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Eave of Destruction

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Klaus was self aware enough to know that he’s been fucked up for a long time. Seeing dead people wasn’t exactly conducive to a becoming a healthy, well adjusted individual. Any chance of becoming anything more than a meat sack full of trauma was destroyed the minute that Reginald Fucking Hargreeves had swooped in with a lot of cash and few morals, buying kids with all the concern of someone picking up milk at the convenience store. So, he wasn’t exactly new to the whole crazy thing. In fact, he had begun to feel almost immune to slogging through the shit that was his life.

 

And then he was kidnapped. Sent back in time. Fought in ‘Nam. Lost the love of his life.

 

It almost made him want to laugh; he had jinxed it. God, the cute little sociopath, had heard him think nothing can make me any more fucked up than I already am, and decided to prove him wrong. And boy, had Klaus been wrong.

 

So sure, the nightmares, the heart palpitations, the way his lungs collapsed when he thought about his childhood for too long - yeah, it sucked, but he was used to it. That stuff was almost comfortingly familiar.

 

The flashbacks, though. They were new.

 

Klaus knew it was going to be bad, the getting over it, when the rattle of gunfire dogged his footsteps around the mansion. When he came back to himself, in the chaos of the rave, and realised that Dave wasn’t dying, because he was already dead. He knew it was bad. But the full flashbacks were worse. It wasn’t like under the flashing lights and thumping base, where he had seen something decidedly Not Real in the middle of the dancing crowd, despite his sobriety. This was like the jump of time travel all over again. Completely immersive. He could look left, right, and find no hint of reality. No suggestion that what he was seeing didn’t belong. It scared the shit out of him.

 

The first time it had happened, he had been getting changed in the morning, trying to decide whether today was a skirt kind of day. He had moved to dig through the closet when something snapped underfoot, like a dry twig on the jungle floor, and-

 

Klaus slapped at his neck as they marched, where he could feel the barely there sensation of a mosquito landing. The bugs were driving him nuts. It was like the itch of withdrawal, without the easy fix. He wondered vaguely whether the damn anti-malarial pills that their C.O. shoved down their throats weekly actually worked. He wished that he had spent more time listening when Pogo taught history. He wished-

 

The bang of an explosion. Klaus stumbled from the force of it, barely managed to keep his feet, as chunks of earth and charred flesh rained down. Fuck. Fuck. He ducked down, his fellow soldiers dropping around him, waiting to see if this was an ambush, or if they had stumbled across some forgotten, abandoned mines. He held his gun tight in his sweating palms, and listened to Dave’s ragged breaths from where he lay off to his left. A few feet ahead, like a gruesome movie prop, laid what remained of Barley. He still had an arm attached to his torso, but both his legs were gone. He was facing Klaus. His left eye was open, staring blankly at Klaus. His right eye hadn’t made it.



Klaus blinked. He was hunkered down in his bedroom floor, trembling and sweating. By his closet, his eyeliner was lying, splintered and snapped in half. He pushed himself up to standing, not noticing where the pencil had cut into the sole of his foot. He fled, ignoring Ben’s concerned eyes, before freezing at the top of the stairs. Where was he going? He wanted Dave. He wanted to get high. He wanted to be pure and light and not this damaged animal that couldn’t keep a grip on reality. None of his wishes came true.

 

The flashbacks continued. Some were more convincing than others. When they were fully fledged, they were impossible to distinguish from his time in the jungle. Others merged with reality in a way that left him confused and disorientated. He could be eating cereal at the breakfast table, and notice what was left scrappy little McFern, bleeding out on the floor by his feet. Helicopters would fly overhead as he walked down the street, leaving him to clamp his palms over his ears. Those kind were harder to snap out of in a way, because you could never be certain that it was over, that he was truly back in the real world.

 

They were hard to predict, too. Sometimes they had an obvious trigger - a loud noise, the ashy smell of the fireplace. Klaus prefered those. He learnt to avoid those kind when he could, and it gave him the illusion of having some measure of control. Other times, they came out of the blue, bowling him over before he knew what happened, leaving him unbalanced when he returned. He hated those the most.

 

The only thing he was grateful for was that his family - excluding Ben, the poor son of a bitch - had yet to see one of his freak outs. They had seen enough of him in embarrassing situations, drunk or high or crying, and already thought of him as an irredeemable mess. He was determined not to reinforce that any further. Klaus had been given a taste of what it was like to be taken seriously, when his fellow soldiers had gone from strangers, to friends, to some weird pseudo family, and now he craved it. He had hoped that his continued sobriety, despite failing to bring him Dave, would at least give his family something to be proud of. Unfortunately, he suspected that none of them really believed him when he told them he was clean. Could he blame them? He had been lying about his sobriety since he was thirteen. Not to mention the way his hands shook, or the way his eyes darted around at things unseen, unfocused and distracted. It was pretty hard to act present and calm when ghosts would shriek at him. He had gotten out of practice at filtering out the noise, and knew it showed when he tried to follow a conversation.

 

After two months post the almost apocalypse, he was feeling pretty proud of how carefully he had maintained his mask of normality around his siblings. He was still fidgety and annoying, sure, but none of them had glimpsed at his fun new brand of fucked. He had taken to keeping his time with them to the minimum. He knew that they resented him for it a little, muttering about how he was slacking off, leaving them to fix their family. He felt a little bad about it, after swearing that he would help Vanya learn her powers, but the alternative was even worse, so he kept up the routine. When he did bump into his family, he made sure to act extra outrageous, as if he could make up for his absence by giving them an extra dose of Klaus. When he received and eye roll or snarky comment in return, he would retreat, assuring himself that they wouldn’t want him hanging around anyway. Ben always argued, told him that isolating himself wasn’t the solution. Usually, Klaus just laughed and brushed him off. On his bad days, when he couldn’t get the smell of blood and smoke off his hands, he would yell at him. What the fuck do you know , Klaus had snarled after a particularly difficult day, where he was struggling to remember where or when he was. You’re dead. You’re fucking dead.

 

Still, as all good things do, this eventually came to an end.

 

Luther had brought home enough Chinese takeout to feed Klaus’ whole platoon, or two Luthers. He had called for them to all come eat. Klaus hesitated, until Ben gave him a look of such frustration that he conceded and joined his siblings. The food was spread over the dining table, and the rest of the family was already seated, squabbling over containers. Klaus paused in the doorway, a sad ache in his chest. The scene reminded him of his squad, exhausted and muddy, but laughing as they ate their MREs.

 

“Klaus!” said Diego, “You gonna come eat, or are you just gonna lurk?”

 

Klaus startled. He hadn’t realised that he had been spotted. “Oh, well if you insist,” Klaus replied with forced airiness. He darted in and snagged some Kung Pao, before spinning around. He figured he would go up to the attic and sit at the window. He liked to look up at the stars, remind himself that they were the same stars that Dave had always looked up at, pointing out constellations with a fond smile.

 

“Where are you going?” asked Vanya. Klaus’ stomach twisted uncomfortably at the sadness in her voice.

 

“Wherever my feet take me, darling,” said Klaus. His palms were sweating slightly under the attention of his family, but he didn’t let his smile waver.

 

“No,” said Luther, authoritative, “sit down-”

 

“-down, down, get down! Fuck!” Harley was screaming as he took cover behind a tree, dragging Klaus to the ground with him. Bullets were hailing down. Klaus tried to figure where the Viet Cong soldiers were, but he couldn’t see anyone, except for a couple of disfigured shaped which, he could only assume, were ghosts. He shot blindly, praying that he was shooting the enemy and not his friends.

 

A hot splatter of blood hit Klaus’ face. He twisted, saw Harley clutching his neck, a look of disbelief in his eyes as red poured out from between his fingers.

 

“Shit, shit, shit,” chanted Klaus, pushing his hands on top of Harley’s. “Medic!” he screamed, despite knowing that pinned down as they were, help wouldn’t come until they could push the Viet Cong soldiers back. Harley choked, blood spitting up.

 

“Hey, hey, you’re going to be okay, you’ll be fine,” Klaus told the dying soldier. He and Harley weren’t close, had never really clicked, but in that moment Klaus would have given his life in a heartbeat if it meant that Harley wouldn’t bleed out under his hands. Time stretched out. The bullet hadn’t hit a major artery, or he would have bled out quicker, but that didn’t count for much when medical attention was too far away. So Klaus did all he could: pressed down hard, and lied.

 

“-probably taken something, looks like a bad trip to me.”

 

“He’s been sober for two months, you-.”

 

Klaus was on the ground. Not the jungle floor, like he was a second ago, but laying on hard, polished wood. His breaths were uneven and his muscles were trembling violently, but apart from that he felt unharmed. He shuffled onto his knees, not daring to stand when he felt so unsteady.

 

Someone was saying his name. He knew that was probably important. They were familiar, those voices, not the warbling screams of the dead, so he should probably listen. He tried to lift his head, focus his eyes, but then he caught sight of his hands, blood cooling and congealing, and fuck he thought he might throw up. A sound escaped his mouth, fearful and mindless, as he scraped his hands along his thighs, but the blood wasn’t shifting, it wasn’t coming off-

 

Hands on his wrists. He stilled, confused, because Harley was dead already, so who-

 

“-hear me? Whatever you’re seeing, it isn’t real.”

 

He followed the hands on his wrists, small and pale, up to the face hovering above him.

 

“Five?” said Klaus. His voice was small, childlike, and fuck, Five was looking at him with all this pity, and Klaus yanked his hands away, scrambling back until he hit the wall.

 

Oh, Jesus. Klaus had really fucked up spectacularly this time. All six of his siblings were stood in various states of shock, staring at him. He felt like he was being disected.

 

“What w-was that?” asked Diego. Klaus cast around for some cheap quip which would diffuse the situation, but his mind was blank, unable to think past the expressions of horror directed at him.

 

“Have you taken something?” Luther questioned.

 

Klaus knew it was a natural assumption to make, but something inside him broke at the question anyway. He considered lying, saying that he was on acid or shrooms or whatever; at least then everyone would go back to their usual disdain. Klaus couldn’t even find the words to lie. He just shook his head, exhausted, and hoped that it would be enough.

 

Silence reigned. No one seemed to know how to proceed. Were they waiting for an explanation from Klaus? If so, they would be waiting a long time.

 

It was Five who eventually broke the quiet. “I’m guessing this has to do with the dogtags and the army tattoos,” he said, voice steady and dry as ever. Klaus saw a couple of his siblings frown in confusion. He wondered whether they had genuinely managed not to notice. He hadn’t exactly been hiding it. Dave’s tags were a constant, hanging proudly around his neck, and his sky soldiers tattoo was often on display under his cut off army jacket.

 

“I don’t get it,” said Luther, puzzled.

 

“After Klaus escaped Hazel and Cha-Cha, he stole their briefcase and accidentally time travelled,” stated Five.

 

“Where? Or- when?” asked Diego.

 

Five looked at him, expectant. It took Klaus a moment to realise that he was waiting for Klaus to tell them. He closed his eyes. He felt tired of talking about it, and he hadn’t even told them yet. Figuring the sooner he told them, the sooner it would be over, he said, “‘Nam, 1968.”

 

Klaus heard someone shift, take a step forward, back again. He couldn’t find the energy to peel his eyes open and see who. He let his head drop against the wall behind him, and wished he could sink through it.

 

“Wasn’t that… during the war?” Vanya asked, voice all shaky and tentative. Klaus hummed an affirmative.

 

Luther asked, “Did you fight in it?”

 

Klaus gave a halfhearted snort. “Yeah, baby. Ten months.”

 

Someone took a sharp breath. A feminine voice cursed almost silently. Klaus basked in the brief pause, wondered whether they would follow if he left now. They didn’t usually, but under their new policy of no secrets, he wasn’t sure that it would go down well.

 

“The hell, Klaus? Why would you-” Diego hissed, “why did you stay? Why didn’t you just come straight back?”

 

“You could have used to briefcase to return immediately,” said Five, tone almost bemused.

 

Klaus shrugged. He knew there was no satisfactory answer to this. When he had arrived, he had been scared and panicked, and after that he told himself that it would be too risky, opening the briefcase without knowing how to operate it. In hindsight, Klaus pondered whether this had ever been true. Maybe he hadn’t wanted to come back. In the jungle, he wasn’t a failure or a junkie, he was just another guy trying to survive. And if he died out there, with no one knowing… well, he figured that he wouldn’t be missed.

 

Luther swore. “What’s wrong with you?” Klaus could hear a shuffle, and then what might have been the scratch Allison’s pen, probably trying to comfort Number One.

 

“Klaus…” Ben started, sitting close by, but he was quickly spoken over.

 

“I don’t get you,” spat Diego, “It’s like you try to fuck yourself up.”

 

Klaus eyes snapped open at that. The words had hit him like a gut punch, not just because of the vitriolic way they were said, but because it’s exactly what he was waiting for. This was why he hadn’t wanted them to see him like this. They had always blamed Klaus for his own misfortune, and who knows, maybe they were right. Provoking their father as a child, always too loud, too other, too much of a girl. The drugs, which he searched out voluntarily, poisoning himself. The homelessness, the petty theft, the solicitation. A trail of self destruction. Wasn’t this just another mistake, another stop on the train to an early death?

 

Klaus scrambled up, unable to bear their judgement. He ran out the door, not stopping to pick up his shoes or jacket before he was on the street. He ran and ran, not pausing to consider where he was going. Maybe, if he ran for long enough, he would get so hopelessly lost that he couldn’t go back to his siblings if he tried. After all, every time Klaus returned home, thought that they might become a family, he only set himself up for rejection.

 

Ben was following him, Klaus knew. He was silent at first, allowing Klaus to put some space between them and the mansion, but when Klaus pace began to slow, he said, “They didn’t mean to hurt you. They were just upset.”

 

Klaus didn’t bother with a response. He was tired of making excuses for them.

 

“Klaus, please go back. Talk to them. If you explain, if you make them understand, they can help you,” Ben begged.

 

Klaus said, “They’ll never understand. They never do. Whatever. I’m better off alone. Free agent, baby!”

 

“They care about you,” Ben continued, “and you need help.”

 

“That’s what you’re for!” sang Klaus. “My own little therapy ghost.”

 

“You need more than me,” said Ben.

 

Klaus narrowed his eyes. “You just want an excuse to shove me off on someone else,” he accused. A women across the street was staring at him. He hissed in her direction, and she turned away.

 

“No!”

 

“Whatever. I don’t need you, you know. Go back to them, see if I care,” Klaus said, hands curling into fists.

 

“That’s not what I’m saying! Just- we can go back together-” implored his brother.

 

Klaus laughed bitterly. “Fuck you. Really, fuck you. Just go.”

 

“Klaus…” Ben whispered.

 

“GO!” Klaus screeched, and then a force seem to leave him, pulsing from his chest, and Ben was pushed back, stumbling. The boy looked at Klaus with shocked eyes, before stepping back and disappearing. Klaus was alone.

 

He stood panting for a moment. Then, with no other ideas, he continued walking.

 

After a while, the streets began to look vaguely familiar, and then Klaus noticed the sign. He laughed. He wondered whether his subconscious had sought it out. Maybe Dave’s spirit had guided him somehow. It was a nice thought.

 

He pushed his way through the doors to the Veterans Bar, making a beeline straight for the liquor. Dave wasn’t coming back. His family hated him. Ben was gone. What the hell was he staying sober for?

 

He reached for a glass, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. He shook the hand off, spinning sharply.

 

“Hi, handsome,” said Klaus.

 

An older white dude was standing behind him, expression stern, with a couple of guys at his shoulders. “This is bar is for vet’s only, kid. Get out.”

 

“Oh well, aren’t you just so sweet and welcoming,” Klaus purred.

 

“This is your final warning,” said the guy. He puffed up, looking ready for a fight. Klaus didn’t back down. Maybe it would feel good, get some adrenaline going. The men on each side pushed forward, almost circling him. They were older, but bigger than him, and he knew that he was about to have his ass handed to him. The thought made him giggle. Almost everyone in the bar was watching now, except for a couple of guys playing pool. One of them was carefully angling the cue, before hitting it with impressive force, and the balls hit each other with a ear splitting crack-

 

Dave was face down, not moving. That wasn’t right. Dave never froze up, brave even under fire. “Dave?” asked Klaus, voice wobbling. He dropped his gun, rolled Dave over with unsteady hands.

 

“Dave!”

 

He was bleeding. So much blood, oh God, so much, escaping his hands and soaking Dave’s uniform. He couldn’t stop it. Dave coughed weakly, eyes rolling blankly even as Klaus begged, “Dave, look at me, Dave, please. Stay with me” He cradled his lover, hands gentle on his face, the contour of his cheek. “Medic! Medic! I need a medic!” Klaus screamed, but the gunfire and explosions and helicopter blades drowned his voice. “Fuck! No, no no, please, stay, stay with me.”

 

Klaus looked around desperately, hoping to see Doc making his way over, but there was only civilians, watching uselessly as Klaus pressed down on Dave’s chest-

 

Wait-

 

These men didn’t belong in ‘Nam. They were too old to be soldiers, too white or too black to be villagers caught in the crossfire. They didn’t look terrified, didn’t attempt to dodge bullets or seek cover. The men just looked at him instead. One of them was crouched down in front of him, palms upward in surrender, although Klaus wasn’t holding his gun.

 

Klaus gasped a breath, his lungs twitching, rebelling. He wasn’t there. He was back. Not home, not without Dave, but he was back in 2019. The guy in front of him was saying something, voice slow and deliberate, but Klaus couldn’t make the sounds into words. Instead he sat cowering against the bar, and shook and shook and shook.

 

Fuck. Could he go anywhere without acting like a total lunatic?

 

The guy crouching was still talking, eyes dark and kind and earnest. It wasn’t the aggressive guy from earlier. This guy was dark skinned and wrinkled, big eyes somehow reminding him of Diego’s. Klaus watched his mouth, trying to pay attention, but everything was fuzzy. He caught the word help and what he thought was phone. With trembling fingers, Klaus pulled his cell from his pocket and held it in offering. The guy reached slowly to take the phone, so Klaus assumed that he had heard right.

 

Klaus zoned out a little after that. That was okay with him; there was nothing worth being present for. His bones were aching with exhaustion. This was his third flashback that day, and reality had begun to feel surreal. The veterans bar didn’t seem half as vivid as the jungle he had spent the day in. Someone pushed a glass into his hands, and then a few minutes later someone guided it to his lips when he forgot what to do with it. The water was cold on his lips, and he wished it was something stronger, something that would burn his throat and remind him that he was alive. As it was, he felt like a ghost, floating in the land of the living, not belonging. Maybe he had died in the war, and this was hell. It felt like hell.

 

A hand touched his shoulder. He wanted to push it away, but it seemed like an impossible task, his body disconnected from him, hands limp at his sides. Another hand, and he was being pulled to his feet. He would resist if he could. Why move? Why couldn’t everyone just leave him alone? He was being guided out to the street, into a car. Oh. Diego’s car. That’s funny. How did Diego find him? No one had followed him except Ben, and Ben was a fucking ghost.

 

He was pliant when Diego marched him in through the academy doors. His siblings were hovering nearby, watching the procession, and Klaus distantly considered whether he should be mad or embarrassed, but he couldn’t find the energy to feel anything at all. Time skipped like a broken record and Klaus was sat on his bed, except for his bare feet which Mom held as she pulled tiny fragments of glass. He must have stepped on something on his way to the car. He hadn’t noticed.

 

When his feet were bandaged, Mom brushed his hair back from his face and said goodnight. Diego hovered for a moment before turning off the light, shutting the door. Klaus closed his eyes and let sleep take him.








Klaus startled awake. Again. It was starting to get light out, which Klaus decided was a good enough reason to give up on sleep, but he didn’t bother getting out of bed. He didn’t want to face his siblings, and he felt too nauseated to consider breakfast.

 

“Klaus?” said Ben, voice more tentative than Klaus had heard it in a long time.

 

“Hey, Ben,” he replied. His voice was toneless.

 

“I’m sorry. About last night.”

 

“It’s okay,” said Klaus. Their argument seemed asinine in the morning light. He could hardly blame Ben for wanting to be around the rest of his family, for wanting to share the burden that is Klaus. He had survived torture and war and death. It seemed frivolous to get upset over that.

 

“We really suck at being a family, huh?” said Ben, a sad kind of irony in the twist of his lips.

 

Klaus hummed, closed his eyes. He knew that he wouldn’t get to sleep, but there wasn’t anything he wanted to see either. A ghost was lingering by his closet, but it was being quiet for now. Time passed in fits and starts. Ben attempted to encourage him out of bed, but nothing seemed worth doing. Why shower, when he would only get dirty again? Why eat, when he would only get hungry again?

 

After some time, there were sounds of hushed voices and shuffling steps outside his door. Klaus’ gut twisted with anxiety, but he kept quiet in the hopes that they might assume he was asleep. Unfortunately, Klaus wasn’t that lucky. The door creaked open slowly.

 

“Hi, Klaus,” said Vanya. She was holding a tray - breakfast, it looked like. The rest of his siblings crowded around her. Klaus pondered how they decided who would be the one to carry the tray in. Vanya was soft spoken and kind, but also someone that you didn’t want to piss off, since her powers still got a little wild when she was mad. It was a good choice. Logical. Anyone else, and Klaus might have hurled insults in an attempt to get them to leave. She paused for a second when she reached the bed, but when Klaus made no move to take the tray she settled it on the bedside table. Klaus kept his eyes fixed on the black smudge on the carpet where his eyeliner had snapped.

 

“We wanted to apologise,” Vanya said, words sounding rehearsed, “for reacting badly, and for not noticing that you were suffering. We want you to know that we care about you, and that we’re here for you.”

 

Klaus’ gaze didn’t waver, his mouth didn’t open. What was there to be said? It was a nice gesture, but that’s all it was, a gesture. He had scared them last night, and now they felt obliged to make a show of how they were becoming a real family, how they all cared about each other, see, Vanya?

 

Eventually they all left. Just like every other time Klaus needed them.

 

Klaus spent the day in the kind of haze he usually associated with heavy drugs. He slept sometimes, he thought, because occasionally he woke from nightmares with a shout. Other times he fell into flashbacks, which weren’t too different from the nightmares really. Occasionally he heard the sounds of ‘Nam, the choppers and screams. A couple of times he heard Dave’s voice, and smiled even as tears spilled from his eyes. Ben tried to speak to him a few times, but Klaus didn’t allow his brain to translate the sounds into words. Day turned to night turned to day again, and he still hadn’t moved.

 

A knock on the door.

 

“Klaus? It’s Diego. I’ve got b-breakfast. Can I come in?”

 

Klaus didn’t answer. He listened instead. The whispering of yesterday was gone. It sounded like the rest of his siblings had already given up.

 

“I’m coming in,” Diego warned before opening the door and stepping in. He went to replace yesterday’s tray, but then he froze. “Fuck, have you eaten at all?” Diego drew in a calming breath and said, “Okay, okay. I need you to sit up and eat this, okay?” When that garnered no response, he added, “Please, Klaus, you need to eat. You’re worrying me.”

 

Klaus felt a flicker of guilt. It seemed that he never stopped doing that: worrying people. Ben, witnessing him poison himself over and over. Dave, watching him jump at things that no one else could see. Now Diego, looking down at him fearfully. Diego’s words from yesterday came back to him: It’s like you try to fuck yourself up. He searched for the energy to sit up and pretend to be okay, at least until Diego is satisfied, but he was achingly empty. It was like withdrawal all over again, like someone had drained him.

 

A sudden thud made Klaus twitch and glance up. His brother had hit the wall, left crumbling plaster in his wake. “For fuck sake, Klaus! Do you want to die?”

 

Do you want to die?

 

Do you

            want

                            to

 

die?

 

Klaus was-

 

Klaus was-

 

There was blood on his hands and he thought no not now , but when he looked closer it wasn’t the same as his usual flashbacks because the blood didn’t soak his palms. It was his knuckles that were stained red.

 

Diego was leaning against the closet, one hand out defensively, the other attempting to staunch his bloody nose. Klaus choked.

 

Someone was saying something, but it took a moment for Klaus to realise that it was him, chanting, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry-”

 

Diego said, “Hey, no,” and stepped forward, but paused when Klaus flinched back, pressing himself against the bed frame. Not because Klaus was scared of his brother, but rather because he was afraid of himself. “It’s okay, Klaus, I’m okay. I shouldn’t have said…”

 

Klaus shook his head violently. “I didn’t mean to… I don’t want to hurt anyone. I’m so tired of hurting everyone,” he said, voice breaking. He couldn’t stop looking at his hand. It didn’t look like his.

 

“Fuck,” muttered Diego,”I’m fucking this up. It doesn’t hurt, bro, it’s not even bleeding anymore. I shouldn’t have pushed you like that, I didn’t mean to trigger you.”

 

Klaus whined, pushed the heels of his hands into his eyes, and then wiped his face with his wrists when the tears spilled over. Diego made an aborted move towards him.

 

“Talk to me,” Diego implored, “please, talk to me.”

 

Klaus swallowed thickly. “It’s all fucked up in my head. You don’t want to hear it.”

 

“Tell me anyway,” said Diego.

 

And to his own surprise, Klaus did. Haltingly at first, and the faster, the words flew from his lips, starting with his headphones too loud for him to hear Hazel sneaking up, to the torture, the time travel. He detailed the panic, the hot sweat of the jungle, the utter fear of being shot at, the devastation of watching friends die. And through it all, Dave.

 

Dave, helping him find some fatigues and a gun. Dave, introducing himself on the bus. Dave, teaching him how to survive. Dave, laughing at his jokes and holding him when he cried. Dave, kissing him in the smoke of the disco, and later, a hundred kisses, scattered through the march into hell.

 

Dave, bleeding out in his arms.

 

When Klaus tried to explain, “I couldn’t save him, he was bleeding so fast and I couldn’t do anything except watch him die-” Diego reached out and pulled him into a hug. That’s what broke him, hitching breaths turning to loud sobs. Diego rocked him gently, like a child, like their mothers never did.

 

“I’m sorry,” Diego told him. “I’m here.”

 

When Klaus cried himself out, Diego wordlessly ushered him into his bed and put the tray of food in his lap. Klaus ate, his movements slow and clumsy, whilst Diego sat at his feet and chattered, keeping him distracted from the ache of his knuckles and the ghosts, both real and metaphorical. When Klaus’ eyelids started sagging, weary from the outflowing of emotion, Diego moved the tray off to the side and sat beside his brother. Klaus felt a hand run through his curls, drawing out the tension that he hadn’t realised he was holding.

 

Klaus slept dreamlessly, and Diego didn’t leave.