on unsteady legs, bracing himself on his chair so he doesn't topple over. He glances down at Winston one last time, sighing heavily. He won't cry. He can't.

"Sorry, buddy." Dave whispers, patting Winston's now cold shoulder as he leaves the tent. He doesn't bother saying anything to Doc.

He passes by Sarg on his way back to his tent.

Fucking wonderful.

"Katz, what happened out there?" Sarg asks, his voice even. There's no hint of accusation in his tone, but Dave feels guilty regardless.

"Winston stepped on a land mine, sir. Took his leg right off. Me and Ollie got him back to Doc, but it was too late. He, uh, bled out about twenty minutes ago."

"And the mission?" Sarg asks, all business. Dave knows he doesn't mean to be cold. Every man in this unit is Sarg's responsibility. He has to worry about them all, not just one soldier.

"The mission was a success. Ollie is typing up the report as we speak, sir. We saw enemy movement along the ridge, as you suspected. About a dozen men, going north, away from Firebase."

"Good, good." Sarg said. "I'd say successful mission, but it's a damn shame about Winston. Kid had stones."

"Yes sir." Dave replied, his throat closing up. He was NOT going to cry in front of Sarg. He clenched his jaw, digging his fingernails into his palms. Focus on the pain to distract from distress. It's an old trick he's used since he was just a kid.

It works.

"Okay then." Sarg nods. "Dismissed."

Dave turns quickly, forcing himself not to run. He wants to. He wants to run as far away from this shit show as he can, and never look back. He wants to leave this army, this war behind forever. Most of all, he wants to go to Klaus.

So he does.

 

***

 

Klaus is sitting on his bed, tired and incredibly sad. Winston is sitting next to Collins on Dave's bed, shell shocked and devastated. Klaus grimaces at Winston's gory appearance. His leg is in tatters, swinging freely above the ground, bits of muscle and skin swaying on some invisible breeze.

"I know, it's a lot to take in." Klaus said quietly. He glances up at the ghosts, surprised to find Collins with his arm around Winston, comforting him. Klaus can't recall if he's ever seen that before. Ghosts are usually cruel to one another, or can't see each other at all. Klaus wonders if it has something to do with them serving together.

Shit, he wishes Five was here. He knows more about this shit than anyone. Klaus should really be the expert, but he turned his back on his training long ago. That's feeling like a mistake in this moment. Maybe if he knew more, he could help these men better.

"C'mon, Winst, let's go chat." Collins says carefully, giving Klaus a warm smile. Klaus smiles back, nodding. He watches the two ghosts leave the tent, arms slung over each others' shoulders. Just then, Dave walks in, passing through both men with a shiver.

"Fuck." Dave chokes out, his eyes finding Klaus's immediately. Klaus takes one look at Dave and gasps. He's up and walking toward Dave before he knows what he's doing.

"Davey, I'm so sorry. Are you okay?"

Dave shakes his head, pulling Klaus into a bone crushing hug, heedless of anyone who could see them. He doesn't give a fuck at the moment. He needs this right now.

Klaus wraps his arms around Dave's shoulders, pulling him in tight. Dave is covered in Winston's blood, but Klaus doesn't care. He can feel the anguish radiating off Dave in waves, and the only thing Klaus wants to do is make it better.

"Klaus." Dave chokes out, tears finally springing from his eyes. "I fucked up."

"Oh, Davey, no." Klaus replied quietly. "It's not your fault."

"It is." Dave insisted. "I was lead on the mission. It's my job to get everyone back in one piece. I didn't do that. I fucked up. Winston's gone."

"I know. I just talked to him." Klaus murmured, pulling back to look into Dave's bloodshot eyes.

"Winston's here?" Dave balked, stepping away from Klaus and glancing around the tent, as if he'd see Winston's mutilated corpse if he just looked hard enough.

"No, Davey. I sent him and Collins away." Klaus said, gripped Dave's wrist and pulling him over to his cot. "Sit." he commanded. Dave fell on the bed gracelessly, staring up at Klaus with wide eyes. "I'm going to clean you up." Klaus grabbed a dirty rag from a pile of clothes at the end of the bed, upending the some of his water from his canteen onto it. He swiped a slice of soap from Dallas's rucksack, rubbing the wet cloth all over the soap. It would have to do.

"Klaus, I'm fine." Dave insisted, shying away from the other man.

"You're not. I would know." Klaus replied. He gripped Dave under the chin, smiling down at him sadly as he went about wiping the blood and flesh from Dave's face and neck. "Let me help you."

Dave sighed, slumping in his seat. He stared at the floor as Klaus cleaned him up, focusing on his breathing to maintain his calm outer appearance. He was losing his mind, but he had to keep his cool.

Winston is dead. And it's his fault.

"Winston told me what happened." Klaus said after a moment. He was running the wet rag along Dave's collar bone, mopping up the bloody mess as best he could. Once Dave's skin was as clean as he could get it, Klaus dropped the cloth onto the dirt floor and knelt in front of Dave. His fingers found the buttons of Dave's shirt, undoing them one by one. "He said he wandered off the path, even though you told him to stay in formation. Made me promise to tell you it's not your fault. You do know that, right? It's not your fault."

"I was in charge of that mission, Klaus. It was up to me to bring him back. And I didn't."

"Baby, it was a land mine." Klaus said, finally stripping off Dave's shirt. He picked up his cloth again, shaking off the dirt before adding a bit more water. He moved the cloth in slow circles along Dave's chest and stomach, wiping away the blood that had soaked through his shirt. "Winston's death is on the Vietcong, not you. Everyone knows you did your best. Especially Winston. He's more worried about you than he is his own death. I've never seen that in a ghost before."

"What?" Dave asks, grabbing Klaus's wrist, halting his movements.

"Yeah." Klaus nodded, leaning in to rest their foreheads together. "He wanted to make sure you were okay. That you and Ollie made it back to base alright. And he wanted me to tell you he takes the blame, and he's sorry he didn't listen. Brought me to tears, honestly."

"I tried, Klaus." Dave said, barely containing his emotions. "I tried so hard to get him back in time."

"You did everything you could, Davey." Klaus promised. "Sometimes it's just..."

"Not enough." Dave supplied, finally breaking down. He choked out a sob, tears welling up in his eyes. He pulls Klaus to his chest, burying his face in Klaus's neck as he finally loses it. Tears fall from his eyes as he mutters 'I'm so sorry' over and over.

Klaus holds Dave tight, standing on his knees in the middle of their tent. His heart is breaking for this beautiful man. Dave is always level-headed. He's always in control, never lets his guard down or loses his cool. Klaus has never seen him like this. He cards his fingers through Dave's dirty hair, shushing him quietly. He keeps an eye on the entrance to the tent, but no one bothers them. Klaus is grateful for that. It would only make Dave feel worse to have an audience to his meltdown.

"Hey, hey." Klaus says quietly. "It's okay, Davey. Everything's gonna be okay. We're gonna lose people, sweetie. That is sadly how this all works."

"I can't lose you." Dave whispers. "I can't, Klaus."

"I can't lose you either, Davey. And we won't, okay. We won't." Klaus knows he's an idiot, making promises like that. But he'd promise Dave just about anything right now if it meant making him feel better. "Let's just get you into bed, okay?"

Klaus convinces Dave to lay down, stripping his boots and fatigues. He gets him under the covers and tucks him in. Klaus takes up a seat on the floor right next to Dave's face. He smiles at his lover, pushing a lock of dirty brown hair out of his eyes. "Get some rest." he says. "I'm gonna stay right here, I'll wake you when it's time for dinner."

"What about Sarg?" Dave asks, already feeling sleep calling to him. He's exhausted, physically and emotionally.

"Don't worry about all that." Klaus insists. He'll go toe to toe with Sarg if he has to. That old asshole doesn't scare Klaus in the slightest.

Dave hums, reaching over and gripping Klaus's hand in his. He squeezes it once before letting go. God, he wishes he could just hold him right now. But he can't. He'll have to take his comfort where he can get it. At least Klaus is close by and unharmed.

Dave drifts off after that. His sleep is full of nightmares, but every time he wakes up, sweating and screaming, Klaus is right there.

Dave has never been more grateful to anyone in his life.

 

***

 

After Winston's death, the squad is different. They fortunately don't lose people as often as other squadrons do. Collins had been their first casualty in months, and Winston's death caught them off guard. They had gotten comfortable with their little squad, and Winston's gory death is a stark reminder that there are no guarantees in war.

It's been two weeks since the landmine incident, and the squad has gotten back to routine as best as they can. Patrolling their little section of the jungle and going on missions. Eating together around the fire, listening to Klaus tell his stories.

But it's not the same.

Klaus is sitting at the fire right now, scooping some imitation beef stew out of his little tin and shoving into his mouth with a grimace. Dallas and Ace are sitting across from him, quietly listening to him ramble on about the time Luther and Allison botched a rescue mission by making out in the van while they were supposed to be watching for the perp. Dave is seated next to Klaus, eating quietly. His eyes are fixed on the fire, his movements slow and automatic. Klaus can tell his mind is far away. Probably on that jungle path with Winston again.

Klaus sighs, turning away from Dave and back to his other squad mates. "So, once we got back to the house, Sir Reggie was seething. So mad, I tell you. I thought he was going to strike Luther. But he didn't. He just sent him and Allie upstairs, told them to clean the bathroom until he could eat off the toilet. Joke's on him, though. They spent the whole night making out in the bathroom too." Klaus chuckled quietly. "Guess there's no stopping true love."

Dave stood abruptly, tossing his food in the fire and storming away from the squad.

"What's that about?" Dallas asks, motioning toward Dave's retreating form with his head.

"Nothing." Klaus replied, standing as well. "He's just having a bit of a hard time, after Winston, y'know?"

"Yeah, okay." Dallas replies, sadness seeping into his voice. "Maybe you should go check on him. He always listens to you."

"Uh, yeah." Klaus says, already making his way toward the treeline Dave disappeared into. "I'll bring him back."

Once Klaus is out of sight, Dallas turns to Ace. "You think he's gonna be okay?"

"Who, Katz?" Ace asks, returning to his meal. "Yeah, man. Katz is a hard motherfucker. He's just freaked out cuz he watched Winst die. I'd be fucked in the head too." Ace shivered at the thought. "But Katz is rock solid, man. I trust him with my life. Besides, if anyone can talk him down, it's Hargreeves. That dude is an oddball, but you gotta admit, he's got a way with Katz."

"Yeah." Ollie agreed, his eyes on the jungle Klaus and Dave had disappeared into. "If anyone can talk him down, it's Hargreeves."

Dallas's eyes are fixed on the jungle. Somewhere in there, Klaus is comforting Dave. Ace and Olly may be clueless, but Dallas knows. Klaus may not have told him, but Dallas isn't stupid. Klaus cares about Dave, maybe in a queer way, maybe not. Doesn't matter. Dallas knows that Klaus will do anything for Dave, and that comforts Dallas. Seeing Dave all fucked up is bad for the unit. But Dallas has faith in Klaus, he knows his squad mate will do whatever he can to help Dave.

And helping Dave helps the unit. Dallas kind find no fault in that.

 

***

 

Klaus finds Dave a ways away from the fire, leaning up against a tree with his eyes closed. It's dangerous to wander away from base. Klaus knows that and so does Dave.

But Klaus doesn't mention that they should get back to the safety of the camp. They both know. Instead, he walks up to Dave, placing his hands on his hips.

Dave's eyes are still closed, but he knows Klaus's touch. He doesn't flinch or move at all as Klaus curls over him. He presses his body close to Dave's, wrapping one arm around his neck, the other around his waist. He pulls Dave away from the tree, pressing their bodies tight together.

"Davey, what's wrong?" Klaus whispers into Dave's hair. He loves the smell of Dave. Even at war, it's clean and sweet. Intoxicates Klaus, every time.

"I just, I can't sit there with them, listening to you talk about love." Dave replied, shocking Klaus. "I love you, Klaus. I love you, and no one here can know."

Klaus pulls back, looking into Dave's sad blue eyes. "Davey, it doesn't matter what anyone else knows. I know, and that's enough." Klaus says, reaching up to run his fingers through Dave's hair. "Why are you so upset about this?"

Dave huffs, moving to pull away from Klaus, but Klaus is holding him too tightly. He struggles, but it doesn't matter. Klaus just hangs on for dear life. "Please, Davey. Don't pull away."

"Klaus, listen to me." Dave says, voice grave. "I love you. With every fiber of my being. But I can't ever love you the way I want to. Open, with everyone knowing how incredible I think you are. We will always be in the shadows, hiding what we mean to each other. We will always be a secret. Hidden. And i just can't deal with that while I'm dealing with Winston's death."

Klaus rears back like he's been shocked. He stumbles backwards, landing in the dirt with a huff.

"Okay then." Klaus murmurs, sitting on the ground and brushing himself off.

"Hey, hey." Dave said, dropping down on the jungle floor and reaching for Klaus. "C'mon, none of that. Come here." he pulled Klaus up an into his lap, cradling Klaus close to his chest. "I'm sorry, I'm being an asshole. It's just a lot for me. I never thought I'd meet someone like you, especially in Vietnam. Keeping it all locked inside is harder than I anticipated it would be."

Klaus wrapped his body around Dave's. Like a spider monkey, his limbs twisting around Dave's torso. He feels safe like this, anchored. But he can't ignore what Dave just said.

"Davey, we talked about this already, and I thought we agreed. It doesn't matter that we have to hide, not now, not here in this stupid war. This shit is only temporary, baby. Once we get home..."

"Once we get home it will be just the same." Dave interjected. "Do you forget what it's like for men like us back home? What are we going to do? Move to California, where it's slightly better for fags? What about our families? We'll have to hide from the people we love the most. Forever."

Klaus grimaced at Dave's dire predictions, but kept his mouth shut. Dave clearly need to get this shit off his chest.

"No matter where we go, or how progressive the place is, it will never be completely safe for us. I saw two men get beaten within an inch of their life back in Philly, and that city supposed to be evolved. Someone burned down a drag bar two months before I landed in country. That is the reality, Klaus. And my love for you can't protect you from the world we live in."

"What if there was a place that was different?" Klaus asks, his heart pounding in his chest. "Somewhere where it's not only acceptable to be gay, but normalized? Like, parades and out celebrities and gay politicians? Would you want to go there?"

"Klaus, we're not talking about some random dream world where everything is better." Dave sighed, exasperated. Dave usually appreciated Klaus's never ending optimism, but this time it just makes him sad.

Klaus sighs, laying his head on Dave's shoulder. Now is not the time to bring up the briefcase or the future. Dave is going through enough at the moment, and Klaus is afraid that bringing up interdimentional time travel might just send him over the edge.

"Sorry." Klaus finally says, his face still buried in Dave's shoulder. "I just want better for you. You're so stressed out, and I seem to be only adding to your distress, Davey."

Dave pulled back, staring into Klaus's sad eyes. God damn it, he's fucked up again. "No, Klaus. It's not you. You're perfect, okay? It this war, and the world we live in." he reached up, raking his fingers through Klaus's curls. "And to answer your question, if there were some magical world where we could be free to love each other openly, of course I'd go there with you. I already told you, I'd follow you anywhere."

Klaus smiled, wishing now was the moment. The moment he told Dave the truth. But it wasn't. Not yet. Instead, he leaned in, pressing a quick, chaste kiss to Dave's lips. Dave smiled, patting Klaus's head affectionately.

"C'mon, we should get back. Dallas was gonna send a search party if I didn't bring you back in ten minutes." Klaus said, crawling off Dave's lap.

Dave chuckled, standing and dusting off his pants before offering his hand to Klaus. He lifted the other man off the ground easily, pulling him to his chest for one more tight hug.

"Thank you, Klaus." Dave murmured, reluctantly letting go.

"Any time, Davey." Klaus assured him. He reached up, dusting off Dave's shoulders and straightening his collar. Dave nodded once before bypassing Klaus and making his way back to the fire.

Klaus followed behind him, wondering when the 'right' moment would come to tell Dave the truth. Klaus doesn't want to admit it, not even to himself, but he's stalling. So deathly afraid that this one thing will be the straw that broke the camel's back. That one step too far, that finally makes Dave realize that he can't do this with Klaus.

Klaus is terrified of Dave's reaction to the truth. So here he is, stuck in a war he despises, watching people he cares about dying, pretending to be someone he's not. All for a few stolen moments in the shadows with Dave.

Klaus has painted himself into a corner, and for the life of him, he can't find his way out.

 

***

 

Klaus is hiding something. Dave has no idea what it could be, but he knows the other man well enough now to know something amiss.

After Winston's death, Dave went through a few dark weeks. It's getting better with time, but Dave's still not a hundred percent himself. He's worried he won't ever be. That the David Katz that landed in Vietnam all those months ago is gone forever, and he's been irrevocably changed by this war.

That thought only adds to his depression.

Before Dave knows it, a whole month has gone by since leave. Since Winston died right in front of him. Time goes on, the men adjust to the new reality. They will be getting a replacement soldier any day now.

Dave's not looking forward to schooling yet another green motherfucker right off the bus. But he'll do it, because that's his job.

Dave is leading another recon mission through the jungle at the moment. It's not supposed to be dangerous, but recon missions have a way of turning sideways real quick. He glances from left to right, catching sight of Dallas and Olly on one side, Ace on the other. Klaus is taking up the rear with Martinez, some prick from Arizona with a big mouth and a hot temper. Martinez doesn't hang with Dave's little crew of men. He's content to spend his time with Manny, the only other hispanic man in the unit. Dave hasn't had any issues with the guy, but Martinez and Klaus have already gotten into it a handful of times over one stupid thing or another. Dave knows Martinez thinks Klaus is gay. He's heard him running his mouth about it to anyone that'll listen. Faggot this, homo that. 'Cocksuckers don't belong in the army. I don't want no maricon watching my six.' It's disgusting, and it pisses Dave off to no end, but it's not like he can tell Martinez to shut the fuck up. It's not Dave's place and it would start people wondering about Dave, just like they wonder about Klaus. Dave can't have that. How could he ever maintain the respect of the unit if they knew he was gay?

Dave knows Klaus and Martinez have bad blood between them. He's just glad they can work together like adults. This is a god damn war zone, not the playground.

Dave hears a noise and stops dead in his tracks. He holds a closed fist up over his head, halting the unit's movements immediately. Dave drops to one knee and everyone else follows him down.

"You hear that?" Dave asks, glancing over at Dallas. Dallas nods, bringing his rifle up and pointing it into the thick brush of the jungle in front of them.

The men wait on their knees, barely breathing.

The noise comes again, rustling originating from the west. Dave moves his rifle toward the sound, ready to kill whatever the fuck is out there.

"It's an old woman." Klaus's voice surprises him. When did he get so close? And what the hell is he talking about?

"Hargreeves, shut the fuck up." Ace snapped, jumpy and scared. The hands gripping his rifle are shaking.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Dave demanded, his voice a harsh whisper.

"Collins says it's an old woman. Gathering water. Don't shoot, Katz. I'm serious." Klaus kept his voice as low as possible. The last thing he needs is the rest of the unit finding out his not so little secret.

"We gotta shoot. It could be VC." Olly says, raising his rifle again.

"Just wait." Klaus insisted. "I have a feeling."

"A feeling that's gonna get us all killed, you creepy fucker." Martinez spat.

"Enough." Dave said, silencing everyone. He was scared too, but he didn't want to shoot an old lady. "Get into position, don't shoot until I give the signal."

The men nodded, settling in to wait for the stranger to make themselves known.

Dave held his breath as the sound got louder and louder. Gun up, he stood, waiting.

And just as Klaus predicted, a tiny, ancient looking Vietnamese woman wandered into the glade they were standing in. She took one look at the soldiers and dropped her water, spilling it all over the jungle floor.

"Xin đừng bắn!" she cried. "Tôi xin bạn."

Dave squinted at the woman, gun still raised. "Ace, what the fuck is she saying?"

Ace is the only one in their unit that knows any Vietnamese at all. He's not fluent, but he gets by.

"Please don't shoot. I beg you." Ace said, lowering his gun. "She's just an old lady, man. Let's just keep going."

"She ain't just no old lady." Martinez snapped, striding over to the petrified woman with his gun up. "She's a VC spy. She's gonna report back. Tell those slant eyed pricks about our movements."

"Shut up, Martinez." Klaus sighed. "You know, you're disgustingly racist for being a minority yourself."

"Nobody asked you, faggot." Martinez replied coldly. "I'm doing this." he held his gun to the woman's face. Tears were streaming down her face as she babbled in rapid Vietnamese.

"Stand down." Dave said, eyeing Martinez warily.

"I ain't doing shit." Martinez spat, gun still trained on the trembling woman.

"You're making a fool of yourself, Martinez." Klaus sighed, rolling his eyes.

"Shut the fuck up, cocksucker." Martinez glared at Klaus.

"Watch your mouth, Martinez." Dallas spat.

"Pull that trigger and I will fucking end you." Klaus said, voice low and deadly. "You think I can't do it cuz I'm a faggot. Come and try me, you fucking cunt."

Martinez spun around so fast, pointing his gun right in Klaus's face. He was seething, breathing heavy.

Good. It's always easier to disarm someone when they are emotional.

Klaus struck quickly. He grabbed the barrel of the gun with one hand laying a brutal punch to Martinez's temple with the other. Martinez went down like a sack of potatoes. Out cold, just like Klaus knew he would be.

"Hargreeves, man. What the fuck?" Ace laughed, unable to comprehend what he just saw.

"I just stopped Martinez from committing a war crime. You're welcome." Klaus replied. He waved to the old woman as she gave him a shocked smile and slipped back into the jungle the way she came. "I am not about to sit idly by while someone in my unit kills an innocent civilian. You gotta problem with that, Ace?"

"Nah, man." Ace replied, impressed. He put his hands up, placating. "Just didn't know you had it in ya. You laid him out with one punch."

"What part of 'trained to kill since birth' do you not understand? What good would I be to Sir Reginald if I couldn't disarm the villain?"

Dave stood there, watching the whole scene unfold. Now he knew for sure something was wrong with Klaus. He wasn't a violent man. Usually let insults and digs slide right off his shoulders. Martinez has been giving Klaus shit for weeks now, but this is the first time Klaus has reacted. Sure, he saved that woman's life, but Dave is certain he'd have been able to deescalate Martinez without violence.

What is Sarg gonna say?

Dave is going to have to talk to Klaus about this.

But not now.

"Wake him, up, we gotta finish patrol." Dave sighed, shaking his head. "You made an enemy for life, Hargreeves." Dave said, pointing to Martinez, who was just coming to under Dallas's shaking.

"Like I give a fuck." Klaus replied tiredly. "I've dealt with much worse."

Klaus moved past Dave and started back on the trail.

"Klaus, wait!" Dave called out, grabbing Klaus's wrist. "You can't just take up the lead like that. It's not safe."

Klaus chuckled dryly. "Oh come on, Dave. I'm the best to be up front, got my own recon team, right guys?" Klaus grinned at Collins and Winston, although no one else could see them. "How do you think I knew it was an old woman on the trail?"

Dave stepped back, unsure of how to respond to that. So he just shrugged, letting Klaus take the lead.

He got them back to base safely. Even dodged a Punji trap. Dave has to admit, having Klaus and his ghost squad running point isn't bad at all.

Dave is so pleased about how the mission went, he forgets all about Klaus's odd behavior.

He can hear Klaus explaining away his 'hunch' to the other men, but Dave is worried. If Klaus keeps this shit up, his secret will be out. What would the guys do if they found out Klaus talks to the dead? It's already spreading around the camp that he's a queer. What happens when the guys find out just how truly different Klaus is?

Dave doesn't want to find out.

 

***

 

Klaus is alone, by the river. It's late in the afternoon and he's taking advantage of his limited downtime to clean up as best he can.

His gun is leaning up against a rock by the shore, always within arm's reach. His clothes piled up next to his rifle.

The water is warm. It always is in the jungle. Warm and soupy, full of creepy crawlers. But Klaus hates being covered in mud and gore, so he sucks it up. As he washes his sensitive skin with a bar of caustic lye soap, his mind once again goes to Dave. Dave is all he really thinks about these days.

Dave has been different since Winston died. More closed off, colder. Not just to Klaus, but everyone in the unit. Klaus is sure his little stunt on patrol didn't help any. Knocking out Martinez like that was a bad move. Sure, he saved that lady's life, but she wasn't the only reason Klaus snapped.

Martinez has been on his case for weeks now. He's certain Klaus is gay, and though Klaus has neither confirmed nor denied it, Martinez just won't let up. Dallas stands up for him sometimes, but Dave is mostly silent in the face of Martinez's abuse.

Klaus understands, he really does. It's not like he's the only one getting his balls busted. The guys pick on each other all the time. But Martinez is not joking around. He's dead serious. He thinks Klaus is a faggot, and he hates him for it.

Now, Klaus is used to this kind of abuse, it usually doesn't bother him. You don't live thirty years as Klaus Hargreeves and not take your fair share of hate and misguided anger. He's been dealing with closed-minded people since he first discovered he wasn't straight.

It's just, watching Dave stand there and say nothing, it fucking hurts. Klaus knows Dave doesn't owe him anything. They both agreed that keeping their relationship secret was for the best right now. But does that mean Dave has to turn a blind eye to someone blatantly shitting all over Klaus?

It leaves a bad taste in Klaus's mouth, and he doesn't know what he's supposed to do about it. Does he say something to Dave? Make demands? Give ultimatums?

No. He can't do any of that.

Klaus knew going in that it wouldn't be easy. He will just keep quiet, keep defending himself, and hope Martinez gets bored, moves on to another target for his rage.

Klaus dips his head under the murky water, wetting his curls before dragging the soap through the strands. His poor hair is going to need months to recover after this bullshit is over. He promises himself, once he gets back to the future, he's making an appointment with Raul, his stylist, get his hair fixed up nice.

Ah, the future.

Any notions Klaus had to talk to Dave about the future have been put on hold. Indefinitely, maybe? Now is just not the time. Especially with Dave so out of sorts and pulling away. Klaus is desperate to get back on solid ground with his lover, but it utterly clueless how to do that.

Klaus huffs, angry again. He slams his hands down into the water, sending brown liquid flying in all directions.

"Hey, watch it!" a voice startles Klaus. He spins around in the water to find Dave lounging on the river's edge next to his clothes. Dave gives him a small smile and an adorably dorky wave.

"Sorry, Katz." Klaus replies, relaxing again. He brings the bar of soap back up to his head, scrubbing it through his curls until his head is full of suds. "Can I help you with something? Or are you here to ream me out about Martinez? If so, don't bother, I already got my ass handed to me by Sarg. Got me on overnight guard duty for that little stunt. Sarg knows how much I value my sleep, the prick."

Dave sighed, his shoulders slumping. "Klaus, please. Don't be like that." Dave knew he was in the dog house, but he's never seen Klaus like this. So cold. So indifferent to Dave.

Dave is not ashamed to admit it scares him. The idea that Klaus is that angry with him.

"Be like what?" Klaus asks, turning his back on Dave and dunking his head under the water. Klaus is pretty fucking high right now. High enough that Collins and Winston are both gone for the moment, along with any other ghosts and all of Klaus's feelings.

Speaking of drugs, Klaus better get back to base and make sure he's got enough shit stashed under his bed to get him through the night. Benny is out right now, riding a helo with an injured medic from another unit. Benny had to keep the kid alive so he could come back to war and save other lives. So sadly, Klaus's inside man in the Ward Tent was gone for at least the next twenty four hours.

Klaus wades out of the water, shaking off like a dog. He sends water flying in all direction, hitting Dave right in the face with some of the cast off. He turns his back to Dave as he dresses. He can feel the other man's eyes on him, soaking up his naked form before he drags his army issue underwear up over his slim hips.

What Klaus wouldn't give for a pair of his fabulous panties back in 2019. He chuckles to himself, shaking his head. You miss the oddest things when you're at war.

Klaus has his pants on and is working his t shirt over his head when he feels Dave's hands on his hips.

"Please, darlin'." Dave whispers, nuzzling his nose along Klaus's neck. He lays a gentle kiss to Klaus's shoulder. "Please, don't shut me out anymore."

Klaus sighs, turning in Dave's arms. He wraps his arms around Dave's shoulders, locking eyes with him.

"I have been a bit off, I'll admit." Klaus says, running his fingers through Dave's hair. "But you've been distant too, ever since Winston died."

Dave sighed, his arms tightening around Klaus. "I know. And I'm sorry. I don't know what's going on anymore. I'm just...so fucked up, Klaus. I am terrified to lose you, but I'm also terrified to get too close. I'm scared I'm making all the wrong moves. Afraid I have no idea what I'm doing out here, in this war. Afraid I have no idea what I'm doing with you."

Klaus pulled back enough so he could look into Dave's eyes. The other man looks so sad, so utterly lost, it breaks Klaus's heart.

"Hey, hey, no, come on. It's fine. I'm sorry, okay? I know I was a dumbass on patrol today. I know I've been a dick to you all day. I just, I don't know what to do either. I've never been in a situation like this before."

"None of us have ever been to war before, darlin'." Dave replied, smiling.

"No, that's not what I mean." Klaus shook his head. He rested his forehead against Dave's shoulder. "I've never had to hide my affection for someone before. I've never been in the closet, Dave. I'm not used to keeping a secret like this." he sighed, squeezing Dave tighter. "I've never cared for someone like I care about you, and hiding it is much harder than I anticipated."

"I get it, Klaus." Dave sighed, pulling Klaus closer. "And I wish it didn't have to be this way, but it does. You can't be going off on Martinez like that. You're going to land yourself in the brig."

"He's such a dick, though." Klaus replied, anger building again. "And you just let him go on. You just stood there and listened to that shit. Dallas had my back, but not you. That fucking stung, Dave."

Dave swallowed hard, nodding. "I'm an asshole, Klaus. I told you, I might fuck this up. I'm sorry. I figured you could take care of yourself. Which you did, by the way. Watching you take Martinez down was something else, baby." Dave chuckled, he couldn't help himself. "But just because you can take care of yourself doesn't mean you should have to. I won't let it happen again. There has to be a middle ground somewhere."

"You mean like, where we support each other as friends and soldiers, but keep our love for each other a well guarded secret?" Klaus asks, eyebrows raised.

"Well, yeah, something like that." Dave nodded, unsure.

"I mean, we can try." Klaus said, gripping Dave tighter. "But it doesn't seem to be working out that well so far."

Dave smiled, that sad, resigned smile Klaus hated, dipping his head down. He kissed Klaus hard, tangling his fingers in Klaus's wet hair as he plunged his tongue into his mouth. Klaus stumbled backwards under the weight of the kiss, but Dave just dragged him back against his body.

Klaus giggled against Dave's lips, licking into his lover's mouth hungrily. God, he could do this forever and never tire of it.

Dave spun them around, pressing Klaus up against a tree. Klaus huffed as his back hit the tree trunk, his dick jumping at the manhandling. Dave ground their hips together, kissing Klaus passionately.

"Klaus, I'm in this." Dave muttered between kisses, his hand skimming down Klaus's side until his fingers found his zipper. "I promise. I won't let Martinez or anyone else fuck with you. I don't care what people say about me."

Klaus hummed, nodding. He wedged his hands between their bodies, blindly searching for Dave's zipper, unwilling to stop kissing his lover for even a moment.

This was dangerous as hell. Screwing around out in the open like this. But things have been so fucked up lately, and they've barely had a moment alone together. Klaus honestly doesn't give a damn if they get caught, not now. Not after feeling so far away from Dave for so long.

Of course it wasn't going to be easy, maintaining a secret relationship while dealing with the army and all the bullshit that comes with it.

But Dave is worth it. God, he's so fucking worth it.

Klaus reaches into Dave's pants, wrapping his trembling fingers around his hard cock. Dave sighs at the contact, going in for another desperate kiss. Klaus keens when Dave pulls his dick out, stroking him slowly as they kiss against the tree.

Klaus loses himself entirely in the moment. Dave's hands on his body, his tongue in his mouth. The sweet tension building in his gut.

They jerk each other off fervently. It's a little awkward, their hands crossed between their bodies, movements jerky and uncoordinated. But Klaus doesn't give a fuck. Just the feeling of Dave's hands on him is more than enough. Klaus bucks his hips into Dave's fist, nipping at his bottom lip. Dave chuckles, groaning as Klaus swipes his thumb along the sensitive head of his cock.

Klaus comes embarrassingly fast, but Dave's right behind him, choking out a quiet moan as his hips stutter in Klaus's grasp.

Dave steps back first, glancing around warily as he tucks himself back into his fatigues.

"Well, that was reckless." Klaus mutters, licking his fingers clean before situating himself and zipping his pants back up.

"That's one hell of an understatement." Dave huffs, surprised with his own lack of control. "This is what I'm talking about, Klaus. You make it hard for me to think straight."

"Baby, there's nothing straight about us." Klaus giggled, finally kneeling down to pick up his stuff. The sun was setting, and they had to get back to base.

"Klaus..." Dave sighs, but he's smiling.

"Listen, Davey." Klaus says, his voice serious. "I know how it has to be. Secret or whatever. But you have to meet me half way. I don't need you to tell everyone we're boyfriends. I don't need you to hold my hand on patrol. But I do need your support. I can't deal with you turning your back on me like that. Ignoring me. I don't need you to tell everyone how you feel, but you can at least be my friend, yeah?"

"Yeah, Klaus." Dave grinned, offering his hand to Klaus. Klaus interlaced their fingers, letting Dave drag him to stand next to him. "I am honored to be your friend, and I'm not gonna stand by and let people fuck with you."

"Good." Klaus said, feeling just a little bit lighter. "I don't mind, you know. Standing in the shadows with you. But I have to know we're in this together, or else why even bother?"

"We are, Klaus." Dave insisted. "We're in this together. Here in Vietnam and back home. Me and you, okay? Promise."

Klaus nodded, smiling. "Okay. Together." with that, he patted Dave gently on the cheek, stepping around him and onto the trail back to base. Dave followed behind him, feeling the tension and worry slipping away from him.

Things got on top of him. It happens sometimes, especially in Vietnam. He's messed up over losing Winston, understandably. But he needs to get his shit together. He can't let his own insecurities and fear of failure screw up the one good thing the war has given him. Klaus.

Dave's going to do better. He has to.

Klaus wanders up the trail, glancing over his shoulder at Dave every few steps. Right before they step back into camp, Klaus turns, stopping Dave in the middle of the path with a hand to his chest. Dave gives him a quizzical look. Klaus just smiles.

"So, Sarg has me on night watch, since I so callously assaulted poor Martinez."

"Yeah, I heard, shitty." Dave replied, cocking his head to the side with a smile. "You, uh, want some company? I could meet you out there after everyone else goes to bed?"

"Davey, Davey." Klaus grinned, waving his finger at Dave playfully. "I know I said I didn't mind staying in the shadows with you, but you're taking it quite literally."

"So what if I am?" Dave said back. "Might as well make the most of the dark..."

"We can't spend the whole time necking, you know." Klaus teased. "I need to be on guard."

"What do you take me for, solider?" Dave shot back, smiling brightly. "I take night watch very seriously. I'll be watching you very closely." Dave waggled his eyebrows, incredibly pleased when Klaus burst out laughing.

God, if he could just spend the rest of his life making Klaus smile, Dave would be satisfied.

"David Aaron Katz!" Klaus laughed, smacking Dave across the chest with the back of his hand. "You're naughty."

Dave blushed, bumping their shoulders as they made their way back to their tent.

The rest of the afternoon was spent bullshitting around the base with Dallas and Ace. Eating shit food by the fire and avoiding Martinez at all costs. Dave was elated that things finally seemed to be going back to normal. At least as normal as it could be at war.

It wasn't perfect, what Dave had with Klaus. That point was driven home as he watched Klaus toss back random pills before grabbing his gun and making his way to the night watch post. But as Dave hunkered down next to him, his own gun slung across his crossed legs, Dave realized he didn't want perfect.

He wants Klaus. In all his messy, chaotic, flamboyantly fabulous glory. And Dave wasn't going to allow his own issues and fears to ruin what is growing between them. Someone like Klaus doesn't come along in life often, if ever. If Dave has learned anything growing up gay in the sixties, it's men like him need to take their luck when they get it, and never let go.

Sitting next to Klaus as the moon rises over the jungle, Dave is certain he wouldn't want to be anywhere else, content to share the shadows with this man for the rest of his days.

And maybe, someday, they can stand in the sun, holding hands for all the world to see. It feels possible with Klaus.

Klaus makes Dave feel like anything is possible.

Chapter Text

I have a face I cannot show
I make the rules up as I go
Just try and love me if you can
Are you strong enough to be my man?
___Strong Enough, Sheryl Crow

 

Six months. Klaus has been in country for six months. It's simultaneously the longest and shortest five months of his life.

He falls into a routine. It makes sense, seeing how this is the army and all. Routine is pretty much the name of the game in the military.

He wakes up every day at six a.m., along with the rest of the squad. As long as their are no immediate threats, they go about their morning business. Klaus will wait in line behind Dallas for the nasty outhouse, holding his nose as he pisses into a pit of disgusting human refuse. Then they dress in their dirty fatigues and gather around the fire for breakfast of canned ham and eggs, with the world's most disgusting peanut butter, and stalest crackers.

How the government can screw up peanut butter and crackers is a mystery to Klaus.

After breakfast, it's the med line for drugs. Klaus's favorite part of the day. Doc never gives him enough to quell the ghosts, but that's why Klaus has friends.

Once they are fed and suitably hopped up, they grab their guns and it's out on the march. Klaus doesn't mind marching so much. It has done wonders for his legs and ass. Dave is always appreciative of Klaus's thin, muscular form. If Klaus is going to be grateful to the army for anything, it's Dave. So he doesn't mind marching all that much, if it keeps Dave's eyes on Klaus.

That's where Klaus finds himself right now. Marching down a deserted dirt path, part of a small group of soldiers tasked with searching a burned out shell of a village the Navy dropped a bunch of bombs on.

Klaus isn't looking forward to stepping foot in that village. He can't imagine the carnage he'll see. Dead bodies, ghosts, all of it. Klaus knows he's not the only one seeing horrific things in this war, but at least the other men don't have the dead begging them for absolution. It follows Klaus around like a shadow, constantly assaulting him at every turn.

Like right now.

Klaus is trudging along the worn dirt path, Dave on his left, Dallas on his right. He can hear Martinez talking to Olly behind him, cursing the Vietnamese under their breath. Like the entire country is responsible for the actions of the Vietcong. It sickens Klaus, like most things about Martinez.

When they come upon their target area for the day, Klaus stops dead in his track.

No....nonononono.....

"Klaus." Dave whispers, tucking his rifle over his shoulder and turning to face Klaus, who looks terrified. "What...what do you see?"

When Dave looks at the burned, bombed out village, he sees the shells of the huts, the massive craters in the ground where the bombs landed. He sees where the fire ripped through the village, leaving black soot and charred bodies in it's wake. He sees the corpses, covered in napalm burns. Women, children, the elderly.

Dave is disgusted, but looking at Klaus's face, he knows his lover is going through so much worse.

"Dave." Klaus chokes out, his heart hammering in his chest. He's surrounded by the dead on all sides. Horrifically mutilated bodies of old women holding infants with no skin left on their bodies. Small children with black skin and no eyes, crying for their mothers. Toddlers wandering around on broken legs, wailing at the top of their lungs.

It's too loud. So much confusion. So much agony. Klaus slams his hands over his ears, folding in on himself.

"There goes Hargreeves, fucking the mission." Martinez laughs, shaking his head. Dave turns toward him, fire in his eyes, but Dallas beats him to it.

"Have some fucking respect, Martinez. There are dead kids everywhere. Hargreeves has a fucking heart, why don't you try it?"

"He's a pussy, and those dead kids are the enemy."

Dave whipped around so fast his head spun. "Kids! Asshole. Those are fucking babies. I hear one more word outta your hateful mouth and I'm gonna beat you bloody. Sarg is gonna hear about this too. So shut the fuck up unless you want my boot up your ass."

Martinez snapped his mouth shut, eyes wide.

"You guys know what you're supposed to be doing. Spread out, look for survivors. Otherwise, collect the dead. Olly, O'Reilly, start digging. We're not leaving them to rot in the sun."

"Grave duty?" Olly sighed.

"Another word and you're on latrines back at camp." Dave said, voice hard. "Sarg told us to bury the dead and look for survivors. That's what we're fucking doing."

The men nodded, cowed by Dave's stern tone. They spread out, guns up, surveying the damage for anyone still breathing. Once the rest of the guys were busy with their orders, Dave pulled Klaus aside.

"Klaus."

Klaus wasn't even paying attention. Dave stood in front of him, but Klaus didn't even looked up. His eyes were stuck on the hoards of dead around him.

Klaus has seen so much death in his life. So many ghosts. But nothing like this. So many children. Babies, even. All dead at the hands of the army he was serving.

It was too much.

"Klaus." Dave repeated, taking the risk and placing his hand on Klaus's shoulder. Klaus snapped out of it, standing so fast Dave stumbled back to avoid banging heads. Klaus's eyes found Dave's, wide and pleading.

Klaus looked so haunted, Dave's heart broke all over again.

"So many dead, Dave." Klaus whispered, tears welling in his eyes. "Children. Babies."

"I know." Dave replied.

"You don't!" Klaus insisted, voice hard. Dave flinched and Klaus felt like shit instantly. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It's just, you can never really understand, Dave. These children are wailing at me right now. Begging me to help them, calling for their mothers. They're hurt. Scared. Confused. And I can do nothing to help them. I just have to stand here and watch them suffer."

Dave sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry, Klaus. I know I can never really know what it's like for you."

"No, Dave, don't apologize." Klaus replied, hanging his head. The ghosts were so damn loud, he could barely hear himself think. The speed doc gave them before breakfast has worn off, and the longer Klaus goes without a fix, the more ghosts appear. "It's just a lot." Klaus waved his arms around, encompassing the dead bodies the men were pulling from the ruined buildings. "It's a lot for someone like me."

"Here." Dave said, voice low. He stuck his hand in the pocket of his vest, pulling out a what looked like a miniature tube of toothpaste. He held it out to Klaus. Klaus just looked at it, curious.

"What's that?"

"It'll help with the spirits." Dave replied. "I don't think we're gonna run into Charlie on this mission. They're going to steer clear of this spot 'til the napalm's outta the air. So I don't think there's any harm in taking the edge off."

"I still don't know what it is." Klaus replied. He stared at the little metal tube in Dave's hands, confused.

Dave sighed, exasperated. He smiled at Klaus, holding the tube in one hand and pulling off the curved metal cover with the other, revealing a short needle. "It's a morphine surrette." Dave said, smiling. He grabbed Klaus's shirt, pulling up to expose his toned stomach. "Take a deep breath."

Klaus quirked an eyebrow at Dave, but did as he was told. He glanced around quickly to make sure no one was watching. The coast clear, he gave Dave a little nod.

With that, Dave plunged the tiny needle into the muscle of Klaus's stomach, squeezing the little tube until all the morphine was swimming in Klaus's bloodstream.

Klaus sighed, closing his eyes. His head fell forward as the drug overtook him. He grinned to himself, feeling loopy and lose.

There, that's better.

When he opened his eyes again, all the ghosts were gone. Even Collins and Winston were nowhere to be found. That actually saddened Klaus a bit. Not for the first time, Klaus wished Collins and Winston were like Ben. Always around, no matter how jammed he got.

Ben. God he misses Ben.

For his entire life, Ben has been by his side. Death was just a blip in their relationship. It honestly only strengthened their bond. After Ben died, they became the best of friends. They'd been close before, but death made them inseparable. Klaus being the only one Ben could talk to probably had something to do with it, but Klaus likes to think it's just his sparkling personality that keeps Ben around.

Now that Ben is MIA, Klaus longs desperately for his sarcastic remarks and ceaseless commentary on Klaus's dubious life choices. He wonders what Ben would think of Dave.

Klaus is certain his brother would approve.

"Klaus? Hello?" Dave is waving his hand in front of Klaus's face.

Oops. Spaced out for a minute there.

Klaus gave Dave a warm smile, reaching up and running his fingers along Dave's forearm.

"So much better." Klaus purred.

Dave nodded, smiling. He hates giving Klaus drugs, but he just can't stand by and watch him suffer.

Klaus cocked his head to the side, a notion suddenly dawning on him. "Davey, where did you get a surrette of morphine?"

Dave shrugged, glancing away.

"David!" Klaus said, leaning down to catch Dave's eyes. "Did you steal that from Doc?"

"Keep your voice down." Dave replied, looking around quickly. Everyone was busy, no one was paying them any mind. "Get moving. We're supposed to be looking for survivors."

Klaus grinned again, nodding. He shouldn't be so pleased with corrupting Dave so, but just the idea that Dave would risk his skin to help Klaus out makes his insides all tingly.

Klaus will have to thank him for that later.

Dave and Klaus make their way over to the furthest burned out hut and started searching. Dave is tossing bits of burned out wood over his shoulder, while Klaus stands on his knees, sifting through the rubble warily. They come across a few bodies, carrying them out together, or in pieces, piling it all up beside the holes Olly and O'Reily dug.

They work for two hours, systematically going through the whole village. They don't find a single survivor, but Dave hopes that means some of them fled to safety. The idea that the entire village could have been killed sends a chill up his spine. These are the kinds of things people back home don't know about. Dave doubts anyone would believe him if he told them.

The three holes Olly and O'Reily dug are full of bodies. Twenty three men, women and children, piled up on top of each other like trash.

Dave wants to be sick.

Once the dead are in the ground, the men all take a collapsible shovel and start filling the holes back in.

Klaus standing at the edge of the field, watching the men work. Dave put him on guard duty, watching the perimeter while the rest of the men do the grunt work. Klaus isn't going to complain, digging graves is not his idea of a good time.

He actually thinks he's hit the jackpot with perimeter duty. That is until he sees movement on the edge of the field. The jungle is thick beyond the field, and at first Klaus thinks he's seeing things. He thinks a solitary ghost got past his drug induced barrier.

But that is not the case at all...

There is a man on the edge of the jungle. Not even a man, a boy. Twelve? Thirteen years old maybe. He's holding an ancient looking rifle in his shaking hands.

"Stop!" Klaus calls out, his gun going up automatically. The kid stares at him with wide eyes. Klaus can't help but notice how skinny he is, how dirty. How petrified. He's got tears in his eyes and he's speaking Vietnamese so fast, it hardly sounds like words.

The kid takes another step and Klaus yells again. "I said don't move."

Klaus is frozen. He has no idea if any of the other men are nearby. He's pretty far from the graves, all on his own with this terrified child.

"Please." Klaus says, voice breaking. "Drop the gun."

Suddenly, the child's eyes glaze over, a steely determination settling in his expression. He raises the gun, aiming right for Klaus's head.

Klaus pulls his trigger without a second thought.

His gun goes off at the same moment the kid's does. Klaus feels the bullet wiz right by his head, the sharp stinging of a graze wound searing his temple. The kid missed by millimeters.

Klaus's bullet hits, though.

The kid's chest explodes, splattering blood all over Klaus's face. The kid fell to his knees, staring at Klaus with wild, vengeful eyes. Time seemed to stand still. Gun smoke hanging in the air as Klaus and this child soldier just stared at each other for one eternal moment. Then, incredibly suddenly, all the life drained out of the boy and he fell face first in the dirt.

Dead.

Klaus dropped his gun, his body giving way beneath him and crumpling to the ground. He held himself up out of the dirt, hyperventilating.

No. Jesus fuck. No, please.

Bile rises in his throat and he coughs, spitting into the burned out grass.

"Holy shit." Martinez's shocked voice feels distant and distorted. "Hargreeves wasted a baby VC."

And just like that, the entire unit is running over. Why couldn't they have noticed thirty seconds sooner?

"Shut the fuck up, Martinez." Dallas replied sharply, coming to stand next to Klaus. He looked down at the dead kid, the blood seeping out of his body and soaking the ground beneath. "Jesus Christ."

Klaus pinched his eyes shut, digging his fingers into the charred dirt beneath his hands. God, fuck...shit. He didn't want to do that. He didn't want to.

"Hey, Klaus. Can you hand me Billie, please?" Dave's soft voice filters past Klaus's internal monologue of 'No. no. Please no.' He glances down between his spread arms and sees his rifle's strap is still twisted up in his wrist. He falls back on his ass, staring up at Dave with wide, terrified eyes.

Dave knelt down, scooping up Klaus's rifle. He secured the weapon, passing it to Dallas who was hovering just behind them.

"You okay?" Dave asks carefully. He's killed his fair share of VC since he landed in country, but Klaus has not. Dave can probably count the number of times Klaus has discharged his weapon on one hand.

And Dave has never had to kill a kid. He can't imagine what is going through Klaus's head right now. He was already all fucked up over this mission, and Dave is petrified that this here will be the thing that finally sends Klaus over the edge.

That can't happen. Klaus has become such a big part of Dave's life in Vietnam. He holds such a dear place in Dave's heart. Dave won't watch him fall apart over this.

That's just not an option.

Fuck! Dave should have been there. He never should have put Klaus on perimeter duty. It was always a possibility that Charlie would be wandering around the bomb site, looking for revenge. And a fucking kid? It couldn't get any worse.

Klaus didn't respond. He kept his eyes trained on the charred grass underneath him, digging his fingers into the dry dirt as he rocked back and forth on his knees.

"Motherfucker's a Section Eight." Dave here Martinez mutter to Olly.

"Man, fuck off. "Olly shot back, anger evident in his voice.

"I swear to god, Martinez, I'm gonna lay you out if you don't shut the fuck up." Dallas chimed in. Dave sighed. At least he could count on the boys to have Klaus's back while he tried to coax Klaus back to himself.

"Klaus? Come on, man. We gotta get going. You're bleeding man. Gotta get back to base, let Benny look at that." Dave ran his dirty thumb over Klaus's wound. Probably not a smart thing to do, but Dave just needed the contact. "C'mon, Klaus. Get up." Dave said gently. Klaus still didn't move. Dave fell to his knees in front of Klaus, putting his body between Klaus and the rest of the unit. He carefully laid his hand on Klaus's tense shoulder, squeezing gently. "C'mon, darlin'. Can you get up for me? Please."

Klaus made a strange noise, somewhere between a cough and a sob. He shook his head, hard, pinching his eyes shut tight for a moment before finally glancing up at Dave.

Klaus's eyes were bloodshot, but dry. Dave was honestly surprised he wasn't crying.

"I'll get up if you give me Billie back." Klaus replied, struggling to keep his voice even. Dave nodded, giving Klaus a reassuring smile.

"Dallas, give Klaus his rifle back."

Dallas stepped up, gun out. "Here ya go, buddy."

Klaus stood, taking his gun from Dallas's outstretched hand, sliding the strap back over his shoulder. He nodded to Dallas before shooting Dave a somber look. He shoved past both men and made his way back to the trail without looking back.

Dave and Dallas exchanged a worried look before starting off after Klaus.

Martinez was chuckling as Dave passed him. Dave shot him a fiery glare, spitting on the ground and Martinez's feet as he shouldered his way through him and Olly.

The hike back to base was silent. It's always quiet after a kill, but this was much worse. Heavier. Like all the unsaid words hung in the air, weighing everyone down.

The entire way back to base, Dave worries about Klaus. The other man is practically running up the trail, many paces ahead of the rest of the squad. It's dangerous. Klaus knows it's dangerous. If Dave wasn't so worried, he'd be pretty fucking pissed. But he has no room inside him for anger at the moment, too consumed with anxiety for Klaus.

When the men finally get back to base, Klaus is nowhere to be found. Dave wants to go look for him, but Sarg is waiting for him, dragging him and Olly back toward the Ops tent so they can debrief him on the mission.

Dave begrudgingly follows Sarg into the tent, Olly trailing behind them silently. Dave casts one more glance around the base for Klaus, but he's nowhere to be found.

 

***

 

Klaus wipes his wet eyes, sniffling. God, he really lost it there for a minute.

He can't believe he killed someone. A child.

Klaus has been around violence his whole life. He's watched plenty of people die. When the Umbrella Academy was in it's heyday, and they spent all their days fighting criminals and villains, it was common for a bad guy to die here and there. It happened a lot when Ben was alive. But Klaus....Klaus was never all that violent. He was trained to fight like the rest of them. Trained to kill. But he hated violence. He was a lover, not a fighter.

Which made the fact that he was in the middle of the Vietnam war all the more ironic.

Klaus had stupidly thought he could make it through this tour without killing anyone. He'd made it this far. Five whole months without ever shooting at an actual person. But it was naive to think he could stay in this war without taking a life.

But did it have to be a child?

Klaus's eyes burn again and he slams his hands down on his cot.

"Fuck!"

He drops down onto the dirt floor on his hands and knees, shoving his arm under his cot and dragging the briefcase out.

He falls back on his ass hard, pulling the briefcase into his lap. He wipes his runny nose with the back of his hand, just looking at the briefcase in his lap.

For the first time since landing in the past, he really considers opening the briefcase and letting it take him home.

Home, where he's no one and nothing. Where no one relies on him for anything. Where he's not responsible for anything, or necessary to anyone. Where no one cares when he screws up. Where his mistakes only mean life or death to him personally, not innocent people.

He longs to sleep however late he wants, get so high he can't walk, drink until he forgets his name. He wants to come and go as he pleases and have sex as much as he wants, anywhere he wants without fear of fucking arrest.

He wants to be free. Free of the constraints of military life. Free from the horrors of war. Free of the army of dead that follows him around endlessly in this mud hole. He can never get high enough to get rid of them all.

He misses being constantly numb.

Not to mention the fact that he's a detriment to the unit. He's not trained like everyone else. He's slow, and stupid, makes dumb mistakes. He's high all the time, even though he knows it puts everyone in danger.

He doesn't belong here. And the longer he stays, the more risk he's putting the unit in.

He runs his fingers along the locks of the case, his gut twisting in anxiety.

He steels himself, pinching his eyes closed. Okay, he can do this.

But just as his fingers slide along the numbered dial, he thinks of Dave...

Beautiful, wonderful, kind Dave. Who loves him just the way he is. Who accepted him, with his ghosts and his vices and all his bizarre habits and idiosyncrasies.

God, he loves Dave so much. More than he ever thought possible. The idea of never seeing him again makes Klaus literally sick. Like dizzy, nauseous, chills and anxiety through the roof.

Like dope sick, but Dave sick.

Klaus didn't think it was possible to need someone so much.

And he's weak. So fucking weak.

So, even though it's best for the unit, and probably best for Dave if Klaus were to leave and never look back, he can't do it.

He sighs, shoving the briefcase back under his cot and standing from the floor. He dusts himself off and makes his way out of the tent. He catches sight of Dave by the fire, but turns the other way.

He heads toward the Ward Tent. Benny should be in there alone. Doc is out, riding a helo with a guy that took six bullets (waste of a trip if you ask Klaus), so it will be easy for Klaus to slip in and take what he needs.

If he can't escape through a rift in time, he'll just have to do it the old fashioned way.

He breezes into the tent like he owns the place, making as much noise as possible. "Benjamin Button!" Klaus bellows, scaring the shit out of Benny. The other man whips around fast, hands up to defend himself.

"Fuck, Hargreeves. What did I tell you about that sneaky shit? We're at war, asshole."

"Sorry, sorry." Klaus grinned, wandering around the Ward Tent. He scanned the area for something easy to steal. "Whacha up to?"

"What the hell do you mean?" Benny asks, giving Klaus a curious look. "I'm putting away the resupply shipment." Benny pointed over his shoulder at the open case of medical supplies on the far bench.

Bingo.

"You need me to take a look at your bullet graze? Katz said you'd be coming by. Sorry about the kid, man. Shit's rough."

"Oh, no." Klaus replied, pressing against his head wound gently. "It's barely a scratch." He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the dead kid's face that was pressing to the forefront of his mind. "I'm fine. It's really nothing. I was just wondering if you wanted to play cards later? Olly's an insufferable asshole, but he promised to play his guitar. I know you're a sucker for the Beatles." Klaus eyes Benny as he bent over and pulled a vial of morphine and a couple obscenely large glass syringes from the case, setting them down on another bench.

"You sure you're okay, man? Wasting a baby VC is fucked up, and you're still bleeding pretty bad." Benny eyes Klaus warily, taking in his shifty eyes and twitching fingers. The kid is clearly not okay, no matter how much he tries to convince Benny he is.

"I said I'm good." Klaus shot back, meaner than he meant to. He sighed, giving Benny a tight smile. "Just wanna make sure you're in for cards later. We both know your a compulsive gambler." Klaus winked. Benny rolled his eyes, but nodded.

"Yeah, sounds good, but I'm kinda busy right now. Come find me after dinner, and I'll be happy to kick your ass at spades again." Klaus watched Benny carefully, waiting until the other man turned his back again.

"Cocky fucker." Klaus laughed, picking up a bottle of peroxide. Eh, it'll have to do...

"What's this?" Klaus asks, letting the bottle slip through his fingers and smash on the floor. Liquid goes splashing everywhere, soaking his pant legs. He steps back, giving a little shriek for dramatic effect.

"God damn it, Hargreeves, you fucking klutz." Benny groaned, running over and dropping down at Klaus's feet to start cleaning up the broken glass.

Klaus took his opportunity, swiping a bottle of morphine and one of those ridiculous needles. He slipped them into the pocket of his vest before kneeling down next to Benny. "Lemme help?"

"No, Klaus, just go." Benny shook his head. "I'll see you at dinner, okay?"

"If you insist." Klaus replied, smiling as he stood.

Benny really just made it too easy.

"See ya. Sorry about all that." Klaus waved over his shoulder, making his way out of the Ward tent and back to his own bunk.

He felt bad for stealing from Benny. Stealing from all the men, really. But this was an emergency. Klaus felt like he was dying. Suffocating under the weight of his own guilt and anxieties.

He needed an escape, a real one. Not pills or jungle dope. He needed something strong enough to kill these emotions before they tore him apart.

He dropped down on his cot, pulling his goodies from his pocket. He stared at the bottle, quirking an eyebrow.

Okay, how hard can this be?

He opened the little box the syringe came in. "Jesus christ, you monstrosity." he whispered at the item. the barrel is at least four inches long, and that's not even counting the detachable needle. Klaus shakes his head, chuckling a little in disbelief as he screws the point onto the barrel.

He's probably going to get into a lot of trouble for this. But, as usual, he doesn't care. His head is full of vile, horrific images, and he needs to eradicate them. He can't go on like this.

And it's only a matter of time before the kid he killed shows up. Bloody and dead and bent on destroying Klaus. This is the main reason Klaus has always been wary to kill. The last thing he wants is the ghost of someone he murdered to follow him around until his dying day.

He can't face it. So he focuses on something he can control. He sticks the point of the needle into the morphine bottle's cap. He has no idea what constitutes an actual dose of this drug, but he's not scared to wing it.

His hands are still caked in dirt and blood from that awful mission. He doesn't care, not now. He places the needle between his teeth and rolls up his sleeve. He shouldn't be doing this here, right out in the open like this. He doesn't care about that either.

He can hear that nameless child's voice in his head as he places the needle over the prominent vein in the crook of his elbow. He can see the kid's terrified eyes as he presses forward, breaking the skin and popping the vein easily.

He sees the kid's chest explode in his mind's eye as he depresses the plunger, sending an unknown amount of undiluted morphine straight into his bloodstream.

He pulls the needle out just as the bitter metallic taste of the drug fills his mouth. He knows right away he's done too much. You can always tell. The needle slips out of his hand, landing somewhere on the floor as Klaus collapses backwards on his cot. His head lolls to the side, eyes rolling back in his head. It hits him all at once, like being drenched in hot, sticky paint. He's numb, finally. Well and truly gone to the world. He couldn't move right now if he was on fire.

He is awash in blissful nothingness. Empty inside. And it's glorious.

As he succumbs to the delicious oblivion, it dawns on him that he may not make it back this time...

Shit, this may just be it. The actual end. He didn't think this through, clearly. He can feel himself slipping away. It's almost like dropping into a warm bath. He inhales, and it takes a lot of effort. His heart thuds in his chest, lethargic and out of rhythm.

Hell, maybe he'll escape this war after all.

His eyes slip closed, and he can't really feel anything anymore. He's not even sure if he's breathing.

He not all that surprised to find he doesn't care one way or the other...

His last thought before he succumbs to unconsciousness is of Dave. Beautiful, wonderful Dave.

Klaus hopes he's not the one who finds him like this... Dead like this....

 

***

 

"Too bad Sarg isn't back yet." Olly muses as he types up the mission report at a desk a few feet away from Dave. Dave nods, not really paying attention to Olly at all. He's scribbling down some notes about that afternoon's mission. Things Sarg should know that don't necessarily belong in the Ops report.

Dave is working as fast as he can, trying to get this shit done so he can go find Klaus. Dave knows Klaus is not okay, and that makes Dave very anxious. Klaus doesn't make the most sound decisions when he's upset. That's how Klaus ended up getting alcohol poisoning. Overcome by the ghouls that stalk him relentlessly, he'd swallowed down a pint of some homemade booze an elderly villager gave him while they we crossing the jungle.

Klaus had spent the next twelve hours in the Ward Tent, getting reamed out by Sarg while he puked all over poor Benny.

Dave can't shake the feeling that this instance is so much worse. He finishes up his reports and bolts out of the Ops tent.

The men are sitting around the fire, digging into their dinner. It smells disgusting, the scent turning Dave's already twisting gut.

"Dallas, where's Hargreeves?" Dave asks, coming to stand at the edge of the fire.

Dallas glances at Dave over his shoulder, shrugging. "Dunno. Haven't seen him since we got back to base."

"Shit." Dave said, running his fingers through his hair in irritation.

Not good. Not good at all. Dave has the worst feeling. Something is not right.

"I saw him 'bout a half hour ago." Benny said, glancing up at Dave warily. "Said he'd be here for dinner, and we're supposed to play cards later."

"What were you doing when you saw him? Where did he say he was going?" Dave demanded, his eyes flying around the area again, praying to catch sight of Klaus wandering over with that cocky little smirk on his face.

"He came to see me in the Ward Tent while I was putting away the shipment." Benny replied. "Dropped a whole bottle of peroxide on the ground."

Dave's heart sank.

Fuck.

"Get the fuck up." Dave ordered, pulling Benny up by his arm and dragging him to stand. "Let's go. I think you got played, Ben." he turned on his heel and bolted toward his tent. Dave didn't have to look back to know Benny and Dallas were right behind him.

"Fucking Hargreeves." Benny says, but he doesn't sound angry.

He sounds scared.

No one else in the unit paid them any mind as they hightailed it to the other side of camp. Dave is glad for it. If Klaus is in the state Dave anticipates, he won't want an audience.

Dave is the first one inside the tent, and what he sees stops him dead in his tracks.

"No." he whispers, dropping down on his knees in front of Klaus's cot. Klaus is out cold. Eyes closed, mouth hanging open. Dave reaches up carefully, running his fingers along the side of Klaus's face. He's still warm. Hope flutters in Dave's chest.

"Holy fuck." Benny says, standing over Klaus's cot as Dave hovers over him. "Dave, move." Benny orders, shouldering Dave out of the way so he can check Klaus's vitals.

Dave stands quickly, taking a step back as Dallas comes to stand next to him.

Klaus looks dead. His skin is paler than Dave's ever seen it, deep black bags under his eyes. Dave can't tell if he's breathing, his chest is not rising at all.

"What the hell??" Dallas whispers, snatching a used syringe off the dirt floor. "Dave, what did he take?"

"How the fuck should I know?" Dave spat.

"Fucking morphine." Benny spits, grabbing the vial off the ground. He tosses it on Dave's cot, turning back to the men.

"Dallas, go back to the ward tent." Benny orders as he leans over Klaus's body. Benny gets real close, and Dave has the bizarre fleeting thought that Benny is going to kiss him. Instead, he just spreads Klaus's eyes open with his fingers, taking note of his pinpoint pupils. "In the green cabinet there is a syringe with a red cap. It's epinephrine. Bring it to me." when Dallas doesn't move, Benny screams. "Now!"

Dallas nods, eyes wide as he turns on his heel and stumbles out of the tent.

"Dave, get down here." Benny spits. Dave falls to his knees next to Klaus's unconscious body.

"Okay, we need to resuscitate him." Benny says, voice calm and even. "I need you to breathe into his mouth after I do chest compression, okay? It's easy. I'll do three chest compressions, then you hold his nose, tip his head back, and breath into his mouth, okay? Simple."

Dave has never heard of such a thing, but he'll do whatever Benny says if it will bring Klaus back. He nods quickly, watching warily as Benny stands on his knees and clasps his hands over Klaus's heart. He pumps Klaus's chest rhythmically, counting under his breath.

"One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand. Breathe." he glances over at Dave and Dave nods, leaning over Klaus's body. He pinches his nose, tipping his head back as he seals his lips over Klaus's mouth and breaths out.

Klaus's chest expands and deflates. Nothing changes. Benny starts compressions again.

"One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand. Breathe."

Dave breathes for Klaus again, tears spilling from his eyes. His mind is spinning. Klaus can't die. He just can't.

Dave pulls off and Benny repeats his compressions. Dave breathes again.

Nothing.

Benny starts all over again, and Dave is barely holding on at this point. He breathes again, filling Klaus's lungs with air his body refuses to use.

Dave has never seen Klaus so still. He's always in motion, hands flying around, feet twitching. That little tremor in his hands when he needs a fix. And his mouth. God he never stops talking.

Dave would give anything for just one word from Klaus's lips right now.

"Breathe, Dave." Benny commands, and Dave falls over Klaus's body again. As he closes his mouth around Klaus's, sending another deep breath into his lungs, Dave can't help but think of their first kiss. So sweet, so tentative. So unlike the Klaus he knows now.

Klaus is wild and free and crazy and alive and vibrant and....just everything.

Klaus is everything. And Dave can't lose him.

Benny is about to start another round of compressions when Dallas whips back into the tent, a giant syringe in his fist.

"Benny." Dallas calls out, sending the needle flying through the air. Dave watches it sail across the room, his heart in his throat. Benny catches it easily, shocking Dave. He rips the cap off with his teeth and grips the meat of Klaus's thigh tightly in his other hand. Dave watches warily as Benny buries the needle in Klaus's thigh, going right through his fatigues, and depressing the plunger.

A few agonizing seconds go by. Klaus still doesn't move, still doesn't breath. Dave feels like he might vomit. He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He and Benny stare at each other for a moment, the tent deathly silent....

***

Klaus groans, covering his face with a shaking hand.

God, when did it get so bright?

He lets his hand fall to the ground, slightly shocked to feel long grass beneath his arm. He blinks his eyes open, struggling to sit up.

When Klaus finally manages to get up to a seated position, he glances around, taking in his surroundings.

What the fuck? How the hell did he get here?

The last thing he remembers is getting way too high at base...

And now...now he's sitting in the middle of a sun drenched field. Tall grasses and wild flowers surround him on all sides, swaying on a warm breeze he can't really feel.

Klaus huffs, forcing himself to his feet. He shields his eyes with his 'hello' hand, glancing all around him. He can't see the base anywhere. He can't even see the river.

Hell, this place doesn't even look like Vietnam.

Is he dreaming?
This can't be real.

Well, fuck it, he's here now, may as well look around a bit... He starts making his way through the tall grass, looking around for a path or something to maybe lead him to a better dream.

Maybe there's a sexy Dave dream behind door number two...

Klaus stumbles out of the field and onto a dirt road. He sighs, hands on his hips as he looks one way and then the other.

Nothing. He sees nothing. The road goes on forever, in both directions. The path is lined with the tallest trees Klaus has ever seen. Below him is a path of dirt and smooth stones, above him, a canopy of bright green leaves, beyond that, the bluest sky he's ever seen.

He shakes his head ruefully, deciding 'whatever' and started down the right-hand path.

He'd only wandered a few paces when he came across another lonely soul on the roadway.

"Hello." Klaus said, waving. He was surprised to find such a young girl alone on the path. She looks maybe ten years old. Tall and skinny, wearing a pink and yellow sundress and no shoes. He long dark hair is braided in two little pigtail things, cascading down her back. Wildflowers are interwoven through the plaits, making her look like a woodland fairy.

"What are you doing here?" The girl asks, voice oddly authoritative for a child her age.

"Well, that's the thing, I'm not quite sure." Klaus replies honestly, scratching the back of his neck. "Where am I?"

"Where do you think you are?"

"If I had an idea, why would I ask?"

The child glared at him. "Answering questions with questions is kinda my thing."

"My apologies, Miss." Klaus replies sarcastically, growing more confused by the second.

"You need to go back." the girl says, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Sure, yeah." Klaus nodded, looking up and down the road again. "Which way back to base?"

"No. Not back to base." the girl replied harshly. "You need to go HOME."

Klaus rolled his eyes. "You're not the boss of me. You can't make me go back."

"You sound like a child." the girl huffed.

"Look who's talking." Klaus shot back.

Just then a rabbit hope onto the path. Klaus smiles, he loves bunnies. To his surprise, the rabbit hops right over to the girl. She kneels down and scoops him up, cradling the bunny to her chest.

"Klaus, you don't belong there." the girl says, not even bothering look at him. Her attention is trained on her rabbit.

"How do you know my name?" Klaus asks, cocking his head to the side. "Do I know you?"

"You don't belong in that war, Klaus. And you don't belong here." the girl replied sternly. "You need to go home."

Klaus whined dramatically. "But I'm sooo comfortable here..."

Just then, the little girl's rabbit springs from the her arms, landing right in Klaus's hands. Klaus yelps in surprise, taken aback when the damn rabbit zaps him like a fucking live wire. Electricity shot up his arms, congregating in his chest until he felt like his heart was going to explode.

"What the fuck??"

 

***

 

Dave can't breathe. He can't blink. He can't do anything but stare at Klaus's unmoving body.

His heart is pounding in his chest, cold sweat clinging to his skin. His eyes burn with tears he refuses to shed.

Dave is on the verge of completely falling apart.

Then, like a god damn dream come true, Klaus's body jerks, a ragged gasp ripping from his chest. He shoots up off the cot like he's been electrified, colliding soundly with Dave.

Dave grabs Klaus, pulling him into his arms, just barely holding back from weeping in relief. He holds Klaus tight to his chest, heedless to Benny's presence.

"Klaus." Dave whispers, burying his face in Klaus's curls.

"Hey Davey." Klaus croaks back. "You'll never believe who just told me off."

"What the fuck, Hargreeves!" Benny's irate voice breaks the moment. Dave reluctantly pulls away, gently laying Klaus back down on his cot.

"Benjamin, not so loud, I feel like I'm stroking out over here." Klaus groans, pinching his eyes shut. He feels like his heart is about to explode. He's jittery and nervous and edgy as fuck. "What's wrong with me?"

"That'll be the shot of adrenaline I had to give you to jump start your stupid heart." Benny sighed. "It's not the recommended antidote for a stolen morphine overdose, but the US army doesn't stock Naloxone, so I had to make due with what I had. Or else you'd be worm food right now."

"Uh, thanks." Klaus murmured, shame washing over him. He knew it was stupid to steal the morphine. He'd just been so sad and hopeless in that moment. So desperate to escape his mind, the memories of that child he killed.

And look where it got him...overdosed like an asshole in front of Dave and Benny.

Klaus sighs, glancing at Dave. Dave is watching him with this incredibly intense look. Love and terror. Adoration and devastation.

This is what Klaus had been dreading. Disappointing Dave. Klaus knew it was inevitable, but it still stings.

"Listen." Benny said, grabbing the morphine vile and scooping the syringe off the dirt floor of the tent. "I know why you did this." He waved the bottle in Klaus's face. "I get it, with the kid and all. But Klaus, you can't do this shit again. If you get caught, you and I will both get reamed out. You could end up in the brig, and I could lose my spot on the trauma team. Please, don't put me in this position again."

"Benny, I'm already caught." Klaus replies, confused.

"I'm not gonna tell Sarg." Benny replied, shocking both Klaus and Dave. "Like I said, I get it. What happened with that kid today, man. I don't know how I'd deal with that." Benny sighed. "Just don't do it again, Hargreeves. This is the one get outta jail free card you're gonna get from me, got it?"

Klaus nodded somberly. "Yeah, Benny. I get it. Thank you. And y'know, thanks for saving my life."

"Yeah, yeah." Benny said, waving him off. "That's my job, right? Just don't pull that shit again. Charlie's already trying to kill you, you don't have to do the work for 'em, kid."

Klaus nodded, unsure of what to say to that. Benny gave him a wave and exited the tent, taking the morphine with him.

"Darlin', what were you thinking?" Dave asks the moment Benny is out of earshot.

Klaus sighed, running his fingers through his hair. He felt like he'd been hit by a truck. His heart is still pounding erratically in his chest. A gross cold sweat is cooling on his skin, making him feel dirty as well as sick.

"I wasn't thinking." Klaus replied honestly. No use lying. Not to Dave.

"Clearly." Dave replied, trying to keep his tone even. He huffed, standing so he was towering over Klaus. "Listen..."

But Klaus cut him off. "Don't bother, I get it."

"Get what?" Dave asks. He can barely keep up with Klaus's fluctuating moods on a good day, but he feels totally at sea in this situation.

"I'm too fucked up." Klaus replies, voice soft. "I'm too fucked up, and it's not fair of me to keep dragging you into this. I'm not strong enough to get better, I'll only do it again."

"Fuck off with that noise." Dave replied, surprising Klaus. "You talk like you have no say in how your life goes. You act like you're a bystander, when you're the one in the driver's seat."

Klaus opened his mouth to retort, but Dave just kept talking. "I know today was fucking brutal, darlin'. I know you're afraid that boy's gonna come back to fuck with you. I know you go through shit that no one should ever have to. But you're not powerless here, Klaus."

"I can't do it, Dave. I can't get clean, not here. Not with all this death around."

"No one said you had to get clean right now." Dave countered. God, how he wished Klaus could cut the shit and get sober this very second. But Dave has seen what the ghosts do to him, and he just can't ask him to subject himself to that, not while he's dealing with being at war too. "But you have to be more careful, Klaus. Then, maybe once we get home, you can look into it?"

Dave knows he's sounds desperate, and that's because he is. Watching Klaus almost die right in front of him has done something to him. Damaged him. Scarred him deep inside. Klaus keeps saying he's not strong enough to get clean. Not strong enough to survive this war sober.

Dave is petrified he's not strong enough for Klaus. How long can he stand by and watch the man he love actively kill himself? How many time can he breathe into his lungs, praying Klaus wakes up again. How many times can he find Klaus on the verge of death before something inside him shatters?

"Yeah, I guess. I can do that." Klaus replies, drawing Dave's attention back to the conversation.

"Do what, darlin'?"

"Try to get clean. For real. When we get outta this fucking jungle." Klaus sighed, his eyes stinging. He sniffled, running his hand through his knotted curls. "But I'm just warning you now, I honestly don't think I have it in me. I'm broken, Dave. Broken and weak."

"Hey, hey." Dave whispers, glancing at the mouth of the tent quickly before dropping down on Klaus's cot and pulling the frail man to his chest. Dave's heart aches for him. He just wants to fix it.

Klaus keeps going on about how he's not strong enough to get clean, and Dave's over here fretting about not having the power to see it through with him. But giving up is just not an option, not concerning Klaus.

"You don't have to be strong all the time." Dave whispers, kissing Klaus's sweaty hair. "I'm scared too. That I'm not good enough. Not strong enough to help you the way you need me to."

"Davey, it's not your job..."

"It is, Klaus." Dave cut him off. "It's my job to support you and protect you and love you, good times or bad. And I wish I could carry you through this mess, but you have to walk it on your own." Dave spoke quietly, wrapping both arms around Klaus's bony shoulders. "I know we'll both falter. We're both gonna screw up and I'm sure it won't be pretty at times. But if you'll let me, Klaus, I promise to stick by you, for as long as you'll have me. You don't have to do this on your own."

"Dave..."

"I'm serious. The drugs, the ghosts, your issues with your father. I don't care. I don't care how messy it gets or how many gray hairs you give me with this shit. I'm here for you. Just promise me you'll be more careful."

"It was an accident." Klaus insisted. "Things just got on top of me. With that kid. Dave, I killed him." Klaus's throat was closing up again, images from that field filtering back into his mind unbidden.

"Klaus, baby. We're at war. Odds were you were going to have to kill someone at some point."

"I don't belong here." Klaus said quietly. Those words rang in his head, a strange imprint of a memory just out of reach. "I don't belong here."

"No, you don't." Dave agreed. "You're not meant for this life, Klaus, none of us are. But I need you to stick it out, okay? You're so brave and much stronger than you're giving yourself credit for. You can do this, I know you can."

"Okay, Davey." Klaus replied softly. "I'll try. I promise." and he means it. He doesn't want to die, here in Vietnam or anywhere else for that matter. And he sure as fuck doesn't want to leave Dave alone in this godawful place.

Dave smiled, resting his forehead's against Klaus's. "It's not all on you, darlin'. We'll help each other, okay? It's gotta be give and take. You don't have to be strong all the time, but please, let me help you when shit gets on top of you like this. Please, darlin'." Dave was pleading now. Pretty much begging. But he doesn't care, Klaus was too important to let his pride get in the way.

Dave felt weak. Unable to do the one thing he needed to do in this war. Protect Klaus. From Charlie, and from himself. He was scared to death, of screwing this up somehow, failing Klaus.

"I can do it, Dave." Klaus said, determined. "I'm not gonna let you down, or the unit. I promise, I'll won't let you down again."

"You didn't let me down, Klaus." Dave said. "I care about you, and it hurts me to see you in pain. But I know you can do it. I have faith in you, darlin'. I just wish I could do more to help. "

"Davey, just being here is more than enough." Klaus replied honestly. "Just the fact that you have faith in me is incredible. No one ever does. Believe in me, I mean. I want to be better. I want to be strong enough."

"You are, darlin'. You're plenty strong enough. And when shit gets hard, I'll be here. Just like you are here for me when I need you."

"You don't need me, Davey." Klaus scoffed. "You're one of the most capable soldiers in the unit."

"I'm not talking about war, Klaus." Dave replied, running his fingers along Klaus's jaw. "Before you got here, I was barely hanging on. Running on autopilot, hardly registering the danger I was in. I was certain I'd never make it home, and I'd become numb to that notion. But you sparked something in me. You're just so alive, Klaus. And I want to be alive right along side you, for as long as I can. Just you being here is making me a better soldier. A better man. So don't you ever say I don't need you, darlin'. Cuz I do. So much."

Dave leaned in then, not giving a shit that they were out in the open. He curled his hand around the back of Klaus's neck, pulling him in for a tender kiss. Klaus gasped, shocked by Dave's recklessness. Dave grinned against Klaus's lips, licking into his mouth. After kissing his lover breathless, Dave pulled back, but kept his fingers tangled in Klaus's curls.

"Listen to me, Klaus. This is going to be hard. It will probably be the hardest thing you ever do." Klaus didn't know if he meant the war or quitting the drugs, but it didn't matter. "But I know you can do it. Because you are so much more than you think you are. You are more than strong enough."

Klaus smiled, pecking Dave's lips once more.

Klaus isn't really one for motivational speeches or pep talks, but those words from Dave's lips were different. Of course, Klaus had heard it all before. But coming from Dave, he believes it.

"I love you." Klaus whispered, eyes shining.

"I love you too, darlin'." Dave whispered back.

God, Dave just wanted to pull Klaus into his arms and never let him go. Never let anyone or anything harm him ever again. But that just wasn't possible. They were both just going to have to tough this out as best they could.

Dave has spent the last hour promising Klaus they were both strong enough. To beat Klaus's addiction, and to survive this war. Together.

Now, as Dave holds Klaus close, whispering these promises to his love, he prays to God it's the truth.

Please, just let them be strong enough to weather this storm...

Chapter Text

Klaus is trying.

He's really fucking trying.

And it's awful.

It's been almost a month since The Incident, as Klaus has taken to calling it in his head. The day he killed that child, the day he almost killed himself. The day he promised Dave he'd be more careful, take better care of himself.

A lot has happened in that time. The men left their first Firebase for good, packing up all their shit and humping it all further into the mountains. They had set up base at a new strategic spot, nestled between the mountains and the jungle. In a small glade along an even smaller river.

The fighting is more brutal at this spot. The squad is making their way toward the front lines, and every mile they go leads them closer to the battle. Klaus is not looking forward to the moment they land in the shit. It's only a matter of time.

Which is why he's glad he finally took Dave's advice and cooled it on the drugs. He's not sober, of course. Let's not be ridiculous. But he's cut way down since his overdose. He's no longer copping jungle heroin, he's no longer stealing medication from Benny's Ward Tent.

He's sticking to the meds the army gives him legally, the booze that makes the rounds now and again, and the weed that is prevalent in the unit.

It's not enough to overpower the ghosts. But it's enough to keep all the noise to a dull roar. All things considered, he's doing well.

It's different in the mountains. They are not in the jungle at all anymore. Klaus is in the middle of a dense forest. For some reason, he didn't expect that. The tall trees, stripped of all leaves thanks to the Agent Orange that falls from the sky periodically. Sometimes Klaus wants to mention how dangerous the Agent Orange is. How it causes cancer. How it kills a lot of people in the future. But he knows he can't.

Five would flay him alive if he fucked with the timeline like that.

Klaus huffs, dropping down on his cot. He's at the tail end of a forty-eight hour mission, and he's fucking exhausted. The speed Doc gave the guys at dawn has worn off, leaving Klaus with that empty, twitchy feeling.

Now, if this was a month ago, Klaus would be up and searching for his next fix. Heroin was easy to get in the bush, and easier to get in the mountains. The little village at the base of the valley were full of Vietnamese men from Saigon, looking to make easy money off the desperate GIs dotted along the mountainside.

But Klaus is doing his damnedest to stay the fuck away from that shit. After his close call last month, and his promises to Dave and himself, Klaus has successfully resisted the harder drugs. The drugs the army supplies are enough to keep the dope sickness at bay, so it's just his mental addiction he's battle. He's not winning, per say, but he's still fighting.

He's pretty fucking proud of himself.

And the way Dave smiles at him these days is reward enough.

It's still hard. Really fucking hard. Especially when the ghosts come calling and Klaus is powerless to quiet them.

Like right now. Everyone is still outside, milling around the Firebase, chatting by the fire or cleaning their guns in front of the Ops. tent. But Klaus can't breathe out there, surrounded by Winston and Collins, and Morty...

Morty is the name Klaus has given to the Vietcong child soldier he killed. Klaus knew the kid would come for him, and he had. Just a few days after his overdose, Klaus had startled awake in the middle of the night, shocked out of sleep by a horrific nightmare. He'd rolled onto his side to sneak a peak at Dave, since watching the other man sleep always soothed him.

But instead of Dave's angelic, sleep-soft face, Klaus's eyes had fallen on something much more terrifying.

It was that kid. Pale and gaunt looking. A gaping, bloody wound in his chest and fire in his dead eyes.

Klaus had yelped, jumping back and tumbling right off his cot. He'd woken the whole tent up, not for the first time. No one had given him a second look. Just Hargreeves being a head case again. Nightmares were common for all the guys, but Klaus's were by far the worst.

Ever since that night, the kid follows him around like a zombie puppy. Klaus can't shake him, and now that he's not using the hard shit, the kid has made himself at home in Klaus's shadow, right alongside Winston and Collins.

So, of course Klaus had to give him a name. It's rude to address someone as 'Dead Kid'.

And so Morty was born, in death.

At the moment, however, Klaus is alone. He's not sure how long it will last, so he has to act fast.

He sticks his hand under his bedroll, pulling out a small paper package. He's got a bit of weed, and he's going to smoke it before Morty shows back up and starts prattling in his native tongue again.

Klaus rolls a joint. The biggest one he can given his supplies. He lights it and takes a long, satisfying hit, secure in the fact that he won't be ghostbusting for the next few hours at least.

He leans back on one elbow, letting his legs swing off his cot as he smokes silently. He hardly ever gets any alone time these days, and he wants to make the most of it while he can. The guys should be busy around the base for a few more minutes, and Klaus is going to take every second of solitude and savor it.

He inhales deeply, coughing a little. The weed hasn't gotten any better the further into the mountains he goes. Sometimes Klaus will lay in his cot and fantasize about weed from his own time. Like the other guys fantasize about their girls back home. What he wouldn't give right now for some Northern Lights or Strawberry Cough. These uncultured jokers don't know the first thing about good weed.

Oh well, no use in dwelling on shit he can't have.

He is about halfway through the joint when the tent flap flies open and Dave and Dallas come rolling in like the own the place.

Which to be fair, they kinda do.

Klaus giggles to himself, nodding to the boys as they fall down on their cots.

"Pass that shit, you greedy bitch." Dallas laughs, making grabby hands at Klaus. Klaus huffed, rolling his eyes dramatically before passing the joint to Dallas.

"What are you guys even doing in here?" Klaus asks, glancing over at Dave. The other man was already watching him, that soft look in his eyes.

"We live here too, asshole, or did you forget?" Dallas laughed, taking a long pull off the joint.

"How could I forget." Klaus replied, dropping down on his mattress with a sigh. "I am too fucking weird. No one is crazy enough to room with me but you loony bastards."

"Klaus, that is not the reason and you know it." Dave laughed, shaking his head. His Klaus had to be the most dramatic person to ever live. "We have seniority in the unit now, and since there is only one three man tent, we got it. It sure beats bunking with twelve FNG's."

"Yeah, like that's the reason." Klaus chuckled. "Look me in the eye and tell me it's not because I'm a fucking head case. Tell me it's not because of my blatant queerness and my violent, loud nightmares. I know for a fact Ace is doing the happy dance right now, not having to deal with my crazy ass anymore."

"Fuck Ace and the horse he rode in on." Dave laughed, plucking the joint from Dallas's fingers. "I'm glad he's not bunking with us. Motherfucker snores like a freight train. Way worse that Mitchum here." Dave took a long hit off the joint, enjoying the burn deep in his lungs. He wasn't a pothead like Klaus and Dallas, but he enjoyed a good buzz just as much as the next guy.

"Who the fuck is Mitchum?" Klaus asks, cocking his head to the side. Dave and Dallas exchange a look before bursting out laughing. Klaus eyes them both, confused. "What's so funny?"

"You honestly don't know who Mitchum is?" Dallas chuckled, hitting the joint before stubbing it out on his boot and handing it back to Klaus to tuck away for later. "Think about it, dumbass."

Klaus wrinkled his brow in confusion, wracking his brain for any guy in the unit named Mitchum.

Dave was biting his lip so hard, desperate to keep a straight face. Dallas was no better, rubbing his lips with his fingers to hide his smile.

"I honestly have no idea who you are talking about." Klaus replied, scratching the back of his head. "He's in the unit? We hang out with him?"

"Yeah, you could say that." Dallas chuckled.

"Think, Klaus." Dave laughed. "He's about six foot four, blond hair, green eyes. Scrawny motherfucker."

Dallas rolled his eyes at Dave. "Spencer Mitchum." he said, glaring at Klaus. "Doesn't ring a bell?"

"No, not really." Klaus replied, totally lost.

"He grew up in Texas." Dave said, glancing over at Dallas. "Dallas, Texas."

Klaus frowned, his eyes flitting between Dave and Dallas for a few long moments. He's slow on a good day, and molasses slow when he's stoned. It took Dallas finally bursting out laughing to bring it home for Klaus.

He jumped up from his cot, launching himself at Dallas. "You asshole!" Klaus cried, beating on Dallas playfully with his fists. "You're fucking Mitchum, aren't you?"

Dallas curled up into a ball, laughing maniacally as Klaus pummeled him. He dodged as many hits as he could, letting Klaus tire himself out. It never took long.

Dave watched the whole thing unfold with a wide smile on his lips. He's not normally one to fuck with Klaus. He gets enough shit from the rest of the guys. But this was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

"Klaus, did you really think his given name was Dallas?" Dave asks, smiling. "Do you think Richie's name is really Ace too?"

"Ace's name is Richie??" Klaus balked.

That was it, Dave and Dallas lost their shit laughing again. Klaus was just too much sometimes.

 

***

 

Klaus shoots up, panting. He looks around, relieved to be back in the tent and not where was moments ago. He shakes his head, trying to rid himself of the remnants of the nightmare. It's honestly embarrassing, that after everything he's been through, it's these memories that cause him the most pain.

It's the middle of the night. Klaus can tell by the silence of the camp and the incessant buzzing of the insects outside. He slaps the back of his neck harshly, crushing a giant mosquito under his palm.

He can hear bombs falling in the distance, and some gunfire. But he's been around long enough now to know the fighting is far, far away.

His eyes flit over to the other end of the tent. Dallas is still passed out cold, having grown accustomed to Klaus's odd night habits.

Dave, however, is sitting up on his cot. Klaus can't see his expression in the dark of the tent, but he can guess. Worry, concern, anxiety.

"Klaus, are you okay?" Dave asks quietly.

Klaus considers lying. It's what he does. But he just can't bring himself to be dishonest with Dave.

"Not particularly, no."

Dave is up and moving before Klaus even finishes speaking. He drops down on Klaus's cot, leaving a few inches of space between them. It feels like miles, but Klaus knows how this goes.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Klaus sighs. He feels like all he ever does these days is talk. After years of bottling shit up and pushing it down, burying it under drugs and sarcasm, it's not easy to bring it to the surface.

But then, Dave's hand slides across the cot, carefully lacing their fingers together. Klaus is so touched by the simple gesture, he's speaking before he can think better of it.

"I have nightmares." Klaus says redundantly.

"I know." Dave replies. "We all do."

"Not about here." Klaus sighs. "Well, yes, about here. But not just about here."

"Oh." Dave nods. "This about growing up, then? Your dad?" Dave doesn't know a whole lot about Klaus's childhood. Just the fantastical stories he spins for the guys. Those exaggerated, overly comedic versions of stories that are anything but funny to Dave. But Dave knows there is much more to it than those little anecdotes. He's not sure what the whole truth is, but he's certain it's not nearly as amusing at Klaus makes it out to be.

"You could say that." Klaus sighs. He glances toward the mouth of the tent, spying Collins and Winston chillin' there like Klaus's own protection detail. Collins glances at Klaus over his shoulder, giving him a little salute. Klaus salutes back without thought.

Dave follows Klaus's eyes. "We've got company?"

"Always, Davey." Klaus sighs.

Dave nods, leaning across the space, shoving his hand under his cot mattress. He comes back with a single joint and a pack of matches.

"You've been doing so well avoiding the hard shit." Dave said, lighting the joint. "This'll give you a bit of a break, maybe help you sleep." he took a small hit off the joint before passing it to Klaus. Klaus took it, smiling.

"Oh, Davey." Klaus purrs, taking a long haul off the joint. "You are too good to me. Always know just what I need."

Dave chuckles, glancing over at Klaus. He double checks to make sure Dallas was still out for the count before reaching down and lacing their fingers together.

Klaus squeezed his hand, smiling. God, why was Dave so perfect? So god damn good to him. It made no sense.

He doesn't deserve it.

They smoke silently until the joint is spent. Klaus stubs it out on the edge of his cot, throwing the roach on the ground without a care. The high washes over him and he watches through heavy lidded eyes as his Ghost Patrol fades into oblivion. He smiles, slow and lazy. He squeezes Dave's hand again.

"Thanks." he says. "I feel much better."

Dave nods, releasing Klaus's hand and wrapping his arm around his shoulder instead. He pulled Klaus close, resting their heads together.

"I'm glad." Dave replies quietly. After a moment, he spoke again. "So, are you going to tell me what this nightmare was about?"

Klaus sighs, leaning against Dave heavier. "You are the worst."

Dave chuckles. "I thought I was the best."

"You are." Klaus groans. "It's just, it's not something I like to talk about."

"Darlin', whatever it is, I'm here, you know that. If it effects you, it effects me."

"Oh Davey." Klaus murmurs. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "It was about Reggie."

"Your father?"

"If you could even call him that. Abusive, psychotic prick works too." Klaus says, voice low.

Dave has heard enough about Sir Reginald Hargreeves to have the man at the top of Dave's shit list for life, that is if the fucker wasn't dead already. But the way Klaus is talking now scares Dave. He's never heard him sound so broken before.

"Darlin', did he hurt you?"

"Not physically, no." Klaus says. "I mean, the physical training was brutal, but he never beat us."

"Darlin', you don't mean..." Dave trailed off, not even wanting to finish the sentence.

Klaus stares at him in the low moonlight filtering through the tent flap, confused. When it dawns on him what Dave was eluding to, Klaus broke out laughing. He laughed so loud, Dallas groaned, rolling over and pulling his shitty blanket over his head.

Klaus sobers after that, little giggles slipping past his lips as he tried to settle himself. "Dave, god no. Sir Reggie was a lot of things, but a pedophile was not one of them. Honestly, I think the man was asexual."

"A-what?" Dave balked, leaning back just far enough to look into Klaus's eyes.

"Asexual, Davey." Klaus replies, knowing full well that term didn't exist yet. "Like, he didn't feel sexual attraction to anyone. Especially not snot-nosed brats that hated his guts."

"Oh." Dave replies, relieved yet incredibly confused. "That's good." he says, like an idiot.

"Indeed." Klaus chuckled softly.

A moment went by before Dave spoke again. He didn't want to push, but he just knew Klaus had to get this shit out. Klaus thinks he's slick, but Dave sees right through him. These nightmares are a nightly occurrence, sapping all Klaus's energy and leaving him a shell of himself in the morning. He's jumpier than usual, and Dave can tell it's weighing on him. These nightmares aren't going away on their own.

"So what is it, then?" Dave pressed.

Klaus groaned, moving to pull away. Dave tightened his grip on his lover, unwilling to let him run from this. "Klaus." It was just one word. Klaus's name on Dave's lips. But it was enough to melt Klaus to his very core. It was no use, Klaus couldn't keep this from Dave. He was surprised to find he didn't want to anymore.

"When he first discovered what our powers were, he created these special training programs for us." Klaus said, being sure to keep his voice low. "It was different for each of us. But my powers made my training, let's say, exceedingly morbid. I resisted, since the very first day. You can't understand what it was like, being four years old, dragged to a cemetery in the middle of the night. Being surrounded on all sides by gory, vengeful ghosts, screaming at you for hours on end."

"Oh Klaus." Dave replied quietly. He reached up with one hand, burying his fingers in Klaus's curls, rubbing his head soothingly. Dave was angry. Like murderously so. But he needed to stay calm for Klaus's sake.

"Yeah." Klaus muttered sadly. "And the more I resisted, the more he pushed me. You know me, I'm not one to be tied down with a bunch of rules or expectations. So I fought back. As much as a child can. And he punished me severely for my disobedience." Klaus sighed, his mind traveling back to those dark days. "I was seven, I think, the first time he locked me in the mausoleum overnight as a punishment."

"He what?" Dave interjected, rage already boiling in his blood.

"Yeah." Klaus nodded against Dave's shoulder. He kept his eyes trained on the floor of the tent, unable to look at his lover as he spoke of these things. "At first, it was just for training purposes. I was so petrified of the dead, y'know? I was just a child. But that just didn't fly with Reggie. He wanted to break me of my phobia. And to him, the best way to do that was exposure therapy. Inundate me with the dead, until they didn't scare me anymore. He wanted me to master my power, rule over the ghosts. Bend them to my will. But I never could. I couldn't master the ghosts. I could barely control myself. And the more I failed, the angrier he got. The angrier he got, the more I rebelled. By the time I was thirteen, I was already a mess. That's when the drugs started, the drinking. It was the easiest way to block out the ghosts." Klaus's voice broke, the weight of these confessions too much to bear. "As soon as that shit started, I spent more time in the mausoleum than out. Reggie was enraged, that I'd defy him so. Angry that I'd purposefully reject his training. And what better way to punish a wayward child than to expose them to their greatest fear? Those nights in the mausoleum, alone with the malevolent dead. That is what most of these nightmares stem from."

"Darlin'..." Dave whispered, but he had no other words. He just can't comprehend how anyone could treat an innocent child so horribly.

"You know, at that age, I really thought it couldn't get any worse." Klaus said, voice breaking. "But then, when I was around fourteen, I realized the one thing about me that would put me on the outs with the old man forever..."

"And what's that?" Dave asks, unsure if he was ready for the answer.

"Well, you know me, Davey." Klaus replied, leaning against Dave heavily. "I'm about as queer as a three dollar bill. Always have been. No use denying it, no trying to hide it. Sir Reginald did not take too kindly to my....proclivities. I never understood, really. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it was such a small, trivial thing."

Dave couldn't keep quiet then. "In what world, Klaus?" he asks before he can think better of it. When all he gets from Klaus is a confused look, he continues. "Men like you and I are not welcome anywhere. My family has no idea who I really am. I honestly don't know what I'd do if I were like you."

"Like me?" Klaus replied, brow furrowed.

"Yeah, like you. Unable to hide my...gayness."

"I don't WANT to hide it, Dave." Klaus replied, like Dave was an imbecile. He knows how it is, in the 1960's, but that doesn't mean he's going to compromise himself to fit in. "I refuse to hide who I am, for anyone. Not for society, not for the army and not for fucking Reginald. That's what he never understood. He could starve me, he could lock me away with the dead. He could smash my make up and burn my dresses, but I was never going to stop being me."

"Did he really do all those things?" Dave asks. He knows how cruel people can be toward the gay community. What starts out as a lack of understanding morphs into fear, which then transforms into hate. Dave has known plenty of men who have been put out by their families for being gay. It's sadly very common. But the idea of Klaus suffering years of abuse and cruelty just because of who he is? That just enraged Dave.

"He did." Klaus replies. He hates talking about Reginald, but Dave deserves to know these things. If they are really going to try to be together, Klaus has to be honest. Either Dave will accept him and they can try to work through it, or Dave will desert him like everyone else has, and Klaus will have to find a way to move on.

"Darlin', you know none of that shit is your fault, right?"

"I pushed him." Klaus replies sadly. He hung his head, overwhelmed by emotion. Dave huffed angrily, turning Klaus in his arms and pulling him to his chest. Klaus buried his face in Dave's shoulder, sniffling. He won't cry, but god, does he want to.

"Klaus, don't you dare justify his shit." Dave said, voice hard. Dallas stirred and Dave grimaced. He waited until Dallas settled again before continuing. "I don't care if you were the worst behaved child ever. I don't care if you were rude, or insubordinate. No adult should ever treat a child that way. Not to mention the fact that he used you. Used your innate powers for his own gain. What kind of man creates a team of fighters from a group of children?"

"My dad." Klaus replied quietly. "It was just so hard. It seemed like it was harder on me than any of my other siblings. But I don't know if that's true or if it's just the way I felt because I was living it, y'know? I know it was shit for Diego and the rest. Fuck, it killed Ben. Who am I to complain?"

"Darlin', you can't compare your own pain to your siblings' like that." Dave replied carefully. He ran his fingers through Klaus's hair, doing his best to soothe his lover. "I'm sure it was hell on all of you. And it's tragic that your brother died because of your father's hubris. But that's not your fault, and you shouldn't hold onto that blame."

"I should have been there." Klaus replied, surprising Dave. Never once has he talked about Ben's death. The whole event is shrouded in mystery and those half-truths Klaus is so fond of. "I had already run away by then. Five had been gone for three years. The team wasn't strong enough with those pieces missing. I mean, it's not like I did much, but I did my part, as best I could. Not for Reggie, but for Ben and the others. I was never the fastest or the strongest, but I did what I was supposed to, and I know that I helped." Klaus took a deep breath, steadying himself. He never talked about this shit, for good reason. "But I ran away. Away from Sir Reginald, away from the Academy, away from my siblings. And while I was out running the streets, they kept fighting. While I was shooting up and turning tricks and robbing skeevy old men for my next fix, they were continuing the battle. And it was one of those battles that took my brother. My best fucking friend. I wasn't there when he died. I didn't even go to his funeral."

Dave sighed, feeling weighed down by this conversation. "But he came to you, right?" he finally asks, squeezing Klaus's shoulder. "He came to you. You told me that."

Klaus huffed out a humorless laugh. "Yeah." he sniffed, rubbing his nose with the back of his hand. "Almost a year later. What a year that was, let me tell you. If you think I'm bad now, I'm fucking Mother Theresa compared to how I was back then. There was nothing I wouldn't do, no line I wouldn't cross. At the time, I thought that was all my life was ever going to be. Drugs and violence. Sex and crime and pain. So much fucking pain. Then, one day out of the fucking blue, Ben showed up like he'd never been gone. Like he never died at all. And boy, was he pissed at me." Klaus chuckles, shaking his head. The motion jostled Dave, but he just pulled Klaus closer. He knew Klaus needed the contact while discussing these things, and honestly so did Dave. Hearing these tragic, painful memories from the man he loved broke him. He just wanted to make it better. But that was impossible. Klaus might be able to fight ghosts, but Dave can not. All he can do is support his lover, and do his best to help him through it.

"But even after all the shit I did, all the times I let him down and pushed him away and disappointed him, he never abandoned me. He was always there. Every time I got robbed, or beat up, he was there to help me through it. Every time I overdosed, he was the first face I saw when I woke up. Usually the only face, honestly. Every time I went to jail or rehab or the psych ward, Ben was there. He never gave up on me."

"Because he loves you, Klaus." Dave replied, as if it were obvious. "He loves you, so of course he wouldn't abandon you."

"Everyone else does."

"I won't." Dave insists vehemently. "I won't ever leave you. I hate to hear you talk about these things, Klaus. All the pain you've been through, how alone you've always felt. You should feel safe in your own home. With your family. You should never feel neglected or inferior. You shouldn't ever be made to feel broken or unworthy."

Klaus sighed, giving Dave a watery smile in the pale moonlight. "You're much too kind to me, Dave."

"I am not." Dave replied. "I am only speaking the truth. And I only ever treat you as you deserve to be treated. I wish I could spoil you. That's what you really deserve."

Klaus smiled then. A genuine, bright thing that set Dave's whole body alight. Klaus leaned in close, resting their foreheads together again. "I love you, Davey." he whispered into the silence of the tent.

"I love you too, darlin." Dave replied warmly, closing the distance between them, kissing Klaus softly. Klaus's lips were always so warm. His tongue always soft and careful inside Dave's mouth. Until it wasn't. Klaus sighed against Dave's lips, leaning in more as he licked into his lover's mouth passionately. Dave broke the kiss reluctantly, humming.

"Darlin'..." he said, but Klaus cut him off, chuckling.

"I know, I know. It's just hard to control myself around you. Especially when you are saying such sweet things."

Dave laughed, falling down on his cot. He pulled Klaus down with him, wrapping his arms tightly around his lover. "It's not easy for me either. I just want to touch you all the time. Simple things, holding your hand, kissing your forehead."

"You're such a softie, Katz." Klaus giggled, running his fingers along Dave's toned chest.

"Not so soft." Dave murmured, rubbing his semi along Klaus's thigh.

"Oh god!" Klaus stammered. "Was that a boner joke?"

"I learned from the best darlin'." Dave chuckled, pulling Klaus into another kiss. Klaus kissed him back earnestly, trying to convey with his lips and tongue what he could never say with words. After a moment, they separated, Klaus laying his head on Dave's shoulder as they just held each other.

"You know you have to go back to your own bed at some point." Klaus murmured, although he made no move to relinquish his hold on Dave.

"I know." Dave replied. "Just not yet." he curled his fingers through Klaus's hair, petting him how he liked. "Why don't you try to get some rest? I'll go back to my own cot after I know you're asleep."

"You don't have to do that."

"I know." Dave replied, yawning. "I want to."

Klaus hummed, cuddling closer.

Klaus had never really felt at home anywhere. In the Hargreeves manor house, with his siblings, wandering the streets with his junkie friends, or in any of the programs or nuthouses he's called home over the past decade.

But here, in Dave's arms, with his lover's heartbeat thrumming under his ear, Klaus finally feels like he's found his home. In this man's arms, in this man's heart. Klaus cuddles as close as he can without crawling under Dave's skin. For the first time in weeks, Klaus falls into a dreamless, peaceful sleep.

 

***

 

"Would you go home with me?" Klaus asks, knowing Dave can't really answer. Not without knowing where home is. When home is.

Dave chuckled, adjusting his rifle strap as he crosses his legs in front of him. "I already told you I would."

They're sitting outside, huddled over a small fire to keep the bugs away. It's been another long day. They had been out on a scouting mission earlier in the morning and had taken fire. No one died this time, but Jessup, one of the FNG's took a bullet in the elbow. The fucking elbow. Klaus can still see the kid's arm hanging limply at his side, like someone had cut his strings. The kid had screamed bloody murder the whole way back to base camp, worrying everyone. The last thing the squad needs on a trek through the forest is a mouthy grunt acting as a homing beacon for Charlie.

Klaus shakes his head at his own thoughts. Mere months ago, he would have had nothing but compassion for the poor kid. But guerrilla warfare changes a person. Klaus is not the soft, gentle person he was when he landed in 1967. He hopes that guy is still somewhere inside him, even if it never comes to the surface again. He wonders, not for the first time, what kind of long lasting effects this conflict is going to have on him.

"Klaus? Hello?" Dave waves a hand in front of Klaus's face, drawing him out of his head. Klaus glances around, pleased to find they are still very much alone by the fire. He can see Dallas and Ace arm wrestling a few feet away, showing off for the green guys. They had quite a crowd around them. Klaus chuckles at their childish antics.

"Klaus!" Dave says, reaching out and squeezing his arm. Klaus finally looks over at him, shrugging with a smile.

"Sorry." Klaus says. "My mind's all over the place tonight."

"Probably that weed Ace was passing around." Dave replies, smacking a giant mosquito off his leg.

"I don't know how he does it, but he gets the trippiest shit." Klaus laughed. Dave laughed along before sobering. He grabs Klaus's hand, dragging him to his feet and toward their tent so they could speak privately. They sit close together on Klaus's cot, shoulders touching.

"I meant what I said." Dave says suddenly, leaning in so close Klaus could feel his warm breath along his neck. Klaus shivered, leaning closer still. "Wherever your home is, I'll gladly follow you there."

"What if..." Klaus started, but cut himself off. Why is this so hard? After everything they've been through together, Klaus should be able to do this. His cowardice amazes him. He takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "What if my home is nothing like anything you've ever seen before? What if it's too much, and you don't like it? What if you want to go back?"

"Go back to what, darlin'?" Dave asks gently. He scans the area quickly. Deeming the coast clear, he lays a gentle hand on Klaus's thigh. "I don't know how many different ways I can tell you this, love. But no matter where you're going, I'm going too. I swear, sometimes you talk like you're going home to communist Russia or something. Like we're walking into certain death and not your home."

Klaus chuckles, shaking his head. "Sometimes it feels like on in the same."

Dave sighs, running his fingers through his dirty hair. "Klaus, this is the last time I'm going to say this, so please listen."

Klaus glanced over, locking eyes with his lover.

"I don't care where we go, or how hard it is for us once we get there. If I'm with you, I'll be happy. I'm not going into this blind, Klaus. I know we're talking about me abandoning my life back home. I know when you talk about life beyond this war, you aren't talking about following me back to my teaching job in Philly. I know this place you have to go back to terrifies you, even as you are desperate to get back there. I know all that, and I'm still here. I want a life with you, Klaus. Where that life happens doesn't matter to me in the least."

And just like that, Klaus is on the verge of tears yet again. Being pseudo-sober has turned him into a hyper-emotional mush ball.

Or it could just be Dave's effect on him.

Now is the time. The moment Klaus has been waiting for.

He's going to tell Dave. About the briefcase. About the future, and how Klaus got here.

He's going to ask Dave to go back to 2019 with him.

"Dave, there's something I need..." Klaus got about three seconds into his confession. Then, the sky exploded.

"Take cover!" Someone screamed. Dave hit the deck so fast he got a mouth full of dirt. He reached up, tangling his fingers in Klaus's shirt and dragging him to the ground next to him. They covered their heads as debris and fire rained from the sky, burning right through the canvas roof of their tent.

"Incoming!!" that was Sarg. When Sarg screams like that, you know shit is gonna get real, real fucking quick.

God only knows where the gunfire is coming from. Dave grabs his rifle and jumps to his feet, running out of the tent and in the direction of the foxhole by the perimeter of the base. Klaus is right behind him, staying as low as he can, clutching his rifle to his chest as he makes a mad dash for the relative safety of the ditch running along the edge of the base.

Klaus tumbled into the foxhole face first, landing in the mud with a groan. He rolled onto his back just as another hail of gunfire rained down on them. Klaus adjusted his helmet and rolling onto his belly. He propped his gun up on the lip of the trench, squeezing the trigger and sending a stream of bullets spraying into the forest in front of him.

It seemed to go on forever. Klaus's eyes quickly scanned the foxhole. He caught sight of Dallas and Ace to the left, Martinez stuck with Marshall, another new guy. But Marshall was a beast with an AR, so Klaus wasn't all that worried.

Klaus got swept up in the chaos of the battle, like he always did. This strange, animalistic energy surged within him, and he was overcome with the raw desire to destroy his enemies. To eradicate anyone who would harm his friends.

This was war, and no matter how Klaus felt about it, it was kill or be killed. Klaus is not too keen on creating any more ghosts for his personal entourage, but the safety of his friends comes before his own supernatural issues.

He leans back in the foxhole, shoving another clip into his rifle. This was insane. The fighting had never been this savage in the jungle. The battles in the forest were intermittent, happening sporadically and at odd times, but when it went down, it went down hard. Fire and brimstone falling from the skies. Bullets flying at you from all directions.

Klaus doesn't belong here. He thinks that shit a lot in Vietnam, but the fact is never more apparent than when he is engrossed in the heat of battle. He fires off another spray of bullets into the darkness, praying to every god he's ever heard of that he hits at least one of those motherfuckers, gets some of the heat off his squad.

Klaus is not a killer. He's not even a scrapper. But watching his friends, his fucking brothers fighting for their lives, Klaus knows he'll do anything in his power to protect them.

A bomb goes off somewhere behind them. All the guys duck as rocks and earth pelt them from above. The gunfire erupts again, and the whole thing starts all over.

The longer the battle goes on, the more sober Klaus becomes. Soon, Winston and Collins and Morty are visible in his peripheral vision, along with an endless hoard of other nameless dead. The surround the squad in all the macabre glory. Klaus can FEEL them. That doesn't happen often, but it's sure as shit happening now. He feels the power of the dead flowing through him, a cool, magnetic energy swirling inside him. He feels light headed. He smiles, feeling more empowered than he ever has in his life. Pulses of energy keep bursting out of his body, bending reality around him. Bullets veer off course, swerving around the foxhole and landing well off their target. He can hear the enemy screaming in Vietnamese.

"Ma!" "Ma qui!"

Ghosts. Spirits.

Klaus doesn't know a lot of vietnamese, but he knows those words. And he knows what it means. His army of dead is assaulting the VC. Klaus laughs, long and hard.

Maybe the dead are good for something after all.

Klaus can feel them, the ghosts. All around him. Inside him. Feeding him with this spooky, manic energy.

Another wave of gunfire erupts from the enemy, and Klaus reacts without thinking. He pulls the trigger on his rifle, sending bullets flying. But the gunfire fades into the background as Klaus falls into some kind of fugue state. Energy burns through his body, congregating in his chest. He feels like his heart is about to explode. Like he's on fire. Like his brain is boiling.

He's aware, somewhere in the back of his mind that his hands are glowing. Bright blue. It's unlike anything he's ever seen before, and if he weren't so consumed in battle he'd be freaking the fuck out. Klaus screams as a wave of otherwordly energy flows through his body, surging out of him in a pulsing wave of blue electricity. It explodes out of him, rippling out of the foxhole and crashing over the enemy just as they send another round of fire towards Klaus's squad, hitting way too close for comfort. Klaus lurches to the side as a bullet lands in the dirt by his knee.

Klaus can see the dead on the enemy's side of the line, he has no idea what they are doing, but the longer his dead comrades are behind enemy lines, the less gunfire comes from the VC side.

"Christ on a cracker!" Klaus bellows maniacally. "That was a close one, huh Dave?" Klaus glances over toward Dave, but the other man doesn't reply. He doesn't say a word or move at all.

Klaus's heart sinks, his whole world shrinking down to Dave's motionless body and the ringing in his own ears.

Klaus lurches forward, grabbing Dave's shoulders with trembling hands and rolling him over. What he sees makes his blood run cold.

Dave has been hit. Klaus can't tell where since there's so much blood, but it's bad. Very bad.

"No." Klaus whispers, pressing both hands to Dave's wound. Blood pours out from between his fingers and Klaus breaks down, tears streaming down his face. "Medic!!" he screams "Benny!!"

He looks down into Dave's eyes. His beautiful, blue, terrified eyes. "Hey, hey. You're gonna be just fine, okay? Just stay with me."

Dave opens his mouth to speak, but all that comes out is more blood. Klaus chokes out a sob.

"I need a medic!"

Klaus curses himself in that moment. If he'd just told Dave the fucking truth, none of this would be happening right now. They'd be curled up together in Klaus's bed in the future, Klaus playing his favorite records for Dave as he kissed him silly.

Not covered in mud and blood, begging Dave not to die on him.

"Please, Davey. Just hold on, okay? You're gonna be okay. Promise." Klaus is trembling, tears streaming down his face freely. Dave just stares up at him with this bewildered look on his face. Like he never expected it to end like this.

Klaus's eyes shoot up, searching frantically for Benny. He sees his friend making his way over with his medic bag, and the smallest glimmer of hope flutters inside Klaus. He waves Benny over and the other man nods, sprinting toward the foxhole, dodging bullets the whole way across the line. He stumbles into the trench, landing in the mud next to Klaus.

"Oh shit, Katz, you took a good one." Benny grins, leaning over Dave's body. Klaus would deck him, but he knows Benny. This is his bedside manner. Making light of the situation seems to help, most of the time. Benny rips Dave's shirt open, taking in his gory wound with wide eyes.

"Fuck." Benny chokes out, all humor gone from his tone.

Klaus feels like he's going to vomit.

"Katz, we're gonna move you now." Benny says, voice low. "Just hold on, man. I'm gonna fix you right up, okay?"

Dave doesn't reply, and Klaus's eyes burn.

"Hargreeves, grab his legs, we gotta get him back to the Ward Tent so I can see where he's hit."

The Ward Tent is not close. Klaus doesn't know how he and pint sized Benny are gonna get Dave there. But he knows he has to do it. He straps his rifle to his back and grabs Dave's feet. Benny hooks his hands under his arms and they start the slow shuffle back to base.

As they make their way to the Ward Tent, Klaus can't help but notice all the gunfire has stopped. The battlefield is eerily silent, save for the moans of the wounded and the shrieking of the dead. He doesn't have time to wonder what that means, too consumed with Dave to give a shit about anything else.

They stumble inside the tent and lay Dave down on a cot so Benny can get to saving his life. Klaus falls down on the ground, his eyes glued to Dave's pale, sweaty face. He focuses on his face as Benny removes his shirt to get a better look at the wound. Klaus won't look. He can't.

Instead, he focuses on Dave's perfect face. He focuses on how much he loves him, how much he needs him.

Klaus didn't tell Dave about the briefcase because he was a coward. Now, the love of his life is on the verge of death because Klaus couldn't nut up and be honest. He's done with all that shit. When Dave is better, (he WILL get better) Klaus is going to tell him everything, and they are going to leave this hell on earth and go back to Klaus's home.

Klaus has never thought too much about home. What it meant to him. Because concepts like home and family were never all that powerful. Growing up as he did, it was all just words.

But now, gazing down at Dave's sweat-soaked, bloody face, Klaus knows that home is not a place at all, it's a person.

Home has always been elusive to Klaus. He never feels like he belongs, he never feels welcome or wanted.

Then Dave came along, and all that changed.

Dave is Klaus's home, and he can't lose him.

He just can't.

Chapter Text

Dave feels like he's been hit by a truck. He groans, rolling onto his back. His head is killing him and it's much too bright.

He has no idea where he is, or how he got here. His memories are fuzzy, choppy little snippets like a movie that's been edited poorly.

There was a battle. Gunfire, bombs falling. Klaus screaming.

Klaus.

Fuck.

Dave shoots up so fast his head spins. He sits up, his head whipping around frantically, searching for his lover, his squad mates, anything.

He sees no one. Nothing.

It dawns on him much too late that he's not in the forest any longer. He looks around, eyes wide. He's at the ocean. His fingers dig into the sand, and it's warm under his hands. He inhales deeply, pulling that salty sea air deep into his lungs with a smile. God, he misses the ocean. It's his happy place. He's actually been planning on bringing Klaus there when the get back stateside. He can see it, in his mind's eye. Klaus free and happy, splashing around in the waves like a naughty child.

Shit. Klaus.

Dave moves to stand, swaying a little on his feet. He feels weak. More drained than he's ever felt in his life.

Something's not right.

He shields his eyes with a hand, glancing up and down the shore in both directions. The beach goes on forever, it seems. The ocean is vast in front of him, massive waves crashing against the pristine shore. Behind him are giant windswept sand dunes. They reach toward the sky, the dune grass swaying with a breeze Dave can't feel.

Anxiety starts buzzing under Dave's skin. The wrongness of this moment weighs heavy on him. He turns in a circle, desperate to find something, anything that will lead him off this beach and back to his squad.

Back to Klaus.

"Klaus!" Dave yells, his voice breaking. "Klaus, darlin', where are you?"

"He's not here." a voice calls from behind him. "Not right now, anyway."

Dave whips around so fast his head spins. Standing there on the beach is a young man. He can't be older that sixteen. He's wearing a white shirt and linen shorts, barefoot. He's got golden blond hair and the iciest blue eyes Dave has ever seen.

"Where am I?" Dave demands. "Where's Klaus?"

"You really love him, don't you?" the boy asks, smirking.

"What business is it of yours?" Dave shot back defensively.

"David Aaron Katz, everything is my business." the child replies, no longer smiling.

Dave blanches, unsure how to respond to that. There is something off about this kid, the fact that he knows Dave's full name being the least of Dave's worries.

Memories start to filter through Dave's mind. The battle, the gunfire. The searing pain as the bullet ripped through his body.

Oh god.

"Am I dead?" Dave whispers, glancing over at the child. The boy just shrugs, taking a step closer.

"Do you feel dead?"

"I don't feel anything." Dave replies honestly. "Where's Klaus? Is he okay?"

The boy huffs, crossing his arms over his chest. "That man is more trouble than he's worth."

Dave's brow furrows, confused. "What...what do you mean? What do you know about Klaus?"

The kid huffs again, growing more irritated by the moment. "I know he's somewhere he doesn't belong, doing things he's not meant to do." the boy took a step forward, getting right in Dave's face. Dave towers over the boy, but that did nothing to ease his nerves at all. "I know he made quite a spectacle during that battle, using his powers to circumvent fate."

"Powers? You mean the ghosts?" Dave wondered. He tries to recall the battle, searching his memory for anything Klaus did that was out of the ordinary. He comes up empty.

The boy laughed. It was a high, melodic sound. "The ghosts are the least of my worries. I'm talking about bending time, altering reality. Changing the course of my well thought out and detailed plan."

Dave's whole body broke out in chills.

No...no way.

"Are you...God?"

The boy shrugs again, casting his eyes out toward the endless ocean. "Who I am matters little." he said, like it really doesn't make a difference.

Dave disagrees, but wisely keeps his opinions to himself.

"That man is making a spectacle of himself." the boy says. "His birth was a mistake, and every moment of his life since then has been a mistake."

"Don't talk about him like that." Dave replies harshly before he can think better of it.

The boy glares at him. "I can see you are quite protective of him."

Dave nods, crossing his arms over his chest. "I am. I love him, and it's my job to protect him."

"It's amusing that you feel that way. You are quite an interesting person, David Katz. I'm actually quite pleased with the way you turned out."

Dave gave the boy a small, reluctant nod. "Thanks." he replied, unsure of what else to say.

"Klaus doesn't belong in that war. I made myself perfectly clear the last time I spoke to him, and he has chosen to ignore my directive."

Dave just gaped at the kid, bewildered. What the hell is he talking about?

The boy continues, heedless to Dave's confusion. "This was not the way I had planned it. You weren't supposed to have a choice. But I'm not without mercy, and things did not go the way I had planned down there. Now you're stuck between realms. So I'll let you decide."

"Decide what?" Dave asks carefully. Whoever this boy is, he gives Dave a foreboding feeling he does not like. He is eager to get away from him. Eager to get off this beach and back to Klaus.

"It's simple, really. I don't do this, ever. But I am hopeful you will succeed where I have failed." the boy's voice was laced with bitter acrimony. He's pissed. Dave can feel it radiating off him in waves. "You can stay here, free of pain and at peace for all eternity. Most people are quite pleased with this outcome." the boy smirked. As he spoke, a feeling of utter contentment flowed over Dave, inundating him until his entire being was overflowing with gentle ecstasy. It was unlike any sensation Dave has ever felt, and he never wanted it to end.

"Or, you can go back to your war. Go back to your...friend. Go back to pain and uncertainty. Go back to loss and sadness and anxiety. All those base human emotions that cause my children so much turmoil. The choice is yours. But, if you do, you need to do something for me."

Dave just stared at the boy, mouth hanging open. He has to be dreaming. This can't be real. This is his subconscious mind fucking with him. He's been shot, he must be in shock.

This isn't really happening.

"What....what do you want from me?" Dave asks carefully. Maybe if he plays along, he'll wake up.

It's worth a shot.

The boy smiled at him. Wide, all teeth. It looks unnatural on his face, and Dave shivers.

"I need you to convince Klaus to go back to the future. The longer he stays in 1967, the more he risks. I can't have that. I have worked too hard to let a boy like Klaus ruin everything. Get him to go back."

"Go back?" Dave echos hollowly. What the hell is happening? There's no way this is real. There's no way he's standing on a heavenly beach, making deals with a teenaged God. A God who's insisting his Klaus is what? A time traveler?

It's just not possible.

"Anything is possible, David." the boy says, seemingly reading Dave's mind.

Dave huffs, running a hand through his hair. He glances down at himself, crying out in shock when he notices his previously pristine shirt is drenched in blood. It wasn't like that a second ago. The longer he stares at it, the more pain he feels. It ripples through his body, agony burning in his chest. He screams again, falling to his knees in the sand, and the boy chuckles.

"Looks like you've made your decision. Back you go, then. But remember, now you are in debt to me. Klaus goes back to his own time. Or I will be seeing you again, very soon." the boy places both hands on Dave's bleeding chest. His hands feel cold, and another shiver wracks Dave's body, along with a fresh shock of debilitating pain.

The boy shoves Dave, hard. He goes flying backwards, but instead of hitting the hot sand, he just falls and falls...

 

***

 

"C'mon, Katz." Benny murmurs, hovering over Dave's unconscious body. He inspected the wound in the low lantern light of the Ward tent. Dave was hit in the shoulder, shattering his clavicle, but miraculously not severing any of the major arteries than run through his chest there. Benny was relieved to find he was controlling the bleeding. For now.

He carefully rolled his friend over, pulling back the blood soaked gauze to inspect the exit wound. It was wide and gory, blood and mangled tissue drenching Benny's second rate bandage.

What he wouldn't give for some real tools. Some actual way to help his friend. Things being what they are, all he can do is try to keep him stable until the helo comes to evac him.

He's still breathing. That's the most Benny can hope for at the moment. He'd like to give Dave a shot of morphine, but the helo medics don't like the injured to be too drugged up. It makes it harder to stabilize them on the trip to the hospital.

Dave is going to need surgery soon if he's going to have any chance for survival.

Benny's lost too many friends in this war already. He'll be damned if Dave's name goes on that list.

He checks the bag of saline hanging from the IV tree. Satisfied it's doing it's job, he goes back to checking Dave's vitals, then his wound. The same steps, over and over, until he gets word the helo has landed and it's time for the transport.

At least the battle is over. For now. Benny hasn't heard a single gunshot in at least twenty minutes. He can hear the guys making their way back to the tent. Harris, another medic is out there treating the non-life threatening wounds. Benny hasn't heard of any causalities, so if Katz pulls through, it will be another good day in the unit.

He just has to live.

Benny is just about to start his little ritual all over again when the tent flap files open and Klaus stumbles inside with Dallas right behind him. Both men are covered in mud and Klaus has blood all over his hands and chest. He even has some on his face.

It's Dave's blood, it has to be.

Klaus is holding his black briefcase. Benny never understood why he had it. It's such an odd thing to bring to a war zone. Benny can't figure out how he got it on the plane over here. He sure as fuck didn't bring it in his ruck sack.

But all that is neither here nor there.

"You guys can't be in here. I told you to wait outside." Benny says, laying his fingers on Dave's carotid artery. His pulse is weak, but steady enough under the circumstances. "He's stable for now, and the helo's coming to take him in for surgery. You can see he's still breathing, so get out. Sarg will have us for breakfast if he catches you in here."

Dallas didn't say a word, but Klaus stepped right up to Benny, fire in his eyes.

"I'm not going anywhere." Klaus said, voice hard.

"Klaus, listen." Benny sighed, glancing over at his patient before looking over at Klaus. "I know you guys are close, but I can't let you stay in here. It's a cesspool of germs as it is, without two unnecessary people breathing all over my patient."

Klaus gripped his briefcase tightly in his fist. He'd hoped to get Dave alone and jump them both back to 2019, but with Benny playing guard dog, it's just not possible. He can't make a giant scene like that. Even he's not that brazen.

"Let him stay, Ben." Dallas says, causing both men to look over at him. He's got a bullet graze on his arm, which is bleeding badly, but he seems unphased by it. "Klaus is not just Dave's friend."

Klaus's blood runs cold at Dallas's words. What the fuck? Did Dallas really just out him AND Dave to Benny.

"What?" Benny balked. He glanced quickly between Dave and Klaus a few times, like that would clear up the confusion.

"You heard me." Dallas replied, crossing his arms over his chest. Blood seeped from his wound, dripping off his arm and onto the floor.

"Dallas, man. Go have Harris stitch you up." Benny said, eyeing his friend carefully.

"Nope." Dallas shook his head. "I'm either staying here with them, or you're gonna have to fight me. Think you can take me, Benny?"

Benny balked, and Klaus offered a wet laugh. He shoved past Benny and dropped down next to Dave. He gripped his clammy hand between his tattooed palms.

"Hey Davey." Klaus said, voice breaking. His eyes took in the mess that was his lover right now. From his pale face to his bloody body, it broke Klaus's heart. Dave was the strongest, bravest, most capable solider he's ever seen. So to see him looking so frail was off putting and terrifying.

Benny did his best to ignore the admittedly tender, emotional moment happening mere feet away. He sat Dallas down on an empty cot and started stitching up his wound. He was gonna need antibiotics. Benny isn't even sure they have any on site.

God, fuck this war. Honestly.

Klaus stared at Dave's lax face, unable to look away for a second. He had a plan when he came in here. Jump on Dave's lap and blast them both back to the future. But if Benny's right, the trip to 2019 might just kill Dave. Not to mention Klaus has no idea where they'll land. The could end up at the Academy, they could end up on the fucking subway or on the ferry.

Klaus isn't willing to risk Dave's life like that. He doesn't know what's going to happen when Dave gets on that helo, but Klaus loves him too much to chance it.

Klaus holds Dave's hand, leaning heavily against his uninjured shoulder. Dave smells different. Like blood and mud and gunfire. Klaus doesn't like it. Tears sting his eyes and he buries his face in Dave's hair. He kisses him, over and over. On his hair, his pale, bloody cheeks, his neck. He doesn't give a fuck who can see. He's beyond caring what any of his squad mates think, or the army for that matter. All that matters is Dave.

Dallas watches Klaus with Dave, a small smile on his lips. He can't say he understands it, really. But he doesn't have to understand to accept it. He hopes he's lucky enough to someday find someone that loves him like Dave and Klaus love each other.

"Did you know about this?" Benny asks Dallas, watching with disbelief as Hargreeves fawns all over Dave like a girl.

"So what if I did?" Dallas replies, grinning. "Expand your mind, man. Don't be such a square. Love is love." he laughed. "I heard that in San Fran on acid, and it always stuck with me. Makes sense, right?"

"None of this makes sense." Benny replies, confused. Dallas just rolls his eyes. He opens his mouth to speak, but just the Sarg storms into the tent.

"Helo's here." Sarg bellows. He stops short when he sees Klaus holding Dave's unconscious body. "What's the meaning of this Lorenzo?"

Benny stepped away form Dallas, making his way to Dave to prep him for transport. "Nothing Sarg, Hargreeves is just saying goodbye to Katz before he takes his trip."

"Hargreeves, get the fuck up." Sarg snaps. "You look like a faggot."

Klaus glared up at Sarg, ready to unleash holy hell on his commanding officer. Sadly, before he could rip him a new one, Dallas was there, pulling Klaus to his feet and dragging him away.

"Dave!" Klaus cried, struggling against Dallas's hold. "Dave, I'll be here when you get back. I'm not leaving without you."

Dallas cringed, clamping a hand down over Klaus's mouth before he could dig himself any deeper.

"What is that asshole's malfunction?" Sarg asks a gobsmacked Benny just as the helo medics make their way into the tent with their gurney.

"Dunno, Sarg." Benny replies quietly, keeping his focus on Dave's IV as to avoid Sarg's judgmental eyes.

"I can't have no fruit in my unit." Sarg says suddenly. Benny swallows, nodding. What else can he do? "Is this shit with Hargreeves and Katz a thing? Something I should know about?"

Benny knows what he means. Is this something he needs to send up the chain of command? Is it something worth a court martial?

"No sir. I don't think so." Benny replies carefully. "Hargreeves is just a bit soft. I think he gets attached to his squad mates, sir."

"Soft!" Sarg scoffs. "That little freak is gayer than a daisy in May. And I've been overlooking it because he's a decent solider, and we need all the warm bodies we can get. But I can't have him behaving that way. If he doesn't get his act together, I'll have to have him brought up on a section 8."

"He's not crazy, sir." Benny replied, knowing full well he was risking a reprimand.

"Being a faggot is a symptom of mental illness." Sarg replied easily. He watched, detached, as the helo medics carried Dave out toward the waiting helo. He could see Michum and Hargreeves engaged in a heated discussion. They stopped dead as Benny and the medic lift Dave into the back of the helo. The blades woosh overhead, sending leaves and debris in all directions. "I've got my eye on him, Lorenzo. One step outta line, and that pansy is on the first flight back to the states." Sarg spits the words like they're poison, leaving Benny speechless as he saunters toward the helo to speak with the pilot before take off.

Benny is left alone by the Ward tent. He is confused and a little angry by what Sarg said. He can see Klaus crying in Dallas's arms, inconsolable. Benny may not know or understand what Klaus feels for Dave, but he honestly cares about him, clearly. And Benny can see no harm in that.

The helo takes off and Dave is gone. Who knows when he'll be back, or if he'll come back at all. Lots of times guys go straight from the feild hospital back to the states. It all depends on the sevarity of his injury.

Benny hopes Dave comes back. He hopes he survives and makes it back to base. He doesn't even want to think of what Klaus will be like without Katz around. Katz is the only one who can talk him down when he's having a fit. The only one that can keep him from going on benders. The only one who can stand to deal with his freak outs and nightmares. Dallas is a close second, but he's not Dave.

Benny shakes his head, making his way back into the Ward Tent to clean up the mess. As he wipes up Dave's blood from the cot and tables, he sends a small prayer up to God.

Please, just let him live. We need him.

Benny just hopes the man upstairs is listening...

 

***

 

Klaus got no sleep. Not a single solitary second of relief. He spent the entire night of Dave's departure awake in his cot, listening to Dallas snore. His mind would just not let him live. Constantly assualting him with dark, troubling thoughts. Regret. So much regret - all the things he could have done differently, all the things he should have said.

What if Dave doesn't recover? What if he's dying right now? What if Klaus falls asleep, only to wake up to ghost Dave sitting on his cot?
He can't. He can't even fathom it.

They had no news before the squad turned in for the night. Not like Sarg would tell him shit anyway. Klaus knows he's in hot water for his emotional display of gay affection last night. He honestly can't be bothered to care. Sarg is a homophobic, close-minded prick, just like Reggie, and Klaus refuses to compromise himself to protect his superior's rigid sense of what's normal, or his delicate sensibilities.

His eyes flit over to the mouth of the tent. Winston and Collins are guarding the door, like they like to do these days. But he sees no Dave, thankfully.

'Yet' his traitorous mind supplies.

He huffs, throwing off his threadbare blanket and dressing quickly. The sun is up, and that means Ennis will be up making breakfast. Might as well get a start on the day, since sleep is so elusive.

He straps his rifle to his back and tip toes out of the tent and into the ridiculously humid morning air. It's only a few steps to the Mess, a few feet beyond the Ward Tent. He spies Ennis mixing what looks like gruel, a few dozen C-Rations spread out on the various tables. Klaus's stomach lurches at the thought of that disgusting slop. He spies some coffee percolating on a gas stove and makes his way over. Coffee is a limited commodity in the army, and the only way to get the real shit and not the nasty instant from the C-Rations is to get up at the ass crack of dawn and score some before the zombified grunts stumble out of their tents.

He nods to Ennis, giving him a small smile. "Enis the Penis. How are you this fine morning?" Klaus asks, grabbing a metal cup and pouring himself a cup of black coffee. He usually takes it light and sweet, but war has hardened him. All he wants is the biggest caffeine fix he can get.

"It's Ennis, Hargreeves." Ennis sighs. "And fuck you."

Klaus giggles, ready to shoot back a haughty retort when Sarg pops out of nowhere like a god damn stealth assassin.

"Sarg." Klaus and Ennis say in unision, shooting their supierior an obligatory salute. Sarg nods, pouring himself a cup of coffee and sitting down at a table at the far end of the Mess Tent.

Klaus is moving to make a hasty retreat when Sarg calls to him.

"Hargreeves, get over here." Sarg commands. Klaus sighs, keeping his face passive as he walks over and stands in front Sarg.
"Yes, sir?"

"Sit down, soldier." Sarg says, sipping his coffee. He's glaring at Klaus, which isn't new. But this morning feels different. Klaus sits, placing his coffee cup down on the wooden picnic table and crossing his arms in front of him. He waits.

"Katz is gonna make it." Sarg says simply.

Klaus's body erupts in bliss. There's no other way to explain it. It's like all the tension and stress just bleeds out of him, leaving nothing but peaceful happiness inside him.

Klaus spies Winston and Collins over Sarg's shoulder. They are both smiling, Winston giving Klaus a corny thumbs up.

Clearly this is good news for them too.

"That's great." Klaus says carefully.

"It is." Sarg agrees. "He was very lucky. The bullet missed all major arteries and organs by millimeters. He'll be laid up for a month or so, but the docs seem to think he can come back to the unit. No reason to send him home. He's a lucky fucker."

Klaus's mind goes back to the battle. How his hands had glowed, how his powers had bent reality, veering bullets off course. If Klaus hadn't done that, who knows where Dave's bullet would have landed...

Klaus doesn't want to think about it. That is a reality he wants no part in.

"Very lucky, sir."

Sarg nods solemnly, his expression hardening. "Hargreeves, I am going to tell you this once. So you better listen. When Katz gets back to base, you stay the hell away from him. I'm not going to have you court martialed, and I'm not gonna send you home on a section 8, but I won't have you infecting my soldiers with your affliction. You wanna be a faggot, be a faggot. But you leave Katz and the rest of the men out of it. You're not a bad soldier, son. And we need all the help we can get. So do us all a favor and keep you sissy shit to yourself."

Klaus just stared at Sarg, mouth flopping open and closed like a fish. He can't comprehend what he just heard.

"Sir, are you implying that homosexuality is contagious? Like chicken pox?"

"Don't smart mouth me, boy." Sarg growled. "Katz it a good man, a good soldier. He could have a real career in the army. But that won't ever happen if he's traipsing around base with your fairy ass. Guilt by association, Hargreeves. If Katz really is your friend, as you keep insisting, you'll do the right thing and leave him the hell alone."

"Sir..." Klaus started carefully, but Sarg cut him off rudely.

"Do you know what happens to a soldier that is discharged from the Army under less than honorable conditions, Private?"

Klaus just stared at him, feeling exposed and frankly attacked under Sarg's scrutiny.

"I have an idea, sir."

"No, I don't think you do." Sarg replied, looking Klaus up and down like he was some kind or rare, dangerous animal.

Klaus carefully sipped his coffee, making sure to maintain eye contact with Sarg. The last thing Klaus wanted to do was show Sarg any fear. That would only embolden him further.

"A less than honorable discharge is the end of your life, soldier. You will be a pariah back in the states. No one will hire you. No one will even want to associate with you. You will bring shame to your family, you will lose all your friends. And if we decide to stick you with a blue ticket, everyone back home will know you're a faggot."

Klaus frowned, glaring at Sarg. What the fuck is this bullshit?

Little does Sarg know, he's not closeted. Sarg can't scare him with these threats. Everyone already knows he's gay, and where he comes from, people aren't legally allowed to discriminate against him for it.

Klaus wants to tell Sarg all this, but he keeps his mouth shut. He doesn't want to get him any more riled up.

"Sarg." Klaus says carefully. "If you want to write me up for being gay, I can't stop you."

"What makes you think it would just be you?" Sarg asks, and Klaus's stomach drops. "I saw you in the Ward Tent with Katz. I don't know what's going on there, but it stops now. Katz has a bright future ahead of him, and I'm not going to let you destroy that for him. When he rotates back to the squad, you stay the fuck away from him. He's a good soldier, good head on his shoulders. But hanging out with you is a distraction he doesn't need."

Klaus's face fell. He could feel tears stinging his eyes, but he bit them back.

When Klaus didn't reply at all, Sarg continued. "I am moving him to another tent. I don't want you associating with him at all, unless it's directly related to a mission. When your tour is up, I am signing your discharge papers. The army does not want you re-upping. There's no place in my army for fairies. And I won't stand by while you infect my squad with your sickness. Do you understand me, Private?" Sarg's eyes were hard, his disgust evident in his tone.

"Yes sir." Klaus gritted out.

"Good." Sarg replied. "Now get outta my Mess. Dismissed." He waved his hand in Klaus's face dismissively.

Klaus stood fast, grabbing his coffee and bolting out of the tent. He didn't stop until he was on the boarder of the base. He threw himself down against the barrier, cradling his coffee cup in his trembling hands.

He sat there for a long time. The men were awake now, ambling around the base. Some headed for the Mess Tent, others to the Ward Tent, still more heading for the head. Klaus didn't move. He sat against the barrier, coffee now cold and forgotten in his hands.

Sarg's words played on loop in his head.

It's not the first time someone has shit on him for being queer. Klaus is used to that shit, it doesn't phase him anymore.

What Sarg said about Dave, however, that was a totally different story.

Would Sarg really do that? Destroy Dave's whole life just because he suspected he might be less than straight?

The idea sickened Klaus. He and Dave were good soldiers. They did there job efficiently and without complaint. Where does this prick get off threatening them like that? Over something they can't change or control?

Klaus sighs, tipping his head back against the fence. He curses himself for the millionth time for not telling Dave about the future.

It's not even an option anymore. As soon as Dave rotates back to the unit, Klaus is telling him. Let Dave decide for himself. But Klaus can't stay here. Not after this conversation with Sarg. Klaus has a feeling it's only a matter of time before Sarg brings him up on charges. Sodomy is a popular one, used often by the army to get rid of problematic queer soldiers. Put them in jail so they are no longer the army's problem.

And 'problematic queer' is pretty much Klaus's middle name.

His mind made up, Klaus forms a plan. Play the straight and narrow until Dave comes back from the hospital. Give Sarg zero reason to fuck with him. Lay low, fly under the radar.

Then, once Dave is within reach again, Klaus is going to tell Dave the whole truth, and hopefully they can make a break for it. Together. Leave this horrific war and worse military in the past where it belongs.

Klaus smiles to himself. It's not the best plan, but it's all he's got.

Less than honorable. That's what Sarg had called him. Like he was wrong just for being who he was born to be.

Klaus disagrees. He can't think of anything more honorable than being your most authentic self.

He closes his eyes, letting go of the ugliness of Sarg's words, and focusing on Dave. Beautiful, sweet, kind, sexy Dave.

Klaus can think of no one more honorable than Dave. And if the army disagrees, they can get fucked.

Chapter Text

"Looks like your miraculous recovery is complete, Private." Lt. Matthews says, checking Dave's chart for the final time. "I can't explain it, you certainly should be dead, but I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth."

Dave chuckles, stretching his sore muscles in his uncomfortable cot. The ICU at the field hospital is little more than rows of cots in a big, drafty room, but it's leaps and bounds beyond the Ward Tent back at base.

"I'm just eager to get back to my unit, sir." Dave replies, his thoughts automatically going to Klaus. Dave has been recovering at the field hospital for almost a month now, and almost every waking moment is occupied with thoughts of Klaus.

When he's doing his rehab therapy, he thinks of Klaus.

When he's getting IV antibiotics, he thinks of Klaus.

When he's eating his disgusting hospital slop, he thinks of Klaus.

When he's reading a worn, two-year old copy of reader's digest while he waits to fall asleep, he thinks of Klaus.

He worries about his lover, out there in the field without him. He knows Klaus can take care of himself. He's brave and scrappy and he's got an advantage none of their squad mates know about. Years of training as a superhero, and his little band of ghostly brothers. The thought still makes Dave grin. His scrawny little lover, a psychic, who's part of some kind of family band of crime fighters.

What he wouldn't give to see that.

"I'm sure you are, Private." Doc Matthews grins, drawing Dave out of his thoughts. "I was certain we were gonna be sending you home, either on permanent disability or in a pine box. But you defied all logic and made a full recovery. I am shocked to say you are fit for duty, Katz. God must have special plans for you."

The comment makes Dave bristle. He's not sure why, but for some reason it sends a chill down his spine. Like a memory he can't quite grasp. "Um, yes sir."

"Okay then. I'm gonna send it Nurse Mallory to do the final check, and transport will be here within the hour to bring you back to your squad. She'll bring you in a uniform to change into, be ready to fly A.S.A.P., soldier. The helo waits for no man." Doc grins at him and Dave chuckles, moving slowly to stand.

"Yes sir."

 

***

 

"Did you hear?" Dallas asks, bouncing up and down like a child in front of Klaus. Klaus is walking the perimeter with Billie locked and loaded. He scans the immediate area, his eyes moving along the thick trees searching for living bodies. He can see Collins and Winston lounging by the tree line. They smile, shooting him coordinated mock salutes. Klaus salutes back without thought.

"Hear what?" Klaus asks, not bothering to look at his friend. He keeps his eyes on the treeline, ready to shoot any VC that dares to cross the barrier. Since Dave was injured, Klaus has become a much more attentive soldier. The injury of his lover had broken something in him. Up until that point, Klaus had been operating under the naive assumption that no harm could befall him or Dave. Even as he watched their squad mates and friends take fire. Even as he watched them die. Even as he was visited by their ghosts, Klaus had been so sure that nothing bad could happen to him or Dave.

He was wrong. So wrong.

Now, Klaus takes nothing for granted. In the month Dave has been gone, Klaus has changed a lot. He takes his role as soldier much more seriously. Even though he still gets high now and again, when the ghosts are so loud he feels like his ears are bleeding. Even though he still hates this war and all the death and destruction he sees. Even though he is counting the seconds until he can leave this place and never come back. None of that shit matters in this exact moment.

Dave is not here now, and Klaus isn't going anywhere without him. So Klaus has thrown himself into his duties, using the missions and his assignments to keep himself occupied in the meantime.

Not to mention Sarg has noticed, and has eased off Klaus's case. Sarg hasn't brought it up again, but Klaus knows he's waiting for Dave to come back, to see if Klaus disobeys the order to stay away. Klaus is going to do his best to keep Sarg in the dark, but he has to at least talk to Dave if he is going to have any chance to convince him to go home with him.

But Klaus has a plan. He already knows Dave's been moved to McNamara's tent. McNamara is a new recruit, got in country after Dave was injured. Just another in a long line of faceless replacements in this never ending bloodbath.

McNamara is a good kid, but green as a motherfucker, and Klaus has him wrapped around his little finger. All it takes is a kind word and some of his jungle weed, and the kid will do anything he asks, including covering for him while he speaks with Dave.

It's all set up, so whenever Dave returns to the field, Klaus will be ready.

"Hargreeves, you fuck, are you even listening to me?" Dallas asks, punching Klaus none-too-gently in the shoulder. Klaus rounds on him, fists up. He snarls at his friend, snapping his teeth as he lays out a brutal punch to Dallas's shoulder.

"Ow!" Dallas whines. "You know, I'm starting to think you don't like good news."

"What are you even talking about?" Klaus asks, distracted by his thoughts of Dave as well as his watch duty. "You can see I'm busy here, right?" he scans the woods again, thankfully not catching sight of a living soul.

"I can see that, Klaus, but I figured the news of Dave's return would take precedent over your perimeter duty."

Klaus hears Dallas, but doesn't really register the words. For a few seconds he just keeps patrolling. Then, a warm tingle runs down his spine, his hair stands on end, and the constant knot that's been tied in his stomach for the past month unravels. Klaus feels like he's going to fall over. Relief floods his system, relief and elation. He turns toward his friend, eyes wide, mouth open as if to speak. But for the life of him he can't remember what words are.

"Yeah." Dallas nods, grinning. Like Klaus had actually been able to articulate a question. "You should go see him. He's over in his new tent with McNamara."

Klaus starts to move toward camp, but Sarg's words ring in his head and he hesitates.

He can't go over there half cocked, he can't run to Dave like he wants to. He has to do this right. Carefully.

"Where's Sarg?" Klaus asks instead. Dallas looks confused by the question, head cocked to the side. That makes sense, Klaus hasn't told a single soul what Sarg said to him. How Sarg threatened him and Dave both.

"Does it matter?"

"Very much." Klaus replied, leaving it at that.

"He took Benson and the Jeep and went down to another base. He's talking strategy with the Captain down there."

"Okay, good." Klaus nods, his feet moving before he's done talking. "Thanks Dallas." he calls over his shoulder, nearly running toward McNamara's tent.

He knew he shouldn't be doing this. He had a plan. What he was going to do when Dave got back to camp. He's been hearing scuttlebutt about Dave's return for weeks now. Benny had an in with the flight medics, so Klaus had known this moment was coming.

His plan was to wait until after lights out, go to Dave in his new tent, wake him up and spill his guts. He was going to bring the briefcase, and if Dave was amendable to his proposal, they'd go right then. Be gone hours before morning muster.

But....now that the moment has come, Klaus finds he predictably can't wait. He can't just sit around the base knowing Dave is somewhere within the perimeter.

He has to see him.

Now.

 

***

 

"So, I guess Sarg left some orders with PFC Rogers." McNamara said, running a dirty rag along the barrel of his rifle. "I don't think we have to go out until after dinner, and we should be back from the recon mission before midnight. As long as we don't run into any trouble, it should be routine."

"There's no such thing as routine out here, kid." Dave mutters bitterly, his fingers tracing the odd outline of his newly scarred skin. It was an ugly scar, concave flesh covering the left side of his chest, the dip of his collarbone jagged under his skin. The skin was mottled, odd shades of pink and brown and pale white. There were deep, heavy scars in a where the stitches were around the wound, making him feel like some kind of Frankenstein.

But he was alive, when all the doctors and all the brass said he's should have been worm food. So he curses himself for his vanity and drops his hand.

"I know that." McNamara said, all snotty. "I'm just saying, the mission should be easy."

"Kid, you've been here all of five minutes. I just got back from a month in the hospital after I almost bled out in the mud. I've seen dead women, dead babies. I've killed men, with my weapon and my bare hands. You say one more word to me about how easy this shit is, and we're going to have a problem. We clear?" Dave isn't usually like this. He is a patient guy, especially with the fresh meat, but he's been feeling edgy and raw since he was injured, and he's just not in the mood to go easy on some FNG who thinks he knows everything.

Dave hasn't been sleeping. Nightmares and panic attacks have become routine for him. He dreams of Klaus bleeding out in his arms as he screams for a medic. He dreams of his unit being blown to bits by falling bombs. His dreams are so horrifically vivid, he wakes in a cold sweat every time, the smell of smoke in his nose, the taste blood on his tongue.

He's not doing so hot. But he can't let that show. He has to keep his cool, lest he be deemed unfit to serve and sent back to the states.

Sent away from Klaus.

"Sorry man." McNamara says, contrite. "I didn't mean nothing by it."

Dave sighed, feeling like the worst kind of asshole. "I know, buddy." He stands, pulling one of his green t shirts over his head. He stands, laying a gentle hand on McNamara's bare shoulder. "Didn't mean to bite your head off. It's just been a rough tour."

McNamara nodded, his eyes fixed on his gun. He runs the cloth along the barrel, seemingly focused on his work. "No worries, man."

Dave nodded, squeezing McNamara's skinny shoulder once before letting his hand drop. "Good." he said quietly.

"Oh, by the way, Dallas was looking for you." McNamara added on as an afterthought. "He seems nice."

"Don't let his jovial temperament fool you." Dave replied, smiling for the first time since he stepped out of the jeep and back into the shit. "He's a fucking nut job."

McNamara chuckled, smiling himself. "Be that as it may, he seemed to be pretty excited to hear you were back. Ran outta here like he was on fire, going on about telling the guys. You're popular, Katz."

Dave blushed, shaking his head. He has missed his squad mates. He wonders, not for the first time in the hour since he's been back, why no one was around to greet him when he returned. Especially Klaus.

Dave has done nothing but think about Klaus since he woke up in the hospital. He had hoped the other man would be waiting for him when he got back, but Klaus has been nowhere to be seen. It's strange. Klaus has been a force of nature since he fell from the sky and landed in Dave's life. Loud and unafraid and so much himself. He shone so brightly, sometimes it hurt Dave to look at him.

In the best way imaginable.

So to return to base and not immediately see Klaus's enigmatic smile, well that was a bit of a shock. And quite a let down, if Dave is being honest with himself.

He has to go find him.

"Yeah, well, I'm heading out. See what's going on around the base." Dave said, standing quickly.

"Sure man, that's cool." McNamara said dismissively. "Dallas said he'd be around. Sure you won't have to look to hard to find him."

Dave nodded, not bothering to correct his new tent mate. Dave honestly didn't care where Dallas was at the moment.

He needed to find Klaus.

 

***

 

Klaus has heard from no less than four of his squad mates that Dave is back on base. He left Dallas on perimeter duty, making his way through the base, his eyes scanning the faces for his lost lover.

Danny and Eli stop him by the Mess tent, jabbering on about Dave's return. Klaus nods, clapping Eli on the back as he pushes through them and toward the tents at the far end of the base.

"He's been looking for you!" Danny calls after Klaus, and Klaus can hear the smile in his voice. He had thought they'd kept a pretty tight lid on their relationship, but the way his squad mates are acting, Klaus has to wonder how successful they were.

He doesn't have time to worry about that right now, too consumed with his desire to see Dave. To touch Dave. To prove to himself once and for all that Dave is real, still breathing, still alive.

In the back of his mind, he knows he's screwing this up. He has a plan. But now that Dave's actually on base again, his plan seems stupid and unrealistic. As if he'd be able to stay away from Dave.

He stumbles into Dave's new tent, a pang of sadness hitting him unexpectedly as he sees his lover's things spread out around this new space. Dave is supposed to be in his tent, not with some new guy. In that moment, Klaus hates Sarg for trying to separate them. For trying to take away the one good thing this war has given Klaus.

He glances around the space, crestfallen when Dave is nowhere to be found. His new bunkie is there, but Klaus pays him no mind.

His eyes flit around the tent. He catches sight of Dave's jacket. The notebook he uses to write home sometimes. His deck of cards, his hat. Klaus sees all these things and inexplicably starts to tear up.

All Dave's things, but no Dave.

Klaus's mind is blank, his heart starts pounding. He can't hear anything beyond the blood rushing in his ears. He doesn't even register the fact that McNamara is sitting on his bunk, cleaning his rifle.

Klaus sets Billie down on Dave's cot, taking a step forward.

"Uh, hello?" McNamara says, confused by Klaus's unannounced entry into his tent. "Can I help you, Hargreeves?"

Klaus doesn't know McNamara too well, but he doesn't particularly like him. It's just the kids' so green. Acts like he's got the military and the war and all his squad mates figured out. It's exhausting.

"Where's Dave?" Klaus demands, stepping further into the tent.

"What's it to you?" McNamara shot back, glancing up at Klaus, confused.

Klaus took a single step forward, quirking an eyebrow. "It's really none of your business, is it, sweetie?"

"Don't call me that." McNamara replied tiredly.

Klaus laughs . He doesn't wanna start shit with this kid, but he doesn't have time for McNamara's regular back and forth bullshit.

"Go away." Klaus replies, shaking his head. "I don't care where, just go." He held his hand out, showing McNamara the two joints he brought to bribe him with.

"You can't tell me what to do." McNamara shoots back, jumping up to get in Klaus's face. He pushed him playfully, making grabby hands for the weed. "You can't tell me what to do, weirdo."

Klaus smiles, his eyes dancing dangerously. His hand shoots out fast, gripping McNamara by the shirt. He made a fist like he was gonna punch him, but at the last second, dropped the joints into the kid's hand with a playful smirk.

Dave stumbled into the tent just in time to see Klaus shove McNamara with a wide grin on his face. He hadn't gotten fifty feet when a familiar voice drew him back toward his own tent. Just the sound of Klaus's voice was enough to shake him to his very core. He had no idea what was going on with Klaus and McNamara, but he found he didn't care.

"Klaus." Dave's voice comes out low. A hoarse whisper that sounds so loud in the tent. Klaus drops McNamara's shirt, thoughtlessly pushing him out of the way in a scrambled effort to get to Dave.

"Davey." Klaus nearly sobs, grabbing Dave by the shoulders. Dave's hands instinctively go to Klaus's waist, pulling him flush against his body.

"What the fuck?" McNamara says, confused.

"Go." Dave says, not even bothering to look at him. "Get out."

McNamara sighs, but complies, tucking the joints behind his ears and making his way toward the mouth of the tent, shaking his head with a rueful smile. "Dallas was right about you guys. Fucking weirdos." he mutters as he makes his way out of the tent.

Klaus giggles a little manically, digging his fingers into the muscles of Dave's back. His body is warm and solid under Klaus's hands and he wants to cry with relief. Klaus buries his face in Dave's neck and inhales deeply, pulling his lover's scent deep into his lungs with a groan.

"God, Dave." Klaus chokes out, still sutured to his body. "T'was so worried, missed you so much."

"Where've you been, Klaus?" Dave replies quietly, pulling back so he can look into Klaus's eyes. "I've been back for hours and couldn't find you anywhere. I was starting to think you'd changed your mind. Thought you..." he can't even finish the sentence. The thought of Klaus not wanting him anymore hurt too much to articulate.

"What? No." Klaus balks, shaking his head. "Never, Davey. I will always want you. Always love you."

"Then why?" Dave presses, his fingers digging into the bony curve of Klaus's hips. "Why didn't you come see me right away?"

Klaus sighs, unsure of how to broach this topic. "Let's sit." he says instead. He pulls out of Dave's grasp gently, taking his hand instead and leading him over to what he assumes is Dave's new cot.

"Can't believe Sarg made you move." Klaus sighs once they are seated together. Their fingers are interlaced in Klaus's lap, Klaus's head resting against Dave's solid body.

"Yeah, I have no idea what that bullshit is about." Dave murmurs, bringing his free hand up to card through Klaus's wild curls. Klaus's head rests on Dave's shoulder, and all Dave can smell is Klaus. His scent fills Dave's nostrils, soothing him immensely. Dave wonders momentarily what Klaus will smell like once they get home. Dave thinks it will be something sharp and clean, and he can't wait to find out. "I got back from the field hospital and they just told me I'd been moved."

"Yeah, well, Sarg is a dick." Klaus mutters bitterly. "So that probably has something to do with it."

"Huh?" Dave asks, pulling back enough so he can look into Klaus's eyes. "Darlin', did something happen while I was away?"

Klaus huffed. How is it that Dave can see right through him? No one has ever been able to see past Klaus's defense of lies and inappropriate jokes. Or no one bothered to try. But Dave didn't even have to try, it was like he could just tell when Klaus was bullshitting.

"Do you remember when I asked you if you'd go home with me?" Klaus says, instead of addressing Dave's question. "Would you still want that?"

Dave's face scrunched up in confusion, his brow furrowed. "Yeah, Klaus, I remember." Like he could ever forget. The thought of making a life with Klaus after this nightmare was over was the only thing keeping him going. It was his lone thought during his long recover in the hospital.

Gotta get better. Gotta get back to Klaus. Get out of his hell hole, get away from this bloodbath.

"If we could go right now, this very second, would you?" Klaus asks, his heart pounding in his chest. He pulls back the slightest bit so he can look into Dave's eyes. He can't believe this is happening. It's finally time to tell Dave the truth.

Dave just stared at Klaus for a moment, completely confused. After a moment's consideration, he nodded. "You know I would, darlin'. I told you, you and me, for as long as you'll have me."

Klaus smiles, but it's strained. Now that the moment has come, he finds that he's ridiculously nervous. He decides to address the less insane part of his predicament first.

"You know why Sarg moved you, don't you?" Klaus asks, keeping his eyes locked on Dave's. He watches as Dave's expression crumbles, and Klaus knows his lover is aware of their shared problem.

"I have an idea." Dave replies quietly. "Why, what happened, Klaus?"

Klaus sighs, inching closer to Dave. His lover wraps both arms around Klaus's body, anchoring them together. "Sarg cornered me not that long ago. Told me he was splitting us up once you got back. Said I'm not good for you. That I'm a distraction. Said he knows I'm trying to infect you with my queerness, and he wasn't gonna stand by and watch a good soldier like you get corrupted by the likes of me."

Dave was instantly irate. His blood boiled in his veins, erupting in an angry red blush along his neck and chest. He was so enraged, he could feel his pulse throbbing in the tender scar tissue on his chest.

Klaus huffed out an exasperated breath, shaking his head at the memory. "He told me if I didn't leave you alone, he'd report us both for sodomy, have us court martialed."

"That son of a bitch." Dave hissed, his hackles up. "What the hell. Is that why you didn't come see me as soon as I was back at camp?"

"Well, yeah." Klaus nodded, glancing away. "I had to wait until Sarg was off the base before I came to you. Dave, I don't care what happens to me, but I can't stand the idea of you getting into trouble because of me."

"Darlin', what are you even talking about?" Dave asked incredulously. "Do you really think any of this shit would ever be more important to me than you? Like the army was my lifelong dream or something? I was drafted, Klaus. I don't want to be here. I don't belong here. And neither do you. Fuck Sarg, seriously."

"Davey." Klaus murmured, pulling Dave close and resting their foreheads together. "You mean that?"

"Klaus, sometimes it feels like talking to a wall with you, I swear. How many times have we discussed this? You're it for me, love. And after almost dying, well, that feeling has only intensified. I want you, Klaus. More than anything. And certainly more than a future with the army. How can you not know that by now?"

Klaus's face broke, his heart pounding in his chest. "I don't deserve you." he whispered, eyes burning. "Dave, you are so good. And I'm....just....not."

"Don't you dare say that, Klaus." Dave spat, his blood burning. He hates it when Klaus starts talking bad about himself.

Klaus nodded, tears finally slipping from his eyes. His breath caught in his throat and he hitched a sob. "I thought I lost you, Dave." he whimpered, collapsing into Dave's strong arms. "You got hit, and I couldn't stop it, and there was so much blood. You just stared at me, so shocked, blood everywhere. Your chest was this huge gaping wound. I was so fucking scared. I tried so hard to protect you. To shield you. But I wasn't strong enough. I'm so sorry."

Dave wrapped his arms around Klaus's bony shoulders, pulling him into a tight embrace. He has no idea what Klaus is talking about. How could he protect Dave from bullets? How was it his responsibility to shield Dave from battle? How could he possibly blame himself for Dave taking a VC bullet?

Klaus is openly weeping now, and Dave can feel his own eyes stinging. His throat is tight, but he just clings to Klaus harder, letting his lover's heartbeat against his chest soothe him.

"I'm not going anywhere, darlin'." Dave soothed. "We're in this together, til the end of the line. Promise. Where you go, I go. I won't leave you." Dave knows it's not really a promise he can keep, not with this war going on. But he wants it to be true. He wants to be able to keep that promise.

"Come home with me, Dave." Klaus says it so quietly, he's not even sure Dave heard him. He's been preparing for this conversation since Dave was injured, but now that the actual moment has come, he's petrified. This could very well be the straw that broke the camel's back. The thing that finally makes Dave see how truly fucked up Klaus is, makes him finally turn away from Klaus forever.

"I will, Klaus. As soon as our tour is up, we can go wherever you want." Dave replied easily. The thought of starting a new life with Klaus was intriguing. Intoxicating, even. He'd do it too, drop his whole life and follow Klaus anywhere he wanted. There wasn't anything holding him in Philadelphia. He could teach anywhere, after all.

"No, Dave." Klaus shook his head, the barest hint of a smile on his lips. "I mean right now."

Dave pulled back so they were eye to eye. He searched Klaus's expression for any hint of teasing or amusement, and was incredibly shocked to find his lover was dead serious.

"Klaus, we can't go anywhere right now." Dave shook his head, scared for a moment that Klaus really had finally gone insane. If Dave had survived his gunshot wound only to come back and find Klaus had cracked under the pressure and was fixing to be shipped home on a Section 8...well, Dave just won't be able to deal with that at all. "Even if we could go AWOL, which I don't think we could, how do you figure we'd get outta country? How would we get home? With what money? No passports?" he's not even sure why he's entertaining this line of thinking. He doesn't want to encourage Klaus's delusions.

He wonders for a moment if he should go find Benny. Get a sedative for Klaus. He may have a bit of shell shock. Dave wouldn't be surprised.

Instead of addressing Dave's concerns, he changes the subject, throwing Dave for a loop.

"Remember when I first told you I could see ghosts?" Klaus asks suddenly, his eyes flicking over Dave's shoulder to where Winston and Collins are loitering by the mouth of the tent.

Dave nods, brows furrowed. "Yeah, how could I forget?"

"Well, remember when I told you there was a lot more to my story than just spirits and superheros?"

Dave nodded again, his stomach dropping. Something was not right. Klaus looked nervous, scared. Like Dave was a wild animal he didn't want to spook.

"Hey, listen." Dave murmured quietly, reaching up to run his fingers through Klaus's dirty curls. "No matter what it is, you're not gonna scare me off." he gave Klaus a little smirk. "You've told me a lot of outlandish shit, and yeah, it's all really hard to believe. But you have proven to me time and again that you are telling the truth, and I have never once seen a reason to doubt you. I trust you, Klaus. And no matter what it is you have to tell me, you have to trust me, to believe you." Dave's eyes were boring into Klaus's, so earnest, so honest. And the truth was spilling past Klaus's lips before he even knew what he was saying.

"I'm from the future." Klaus said suddenly. Dave's eyes went wide, mouth open as if to speak, but no words came out. Klaus gave him a small smile, nodding. Okay, here goes nothing. "2019, to be exact. I accidentally rode a time traveling briefcase here in a misguided attempt to free myself from the captivity of two assassins from the future in matching cheap suits." Klaus chuckled at the thought of Hazel and Cha Cha. At the time, it had be terrifying, but looking back now, their ineptitude is amusing. "I just wanted to be free of them, but I took their case cuz fuck them, y'know? I thought I'd pawn it, get high, go home, forget about it. But the moment I opened the case, it zapped me here. To you, and well, once I laid eyes on you, getting home just didn't seem to matter as much." Klaus let his eyes wander over Dave's face, taking in his beauty, even with that gobsmacked expression on his face. "I know, you probably think I'm insane, and I am, but this time I'm for real, I swear. And I wanna go back, to my time. But I can't go anywhere without you, Davie. Cuz I love you, more than anything. And even though I can't stay here in the hellscape war zone, I can't leave you either. So please, Dave. If you meant what you said, please for the love of god, come back with me. I can't see you get hurt again, or fucking die. I can't. I just can't." Klaus spewed all those words out in one huge breath, tumbling over the sentences in a rush of jumbled noises, desperate to get it all out in one go. He took a deep breath once he was done, pinching his eyes shut afterwards, unable to look into Dave's eyes. Too afraid of what he'd see.

Disbelief. Anger. Humor.

All would be equally shattering.

"Hey, hey, Klaus." Dave whispered, carding his fingers soothingly through Klaus's hair again. "Look at me, love."

Klaus pinched his eyes shut tighter, letting out a breath slowly before steeling himself and glancing over at Dave.

Dave was smiling at him, but it wasn't a condescending thing. It was open and warm and so sweet.

"Are you telling me that your lucky briefcase is a time machine, darlin'?" Dave doesn't know what to think, really. It sounds utterly insane. Completely impossible, really.

But...Dave has known Klaus for almost a year now. He's seen him do incredible things. He believes him when he talks about the ghosts he sees. He's heard stories about his family, what they can do. The mind control girl, the half man-half ape, the one with the knives that defy the laws of physics. And Ben, his most beloved, deceased brother with the worms in his stomach.

The rest of the guys in the unit thinks it's all tall tales, but Dave knows Klaus is being honest. He can see it in his eyes when he talks about it. He can always tell when Klaus is lying these days.

Honestly, Dave never anticipated a turn of events like this, but looking back, he probably should have seen it coming.

In the back of his mind, he feels a thought scratching to get to the surface. Like the name of a song you can't quite remember. Or a street address on the tip of your tongue. A dream, festering in the back of his mind, unable to come to fruition. He knows he should say something right now, but for the life of him he can't remember what it is....

(Klaus belongs in his own time. He can't stay here. He has to go back.)

The words spin through Dave's mind, but it's not his voice speaking. He shrugs it off, glancing up at Klaus.

"I remember the night you showed up." Dave says instead, a small smile splitting his lips. "I've spent months telling myself I was too stoned that night. That there's no way you just appeared in a flash of blue light. That you must've been there the whole time. But I knew. I knew I wasn't fucking crazy. I mean, come on. You showed up in a war zone with no gear, no dog tags, no clothes. Just a bloody towel wrapped around your naked body, and that god damn briefcase. Now that you're telling me, it all makes so much more sense." Dave chuckled, shaking his head. Leave it to Klaus to turn his whole perception of the world on it's axis, yet again.

"You believe me?" Klaus balked, his heart hammering in his chest. There's no way in can be this easy.

"Darlin', I've come to expect the unexpected with you." Dave chuckled lowly.

The future.

He has to get Klaus back to the future. He doesn't know how he knows that, or why it doesn't surprise him more. All he knows is that this is the right thing to do, for Klaus and him. It's imperative that Klaus goes back to his own time.

And there's no way in hell Dave's letting him go alone.

Klaus just stared at him for a moment, his heart pounding and his head spinning. His face split into a wide grin and he lurched forward before he could think better of it. He snaked his arms around Dave's neck and pulled him into a bruising kiss. If Dave was shocked, he hid it well. His hands came up, resting on Klaus's slim hips, his fingers digging into his prominent bones as he opened his mouth for Klaus's tongue.

They kissed like it was the last kiss they'd ever share. Hands groping, mouths open, tongues tangling erratically. Dave groaned low in his throat, his finger flexing on Klaus hips.

Klaus was utterly lost in Dave. He wanted to crawl into his lap and cover him with his whole body. But they were still in the middle of camp. Still surrounded by all their friends. Still in danger of being discovered.

So Klaus did the only thing he could do at the time. He pulled back, resting his forehead against Dave's. His eyes slipped closed as they both worked to control their breathing.

"So, tell me more about this trip we're taking, darlin'." Dave said after a silent moment between them. Klaus peeled his eyes open, leaning back the slightest bit so he could look into Dave's bright blue eyes. God, he'd been so scared he'd never see that sparkle again.

"Well, to be honest, I'm not all that sure how it works." Klaus murmured quietly, drawing a chuckle out of his lover.

"Why am I not surprised?" Dave replied, smiling.

"Well, it kinda just happened." Klaus smiled, back, shrugging. "Like I said, I was running from these assassins..."

"You gonna tell me what that's about?" Dave interrupted. "Or are you always being hunted by elite death squads? Is this something I have to worry about in the future?"

Klaus grimaced. He hadn't really considered what they'd be going back to once they returned to the future. He didn't really want to think about Five's problems or why the Commission was hunting him, or what it could mean for the family. But Dave deserved to know.

"No, this is a special circumstance." Klaus replied carefully. "See, well, I don't really know how to put this. My brother, Five, you remember me telling you about him?" when Dave nodded, Klaus continued. "They were looking for him. He went back on some kind of contract he had with them, and they are looking to settle the score. But the joke was on them, cuz I had no idea where Five was, and I wouldn't tell those assholes anyway."

Dave smiled, cupping Klaus's face gently in his hand. Klaus was so strong, so loyal. Dave felt so lucky to know him. To have found him in this chaotic mess of a war.

If Dave had any doubts about following Klaus to the future, they were gone now. He'd follow this man anywhere, and be grateful for the opportunity to bask in his glow.

"It was shitty, Dave. I have no idea how long they held me. Tortured me, really." Klaus said, his voice breaking. Dave was a little shocked at the abrupt turn the conversation had taken. Dave's mind went back to how Klaus had looked when he appeared in the tent. Covered in blood and bruises, hair wet and matted to his face. Open wounds all over his chest and arms. Cuts, dark bruises, burns. Even some human bites, if Dave recalls correctly. He had finger shaped bruises all over his throat, and looking back now Dave chides himself for not noticing how messed up Klaus had really been that first night. Of course, he didn't know Klaus like he does now, and the air raid that followed directly after his arrival took precedent over any questions he may have had.

But now, Dave wants to find these people that would hurt his beloved, and make them pay. It's not a feeling Dave is used to. Being hungry for that type of bloody vengence. But he's not shocked to feel it, not with how much he loves Klaus. How badly needs to protect him.

"If we go back, are you going to be safe from them?" Dave asks, because that is the most important question.

"I think so, yeah." Klaus nods, smiling. "We'll have to go to my brothers and sisters, figure out a game plan. But as soon as we get back, I think we're going to have to figure out what they want and how to stop them. Because I have a feeling they won't stop until they get what they came for. And even though I don't particularly like Five, he's my brother and I love him. And I'll be damned if some knockoff Matrix wannabe killers are gonna lay a finger on him."

"Matrix?" Dave asks, confused.

"Oh, never mind. I'll show you the DVD when we get home."

"DVD?"

"Jesus, we're gonna have a hell of a time acclimating you to the future, Davie." Klaus chuckled, twisting his fingers into his hair and dragging their mouths together again.

 

***

 

Klaus had wanted to fuck Dave right then. He had so much pent up energy. So much desperation. He wanted to prove that Dave was real. Warm and alive and still all his. But it was impractical considering it was the middle of the day and they still had duties.

That's how they found themselves back on the perimeter, guns in hand as they patrolled along the newly erected fence.

The sun had gone down a while ago, the stars just starting to come out. With the arrival of nightfall came the bugs. Mosquitoes the size of Klaus's hand, buzzing around his head, looking for an easy meal. Klaus swatted around his face, grunting at the sting on the back of his neck. He slapped his back, grimacing at the smear of blood on his hand as he dropped it, wiping it on his dirty pants.

"Dude!" a voice called from behind them. They turned in unison, both lowering their guns. Dallas stood there, arms crossed over his chest, smiling. "It's nice to see the two of you together again. Unit's just not the same without it."

Klaus blushed like a little girl, glancing away. Dave just chuckled, shaking his head. "Dallas man, what are you doing here?" just then he noticed Dallas wasn't alone. He had one of the FNGs on his tail. Roberts? Robertson? Dave had no idea.

"Roberts is gonna take your place on the line. C'mon. We got a fire going. Party." Dallas smirked, shooting them some fingers guns as he walked backwards toward camp.

"What about Sarg?" Klaus couldn't help but ask. He was not looking forward to dealing with the wrath of Sarg when their commanding officer realized Klaus had disobeyed his directive to stay away from Dave.

"He ain't back." Dallas shrugs, waving them along. Dave and Klaus follow, shooting each other smiles as Dallas talks and talks. "Guess he got caught up with the brass. Benny said he'll be gone another day at least. Lucky for us, huh? That guy is a dick."

Klaus chuckles, shaking his head at Dallas's rambling as he and Dave sit side by side in front of the fire.

Klaus and Dave had not discussed their escape plan yet, too engrossed in their duties to consider the right time to disappear forever. Klaus has a feeling Dave wants to at least spend this last night with their brothers in arms before they fade away to memory.

Of course, Klaus wants to give Dave whatever he wants. But he's nervous. Understandably so, considering Dave's near death experience. A smart man would insist they get lost as soon as possible. But watching Dave sit by the fire with their friends, Klaus knows he can't take this away from him. This one chance to say goodbye properly. This one chance to close this chapter of his life before starting a new one.

Klaus is seated next to Dave, on a log in front of the fire as Dallas goes on and on about the battle Dave was injured in.

"You know, I never will be able to explain what happened." Dallas says, voice laced with awe.

"C'mon, Dallas." Klaus groaned, covering his face with his hand. The fire was hot, and he was sweating, but the flames were not the cause of the hot blush breaking out on his face and neck. "No one wants to hear that stupid story."

"It ain't stupid." Dallas spat, Benny nodding sagely beside him.

Dave glances between his three friends, eyebrows raised. He has no idea what they are talking about, but since it's concerning Klaus, Dave's sure it's gonna be a doozy.

"C'mon Klaus." Dallas groans, rolling his eyes in the low firelight. "You know as well as I do that that shit was some divine intervention. You are blessed by the Angels." Dallas actually crosses himself, and Dave is taken aback. He knew Dallas was catholic, but he's never once seen him bring up God. Or angels for that matter.

"Klaus." Dave says quietly, glancing between his friends before turning all his attention to Klaus. His lover looks nervous, even a little scared. Like he's been caught out.

In that moment, Dave is convinced that this has something to do with Klaus's powers. His ability to commune with the dead.

"I have no idea what he's talking about." Klaus insists, crossing his arms over his chest defiantly. "Dallas is a lunatic, we all know that."

Dallas gasps, playfully affronted. "Screw you, Hargreeves. I know what I saw." he turned to Dave, his expression losing all it's humor. "We were taking heavy fire. Gooks everywhere. It was raining buckets. We were up to our eyeballs in mud, so much so that my gun jammed. I was pinned down with the rest of the guys, weaponless and scared to death. Bullets flying every fucking where. Two guys got hit, bad. You pulled Dimarco out of the trench, remember Benny?" Dallas turned to Benny, who nodded. Dallas continued his story, becoming more animated and more passionate as the story went on.

"So we were pinned down hard. No way out, nowhere to go. I thought we were dead, every last one of us. I looked over at you guys, and Klaus was freaking out. I thought it was a Section, or having a psychotic break or something. Stood up on his knees right in the middle of the foxhole." Dallas is looking at Klaus with so much confusion, like he still can't believe Klaus behaved that way. "You were screaming at Dave, I have no idea what you were saying. I didn't know you were hit, Dave. But you, Klaus, I'll never forget the look on your face. So fucking sad, then it turned into blind rage. Bloodthirsty like I've never seen you. But your hands, man. Your hands started glowing. No! I swear to Christ. Glowing bright blue like one of those comic books I got on a shelf at my Gram's house back in Texas. At first I think I'm losing it. But then, Klaus screams. Bloody fucking murder, just throws his head back and bellows at the sky. And his glowing hands just, like, explode. Like a mortar shell flying right out of his fingers. Bright blue fucking lightning bolts. A sonic wave? Energy blast? I don't fucking now. All I do know is right after, the jungle fell silent. The gooks weren't shooting at us anymore. Their side of the line was dead silent." Dallas takes a breath, shaking his head, like he still can't believe it. He claps a hand down on Benny's shoulder, taking a deep breath. "Right after that, we were so consumed with getting Dave back to base and on the helo, no one even bothered to check the other side of the line. We thought the gooks had retreated." Dallas laughed again, sounding just a bit more hysterical. He glanced over at Dave with a small smile on his lips. "We got you out and on the helo. The rest of the night is a blur. But I do know we went back to the sight of the battle the next morning, and that whole squad of gooks was fucking gone." he exclaimed, clapping his hands furiously like a child. "And I don't mean retreated. I mean like, half of them were dead, laying limp on the ground with dry blood stained over their noses, mouths and ears. And where the rest of them had been, there were these craters in the earth, full of burned bones and fucking teeth! Like they'd been vaporized. I was fucking shook." Dallas shook his head, smiling.

Klaus rolled his eyes, trying to play it off like Dallas was embellishing, but Dave knew he wasn't. He might not remember a lot about the night he got shot, but he does remember a blue light. And clearly, Klaus is more powerful than even he may know.

"Of course, Sarg was having none of it." Dallas continued, shaking his head with something akin to disgust. "The official story is that air support dropped a bunch of bombs, cleared out the enemy. But I was there. There was no fucking air support. They were still fifteen minutes out. It was all our boy Hargreeves here, even if the brass wants to bury it." Dallas is looking at Klaus with so much awed disbelief, Klaus feels a bit uncomfortable. He's not used to being respected or revered. He's gotten a bit more accustomed to it since being in the army, but this is a bit more than that.

They can now see he's different. And it amazes them. As well as scares them a little bit, which is clear in the array of confused, slightly nervous glances he's getting from his squad mates.

Glancing around the fire, it's clear to Klaus that he has to leave this place as soon as possible. Because no matter how much he loves his war buddies, no matter how strong his desire to protect them, to see them through until the end of the war, he's tipped his hand now. It's only a matter of time before he gives too much away, if he hasn't already. And he doesn't even want to think about what the US Military Industrial Complex will do with him if they learn of his powers.

His powers. Which seem to be much more vast and expansive than he ever thought. Looks like the drugs did more than suppress the ghosts. It dulled his power immensely.

He's curious as to what Five will say when he sees him again.

He has to go home. Where he can continue to learn to grow and harness his powers.

With that in mind, Klaus spends the rest of the evening soaking up as much of his squad mates as he can. He listens to Dallas go on forever about Texas, and how it's the superior state in the Union. Laughing along as he expounds on the wonders of Texas, from the hunting to the barbecue, the women and the music. The history and culture. Klaus nods along, smiling his friend's enthusiasm.

Klaus is going to miss him.

After that, he sidles up to Benny and they have a long chat about their time together. How it started out with a drug deal and turned into a true friendship. Benny tells him how he's thinking about becoming a nurse when he gets back stateside. Because he likes saving lives and helping people. And he wants to help dispel the rumor that nursing is only for 'chicks and queers.' Klaus laughs at that and Benny rolls his eyes.

"You know what I mean, Hargreeves." Benny groans, shoulder checking Klaus until he almost falls into the fire. Benny pulls him back at the last minute and they laugh until they both have tears in their eyes.

The evening winds down and the men start slowly trickling toward their tents. It's one of those rare nights in the bush where it is totally silent. No gunshots, no mortars dropping. Just the sound of the swarms of bugs in the air and the breeze through the jungle canopy.

Usually, that calmness would put Klaus on edge. Like he's waiting for the other shoe to drop. But for some reason, he's completely sure there will be no ambush tonight. He just know it's going to be a quiet night. A certainty, deep in his bones.

Sarg won't be back until daybreak, and Klaus is going to make the most of this last night in the jungle with Dave.

He's already convinced Dallas to take McNamara for the night, even if it's against regulation.

Fuck regulations at this point, anyway.

One more night together in this mad alternate world, and then Klaus can take Dave home, and they can see what the future holds for them.

They can ride the briefcase home with tired, sticky bodies, after one last night together on that incredibly small cot.

Said briefcase is tucked under Klaus's bed, just calling to Klaus.

But he has other plans first.

He wants one more good memory to take home with him.

The night is still calm, still quiet as he twists his fingers into Dave's uniform jacket and shoves him playfully down onto the rickety cot behind him. Dave hits the thin mattress with a huff of laughter, staring up at Klaus with wide, disbelieving eyes.

"Klaus, darlin', you know I am an injured war vet. How dare you handle me so callously?" Dave's eyes are twinkling, his hands reaching for Klaus without thought.

Klaus smiles down at him, his heart hammering in his chest as he reaches behind himself and pulls his dirty green t shirt off, tossing it over his shoulder with his trademark flourish. He carefully straddles Dave's thighs, sighing in relief at the feeling of Dave's strong muscles flexing under his ass. Klaus is shaking a little bit, so overcome with emotion. So god damn happy to have Dave alive and breathing underneath him, aching for Klaus's touch.

"Don't worry, love." Klaus grins down at him cheekily, running his thin fingers along Dave's abs. "I'm gonna make you feel real good." his fingers drift up to the buttons of Dave's uniform shirt. Klaus's thin fingers work the buttons open carefully, always mindful of Dave's injury. He may be healed, but his chest and shoulder are going to be tender, probably forever.

Klaus gets the shirt undone and slides it off Dave's shoulders. Dave lifts himself with a little pained grunt, and Klaus gingerly removes his shirt, tossing it on the floor next to his discarded t shirt.

"God, Dave." Klaus breathes, running his fingers along Dave's chest, delicately feeling out his new, rough skin. The raised bumps where the stitches were, the tight pink crater the bullet made.

Dave inhales sharply, torn between arousal and shame. He hates his scars. Really. Doesn't want to hear Klaus try and placate him about them.

"You're gorgeous, baby." Klaus murmurs, voice full of awe. "So fucking beautiful, Davie. And so so brave. I...just....I love you so much." Klaus has tears in his eyes. Again.

Dave smiles up at him, letting Klaus's kind words wash over him, dispelling any doubt that had been brewing inside him. He reaches up, threading his fingers through Klaus's wild hair and wrenching his head down. Dave kisses him with everything he has, pushing his tongue past Klaus's lips. His other hand comes up to grip Klaus's hip, holding him steady as he grinds down on Dave's lap.

Dave's hands flex on his hips, squeezing once before sliding down to cup his ass. Klaus's body trembled, his fingers digging into Dave's shoulders as he licked into his mouth hungrily.

"Oh, darlin'." Dave whispered, his breath hot on Klaus's lips. "Missed ya so much. Was so worried. Didn't know...didn't think..."

"Hey, hey, Davey." Klaus murmured, pulling back so they were eye to eye. "It's okay. You're gonna be okay, and that's all that matters. I'm gonna take care of you. Will you let me?"

It was a simple question. But Klaus knew Dave didn't have all the facts just yet. He nodded anyway, grunting softly as Klaus rocked his hips on his rapidly filling cock.

"Good answer." Klaus chuckles, sliding off Dave's lap and standing next to him. "Loose those pants, soldier." he murmurs, his own hands flying to his zipper.

Dave nods absentmindedly as he unzips his pants and shucks them off quickly. His dick is so hard, leaking all over his hand as he runs his fingers along his erection. He shudders at the feeling, but never takes his eyes off Klaus.

Klaus strips his own pants teasingly slow. He turns around so his back is to Dave, arching his back a little as he drags his pants down over the swell of his ass. He can hear Dave sigh behind him and he smirks to himself. It utterly delights him that he can elicit such a strong reaction from Dave while doing so little. He bends over as he shucks his pants off all the way, exposing his ass entirely.

Dave groans, a little too loud at the sight of Klaus's tight ass. He claps a hand over his own mouth, eyes wide, but never stops jerking his cock. Klaus is just so perfect. His lithe body has really toned up over the past ten months. Muscles defined, yet not overly so. Dave could still count each of his ribs. Could still run his tongue along his collar bone. Could still sink his teeth into his protruding hip bones, leaving bruises in his wake.

But his ass. God, his ass is just perfect now. It was beautiful before, but now it's round and juicy and Dave just wants to bite it. He has no idea where this animalistic, possessive behavior has come from, but this is Klaus we're talking about, and Dave can't say he's all that surprised.

"Come here." Dave commands. His tone is low and demanding. He's never heard himself sound that way. When he hears the hitch in Klaus's breath, followed by a low moan, Dave knows Klaus likes it. "Now, darlin'." he add, playing his new part with gusto. "Don't make me wait."

Klaus groans again, spinning on the spot. The first thing Dave's eyes catch on is Klaus's raging erection. His cock is standing straight up, the tip an angry red, bubbling precome out of the tip. Dave's mouth waters and he sends a prayer of thanks up to God for giving him Klaus.

Because Klaus is nothing short of a miracle.

Klaus makes his way over to Dave, swaying his hips seductively. Dave reaches out for him, humming low in his throat when his fingers finally land on Klaus's soft, hot skin. He grips Klaus's hips roughly, pulling the other man down with a grunt. Klaus just barely has time to swing his leg over Dave's lap. He settles over him, straddling his waist again. Dave hums appreciatively. "That's better." He runs his callused hands along Klaus's slim hips, along his back. The pads of his fingers dance along the knobs of Klaus's spine, drawing the tiniest gasp from Klaus's parted lips. Klaus leans over, his curly hair falling into his eyes as he kisses Dave, hard and deep. Dave sighs into the kiss, wasting no time pressing his tongue into Klaus's mouth. His lover always tastes so good, even in this awful place, surrounded by decay and gunpowder. Dave groans as Klaus rolls his hips on his lap. Dave's cock jumps, pressing against Klaus's ass, and Klaus purrs. Like a damn cat, rocking his hips back.

"Davey, no teasing." Klaus mutters between kisses. "You've made me wait long enough."

Dave chuckles against Klaus's lips. "I was in the hospital, you brat."

"Still, it's not nice to make me wait." Klaus replies, pulling back just enough to smirk down at Dave. He rolls his hips again, his leaking cock head smearing precome all over Dave's bare stomach.

"Well, get up, then, I gotta find something to ease the way." Dave says, wracking his brain for anything they could use for slick.

"Don't bother. I'm good." Klaus replies, that cheeky grin back on his face.

"What?" Dave balks, reaching up to card his fingers through Klaus's messy curls. "I'm not gonna hurt you, darlin'."

"Nah, Davey." Klaus giggles, pulling Dave's hand off his head and dragging it down to his ass. "Check for yourself."

Dave gives Klaus a skeptical look, but is too intrigued to hold off. He splays his hand along Klaus's ass, giving the cheek a tight squeeze before letting his fingers trail down between them. He gasps a little when his finger tips finally graze Klaus's hole, finding the area already loose and slick with vaseline. "Darlin', did you start without me?" Dave asks, feeling utterly scandalized and incredibly turned on.

"No, baby." Klaus grins, rolling his hips back into Dave's touch with a bitten-off groan. "I started FOR you." he glanced down at him, eyes full of lust and adoration. "Didn't wanna waste a second."

Dave groaned, much too loud for the circumstances. He pinched his eyes shut, nodding. "Okay, darlin', okay. Up on your knees a bit?"

When Klaus moves to accommodate Dave's request, Dave quickly spits in his palm, rubbing his erection roughly. He's not sure how it's gonna mix with the vaseline already all over Klaus, but he can't imagine going in totally dry. Klaus is whining low in his throat, his hips rocking back and forth in the small space between their bodies.

"Okay, c'mon. M'ready for you, love." Dave sighs, gripping his cock tightly at the base and motioning for Klaus to sit on his lap.

Klaus gives him another dirty grin, spreading his legs wider and positioning himself right over Dave's dick. Dave's breath catches at the first feel of Klaus's body against his. He watches with wide eyes as Klaus tips his head back as slides slowly down on Dave's dick.

What Dave does not know is that Klaus's head is tipped back so his lover can't see the tears in his eyes. As Klaus relishes in the burn of Dave inside him once again, he can't help but thank his lucky stars he's even alive and thrumming within him right now. Klaus's breath stutters as he starts slowly rolling his hips. He just feels so fucking lucky. To have Dave in his life. To be *this* close to going home, bringing Dave with him. Saving them both from this awful, deadly place.

Dave's hands slide up his legs, fingertips dragging along his slick skin before settling heavily on his hips. Klaus finally looks down, only to find Dave staring up at him with so much wonder in his face, it brings Klaus to tears all over again.

"Klaus?" Dave murmurs, eyebrows raised. He stops rocking his hips up, but leaves his hands on Klaus's hips. "You okay?"

Klaus smiles, nodding weakly. He plants his hands on Dave's chest and starts up a steady rhythm, rocking his hips, grinding down on Dave's cock. "Yeah, promise. Just missed you is all."

Dave grunts, his back arching. "Don't worry, darlin', I'm not going anywhere. Promise."

And isn't that the sweetest shit Klaus has ever heard. He knows he doesn't deserve Dave, but he's gonna keep him as long as he can.

Dave's hands are everywhere. Cupping Klaus's ass as he writhes in his lap. Sliding up and down his slick back. Burying themselves in his curly hair as he drags his face down for a passionate, messy kiss.

"Klaus, jesus." Dave grunts. "So good. You feel so good."

Klaus hums in the back of his throat, trailing wet kisses down the side of Dave's neck before digging his teeth into the meat of his shoulder. Dave cries out mindlessly before remembering himself. He stuffs a fist in his mouth to muffle his cries as Klaus bounces on his cock. Klaus brings his mouth close to Dave's ear, his breath tickling the hairs on the back of his neck. "This is just the beginning, Davey." he husks, running his tongue filthily up the side of Dave's neck. "Just you wait 'til I get you home. Gonna show you what I can really do."

Dave groans, digging his fingers into Klaus's ass and slamming up into him from below. Klaus straightens back up and Dave lets his eyes wander over his gorgeous body. From his taught muscles to the smattering of tattoos covering his body. He continues to thrust up, unable to look away as Klaus takes himself in hand and starts jerking off. Dave chuckles lowly, wrapping his fingers around Klaus's moving fist and helping him along.

"Dave. Dave." Klaus chants, rocking his hips faster and harder. Lifting up and slamming down with all the power he has, the metal cot whining and creaking dangerously. He almost sends them toppling to the ground, but Dave was there, steadying his free hand on Klaus's hip.

"C'mon, darlin. Come for me." Dave says. And it's such an out of character thing for innocent little Dave to say, it has Klaus coming hard less than ten seconds later. Klaus's whole body goes taut, his head whipping back as he thrusts into their intertwined fingers.

"Oh fuck." Klaus whispers, spilling over their moving hands. Just watching Klaus fall apart is enough to send Dave over the edge. He releases Klaus's cock and grabs his hip again. Klaus can feel the wet heat of his own release on Dave's hand as it slides along his skin, and that is just such a turn on.

Dave thrusts up twice more before pulling Klaus down on his dick hard. His back arches and he pinches his eyes shut as ecstasy washes over him. It feels like it goes on forever, and when he comes back to himself, Klaus is laying boneless on top of him, trying to regain control of his breathing.

"Sweet jesus, Davey. You are one hell of a fella." Klaus murmurs, peppering Dave's scarred up shoulder with kisses.

"Klaus, you're adopting Dallas's speech pattern." Dave chuckles, running his fingers along Klaus's bare spine.

"Can't help it. M'like a sponge."

"You're something else, that's for sure." Dave replies, unable to temper his smile.

He still can't believe it. All the shit that's happened since Klaus landed in his life. When he was drafted, Dave didn't feel one way or the other about it. Sure, he hated the war, and yeah, he didn't even want to be in the army. But there had been nothing really keeping him at home either. Nothing to really miss. No one waiting for him to come home.

Which made the decision to follow Klaus all the more easier. Dave is scared, of course. The idea of falling into a time that he doesn't understand or fit into is frightening and overwhelming. But the idea of going through life without Klaus is incredibly more daunting.

They stand on shaky legs and dress quickly. Klaus is grinning like a madman as he wipes his body down before cleaning Dave up with gentle strokes of an old handkerchief. Dave rolls his eyes, but lets Klaus do his thing. He's not going to take away these small acts of kindness from his lover.

He only hopes someday to be able to return the favor. He wants to treat Klaus like gold. Do things for him that no one else has ever thought to or bothered to.

Once they are dressed again, they lay back down on the cot. Dave on his back, with Klaus curled around him. Klaus's arm is tight around Dave's waist, his head resting on his scarred shoulder. Every now and again, Dave will press a sweet kiss to Klaus's sweaty hair, and in return, Klaus will nuzzle into Dave's injured shoulder, pressing his lips gently to the pink, marred skin. It makes Dave shiver. He's still not used to the raw mass of scars and mangled flesh, but Klaus has seemingly taken to it much easier.

"You don't think it's ugly?" Dave asks quietly, after a long silence between them. Klaus raises his head so he can look him in the eye.

"Davey, nothing about you could ever be ugly to me." Klaus replied, eyes soft. He leaned down again, not breaking eye contact as he ran his tongue along the tender, raised flesh of Dave's scar. "This scar here is just a reminder of how fucking brave you are. How strong and unafraid. How powerful."

"Klaus, I didn't get shot cuz I was brave." Dave sighed, squeezing Klaus tightly. "I'm not here because I'm brave or strong or even a good soldier. I'm here because I was drafted. I got shot because I was in the wrong foxhole at the wrong moment."

Klaus huffed, rolling his eyes, he rolled out of Dave's grasp only to straddle his lap again. He grabbed Dave's wrists and pinned them above his head at the very top of the cot. "Now you listen to me, mister." Klaus said, voice hard, though his eyes were still soft. "Your bravery has nothing to do with whether or not you signed up on your own, or whether or not you are the best soldier. You're brave because even though you didn't choose to be here, you're still giving it your all. You're someone the men can count on. Someone they can trust to have their back. I trust you to have my back. More than anyone. And even though you almost died, here you are. Walking the perimeter with me like you never got shot at all."

"Don't really have much of a choice, darlin'." Dave chuckles rolling his eyes. "Gotta go where the army tells me."

"You're missing the point." Klaus groaned.

"I'm not." Dave sighed. "I understand what you mean, and I appreciate it, Klaus. I really do. It's just hard to remember sometimes. It can get so scary here." Dave's voice was low, wavering just a bit. He didn't want to let on, but god, he's so scared. He's been scared since he landed in country. He has never been more scared in all his life than when he got shot. Not only for his own life, which he had felt slipping away by the second, but scared for what would happen to Klaus if he died. Who would take care of him? Keep him safe? Love him?

That had scared Dave more than death ever could.

In that moment, a thought occurred to Dave. Like a whisper of a memory. A snippet of a moment. A promise he made.

A promise he has to keep.

Dave tightened his hold on Klaus, reaching up to tangle both hands in his hair. He pulled Klaus down to him, kissing him fiercely. Klaus sighed into his mouth, tongue dipping out to taste him. Between kisses, Dave started muttering lowly.

"Love you so much, Klaus. Do anything for you. Be anything you need. Take care of you 'til my dying breath. Follow you anywhere. Let's go. I'm ready. Let's go right now."

Now. They had to go now.

Klaus pulled back, eyes wide. Dave just smiled at him, serene and peaceful.

"Really?" Klaus asks, voice shaking.

"Yeah, I mean. What's it gonna be like?" Dave asks, suddenly realizing Klaus has told him next to nothing about this future they are supposedly traveling to. "It can't be *that* much different from now, can it?"

Klaus chuckled wryly, shaking his head. How can he explain the future to Dave without scaring him off? "Well, I mean, there's a lot to it." he sighed, feeling woefully unprepared for this conversation. He should have seen it coming. Of course Dave would be curious about the future he was going to. "Anything specific you wanna know? My brother would be better at explaining this shit to you."

Dave huffed, rolling his eyes. Klaus never gave himself enough credit. "I trust you to tell me what I need to know, darlin'. Or y'know, I could read some books when we get there."

"Books might be better." Klaus admits. He never was all that good at history.

"Do we at least win the war?" Dave wonders. The grimace on Klaus's face is enough to unsettle him. "Really? We lose?" Klaus's pinched expression is enough to confirm the fact without words.

"Well, we win almost all the battles, Davey, but Communism still wins the region." Klaus sighs, knowing this has to be a hard thing to hear.

"So wait, you knew all this time that we would lose, and you stayed anyway?"

"Davey, I stayed for you, not Uncle Sam." Klaus replied, like it should be obvious.

"So, we lose the war. What else happens?" Dave asks, suddenly very curious.

"Well, I'm not much of a history buff, but....well....there's cable TV, which is like hundreds of channels with anything you can ever want to watch on it. And we have DVR, which is like a VCR but in your TV."

"VCR?" Dave interrupts.

"Oh, shit." Klaus laughs. "That's not a thing yet either. "It's like....a way to record movies and TV shows, so you can watch it later."

"Watch it later?" Dave balks. "Really?"

"Oh yeah, Davey. And the Berlin Wall comes down. You can thank President Reagan for that one."

"President Reagan?" Dave echos, confused.

"Yeah, Ronald Reagan. He was president when I was born, in the eighties."

"You were born in the eighties? Jesus, I'm in love with a zygote. Not even born yet. How fucked is that?"

Klaus chuckles, and Dave starts to laugh along until something dawns on him. "President Reagan? Like the actor? You have to be kidding me."

Klaus laughed, loud and long, shaking his head. "You think that's bad, nowadays we have a reality TV star as president."

"Reality TV?" Dave repeated, his head suddenly spinning.

"Yeah, that one's kinda sad. So, like instead of scripted TV, some shows on TV now are just cameras following around regular people. Watching them drink and fight and have sex. They have baking shows, shows about home improvement. Shows about people living in the wild, or people that drive trucks for a living or mine gold, or shit, I don't know, sometimes there's no real premise. The cameras just follow around obnoxious people, waiting for them to fuck up. There's even this show called 'Teen Mom' - that one follows around young pregnant girls, documents their fucked up lives and shit." Klaus trailed off when he caught sight of the stricken look on Dave's face. "Oh, shit, Davey, no, don't worry. It's not all that bad..."

"Klaus, that sounds awful." Dave said, brows furrowed. "Why would anyone watch that?"

"I suppose people like to watch other people struggle." Klaus replied sadly. "Makes them feel better about themselves. I know when I started having trouble with drugs, my face was all over the TV for months. When I got arrested, it was front page news. People just like to watch other people fail."

"Is that all the future is?" Dave asks, gripping Klaus tighter. "Just suffering on live TV?"

"No, no." Klaus shook his head quickly. He didn't want Dave to think the future was an awful place. Even though it wasn't perfect, Klaus still wants Dave to WANT to go with him. "There is a lot of amazing things happening too. Gay rights, for example, have come a long way. We can get married, in any state in the union. Adopt kids. There are some places where it's still rough, but New York is good. Gayborhoods everywhere."

"Gayborhoods." Dave chuckles, shaking his head. "I like the sound of that."

"There's so much I can't wait to show you. Advances in medicine and science. Civil rights and social progress. Not to mention music and art and movies." Klaus smiles, excitement running through his blood. "It's gonna be amazing, Davey, just you wait."

"It's already amazing, darlin'." Dave grins, kissing Klaus's forehead. "You're gonna be there."

Klaus grins, sighing happily. How is this his life? How did he get so fucking lucky? He leans over, pressing his forehead to Dave's before sliding forward for another gentle, sweet kiss. Their tongues danced together slowly, savoring each other. When Klaus pulled back, he gave Dave another bright smile.

"Okay." Klaus said, his nerves picking up instantly. "I think it's time." he sat up, pulling away from Dave and standing from the bed. He was reaching for his clothes before Dave could even muster the strength to sit up.

"Time?" Dave echoed, confused. "As in time to leave? Now?"

Klaus nodded cautiously, trying to gauge Dave's reaction. "Davey, I don't think we have any more time to fuck around. You already almost died once. Sarg is onto us. He doesn't even want me standing within ten feet of you. This war is a lost cause. I can't even tell you how many Americans die in this pointless conflict." Klaus's voice is getting higher, a little angrier and a bit more desperate. "We already said goodbye to the guys at the fire tonight. If I could take Dallas and Benny with us, I would. But I shouldn't even be taking you. I can't imagine what Five is going to say. He's gonna kick my ass, that maniacal little asshole." Klaus was rambling now, as he was wont to do when he was anxious. He only cut himself off when Dave took his hand.

"Hey, it's fine, don't worry." Dave said, giving Klaus a reassuring smile. His own heart was pounding with anxiety, a cold sweat breaking out on his bare back, but he wasn't about to let that show to Klaus. Not when he was already so nervous about this. "I'll get dressed, I'm sure I don't want to land in the future in my birthday suit." he waggled his eyes at Klaus, pleased when the other man's shoulders shook and he rolled his eyes with a smile.

"I'm just gonna go grab my briefcase, okay? Be ready when I get back?" Klaus glanced over at Dave, giving him one more chance to back out.

But Dave just stood up, nodding as he reached for his shirt. Klaus doesn't have anything to worry about. When Dave said he'd follow him anywhere, he meant it.

 

***

 

Klaus slipped into his tent silently.His eyes caught on Collins and Winston hanging out by Dallas's cot. Klaus shoots them a little wave. They are probably the only ghosts besides Ben that he has any real affection for. He's going to miss them. He got down on his knees next to his cot, reaching underneath to pull out the briefcase. He set it on his cot and stood back up. He grabbed his vest and threw it over his t-shirt. He shook his head out, running his fingers through his knotted hair, desperate for a real shower, at his own house.

He grabbed the briefcase and turned to leave the tent, but just before he stepped outside, his eyes caught on Dallas's sleeping form.

Fucking Dallas. Jesus, Klaus was going to miss him. Without thinking, Klaus knelt down again, grabbing a scrap of paper from under Dallas's bunk and scribbling out a quick note. He knows it's probably a stupid idea, but he came across true friends so rarely, it just didn't feel right to leave without at least saying goodbye to Dallas. He finished writing quickly, carefully tucking the note under Dallas's pillow, where he'll find it and no one else.

 

Dallas,
I know this is gonna seem fucked up, but Davey and I are making a break for it. I know you'll understand. Gonna miss your punk ass. Don't get yourself shot, and get yourself back to Texas ASAP. Those beauty queens can't dance alone, and that barbecue won't eat itself.

I'm not the type of gay to get all sentimental, but you're a bad ass dude, a good soldier, and a good friend. Too good for this war.
Stay gold, Ponyboy

xoxo
Hargreeves

 

Klaus grinned, wiping at his wet eyes before turning away from his friend for the last time and making his way back to his tent.

Dave was waiting for him.

***

Dave looked up when he heard the tent flap rustling. There was Klaus, looking flushed and breathless, his ubiquitous briefcase in his hands. He was wearing his fatigues and his uniform pants, just like every other day Dave's known him, but for some reason this moment felt different.

Everything was about to change. Nothing would ever be the same. Dave's still not a hundred percent sure what's going to happen when Klaus opens his briefcase. It doesn't help that Klaus is just as clueless as to how his magic briefcase works. There is a very real chance that they may not even end up back in Klaus's time.

They could end up in the Inquisition. Or in the middle of WWII. On a slave ship, or in the middle of the Great Depression. Or, instead of New York City, they could end up in Warsaw or Greenland or Cuba.

Klaus has no idea how to work his time machine. And that is a frightening fact for Dave to face moments before entrusting his life to Klaus.

But he has no doubts. No reticence. Not a single moment of second guessing. It didn't matter where they went or what they did. They could end up being torn apart by some massive black hole the moment Klaus unclasped that briefcase, and Dave wouldn't care.

Because he just knew it would never be the end with Klaus. He isn't sure how he knows it, he's never been much of a devout or spiritual man. He has his faith, and he believes in God, but it's never gone deeper than that.

But looking into Klaus's beautiful eyes, he knows for a fact that even if the pair of them were engulfed in a fireball right now, he'd see Klaus again on the other side. He's not sure how he knows, but he's never been more certain of anything in his life.

He and Klaus are at the very beginning of an incredibly long journey together.

The thought alone brings tears to Dave's eyes.

Klaus glances down at Dave, smiling brightly. He's never felt luckier in his entire life.

Klaus's life has been nothing but a long string of unfortunate events punctuated by bouts of drunkenness and drug use. Nights in random strangers' beds, and even more nights alone on the cold streets of New York. He never really felt all that important in the grand scheme of things. Never felt worthy of love or even kindness. Not even with his own family. But Dave changed all that. Over the course of these insane ten months, Dave showed Klaus what it's like to be genuinely loved. He accepted Klaus as he is. With this over-dramatic persona, flamboyant mannerisms and army of ghosts trailing him. He never batted an eye when Klaus revealed one shocking secret after another, always accepting Klaus's word, never making him feel crazy or insecure.

Love.
That's what that is.

And Klaus never once thought he'd have that.

So screw it. Screw what Five is going to say, screw the space time continuum, and Screw God if she thinks Klaus is giving this up.

Klaus is never letting Dave go. Not as long as he has a choice.

Klaus gives Dave one more bright smile before straddling his lap. He kneels on the cot, one knee on either side of Dave's thighs, the briefcase wedged between them. Dave's hands automatically go to Klaus's hips, steadying him. It felt so good just to hold him again.

If Klaus is right, where they are going, Dave can hold Klaus all he wants.

The thought makes him giddy.

Klaus leans down, pressing his lips to Dave's softly. His tongue darts out, licking gently at Dave's lips until the other man huffs an indulgent laugh and Klaus can slip his tongue inside. They quickly get lost in the kiss, Dave's fingers flexing on Klaus's hips, Klaus's fingers slipping into Dave's short cropped hair. They waste long minutes kissing each other languidly until Klaus remembers himself. He pulls back with a chuckle.

"So, are you ready?" Klaus asks, leaning back in Dave's lap to settle the briefcase between them.

"I told you, darlin." Dave grinning, pressing their foreheads together. "I'll follow you anywhere."

Klaus smiled so wide his face hurt, nodding quickly.

Klaus's life has always been chaotic. Especially in this war. Every single moment has been mired in madness.

But in the midst of that chaos, Klaus found the most peace he's ever experienced, in Dave's eyes, and in his arms, and in the beat of his heart as it thrummed under Klaus's palm.

And Klaus will face the chaos of the world every day of the rest of his life, as long as he and Dave can face it together.

Klaus darted forward one last time, pressing his lips to Dave's. Dave smiled into the kiss, holding Klaus as tight as possible.

Klaus kept their eyes locked as his fingers rolled the latches on the briefcase, clicking it open for the first time since he landed in Vietnam.

The case slid open with a barely audible click....

He and Dave were engulfed in the brightest of bright blue lights, and then....they were gone.