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Love Me Dead

Chapter Text

You suppose that you like your apartment well enough. It’s not your dream home or anything, but it’s pretty nice. You like the high ceilings, the yawning bay windows, the view of the dog park across the street- though it’s been a while since you’ve seen anyone playing out there. The creeping autumn chill is pushing everybody indoors to the comfort of their working fireplaces and non-drafty living rooms. It’s a good thing rent is so cheap here, or you wouldn’t be able to manage the hefty cost of heating this place.

At least it gives you an excuse to curl up in bed with a cup of hot chocolate and take a break from your work. Your bed is in the perfect spot, tucked nicely into a windowed alcove overlooking the intersection of your street and the next. You can see your landlady’s phlox asserting its place between the fence slats- brown and shriveled now, even before the first frost, she really ought to take better care of her garden- all the way down to the convenience store at the far end of Eugenia St. This corner of town is usually fairly sparse as is, but it looks practically abandoned now under the encroaching blanket of bruise-colored storm clouds. All in all, the perfect environment to cozy up and get a little writing done.

You pull out your typewriter from its nook under your bed. Maybe it’s a bit silly to do all your work on a typewriter in this new, digital age, but you’ve always harbored a kind of yearning for bygone times. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the click-click-click-shhhk as the keys hammer words to paper, the steady trembling of the page as it is whisked through the rollers and of your fingers as they struggle to load another sheet before the muse can flit into the wispy shadows. Its weight in your lap is a comfort, another familiar thing to ground you when lately everything about your world feels uncertain and indistinct.

As you were saying- you like your apartment well enough, but it definitely would not be your first choice to spend the majority of your waking moments. And it seems like these days, that’s all you really do- sit in your apartment and write. You like to tell people you’re writing a novel, but technically it should be classified as a thesis. One you’ve been working on for too long, and keep telling your advisor you’ll finish eventually, but… here you are.

The sharp click-click of nails on the hardwood alerts you to the entrance of your dog, Thompson, into your bedroom.

“Hey, buddy. What’s shaking?” you ask him.

His stride is unhurried, his furry head pointed straight for the doggy bed you leave near your own. He doesn’t even acknowledge you as he pads delicately onto the bed, making a few revolutions before finally settling into the well-worn cleft in the center. His chin drops onto his paws with a world-weary sigh.

You reach out a foot and nudge him. “Tough day at the office?”

Again, he ignores you. His eyelids drift slowly shut, and after a few minutes you can hear the low rumbling snores that indicate he’s fallen asleep.

You give him a fond smile. Oh, to be able to just curl up and nap, not a care in the universe; how you envy him that luxury. With a sigh to match Thompson’s, you return to your typewriter and the unborn thesis anxiously awaiting the release of your touch.

It is unclear how much time passes in this way before you hear a strange noise coming from below. A low, rhythmic growling; you lean over and see your dog, hackles alert and lips curled in a cautious snarl. The sound that follows it, however, turns high-pitched, more of a panicked whine, carrying a note of fear you’ve never heard from him before. You glance over to see what could have scared him so- and your heart shudders to a halt.

Someone is standing in the hallway just outside your room, back to you so that you cannot see their face but you can sense the threat in their posture. Their body is all straight lines and quiet intent. What you can see of their raven hair appears neat and unmussed, a strange companion to the wrinkled hoodie-and-leather-jacket combo they’re sporting above black jeans and combat boots. Que grunge , you muse. Their hands are shoved into their jacket pockets, feet planted shoulders’ width from one another, a slight hunch to their torso. Even though you cannot see their expression, every bit of them radiates aggression.

Truthfully, you are not unused to seeing these kinds of things. You can’t quite remember when exactly it started, but not terribly long after you moved into this apartment, you started to see… things . People, mostly. They were usually only there for a few seconds, more a whisper than a presence. Mostly they appeared to be men, often wearing unkempt clothing and rubbing their hands together like they were perpetually trying to warm themselves over a fire. They never spoke or interacted with you, or even seemed to realize you were there.

At first you had chalked the visions up to a few too many sleepless nights, but they became far too frequent for you to truly dismiss. They left you with a deep sense of unease, and for a long time after they appeared you were left with a sense that the world was not quite correct. Thompson seemed to sense them, too- you’ve heard the thing about dogs being able to see ghosts, so maybe that is what they were. He would stare intently at unoccupied corners of the room or bark at what seemed like nothing; his normally calm demeanor would disappear and his hackles would shoot up if you got too close. It was unnerving, certainly, but the both of you seemed to adjust over time. The apparitions no longer leave you with quite the same bone-deep sense of unease.

This one, however, is different. They seem more solid, more real than any of the previous visions. As you stare at them, their outline grows sharper, their presence more concrete- and you are struck with a sudden, visceral fear that this person may truly intend you harm.

As if he senses your thoughts, Thompson’s snarl breaks into a flurry of ceaseless barking. He is half-raised from his position on the bed, tail tucked close against his rump and ears flattened back in fear, but the great growling barks that erupt from his furry body would have any intruder sprinting for the back door.

The stranger startles and turns, and just for the briefest moment you can glimpse their face, the honest surprise that passes over their features- and then they are gone.

You fix yourself an extra strong cup of hot chocolate to ward off the chill from that encounter.

Chapter Text

It isn’t too long before the stranger appears to you again.

You’re stretched out on the living room couch beneath a big fuzzy blanket, allowing yourself the rare luxury of a lazy morning. Thompson is curled up on your legs in a bundle of fur and limbs that slowly rises with each sleepy breath. You glance at him over the top of the well-worn book balanced on your chest; a fond warmth blooms inside of you at the sight of your sweet pup. You give him a little scratch between his ears and he lets out a huff of contentment.

“Who’s a good boy?” you murmur to him. “Yes, you’re a good boy. You’re the prettiest boy.”

Who, me? Aw, Ben-

Shut up, you idiot.

You jerk up at the same time that Thompson springs to his feet, body straining forward in full guard dog mode. The voices were so indistinct that you could believe you imagined them but for the way your dog is standing stark-stiff, eyes and snarling growl pointed toward the entrance to the living room.

The wooden floorboards are unfairly chilly beneath your bare feet. You hold out a hand to keep Thompson from following you as you inch across the living room. You pause just before the archway which separates you from the hall beyond, pondering. A significant part of you is scared, more scared than you’ve ever been, that the stranger with the leather jacket will be there again, and you unarmed and barefoot with no idea of how to defend yourself.

There is another part of you, though, that feels a tiny thrill at the idea of seeing them again. The vision had been so distinct, so real - so much more than the unsettling half-images that have haunted you to this point. That part of you craves… what? To be seen? To be known? To know- someone, or something, outside of yourself and your dog and this cold, empty apartment?

Neither part will be fully satisfied, however, until you know . You force a leaden foot forward, breaching the threshold and bringing you out into the hallway-

The empty hallway, containing nothing but a few somber dust bunnies.

Relief and disappointment jostle for dominance in your heart, but it is your skepticism that wins out. Of course there isn’t anything there; there’s no one else in the apartment. No one but you, Thompson, and the massive thesis you’ve been putting off for far too long.

I wonder who used to live here. Ooh, tchotchkes! 

Knock it off, Klaus. Show some respect .

The voices are behind you now. You whirl around and stumble backward in surprise when you see the figure between you and the couch. Their profile is stark against the light from the great bay window behind them. Unlike the other visions, you can’t see through them; this person is as solid as you. The contrast of the light and the hood tugged over their face prevents you from making out any distinct features, but there is a familiarity to their posture, their legs planted loosely as if ready to flee at the first notice and shoulders slightly hunched.

They’re facing the far wall where there stands only your overstuffed bookshelves. You definitely heard a second voice, though you cannot see who they might have been talking to. Though their words had been harsh, you could detect a tone of vague amusement, more familiar exasperation than true reprimand. Thompson’s growling increases in ferocity, but the apparition appears to take no notice of him.

Curiosity finally beats down the final scraps of your fear. You take a step back into the living room, and as if drawn by the movement, the stranger’s head swivels in your direction.

You can just make out the emotions warring in their expression- surprise, fear, hesitation, inquisitiveness- a strange mirror of your own. They tilt their head and the hood falls back, offering you a brief view of their serious but gentle features. Their mouth is pursed in indecision, thick eyebrows pinched together over warm but suspicious brown eyes. Their lips part, moving just a second behind the airy voice like a poorly synced video tape.

We’re not alone here.

You try to rush forward, hands coming up in a gesture of peace and don’t go already half formed on your lips, but you’re half a moment too late. The spirit is gone.

Thompson leaps off the couch and snuffles around the spot where they had just been standing. His instincts satisfied, his hackles lower and with a casual sneeze he trots off down the hallway toward your bedroom.

You sigh, feeling an iron weight settle in your chest. You could mistake it for dissatisfaction, but its heft feels more like the sodden anchor of loneliness. You push it away as you bend to collect your book and the blanket that had fallen to the floor. The ache lingers as you pad across the hall to the pantry and rifle for the tub of coffee grounds. All you need is a nice dose of caffeine to set yourself back to rights. Just throw yourself back into your thesis, and soon you’ll be over this whole mess.

As you measure out the grounds and fill the pot with water, your thoughts can’t stop wandering to your bookshelf in the living room. It hosts your collection of favorite novels and do-dads: mostly textbooks which fascinated you too much to sell back, or little knick knacks your parents sent you from their travels. There are a few items, though, representative of the more arcane aspects of your eclectic interests. You are a writer, after all.

One specific item that nudges its way to the forefront of your mind you haven’t opened since you brought it home. It had been intended as a gag- it had cost a pittance and was worth even less, and you thought it would be oh so fun at parties. Although you haven’t really had occasion to throw a party in so long. You can’t actually remember the last time you hung out with anybody, never mind someone brave or idiotic enough to fuck around with a Ouija board.

Ouija. Wee-jah. You’ve always kind of liked the way the word feels on your tongue. You’d heard somewhere that the name comes from the French oui and the German ja , both meaning “yes”. Strange way to name a board game that also has the option of saying “no”, but you suppose it’s too late to change it now.

You’ve never had the desire to use it before today, despite the frequency of otherworldly beings in your apartment. Perhaps you’ve never been afraid, or curious, enough to try to contact them. Though, you’ve never seen one quite as distinct as the stoop-shouldered vision you saw today, and you’ve certainly never heard any of them speak.

Coffee abandoned, your feet carry you against your conscious will back into the living room and over to the shelf. You carefully extract the dusty box from beneath the pile of similarly unused board games and settle on the living room floor to open it.

The board is made of real wood, in surprising shape despite the condition of the dilapidated box. Elaborate symbols are etched along the edges of the board, framing the ornate script which dominates the surface. There is the alphabet, the numbers zero through nine, and the words YES, NO, HELLO, and GOODBYE.

You inspect the wooden planchette. Nothing fancy about it, just a hole near the point to highlight the symbols. You place it on the board. You’ve read enough horror novels to know that you need to keep your hands on it, but you’ve no idea how to actually go about getting started.

“Hi,” you begin, and your voice comes out hoarse from nerves and lack of use. You clear your throat. “Spirits,” you try again. “I… summon you? Beseech you?”

You wait, expecting to feel… you don’t know what. They always say in stories that ghosts are accompanied by rushes of sudden cold, right? You don’t feel cold, though. All you feel is like an absolute idiot, sitting here talking to nothing.

“I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing right now,” you tell the empty room. “I don’t know if you’re a ghost, or a hallucination brought on by lack of sleep, or what… but I guess I should start by asking your name?”

The anticipation is palpable as you sit in silence, waiting. You shove back the thoughts about how this is stupid, I look so fucking stupid right now , and instead try to focus on the image of the apparition. Your memory is little more than a shadow, though, slivers of recognition slipping in and out of the haze. It’s like trying to grasp fog, straining for the barest hint of familiarity- a wisp of black hair, the sleeve of a rumpled leather jacket, a serious, startled frown in a half-obscured face- it’s maddening, exhausting, but still you follow the breadcrumbs through the maze of your mind’s eye.

Your body has gone cold, not just on the outside but from within , like all of your bones have been replaced with slivers of ice, and your trembling form is coated in a sheen of chill perspiration. At the same instant of this realization, the planchette moves.

It pauses with the circular opening framing the letter B, then slides over to the E, and finally the N. B-E-N. The thrill and relief that rush through you leave you unexpectedly giddy, and you release a bark of excited laughter.

“Ben? Your name is Ben? Or are those your initials?” You know you should pause to let the spirit respond but your excitement is so great the words tumble out in a jumbled rush.

The planchette slides to YES. A half-delirious smile stretches your lips and you almost let go of the planchette to give yourself a victorious fist pump. Instead you settle for an energetic full-body wriggle before you continue.

As you’re readying your next question, the planchette trembles and yanks itself over to NO.

Your breath dies in your throat. Instantly you want to curse yourself for being so impulsive and playing around with forces you have no clue how to control. What were you thinking? Your brain is already running through a thousand different scenarios that all end up with you disemboweled and your remains smeared across the walls when the planchette moves again.

K… L… A… U… S.

You frown. “Klaus? Is that your name?”

YES

NO

The movements are less erratic, as if the spirit is conscious of startling you. The planchette trembles, uncertain, before it slides over to frame the number 2.

“Two? There are… two of you?” you pry.

It returns to YES, then slowly spells out B… R… O… T… H… E… R… S.

“You’re brothers?”

YES

Y O U

You feel the question present in the single word. You smile a bit to yourself as you tell them your name, conscious of the somewhat awkward nature of introducing yourself to someone you cannot see.

A L O N E

Hmm. That’s a different one. “Are you telling me that you two are alone, or are you asking if I am alone?”

U

You chuckle. “Well, sort of. Unless you count my dog Thompson.” Speaking of… “Thompson! C’mere, boy!” you call.

You hear a far-off thump as he leaps off your bed and pads down the hallway. He appears in the doorway, panting happily and ears perked up, but as soon as he crosses the threshold into the living room he stops abruptly and bares his teeth in a growl.

“What are you doing, you goober? It’s just a ghost,” you tease. You’re about to summon him closer, but then the planchette jerks across the board again.

E M M A O R D A V I D

It takes a minute for you to understand their question, but when you do you let out a laugh loud enough to startle the animal in question from his watchdoggery. “Hunter S., actually. He’s one of my inspirations,” you reply.

W R I T E R

“Ah… well.” You pause, rolling the possible answers around in your head. Oh, what the hell. “...Yes. I guess I am.” Not wanting to be rude, you add, “What about you? What do you two do- or, did?”

There is a long moment with no answer. You’re abruptly aware of how completely silent the apartment is, the only sound the low rumble of Thompson’s growling and your own frenzied breathing. It feels as if you’re in a vacuum, no sound, no light but for the diffuse glow from the overcast sky. You can’t even feel the chill of the floorboards; the room is, in fact, warmer than it’s felt in a very long time, though not quite warm- warm, more like the absence of any temperature at all. 

Finally, the planchette begins to spell something out.

D E A D

A blush rushes to your cheeks. “Right, jeez. Of course. That was pretty insensitive of me, wasn’t it? I’m sorry.”

It gives another jerk and slides to the word NO. Before you can ask for clarification, it spells out:

B YES K NO

Something strange takes hold in your stomach. “How…” Your voice falters in your throat, the question dying on your tongue. You feel suddenly much too hot, then frozen all over, and the trembling returns to your limbs.

“How is it possible for you to talk to me if you’re not… dead?”

D E A D NO

A L I V E NO

Chill fear seizes your heart. You knew it, you knew it, you shouldn’t have tried to mess with things you don’t know anything about and now you’ve invited a demonic entity into your home. Panicked visions sprint through your mind alongside all the violent possibilities of how this could end. Through your fear it takes a moment for you to notice the planchette start to move again.

S A F E

“Safe,” you echo aloud. “Am I safe? From you?”

YES

“Prove it.”

You almost let go of the planchette to clap your hands over your mouth. The words had slid out without you fully meaning to, and you can only begin to imagine what awful things the entities might be pondering. The air hangs heavy with dreadful possibility; even Thompson’s growls have ceased, just the too-loud huffs of your frenzied breathing and your own blood pounding in your ears.

The pause is so long that you start to consider ending the session altogether, but finally the planchette glides over the board with an uneasy purpose.

T O U C H M E

“Touch… touch you?” you choke out. “How-?”

There is no response, but you can sense the shift in the air. You’re sitting cross-legged and hunched over the board, both hands poised on the wide end of the planchette. The uncomfortable chill that had come over you gradually dissipates, returning you to that strange neutral non-temperature. It slides up your body, coating your skin like a sticky summer night, a bit damp but not all that unpleasant.

A strange smell comes to your nose, and with it comes the realization that you haven’t really smelled anything but the empty chill of your apartment in so, so long. It’s a vast mixture of scents- the lingering musk of a campfire long gone out, the earthy dampness of grass just after it’s rained, the hint of frost dancing on a mid-autumn breeze. And then, closer- sweat, the primal essence of someone in terrific need of a long shower; the faint perfume of weed mixed with a more potent cloud of freshly smoked cigarettes.

It washes over you like the breeze before a storm, dancing with electricity and potential. You realize that it is a breeze- jesus, how long has it been since you felt the wind on your face- it tastes like the threat of rain and a million unspoken desires. You can feel it on your skin, taste the lightning teasing your tongue. It tastes of copper and cold tap water.

The temperature does not change, but there is a new sensation in front of you, like a manifestation of gentle warmth. It radiates against your face, your arms, your hands- you can touch it, something is enveloping your fingers. You open your eyes- when had you closed them?- and fix them upon the Ouija board in front of you. It looks different; it’s upside down, facing away from you.

The planchette is facing away too, but there is something else about it. Your hands are pressed, not against the smooth wood, but over two other pairs of hands. The one immediately below yours is pale, fingers much longer and more slender than your own and decorated with heaps of chunky rings. Your eyes follow the hands up the sleeves of a fur-lined black coat, along a pale sinewy throat laden with necklaces and dark scruff, across a pair of startlingly plush pink lips and a long crooked nose, and stop at the pair of baggy, kohl-rimmed green eyes.

You scream.

Chapter Text

 

Another crappy day, another crappy city. The places have all blended together for Ben Hargreeves, just a slow montage of crumbling brick buildings and seedy fire escapes, watching his brother slowly kill himself with every kind of pill known to humankind. Sucky way to spend your afterlife, but what choice does he really have?

Klaus’s boots crunch on the gravel lining the overgrown lawns. The houses around here all look to be at least a hundred years old, squat and decrepit, scrubby front yards spilling over chain link fences and weeds forcing their way up through cracks in the asphalt. Though he cannot feel the late afternoon sun, he can see the way the muggy heat shimmers over the pavement, the sweat beading on Klaus’s forehead. Although that might just be the come-down getting to him.

“We need to find a place for you to rest,” he says. His brother does not respond, instead hugging that stupid fur coat tighter around his body even though he must be sweltering. It’s far too gross out here for anyone to be walking around as long as they have, let alone someone coming down from a three-day bender, but Klaus has never quite grasped the concept of healthy self-preservation.

Ben searches about for a potential shelter, and his eyes fall on a house situated on a corner about a block away. It stands out from the surrounding buildings in that is a bit larger, three stories instead of one, and even by this neighborhood’s standards it looks like absolute shit. The lawn is covered in sour brown patches and choked with weeds, some kind of long-dead creeping flower has jammed between the fence slats like a corpse speared on the wooden points, and the ground around it is littered with old beer cans and cigarette stubs.

Ben makes an executive decision and points his brother toward their new shelter.

The house is as crappy inside as it had looked from the outside. Ben enters through the kitchen and is immediately assaulted by the scent of ashes and spilled beer. Food containers and empty bottles litter a wooden counter whose bicolored grain is so discordant it strains the eye. Glass crunches under his boots as he weaves around the wooden dining table and enters the hallway beyond. The first doorway he sees enters into what appears to be a living room, though it looks as if no one has updated the decor since before he was born. A pair of mismatched sofas in floral patterns so gaudy it makes him vaguely nauseous sit facing a boxy wood-paneled television set, beside which lie a stereo and VHS player that were surely the height of technological innovation in 1985. Against the adjacent wall is a massive wooden bookshelf of similar style to the cabinets and probably weighing a couple hundred pounds even without the massive load of thick old books and knick-knacks crowding every surface.

Klaus appears behind him in that creepy way he has- leave it to his brother to be able to sneak up on a ghost- and lets out a pitiful moan.

“I’m dying , Ben,” he mumbles.

Ben rolls his eyes. “Sure you are, buddy. C’mere.” He guides the other man to the puke-inducing couch and coaxes him to lie on his side. Klaus groans and pulls the flaps of his coat up over his face.

“I’m gonna go see if there’s a bucket around here you can use. Scream if you need me,” Ben says. He waits for his brother to whine his affirmation before leaving to explore the rest of the house.

It’s funny how much you can learn about someone when they’re no longer there. For example, he can presume from the single filthy toothbrush in the bathroom and the lonely twin-sized bed occupying the only remaining room in the apartment that the last occupant of this apartment was very single. Not for the first time in his afterlife, he wishes he could make his form corporeal enough to do some real exploring instead of just wandering around looking at everything. It’s not really snooping if the person clearly hasn’t lived there in at least a couple decades, right?

Having finished his examination of the only remaining rooms in the apartment and finding nothing useful to his current situation, Ben shoves his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket and starts back toward the living room with a sigh.

A sudden noise behind him, however, makes him freeze. It’s a low growl, like some vicious animal gearing up to strike. Even though he knows it can’t hurt him, his human instincts command his muscles to remain still.

He knows it’s stupid- he’s dead, what could an animal possibly do to him?- but he holds himself there, breathing slow and silent, eyes squeezed tightly shut against whatever might be coming for him.

Beeeeeeeeeennn!”

Klaus’s nasally cry disrupts the tense silence. The animal bursts into a flurry of barking loud enough to disturb the dead- and indeed it does as Ben spins around to see a dog perched on a ratty cushion that he hadn’t noticed before. Its fur is in need of a good trim and he can see its bones stretching against the skin in places, but its fury is aimed at him with all the power of a much stronger animal.

As he spins around, another motion draws his eye higher up, to the bed tucked comfortably into an alcove in the wall. He nearly chokes on his own spit when he sees a figure that had definitely not been there on his first sweep of the room. Their features are shadowed in comparison to the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the window behind them, but Ben can see the surprise etched in the quizzical tilt of their head.

A flurry of emotions- panic, terror, excitement- sprint through his head, but he finally settles on fleeing. The hallway deposits him back in the living room, where Klaus is still curled up on the sofa.

“Oh, don’t mind me,” Klaus groans. “Just leave me here to die alone in my own filth. ‘Twould be a fitting ending, I think.”

“Do you ever shut up?” Ben snaps.

“You already know the answer to that, dearest brother mine.”

“Okay, put a muzzle on that little voice in your brain that tells you to be an annoying asshole at every possible moment and listen to me,” he says. “I think there’s someone else here.”

“Oh?” Klaus peeks out from his jacket for a moment before quickly shrinking back from the light. “Call me when I’m sober and I’ll get us all squared away.”

Ben considers arguing, but there’s no dealing with Klaus when he’s like this. He crosses the room and peeks through the doorway into the hall, but the door to the bedroom is closed tight. It wasn’t before. He inches down the hall, boots phasing right through the cigarette butts and broken glass littering the floor, but when he reaches the bedroom it’s- completely solid. He can’t phase through it, can’t interact with it- it’s like a void made specifically to keep him out.

Probably for the better, he supposes. With a final suspicious glance, he returns to the living room to wait for Klaus’s inevitable meltdown.

 

No one disturbs them in the three days they spend waiting for Klaus to recover. Ben pokes around for any supplies that might be tucked away somewhere, but the place really has been picked clean. There’s a convenience store at the end of the street where Klaus spends what little money he still has on a few bags of powdered donuts and Gatorade- not the most nutritious choice, but beggars can’t be choosers and all that crap.

On the afternoon of the third day, Klaus is feeling well enough to get up and explore the apartment himself. He tries the bedroom door first after Ben tells him about what he’d seen, but the door doesn’t open for him either. It’s not locked- the knob can turn all the way- it’s just shut, like some enormous force is holding it closed from the other side. Next he pokes around the bathroom. There’s a slight trickle of water when he fiddles with the sink, but it’s so cloudy and brown with goodness knows what that even he won’t dare to touch it. 

They end up back in the living room, examining the entertainment setup. The TV doesn’t turn on, not that they really expected it to. The machine balances on an old chest which contains the strangest collection of video tapes they’ve ever seen.

Cujo, Scarface, Flashdance, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark …” Ben reads the titles aloud as he shuffles through them.

“Someone had a major boner for the early eighties,” Klaus muses.

“Look, though- most of them haven’t even been opened.” Ben picks up a copy of The Empire Strikes Back still neatly ensconced in its original case. Other than the thick sheen of dust coating its surface, the tape could be brand new.

Klaus fiddles with the buttons on the stereo until the cassette player pops open. “Ah, now here’s a classic,” he says, pinching the tape delicately between two fingers. He holds it up so that Ben can read the stark black text printed on the plastic: David Bowie- Diamond Dogs .

He shrugs. “Not his best album, but to each their own, I guess.”

Klaus scoffs. “That’s because you are a philistine who can’t appreciate true art.” He gingerly tucks the cassette back into the machine and closes it much the way a parent would tuck their child into bed.

He stands up from the grimy wooden floor and strolls over to the bookshelves, examining them with one hand planted on his hip. The other hand traces over the titles of the staggeringly thick volumes lining the surfaces. They all have long titles like Marxist Symbolism in the Works of Serbian Dramatist Ivo Andric and the Implications of its Influence on Magical Realism of 1920s El Salvador , and are written by authors with names like “Hubbard, Bernstein, and Wrylvich et. al.”, and none of them appear to span fewer than six hundred pages. 

“Boring, boring, dumb, boring, useless, boring, boring, boring…” He sighs. “How can someone simultaneously have such amazing taste in music and Christ-awful taste in literature?” he laments.

Klaus runs a dramatic hand through his hair and winces when it comes away sticky with grease. Okay, maybe he’s a bit overdue for a shower. It’s not his fault that this stupid place has no electricity! And it’s not like he can just take off his coat- it’s part of his look , you know. Jeez.

Who’s a good boy? Yes, you’re a good boy. You’re the prettiest boy .

He tosses an imaginary lock of hair over his shoulder and preens at the compliment. “Who, me? Aw, Ben-”

“Shut up, you idiot,” his brother snaps. “That wasn’t me.”

Klaus glances about the room. “Well, we’re the only ones here.” The memory of the strange apparition Ben had spotted on their arrival flits back to the forefront of his mind, and he claps his hands over his mouth with a cry of realization.

“Oh, Benny boy, we’re having a spot of para extraordinary activity,” he gasps.

“Quiet.”

His brother has stood up from where he was crouching by the TV and holds up a hand to silence him. He holds still- as still as he can, considering that his muscles are always at least a little bit jittery- and waits, watching the corners of the room for some mysterious ghost wearing parachute pants and fishnet gloves to manifest. But of course, nothing does.

“If they wanted to be seen, they’d have shown themselves by now. It’s not like we’ve made any big secret of our presence here,” he says.

Ignoring his brother’s hesitation, he returns to his examination of the bookshelves. They really are enormous, reaching almost to the ceiling, and stuffed beyond capacity with the strangest assortment of items. The textbooks make up the bulk of the collection, but they certainly aren’t the only things of note.

“I wonder who used to live here,” he murmurs, fingering the fringed hem of a hand-embroidered apron folded neatly on one of the shelves. “Ooh, tchotchkes!”

His little magpie heart soars at the sight of the little do-dads clustered on a lower shelf. There’s a tiny wooden diorama with three skeletons dressed like mariachi , a ceramic pot shaped like a red onion that reads “SUGAR”, a pink troll doll resting in the lower body of what was once part of a Russian nesting doll set- it’s like someone took all of his packrat dreams and distilled them onto a single shelf. He snatches up a little copper model cannon and positively squees with joy when he discovers that the bottom is also a pencil sharpener.

“Knock it off, Klaus. Show some respect.”

He rolls his eyes. “Whatever, dad .” He replaces the cannon on the shelf and moves on to examining the remainder of the knick knacks.

Ben lets out a world-weary sigh. Keeping his brother in check really is a full-time job. Good thing he only has all of eternity to do so.

A soft creak sends his heart suddenly racing. He’s almost afraid to look, but he’s just too goddamn curious to resist. He glances in the direction of the sound, and his brain comes to a full stop.

It’s the same vision from before- he hadn’t been able to see them well before, but now they stand fully illuminated in the daylight which streams through the enormous bay window. Their posture is stiff, like they’re afraid to fully approach him, though there is nothing indistinct about their outline. They’re as solid as Ben himself. There’s a note of fear in their expression, but he can see the way it battles with curiosity and a touch of yearning. He’s seen that same look on too many spirits before, held back by their natural fear or uncertainty about the living (about his place among the living) but driven forward by the consuming desire to be seen, to be known after spending so much time alone in the dark.

“Whatcha lookin’ at, buddy?”

Klaus’s voice jolts Ben from the moment- had it really only been a moment that he spent looking at the stranger’s gentle face? It had felt like an eternity- and the warning is back in his voice when he speaks.

“We’re not alone here,” he tells his brother.

The vision seems to step toward him, but in an instant they disappear. Ben inches forward, waving a hand in the air where they had just stood, but there is nothing.

“Methinks the solitude might be going to your head, brother dearest,” Klaus hums.

Ben whirls back in his direction. “I know what I saw,” he says. “There’s someone else in this house, someone who can’t fully manifest like I can.”

Klaus considers him, tapping a filthy fingernail against his chin. “It’s rare,” he muses, “but I suppose if someone had been dead long enough… under particular circumstances…”

“We have to help them,” Ben says.

“Slow your roll there, buddy boy. We don’t have to do anything,” his brother counters. He strolls across the room and flops onto the couch, drooping his lanky form across the furniture. “And right now, what I’m really feeling is a nice, long nap.”

Ben has to stop himself from trying to grab Klaus’s arm. It’s maddening sometimes, not being able to take on a corporeal form. He huffs out an exasperated sigh. “You don’t know what it’s like, Klaus, being dead. It fucking sucks. Do you even realize what it was like for me in the beginning, before you found me, when I…” He tries to keep the tremor out of his voice, and falls silent instead.

Thankfully, though he’s never truly been serious for a moment in his life, Klaus understands what the other man is trying to say. He sweeps off the couch with a dramatic gesture and flits over to the bookshelf. “It’s a good thing, then,” he chirps, “that I noticed this during my exploration.”

His lithe fingers draw a decrepit, rectangular box from the assortment of knick knacks. When he opens it, Ben instinctively snorts in disbelief.

“A Ouija board? Really?” he says.

“What? Can’t hurt, can it?” With a wink, Klaus sets about setting up the board. While the box was coated in a jacket of gray dust, the board itself is in nearly pristine condition, the ornate black script glossy in the decaying sunlight. He sets the planchette on the board and pats the ground next to him. He glances up at his brother and wiggles his eyebrows with a playful smirk. The other man snorts but grudgingly sits cross-legged on the floor beside him.

“So?” Ben says. “How do we do this?”

Klaus shrugs. “Dunno. Never really had a reason to try it.”

Thirty years of suffering are released in the long sigh from Ben’s lungs. “Give it here, then.” He places both his hands on the planchette and pauses, searching for the right words.

“You’re supposed to say something.”

“I know, I know- I’m just trying to think-”

The men both fall silent as the planchette slides across the board, pausing at HELLO.

Neither of them speaks for a long moment. Klaus, of course, breaks the quiet. “Did you just-”

“No, it wasn’t me,” Ben snaps. He pauses. “At least, it didn’t feel like me.”

Silence returns when the tool moves again, this time toward the alphabet.

N A M E

“Oooh, how scintillating,” Klaus yawns.

“Shut up,” his brother says. “Ben,” he addresses the spirit- or, what he approximates to be the spirit. He’s not quite sure how the communication is perceived on this thing. “My name is Ben.”

A slight quiver runs through his fingers at that, like the planchette is pleased at his answer, and it runs over the letters of his name again.

“B-E-N. Yep, that’s my name,” he says, feeling a bit foolish.

“Oh, give ‘er here,” Klaus sighs. He tries to take the planchette away, but the other man doesn’t cede his grip.

“I don’t know what will happen if I let go without saying goodbye,” Ben huffs. “This stuff is serious, man. I don’t want to invite some poltergeist in here.”

“Fine.” Klaus pouts, but places his hands over his brother’s. “Oh, spirits? Are you there? This is Klaus speaking. Ignore my dear brother, he’s a bit of a bore.”

There’s no response for many long moments. Finally, Ben lets out a snort. “Guess the spirits don’t want to talk to you, hmm?”

“Piss off.”

Their attentions are dragged back to the planchette as it traces the letters of Klaus’s name, slowly, like someone feeling the syllables in their mouth as they say it.

“Yes, dear, the name’s Klaus. Excellent work.”

The tool trembles uncertainly.

“You’re confusing them,” Ben scolds him. “There are two of us here. We’re brothers,” he explains.

2 B R O T H E R S

“Yes, that’s it,” he praises. “What about you? What’s your name?”

The planchette moves slowly across the board, like the party on the other side is shy about introducing themselves. Klaus sounds the name aloud, rolling it over his tongue. The planchette jerks to YES and then stops.

The boys glance at each other. “What should we ask it next?” Klaus whispers.

Ben looks back at the board and clears his throat. “Are you alone?” he asks.

His brother nudges him with his elbow. “Way to sound like a fucking creep. Now they won’t want to talk to us anymore,” he mutters. His eyes are yanked back to the board as the planchette starts to move again, and Ben gives him a victorious grin.

U O R M E

“U… orm… Oh! You or me?” Klaus says. “You, are you alone?”

YES

The planchette hesitates, then slides back toward the letters in the center.

D O G T H O M P S O N

“Guess that explains the dog I saw,” Ben muses.

Klaus giggles. “Thompson, that’s quite a name. Emma or David?” He turns to Ben. “Wait, what if they died before those people got famous? What if the reference is lost on them? Oh, this is so embarrassing.”

Ben rolls his eyes.

H U N T E R S

“Hunters…?” Ben glances at his brother for clarification.

“Hunters… Hunter S. Thompson! Of course. I knew this spirit had excellent taste.” Klaus addresses the board. “Are you a writer, then?”

There’s another pause, the planchette hovering between YES and NO.

YES

Y O U

Ben huffs out a bitter laugh. “Well, I’m dead, so. Not much going on over here.”

S R Y

“Oh, don’t be, honey. He’s just being dramatic,” Klaus says. “I, however, am perfectly alive. For the moment, at least.”

N O T D E A D

“Are any of us really alive, we who walk among the dead?” Klaus sighs.

Ben shoots him a glare. “Be semi-serious, for once,” he says. “He’s kidding, spirit. He’s just a regular living human slash total nuisance. Neither of us means you any harm.”

S A F E

“Yes.” He smiles, glad to be able to offer some comfort to this lost soul. “Yes, you’re safe around us.”

P R O V E I T

The men share a panicked look. Communicating was one thing, but to interact with a spirit, to physically call them forth, especially when they had no idea who they really were, was terrifically dangerous.

“We’ve no reason to think they mean to harm us now,” Klaus says.

“Are you kidding me? We have every reason to believe that,” Ben cries. “We don’t know what the fuck we’re dealing with here, Klaus.”

“I can handle anything that comes out of this board. Trust me.”

The gravity in his brother’s voice gives Ben pause. He hasn’t heard Klaus sound this serious in… heaven knows when. He searches his face for any sign of hesitation or joking, but finds only resolute resolve.

“Fine,” he concedes.

Klaus wiggles with excitement. “Alright, spirit,” he crows. “You want proof? Touch me.”

No response. Ben fixes his brother with a stern glare, but he continues goading the unseen entity. “Go on, touch me!” he cries. “Make the temperature drop! Send gooseflesh up my spine! You chicken or something? Touch me-

There’s a palpable shift in the air, like all the warmth has been sucked out of the room, but rather than leaving behind a chill, the space just feels perfectly neutral. Like there’s no temperature at all. Then all the warmth seems to gather again, dancing over their skin, tickling their hair like electricity before a summer storm.

The sensation centers on the place where their hands rest on the planchette. Klaus takes a deep breath, tasting magic and promise on the gentle breeze. He stares straight forward, seeing and yet not seeing, like his eyes are recording the world but his brain just isn’t receiving it. And then there’s a presence before him, as solid as any apparition, their curious eyes boring straight into his own.

He screams.

Chapter Text

The man jerks away from you with a shriek. His hands splay out behind him to stop himself from falling over, and the motion causes his open coat to fall away from his torso, revealing a lean expanse of wiry muscle. He glances down at his own bare chest, then shrieks again and claps his hands over his exposed nipples.

“Ben! Intruder!” he screams dramatically. He dives toward the man sitting beside him and burrows into the space between his crossed legs. You recognize the second figure as the apparition that had appeared to you earlier, now sitting before you as real as anything.

In the quiet that follows, you can finally take in your new circumstances. The apartment looks… different. Instead of the overcast gray glow coming through the windows moments earlier, the room is awash with the golden gleam of late afternoon. All your furniture is still here, but it’s like everything has aged thirty years, covered in dust and garbage. Your video cassettes are scattered in front of the TV among old food wrappers and beer bottles, and a sheen of grime clings to every surface.

You lift a hand to your face and examine it in the dying light. You can see the way it stretches the shadows and bounces off your skin, but you cannot feel its warmth. You press your fingers against your cheek- solid, just as it was this morning. As solid as the two men before you appear to be. Why, then, do you feel so odd?

The one who had screamed pokes his head up from where he had been cowering ostrich-style in his companion’s lap. He had cried out for Ben, so you can assume this one is Klaus. He leans toward you with cautious movements and tilts his head like some curious animal. When he opens his mouth, your name slides over his lips with a strangely familiar cadence that sets your heart thrumming. It takes a few moments of him staring in silence for you to realize he’s waiting for a response.

“Yeah. Yes, that’s me. My name, that is.” You clear your throat, suddenly bashful as the brothers’ gazes focus directly on you. “I’m sorry, but I’m a bit confused. Where… am I?”

The men glance at each other and something imperceptible passes between them. Ben turns back to you, speaking with the forced comfort of a doctor about to tell someone that they have terminal cancer. “Where do you think you are?” he asks gently.

Klaus gasps and claps his hands over his cheeks. “Or when do you think you are?”

Ben rolls his eyes.

You glance down at your lap, considering. Now that you’re really stopping to ponder it, you have no idea what day it is. Every time you glance out the window, you see nothing but bare trees and cold, empty streets. It’s been the edge of winter for- so long. So very, very long.

“I… I can’t remember,” you finally admit. “This is my apartment, but it definitely wasn’t… like this a few minutes ago.”

“Alright, that’s okay. Do you maybe have a rough guess of what year you think it could be?” Ben prods.

You close your eyes and rifle through the far reaches of your memory. “I remember… I finished my undergrad about three years ago,” you say, “...and that was in the spring of ‘81, so-”

“Wait, I’m sorry. You mean 19 81?” Klaus interjects.

Dread descends into your stomach. “Um. Yes? Why? What- what year is it for you guys?”

They share another look that only deepens the nausea building in your gut. Ben opens his mouth, then closes it, like he’s not entirely sure he wants to tell you. Finally, he says, “We’re in 2019. You’ve been dead for almost forty years.”

The words barely reach you. The world goes blurry, like many realities layered on top of one another, and a heavy chill creeps over your limbs. Dead. You’re dead. You’ve been dead for well over three decades now. It’s all suddenly making sense- the timeless stretch of your existence, the lack of contact from your loved ones, the visions of shivering strangers in dirty clothes squatting in your home- your apartment is haunted, not by them, but by you. You’re the spirit.

“Where’s Thompson?” you croak. If it’s been this long, there’s no way he could still be alive, but if all this time his presence was just a vision- you’re not sure if you could handle it.

The sound of his name summons him from where he’d been cowering underneath the sofa. When he slips out from beneath the furniture and you can take in his form completely, the bile that has been building in your throat threatens to spill forth. He’s so thin that you can see the ridges of his bones poking through his skin, and his too-long fur is matted with filth. What had he gone through after your death, to bring him to this state? Was it your fault for abandoning him? You think your heart might actually be breaking.

“Oh, my sweet pup,” you whisper. You hold out your arms and he limps dutifully into your embrace, settling into your lap with a weary huff. You run your fingers through his fur and press a kiss to his soft little forehead that still smells a bit like peanut butter. “I’m sorry,” you mumble into his fur. “I’m so, so sorry, buddy.”

“Hey, it’s not your fault,” Klaus says. He shifts to sit next to you and shoots you a fond smile. “These things happen, y’know? It sucks, but that’s life.” He frowns and a crease appears between his eyebrows. “Or death, I suppose.”

Despite the sadness clawing at your throat, you can’t stop the tiny laugh that bubbles up at the stupid joke. You scratch the back of Thompson’s neck, right at the spot that always makes him melt, and he nuzzles against your knee with a pleased sigh.

“Look, see how happy he is? He’s in doggy heaven! Er-” Klaus grimaces, shrinking back from you like he’s afraid you’ll hit him, but you smile your forgiveness without pausing in your puppy scritches. Klaus relaxes again, holding out a beringed finger for your pup to lick. Thompson’s tongue flicks out affectionately, but it phases right through the man’s finger.

“Ah, right. Forgot about that bit,” Klaus sighs.

At the pathetic pout he delivers at the lack of doggy smooches, you let out another short laugh. He sticks his tongue out, and you blow a raspberry in retort.

The sound of Ben clearing his throat reminds you that he is still very much in the room. “Now that we’ve all been introduced, I feel like we should address the whole…” He gestures vaguely between himself and his brother.

“Ah, yes. The whole ‘us staying here’ problem.” Klaus flops onto his side, propping an elbow up so he can rest his head in his hand while the other arm drapes over the side of his bare torso. His fingers come to rest tantalizingly close to the happy trail leading down to the waistband of his knee-length leather skirt. You don’t realize you’ve begun to stare until he catches your eye with a cheeky jut of his chin. He gives you a ruinous wink, and if you still had blood you’re sure your face would be tomato-red right now.

“We’re more than capable of finding somewhere else to live.” Ben’s voice drags you back to cold reality. “If you’d prefer we leave, I mean.”

“Or if you’d prefer we stay…” Klaus purrs. He rolls over onto his stomach, cruelly robbing you of the sight of his abs, but he makes up for it when he kicks up his legs pinup-style in a way that shows off his beautifully sculpted calves. He cocks an eyebrow, arching his back so that he can tilt his head to meet your eyes. “We are willing to make certain… accommodations.”

Ben kicks out a heavy-soled foot, catching his brother in the side of the gut and saving you from having to stammer out a response.

“Stop being a fucking creep,” Ben admonished.

“Oh, you got me!” Klaus howls, rolling onto his back. “Man down, man down! I’ve been hit! Oh, the agony…”

You let out a giggle at the brothers’ teasing, but then something about the interaction strikes you. “Wait, I thought you said that Ben is dead. How can you touch each other?”

The men pause, Ben still with a leg outstretched and Klaus frozen in the false throes of torment. They look at each other and then back at you- it’s kind of creepy how in sync they are.

“Truthfully, we’re not quite sure how it works,” Klaus responds. “It comes and goes- usually when the ol’ adrenaline is pumping extra high, but sometimes it just… happens. More and more often, lately.”

Your next question sits on your tongue like a leaden weight, but god do you want to ask it. The two men are watching you with a strange tenderness, and the genuine emotion in their expressions- they are, technically, strangers to you, but you feel so strongly that you should trust them- makes you half-believe that they would happily acquiesce to your request. But that’s probably just your hopeful naivete.

You can tell that they’re waiting on you and you can feel your resolve decaying with every moment you sit without speaking.

Fuck it.

“Would you touch me?”

The question hangs like an axe over your neck and oh god, now they think you’re some kind of horny weirdo. Your words stumble over your tongue in their rush to get out of your mouth and somehow relieve the awkwardness that has descended over the room.

“I mean, not in like, a creepy way. I just,” your voice cracks (how can your throat suddenly feel so dry when you don’t even have saliva?) and you pause to clear it. “I just want to… you know, see. If maybe it could work.”

There’s a note of pity in Ben’s otherwise placid expression as he regards you. You wonder how long he was dead before Klaus could see him, if maybe he too spent countless years in a solemn void, alone. Perhaps he understands that desire to feel, to be felt, when it seems like no one else in this world can.

Thompson gives an affronted snort when he notices that you’ve stopped petting him. He arches his back with a slow yawn and then climbs out of your lap, trotting away in search of a new nap spot.

“At least you know you can touch him,” Ben says with a smile.

Klaus tosses his head indignantly. “He doesn’t know how good he’s got it,” he sniffs. His shadowed eyes slide down your body to your recently vacated lap. “Is that seat taken?”

Before you can fully process his words, let alone force your brain to spit out an adequate response, Klaus has pulled himself off the floor and slithered into your lap.

Of course, it doesn’t work. His bum hits the floor with a thud as he phases right through your body. It doesn’t feel unpleasant; it doesn’t really feel like anything, but it sure is weird as hell to see someone go directly through you. He rolls out of the way of your body and lies on his back, sticking his lower lip out in a forlorn pout.

“Idiot,” Ben mutters.

Your eyes jump from the man preening dramatically on your floor to his brother, still sitting cross-legged a few feet from you. Ben glances up to meet your gaze, and something familiar passes between you. You can tell you’re sharing the same idea. He quirks an eyebrow in a way that seems to ask, Why not?

The smile that breaches your lips is laced with a note of indecision. Your foremost thought is that this is weird, and though nothing… explicit in nature has happened between the three of you (yet), the simple act of touching feels too intimate to share with someone who is, by most definitions, a total stranger. Your mother always did warn you about going alone with unfamiliar men- though you guess you didn’t exactly choose to be in this situation. And anyway, you’re already dead. What’s the harm, really?

There’s also a part of you, an extremely vocal part, that is crying out to be touched. Now that you are aware of the circumstances of your existence, you can feel the ache of decades of solitude settling over you. It’s a compulsion that creeps through your bones, coats your skin like the layers of grime and dust covering your furniture. You need it- need him- need anyone to touch you.

You extend your hand first. He mirrors the action, and it feels as if the whole world is holding its breath waiting for the contact of palm against palm.

When your fingertips brush his, it does not feel like anything, and for a moment the pang of disappointment squeezes your heart. It takes a moment to realize that he has no temperature, just like everything else in this new realm, and if you focus you can feel the pads of his calloused fingers pressing against your own. You trace the creases of his skin down to his palm, battered from a lifetime of hardship, down to the veins stark against his pale wrist.

You glance up from your study of his skin and see his eyes boring into you, burning with an emotion you cannot define. There’s a wrinkle between his eyebrows and a muscle jumps in his jaw like he’s trying not to cry, but there’s also a warmth and tenderness in his infinite topaz eyes that makes your heart ache.

The sound of Klaus releasing a low whistle startles the both of you out of the unexpectedly intimate moment. He’s leaned up on both elbows and crossed one leg over the other so that his skirt puddles around his upper thighs, exposing the barest hint of- something black, and lacy. You feel like you’ve just been socked in the gut.

“Are you two done eye-sexing?” Klaus hums. “I believe we were discussing our living arrangements. I’d like to know if I’m spending the night in an alley, if you please.”

Once you’ve recovered, the three of you begin to discuss your situation. Of course you tell them they can stay in your place as long as they’d like. Klaus can take your bed- he tries to insist on the couch, but you remind him that it’s not like you need to sleep anyway- and they’re welcome to any of the facilities. They confirm your guess that your landlady, or whoever owns the place now, has long since turned off all the utilities, but Klaus assures you that he can figure something out.

“At least it’s got a roof,” he says with characteristic cheer.

You don’t ask them about their pasts, or what brought them to this situation in the first place. From his sallow complexion and the track marks dotting his arms, you can guess that Klaus has a history with hard drugs, but you figure it’s not your place to pry.

They insist on doing something to repay you, but you honestly can’t think of anything you desire besides their company. It’s not like you can make any use of money- if they had any, that is. When Klaus sheepishly shows you the meek provisions he’s scrounged up, you take the time to deliver a good admonishing about taking care of himself before you offer to let him sell some of your old things. It pains you to part with them, but like you said, it’s not as if you have any use for most of this stuff. You figure that giving up your unopened mint condition Mad Max cassettes (you’re thrilled when the boys tell you that George Miller made two more sequels) is worth making sure Klaus is safe and healthy.

And so you end the day in your apartment, surrounded by the decay of nearly forty years, with the realization that you and your dog are both dead, and another ghost and his cute seance brother for your new roommates. It sounds like the premise of a terrible sitcom, but it’s your new reality- forever.

As you watch Klaus drop off to sleep in your bed, his chest rising with slow breaths and an expression of idle peace on his face, you feel as if eternity won’t be so bad.

Chapter Text

“Michael Jackson is DEAD?”

A week after your initial encounter, you and Ben are sitting in your living room. You’re curled up in the armchair and Ben lounges on a beanbag chair that Klaus looted from a dumpster. Clear morning light streams through the broad bay windows and highlights the motes of dust dancing in the air.

The two of you have taken to spending the early hours talking together. Mostly Ben catches you up on thirty-six years of headlines and you try not to talk about them in the future tense. Today, apparently, is the day he ruins all your musical idols for you forever.

“Yeah, it was this whole thing,” he says. “Apparently he invited some kid to his home amusement park, which is a whole thing on its own, but then-”

“No, no no! No, that did not happen. Not Michael ,” you gasp.

“I mean, he was acquitted, but that’s probably because he paid the kid’s family like a million dollars to-”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” you groan. You drag your fingers through your hair, nails scraping at your scalp.

Ben laughs at the horrorstruck expression into which you’ve twisted your features. “You can think what you want about it. Everyone else does,” he says. “But you gotta admit, the whole thing is pretty suspicious…”

“What about David Bowie? He’s a rock legend . Don’t tell me something happened with him, too?”

The grimace on Ben’s face says all you need to know.

“Why? Why must you ruin everything that I once loved?” you moan.

“Hey, these are the facts. I’m just the messenger,” he says, holding his hands up in defense.

The past week has been a lot to take in. So much of what you had understood as present reality now comprises a couple chapters in a high school history textbook. Most of your favorite celebrities have died and/or turned out to be pedophiles, the economy is still garbage, the country is in arms after a terrorist attack that was used to justify a foreign invasion and vast government domestic surveillance even though almost every act of terror since then has been enacted by white natural-born American men, and skinny jeans went away only to make a sudden and vicious comeback in 2010. Your head is positively spinning.

There were a couple things that didn’t quite surprise you. Reagan turned out to be just as much of a trash heap as you’d predicted. He incarcerated millions of African Americans after introducing cocaine into their communities in order to quell revolutionary sentiment and sat on his rear while the most vulnerable and stigmatized members of the American population were ravaged by AIDS. Of course, now he’s dead, gay marriage is legal, and HIV is no longer an instant death sentence (since people finally started paying attention once they realized straights could die from it too). Ben solemnly relates to you that the rest of the damage is yet to be fully rectified, but things are looking better than they did even just ten years ago.

It’s not like he bombards you with doom and gloom, though. Plenty of cool things have happened too! The country had its first African-American president, clawed its way out of another recession, put a robot on Mars, reopened relations with Cuba… hip hop went mainstream, the internet was invented, diseases have been cured; societies around the world are making enormous strides in human rights, technology, and preserving the environment; and Earth is all around a wider, more accessible and deeply connected place.

Of course, the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation and the cost of living, college degrees are more necessary and yet more expensive to obtain than ever, and a tapioca-toupee’d millionaire who’s filed for bankruptcy six times shut down the government because they wouldn’t approve a senseless and racism-fueled motion whose effect on the level of undocumented immigrants in the country would be negligible, but you try to look on the brighter side of things.

Ben and Klaus also take over your pop culture education. They start slow, with the 80s cult classics that you just barely missed- Heathers, The Goonies, Gremlins, The Lost Boys - as well as an array of bands that you’d never heard of but are apparently very popular now with white boys who just discovered atheism, like The Smiths and Cocteau Twins . Klaus posits himself as the primary expert in this degree, which makes sense since he dresses like he just stepped off the set of a music video by The Cure.

Ben designates himself head tutor for all things nineties. He starts at Jurassic Park , guides you along Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You , takes a sharp left at Green Day and Blink-182, and finally deposits you gently on the doorstep of The Matrix . Your days are inundated with flannel and DVDs, Shrek and neon tank tops, AIM and Fall Out Boy.

And the most incredible part of it all- everything that they show you is accessible via a tiny glass rectangle that fits in Klaus’s palm. The mobile phones of your day were nearly as big as your head, could only make calls, and cost about a quarter of your parents’ yearly income. Now you can have the sum of all human knowledge in your back pocket.

The boys have tried asking you about your own life a few times- it’s not often that they get to meet a literal relic from 1983- but you find that you can’t really remember anything about your life outside of the barest details. You know you were a senior getting your MA in Creative Writing, and that you liked to collect videos and cassettes even though you rarely opened them, but that’s it. You don’t remember what school you went to, where you were born, who your friends were, if you had a significant other, how you died, whether anybody mourned you- it’s just a blank nothing.

The longer you spend in the apartment, the less it feels like yours . It’s like being inside of a museum: you’re a visitor, looking at all these relics of someone you maybe once knew very intimately but with whom you’ve long since lost contact. You may observe, you may even analyze, but you must not touch.

As far as your ability to physically interact with the world, you’ve learned the guidelines pretty quickly. It seems to be limited to things that haven’t much consequence if they are moved. For example, you are able to lie on the sofa or press your fingers to the grimy window glass, but you cannot pick up a book or open a cabinet. You can phase through certain objects, like walls and drawers, and see what’s beyond provided there’s enough light, which is actually pretty cool. It isn’t quite like being alive, though. It’s like, you can touch things, but you can’t actually feel them. Everything is just blank- neutral, empty, no texture, no sensation. Something, but nothing. Kind of like you.

The only thing that feels real, oddly enough, is Ben. You’ve taken to touching him at random moments, and he usually lets you. It’s comforting to feel the softness of his feathery hair, or the smooth creases of his black leather jacket. He doesn’t really say anything, but you usually catch him smiling when you touch him, just a little bit.

You still can’t touch Klaus at all- not that he doesn’t try anyway. He’ll reach out to brush some hair out of your eyes, or pat your shoulder in greeting, or give your arm a playful slug when you make a terrible joke. His body has passed right through yours every time, but he’s stopped acting like he notices. It’s become a normal thing for the two of you to treasure each other’s touch, as if it’s really there, as if you aren’t a ghost.

You find yourself fascinated by them. It’s not just how captivating their personalities are, each in their own way, but their lives are amazing - together they’ve seen more action in thirty years than most humans see in thirty lifetimes . Even after everything you’ve learned, you were still hesitant to believe them when they first told you, but they found enough internet articles and even a few microfiche scans to convince you. They tell you about the unusual circumstances of their births, their adoption by a mysterious billionaire, their childhoods spent training to stop some catastrophe that had never manifested, and the Umbrella Academy’s disbanding about a decade ago. Klaus has been on his own since then, traveling around with his brother trailing him like heaven’s most reluctant guardian angel, drowning the visions in every kind of intoxicant.

They don’t mention how ben died, and you don’t pry. Klaus tells you that out of all the spirits he’s encountered, you’re definitely one of the most lucid- and certainly the least frightening. You’re solid, stationary, and perfectly capable of absorbing your surroundings, unlike the poor wayward souls he typically encounters.

The fact that he is almost always able to see you is remarkable given that he certainly hasn’t remained sober since he arrived. It’s not like he’s gotten back into the hard drugs (you think Ben cajoled him into taking it easy, or perhaps Klaus just feels bad about the idea of buying drugs with the money gained from pawning your things), but he’s usually got a pack of cigarettes and a joint somewhere on his person. Neither is he afraid of a drink. Neither you nor Ben can see any other spirits that one might want to snuff out, so maybe Klaus is continuing his substance use out of pure habit. You don’t ask him about it. His self-medication is the one topic sure to put a damper on his otherwise cheeky demeanor.

As you and Ben continue to chat about all the celebrities that are now completely ruined for you, you can hear the kitchen door slamming open two rooms over. Instantly your conversation ceases and you and Ben sit up on alert. There’s a great rustling noise followed by rapid footsteps crossing the linoleum, headed right for the living room.

When Klaus’s curly mop pokes through the doorway, a wave of relief washes over you. He pauses at the cusp of whatever dramatic greeting he was about to deliver and cocks his head curiously. “What’s a matter with the two of you? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost!”

He doubles over in self-satisfied guffaws as you and Ben groan.

“Seriously, though. Come look!” Klaus shoots you a sneaky grin. “I think you’ll really like to see what I bought.”

You roll your eyes as you hop off the armchair and follow him into the hallway. “I’m just impressed that you’re out of bed before ten,” you tease. He just gives a snorting laugh in response.

Klaus leads you into the kitchen, where the counter is littered with bursting paper bags. You stretch up on your toes to peer into one of the bags, and are startled by the sight of a verdant array of vegetables and fruits.

“I take it you found that grocery store I told you about?” you say. You meant it jokingly, but there is a note of joy in your smile at the thought that he actually listened to your advice to take better care of himself and acted on it.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m not going full vegan on ya,” he drawls, hopping up onto the counter. “But, y’know, I figured it might be somewhat beneficial to not fill my body with artificial toxins. Or at least, temper those toxins with some good ol’ vitamin C.” He punctuates the point by grabbing a clementine out of one of the bags and taking an enthusiastic chomp. Immediately his face twists into an expression of sour malcontent and he spits out a mouthful of the bitter orange skin.

You bellow with laughter at his blustering mistake, and he responds with a pinching glare. “You’re such a fucking dork,” you giggle. After the humor subsides, however, you find another problem coming to the forefront of your mind. “Not that I don’t want to support your choices,” you say, “but how are you going to keep these refrigerated without any actual electricity?”

He tosses the clementine back in the bag and hops off the counter. “That’s the beauty of it, my dearest,” he crows. “I popped on my detective cap and did a little investigating, and I found the company that owns this property. They were so desperate to get it out of their greasy corporate hair, they were practically begging me to-”

“Klaus,” you gasp. Your mind is reeling so hard from hearing the pet name from his lips directed at you that it takes a moment to fully register the rest of what he’s saying. “Don’t tell me- did you-?”

“Slow down, Speedy Gonzales. I was getting to it.” He rests an elbow on the counter and leans toward you with a smile that would be frightening on anyone else, but on him just looks like pure seduction. “We made a little arrangement. Strictly under the table, of course. If I agree to a bit of light maintenance, then they will deign to turn the power back on.” He grins cheekily. “And of course, if there happens to be a stunningly handsome young man skulking around one of the apartments, who are they to ask questions?”

An excited shriek bursts from your lips and you start to wrap him in a thrilling embrace before you remember. Instead you settle for jumping up and down in excitement. His expression remains cool and controlled, but you know him well enough to detect the glee written in his features.

“What’s going on? Who’s dying?”

You turn to see Ben leaning against the doorway to the kitchen, arms folded across his chest and fixing his brother with a suspicious glare.

“Nothing you won’t approve of, brother mine,” Klaus sing-songs. He sweeps across the kitchen to clap a hand over Ben’s shoulder, but it passes right through. “Just that we’ve finally got a place to call our own for a little while.”

The suspicion immediately drops from Ben’s face as he stands up straighter. “You mean-?” He doesn’t need to finish his sentence before Klaus is nodding joyfully, and the smile that breaks out over Ben’s expression lights up the kitchen. He whoops in excitement and punches the air. He turns to you with the look of a man who has just landed on a lush island after surviving a terrible storm.

“Can I hug you please?” he asks. He’s already crossing the kitchen before you’ve finished nodding your assent, and then he sweeps you up in his arms and squeezes you to his body with a joyous laugh. Though his body is not warm, you can feel the strength behind his lean frame, the pure happiness in the way he squeezes you to him as if you’re his savior in all this chaos. It feels like your face might split apart with how hard you’re smiling.

When he sets you down, you notice that he keeps an arm draped casually over your shoulders. You only try to mask your excitement a little as you turn back to Klaus.

“Is it even legal for them to do that?” you ask.

Klaus shrugs. “Who gives a shining blue shit? Now you’re stuck with me forever.” You don’t miss the flash of heat behind his teasing wink.

You quickly cover your fluster with a joking smile. “And you are finally out of excuses for not taking care of yourself,” you admonish.

“Oh no, anything but that!” he moans, draping an arm over his eyes. He spins around in a dramatic fashion and collapses on his back on the kitchen table like it’s a fainting couch, scattering cigarette ashes and beer cans onto the floor.

“Don’t feed into his dramatics,” Ben sighs. His arm is still wrapped loosely around your shoulders, and he gives you a gentle squeeze. “Personally, I think you will be a positive influence on him.”

“I sure hope so.” You glance over Klaus’s lanky form splayed across the table, his coat flaps fallen open to reveal the delicious planes of his abdomen. “He’s much too skinny.”

Klaus peeks out from beneath his arm. “I take offense to that,” he says. He sits up and hops off the table, heading back into the hallway. You and Ben exchange an exasperated look before you follow the other man out of the kitchen.

“Now where are you going?” Ben asks.

“I’ve done far too much… responsibility .” He says the word the way most people would say cockroaches . “Need to set the old noggin down for a good snooze-aroo.”

Ben starts to reach out a hand to stop his brother, but you shake your head. “It’s not worth it,” you say.

“But-”

“Hey, he accomplished an adult thing before noon. Let’s let him have this small boon,” you joke. Ben looks like he’s going to argue, but finally sighs and trudges back to the living room.

After that morning, things began to change quickly. Klaus keeps himself so busy- especially with his brother constantly on his tail- that he hardly has time to indulge in any of his more deviant pleasures. He sets to work clearing out all the garbage, which he’d barely touched during his first week of residence. All of your cleaning products are worthless after all this time, so he lets you dictate a list of everything he needs and heads back to the store to pick them up. The bathroom is finally usable again; you don’t know where he’s been doing his business up to this point, and you don’t want to ask, but you do know he’s gone at least eight days without a shower. Though you can’t smell him, you can detect the visible difference in his appearance and demeanor once he’s gotten a good wash in.

Some of the furniture is in decent enough shape, but much of it has deteriorated from the elements and misuse. The bed is still functional once the mattress is replaced, and though your couch has seen better days it is still perfectly usable. Everything else that isn’t nailed to the floor, Klaus sells. The apartment looks strangely scarce without any furniture, but he promises that once he finds a way to get some more money, he’ll decorate it good as new.

You’re afraid that he’ll try to pawn your knick knacks, but he’s surprisingly respectful about it. He scrounges some empty cardboard boxes from a dumpster and packs all your things in foam peanuts (you’re slightly aghast to see that that particular invention has stuck around). He packs them away in what used to be your linen closet and sells the bookshelves for scrap wood. It’s a bit sad to see your things being tucked away like antiques from your dead grandma’s attic, but you understand why it would be kind of creepy to keep them on display.

The one thing you try to fight them on is your TV. You know it’s boxy and obsolete and doesn’t even work properly, but dammit, that was the first thing you remember buying with your own money once you moved out and got a job, and it’s really special to you. Finally, however, the boys manage to convince you to part with it, along with most of your tapes and cassettes (it’s horrifying to hear that the possessions you previously saw as cutting-edge are now considered vintage , but they assure you that that’s a good thing and they’ll fetch a sweet price at some store called “eBay”). They allow you to keep one piece of film and music each, so you decide on your original edition of Carrie and your most treasured Joy Division cassette.

After much nudging and admonishments on the parts of you and Ben, Klaus finally gets around to unpacking the groceries and refrigerating the perishables. It takes a few days before he summons the energy to cook an actual meal instead of devouring sleeves of Thin Mints straight out of the packaging. With your assistance, he locates your old rolodex stuffed with family recipes. An ache comes constricts your throat at the sight of the tight, neat handwriting on the yellowed index cards. Was it you who wrote these down? Some of them appear older and more well-used than the others, the ink a different color and the handwriting more slanted; perhaps those ones were borrowed from a parent or grandparent. You swallow down the lump squeezing your throat and guide Klaus to select an easy enough recipe.

The index card is entitled “Nana’s famous Baked Ziti”. The ingredients are simple enough. You guide Klaus to locate the cooking pot, fill it with water, and set it to boil on the old gas range stove. He wrinkles his nose when he turns it on- though you can’t smell it yourself, you’re struck with the memory of the rotten-egg scent emitted by the gas. While the water gets to a boil, he preheats the oven and pulls the rest of the ingredients out of the fridge.

You fall into a comfortable silence as he spreads out the ingredients and sets the colander in the sink. With the major prep out of the way, there isn’t really anything else to do except wait for the water to boil.

Somewhere on the other side of the apartment, Ben groans in frustration. He’s spent much of his free time recently practicing interacting with the physical world. His ability to bother Klaus seems to be the current extent of his powers, but he’s determined to figure out how to extend them to engaging with small, inanimate items.

“Sounds like Dr. Frankenstein has hit a bit of a road bump,” Klaus muses.

You hop up on the counter and kick your legs back and forth; of course, they phase right through the cabinets. “Why Frankenstein?” you ask. “I think ghost-type experiments would fall more in the Aleister Crowley zone.”

He snorts. “He wishes. I’m pretty certain he died a virgin.”

You give him an admonishing kick that goes right through him. “Don’t be mean. There’s nothing wrong with never having sex.”

Klaus relaxes against the counter’s edge and leans toward you with a conspiratorially raised eyebrow. “You’re not a virgin, are you?”

You let out a startled cough to cover the flush that suddenly rushes to your cheeks. Jesus, how does this boy manage to press all your buttons so succinctly ? “That’s between me and whatever awaits me in the after-afterlife,” you say smoothly.

Thankfully, the sound of the water almost boiling over the pot saves you from further interrogation. Klaus moves quickly to turn down the heat and fumbles the box of pasta open. His fingers are trembling just the slightest bit- probably one of the many adverse side effects of his usual lifestyle. He pours the ziti into the water all at once, so it hits the surface in a rush and sprays droplets of boiling water out of the pot. Klaus jerks back with a cry, cradling his right arm to his chest.

“Aw, did you burn yourself?” you tease.

He sticks out his lower lip in a comical pout and nods pathetically. You roll your eyes and hop down from the counter.

“Let me see it,” you say.

He presses his arm closer to his chest and shakes his head like a toddler being scolded. You cross your arms and fix him with your most exasperated glare, the one that lets him know you won’t let this go until he allows you to step in and help him, goddammit. His face scrunches up dramatically, but he finally extends his wrist so you can examine it.

You almost laugh when you see what he’d been fussing about. There’s not even a mark, just the slightest red spot near his wrist.

“You’ll be fine, you big baby.” You point him toward the cabinet next to the refrigerator. “I used to keep a first aid kit in there if you think you’ll need a bandage.”

“I want you to kiss it better,” he pouts. Even though he’s got a good foot on you, he’s looking at you from beneath lowered lids, and the glint in his steely gray eyes screams pure debauchery.

Half-formed protests die on your tongue when he takes a step closer to you. There’s barely an inch of space between your face and his neck and oh god does the thrumming pulse beneath his skin look tempting. Today he’s deigned to cover at least part of his torso with a mesh crop top, but somehow it’s even more alluring than his usual half-nudity. He’s still wearing that damned coat with the stupid fur-trimmed hem- you don’t know how he hasn’t already died of heat stroke in that stupid thing, but he refuses to take it off. It’s my ensemble, he’d explained. Now, however, he places one hand on his hip so painfully, painfully close to the crease above his waistline and in the process shrugs the coat off one shoulder in a torturous imitation of thr world’s slowest strip tease.

You force yourself to meet his gaze with steeled jaw, refusing to show him that his display has had any effect on you. One thing you’ve learned about Klaus- the second you show that he has any power over you, he will jump on it and ride it for all he can. Even though there is nothing you want more in this moment than to ravish him against the kitchen counter- even if it was physically possible- you can’t give him that power.

The ding! of the oven timer tells you that the pasta is ready to go in the pan. Klaus reaches for the salt shaker- conveniently located on the counter behind you.

“Just grabbing a little spice,” he breathes, so torturously, tantalizingly close to your ear.

And as he leans past you, something happens, something that you haven’t experienced since the moment your first manifested in this realm. When he turns his head and exposes his newly scruff-free neck, you catch the barest hint of- something almost minty, clean.

“Klaus,” you choke out, “are you wearing… aftershave?”

“How kind of you to notice!” he chirps as he straightens back up. “Yes, I thought I’d do a bit of-” His voice falters as he brain catches up. “Wait- can you… can you smell me?”

A bubble of excited laughter bursts through your lips. “I can! Oh my god, I can smell you,” you exclaim.

“What did I just walk in on?”

You whirl around to see Ben enter the kitchen, eyes jumping between you and Klaus with a suspicious glare. You leap across the room and sweep him into a hug that lifts him a couple inches off the floor.

“I can smell things now!” you shout.

“Good for you?” He carefully peels himself from your embrace and takes a few steps back, hands held in front of him in a defensive posture.

“No, you don’t get it. Since I woke up I haven’t been able to smell anything at all,” you say. “But I just smelled it! Klaus’s aftershave!”

Klaus gives and excited wiggle and claps his hands together. “Let’s see what else you can smell!” he chirps. He prances to the fridge and pulls out a raw onion. “Give ‘er a whirl!” he says, holding it out to you.

You take a deep breath of the pungent vegetable. It feels like there’s something tugging on your brain- the memory of a scent, deep and sharp and burrowing into your senses, but it’s not quite… tangible. You frown, taking another great sniff, but there’s nothing.

“I mean… I thought I could smell it,” you say. Your shoulders slump with disappointment.

Ben puts a comforting arm around your shoulders. “Hey, don’t sweat it. These things come and go. Maybe this is your first step toward being able to touch things in the physical world, too,” he says.

You shrug solemnly. He gives your back a brisk double pat before turning and heading back out of the kitchen. As soon as he’s gone, you slump back against the counter and give Klaus a forlorn pout.

“I thought I really had something for a sec,” you grumble.

He shifts to lean against the counter beside you. You try not to let him see how your breathing picks up at his nearness. Even though you know it’s impossible, you swear you can feel the heat rolling off his body.

“You know what this means, right?” he murmurs.

You’re sure he’ll hear the quake of nerves in your voice if you speak, so you just raise an eyebrow quizzically.

His gaze swivels to fix upon yours. “It means you’ll just have to keep trying harder to touch me .”

Then he shoves off the counter to put the pasta in the oven, leaving you flustered and empty for words- and in his wake, the slightest breath of mint aftershave.

Chapter Text

 

Lava oozes out of the earth as hundreds of people sprint for the safety of the exits. The air is thick with terrified screams and the crunch of bones disintegrating between serrated teeth as long as a human arm. Blood seeps onto the rain-spattered asphalt and slips into the storm drains, mingling with dead leaves and city debris.

“I don’t get it,” you say. “After four movies, you’d think that people would realize that bringing dinosaurs back to life is a terrible fuckin’ idea .”

“You would think so, wouldn’t you?” Ben hums.

You, Ben, and Klaus are curled up on the sofa in the living room, watching the most recent Jurassic World on the new TV Klaus had brought home that morning. The monitor is so thin it looks like a strong breeze could knock it over, but the clarity of the images is sharper than anything you could’ve purchased in your lifetime. It sure beats crowding around Klaus’s miniscule phone screen- though, at least that had given you an excuse to cuddle up close to them.

This situation isn’t exactly a drag. You’re in the middle of the couch, Ben leaning casually to your right, Thompson long asleep and curled in a fuzzy ball against your left hip. Klaus’s head is situated against the left armrest, the rest of his body sprawled across the furniture. He’s balled up his coat to use as a pillow and lies there completely dead to the world, wearing nothing but those black leather slacks that drive you mad. It’s a little strange to see his legs going right through your bodies, but by this point you’re pretty much used to it.

A feeling of warmth blooms in your chest as you glance at Klaus’s sleeping form. His face is so still and peaceful, lips slightly parted and fluttering eyelashes standing out stark against his pale cheeks. The glow of the TV screen casts long shadows over his bare torso, highlighting the sinewy shapes of his lean muscles.

“I wonder what he’s dreaming about,” you muse.

Ben shrugs. “I’m slightly terrified of whatever nightmare garbage comes out of that acid vat he calls a subconscious,” he says.

You lean back against the cushions and sigh in contentment. Before you became fully aware of your death- what you’ve come to refer to as the day you “woke up”- you hadn’t realized how much you’d truly missed human touch. It’s not quite the same as when you were alive, but it feels so… nice to be close to someone like this. Ben’s weight is a comfort, something to hold onto in the blank endlessness of this existence.

“Hey, I meant to talk to you about it but haven’t really had a chance,” he says. “How are you holding up? You know, with everything?”

You avert your eyes to the scuffed wood floor and give a nonchalant shrug. “I’m doing as well as I can, I guess. It’s weird how normal all of this feels.”

“Yep, sounds about right.” There’s a pause, heavy with unasked questions, before he continues. “When I first… ‘woke up’, it was super weird. Maybe because my death was so unusual, or because I’d been so close with Klaus in life so the boundaries of realms were never quite as concrete for us, but I think I understood right away that I was dead.”

You glance sideways at him and start at the vulnerability in his expression. He’s normally so collected, like nothing could ever throw him, but now it’s like a fissure has been driven into his stoic composure. Hs hand, which had been resting on his leg, clenches and digs his fingertips into his kneecap.

You lay your hand over his in what you hope comes across as a comforting gesture. His eyes are fixed directly ahead, not quite looking at anything, but you can see the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallows hard.

““It was really difficult, at first. After I truly understood that I was… dead. Things were pretty rough before I finally made my way back to the Academy,” he says. “It’s hard when you die the way I did- you’re not really tied to any single place, but you also can’t be fully present in any of the realms. Klaus became like an anchor for me, in that sense. I can wander a little ways from him, but if I get too far, things start to go… fuzzy, again.”

“Is that why you manage to put up with him?” you tease.

He snorts. “Yeah. I guess I haven’t got a choice,” he says. “There are worse people I could be stuck with for eternity, though.”

That heavy silence invades the room again. You run your thumb over his knuckles soothingly, and he lets out a quiet sigh. It feels really nice, these small, intimate touches.

“I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop,” you finally say. “Everything feels so… regular . I just feel like at any moment it’s going to hit me that I’m not alive anymore and I’m going to feel all of that pain at once…”

He doesn’t say anything, but after a moment he leans his head against your shoulder. His raven hair tickles your jaw, not unpleasantly. When he finally speaks, you can feel his voice rumble in your chest.

“I’m not happy you died. But I am glad that I got the chance to meet you… like this.”

You know what he really means: to finally have someone I can feel .

Without really considering the action, you give his hand a loving squeeze. He shifts and lifts his head, and your stomach gives a lurch at the proximity of his face to yours. His serious brown eyes carry a note of vulnerability that reaches straight into your ribcage and constricts around your heart.

It’s not like the thought hasn’t drifted through your mind, but you’d never seriously considered taking things any further than accidental brushes or platonic gestures. You’re not against the idea, necessarily; Ben is rather likable, once you get past his frosty external demeanor, and he certainly isn’t too bad on the eyes.

No, the main thing holding you back is the fear that you will enjoy it. You’ve spent so much time being afraid of what you see as inevitable unhappiness that you’re too scared to enjoy what little pleasures may be available to you. You don’t want to do this just because you’re afraid of being alone, or because he’s the only person you can really touch, just to get your heart broken when he decides that you aren’t worth the effort.

Yet, with his eyes boring into your own with an intensity that sets your soul aflame and his pillowy pink lips so close you can hear the way his breath hitches when he swallows, you find that all those stupid doubts amount to diddly squat.

It’s unclear which one of you moves first, but in a moment your lips are pressed together and nothing matters but the feeling of his body against yours. He moves his hand to your waist and draws you minutely closer to him, to which you comply with comical eagerness. You cup a hand over his jaw, rubbing your thumb over the smoothness of his cheek, and rejoice in the tiny gasp that the simple gesture draws out. You revel in the solidity of his form, the little moans and sighs he emits as you swipe your tongue over his closed lips, desiring just to be closer , as close as two beings can possibly get.

You’ve quite forgotten that Klaus is still sprawled next to you until he stirs and lets out a great yawn. Instantly you and Ben jerk apart, the picture of innocence, as the other man stretches his arms up over his head and smiles at you. Despite the interruption, the sight of Klaus’s lean abs stretching taut under his motions does nothing to help the violent heat still pounding through your veins.

“Did I miss anything good?” he mumbles sleepily.

Your heart freezes in your chest, sure you’ve been caught, but Ben jumps in with the save. “Nothing worth seeing,” he says.

He catches your eye and gives you a subtle wink. Right; they were talking about the movie. Klaus rolls off the couch with a tired groan.

“I’m off to beddie-bye,” he croons. “Want me to leave the telly on for ya?”

“No thanks, I’m off to practice,” Ben says. He gives the two of you a half-wave before sinking down below the floor, into the basement where he’s taken to practicing his contact with the physical world.

Klaus turns in your direction. “Anything for you?” he asks with a cocky smile. The way his pants are hanging far too low on his hips sends a thrum of arousal through you, but you quickly shrug it away.

“Nothing for me, thanks,” you manage. “I’ll probably do some more exploring.”

He gives you a shrug that says suit yourself , then tosses his coat over one shoulder and saunters off down the hallway, humming the Jurassic Park theme. You give yourself a solid shake to dispel the lingering threads of your excitement.

Ghosts don’t need to sleep, so you’ve spent most of your nights wandering the property. Your apartment is on the first floor of a three-story home, and it is split into three other apartments besides yours, as well as the attic and basement- plenty of space for exploring. When you’re feeling especially lost, you like to come outside and hang out in the yard. Klaus hasn’t gotten around to cleaning it up yet so the grass is still scrubby and overgrown and covered in litter, but you don’t mind. It’s kind of nice to sit on the sloping lawn and gaze up at the stars, pretending that you can feel the damp evening breeze tousle your hair.

Time passes differently now than it did when you were alive. Patience comes easily when you know that all of eternity stretches before you. It’s nothing for you to spend hours or an entire night sitting on the grass, staring up at the sparkling night sky. Tonight, however, your thoughts keep drifting to Ben and Klaus like a compass needle to the goddamn Bermuda Triangle.

It isn’t as if this feelings are new, per se. It’s brutally obvious that you’ve always found the brothers attractive, and Klaus’s constant flirting hasn’t helped any. But of course, your low self esteem has to rear up to remind you that they’re probably just pretending, that you’re reading too much into it, that there’s no way guys like them would ever go for someone like you. After the intimate moment you just shared with Ben, however, it’s like a little bit of sunshine poking through the heavy storm clouds of your self-doubt. For the first time, you think, perhaps, they could possibly find you attractive as well.

With a frustrated groan, you abandon your stargazing to wander back into the living room. Thompson snoozes at one end of the couch, completely oblivious to the rest of the world. How you envy his ignorance.

It feels as if your soul is being tugged in three different directions. You know what you really should do- head downstairs and have a genuine talk with Ben about what happened, instead of dancing around the elephant in the room forever. It would be the responsible, adult thing to do, and it sure would take a load off your shoulders t know what exactly the two of you- well, are .

Alternatively, the part of you that hates discussing your feelings wants to hurtle screaming into the nearest subterranean cave at the thought of even broaching the subject, so you don’t think that particular conversation is in the cards tonight.

You could just spend the night cuddling with Thompson and trying to pick up the TV remote. What you really want to do, however- which you know you definitely shouldn’t, but are almost certainly going to do anyway- is take the third route, down the hallway and into what used to be your bedroom until a grinning leather-clad stranger swooped in and stole your mattress as well as your heart.

You groan internally as your feet carry you, against your conscious will, out of the living room and to the end of the hallway.

The door is closed, but you just walk straight through it. A small table lamp sits on the floor near the bed, casting the room in a soft yellow glow. Klaus is draped over the bed on top of the comforter; he hadn’t even climbed below the sheets before passing out. His coat lies crumpled on the floor, his bare chest slowly rising with each breath. His face is so calm that he appears near angelic.

Then his mouth parts in a ripping snore, and you have to clap your hands over your mouth to stifle the laugh that tumbles out.

You inch across the floor and stand over him, watching the dreams play across his features. it feels super creepy, like you’re violating him somehow, even though you know that he would have few complaints if he were to wake up and see you in his bedroom.

A strange, wonderful, completely nutso idea takes hold of you. You reach toward him, intending to brush your fingers over his face, but of course they go right through him. You brace your hand against the bed frame, then slowly, slowly lean over him. Even though you don’t really need to breathe, instinct catches the air in your throat in apprehension.

This is stupid, you know; that time in the kitchen was just a fluke, a bit of imagination gone awry. Ever since that moment, however, all you’ve been able to think about is how much you want to get that close to him again, just for the possibility of smelling his aftershave.

Klaus shifts in his sleep, turning your blood to ice. Your muscles tremble with the effort of holding still. Words slip through the haze of sleep, fragments of dreams carried on a murmur.

And then you hear your own name.

You can’t suppress a squeak of surprise as your balance fails and you tumble onto the bed. Of course he didn’t feel anything, but you scramble to the side of the bed and press yourself up against the window, making yourself as small as possible. Klaus mumbles more nonsense and shifts again. There comes a wispy sigh of your name and his hips gives a sudden, unexpected jerk into the empty air. The movement draws your eyes to his pelvis, and your heart drops into your stomach at the sight that greets you. Here you are, in the bed of the guy you’re only just now realizing you definitely have a major crush on, and he’s moaning your name (well, more like mumbling it, but you’re allowed a bit of embellishment) in his sleep, and there is an incredibly distinct bulge in his tight leather pants .

This was a bad idea. This idea was so terrible it should have orchestrated the Massacre of Novgorod, but you did it anyway. There’ll be no going back from this now, even if Klaus isn’t aware that it’s happening. You made your bed, and now you’ve got to lie in it- or, more accurately, get very far away from it.

Which is what you’re trying to do, when Klaus stirs and turns his head toward you. Thankfully, his eyes remain closed, but you can tell that the shroud of sleep is sloughing off his body. He sleepily brings one hand to his bare chest, teasing over the skin before tracing a path across his torso and toward the waistband of his pants. Your chest squeezes with a mixture of terror and arousal.

His lips sink into a lazy smile when his fingers find their target and tease over the bulge against his thigh. It feels so wrong to watch such a private and intimate act, but you can’t tear your eyes away. He flattens his palm over his length and his lips part on a low, needy moan. The sound alone has your mouth watering in desire.

It’s just so very fucking fitting that he chooses this moment to open his eyes.

Chapter Text

 

Klaus hasn’t been this exhausted since he was a superpowered child training to save the universe. Every muscle aches from the rigorous scrubbing, sweeping, scouring, and grocery shopping he’s been forced to do since inhabiting his new residence. How he longs for the days of wandering from alley to alley and scrounging for food in trash cans! At least then he didn’t have to endure these droll domestic chores like laundry and cooking and brushing his teeth .

Truly it’s the fault of his incorporeal roommates. His latest specterly friend has taken over Ben’s job of making sure Klaus doesn’t self-medicate into an early grave, driving him mad with all their fussing and nagging. Every day, it’s all Klaus, you need to eat something besides double-stuff Oreos and Klaus, stop hanging upside down from the curtain rod or you’ll fall and break your skull. Blah, blah, blah. Like he didn’t manage just fine on his own before he got here.

The constant admonishments have become so ingrained in his daily life that he has come to expect, even anticipate them right before they happen. He can hardly leave the kitchen with the stove still on without imagining their figure appearing before them to deliver another lecture, just a moment before they actually do. In some respects, he finds that he almost looks forward to it, and occasionally will break one of their silly rules just to receive the pleasure of their company.

Their existence here is so absurdly normal- the most normal home he’s ever experienced, actually- and it wouldn’t have happened without his friendly new afterlife companion. They’re so lucid, so unlike the grand majority of the ghosts he’s met before, that he often forgets that they’re not alive. Until, of course, he tries to express his affection in the little physical ways he has, the brushing of a hand or gentle cuffing of the shoulder, and he passes right through them.

He tries to play it off with ease. He’s Klaus Hargreeves: flirty, fun, and flamboyant. Never worried, never angry, always ready with a bad joke or an intentional nip slip to ease the tension. He doesn’t stay up half the night tormenting himself about what it would be like to touch his dead roommate. Nor does he purposefully spread himself over the entire couch so he has an excuse to be close to them, or pretend to be asleep while they make out with his brother.

Now, there are a couple of factors at play here. At the start of it, he really had been asleep, or nearly so at least, until they started to talk about him. His ego pepped up like a dog to a whistle, unable to resist listening in on whatever bits of conversation might feed into his vanity.

“I wonder what he’s dreaming about.”

His heartrate picks up at that. Just hearing the notion of his existence grace their perfect tongue makes his chest flutter like some stupid, foppish schoolyard crush.

“I’m slightly terrified of whatever nightmare garbage comes out of that acid vat he calls a subconscious,” Ben replies.

Ah, good ol’ Ben. As much shit as his brother gives him, Klaus knows it comes from a place of love. At least, he hopes so.

The conversation topic drifts away from himself, so Klaus checks back out and allows the shadows of sleep to drag him back under. His attention perks up again at another sound, one he did not expect but is certainly not unwelcome- a low, breathy moan.

The sound sets off a riot of confusing and mostly unpleasant sensations. His initial reaction is, naturally, one of arousal; but when he peeks through his eyelids and sees the object of his (unconscious) attraction in the arms of his twin brother, the feeling is immediately undercut by the sour sting of envy.

Then he realizes that the moans were coming from Ben, and the final dregs of his arousal are quickly smothered beneath a mixture of revulsion and mortification.

He lets out an obnoxious yawn and stretches his arms up over his head. He peeks through his eyelids to make sure his ghostly friend is watching- which of course they are- and does his best to show off his leanly muscular torso.

“Did I miss anything good?” he mumbles.

Ben shrugs. He and his recent tryst are seated a solid foot apart, trying oh so very hard to look as if they weren’t just entangled in the throes of passion, and Klaus would laugh if it wasn’t so sad.

“Nothing worth seeing,” Ben says.

Klaus rolls over to hide the knowing smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He rises with an exaggerated groan and grabs his coat off the couch. “I’m off to beddie-bye. Want me to leave the telly on for ya?”

“No thanks, I’m off to practice.” Ben has hardly finished his good-bye before he’s sinking through the floor to the basement. Fuckin’ weirdo.

Klaus turns toward the remaining party member, who’s stroking a sleeping Thompson absentmindedly and trying very hard to conceal the flush creeping into their neck. He cocks his hip in his most alluring pose and fixes his features into a sultry expression. “Anything for you?” he coos to them.

They put on a stoic mask when they reply. “Nothing for me, thanks. I’ll probably do some more exploring.”

A pang of disappointment thrums in Klaus’s heart. He wonders if by “exploring” they mean “go make out with Ben some more”- but he doesn’t allow his mind to go down that path. Instead he tosses his coat over his shoulder and saunters away down the hall, humming loudly to himself.

The bedroom has become something of a haven for him. The others don’t have a need for sleep so they rarely venture into this room. He loves the windowed alcove where the bed is tucked so comfortably and the simple domestic pleasure of having a space to himself . When he flicks on the lamp that he’s left plugged in and lying on the floor (there aren’t any other surfaces on which to place it, and anyway he kinda likes the boho-esque nature of it), the room is flooded in a gentle yellow glow that instantly feels like home.

As he stands back up, he drop his coat on the floor and drags himself to the bed. He flops onto his back atop the covers, so thoroughly exhausted that he can’t even muster the energy to pull the comforter back.

The image of the person to whom he’s been telling himself he’s definitely not attracted swapping spit with his brother won’t leave his mind no matter how much he tries to beat it out of his conscious. He can’t stop thinking about the way their hand curled against Ben’s cheek, the slimmest air of command in the gesture, and god he just knows that they understood how well that simple touch could make the other man bend so completely to their will. Klaus wants to feel that touch on his own skin, let them take him, own him, use him until he’s a panting, sweaty mess and then leave him in the bed without any satisfaction.

God, he really is a desperate slut.

He drifts back to that day in the kitchen, standing so close that he could see the dusting of freckles across their nose, the single coherent thought in his mind screaming at him to obliterate the space between their bodies and kiss them goddammit. He never would have scrounged up the guts to do it even if the action was physically possible, but fuck, he can’t stop his mind from wandering to that sensual place.

He can just feel the sensation of their tongue darting out to taste the skin just below his jaw, tracing a slow path along his throat and pausing to nibble at the sensitive flesh above his clavicle. He imagines them grabbing his wrists and pinning them against the mattress beside his head. He subconsciously moves his own hands up the bed, below the headboard, heart fluttering at the thought of the spirit tying him down to keep him from touching. He’d wiggle his fingers teasingly, like the restraint hardly affects him, but the way he’d strain against the rope would reveal his desperate need to feel their flesh beneath his fingers.

With Klaus bound and at their mercy, why, there are endless ways they could torture him. They could ravish his neck with teeth-filled kisses, leave him absolutely coated in their mark (and he’d wear it as proudly as a dog with a collar). Perhaps they’d offer a tiny boon, bring their mouth close enough to his that he can feel their breath tickle the stubble dusting his jaw, but pull away the moment he leans up to connect their lips. They could drag their nails down his bare torso, make him writhe and cry out for reprieve even as the pressure growing between his thighs pulses with a wave of need.

He would lean into their touch, thirsty for the pain, desperate for them to make him bleed . He can just hear the sound of their cruel, triumphant laughter. His chest would flush in embarrassment but oh god how he’d crave the way they teased him. A slow moan escapes him at the thought of the spirit, still fully clothed and grinning with the knowledge of how easily they can take him apart, popping open the buttons of his obnoxiously tight leather pants. Their hand brushes over the growing bulge pressed against his thigh and even that slight contact feels better than three consecutive orgasms.

“Please,” he begs. “Please, fucking… please touch me.”

They hum mockingly but do not speed up their motions. The slow, sensuous way they remove each button from his fly is the sweetest kind of torture. He jerks his hips in a desperate bid for some kind of relief, but they retaliate by digging their nails into his thigh this fucking close to his constrained erection, and oh sweet heavens this is better than anything he could have ever fucking dreamed.

“Christ, baby…” Words falter on his trembling lips as a wave of pleasure shudders through him. He can’t even form a coherent plea, just whispers their name on fragments of needy moans.

A sudden rush of cold, like the breeze from an open window, rushes over his skin and dispels the beautiful warm haze of his fantasy. He moans softly at the bitter unfairness of being forced back to reality. The sound melts into a pleasant gasp when he stirs and realizes that, though the situation which brought it about was not real, his erection very much is.

He smiles coyly to himself as he drags a hand over his bare chest and shudders at the sensation. It’s not like he hasn’t jerked off in this apartment before, but it feels so much naughtier now with the image of his ghostly crush teasing him into unconscious bliss. The hand slides over his stomach, brushing the dark wisps of his happy trail and pausing at the waistband of his pants.

He traces just the tip of one finger over the seam of his pants, right over the place where all of the blood in his body seems to have gathered, a pale imitation of the heated touches of his dream but fucking amazing nonetheless. Gooseflesh blossoms over his arms and his heart flutters like the wings of a hummingbird against a gilded cage. The need burns through him like a toxin, a searing, consuming, all-encompassing heat pounding in his veins.

He bites his lip and shifts his hand, flattening his palm against his erection, and his heart leaps into his throat at the thrum of pleasure the action summons. He wants so badly to just buck his hips against his hand until he cums, but he wants to take it slow, as slowly as he knows they will do to him.

When he opens his eyes, he finds himself, now for the second time in as many weeks, staring straight into those of the person who had just been haunting his dreams.

He’s not sure whether to moan or scream.

Chapter Text

“SHIT!”

Klaus jerks back so violently that he ends up rolling shoulder-first off of the bed and lands on the floor with a muffled curse. You freeze, halfway between helping him up and running for the door, but he makes the choice for you when he clambers back onto the bed with the expression of someone who just saw a clown jump out of their birthday cake.

“What are you doing here?”

Somehow it isn’t the question that you were expecting him to ask, and your brain stumbles over a litany of partial sentences before finally settling on a coherent response.

“I wanted to see you, so I came in and you were asleep and you said my name and- fuck, I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” you blurt. It’s all you can think to say as you push past him and leap off the bed, headed right for the still-closed door. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry-” Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

He calls after you but you’re already passing straight through the door and into the darkened hallway. Ben is standing a few feet away, looking at you with confusion and wariness. “What’s going on?” he asks. “I heard shouting-”

You stride past him and into the kitchen, glancing about for a place to hide but everything just remind you of goddamned Klaus . There’s pieces of him everywhere, you’re stifling under his presence, you need to get out of there-

He comes ricocheting down the hallway in that chaotic way he has. He’s shouting your name but you don’t allow yourself to succumb to the desire to go to him, you just rush through the kitchen door and out onto the side porch and the stairs leading to the upper floors. You take the stairs as many as you can at a time, not even sure where you’re going, just needing to be as far away from him as possible.

You turn at random and phase through the door leading into the third floor apartment. The first room is empty but for a handful of random boxes. You can hear Klaus pounding up the stairs after you, so you keep going, into the hallway which is curiously crowded with all manner of junk. It’s like whoever used to live here was interrupted in the middle of moving and just left everything there. You don’t have time to think too much about it; you hurtle down the hallway and through the first door you see.

The furnishings are sparse, just a bed, a bureau, and a few stacks of cardboard boxes. The bureau mirror is cracked and indiscernible under decades of grime, and what passes for a bed is essentially a frame with a worn mattress lying on top. Little else is discernible in the thin moonlight streaming through the windows. You drop to the floor and wiggle underneath the bed, then lie in the darkness and wait, willing your racing heart to still.

You aren’t waiting very long before the creeeak of the front door opening cuts through the heavy silence. Of course Klaus knows how to pick a lock. He calls out your name in a casual tone, but there’s a tremor underlying the word. You squeeze your eyes shut, curl into a tight ball, and will yourself to become invisible.

His boots scuff softly on the floorboards and the beam of a flashlight sweeps over the walls of your hiding spot. He calls for you again, gently, more akin to a croon, and you feel like you could cry with how sweet the syllables of your name sound on his tongue.

You only mostly pray that he gives up and moves on. But, naturally, he gets down on the floor and shines his flashlight under the bed, and of course he sees you there looking like the picture of pathetic. You wince at the sudden bright light directly in your eyes and he quickly shines the flashlight away.

He extends a pale, beringed hand and gives you the kind of smile that someone trying to coax out a frightened cat would wear. Your heart aches at the simple gesture.

“Go away,” you mumble.

He withdraws his hand and instead uses it to prop his cheek. “Oh? And why would I ever want to do that?” he asks.

“Because I suck.”

He makes a sound like a buzzer when someone gives the wrong answer on a game show. “Wrong. Try again.”

The corner of your mouth twitches with the ghost of a smile, but you don’t let him see it. “Fine. Be like that if you want, but I’m not coming out.”

“I said the same thing once upon a time, but just look at me now,” he grins.

“Can you ever be serious for like, five minutes?”

“Absolutely not. Scooch over.”

He switches off the flashlight and starts to shimmy beneath the bed without waiting for a response. You roll your eyes but grudgingly shift over to allow him room in your little hiding spot.

He wrinkles his nose and flicks a dust bunny out of his face. “So, care to explain to me why we’re lying under Satan’s crusty left ass cheek instead of back in my bedroom where both of us would really, really much rather be?”

You snort. “Because I’m majorly embarrassed and I came here so I wouldn’t have to be confined in a small, intimate space with you?” You gesture to the abandoned, shadow-drenched room. “And yet, here we are.”

“Plans tend to change a lot when I get involved,” he hums.

You don’t know what to say to that, so you settle for glaring straight ahead and pretending that you don’t wish you could scooch closer to feel the heat radiating off his body. He’s still clad only in his boots and those stupid leather pants- of course the idiot would consider grabbing a shirt to be a low priority item when chasing after a ghost.

“You know,” he finally says after a too-long pause. “I’m not usually… like that. I mean, I am, but not with people I actually give a damn about.”

Too much is swirling through your brain for you to make complete sense of what he’s trying to say. “I’m afraid I’m not following.”

“Jesus, you’re really gonna make me say it, huh?”

You’re honestly still lost, so you just shoot him a sideways glance. He drops his head into his arms and lets out a muffled groan.

“Okay, fine,” he says as he lifts his head back up. “I was feeling a little… flustered after I saw you and Ben kissing, and now, you really can’t blame me for whatever my subconscious decides to cook up because it is an absolute mess in there-”

“Whoa, whoa, wait. Hold on. You saw me and Ben kissing ?” you cry.

Oh, god. Oh no. This is even worse than you originally thought. You’ve been so teasing in your responses to Klaus’s constant flirtations, then you go along and make out with his brother right next to him , and then suddenly he wakes up and sees you watching him sleep like a total creeper and now he thinks you’re some kind of dead pervert. Sweet jesus, this is a total fucking disaster.

“Yeah, I mean, it was kinda hard not to the way you were practically- hey, you alright?”

He snaps his fingers right in front of your face. You scrunch up your nose and deliver a death glare that makes him shrink back.

“I’m sorry about that,” you say.

“Sorry ‘bout what? Doesn’t bother me. Why should it?” He wiggles his fingers at you. “What am I, a scorned maiden? Do you see a promise ring on this finger? Well, there is this one that I got from that one symbolic marriage ritual to the devil that these Satanists made me do when I was staying on their couch, but otherwise…”

You can’t help it; you let out a sudden, hysterical belt of laughter at the utter absurdity of it all. It’s like he’s allergic to emotional tension, and his epinephrine is inappropriate sexual humor. He is just such a completely, wholly, ridiculous person.

“I am sorry about it, though,” you repeat once you settle down. You glance over to see his lips stretched in a taut smile, like he’s trying very hard not to interrupt with a terrible joke. “Can you please try to just listen for a minute? Just one minute. For my sake.”

“D’aw, alright. But only ‘cause you’re just so darn cute,” he says.

Your lips turn down in a grimace. “See, that’s… kind of what I mean? I don’t know if you’ve been flirting with me because you’re, like, actually attracted to me, or that’s just how you are. And I don’t want you to feel like I was trying to string you along just to turn around and mack on your brother, because that’s not how it is! I mean, it’s pretty obvious that I find you incredibly attractive, and I…”

Your voice trails off because Klaus is looking at you like a starving man who has just been offered a five-tier chocolate cake. His tongue darts out to wet his lips as he stares, eyes wide and glistening with the most genuine emotion you’ve ever seen him express, irises darting minutely as he examines your features in reverent silence.

Then he presses toward you and you feel his lips meet yours in the most beautiful kind of chaos.

You must have fallen asleep and now you’re dreaming; that’s the only way to explain why Klaus’s marshmallow-soft lips are molding so perfectly to yours and his hand is stroking over your cheek, carefully, like he’s looking for permission. You grant it with a feathery moan as you part your lips to allow him entrance. His tongue feels like the most beautiful sin, hot and slick and positively decadent.

It takes all of your willpower to break apart from him, but you, being yourself, can’t just enjoy something for two goddamn minutes. He whines needily when your mouth leaves his, but then the haze of arousal is whisked away by realization and his eyes widen in astonishment.

“Did we just-?”

“Yeah,” you say incredulously. “We did.”

He reaches out to run a hand over your cheek. The simple action feels so wonderful, you close your eyes for the briefest moment and nuzzle into his touch like a cat.

“This isn’t a dream? I can really touch you?” he whispers.

“It would appear so.”

A smile twitches the corners of your mouth, and he returns with a devilish grin of his own. Before he can lean forward to kiss you again, though, you put a hand on his chest to stop him.

“Klaus, wait. Before we do that again- because I’d really, really like to do it again,” You don’t miss the way his expression brightens at that. “We need to figure out, you know. This.”

He tosses his head back with a tortured groan. “Ugh. I know. It’s just such a mess.” He glances back to you, lips turned down a bit sheepishly. “I’m sorry for making it weird, okay? I was just having the nicest dream about you, and you know I can’t control what goes in my subconscious! Though,” he grimaces, “maybe trying to get off to it was taking it a bit far.”

A hurricane of emotions hurtles through your brain at the unexpected revelation. Hold on a goddamn minute- Klaus was apologizing to you ? Even more startling- he’d wanted to jerk off to a sexy dream about you ?

“So you’re not totally creeped out that I was just, like, watching you while you slept?” you ask.

He shrugs. “Eh. Not really. I mean…” His eyelids lower and his lips turn up in a sultry grin as he leans closer to you. “What happier ending could I have asked for than to find the object of those filthy thoughts right there in my bed?”

Heat flares in your cheeks and you’re grateful for the shadows concealing how very aroused his words make you feel. “So, just to clarify,” you say, “you’re not mad at me?”

“Well… I am a little upset that you’re not taking full advantage of your sudden ability to touch me,” he murmurs. “After all, isn’t that what you demanded the very first time we met?”

It feels like a lifetime ago that you’d sat across from that Ouija board and spoken to Klaus for the first time. You’d been so very lonely back then. So deprived of human touch- you’ve been craving it since the moment you awoke and found Klaus’s stormy eyes staring right into yours.

You clear your throat and shove aside the desire brewing inside you. “And I really- I really do want to touch you. But before we start, there’s something you need to know about me.”

“Ooh, sounds ominous.” He raises a suggestive eyebrow. “Lay it on me, kiddo. I can take it.”

God, he’s really making this difficult for you.

You take a deep breath before you begin. “I don’t remember much about my life- you know, before I died. Big details are pretty fuzzy. But there are still some parts that are kind of, I guess you’d call them intrinsic. Or maybe they’ve only recently developed, I don’t know-”

“What does any of this have to do with you holding me down and rawing me until I forget my own name?” he asks.

That visual hits you like a brick wall, but you force yourself to keep talking. “My point ,” you say at last, “is that I have certain… preferences. In bed.” His expression doesn’t change, and you can feel the embarrassment creeping up on you. “They’re kind of unusual, and I wouldn’t want you to feel scared or uncomfortable or anything, I totally get it if you’re not into that kind of stuff-”

He claps a hand over each of your cheeks and tugs your face close enough that the tips of your noses brush together. “I would like you to know right now that I am completely, irrevocably, one thousand percent on board with whatever kinky shit you want to do to me.”

You could fucking kiss him you’re so excited, but there’s still more to discuss before you get into it. “I want you to know,” you say, a bit out of breath at the proximity of his lips to your own, “I can get really mean when I immerse myself in a scene. I may do or say some pretty nasty things, and I want you to understand that that’s not a reflection of how I necessarily feel about you or your preferences.”

“Mm-hmm.” He nods eagerly, eyes fixed on your mouth.

“I want you to enjoy yourself, though. So if there is anything you’d like me to do-”

Anything ,” he hisses. “Pull my hair, bite my neck, whip me, slap me, fucking use me as a toilet, I want it all .”

“Well, we definitely won’t be doing that last one,” you giggle. “But the rest are definitely still in the game. What about a safeword? I know you said you’re up for whatever but I want you to have one just in case.”

He shrugs. “I dunno, no one’s ever asked me for one before. What’s something that neither of us would normally say during sex, and is also guaranteed to kill the mood immediately?”

“How about… moist ?”

“Ugh,” he groans. “I said kill the mood, not make me heave.”

“Hmm.” You squint in thought. “What about Reginald?”

His nose instantly wrinkles in distaste. “Yeah, there’s definitely no faster boner killer than my estranged father,” he snorts.

“Excellent,” you giggle. “Make sure you actually use it, too. Don’t be afraid of ruining the mood for me, or anything. I want you to feel safe.”

You expect some kind of witty remark from him, but he just looks at you with a mixture of desire and awe in his beautiful pale irises. Tremors of anticipation rush over you at the intensity in his expression.

“What are your instructions, cap’n?”

Your mouth quirks up into a exhilarated smile. “Just kiss me already, you dork.”

Your lips meet in a volcanic explosion. A hand snakes into his dark curls and tugs him to you, eliciting a needy whine from deep in his throat. His tongue prods at your lips and you part them eagerly for him, letting him press forward to taste you, breathing in his desperate pants of pleasure. His shuddering breaths and the smell and softness of his skin overwhelm your senses; all you want is to make him release more of those perfect, beautiful sounds.

He allows you to push him onto his back, your mouths never parting. His hands move to your rear, giving it a cheeky squeeze before wandering up under your shirt. He touches you passionately, needily, like he’s terrified that you’ll slip away again before he can properly enjoy you. It’s beautiful. The hand that isn’t tangled in his hair slides over his torso, pausing to tweak his nipple so you can catch the needy breath he sucks in. Your fingers dance over the planes of his abs, taking a slight detour to undo his belt before slipping down to tease the seam of his pants. When you brush over the growing length pressed against his thigh, he lets out a keening whine that goes straight to your groin. He digs his fingers into the meat of your shoulder blades, clinging to you like a life raft.

“I’ve wanted to touch you,” he murmurs between kisses, “for so… fucking… long.”

“Me too,” you whisper.

He giggles. “You’ve wanted to touch you too?”

You roll your eyes and squeeze his erection in punishment for the sass. His eyelids snap shut and the shit-eating look on his face melts into an expression of pure bliss as he lets out a desperate moan. He strains to pull you closer to him, but you resist (not without difficulty) and fix him with a bemused grin.

“What do we say?” you ask.

He peeks one eye open and sucks in a gasp at the confident dominance in your smile.

“S-sorry,” he mumbles.

“Good boy.”

You reward him by shifting your knee between his thighs and pressing oh-so-slightly against his groin. The contact is but a pittance compared to what you really want to do to him, but the high-pitched moan that erupts from his delicately parted lips could rival the most heavenly symphony.

“As fucking amazing as this feels,” he chokes out, “would you mind terribly if we moved this somewhere a tad less… cramped?” He manages a jaunty smirk through his arousal. “Not that I mind being forced to be so close to you…”

You snort out a laugh but move back to allow him to roll out from under the bed. You follow him as quickly as the miniscule space will allow and jump to your feet as soon as you’re free. He’s already sitting on the side of the bed, the flashlight clutched between both hands just under his chin.

“What are you doing?” You mentally prepare yourself for whatever stupidity you know is about to come out of his mouth.

He flicks the flashlight on, illuminating his face from below like the protagonist in a cheesy horror flick. “You look very boooo-tiful tonight!” he warbles, a la Vincent Price.

If you rolled your eyes any harder, they’d be in the back of your skull (which, now you think of it, you could probably actually do, being dead and all). “Ghost puns, very cute. Can we get back to kissing now?”

“I’m just trying to get you in the spirit ,” he says, wiggling his fingers at you.

“Nope.” You start to turn away, but he grabs your wrist and tugs you back toward him with surprising force. You glance down to see him pouting up at you with comically rounded puppy eyes.

“Please don’t leave,” he whines. He slowly brings the flashlight back up to his chin. “I just want to be your boo .”

You let out a scream of frustration as you tackle him back onto the mattress. He’s giggling like an idiot as you manhandle him into place.

With some effort, you end up with your legs framing his hips, his feet still solidly on the floor but his upper body prone beneath your weight and his arms splayed across the mattress. He’s quiet now but still grinning like a child who’s been promised anything he wants from the candy store.

As you fix him with your simmering glare, he cocks an eyebrow and tilts his chin up to bare the pale column of his throat. An invitation, one to which you very much want to assent, but you need to punish his attitude before you can give him his reward.

You caress his exposed throat, fingers dancing playfully over the skin, lingering above the spot where you can see his pulse thrumming. Then you veer away from where you know he wants your touch the most, tracing the pulsating tendons down toward his collarbone. He’s so thin, his bones poking against the skin with a ferocity and grace that sets your heart to racing. You could look at his naked body for hours, admiring it like the universe’s most imperfect masterpiece.

He shifts his hips impatiently, searching for some kind of friction against his burning erection. Oh no no , we can’t be having any of that. You quickly shift up on your knees to remove your body from his, causing him to whine in frustration. The sound shifts into a breathy gasp when you lean forward to rake your nails down his naked torso.

“That’s strike two,” you say.

The commanding tone surprises yourself, but it clearly does the trick for Klaus. He lies back against the mattress with a huff of annoyance, but assents to your unspoken instruction to keep his hands (and his boner) to himself. He squirms a bit when you reach down to finish undoing his belt, but just a look from you sets him back to rights.

You stand up, belt in hand, and appraise his body with quiet reverence. It’s such a nice sight to see him reclined on the mattress, hands splayed above his head obediently, legs spread to show off just how ready he is for you to take him. You need to work to stifle a groan of arousal at this view alone.

He bites his lip and shifts his legs open just a tad. You think he enjoys being looked at like this, helpless and desperate for you. You want to admire him a bit longer, but the burning in your own groin is making you far more impatient than you’d like.

“Roll over,” you instruct. “Hands above your head.”

He does so without complaint, arching his back to show off his pert ass framed so perfectly by those tight leather pants. He glances over his shoulder and fixes you with a heavy-lidded stare.

“Are you gonna punish me?” he simpers. “I’ve been very naughty, you know.” As he says it, he braces his feet against the floor and grinds sensuously against the mattress. His eyes slide closed in pleasure and a thready gasp slips through his perfectly parted lips. It’s enough to drag you that much fucking closer to the edge, but you can’t let him have even that small bit of control over his own pleasure.

You lean one knee on the mattress and snag Klaus by his thick brown curls. The action draws a moan from his lips, but his eyes remain closed.

“Look at me,” you snarl.

He ignores you, continuing to grind his hips into the mattress, getting off on the slight friction and the pain of your fingers pulling his strands taut. There’s only one way you know how to make him listen. You cock your other arm back and then, with a single, vicious motion, bring the belt down hard on his ass.

His whole body jerks forward as he screams , more from surprise than actual pain, but it’s a satisfying enough reaction. Finally, he opens his eyes and meets yours with a watery grin.

“Now, what do we say?” you ask, your voice firm and commanding.

His tongue darts out to wet his lips around heavy pants. “H-harder,” he whispers.

You think you might cum just from that visual alone. You shove his head against the mattress before he can see the effect he’s had on you. “Wrong answer,” you hiss. Your other hand readies the belt again.

“Naughty. Boys. Get. Spanked .”

With every strike his body spasms against your hold, straining to escape the punishment even as he moans and leans into the lashes. After the fourth one you pause to give him a quick breather, and he whines out his disapproval. You tangle your hand in his hair again and yank his face to yours.

“This would go so much easier if you just shut up and accepted your punishment like a good little sub,” you hiss.

Even through the pain and arousal twisting his features, he manages a sultry smile. “When have you ever known me to make anything easier?” he says.

You roll your eyes and toss him back to the mattress. “On the floor, on your knees,” you order. He grumbles but does as he’s told, sliding off the bed and kneeling beside you. “Face the wall. Hands behind your back.” He rotates awkwardly to avoid jostling his boner and folds his arms behind his back, grasping his own wrist to keep himself somewhat restrained. God, you couldn’t ask for anyone more perfect for this.

Your shoes make no sound on the floorboards as you walk behind him, caressing the belt fondly. Its leather is smooth and cool beneath your fingers. You bring one hand to the back of Klaus’s head, running it through his tangled locks (you like playing with his hair more than you want to admit). He smiles and nuzzles against your hand like a goddamned cat. This boy will be the death of you.

“I think five more lashes should do it,” you say. “With the buckle this time.”

His entire body tenses as he sucks in a breath. You can see the muscles in his shoulders jumping with anticipation, the pulse in his neck racing out of control. You let go of his hair and take a step back, admiring the blank expanse of his back as you ready the belt. The silence hangs heavy with excitement and expectations.

You wait so long that Klaus is about to speak up, but whatever he was going to say dies in his throat as the belt snaps across his back. The pain is unlike anything, sharp and hot with a lingering ache that just makes it all the more pleasurable. The buckle is a lovely addition, lending a bloody kind of sting that you don’t normally get from your run-of-the-mill beatings. Fuck, how he craves it.

By the third lash it’s starting to feel overwhelming, more pain than pleasure, but he knows that saying anything will just get him further punishment. And, jesus, the more time he spends here the more he feels his instinctive sassiness waning under the all-consuming need of his pulsing erection. Beyond that, though, he also finds that it feels just plain good to bend to your will. He wants to be a good boy for you. Your perfect boy.

The echo of the final lash fades in the shadowy room, the sting melting into a slightly more tolerable burn as Klaus sits hunched over and panting with his hands still clutched behind his back. You drop the belt and lower yourself to the floor behind him, pressing your lips to the angry red welts rising on his skin. He moans gratefully at the sensation.

“You did such a good job for me,” you murmur. Your hands slide over his thighs and dip down toward his erection, which did not diminish a bit throughout his punishment. Even drained and panting, he still spreads his thighs to allow you better access. So perfect .

You begin to rub soothing circles into his flesh with one hand, while the other brushes over the boner straining against his pants. His body seizes up with a desperate moan when your fingers wrap around what you can reach and give him a firm stroke. It’s a small thing, but right then it feels like the world’s most marvelous handjob.

You stand up and step back a pace. “On the bed, on your back,” you growl. “ Now .”

He flashes you a sassy grin as he stands up, and you can’t help giving his tush a light smack. “Oh-ho,” he hums. “You going to rough me up a little more?”

You just cock one eyebrow in response. He shrugs and flops onto the bed, hands jumping down to remove his constricting pants, but you stop him with a finger over his zipper and a sadistic smile.

“Ah-ah. Not yet, love,” you chide him.

He sticks his lower lip out in a pout and crosses his arms over his chest. “I took your punishment like a good boy, didn’t I? I feel like that oughta’ve earned me at least a little break.”

You climb onto the bed and swing one leg over his body so that you’re straddling his groin but not quite touching him. It’s so tempting to mark him up some more, but if you’re being honest, you’d really rather get on to the good stuff. Besides, he seems to like it best when you behave unpredictably.

You’d retrieved the belt on your way over and now you lean back to examine it coolly, paying zero attention to the needy young man underneath you. You can tell his bravado is beginning to wane as he watches you delicately finger your current instrument of torture; you can only imagine all the beautiful scenarios racing through his mind. His Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows and leans up to see you better.

The question sits poised on his tongue, but you silence it with a sharp love tap to his chest. Then you bring the buckle down instead, gently, more dragging it over his fevered skin to let him feel its cold metal edges. You want him to remember its bite, to associate the pain with disobedience.

“The trouble with you, my love,” you finally say, “is that it is so very fucking difficult to think of a punishment that you won’t enjoy.”

His mouth falls open on a silent cry as the belt buckle digs suddenly into his skin. His hands jump to your thighs that frame his own, caressing your flesh like a penitent before the cross.

“Tie me up,” he croaks. His hands are trembling. “I need to touch you- so badly. Tie me up, baby.” His beautiful gray eyes jump to yours. “It’d be pure torture.”

Chapter Text

There has never been a more beautiful sight than that of Klaus Hargreeves, lying prone beneath you, his wrists bound to the bedframe and his chest heaving under your systematic ministrations. His entire body shudders as you lick a slow stripe up his straining erection, still confined beneath the barrier of his too-tight leather pants. His eyes are squeezed tightly shut, breathy, desperate moans escaping through trembling lips.

You could honestly watch him like this for hours. It’s so much fun to watch his body convulse in pleasure at the torment being delivered upon his pulsing cock, the sass in his demeanor so easily wiped away by the brush of your tongue against his fly or a swift bite to the sensitive flesh above his clavicle. He already has quite the canvas of hickies painted across his neck and thighs; you just can’t resist the taste of his skin.

His fingers twitch helplessly in their constraints. He wasn’t kidding when he told you it would be torture to be unable to touch you- no matter how much you punish him for it, he can’t resist struggling forward with mouth and hands, desperate to press his mark into your skin. It doesn’t seem like he has too much issue with the denial of his own pleasure, though, if the fact that his erection hasn’t flagged a bit since you first tied him up is evidence enough. You’re becoming addicted to the way he cries and begs for you any time you go near the damn thing.

Your name floats through his lips on the crest of a helpless moan. “Please,” he begs, flicking his tongue out to wet his chapped lips. “Please, let me touch you. Fuck, I’ll do- anything, just please, god, let me touch you.”

You sit up and fix him with a critical gaze, and though he grumbles a bit at the loss of your tongue against his cock, he doesn’t do more than fuss. He really has been such a good boy for you, and it isn’t like the torture has no effect on your own situation. It would be nice for both of you to get a bit of relief.

He starts to protest when you slide off the bed. You roll your eyes and give his knee a playful smack. “Hush now,” you chastise him. He really can be such a needy child.

His head snaps to attention at the sound of your zipper going down. When he sees you staring at him, lips cocked in a playful smile and hands poised over your fly, he positively melts .

“Fuck yessss. I want to see you, baby, please,” he groans.

A wave of arousal rushes through you at the sound of his beautiful begging. He’s not going to get it that easily, though. You spin around and slide your hands over your jean-clad cheeks, leaning forward and arching your back to give him the full view. When you raise back up and glance over your shoulder, he’s gone completely slack-jawed, mouth watering at your display.

You flash him a seductive grin before you turn back around and start to work your pants down over your hips. When you’ve slide them down over your thighs, you take your time peeling them off the rest of the way, bending over and giving your bum a little shake. As you stand back up, you trail your hands up your sides, shuddering at the pleasant tingles that your own touch evokes.

When you finally turn back to face him, Klaus looks like he might implode. His eyes are bugged out and his tongue nearly lolls out of his mouth the way he’s panting for you. At the sight of your lower body fully revealed to him (excepting your underwear), the bed frame shakes with how hard he tugs at the restraints anchoring him to the headboard.

“Fucking hell ,” he gasps. He looks like he wants to say more, but all that escapes is a low, pathetic whine. His tongue flicks out to lick his lips, and your thoughts jump immediately to how amazing that tongue would feel on you instead.

You glide across the floorboards and hop back onto the bed. You hook your leg over his form once again, but this time you straddle his chest. This close you can see him salivating as he takes in your barely clothed pelvis this fucking close to his face. It’s fairly evident from the state of your underwear, however, that the whole situation has been affecting you as much as it has him.

“It seems I’m not the only guilty party here,” he teases. His steely eyes flick up to yours. “Really, dearest, there’s no reason you should suffer too. Bring that sweet little tush over here and I’ll give you a reward, hm?”

You scoff, only partly to disguise the husk of arousal creeping into your voice. “You vastly overestimate your own charm,” you say.

“I’m only pointing out what we’re both thinking.” His lips twitch into a cheeky grin. “Things would be so much easier if you would just be a good dom and fuck me.”

Fuck, there’s no way you can deny him when he twists your own words like that. Still, this rebellious attitude cannot go unpunished.

You lean down to the level of his face, so close you can feel his huffing little breaths against your cheek. You clutch his jaw in one hand so that he cannot speak and bring your lips down to his ear.

“I think it’s time I give that sassy little mouth something better to do.”

A whimper of anticipation puffs against the side of your face at the words. You sit back up and release his jaw to run your thumb over his lower lip. The skin is pink and a bit cracked from how much he’s been chewing at it. His tongue slides out to lick over your thumb slowly, teasingly- and then you think you might cum right there when he sucks the digit into his mouth. He acts like he’s trying to suck you off, lapping all over the length and moaning in a way that sends beautiful vibrations straight through your bones.

After several minutes of this stimulation you withdraw your thumb and slap him open-palmed across the face. It’s nowhere close to your full strength, but you nail him on the meat of the cheek such that you elicit a terrifically satisfying smack . His head jerks to the side and he lets out a strangled cry of mixed torment and desire.

“There’s no need to be so gentle,” he chokes out around strangled breaths. He tosses the sweaty brown curls out of his eyes to look at you full on. The burning in his eyes tells you the unspoken words: I can take it .

You know he’s just trying to goad you into smacking him around a little, but damn him, it’s working. You snag one hand in his flyaway locks and give them a hard yank, forceful enough that you can see the tendons in his neck straining under the motion. He’s laughing, a gleeful, victorious laugh at having gotten his way. The sound grinds on your brain.

You release his head and shove two fingers into his mouth to shut him up. He laughs even harder, until you manage to maneuver your way down to his gag reflex, and then his body is spasming with gurgling coughs. You give him a triumphant smile of your own as his cheeks hollow around your fingers and his eyes slide closed in bliss, giving himself over to the desire to pleasure you.

It’s a strange mix of stimulations. You are stroking and thrusting into his mouth the way you would if you were fingering him, and Klaus is treating your digits to the world’s most marvelous blowjob. You thrill in the heat and wetness of his perfect mouth, his tongue twisting and stimulating your skin so well your toes are curling.

Without realizing it, you’ve begun to grind your hips against his chest. The subtle friction is absolutely maddening. When he notices it as well, he moans in encouragement and thrusts his head forward as if he means to deepthroat your fingers. The sensation is wonderful, and strange, and it feels like something is constricting around your chest.

Fuck, this is all too much.

You withdraw your fingers and lean back, panting with shallow desire. You have to close your eyes for a few minutes or the luststruck fire burning in Klaus’s eyes might actually turn you to cinders.

When you look back to him, drool trailing over his chin and his swollen lips peeking up in a self-satisfied grin, the sight nearly kills you.

He tilts his hips up to grind against your backside, and you can feel the compact hardness pressing against your ass. Normally you would pull off of him immediately, but with what you have planned next, you think he’ll need this little bit of relief to keep him from outright combusting in five minutes.

You bring the two fingers, still soaked with Klaus’s saliva, to the crook of your hip and slip them beneath the band of your underwear. His breath catches at the sight. You’re already slick with arousal, so it is unbelievably easy to bring yourself nearly to the edge and finally, finally give yourself the relief you’ve been waiting for. You allow yourself to become lost in pleasuring yourself, eyelids fluttering closed at the beautiful slide of fingers over wanting flesh, blood thrumming in your ears at the tremble and rush of satisfaction pulsing through your bones.

“Please…”

Klaus’s broken plea cuts through the haze of your desire. Your eyes snap back open and lock on his slack-jawed expression, his wrists flexing against the restraints, the muscles in his abdomen tensing with the effort not to roll his hips against your own. His eyes are watery with heartbreak that you would deny him the joy of bringing you to orgasm.

Nothing more beautiful has ever existed.

You continue to grind against your hand, while the other one reaches out to stroke over his cheek. He twists his upper body to press into your touch, his eyes sliding shut with desire. His breath pants hotly over your skin and he turns his head to press sloppy kisses to your palm.

“Tell me what you want, Klaus,” you murmur. “You know I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what you need.”

He whines when you take your hand away, but he just digs his teeth into his ip and rolls his hips in an effort to gain some friction. You slap him on the cheek considerably harder than before, and though his head jerks sideways there is a note of arousal hanging on his pained cry.

Your hand snags in his curls and jerks his head back toward you. “Tell me. What. You want ,” you hiss.

“P-please touch me,” he croaks. “It’s fucking torture to watch you getting yourself off, Christ. Let me help you. Please let me make you orgasm.”

You hum absently as you tilt your hips, grinding into your hand but making sure to graze against his erection at the same time. His lips tremble around the moan that escapes him. “That’s not good enough, darling,” you purr.

He takes a shuddering breath. “I need you, fucking- please let me touch you. It hurts so badly. I need you to just, just fucking use me. Let me make you cum, or make me cum, or just…” He gasps in a helpless breath and licks his lips. “You’re driving me crazy, darling. Please.”

You trace a finger over his chest and flick one of his pert nipples. The spasm that rocks his upper body feels as wonderful as a mini orgasm.

Slowly, so very slowly, you shuffle back until you can gain access to his trousers. You pull the zipper down with careful motions, drawing out the moment until the article is loose enough to remove entirely. You hook your fingers in the belt loops and, with his eager assistance, shimmy the ridiculous leather pants down his legs and off completely.

Two wonderful things happen the moment you get them off of him. He huffs out a moan of relief as his erection is finally, finally freed of the leather prison in which they’ve been confined for so long. In the same instant, you notice that, rather than the plain briefs you had been expecting, the underwear that graces his beautiful slim hips consists of a few scraps of skimpy black lace.

The boy is wearing lingerie, for chrissake.

You can’t stifle the moan that escapes your lips at the sight. Your fingers tease over his skin and fiddle with the elastic, pulling it taut and letting it go to hit his skin with a satisfying snap!

“Were you planning for this?” you hum. You can’t conceal the predatory grin that stretches your lips.

“Mm-hm,” he whimpers, rolling his hips at your touch. He lets out a reedy, high-pitched moan as you tease the skin just above his pelvis.

You lean down and trail your tongue over the significant bulge in the lacy fabric. The breath that punches out of his lungs sends all the blood in your body racing south.

You run the fingers still slick with your own arousal over the length of his cock. His erection has strained the fabric so tight that the place where his happy trail fades to the base of his dick is clearly exposed. Klaus groans when you tease the sensitive flesh, and you can see his thighs twitching with the effort not to thrust against you.

“You look so pretty in your lacy panties,” you murmur sweetly. “I wonder. Were you going to try to seduce me tonight?”

“L-like I’d need some fancy lingerie to do that,” he chuckles. His expression is self-assured, but the tension in his neck gives away just how very difficult it is for him to hold back from trying to devour you.

The confidence melts away with a single swipe of your tongue over the tip of his cock. A damp spot has formed in the fabric where he’s leaking precum. The bed frame creaks under the force of his wrists tugging against their restraints, mingling with his frenzied moan.

You kiss along his trembling thighs, letting a bit of teeth slip into your soothing pecks. He emits a breathy whine as you trail your fingers all over him, his stomach and hips and thighs, just wanting to feel all of him now that you are finally able to. When your lips near the crease of his pelvis, you switch from gentle kisses to a full-on bite, sinking your teeth deep into the meat of his inner thigh. At the same time you dig your nails into his skin and drag them down his thighs, leaving beautiful red marks on the abnormally pale canvas.

He shrieks in pain, but you don’t miss the way his cock twitches with need. You giggle as you bring your mouth back to his dick, tonguing the skin through the sheer fabric.

“Christ, baby, holy fuck ,” he groans. “Please stop teasing. I can’t take it anymore, please…”

“Aww, are you going to cum when I’ve barely even touched your cock?” you tease.

Yes . Jesus, kid, this is fucking torture . You should see how sexy you look like this, god.”

You hum thoughtfully as you trace your tongue over the outline of his cock straining against the flimsy black lace. He has been quite well-behaved, and you suppose that deserves another reward. As nice as it is to listen to him begging… you’d really rather he be doing it while you lavish his dick with your tongue.

Klaus is so out of it he barely registers you tugging his panties to the side to get to his dick. His entire body shudders with a rush of pleasure when you wrap your lips around the head. His breaths begin to come in short pants laced with a high-pitched keening as he struggles to keep from thrusting into your mouth.

You grasp the base of his dick and tease the slit, prodding it with just the tip of your tongue before dipping down to trace over his shaft and back up again. His skin is glistening with saliva and a bit of precum. As you tease over the head, the organ twitches and more precum seeps out.

“You’re already leaking so hard for me. What a good boy,” you giggle as you kiss down his shaft.

He moans and twitches at the derogatory praise. “I wanna be so good for you. Please,” he gasps, “please let me be your good boy. Let me pleasure you, fuck.”

“Oh? This isn’t good enough for you?” You squeeze the base of his cock and curl your tongue around the head to emphasize your point.

Klaus struggles to speak through the tremors of arousal wracking his body. “N-no, it’s wonderful, it’s perfect, but. I want to taste you. God, I want it so bad. Please let me make you cum, darling,” he whines.

You very well might cum from his words alone. You have to close your eyes for a few moments to collect yourself before you can gather the strength to move. When you finally do, you shuffle toward the headboard, pausing when you’re straddling Klaus’s chest.

You place a gentle hand against his cheek. “Do you really want to do this?”

He nods so enthusiastically that you’re afraid his head might pop off. “Yes, please. Fucking hell, I want to taste you so badly,” he cries.

The burning in your core fully ignited, you flash him a teasing smile before shuffling forward a bit more until you’re lowering yourself over his face. Instantly his mouth latches onto you. It’s absolutely wonderful- the motions of his perfect tongue against your most sensitive part, the scratch of his scruffy chin against the inside of your thighs, the hungry little moans he releases as he devours you. Your fingers clench around the bars of the bed frame as you feel yourself rocketing toward your peak. The obscene smacking noises that would normally have you flushing with embarrassment now feel arousing, evidence of the eagerness and desire with which he stimulates you.

That’s what you find truly sexy about the whole scene: not just the act itself, but the way he seems so excited to do it, the passion with which he takes you apart and rearranges your atoms and molds you back together with just his lips and tongue. He makes a home in that most secret part of you, something that has terrified you with every other partner you’ve ever had, but with Klaus just feels beautiful and wonderful and right . You never want him to leave the place between your thighs.

The pleasure is building from a low ripple to something more akin to a tsunami. You can feel yourself wavering on the precipice, already so turned on from all the teasing and how well-behaved Klaus is being for you. Your perfect boy. He licks and sucks and strokes you with his tongue in all the most incredible ways, shooting you straight to the zenith of your orgasm. One hand darts to his hair and pulls , eliciting more of those amazing moans that vibrate against your flesh and rumble through your bones.

“Fuck, baby- I’m gonna cum,” you gasp through shuddering breaths. Klaus makes a noise that sounds like encouragement and his mouth speeds up on you, pressing into your skin like he’s actually trying to consume you. Your orgasm is building like a rapidly expanding balloon, and you feel that any moment it’s going to combust, it’s pulling you higher and higher and you want nothing more than to let go, let go -

A shriek escapes your lips as you finally hit your climax. Everything goes white for several moments, nothing but the rush of blood in your ears and the sound of your own harsh, ragged panting. The sensation explodes in your core and spreads outward, leaving your limbs feeling soft and a bit fuzzy like the static on a broken television set. Slowly, slowly, the aftershocks drain away and you’re left with just a bone-deep satisfaction.

You pull off of Klaus and collapse beside him on the mattress. His face is shiny with drool and your own fluids. He makes sure to catch your eye, giving you a sultry wink before his tongue begins to lap at the skin around his mouth, licking up all the traces of your desire. You don’t think you’ve ever seen anything more wonderful.

The sight is hot enough to spark a tiny bit of arousal in your core, but truthfully, you’re starting to feel quite exhausted. There is also, of course, the matter of Klaus’s own impending orgasm. His twitching cock is still at full mast and drooling precum all over the lacy panties you’d hastily yanked aside.

You trace a finger over his cheek, catching a drop that he’d missed. When you pop the digit in your own mouth, you think he might cum just at the sight. The hoarse groan that rushes out of him is so deep you have to glance at his pelvis just to make sure he didn’t actually orgasm already.

“That was- fucking incredible ,” he moans.

“I’ll admit, it wasn’t half-bad,” you tease. “But it seems like there’s still the matter of your own pleasure to be addressed.” As you say it, you drag one finger along his weeping shaft. The action makes him whimper softly.

“Please please please, darling, I’ll do anything. Please let me cum,” he gasps.

You finger the leather belt fastening his wrists to the bed frame. “Do you want this off when I do it, love?”

“N-no thanks. I like being under your control.” He flashes you a naughty grin that sets your heart racing.

With a sultry wink, you slither down the bed until you’re at mouth-level with his dick. You give it a firm stroke, causing him to groan as more precum beads up. The sight gives you a sudden, dirty idea. “If you really want me to control you,” you hum as you fondle him, “then I think we ought to find a gag for that pretty mouth of yours.”

“Yes please ,” he whines.

You get him to lift his hips enough to shimmy the panties off of him, then use the fabric to mop up the precum leaking from his cock. You stuff the lingerie into his mouth, instantly muffling his begging cries.

“The only thing I want to hear out of that mouth is your cute little moans,” you order him. “If you need to use your safeword, knock on the wall three times. Got it?”

He nods eagerly and whimpers around the gag. Perfect.

Now for the finale. You give his cock a few more strokes- you don’t even need spit to lubricate it, he’s leaking so much- before you close your lips around the head. You start out carefully, only taking what you can immediately handle, your fingers stimulating what your mouth can’t reach while you hollow your cheeks and suckle on the tip. You alternate between swirling your tongue around the head and tracing over his slit, all the while making sure to squeeze and stroke the shaft enough to provide that extra stimulation.

You’ve always been a bit self-conscious about your blowjob skills, but from the incredible sounds coming from Klaus’s mouth, you’d wager that you’re doing a pretty bang-up job. Even through the gag you can hear his desperate keening moans and half-formed pleas. You have to press your free hand against his hip to keep him from thrusting into your mouth (for now, at least). You hazard a glance upward and feel your heart seize up in amazement at the completely blissed-out expression on his face- eyes squeezed tight shut, jaw tensing, his entire body trembling with waves of pure arousal.

Once you’ve established a good motion, you start to take in a little more of his cock. You bob your head rhythmically, not taking in too much in one go, letting him suffer a bit as you ever so sloooowly inch down his cock. Your jaw aches from the stretch and strain of keeping your teeth back- though he doesn’t seem too upset when they graze slightly against the organ, but that’s a kink for another day- but gradually, you make your way almost to the base.

You’re a bit disappointed that you can’t take the whole thing, but it’s difficult enough not to gag with what you’ve got now, and anyway Klaus certainly isn’t giving any complaints. He’s maneuvered his fingers around the bars of the headboard and is tugging at them with surprising gusto; you’re a bit nervous that they might actually shatter with the way he’s going at it. Then the tip of his dick brushes your uvula, and you have to pull off his dick to emit an undignified coughing fit.

Through the sound of your own hacking, you hear a muffled rapping- three knocks somewhere above your head. Klaus’s safety signal. Stifling your strained breathing, you sit up and pull the gag out of his mouth so he can speak.

“Are you okay?” he asks as soon as his mouth is clear.

You start to speak, but that triggers another coughing fit, so you just give him a thumbs-up instead.

“Okay, good. I didn’t actually need to use the safeword, I just wanted you to take the gag out so I could make sure you’re alright.” He gives you a smile that is so gosh darn sweet it feels like your heart is made of cotton candy and he is the unrelenting sun.

“Thank you,” you say once you’ve mostly recovered your voice. “I’m fine, really. It was just kind of unexpected.”

“Excellent! In that case, kiss me.”

Don’t mind if you do.

His lips are so unendingly warm and soft, a bit chapped from how much he’s been biting them but that makes the experience all the more incredible. He kisses you passionately but unhurriedly, taking his time to taste you, tongue exploring your mouth with more inquisitiveness than burning need. You’re content to take a breather and just kiss him, relishing your ability to touch the perfect body you’d been admiring for so long. It’s the kind of unearthly fantasy that you never want to end.

After a few minutes, however, Klaus’s kisses become a bit hungrier, the contact of your lips more searching. You smile into the kiss and snake one hand over his chest, his stomach, toward where he is still very much on the brink of orgasm.

“Wait,” he gasps. You pause, afraid for a moment that you’ve done something wrong, but he presses a quick peck to the corner of your mouth to soothe you. You pull back to look at his face. “I was hoping that you might let me live out one of my… shall we say, tamer fantasies.”

“Oh? Do tell,” you murmur.

He bites his lip and his eyes dart to the side, looking almost- shy? “I want you to kiss me,” he says cautiously, “while I… jerk myself off.”

If there was an egg on your face, it would fry instantly with the heat that rushes to your cheeks. Klaus looks alarmed, until you whisper, “That might just be the hottest thing you could have said.”

He visibly relaxes. “My thoughts exactly,” he replies. “So, would you mind…?”

You quickly undo the belt fastening him to the bed frame and rub over his wrists to ensure the circulation returns. Then he takes one of his newly freed hands, cups your cheek tenderly, and guides your mouth back to his.

It’s more beautiful than you could have ever imagined. You can’t resist bringing a bit of pain into the kiss, nipping at his lower lip and teasing your nails over the bruises pressed into his throat. You swallow the throaty laugh he releases into your mouth. Soon, however, the laughter turns to moaning and the slap of his hand jerking his cock to orgasm speeds up. His other hand has never left your cheek, and his grip tightens as his climax swiftly approaches.

“I’m so fucking close. So close- gonna cum for you, love,” he whispers.

“Do it. Cum for me. Cum for me now.”

He gasps. “Pull my hair- please-”

You oblige without question. He smashes his mouth against yours as he moans at the beautiful pain- it’s less a kiss now and more a colliding of lips and teeth and tongues, your breaths mingling in the shared heat. His fingers are trembling now, you can tell how close he is by the way his breath comes in strangled little gasps, he’s almost there-

A great, gutteral moan tumbles from his lips as he spills into his hand. The two of you sit together for many long moments, letting your pants wash over one another’s skin, just enjoying the heat and sensation of it all.

You can’t sit there forever, though, and finally Klaus draws himself reluctantly from your embrace to find something to wipe the cum off himself. You lie down on the bed and when he’s finished, you hold your arms out in an invitation for him to come cuddle. He crawls gratefully into your embrace, snuggling into your chest and letting out a contented sigh.

“So. That was incredible,” you say.

He laughs, a sound remarkably free of distress or fear. “Yeah. It kinda was,” he agrees.

You begin to run a hand through his hair in slow, rhythmic strokes, and he nuzzles your neck happily. “If you’re feeling up to walking downstairs, I’ll run a bath for you. Maybe make you some tea or something,” you offer.

He hums softly. “Maybe in the morning. Right now I’m so tired I don’t think I ever want to move from this stupid mattress.”

“Hey, it’s not that bad. At least it got the job done,” you joke.

He doesn’t respond. You peek down at his face tucked into the space above your clavicle, and see his features relaxed in the calm of sleep. For the first time since you realized you were dead, you can feel your own body aching with the need for rest. You let your eyelids slide closed and curl around your lover’s body, fingers still buried in his beautiful brown curls.

Chapter Text

Harsh morning sun shoots through the the grime on the windows and directly into your eyes, stirring you from your slumber. When you open your eyes, you are left with the strangest sensation, as if you were never asleep at all but lying there staring at the ceiling all night. That particular swath of time, however, is now inaccessible to your memory.

The next thing you register is that you cannot feel the mop of brown curls resting in your chest. Yes, in your chest, not on it, because it seems that at one point you became incorporeal once again and Klaus’s head sank right through your body. The mattress does not move when you extract yourself from it.

Your very much alive roommate/friend/lover is lying on his stomach, gangly arms and legs spread in an awkward tangle with himself and his mouth drawling open with sleepy breaths. The sight stokes a tender kind of warmth in your chest as you gaze at him.

As lovely as this is, you know you shouldn’t just sit here watching him sleep (again). You soundlessly pick your way amongst the rooms’ debris and back down to your own apartment, which is atypically still for the late morning hour. Ben is not in the living room or your bedroom, and when you pause to listen you cannot hear the sounds of him practicing in the basement. You’d check, but that particularly section of the house freaks you out even in the daytime. You figure you’re probably the only ghost on Earth who’s afraid of the dark.

You return to the living room and flop onto the couch. Strange how solid it feels, when so much of the world is completely intangible to you. It’s not fucking fair. if you close your eyes and really concentrate, you can still remember what it was like to touch Klaus, to actually feel another human being. The blurry memory of his kiss washes over your skin like the most wonderful kind of suffering.

Your thoughts drift inevitably to Ben, and it makes your heart sting. You had touched him, too, and hadn’t that been real? Boy, you owe him a world’s worth of explanations. Now that he’s floated back to the forefront of your mind, you can’t stop the guilt twisting your gut over your behavior. How could he ever want to forgive you for leading him on and then sleeping with his brother- quite loudly, if you’re being fully honest?

The jingle of Thompson’s collar heralds his entrance into the living room. He perks up a bit when he notices you and trots over to the couch, plopping down on the floor beside you and wagging his tail in a clear gambit for pets. You just can’t resist that floofy little face.

You give him some good scritches on top of his head, and he lets out a little huff of contentment. His fur is patchy and thin, his skin oddly devoid of temperature beneath; even his little black nose is strangely dry. It still breaks your heart to see what a state he was in when he died. You’re simply unable to stop your mind from stewing in thoughts of how horrible you must have been to just abandon him like this. You don’t even know how you died, or if it was preventable, what you realistically could have done for him, but your chest still aches when you think about it.

He doesn’t seem to have any grudge against you, though. Whatever happened in life, either it wasn’t your fault, or he doesn’t remember it. Seeing as he is a literal dog, the latter is probably the more likely scenario, but whatever. You’ll accept his love nonetheless.

You smooth your hand down his jutting spine and give his hindquarters a good scratch. “At least you still love me. Right, buddy?” you say.

He wriggles out of your reach, sneezes apathetically, then trots off in search of some empty corner in which to take a nap.

You roll off the couch and wander through the empty apartment and out into the yard. It’s different out here during the daytime. Not busy, exactly- your neighborhood wasn’t what you’d call a local hotspot even in your lifetime- but brighter, more alive. Though you can’t feel the sunshine on your skin, you can sense its distant memory in the shimmering mirage of heat rolling off the asphalt and the grass crisping under its unrelenting rays. Your footsteps make no sound as you wander along the side of the house, humming to yourself. You wonder if you used to bring Thompson out here on nice days to throw a ball around. You bet he’d have enjoyed it.

You’re not really thinking about where you’re going, and as such you don’t notice the figure standing in your yard when you round the corner of the building. They’re wearing a knee-length black coat entirely unsuited for the current weather, and at an initial glance you think it could be Klaus. Then your eyes travel up to their face, or rather, wear their face should be- which is currently covered by a seamless black latex mask with no visible eye or mouth holes.

A hand wraps around your arm and tugs you backward while another hand slides over your mouth to muffle your shout of surprise. The other figure seems to glance up at the sound, but that’s all you can glimpse before the unknown assailant yanks you back around the corner into the shadow of the house.

As soon as you’re hidden from view, the hands leave your body and you feel yourself reeling from the onslaught of sensations. You manage to spin around to confront your attacker- and almost cry with relief when you see who it is.

Ben looks more harried than you’ve ever seen him, a lightness in his posture that gives him the appearance that he’d like to bolt away at any moment. His eyes jump frantically between you and the corner of the house. Questions tumble through your mind, but none of them are capable of crossing your tongue. Ben puts a finger over his lips, grabs your arm again, and drags you back toward the front of the house.

Your befuddled feet struggle to keep up. You reach the opposite side of the house from where the figure had been standing, but rather than go inside the apartment, Ben leads you farther, around the side of the porch to a triangular set of rusted metal doors set into the ground. He lets go of you and, without waiting for your input, walks right through the doors and disappear into the earth.

You’d really been hoping to avoid the basement, preferably forever, but it looks like that moment has come a lot sooner than you’d anticipated. You take a deep breath and follow Ben through the sketchy set of doors onto the staircase below.

Being dead didn’t give you night vision, unfortunately, so the space is completely black when you reach the bottom of the stairs. “Ben?” you call out carefully.

A harsh shush echoes through the room. A moment later, a bare light bulb on the ceiling flickers on and the area is flooded with a scrawny yellow glow. It’s not a large room, maybe the size of your bedroom, though you can see a doorway in the far corner with a heavy blackness yawning beyond it. The floor is made of scuffed cement and the wood paneled walls are lined with shelves overflowing with miscellaneous items. The shelves are crammed with all manner of power tools, paint cans, rusty boxes, dishwares, and dozens of other dust-covered knick knacks. In the center of the room is an old work table framed by a pair of wooden benches and littered with glass jars translucent with dust. The floor is scattered with broken glass, dirt, and chunks of rotting wood.

Ben stands on the other side of the table from you. The light makes his face look hauntingly thin under the shadow of his mussed black hair.

“Sorry for scaring you back there,” he says. His voice sounds weary, like he just scaled a mountain. He plops down on one of the benches, props his elbows on the table, and leans his forehead in his hands. He looks like he’s aged several decades since yesterday.

You take a seat on the bench across from him. “It’s fine. Just, y’know, I’d appreciate a bit of warning next time you drag me into a creepy basement.” You glance up at the light bulb dangling from the ceiling.

He responds to the question before you can ask it. “I’ve upgraded to turning on light switches now,” he explains. His head drops to the table and he lets out a massive sigh.

“Sweet,” you say. “But, uh. No offense, but you kinda look like crap.”

He kicks you under the table. “It took a lot out of me, okay? You try successfully interacting with the physical world and see how you feel,” he grumbles.

“Ha. Point taken.” You glance around the room, trying not to be supremely creeped out by the encroaching shadows outside of your dimly lit circle. “So… any special reason you brought me down here?” you ask.

He lifts his head up and fixes you with a dark stare. Something heavy thrums in your chest at the sight. It’s disconcerting to see such a grave expression on his usually kind features.

“I’ve seen that person hanging around the house before,” he says. “I thought I was just imagining it at first, but it’s kind of hard to forget someone like that, you know? The first time was the day we officially moved in, they were hanging out in a bench on the park across the street. I’ve seen them on this street twice since then. This is the first time they’ve actually come onto the property, but…” He runs a hand through his hair. “I think they know about us. You know, that we’re-”

“Ghosts.” You swallow hard against the terrified lump rising in your throat. “How do you know, though? Did you talk to them?”

“No, jesus. I don’t have a second death wish,” he says. “But really weird things have happened around them. Like, one time Thompson saw them through the window and started barking, and their head moved, like they could hear it . No one besides Klaus can hear or see us as far as we’ve been able to tell.”

You remember how the figure’s head had moved when you’d let out a muffled cry after Ben grabbed you. A cold, heavy dread settles in your stomach.

“Did you tell Klaus?” you ask.

He snorts. “What do you think?”

The harshness in his tone stings. “I don’t know. That’s why I asked,” you reply.

“He said I was being paranoid, of course. And hey, maybe I am paranoid, but that doesn’t fucking matter if you’re actually being followed .”

His hair is now sticking out in every direction with how much he’s dragged his hands through it. His eyes are framed by lilac shadows and his cheeks appear gaunt in the sallow lighting. He looks, oddly, haunted.

“Do you think it’s someone like us? A ghost?” you suggest.

“No clue. That would make the most sense, but I’ve never seen an entity with such mobility. Every ghost I’ve met is tied to the place where they died. Even I can’t go very far from Klaus without losing my lucidity.” He takes a trembling breath. “If someone died on that street, I can’t imagine they’d be able to get onto this property. It makes no damn sense.”

“Have you considered,” you start, then pause. He looks at you with a wild look in his sharp expression. You’re not sure you want to continue on this vein, but now that it’s out there, you just have to go for it. “Do you think they could be like Klaus? You know, a seance?”

Ben shakes his head tersely. “Are you kidding me? Of course not. There’s no one like Klaus. There’s no one like any of us.”

Though his words are adamant, they carry a hollow echo to them, like he’s rehearsed them many times. Your heart breaks a little for him.

“I’m not saying he has powers in the way that you all do. I mean,” you say, “maybe they’re a legit, like, medium? Is that the word?” You shrug. “It’s not as if Klaus invented the act of talking to ghosts, for Pete’s sake. We know that his powers are real, and we sure as fuck know that ghosts are real. Who’s to say someone else couldn’t develop the power to contact the dead?”

Ben’s lips thin as he considers. You can see the thought churning in his mind, his natural skepticism warring with this new and terrifying possibility. Finally, he lets out a wan sigh.

“I suppose it’s possible,” he says. He leans forward, drumming his fingers on the table. “It would certainly fill a lot of the holes in this situation. But how do we find out for sure?”

“Here’s a nutty idea. Maybe they don’t mean us harm, ” you reply. “I mean, what have they done other than stand outside in a creepy bondage mask? How do you know this person- thing- whatever, is a threat?”

“Because that’s how I was raised ,” he snaps. “Danger everywhere you go, unable to trust anybody, even your own fucking family .” He leans closer to you, his eyes burning with frustration and a note of pain. “I have killed people . People who didn’t deserve to die. I ate them . I tore them apart and I spewed their blood and their innards across the walls. All my life I was trained to be a machine of destruction for some whackjob old man who didn’t give half a damn about me.” His lip curls into a bitter snarl.

And then I fucking died .”

A thousand unspoken sympathies die on your tongue. Because you know, through everything, that he is right. Your life was nothing like his. The two of you grew up in such completely different worlds, in so many ways. Your existence was so abhorrently normal compared to his. He was a superhero trained from birth to save the world from the impending apocalypse who perished heroically in battle, and you were some boring grad student who accomplished nothing of note and died alone in your apartment. You couldn’t even save your own fucking dog. You’re nothing next to him, someone closer to godhood than a person.

And yet somehow, the both of you ended up in the same place. Dead.

The air is heavy under the smoke of the truth bomb he just dropped on you. He looks exhausted, his hunched posture betraying the thousand lifetimes that he was forced to experience in just his first two decades of existence. There is a part of you that wants to stay here with him and hide from the unknown, crawl back into your comfortable shell and let someone else take care of the scary stuff.

But that isn’t you anymore. If you hadn’t ventured out of your cozy cave, you wouldn’t have taken out that Ouija board and discovered the realization that would fundamentally change the nature of your existence. You would have stayed in your little pocket of the afterlife, comfortably ignorant of reality, while the world kept turning and the Hargreeves brothers remained temporary shadows flitting in the corner of your consciousness.

It would be so easy to hide in this dank basement and avoid confronting the strange figure outside. It would. But you’re so fucking sick of existing in accordance with your inhibitions. For once, the world is going to have to listen to what you want.

You stand up from the bench and stomp toward the stairs leading up to the surface.

“What are you doing?” Ben calls after you.

You say nothing, and flip him off over your shoulder.

The world outside is still bright- you don’t know what you’d expected to happen, but it feels like everything should be gloomier, somehow. The stranger is nowhere around. You march across the lawn, around the side of the house toward the place where you’d initially seen them. There is no hesitation in your stride as you round the final corner and stare at the black-clad figure still standing in the crumbling grass.

They have not moved from the spot where you last saw them and give no acknowledgement of your approach. You stop a good ten yards away, suddenly unsure of your next steps. You hadn’t quite gotten this far when you imagined your dramatic entrance, but you suppose introductions are a decent start.

“Hey.”

The figure’s head snaps toward you. You feel a bit queasy at the disconcerting way they seem to look right at you through the completely smooth, featureless black leather. Your body is frozen, locked by the force of their invisible stare. You imagine this is how people feel when they encounter a wild bear in the woods. At the same time, though, it’s kind of amazing. It’s been so long since you spoke to anyone besides Klaus or Ben, you’re not entirely sure you aren’t dreaming right now.

Perhaps, you realize, it might be considered closer to a nightmare. You open your mouth to speak again, but your voice sticks in your throat. A million questions rush through your mind and none of them seems adequate. Can they even speak? Would they? Or would they be more likely to attack first and ask questions later? You recall how unnerved you had been when you caught those flashes of what you perceived to be spirits in your apartment. Is that what you look like to this person- a spirit, indistinct and frightening? A threat?

The two of you stand with gazes locked for an eternity. Neither one of you moves, yourself because you are frozen in terror and anticipation, but the other seems to be waiting. They are completely still, like some kind of freaky statue, not even a breath of wind stirring the hem of their coat.

A sound shatters the stillness that makes your blood turn to ice- a jovial, sing-song voice calling your name.

“Yoo-hoo! Where are you, my dearest?” Klaus shouts.

You turn instinctively toward his voice and you just catch him coming around the corner of the house behind the masked stranger. He freezes in his jaunty stride when he sees the other person standing between you.

Your mind only marginally registers the figure reaching into their coat, but then you catch the flash of sunlight on metal. Now you’re running, you don’t know where- to protect Klaus? To stop the strange figure? To place yourself between the boy you like and the barrel of the pistol that person is pulling from inside their coat? The world is moving far too slowly, your limbs are heavy with fear, and the only thought that can push itself through the haze of your brain is please no please god please not Klaus .

“Hey ugly!”

The masked face doesn’t stray from their target. Suddenly their entire body jerks back and they tumble to the ground, the pistol still clutched tight in a gloved hand. You want to keep running but you’re frozen again, breath hanging in your lungs as you watch, waiting for them to stand up and steady the gun and end Klaus’s life-

Hands tear at your arms and yank you out of your stupor. Klaus has already sprinted around the corner and Ben isn’t far behind, half-dragging and half leaning on you as he rushes onward. You stumble forward, not quite in control of your body, just pointing yourself in a vague direction and pumping your legs to drive you onward. You take the curve at a dead sprint, hurtle up the porch steps, and jump through the front door and into the kitchen.

Klaus recovers his momentum and whirls around to jam the deadbolt into place. He then begins flitting about the apartment, checking every window lock and yanking the curtains closed. Ben is leaning his whole weight on you, his eyelids nearly shut, fingers scrabbling at your arm like you’re the only thing keeping him upright. You stagger into the living room and lower him as gently as you can onto the beanbag chair, then plop down onto the floor beside him.

Thompson must have been having a doze in the bedroom, because there’s a raucous clattering from down the hall and moments later he’s skittering into the living room with his paws trained right for your lap. He flops down with his chin on your knee and gives a weary sigh. When you comb your fingers through his fur in soothing strokes, you can feel the way he’s trembling softly.

Klaus strides into the room and collapses onto the couch, flushed and sweaty from darting all over creation. You notice that he deigned to get dressed earlier- he’s wearing the most ridiculous pair of tiny denim shorts you’ve ever seen, a graphic tee with the sleeves torn off, and a pair of tiny circular sunglasses. He looks like the love child of an old-school beatnik and a Village People reject.

“Naturally! I can’t have one good thing happen to me without some asshole in a trench coat showing up and ruining all my fun. ‘Oh, there goes Klaus, having an awesome time! You know what would be really bitchin’ right now? If we made him miserable again.’ Brilliant!”

He peeks at you over the top of his weird little glasses. “Not to diminish your remarkable performance last night, of course,” he adds with a wink. The heat that floods to your cheeks almost makes you forget that you were facing off against a gunman five minutes ago.

He hops off the couch and crouches down in front of the beanbag where Ben is barely grasping onto consciousness. Klaus grabs his brother’s chin in one hand and jerks the latter’s face centimeters from his own.

“Ground control to Number Six. Come in, Ben,” he says. He snaps in Ben’s face a couple times, then lets go of him to give his cheeks a couple of playful slaps.

“Hey, lay off it, man,” you sigh. You reach out to shove Klaus’s shoulder without really thinking about it- and your heart stutters when your hand meets solid flesh instead of going right through him.

Klaus sucks in a breath. His eyes dart from Ben’s face to yours, then to the place where your hand now rests on his upper arm. You can see his Adam’s apple bob with the way he swallows thickly.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. Really?” you snap.

He gives you a bratty smile. “You said it, not me.”

Ben lets out a low groan, and when you look back at him he’s struggling to keep his eyes open. “I can still hear you guys, you know,” he grumbles.

Klaus rocks back onto his bum and cups his chin in his hands. “Welcome back, brother dearest,” he chirps. “Hope you enjoyed your siesta while the rest of us were on the run from a mysterious assassin.”

Ignoring his brother, Ben shoves off the beanbag and stumbles across the room. He lands mostly upright on the couch and leans over the back of it, tugging the curtain aside just a hair to peek through.

“They’re gone,” he sighs. All the energy seems to drain from his limbs as he slumps sideways on the couch and his eyes finally slip closed.

Klaus snorts from his seat on the floor. “Really, Benny boy, did twenty years of apocalypse training just evaporate right out of that thick skull of yours? We’ll never be safe until the creep’s organs are staining the shag carpet.” He glances at you apologetically. “Not to discount the design choices, of course.”

“Just trust me,” Ben mumbles.

You gently nudge Thompson out of your lap and scooch across the floor, ignoring Klaus’s bids for your attention, to sit beside the couch where Ben is resting. The bruise-colored circles around his eyes appear even deeper this close, and his features are wan and gaunt in the gloom. You brush a gentle hand over his forehead- an instinct, some echo of a memory of your mother pressing the back of her hand against your forehead to see if you had a fever- but what you feel there makes your heart skip. His normally neutral-feeling skin is now freezing, like someone who’s been standing out in a frigid wind. It is a terrific contrast to what you’ve come to expect.

“Ben, what’s happening to you? Your skin is freezing,” you say. You stroke a hand through his raven hair and he seems to relax just the slightest bit at your touch.

“Back there. When they pointed the gun at you,” he says. “I didn’t know what to do- I threw a brick at them. Must have taken a lot more out of me than I realized.”

His words tug you back to a memory- last night, when you and Klaus could finally touch one another. He had been so warm, so real. You hadn’t noticed anything while it was happening, but afterward you had actually fallen asleep, more exhausted than you’d felt in a long while. It was the first time since realizing you were dead that you had actually needed to sleep. Klaus had told you that he and Ben could touch occasionally, that it came and went but usually happened in high-adrenaline circumstances. Being attacked by a masked, gun-wielding stranger certainly seemed to fit into that category.

You’re interrupted from your stream of thought by a slight pressure over your sternum. You glance down to see Klaus’s hand pressing against your chest. You snatch his wrist and jerk his hand away, fixing him with a glare steely enough to wither an oak tree.

“Seriously, Klaus? Can’t you put a muzzle on your libido for five fucking minutes ?” you snarl.

He holds up both hands in surrender and nods toward your chest. You glance down and, seeing nothing extraordinary, shoot him with a stare of mixed revulsion and exasperation. He shakes his head and, with careful movements, takes hold of your wrist and places it over your own chest, just below your clavicle.

You feel something then, something that you have not felt in almost forty years and that you had thought you would never feel again. Your other hand darts to Ben’s chest and you can feel it there too. You and Klaus lock eyes, the weight of your shared knowledge hanging perilously between the two of you, uncertain and thrilling. For, as sure as you know that you and Ben are both long dead, you can feel the rapid thrumming of your heartbeats beneath your trembling fingers.

Chapter Text

Here is what you know about ghosts:

First, that they cannot change. They do not age, but retain their appearance from the moment when they died. If their death was caused by significant physical trauma, their appearance will retain evidence of that trauma.

Second, they are not always aware of being dead. Most ghosts are fairly lucid, but there are many, particularly those who died in an unusually violent or tragic manner, who occupy a kind of liminal space. They are frozen, often reliving their deaths over and over without being conscious of doing so. Some may experience this as an alternate reality, one in which they are ignorant of having died and continue their existence completely isolated from the flow of time.

You know now that this is what happened to you after your own passing. While you cannot recall how you died or much of anything of yourself or your life before it, you understand that you had spent over thirty years reliving your final days. You existed outside of time, frozen, witnessing only brief shadows of the living realm. (When you tell Klaus that you realized you had been the real ghost all along, he giggles to himself and makes a comment about someone named Bruce Willis. You unsuccessfully try to smack him upside the head.)

Third, ghosts need an anchor to the living world. In almost all cases, the location where the individual passed serves as that anchor. They cannot go beyond its borders, but if they try, they risk entering what Ben refers to as limbo. It’s a terrifying realm of endless darkness, where disoriented spirits wander in perpetual torment and mourn the loss of any chance at eternal peace. There’s no coming back from limbo.

Only one spirit, as far as you know, has ever been able to use a living person as their anchor. You have no clue why- perhaps because of their strong bond in life, or the unusual circumstances of their births and Ben’s death, but Klaus has been able to serve Ben’s anchor since shortly after the latter entered the afterlife. He is therefore granted far more mobility than other spirits, though he cannot wander far from Klaus without nearing limbo.

Fourth, ghosts are incredibly limited in their ability to manipulate the physical world. Things that have definite borders and cannot typically be penetrated by a physical body, such as a couch, mattress, or very thick wall, appear solid to a ghosts. Things that are very thin and could be entered by, say, a head poking in, such as a dresser or hollow cabinet, allow a spirit’s body to pass right through. This is why you and Ben can, for example, sit on top of a kitchen counter, but if you try to open a cupboard then your hands pass right through it. Neither can ghosts interact with smaller, more mobile objects, such as a TV remote or glass of water.

You know Ben has been trying to overcome the latter limitation, but you’d had no idea his efforts would yield such success (and neither did he, evidently). Just flicking the light switch in the basement had cost him a great deal of energy. When he saw Klaus facing down the business end of a loaded pistol, the burst of adrenaline had allowed him to pick up a brick from the detritus littering the lawn and throw it at the gunman, which ultimately had saved his brother’s life. The effort, however, had left him with barely enough energy to walk, and he had expended what little he had left running back to the house.

After a few hours, during which you and Klaus pretend to watch TV while keeping anxious watch over Ben’s snoozing body, the latter finally rouses himself. The shadows under his eyes have dissipated, his temperature is back to normal (as in, non-existent), and the spaces beneath both your chests are once again hollow and empty of movement. Even so, you refuse to let him leave the couch until you’re completely assured of his full recovery. He grumbles a bit but the smile that plays at the corners of his mouth reveals just how much he enjoys having you fuss over him.

Klaus, meanwhile, seems more bothered at the lack of attention than his brother’s physical state. It makes sense, considering how they grew up; you’re sure that both boys have walked away from far worse injuries than this. You don’t, therefore, begrudge him his grumpiness. It’s actually kind of adorable to see him whine and mope about when you defer cuddles with him to lay Ben’s head in your lap and stroke his hair. Not a few times you catch Klaus glaring and sticking his tongue out at his brother, to which the latter just shrugs and gives a serene smile.

Finally, Klaus decides that he cannot put up with the neglect any longer and crawls up onto the couch beside you. Though you cannot touch each other now, he lays his head approximately where your shoulder is and settles against the back of the couch. You raise a sardonic eyebrow at him, but when he peeks up at you from beneath his stupidly long eyelashes and gives you that adorable puppy pout, your heart melts like a goddamn icicle in July.

The three of you fall into a comfortable calm as you watch the television and enjoy being close to one another. It isn’t long, however, before the quiet is split by a deep gurgling sound from the direction of Klaus’s stomach.

You glance over at him, but he’s pretending to be asleep. “Hey,” you say to him. He ignores you, taking full advantage of the fact that you can’t do anything to physically move him. “Hey, dipshit. Get up.”

He peeks one eye open. “Don’t wanna. Too comfy,” he mumbles.

“If you don’t go get food right now, I’ll never cuddle with you ever again,” you say.

His other eye flies open as his head pops up and he presses a dramatic hand to his chest. “You wouldn’t dare,” he gasps.

“Does this look like the face of someone who won’t follow through on a threat?” You’re sure that your grave expression looks more comical than serious, but he finally assents with a long-suffering groan.

“You’re a bully,” he grumbles as he stomps off toward the kitchen.

“Yeah, and you love me anyway,” you reply. He flips you off over his shoulder.

With the rest of the couch now free, you shuffle sideways so Ben can lie down without his legs hanging off the couch. When you move, however, he pulls himself up into a sitting position and withdraws to the opposite side of the couch, eyes fixed on the TV.

Dammit. You’d hoped that you would get away with not acknowledging what happened last night and just continue on with your friendship like normal, but of course things can’t be that easy.

A curtain of awkwardness descends between the two of you, all of your anxieties from earlier rushing back. Your brain is screaming at you to leave, just get up and walk away from your problems like you always fucking do, but you can’t get your legs to move. You’re frozen on the couch, eyes trained on the television screen without really seeing it, all of your senses fine-tuned to Ben’s slightest movement in your peripheral vision.

“I don’t hate you.”

Your body jerks at his sudden voice breaking the uncomfortable silence between you. When you chance a peek at him, he’s not looking at you but straight ahead, his jaw clenched and his shoulders slightly hunched. You can’t tell if it’s ire or discomfort in his taut expression.

Your eyes shift down to your hands resting in your lap, missing the feel of his raven strands beneath your fingers. Missing when things weren’t so complicated.

“I don’t hate you,” he repeats. “I’m mad, but I… you know, being mad isn’t going to change the past.”

You fight the instinct to burrow inside your shirt and force yourself to speak. “ I mean. I’m glad you don’t. But I would understand if you did. Hate me,” you choke out.

He shrugs and glances at the floor. “It’s not like we made any promises to each other. It was one kiss. I get that you’d rather be with Klaus. I was stupid to think you’d ever…” His voice falters and he abruptly clears his throat. “Well. Yeah. Just, I get it. You don’t need to justify yourself,” he says with finality.

You can see right through the veneer of self-assuredness in his voice, and it’s breaking your goddamn heart. He’s trying to appear casual, but you can see the sorrow in the slump of his shoulders and the pain behind the hard set of his jaw. Your chest aches to see it. How lonely he must have been for the last decade, never seen or heard by anyone but his brother, and even then losing that connection every time Klaus fell off the wagon.

You understand, without really knowing why, that it hurts so much to watch because you recognize that behavior in yourself. You can’t remember an exact instance, but the pattern is so familiar, the initial glimmer of possibility snuffed out by rejection, putting up a shield of self-deprecation to mask the depth of your pain. Wearing that shield so often that you start to believe your own lies when you tell everyone you’re okay.

Something in you wants to reach out to Ben, not physically but emotionally, like your heart is screaming out for him. You want to shatter the protective wall he’s built around his heart and replace it with the genuine affection and- well, you hesitate to use the word love , but the deep adoration that you hold for him. You want him to feel wanted. And you want to tell him all these things, but you’re an emotionally stunted asshole who doesn’t know how to express their feelings, so all you can do is put a hand on the couch cushion in the space between you as a kind of informal olive branch. He glances sideways at it but does not move.

“You’re not stupid for feeling things. You can’t help how you feel,” you say.

He snorts. “I really don’t need the ‘it’s okay to be sad’ lecture right now. And I don’t need your pity,” he adds.

“I don’t pity you,” you protest, but you can tell how fake it sounds to your own ears. “Okay, maybe a better word would be ‘empathize’. It’s cheesy, but I know how you feel. And I don’t think it’s stupid. I think you…” You pause and try to think about how to best phrase this without coming off as a total weirdo. “I like being around you, ‘kay? And I don’t want to stop being around you. So, like… don’t… not be around me.”

You can tell he’s looking at you now, but your eyes are staring resolutely at the TV, your cheeks burning with self-conscious shame. Jeez, why does talking about your feelings have to be such a goddamn ordeal?

“You don’t want me to not be around you?” His tone is mocking, but not in a cruel way. You can hear the smile in his voice.

“Shut up.”

You almost jump again when you feel him lay his hand over yours. You glance over at him and are blindsided by the sincerity in his beautiful brown eyes. He’s not really doing anything, just looking at you while his hand rests passively atop yours, but the moment carries a kind of intimacy that makes something thrum deep in your chest, like a vibration running through the very earth beneath you.

If your life was a movie, this would be the part where the main characters kiss and realize that you’ve actually been in love this entire time and everything is hunky fucking dory. But of course, this is reality, where meet cutes don’t exist and the stories go on long past the closing credits. You’re a pair of ghosts sitting in the living room of an abandoned apartment building with a world of insecurities hanging over your heads, and they aren’t going to just disappear like that.

“Seriously, though. I really like having you around. I like being your… friend,” you say. His smile perks up a bit when you say it. “And I like being Klaus’s friend too. It’s not one or the other, you know?”

“I’m not trying to give you an ultimatum or anything,” he says quickly. “You don’t have to, like, choose one of us. I’m just saying that it’s clear that you like my brother, and if you want to be with him, I’m okay with that.”

You catch the way his eyes flicker toward the hallway and the glimmer of sorrow written in the lines of his face.

“I don’t think you are, though,” you say softly.

He shrugs and diverts his gaze to the floor. He doesn’t remove his hand from yours, but you can feel a tension in his movements. “It’s not like I have a choice, right? It’s not a big deal. I’m used to coming in second place to my siblings, anyway.”

Anger flares in your chest. “You stop that right now,” you snap. He starts at your stern tone, but you don’t let him protest. “You are cool, and funny, and smart, and cute, and really fun to be around, and you’re my friend, and no one gets to talk about my friends like that.” You lean across the couch to poke him hard in the chest. “Got it, mister?”

He glances down at where your finger digs into the fabric of his hoodie, then up at the serious pout into which you’ve screwed your face. You meant it to look threatening, but you’re probably giving off more of a chihuahua vibe than a rottweiler. He looks like he’s trying very hard not to laugh at you, which just pisses you off even more.

“I don’t get what could possibly be funny about this,” you say icily.

“You’re just so…” He draws back and covers his face with his hands. He mumbles something that you don’t hear.

“What? I’m so what, Ben?” you ask.

He drops his hands in his lap and looks at you full-on. Your heart catches at the affectionate smile warming his face. “You are so fucking cute ,” he sighs.

Instantly you feel the protestations welling up. You wrinkle your nose and hunch your shoulders to disguise the pleased flush creeping up your neck. “Shut up,” you mumble.

He laughs, a bright, genuine, free laugh that thaws your own walls a bit just to hear. He scooches across the couch until he’s close enough to put an arm around your shoulders. You flinch a bit at the contact, but when he doesn’t give, you hesitantly lean against his side.

For once, you just want to let yourself enjoy something.

“How about this. Let’s promise each other that we’ll stop acting like dicks to hide our insecurities and talk to each other like regular fucking friends. Deal?” He holds out a pinkie to seal the agreement.

You eye the pinkie warily. “Does this mean I actually have to be honest about my feelings now?” you ask.

“Yep!”

You groan. “I think I’ll just keep avoiding my problems forever.”

He loops his pinkie around yours and gives it a squeeze. “Too late! The contract is sealed. Now you'll never get rid of me.”

“You are such a fucking dork.”

“Yeah, and you love me.”

Your heart stutters at his words and you have to quickly glance away to hide the smile tugging at your lips.

Chapter Text

Klaus has not exactly been sober, per se. While he’s stayed away from the harder drugs, he hasn’t abstained from weed or the occasional drink. You’re not sure where he’s getting the money, seeing as there isn’t anything of value left in the apartment to sell, but you’re not about to ask him.

Most of the time he has no issue seeing you or Ben even when he’s toasted. From what Ben tells you, this is a walk in the park compared to how Klaus used to get. You’ve never had to live with someone who suffers from substance abuse (as far as you can remember), but it sounds like a nightmare for all parties involved, so you are content to allow Klaus his indulgences if it will keep him from foraying into his more… destructive habits. He gets rather handsy when he’s drunk, a state which is not thwarted in the least by the fact that he is unable to touch you. Damn him if he’ll stop trying, though.

Since your awkward-conversation-turned-heartfelt-confession, you and Ben have gradually adjusted to the new dynamic between you. It’s clear that you feel something for both him and his brother (what that something is you have yet to discover, but that’s a problem for future you), and Klaus was, unsurprisingly, very okay when you told him about it.

“Do I look like a person who gives a golden goddamn about something as mundane as monogamy ?” he’d said from his place sprawled across the bed. His eyes appraised you in a way that made you think he was viewing a mental projection of your naked form over your body. “So long as I get to… partake,” his lips stretched into a feral, toothy grin, “I don’t mind having to share.”

“To be clear,” Ben piped up, “this isn’t going to be some weird twincest threesome thing. We’re not biologically related, but he’s still my brother .”

Your voice had disappeared completely under the embarrassment crushing your chest, but Klaus had thankfully saved you from having to stammer out a response. “ Please . Don’t flatter yourself, Benny boy,” he said, waving a dismissive hand at his brother.

His gaze slid back to you, alight with a new hunger at the prospect you’d presented to him. He shifted his thighs further apart, setting your heart racing with how perfectly his leather pants hugged his form, and the heat in his eyes told you that he was remembering the exact same thing you were- your lips ravishing his thighs, kisses leaving a trail of red bite marks, nails digging into his flesh as he writhed and begged beneath you…

You quickly averted your eyes to shield the flush of arousal creeping up your neck.

Since then, the three of you have carried out a strange kind of evading dance. You drift toward one another on waves of attraction, then quickly pull away under the anxiety of being the first one to initiate something physical.

This is how you end up in your old bedroom, Klaus lounging on the beanbag with his usual laissez-faire facade, you and Ben curled up on opposite ends of the bed with your legs resting over his. The former tosses his head back to down the dregs of his third margarita, the soft lamplight glancing off the greenish-yellow liquid. When he leans over to place the empty glass out of knocking-over range, you can see the bits of sugar from the rim clinging to his lips. He catches your eye and licks the sugar off with a knowing smirk.

“Well, it’s official.” His lips slide into a goofy grin. “I’m drunk.”

“What else is new?” Ben grumbles. You kick him gently in the side.

“Stop teasing him. He’s sensitive,” you say with a mock-pout. Ben rolls his eyes.

“That’s right. I’m sensitive ,” Klaus simpers. He places a hand over his heart as he swivels toward you, pure adoration written in his features. “I’m so grateful that someone in this house understands the depths of my tortured soul.”

“Please. You’re about as deep as a puddle of spilled vodka,” Ben snorts.

Klaus’s gaze swings toward him, twisting into a mask of contempt as he points an accusing finger at his brother. “You, shush! Mi amor ,” he turns back to you, his expression melting once more into a doting facade, “do go on.”

You snicker. “About what? How utterly adorable you are when you’re drunk?”

“Yes, yes! Go on, tell me more! My ego demands it.” He settles back into the beanbag and waves his hand at you like a king granting a minor boon to one of his subjects. You meet Ben’s gaze and roll your eyes.

“Don’t worry about him. He’s just fishing for attention,” Ben says.

“Oh, I’m aware,” you reply. “Which is why I don’t plan on giving him any more of mine.”

Klaus’s head pops up from where he had begun to melt into a drunken puddle. “ Qu é?” he cries in a voice shrill with indignance.

Ben catches on to what you’re doing, and he leans closer in pointed ignorance of his brother’s distress. “Can I ask who you plan to give it to, instead?”

You retract your legs so that you can crawl closer to him on the bed. Your excitement picks up as you lean toward him, painfully conscious of the weight of everything hanging between you. It’s thrilling to tap into your dominant side in any situation, but in this moment, with him, there’s something different about it. There’s a charge in the air, something bright and beautiful sparking between the two of you, and you want nothing but to let its current burn through you.

His hands are resting at his sides, his demeanor relaxed, but there’s a tension in his posture as his succumbs to the magnetism drawing your bodies closer. His expression is placid, his twitching jaw and trembling fingers the only evidence of the turmoil roiling beneath his skin. You imagine that he’s going through much the same thing you are, the battle between the wariness of ruining the easy dynamic you’ve cultivated and the desire to throw all that baggage out the window and just give in.

You pause only when you’re close enough to feel his breath tickle your lips. His endless brown eyes are deep, vulnerable, terrified- a mirror of everything you’ve been feeling the past few weeks, yet underlaid with the glimmer of excitement. You want this. He wants this.

“I think you know the answer to that,” you whisper.

The meeting of your lips is an electrical explosion, a fire searing through your veins and leaving your limbs weak with pleasure. Ben seems at first hesitant to deepen the kiss, but when you press toward him and run your tongue over his closed lips, he assents with a gentle moan. It’s strange and remarkable, everything somewhat intangible, like if you stop kissing him he’ll just float away, so your hands jump to the crease of his thighs where they meet his pelvis. Just the pressure of your grip against his body has him melting beneath you.

The kiss ends far too soon, your panting breaths mingling in the air between you. His eyes have fluttered closed in quiet bliss. You grin at the knowledge of how easy it is for you to take him apart so completely with just a touch. Your thumbs slip under the hem of his sweatshirt and rub over his hips, feeling the way he shudders at the sensation.

“Oh my.”

The sudden intrusion into your intimate moment reminds you that Klaus is still in the room. You and Ben glance over to see him sitting up on the beanbag, eyebrows raised, looking quite like a cat eyeing a pair of canaries.

“Don’t stop on my account,” he says. He gives you a smile teeming with innocence, but you can see the way his hand traces over his own chest, wandering southward in the direction of his waistband.

You roll your eyes at him. “Down, boy,” you tease.

You start to pull away and return to your corner, but a pair of hands on your wrists stops you. Ben pulls your gaze to his, and you’re struck by his inscrutable yet burning expression. He looks like he’ll cry if you stop touching him.

“Please,” he whispers.

Your heart lurches at the desire in his voice. He takes your hands in his own and, not breaking your eye contact, he brings them up to his lips. He presses kisses over each of your knuckles, gentle and reverent, like a pilgrim at the altar. When he’s made sure to give attention to every bit of skin, he guides your hands back to his waist and places his own upon your hips. He doesn’t speak, but the request is evident in the imploring look he shoots you as his fingers play along the hem of your shirt.

You brace your hands on the mattress behind him and lean closer, letting a predatory smile perk your lips. His fingers press softly into your flesh, coaxing you carefully toward him. You pause when your faces are just millimeters apart, his heightened breaths puffing against your lips, the excitement and nerves peeking through his collected facade.

Instead of kissing him again, your lips divert their path to his cheek, trailing chaste pecks down to his jaw. When you feel the jut of bone, you let your kisses linger a few moments longer, allowing a bit of tongue to slip out as you make a home in the arch above his throat. His quiet breaths speed up, fingers digging into your hips not in a commanding way but just to have something to hold onto while you ravish him.

When you pepper the first hint of teeth across his neck, he sucks in a sudden gasp that escapes in a wavering groan. His fingers twitch like he wants to do more, touch more, but there’s a hesitation behind it. He’s nervous , the poor thing. You cup a hand over his cheek and guide him closer so your lips are right beside his ear.

“Just relax,” you whisper. “Let me take care of you.”

The subtle command elicits a soft whimper from his trembling lips.

You bring your lips back to his throat and continue to suck deep purple marks into his skin. The hand on his cheek moves to cradle the back of his head, and with the other you press down on his chest to indicate that he should lie back. He lets go of your hips and shimmies awkwardly until he has enough room to relax against the mattress with a low sigh. Once he’s comfortably settled, you swing your leg over his hips and adjust yourself so that your pelvis hovers just above his.

As you nip over Ben’s clavicle, you turn your head just enough to see what Klaus is up to. He’s seated on the floor and using the beanbag to prop himself up, coat and belt discarded beside him. He’s sitting with his legs spread, black jeans hugging his curves so perfectly it isn’t fair. One hand rests innocently on his knee, but the other is trailing playfully over his pecs, tugging at his nipple as he watches your performance. He catches your gaze and gives his nipple a particularly hard pinch, making his eyes slam shut and his mouth shoot open on a needy gasp. He bites his lip and rolls his hips up into empty air.

The arousal that rushes through you at the sight makes you want to just grind down against Ben, but you don’t think the poor boy could handle it right then. He’s already so flustered just from getting his neck covered in hickies, you’re not sure he’ll last much longer as is. His head tilts back on a soft moan, baring more of his beautiful skin for you to cover in your marks.

Ben’s hands linger at his sides, twitching with the need to press his touch into your flesh. You take his wrist and place it on your hip with an encouraging pat. When he doesn’t move immediately, you sit up a bit so you can look at him more fully. His face is flushed, lips parted around desperate pants- absolutely fucking wrecked.

“Touch me,” you whisper. You deliver a meaningful glance to Klaus, your words directed at Ben but clearly meant for the former to hear. “I want you to touch me, Ben.” Your gaze swivels back to his. “Please.”

Ben looks at you for a few uncertain moments, like he can’t quite believe this is happening, but his desire overwhelms his hesitation. His hands slide under your shirt and wrap around your waist, tugging you down for a frenzied kiss. He’s touching you like you’re the only thing he needs, the only one in the universe that matters to him. Your skin is aflame where it comes into contact with his, scrabbling at your flesh in a harried daze, desperate to feel as much of you as possible.

His lips seek out yours with a passion that has your toes curling against the mattress. The kiss is not quite akin to a battle, more a dance of tongues and lips that stirs a burning arousal in your core. You press yourself against him as if he might disappear any moment. You cup a hand around the back of his neck in order to pull him to you, reveling in the beautiful clash of teeth and fire and trembling fingers.

Somewhere below the sounds of your panting breaths and desperate kisses, you can hear a muffled moan and the slide of fabric over skin. You don’t need to look at Klaus to know that he’s just as affected by this makeout session as you are.

The heat is becoming too much- you need some kind of friction. You reach under Ben’s shirt and feel your way along his torso to his chest, teasing your fingers over his pert nipples and eliciting a needy groan. A moment later, you shift your hips to press against his, not quite moving, just asserting your place. His groan turns into a gasp that has all your blood whisking southward.

When you roll your pelvis against his, the sound that comes from his lips could put a heavenly chorus to shame. It’s absolutely beautiful, the unearthly pleasure carried on his voice. You can feel the hardness concentrated in his groin and make sure to focus your efforts right there. You swallow his needy gasps, pressing your tongue into his mouth to taste his skin and lap up the sounds of his arousal.

He drags his nails down your back, sending sparks of wonderful pain through your bloodstream as you pleasure him. You set an even pace, grinding your hips against his with precise motions, making sure to drag every whine and fevered moan from between those gorgeous lips. There’s an incredible heat stirring in your groin, not enough to get you off but definitely heading in the right direction. You leave Ben’s lips to press biting kisses along his throat. His skin is already covered in an array of purple hickies, marking him as yours . The sight is far hotter than it should be.

His hands slide over your rear and clamp down, rolling his hips against yours in an increasingly frenzied rhythm. He lets out a low whine of desire, the sound belied by a grunt of effort as he encourages you to dry hump him into oblivion.

“I-I… mm… can’t,” he gasps out.

You giggle into his neck. “What do you need, love? You need to use your words.”

His lips open as if to speak but all that comes out is a guttural moan. His teeth dig so hard into his lower lip that you fear you’ll see blood. His fingers tighten against your flesh with a grip more painful than arousing, hips working frantically against yours, his breath escaping in short grunts. Suddenly he tosses his head back and stills, letting out a reedy, high-pitched whine as he finds his climax.

An unexpected quiet descends upon the room, underpinned by Ben’s slowly softening pants. You hold yourself a hair above his body, watching his face for a confirmation of what you believe just happened. He releases his reddened lip and the intensity in his features slowly relaxes as he comes down from, what you presume to be, his first orgasm.

The stillness is, naturally, broken first by Klaus’s snort. “Dude,” he scoffs, “did you just-”

“Stop it,” you snap. You carefully extract yourself from Ben’s grasp and place a gentle hand on his cheek. “Ben?” you murmur. “You good?”

The realization arrives slowly. When it does, Ben claps his hands over his face and lets out a groan of shame.

“Fuuuck. I can’t believe I did that,” he mumbles.

“It’s okay. You couldn’t help it.” You shoot Klaus a looks that makes no secret of what you’ll do to him if he opens his mouth. He draws his thumb and middle finger over his lips and makes like he’s securing a lock, though the bratty grin doesn’t leave his face.

Ben rolls over so his face is buried in the mattress. “I’m so, so sorry,” he says in a muffled voice.

“Seriously, Ben. It’s fine. It happens to everyone,” you assure him. You want to do something to comfort him, but you’re not sure if touching him would be the best option right now, so you settle for giving his shoulder a light pat.

He snorts harshly. “Yeah, right. I’ve never even kissed anyone before you, and you’re so cool and sexy and experienced-”

“I’m really not,” you interrupt. Something pleasant tingles at the base of your neck when he calls you sexy, but you shove aside your lingering arousal. “I’m just playing it by ear, man. For all I know, I died a virgin too! But there’s no shame in never having sex. It’s not the be-all, end-all of relationships. And honestly,” heat starts to creep into your cheeks, “it was kind of super hot watching you cum like that.”

He turns his head just enough to peek an eyelid open and look at you.

“Really?” he says quietly.

Your heart softens at the sight. His normally collected facade is gone, replaced by this meek boy with his face half-buried in the mattress in shame, and you just want to grab him by the cheeks and kiss him until he stops feeling mad at himself.

“Yes, really.” You shuffle closer to him on the bed and run a hand through his mussed hair. He lets out a contented sigh. “And I’d also super like to do it to you again.”

He cocks an eyebrow, a bit of mischief creeping back into his eyes. “That’s a good thing,” he whispers, “because I would… really like to cum for you. Again.”

A vicious heat shoots straight through your gut at his words and the teasing expression accompanying them. The boy is going to give you a heart attack someday, you swear.

“Are you sure? A hundred percent?” you ask softly.

He nods so fast you’re surprised his head doesn’t pop off.

“‘M just gonna stick around and spectate, if it’s all the same to you two horndogs,” Klaus interjects.

You glance at Ben, who rolls his eyes but nods his assent.

“Alright then. On your back.”

Ben rolls over onto his back and gets himself comfortably settled against the pillows. His hands come to rest at his sides, pulse thrumming in his neck as he regards you with apprehension and a dirty kind of thrill.

You swing a leg over his hips and run your hands up and down his thighs, admiring the tense muscle beneath the fabric of his jeans. You stop at the hem of his sweatshirt and tease your fingers underneath, playing over the skin just above his waistband. He shifts beneath you and emits a nearly inaudible whimper.

“Take this off,” you order him, tugging on the bottom of the hoodie.

He scrambles to obey, pulling the material over his head with fumbling fingers. It takes a few moments to remove his upper layers, but finally he lays half naked beneath you, chest fluttering with excitement.

Your lips slide into a confident smirk as you take in his trembling form. You run your fingers over his torso, the plane of his abs, the sinews of his triceps, enjoying the sensation of his skin. He really is beautiful to look at, and equally fun to touch. Pleasant shivers run through your bones, arousal beginning to pool in your groin, and it is so very difficult to keep from just leaning down and devouring him.

You trail a finger over the zipper of his jeans. He’s already getting hard again, his hands twitching like he’s fighting the urge to touch you himself. You tug at the button on his fly and watch the tension in his face, the way his jaw tightens and his eyes roll into his head as he lets out a groan.

“Please don’t tease,” he moans. “Please, please just touch me.”

You laugh at the desperation in his voice. “Slow down, darling. I’m not done playing with you just yet.”

He breathes out a strangled curse as you drag a finger over the notable bulge growing in his jeans. He whines and bucks his hips into your touch.

“Just fuck me already, dammit. Please ,” he groans.

You freeze, every drop of blood stilling in your veins at the words. Fuck, but that is a beautiful image. Ben spread out beneath you, one of his legs hooked over your shoulder, fingers clawing at the sheets and moaning like he’s getting paid for it as you ram his tight asshole…

As fucking incredible as that sounds, though, you know that he’s not ready for that quite yet. The boy only just had his first kiss, for pete’s sake. You’d rather save the really good stuff for after you’ve had a proper conversation about it- preferably when the two of you aren’t distracted by your own arousal.

You pop the button on Ben’s fly, revealing the tented fabric of his underwear beneath. He lets out a shuddering sigh.

“I don’t think you’re ready for me to fuck you quite yet,” you murmur. His mouth droops in a disappointed pout, but you wipe it away with a swipe of your thumb over the head of his dick straining against his underwear. He squirms eagerly in your hold.

You glance at Klaus over on his side of the room, and your chest flutters at the sight. He’s reclining against the beanbag, legs spread and hand rubbing over his own considerable bulge. He watches you reverently from beneath hooded eyelids.

“I will, however,” you say, turning back to Ben and peeling away the fabric of his briefs, “be perfectly happy to completely ruin you just. Like. This.”

You gather the cum smeared across his skin from his previous orgasm and use it as lube to stroke over his cock, slow and firm. Ben’s jaw falls in a soundless moan as his head jerks back, his entire body arching into your touch. His fingers tighten against the mattress and his abdomen ripples as he thrusts his hips forward. You laugh at his eagerness and press his hips back down to the bed, though you can feel a rosy heat spreading through your limbs at the sight.

Before you can begin properly jerking him off, Ben is already rolling his hips, fucking up into your slick fist. The precum leaking out of his dick contributes more lubrication to the smooth slide of his cock beneath your grip. His eyes are screwed shut and his mouth slack, grunts and desperate moans spilling through his lips.

“What a good boy,” you hum. Ben whines and squirms at the praise.

You look back at Klaus, who’s fully unzipped his pants and begun to thrust up into his own hand. You give him a naughty smirk as you tease over his brother’s cock. You fully expect him to shoot back some kind of sarcastic quip, but he just bites his lip and gives his dick another stroke that has pearls of precum beading along his slit.

“Please talk to me some more,” Ben moans.

You raise an eyebrow as your gaze rakes over his shuddering form. Your steady movements over his cock slow enough that he peeks out at you from beneath heavy eyelids, whining and wiggling his hips in protest, but you squeeze his erection and he stills with a whimper.

“What do you want me to say to you?” you murmur. You shift a bit farther up his thighs until you’re nearly close enough to grind against his leaking cock. His breath releases in an impatient huff.

“Tell me… how good I look, completely at your mercy,” he whispers. “What you want to do to me, how much you w-want my cock…”

“Someone thinks awfully highly of himself,” you giggle. Still, you can’t ignore the pleasant shiver that rushes through you at the request gasped from needy lips. You tilt your head, considering him carefully like a predator assessing its victim.

“Why don’t you play with your nipples,” you order him.

He lets out a shaky sigh as he brings his hands up to his chest. He rubs over his nipples, hesitant for a moment, but when your motions on his dick speed up he emits a gasp and pinches one of his nipples hard . He tugs at it, mouth falling slack with pleasure, hips beginning to circle and grind his cock into your grip.

“Such a needy boy,” you sigh. Your free hand slips over his thigh, raising gooseflesh in its path toward his groin. “You want me to fuck you so badly, don’t you? Want me to hold you down and make you scream as you cum on my cock?” Your fingers wrap around his scrotum and massage in a gentle rhythm. Ben’s hips jerk unsteadily.

You turn to check on Klaus and nearly whimper at what you see there. He’s planted both feet on the floor so that he can lift his hips and slide a finger into his own asshole. You’ve no idea where he got the lube- no doubt he keeps some on his person at all times- but he’s already fully up to the knuckle of his index finger. His other hand is steadily rubbing over his cock in a rhythm that mimics what you’re doing to Ben. His teeth dig into his lower lip to muffle the shaky moans that threaten to spill out. His eyes are fixed with rapture upon your own hand expertly jerking Ben to oblivion, pulse jumping in his throat and skin glistening with perspiration.

“Doesn’t he look just incredible like this?” you ask him. Klaus nods rapidly nad begins to ease a second finger into himself.

Ben whines and twists his nipples between his fingers. “Te-tell me more,” he gasps.

You smirk down at him as your strokes speed up. “What about, darling? How perfect you look with your cock in my hand, desperate and begging for me?” You give his dick a brief squeeze that evokes a low groan. “Do you want me to be the first person to make you cum? Want me to jerk you off until your cute little virgin cock spills all over my hand? I’d keep jerking your dick until you couldn’t stand it anymore, then make you lick every drop it off my hand. You’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you? Naughty boy.”

His harsh pants escape through clenched teeth, hips working frantically to match your pace. He’s foregone playing with his nipples in favor of running his hands over his own body, gouging red marks into his torso, burrowing in his hair and tugging until he cries out at the pain. He’s squirming so hard you have to press your free hand into his chest to keep him in place enough to keep pleasuring him.

A soft squelching noise drags your attention to the opposite side of the room, where Klaus is now three fingers deep in himself and thrusting like he might die if he doesn’t. His skin is shiny with sweat and lube and precum dribbling down his cock and over his balls. He whines when he notices you watching him, and you could swear that his hand speeds up on his dick.

“What a filthy boy, getting off on watching your brother get fucked,” you tease him. He chokes on a gasp, but doesn’t pause in his motions. You give him a fake pout. “Don’t you wish it was your cock I was playing with? Poor living Klaus, so neglected.” Your lips quirk into a cruel smile. “Don’t worry. Maybe one day you’ll get the pleasure of being fucked by me.”

He chokes out a curse and his hips stutter. You figure that means he’s getting close, but you certainly can’t be having that.

“Stop touching yourself,” you snap at him.

He lets out a low whine and slows his motions over his cock, though he doesn’t remove his fingers from his ass. “That’s no fair ,” he grumbles.

“I said, stop touching yourself. Or the next time I get the opportunity, I’ll edge you for hours.” His fingers don’t slow, so you fix him with a poisonous glare. “You have three seconds to stop touching yourself before I edge you and Ben.” You loosen your grip until you’re barely touching Ben, to show your threat is good.

“Fuck’s sake, Klaus, just do it!” Ben cries.

“Fine, fine,” Klaus mumbles. He finally removes his hands from himself and crosses his arms over his chest with a childish pout. Even through his clear displeasure, you can see the way his dick twitches when you give him another sinuous smirk and speed up on Ben’s cock again.

“See how easy it is when you just do what I tell you?” you hum. He rolls his eyes, but his erection doesn’t flag a bit as he watches you continue to pleasure his brother.

You turn back to Ben to admire the way he’s panting beneath you, bare and desperate and thrusting into your touch. You can’t resist reaching down to tweak a nipple just to hear his squeal of surprise and pleasure.

“What do you say, love? Are you ready to cum for me?” you murmur.

Yes . Fucking hell, yes,” he groans. His hips buck against your hand, but you stop him with a dangerous squeeze to the base of his dick.

“Ah-ah. My pace, dearest.” You can’t help licking your lips at the delicious sight of him spread out like a goddamn banquet, so ready to acquiesce to your demands. He tangles his fingers in his already wholly disheveled hair as he fights the urge to fuck into your fist.

“Let me know when you’re close,” you instruct him. He nods eagerly.

The slide of skin over slick skin is absolutely beautiful, more perfect than anything you’ve ever felt in this life or the one before. It’s absolutely adorable how hard Ben tries to keep still for you, his muscles twitching with the effort to obey. God, but he really is marvelous. His breaths have turned into an endless stream of desperate moans more befitting a porno than the otherworldly beauty laid out beneath you.

It’s such a gorgeous sight, and you’ve been working so hard, you feel as if it would be a shame not to allow yourself a bit of pleasure of your own. You shift your position and carefully, trying not to falter in your rhythm, drag your pelvis against Ben’s jean-clad thigh. It’s fucking incredible. You let yourself shift back and forth, grinding your hips against his leg on the downstroke and then swiping back up to gather the precum beading on his head, then back down again.

You can feel Ben tensing his muscles to allow you more friction. You let out a desperate whimper that you pray he doesn’t hear over the sounds of his own heavenly moans.

Slowly, his movements seem to become more violent, the urge to thrust against you growing harder to control. He lets out a hiss as you swipe your thumb over the head of his cock and twist your hand.

“F-feels too goo-ood,” he groans. “I’m g-gon-na-”

“Shh, love. Just lay back,” you whisper.

He moans pathetically when you let go of his cock and shimmy backward, but then you’ve got your mouth around him and nothing has ever felt fucking better than he does in that moment. His hips thrust unthinkingly in your mouth, something that would have given you a harsh surprise had you not anticipated it and pulled up at the right moment to avoid a choking hazard. You press his hips into the mattress and sink back down on his cock, taking him as much as you can on the initial go. The sound that tears itself from his lungs is enough to fuel your fantasies for a lifetime.

You don’t take your time playing with his cock, knowing how close he is already. His movements become more erratic as he rockets toward his peak, his body twitching and jerking frantically as he tries not to thrust into your mouth again. Though you can’t see Klaus, you can hear low whines and the slapping of skin on skin coming from his side of the room, and your heart gives a thrill at the prospect of punishing him later.

Ben lets out a sudden cry, then a pressure is holding you down on his cock almost as far as you can go. You struggle to hold back a gag as the tip of his dick brushes over your uvula. Startlingly temperature-less cum slides unpleasantly down your throat- swallowing has never been your favorite method, but it’s far easier to clean up, and at least it’s far enough down that you don’t have to taste it. Finally, Ben lets go of your head and collapses against the mattress, entirely spent.

You sit up just in time to see Klaus spilling over his own stomach, hips bucking into his hand as he milks every bit of orgasm from his cock. He leans against the chair with a contented sigh. At least he has the decency to look somewhat ashamed when you glare at him.

“I hope that orgasm was worth it, because it’s the last one you’ll have for a very long time,” you admonish him. He groans and sticks his tongue at you.

You return your attentions to Ben. He’s so still he could almost be asleep but for the lingering moans of pleasure lacing his breath. You smooth his hair back from his forehead and stroke over his side, waiting patiently for him to come down enough to speak.

When he finally opens his eyes, he looks up at you as if you’re the goddamn messiah.

“Can we do that again? Like, every day for the rest of eternity?” he says.

You laugh and stroke over his cheek fondly. “Can we take a raincheck? I’m not sure your body could handle any more,” you tease.

He smiles gently, but then a line of worry furrows his forehead. “I just realized, you didn’t get to cum.” He nods toward your own still-aching groin. “Should I-?”

“Don’t worry about me. You can make up for it next time,” you assure him.

He sighs and closes his eyes for a moment, enjoying the feeling of your fingers stroking over his scalp. He peeks one eyelid open to look at you.

“Would you…” He swallows, like it’s incredibly difficult for him to ask you a favor- doesn’t he know you would move heaven and earth for him? “Would you cuddle me for a bit?”

Warmth blossoms in your chest. “Of course, dearest,” you murmur. He shuffles sideways to give you enough room to lie down beside him and drape your arm over his side. He snuggles back against your chest and lets out a contented huff.

“Ew. Get a room.” Klaus grabs his empty glass and stalks out of the bedroom, probably in the direction of the nearest tequila bottle. You shake your head and tighten your arm over Ben’s body, tugging him close to yours. No other experience has ever been quite so wonderful.

Chapter Text

The kitchen door swings inward ahead of a pair of bussers juggling two wobbling towers of dirty glasses. They plop their trays beside the sink and lean against the wall, mentally preparing to return to the fray. The dishwasher groans at the sight of sloppy plasticware awaiting her.

“I’m never letting them call me in for the dinner rush again,” she grumbles as she starts the process of changing out the sanitizer water.

“Be grateful it isn’t a Friday. You’d be on your feet until midnight,” a busser groans.

The other busser shrugs. “I mean, at least we’ve survived the worst of it. Now it’s just the late-night regulars. Including,” he sighs, “Mister Gin Spritzer .”

“Isn’t that the tweaker who’s always cheating at poker?” one of the cooks calls from across the room.

“He doesn’t cheat ,” the busser shoots back. “And he likes to play solitaire. How do you cheat at solitaire , for god’s sake?”

“Dunno. But if there’s a way, he’s doin’ it,” the cook replies.

The busser tosses his head dismissively. “You all just don’t know him like I do,” he says. “We have a… special connection.”

The first busser snorts. “Oh, really? Then what’s his real name?”

The other man scoffs and waves the comment away. “I don’t need to know his real name. We have nicknames. It’s mysterious and sexy .”

“Yes, real sexy. You know him by his drink order, and he knows you as that creepy server who’s always staring at him.”

“We talking about Gin Spritzer?” the bartender interjects as she enters the kitchen. “That guy is such a douche. It’s just a G&T, stop trying to be so pretentious.”

“I don’t need to explain myself to any of you,” the busser huffs.

“What you do need to explain,” the bartender replies, “is why you’re back here gossiping when I still have about two dozen dirty glasses and a bar full of hungry gamblers waiting for someone to take their orders.”

“This wasn’t in my job description,” the other mumbles as he stomps back out of the kitchen.

On the other side of the door, in the dimly lit, low-grade casino, a man clad in a tight-fitting black leather ensemble sits glued to one of the aging card machines lining the wall. The faint glow of the dusty screen casts a pallid bluish glow over his angular features. He is clutching a half-finished cigarette in one hand and cradling a gin spritzer in the other, using his pinky to manipulate the cards on the digital game of solitaire in front of him. One leg is crossed over the other and jiggling anxiously, causing his drink to slosh against the sides of the glass.

He’s only been here for half an hour and he’s already racked up a considerable pile of chips. Some of the other regulars and not a few of the employees cast him annoyed looks, but it’s not his fault that Lady Luck is on his side tonight. And most every other night. Maybe they’re more irritated that he’s hogging the machine. It’s not like the other patrons don’t have plenty of other options- it’s a crappy place, but they’ve got plenty of games. He only plays solitaire.

He likes it much better in that liminal period after the dinner rush, when the last few groups are trickling out and all that’s left are the regulars like him. Granted, he’s only been coming here for a couple of weeks; most of the others have hung around this watering hole since they were still suckling at their mom’s teat. He considers himself a regular, even if no one else does. It’s the only bar in town that makes a half-decent gin spritzer.

He drags the king of spades into its place atop the pile, and the screen lights up with pixelated fireworks as it displays his score. Far from a personal best, but it’s earned him a hefty chunk of chips nonetheless. His expression displays nothing more than polite boredom as he hits the “new game” button and starts his new hand.

The building is a curious mix of casino, bar, and restaurant. It’s rectangular, with a bar occupying one of the short walls and the rest of the space taken up by tables. Most of the tables have a couple decks of playing cards and little machines to collect chips. You get chips by inserting this little card that they hand you at the door, kind of like a debit card, and that keeps track of your chips.

It’s pretty much your classic dive- lots of weird, eclectic junk hanging on the walls, like old shopping carts and signs that say things like “Beware pickpockets and loose women”; a neon-lit sign informing patrons of karaoke Tuesdays; dusty string lights reflecting off the mirrored panels behind the bar shelves, and other such decor. It’s quite a crappy place, all told, but again- it’s the only place around that makes a passable gin spritzer. So this is where he goes.

It’s probably more fitting a place for him than he would ever admit. He’ll never say no to easy cash. He makes most of it at the games, of course, but he certainly hasn’t shied away from the occasional… favor. Usually paid for in one of the graffiti-coated bathroom stalls that look like they haven’t been properly cleaned since 1997. Nothing too drastic , but fifty bucks for a quick handie seems fair enough to him.

He doesn’t necessarily need the money. Or at least, he doesn’t need it to live. He could do fine if it wasn’t for the drinking and the cigarettes and the more-than-occasional joint. But something in him shrinks up at the thought of using the regular money to feed his vices. That’s how he sorts it out in his mind- his regular money, and his other money. His regular money is for necessities- clothes, food, body wash, toothpaste. The other money is for the other things. He’s careful to keep them separate.

The average person would probably get a stable job instead of relying on gambling for their primary source of income, but somehow, the job thing has just never really worked out for him. Anyway, he’s doing pretty well for himself so far. He considers any day that doesn’t end with him passed out in a piss-stained alley to be a good one.

Maybe his success has begun to make him a little cocky. Tonight he’s being a bit looser with the chips, and subsequently, with the cash. The others notice, as much as they don’t want him to know that it bothers them. He’s just an out-of-towner, a greasy tweaker on a fluke winning streak who will blow town as soon he gets his first big loss. He has no pride, no integrity, no respect for the game. He’s not like them.

He’s eighteen cards deep in the foundation row and only getting stronger. He’s so absorbed he doesn’t notice the towering mass of reddened flesh and salt-and-pepper grizzle that lumbers across the bar and plops down at the machine next to him. His name is Bill, or Doug, or Joe, though the leather vest and Harley Davidson tattoo say all they need to about who he is. To his credit, he waits until the newcomer finishes his current hand- only twenty-five cards in the foundation, dammit- before he speaks.

“I’ve seen you coming ‘round here for a coupla weeks now,” he says.

The curly-haired man waits for more, but when it is evident that there are no other startling revelations forthcoming, he leans one elbow on the machine and props his head in his hand, swiveling to face the guy head-on. “You sure have, big boy,” he hums.

The already beer-flushed face turns a bit redder at the kid’s rudeness. “Well? What’s your story? Ain’t too often we get new ‘uns sticking around for this long. Where ya stayin’?”

“I don’t see how that’s any of your fucking business,” the other man replies. “Now, do you have anything worthwhile to say, or can I get back to my game?”

The rest of the bar, whose conversations had dimmed to listen to the exchange, goes completely silent at that comment. A few folks eye their grizzled friend, ready to jump to the assist in case he decides to put this asshole in his place.

The older man’s eyes bug out in surprise, darting from the weirdo sitting in front of him to his friends scattered throughout the room. No way they’d ever look at him with respect again if he let this little creep go, but he can’t just start a tussle in the middle of the casino like this. He releases his anger in a slow huff and fixes the fella with his most intimidating glare.

“Thing is,” he says, “folks around here work real hard for their money. And they don’t like to lose it, see? So when you stroll up in here with your fancy cocktails and clear ‘em out doing God knows what- well, you c’n see how some people might start to feel upset.”

“It’s not my fault I’m the best piece of tail this side of the Mississippi,” the fella says with a self-satisfied grin. He knows that grin. It’s the kind that says I’ll do what I want, because that’s what I’ve done all my life, and you can stop me, old man . That’s what you get when parents spare the rod, he muses ruefully. Damn spoiled, disrespectful kids.

“Be that as it may,” he says, biting back his anger, “you gotta understand- this bar’s been around a long time. This bar’s been around a long time. Some of these playing cards are older than you.” He stabs a finger at the boy’s chest. “These people ’re my family, and I don’t appreciate strangers messing with my family. Understand?”

The younger man bounces in his seat and claps his hands together. “Ooh, are we about to rassle? I’ve always wanted to get in a bar fight!” he squeals.

For the love of- where do they make these kinds of weirdos? Most run-of-the-mill tourists would go scampering off just at the sight of his “blue collar biker man” glare, but this one just seems unbothered, even excited at the idea of a goddamn bar brawl. He can see that the traditional approach isn’t going to work with this guy.

“Say, let’s make a deal, huh? A wager,” he offers.

The other man leans forward and cups his chin in his hand in an exaggerated show of listening. “Go on,” he says.

“Let’s do a round of Texas Holdem, you and me. Loser rescinds bar privileges.”

The kid tilts his head and cocks a curious eyebrow. “You’re willing to wager your favorite bar that easily?”

The man smirks. “Only ‘cause I know it’s hardly a wager.” He sticks out a hand grizzled from decades of physical labor. “How ‘bout it?”

Oh, he’s really in it now. Not that Klaus particularly cares about this bar or the opinions of its patrons, but it would really fucking suck to have to find another venue to fund his habits. Even if he won- or worse, backed out of the wager altogether- men like this are unstable when they feel disrespected. They’re dangerous. No matter what road he takes, he’s already fucked.

He’s shaking the man’s hand before he can talk himself out of it. He downs the rest of his drink before sliding off the barstool and following his new poker buddy to an empty table near the middle of the room. Best case scenario, he figures, he’ll give the guy a close game and then let him win at the last minute. Hopefully, Bill/Doug/Joe will be riding so high on the thrill of the victory that he’ll allow Klaus to stick around anyway.

They’ve just gotten settled around the table when an abrupt and horrifying thought hits Klaus like a speeding motorcycle: he has no fucking clue how to play Texas Holdem.

His leg begins to jiggle with anxiety. Literally all he knows about poker is what he’s gleaned from TV and Lady Gaga. Nausea begins to brew in his stomach as nerves mingle with the gin and he has to dig his fingernails into his thigh to keep from losing it.

He starts to hand over his card to scan in the little chip counter, but the man shakes his head. “We’re playing real poker, son. None of this newfangled digital crap.” He gestures to someone behind the bar, who brings over an aging briefcase filled with colorful poker chips. Jesus, this guy has henchmen and uses words like newfangled . Klaus already despises whatever cheap Scorsese knock-off drama he’s toppled into.

The man slides a deck of cards out of a little cardboard box that looks older than he is and begins to shuffle them. Once he’s satisfied, he sets the deck down and gives Klaus a meaningful look.

“You gonna place your bet any time soon?” he asks.

Klaus stares at him like he’s just stumbled into an open mic in his underwear. The options swirl through his mind, torn between trying to bullshit his way out of this predicament like he’s done in so many situations before and attempting a quick but cowardly escape. The door isn’t far, but there are several heavy tables and about half a dozen grumpy-looking biker-type folks in his path. Either way, this night is probably going to end in blood.

His chair scrapes across the wooden floor as he stands up abruptly, drawing the eyes of everyone in the room. His fingers press into the surface of the table, tips white from how hard he’s pressing them down. His opponent eyes him with an inscrutable expression.

“Bathroom?”

The man nods toward the back of the bar. Of course Klaus knows where the goddamn bathroom is, but he mutters a quick thanks and strides quickly away, legs trembling with nerves.

In the safety of the empty bathroom, he can finally breathe again. He leans over the sink, bracing his hands against the counter and taking several slow, deep breaths. There are no windows in here, of course. Realistically, his only path now is to play the game and hope that he doesn’t piss off anyone else in this stupid dive. He splashes some cold water on his face and glances up at the mirror, at the sallow shade of his angular face. And then he sees it-

There is someone else in the room.

He shrieks as he jumps onto the counter and whirls around.

She’s kind of pretty. Definitely not his type, but there’s an angry-rebel kind of vibe in the cold set of her dark eyes that could certainly turn him on in the right context. She has straight black hair so dark that it reflects almost purple in the eerie light- oh, wait, no, there’s actual purple streaks in her hair. Quell edgy . She’s abnormally pale, with cheekbones that could slice diamonds and a jawline as solid as a fucking mountain. Her purple-painted lips and the shadows rimming her eyes do little to detract from the corpse look. She’s dressed in a manner not dissimilar from the rest of the bar, leather pants accompanied by a cinched black corset underneath a matching leather jacket covered in patches. One could almost mistake her for another patron were it not for the small, round hole in the center of her forehead.

She raises a single eyebrow, and the way she does it, Klaus thinks that that might be the closest her face has ever come to a show of surprise. “So you can see me,” she says. It’s not a question.

He nods once. She glances over him with a sneer that radiates disdain, and he remembers quite suddenly that he’s still crouching on the bathroom counter. He returns his feet to the floor, brushes nonexistent dirt off his pants, and extends a hand.

“Klaus,” he says.

She doesn’t drop the sneer, but she places her hand over his- of course it goes right through. “Michelle,” she replies.

He leans down and kisses the air about where her hand is. “Enchante,” he says with a cheeky grin.

Michelle snatches her hand back and rolls her eyes. “Tubular. Even in the afterlife I’m being chased by creepy men,” she snorts.

Klaus holds up his hands in surrender, taking a step back. “You’ve nothing to fear from me, man. I’ve got a sweet little number waiting back home. Who I’d really like to get back to, actually, so if you wouldn’t mind…?” He starts to scooch past her toward the door.

“Right. Heard that one before.” She tosses her head with disdain. “Your funeral, dude.”

The words give Klaus pause. “What’d you say?”

She inclines her head toward the door. “You’ve got ‘green’ written all over you, newbie. You’ve never played a single hand of poker, have you?”

“Can’t say I have, no,” he sighs.

“You’re going to get slaughtered out there.”

“Gee, thanks-”

“Unless you let me help you.”

He narrows his eyes, considering her. Her personality isn’t the warmest, but honestly, if anyone in this building has a right to be pissed off, it’s probably her. Besides, she was the one who offered her help. Though she doesn’t strike him as somebody who would do anyone a favor without getting something in return.

If I accepted your help,” he says, “what would I have to give you?”

She shrugs. “The satisfaction of a good deed?”

The sarcasm in his expression makes her toss her hands up in frustration. “I dunno, dude. There’s not much action over on the other side. Maybe I’m just bored, ‘kay?”

Klaus’s lips stretch into a sassy grin. “Aw, you want to spend time with little ol’ me?”

She bares her teeth in a snarl. “First rule of poker- stop wearing all your emotions on your goddamned sleeve. Ain’t you ever heard of a poker face ?”

“More than you know, darlin,” he laughs.

She follows him back out into the bar. Despite his teasing, he does as she’s instructed, schooling his face into an expressionless mask. Michelle scoffs when she sees the other man occupying the table.

“That’s Greg McInich. Third generation townie. Thinks he’s a hot shot because no one is afraid to call him out when he loses,” she says. She whistles lowly. “Boy, has he aged poorly.”

Klaus stifles the smile tugging at his lips as he takes his seat. Dave eyes him with a mixture of suspicion and amusement. “Finish powdering your nose, sweetheart?” he snorts.

Klaus bats his eyelashes innocently. “Only for you, dearest.”

Rage flushes the man’s already ruddy face, but he clears his throat to hide it. He nods toward the table. “Bets up. No limits,” he orders.

Michelle leans against the table. “Okay, so this is called a blind bet, ‘cause you don’t know what your cards are yet. Just put one chip down.”

Klaus takes the first chip off the top of his pile and places it on the table. He smiles sweetly at the man across from him. “Your turn.”

Greg’s stone-set face gives away nothing as he places two chips on the table. He slides his into the center, and after a nod from Michelle, Klaus copies him. Then Greg picks up the cards and deals two to each of them.

“Now you can take a look at your cards and decide how much you want to bet.”

He covers his cards with his hands and lifts them up just enough to peek at them. A pair of fives, one spades and one clubs. His new ghost friend leans over his shoulder and whistles approvingly.

“Two of a kind. Not bad. Let’s hope that luck holds out, hm?” She gives his shoulder an incorporeal punch. “Now it’s time for some more betting. You can’t fold, so your only options are to either call or raise. If you call, that means you bet the same as him, which is two chips. If you raise, then you bet double his amount, so you put in four chips.”

Klaus pretends to study the chips while he listens to her explanation. Once she’s finished, he fingers the stack of chips before finally selecting two and placing them on the table. “Call,” he says simply.

His opponent studies him with an unreadable expression, and for too many long moments Klaus wonders if somehow the man knows he’s cheating. Finally, he takes four chips from his own stack and pushes them into the center. “Raise,” he replies.

“That means you have to bet four chips too,” Michelle tells him.

Klaus swallows and places an additional two chips on the table. Satisfied, Greg pushes his own into the pot, and Klaus does the same.

“Now the betting round is over, and it’s time for him to deal the flop. You’re going to bet again, and you can either check or raise. If you check, then you just bet another two chips. If you raise, then you have to bet four,” Michelle says.

As she speaks, Greg places the top card off to the side face-down and flips the next three cards face-up on the table. Ace of hearts, four of spades, nine of spades. Michelle hums. “Not the best hand, but we can work with it. Check, just to be safe.”

Klaus strokes his chin, pretending to think over his options. “Check,” he says, placing two more chips down.

The other man grunts and takes four chips off his stack. “Raise,” he says.

Klaus grudgingly cedes two more chips, and the men push them into the steadily growing pile in the center of the table.

“Dammit, he’s doing this on purpose. Trying to make you sweat,” Michelle mutters. “Don’t worry yet, Klaus. I’ve never lost a single game. Well, except the time I got shot.”

He has to work to hide the smile from that one. Greg eyes him warily as he reaches for the deck.

The top card is discarded alongside the previous one, and a fourth is placed face-up on the table besides its companions. A two of diamonds.

“It’s time to bet again,” Michelle says. “All bets are doubled this round, so you need to place down at least four chips.”

Klaus taps his chin, regarding the array of playing cards like a monarch surveying his kingdom. His lips quirk into a tight smile as he gathers up eight chips and places them on the table with finality.

The ghost regards him with something close to admiration. “You’re bluffing him,” she scoffs. Her surprise grows when she notices Greg shift in his seat, the slightest discomfort slipping through his facade. He takes eight of his own chips and the two men add to the pot.

“I legitimately can’t tell if he’s bluffing or just really shit at poker,” she says. “I tried to get a look at his cards earlier, but I couldn’t see them.”

Greg places the top card aside and deals the final one face-up next to the others. Michelle whoops- it’s a five of hearts.

“Three of a kind! That’s not half bad, for a newbie,” she crows.

Klaus flips his hand face-up onto the table. “Three of a kind,” he says with a small smile.

No emotion escapes Greg’s face as he flips over his cards. “Two pair,” he mutters.

Michelle slaps the table excitedly. “That means you won , Klaus,” she says. “How’s that for beginner’s luck, huh?”

He reaches for the pot, but the other man places a hand over his wrist. Not enough to hurt, but the command is evident in the motion.

“One more round,” Greg says. His voice is friendly, but there’s steel glinting at the edge of his words.

Klaus wants so very badly to just take his winnings and leave, but he knows it will never be that simple. He nods his agreement and leans back in his chair, accepting the re-shuffled deck that Greg hands him.

“I don’t like this. He’s too confident. I don’t like this at all,” Michelle mutters.

Klaus does his best to ignore her and focus on the game. His opponent glances at him with an inscrutable expression, before placing four chips onto the table.

“Jesus. Okay,” she says. “Now you have to bet at least eight- what the fuck are you doing?”

Klaus places down sixteen chips and stares blankly across the table, the challenge evident in the set of his jaw.

Silence hangs over the room, thick and palpable, as the entire bar stops to watch what will happen next. The seconds crawl by and every one feels like another weight dropping onto Klaus’s shoulders.

Finally, after several lifetimes, Greg pushes his chips into the pot. Klaus does the same.

Under the entire room’s cautious gaze, Klaus deals two cards to each of them. The only eye not on him is that of Michelle, who is trying to lean around Greg’s shoulders in hopes of glimpsing his cards. The two men glance at their hands at the same time. Klaus’s heart leaps- an eight and a seven, both of spades. He’s pretty sure that’s a good thing, right?

“He looked at them so quick I couldn’t get a good view, but I’m pretty sure one of them was a two- hey, not half bad!” Michelle claps him on the back. “Get yourself a couple more of spades and you’ve got yourself a flush.”

Greg fingers a few of his chips for a moment, then places down sixteen of them. Klaus does as well, and they wordlessly add the chips to the now substantial pot. The latter, under Michelle’s careful instruction, places the first card face-down in the muck pile and distributes the next three face-up. Nine of spades, three of hearts, jack of spades.

“Okay, not bad. Could be worse,” the ghost murmurs. It’s kind of adorable how worked up she’s gotten, considering her nonchalant attitude when Klaus first met her.

Across the table, the stone-faced man strokes a hand over his chin. Could he be considering folding? Klaus isn’t sure how that would end up for him. Would the man make him play another round? Why did he think it was a good idea to make such a huge blind bet? The temporary confidence from his earlier victory is now twisting and souring in his gut alongside the dregs of his gin spritzer. He misses solitaire.

Greg pushes the remainder of his chips into the center of the table. “All in,” he says.

It’s like all the air has been sucked out of the room. Every part of Klaus’s body is screaming at him to give up and run , but dammit, he’s only come this far with Michelle’s help, and he can’t abandon her now. Not that he’d be able to escape at this point, with Greg’s cronies blocking every conceivable route.

He slides the remainder of his own chips into the pot and meets the other man’s eyes with cold finality.

“All in,” he says.

He gets rid of the next muck card, then flips over the fourth face-up. Ace of diamonds. He swallows, fingers trembling slightly, as he readies to deal the final card.

Ten of spades.

His heart is throbbing in his ears as he watches Greg reveal his hand. It’s a good one, a two of spades and four of spades. But it’s meager compared to Klaus’s straight flush.

He grins cheekily at the red-faced man as he throws down his cards. “Thanks for the game, old timer, but I think I ought to head-”

He doesn’t get to finish his sentence because Greg the biker has launched across the table and snatched Klaus by his shirt collar.

“YOU’RE A DEAD MOTHERFUCKER!”

All Klaus sees is sweaty red flesh and angry bulging gray eyes. Flecks of spittle coat his face as as the man screams at him hard enough to look like he might pop one of the engorged veins throbbing beneath his thinning hairline. He’s never seen someone look this furious, or this close.

“Paws off the merchandise, pal ,” he snaps. He tries to remove the man’s fleshy hands from his collar, but the guy really is as strong as he looks. He glances at the bargoers watching the altercation in silence. “Little help, here?”

Klaus’s confidence starts to falter as he realizes that no one is moving to help him. Even Michelle stands motionless to the side- even if she could help, he notices, she wouldn’t dare question the status quo that seems to bend the town to Blue Collar Greg’s puffy-faced will. If she won’t help him, then what of the rest of this damn flock?

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says slowly. “I swear, it was stupid luck. I’m not even that good at poker-”

“YOU WERE CHEATING!”

His hot, heavy breaths stink of something onion-y. They wash over Klaus like a pungent fog, making his eyes water. “Don’t know how, but you cheated , you no-good junkie fucking son of a BITCH-”

There have been very few situations which Klaus has not been able to charm his way out of, and he is quickly realizing that this one is going to be added to that list.

He brings his hands up and claps them over the man’s ears, hard , enough to cause significant pain to his ear drums (normally he’d prefer a good nut-punch, but the table is unfortunately in the way). Greg instantly lets out a hoarse shriek and jerks back, releasing Klaus’s shirt. The latter stumbles at the sudden momentum and falls back against an unoccupied table.

Thankfully, the action proved a sufficient distraction to allow Klaus time to make his escape. He tosses a grateful salute in Michelle’s direction before booking it across the room, weaving between the too-close tables. Surprisingly, no one tries to grab him or make any move to stop him as he hurtles toward the exit. If he wasn’t running so high on adrenaline and gin, he might have had the mind to wonder why this was so seemingly easy.

As it is, he doesn’t even hear the gun cock before he crumples to the floor.

Chapter Text

You’d begun to despise your new TV remote, not just for its litany of useless buttons (one piece of technology that had actually gotten worse since the 1980s), but for its very corporeality. You’ve been struggling all afternoon, under Ben’s guidance, to pick the damn thing up, and yet as the day slid into evening and the world’s shadows became unearthly long, it has remained stubbornly un-jostled.

Time doesn’t mean a whole lot to you these days, but in this moment it feels like whole years are passing as you try and fail and try and fail to interact with the physical world. You’ve tried to remember the few times you’ve been able to do so in the past and what might have triggered them. You ran up and down the building stairs a few times, though without a beating heart that didn’t really do anything. Ben had tried scaring you, which doesn’t really work when he’s the least frightening ghost to ever haunt an abandoned building.

(You’d wanted to suggest he kiss you to jumpstart your adrenaline, but ended up chickening out almost immediately.)

His hand rests on top of yours, fingers lined up perfectly, his other hand straightening the bend of your elbow like a goddamn archery instructor. “Just let the energy flow through you like a river and pour out of your fingertips.” He takes a slow breath that you can feel in your own ribcage where his chest is pressed to your back. “Inhale… exhale. Let your mind focus.”

You refrain from pointing out how very difficult it is to focus when his body is pressed against yours like this.

You flex your fingers and concentrate on letting all of your energy flow through your body, pooling in the channels of your veins and then sliding out through your fingertips like a stream through the gaps in a dam. Your fingers wrap around the remote, mimicking its boxy shape, envisioning yourself picking it up and pointing it at the television. It’s such a clear image in your own mind, the smooth, slightly cool plastic resting against the pillowy lines of your skin, you can just see yourself holding it up-

And then you realize that you actually are holding the remote, that you’ve actually managed to raise it a few inches off the floor, and holy shit you’re doing it you’re doing it!

You break into an ecstatic smile and wiggle in triumph. “Ben! Ben, I’m doing it! I picked it up, don’t you-”

The remote falls to the floor with a clatter that sends the battery cover popping up and the little AAs inside scattering as you turn to look at Ben. He’s frozen, eyes fixed straight ahead, their usual brilliant light now dull and colorless. He doesn’t even appear to be breathing, and though you’ve always known him as a ghost you think he looks more dead now than you’ve ever seen him.

“Ben,” you say, jostling his hand where it still hovers over yours. The arm falls limp at his side. You turn around and place your own hands on his shoulders, examining him carefully and trying very very hard not to freak out. “Ben, talk to me.” When he doesn’t respond, you give him a little shake and stifle a sob at his lack of response.

He suddenly jerks and shakes his head like he’s coming out of a nightmare. You don’t give him time to explain before you launch yourself at him, arms wrapping around his chest and squeezing him to you with a muffled gasp.

“Don’t do that to me,” you mumble into his jacket.

He’s silent, and that makes you draw back enough to look at his face. Though the semblance of life has returned to his skin, his expression is blank and serious, eyes fixed straight ahead. His hands clutch your forearms and his head tilts slowly, like an automaton with rusty joints.

“Something’s wrong,” he chokes out.

You swallow down your relief and move your hands to cup his cheeks, thumbs stroking over his skin in a gesture meant to comfort, though he shows no acknowledgement. He doesn’t appear to be looking at you, but through you, eyes seeing something quite different than this reality.

“What do you mean? What’s wrong?” you ask. You’re impressed with how even you manage to keep your voice despite the panic welling up against the dam of your composure.

“It’s Klaus.”

And now the dam is coming very close to flooding over. Klaus had gone out earlier that day- you never ask him where he goes, and he never travels far enough to make you worry. He and Ben share a kind of connection, like the red string of fate or the strange telekinetic link between identical twins, that lets them know when the distance between them is too great to maintain. Klaus has never wandered far enough away to strain that connection. Now, however-

“The connection is still there. He’s close,” Ben manages. “It’s not- he’s- there’s just something wrong .”

You spring up from the floor and stick your head through the curtains still drawn over the living room windows. All of you had elected to keep the windows covered since your last mysterious visitor, and to compensate for the lack of daylight, Klaus had turned the living room lamp on before leaving. He’s just considerate like that. Now, though, the dingy yellow lamplight hangs over the room like a haze of herbicide.

Outside, the muggy July sun hovers like an infected bite above the line of scattered, decrepit homes, casting a fetid orange glow over the neighborhood. Everything burns under the uranium-sharp fog of late afternoon. Nothing moves, no signs of life, just the skeletons of old cars and time-weary buildings stewing in the mire of summer.

You return to Ben, who hasn’t moved from his spot on the floor, still staring ahead with empty eyes. You guide him onto the couch and sit next to him, rubbing his back in small circles, because there’s nothing else you know how to do to comfort someone suffering from a damaged spiritual connection to their twin brother.

It is impossible to tell how much time has passed when the kitchen door slams open. You’re the first one to reach the doorway, and the image that greets you makes every bit of what mockery of life remains in your body instantly drain out of it.

Klaus does not stumble so much as collapse in a slightly controlled fall onto the cracked linoleum. He lands on his right side and lets out a hoarse shriek of pain that sends iron-spiked daggers through your heart. He rolls over to reveal his hands clasped against his side just above his hip, unearthly pale skin stained with blood.

Reality drops out from under you. You’re falling, hurtling toward something empty and unknown, but you understand that the moment you hit the bottom then the world will be over. Your world will be over, because there is no world for you if Klaus Hargreeves isn’t in it.

You hear Ben’s scream only faintly, like it’s coming from the other side of a thick curtain. He shoves past you and kneels at his brother’s side, pushing Klaus’s hands away from the wound. The other man resists him, stubborn even in this state, but he’s too weak to keep Ben from peeling his hands away from where a horrible gash bubbles scarlet blood. Your entire body heaves at the sight and if you were alive you would vomit.

“What the fuck are you doing? Go find something to stop the bleeding!” Ben is shouting. He’s shouting- shouting at you, his words are directed at you through a face twisted in agony and flecked with his brother’s blood.

It takes a tremendous amount of will to get your leaden feet to move, dragging you away from the scene in the kitchen. It’s terrifying, like if you don’t keep your eyes on him he’ll slip away from you, but once you’re in the hallway the sensation fades and gives to the incessant press of urgency. You rush down the hall toward the bathroom and somehow you know that your panic-driven limbs will find no resistance when you fling open the medicine cabinet. You rifle through it for something that will help, but there’s nothing, not even stupid bandages. You hurtle back into the hallway and slam yourself against the door of the linen closet, struggle to twist the knob and finally manage to throw it open.

Your old record player tumbles from its precarious position atop a pile of cardboard boxes, the door having previously been the only thing keeping it from falling. It lands on your toe, but the pain that shoots through your foot is miniscule next to the pain of being confronted with the artifacts of your life. These tiny evidences of the past, these material items that you used to care about so much , now relegated to isolation in the back of an unused closet-

Isn’t it all just so very pointless now?

Klaus’s howl of agony from the kitchen drags you back to your present mission. You’re not here to dwell on discarded memories. Of course there are no actual linens in this closet anymore, and there’s only one more place in this apartment you can think to look for something useful.

Thompson jumps up from where he’d been curled on his doggy bed when you burst into the bedroom hard enough to send the door slamming against the adjacent wall. You snatch the thin sheet from your- Klaus’s- bed and rocket back down the hall toward the kitchen.

It appears that Ben, too, has gained temporary corporeality. He’s shoved the kitchen table against the wall to give Klaus more room and is pressing his hands against the still-flowing wound. He doesn’t acknowledge you when you kneel beside him, bundling up the sheet and pressing it where the blood seems to be flowing thickest. It’s honestly difficult to tell with how very much of it there is, staining everything like a blight upon a lush field.

Klaus is paler than you’ve ever seen another human being. His skin is an unnatural shade, drained and colorless, like gray ash from an erupting volcano. The blood oozes like magma, bubbling up from the gash in sluggish waves. He groans and tries to cover himself, but you easily bat his hands away.

“Why is there so much blood?” Ben gasps. His fingers tremble where they hover over his brother’s abdomen, smeared with red gore.

“Shh. Don’t panic him,” you whisper, nodding to Klaus’s pinched face. It’s impossible to tell how much he understands what’s happening around him, but his expression is taut and worried, lips floundering around senseless words and head turning side to side like he’s searching for something. His own fingers are clenched tight against his chest like if he squeezes hard enough he can will his soul to remain on this plane.

Ben had shoved the hem of Klaus’s shirt up to expose the wound, but the fabric is still in the way when you take the sheet away to examine it. “Help me get his shirt off,” you say. With fumbling fingers, Ben assists you in peeling the article up Klaus’s torso and over his head. You try to jostle his abdomen as little as possible, but he still lets out a groan of pain.

“Sorry, sorry,” you mumble, only half-directed at him. You return the bundled corner of the sheet to the place where the blood originates and press down hard to stem the bleeding.

“We need to clean the wound to prevent infection. Get me some water,” you instruct Ben. When he doesn’t move right away, you glance over to see him nearly as pale as his brother, jaw set with a helpless sorrow that squeezes at your heart. You can’t let him wallow right now, though. He needs to focus.

You elbow him hard enough in the side that he topples onto the linoleum. He looks up at you with a mixture of anger and frustration. “The fuck was that-”

“Ben. Focus,” you snap. “Get me some clean water. Now.” He jumps up and hurries to do as instructed.

You lean over Klaus, pressing all your weight into the fabric. He lets out a gurgling grunt as he flings his head to the side and tries to squirm away from your touch. Good, you have to remind yourself, that’s good. It means he’s still conscious enough to move on his own. You smile at him, even though his dark curls stick to his sweat-stricken forehead and his breathing is far too rapid to be safe. Every breath he releases is laced with pained moans and the barest whisper of nonsense words that you can’t make out.

“Hold on. Just hold on, Klaus,” you mumble. You know he probably can’t hear you but you hope your words can serve as a bit of balm anyway. Your eyes sting as you watch him struggle. Huh. You didn’t know you were still able to cry.

Ben comes barreling back into the kitchen holding an old vase brimming over with water. You peel the bloodied sheet away from Klaus’s side and shuffle back to allow room for Ben to pour a bit of water over his skin. It sloughs away the freshest layer of blood like washing the muck from a feeding trough. You find a clean corner of the sheet and dip it in the water, then set about washing away the remainder. It’s impossible to get fully clean- more blood just keeps welling up no matter how much you wipe away- but it’s enough that you can discern a neat, round hole about five millimeters in diameter marring Klaus’s flesh.

You press an unsullied portion of the sheet against the wound and, with Ben’s assistance, manage to roll Klaus onto his other side to examine his back. You both sigh with relief when you see the matching hole on the other side. At the very least, you don’t have to worry about a bullet rattling around Klaus’s insides.

While you maintain pressure on the first wound, Ben takes another clean bit of the sheet and washes off the other one, then puts pressure on that as well. Klaus doesn’t make it easy, though; he struggles against the pain, trying to pull away from your touch, moaning and spilling broken pleas even as he lays helpless and losing more and more blood every moment.

“We can’t fix this ourselves. He needs to get to a hospital,” you say.

Ben shakes his head obstinately. “No hospital. We’ve never needed one before and we don’t need one now,” he responds. You’re not sure, but you think Klaus groans in agreement.

“This isn’t one of your stupid missions. You’re not the Umbrella Academy anymore. Daddy’s not going to swoop in with a medical miracle and save him,” you protest. “He’s losing blood too fast for us to stop it. The bullet could have grazed one of his organs. It might get infected any second, and then he’s actually going to die. For real die.”

“No shit he’s gonna die!”

Ben’s yell grates on your brain and summons forth another wave of tears. The pain in his expression burns you like a great furnace.

“In case you forgot, I’m dead too,” he shouts. “I did something colossally stupid and I ended up dead for it, and if you think I’m going to let my brother go the same way then you don’t know anything about me. About either of us.”

He looks down at his brother, who’s ceased fighting your treatment- either because he’s surrendered to his fate, or he’s lost too much blood to be able to make much effort, you can’t tell. “I’m not letting him fucking die,” Ben says, softly, hoarsely. Tears spill over his own eyes and he struggles to speak around sobs. “But if he goes, then it’s gonna be on his terms, with the people he loves. Not in some stupid hospital where nobody knows him or actually cares whether he lives. Not in there, dammit.”

The tears overwhelm him and he crumples, face screwing up as he lets the sobbing take him over completely. His hands are shaking so hard he can’t keep a grip on the sheet and lets it fall to the linoleum, fresh blood dribbling over his brother’s back in its absence. He squeezes them into fists and slams them into the floor, letting his sorrow out in a hoarse shriek.

“I don’t want him to die,” he cries feebly.

A sound makes you both glance suddenly at Klaus’s face, his jaw set in concentration. He clears his throat- he clears his fucking throat - you’re so thrilled and terrified you could scream.

“I’m not… gonna… die,” he chokes out. His breathing is harsh like someone who’s just scaled ten flights of stairs. You put a hand on his shoulder but he shakes his head. “Stop being… a fucking… dick … and call… a goddamn… ambulance.”

Ben’s mouth drops open, anguish temporarily forgotten in the wake of his brother’s unexpected lucidity. “But we don’t have insurance. Will they even-”

“We’ll figure… it… out,” Klaus pants.

“He doesn’t have much breath left in him. Let’s call a fucking ambulance,” you say.

Ben looks like he’s just been sucker punched, but he obeys you and rifles through Klaus’s pockets to find his cell phone. You turn your attention back to Klaus, whose breathing has slowed to a frightening pace. His eyelids flutter like he’s struggling desperately to keep them open and his teeth are clenched in agony. You wipe the hair off his sweat-damp forehead and caress his cheek, praying your touch gives him some kind of relief wherever his mind is.

The blare of sirens heralds the arrival of the ambulance. Ben places a hand saturate with blood on your arm.

“I’ll go with him to make sure he gets out okay,” he says. “I don’t know how far the hospital is. We’ll come back here as soon as we can, alright?”

You cup the back of his neck, not caring if you smear blood in his hair, and pull him to you for a violent, tear-salty kiss. When it ends, you don’t pull away but rest your forehead against his, letting your breaths mingle between you.

“Come back to me,” you whisper.

He nods once and presses a quick peck to the corner of your mouth. You force yourself not to watch as the EMTs rush into the house and pack Klaus onto a stretcher, their hands passing right through you. You don’t stand up until you’re alone, blood soaking into the linoleum and the ambulance’s siren screaming into the distance. You glance about the room, considering trying to clean up, but you’re overwhelmed by the wave of intense exhaustion that seems to follow these bouts of corporeality.

You stumble down the hallway to the bedroom and collapse on the bed. Though your head goes right through it, you bury your face where his pillow is and imagine that you can smell his familiar scent, sweat and nicotine and something sweet like perfume. You let it wash over you, the tears and the sorrow and the anguish, let yourself drown in it until the nothingness of exhaustion finally claims you.

Chapter Text

The first hovering vestiges of sunlight pierce the dust-streaked shroud of the kitchen door like streaks of scarlet death lingering in the empty apartment. They mingle with the drying blood smeared across the linoleum, a Jackson Pollock landscape of red on aging yellow spread thickest where the gore had pooled beneath Klaus’s abdomen.

You sit on the kitchen table and look everywhere except at the last place you saw Klaus alive. You pretend you can feel the sunrise warm your tired bones as it melts from the colorless cadaver-gray of dawn into the gilded presence of early morning. You wait.

No one comes back to the house in the days following the event. It would be too much to hope for the boys to return that soon, but you’d at least expect a visit from the police or whoever is supposed to be investigating shootings like this. It’s been a long time since you lived in this town; maybe things like this aren’t altogether uncommon. Or maybe the police have decided that the shooting of a random junkie in a backwater neighborhood is undeserving of that most coveted spot at the top of their list of priorities. They probably have better things to do. You, however, do not. And so you wait.

On a morbid whim, you follow the blood trail outside into the yard. It has not rained so there are still a few streaks lingering on the porch, but they disappear as soon as you step onto the brittle brown grass. You stand at the edge of the lawn, at the boundary where the unrelenting July heat shimmers over the asphalt and the curtain hanging between the realms of life and limbo tugs at your existence. Nothing moves.

The dog park across the street is being turned into a condo complex. The rotting chain-link fence has been replaced with one of shiny new wood just high enough to conceal whatever top-secret developments are occurring behind the barrier. Raised voices and the clatter of tools and machinery float over the top of the fence like ghosts floating on in perpetual ignorance of the destruction around them. Yet, in three days you haven’t seen a single living being outside of that fence. You’re not entirely sure you aren’t in limbo after all. You stare at the shiny white Coming Soon! sign plastered over the wood, and you wait.

Thompson doesn’t notice the absence of your recently acquired roommates. He rotates his time between various nap spots, unbothered by fear or expectations, wholly unaware of the mundanity of his own existence. How easy it would be to spend eternity as a dog. If reincarnation turns out to be real, and God or Buddha or who the fuck ever is open to requests, that’s what you’re coming back as.

You’re so fucking sick of waiting.

The living room lamp has remained on since that night. You avoid thinking about how much it resembles the smile he gave you before leaving the apartment that evening. It reminds you of a story your parents used to read to you before bed, about the daughter of a lighthouse keeper who braved a hurricane to make sure the light never went out. If you keep the lamp burning, then maybe its rays will cut through the flimsy floral-patterned curtains still drawn over the living room window and serve as a beacon to ships wandering through the fog. Maybe Klaus and Ben will see it and come home.

Standing in the living room doorway, your body does nothing to interrupt the yellow light pouring into the hall. It is a horrible reminder that your presence is inconsequential, that you do not exist in any way that counts. Like the broken and dust-covered remnants of your life lying undisturbed in the bottom of your closet, you are just a souvenir of the past, a frail wisp of a memory that one day no one will be able to recall. When the last person who remembers you finally trudges off to that mythical famed happily-ever-after in the sky, will you simply stop existing? The thought doesn’t disturb you as much as it probably should.

It is while in the midst of this mortal self-exploration that the knob of the kitchen door begins to turn. It is nighttime and you cannot see beyond the reaches of the wan lamplight struggling through the living room doorway. You are too anxious, or perhaps too disillusioned, to hope that it might be someone worth getting excited over. You just watch as the door opens far too slowly, allowing the night’s gloom to bleed over the threshold, and don’t bother holding your breath for the bare foot that crosses it.

Had you been breathing, however, the air would certainly have caught in your throat a moment later as the hem of a painfully familiar fur-lined black coat sways into view. It is clinging to the shoulders of a man over whom you had spent far too much of your afterlife pining- fucking pining , like some kind of lovestruck dork- but who you are more relieved to see than you think you’re allowed to be.

God, but there he is, all lanky bare torso and fraught brown curls and looking more beautiful in a knee-length leather skirt than any person has the goddamn right to be, and you could just kiss the worry lines off his angelic face.

You’re two heartbeats from doing exactly that when the rest of him comes through the door, and that rest of him is draped over the muscular form of a slightly shorter man covered from the neck down in black leather. He looks like some kind of C-level Bond villain, his pathetic attempt at a high fade sticking up in a spiky black mop and his temple bearing a twisting scar that could use a few more layers of liquid latex. The harness fastened to his too-tight bodysuit (what kind of vigilante wears a turtleneck?) with its litany of sheathed knives is trying so hard to be Arnold but comes off more shoestring-budget Max Rockatansky.

You decide that you definitely don’t like him, a fact which has everything to do with his initial appearance and not at all related to the way Klaus is draped over his shoulders like a perturbed heiress over a velvet settee.

They limp gracelessly across the kitchen and into the living room, where the man deposits Klaus on the couch with irreverent care. The latter grins goofily as he settles against the cushions, and it is then that you notice the thick bandages wrapped around the lower part of his torso. The gauze is thickest at the places where blood had gushed from neat round bullet holes the last time he was in this apartment.

“Yer a real prince, Diego buddy. A real buddyroo. A scholar an’ a gentleman,” Klaus giggles. He reaches for the man’s arm to give it a friendly pat but misses and ends up awkwardly caressing his stomach.

The man- Diego- rolls his eyes. “Where’s your bathroom?” he asks.

Klaus waggles his hand in the vague direction of the hallway and the other man departs with another long-suffering eye roll. As soon as he’s gone, Klaus’s gaze swivels to you. Now that you’re really looking at him, his eyes appear distant and unfocused, like he’s not quite entirely here. Jesus, is he high? It’s almost certainly prescription painkillers from the hospital, but still. You know it’s a damn slippery slope from up there, even for someone without a record of substance addiction.

He raises a hand and quirks two fingers toward himself in what he seems to think is an incredibly suave come-hither gesture, but the motion just makes you sick. For the first time since he manifested in your apartment, you don’t want to go near him. He doesn’t feel like your Klaus. He feels like a cheap imitation, a caricature, a stranger. An intruder. A ghost.

When it becomes clear you’re not moving from your solitary spot by the doorway, he gives up and the hand drops into his lap. “Please don’t be mad at me,” he pouts. He sticks his lower lip out in a comical child-like imitation of sadness and you don’t want to kiss it away you don’t you don’t you don’t .

“I did my best,” he simpers. “I tried to come… to come back home to you.” His lips slide into a lighthearted grin. “And now I’m here, aren’t I?”

“Stop it.”

The chill frosting your own words startles even you, but you don’t want to take them back. He doesn’t get to go out and get shot and disappear for two weeks without even trying to contact you- fuck’s sake, he has the ability to possess people , he could at least send you a goddamned note. Hey, it’s me, Klaus! Just letting you know that I’m not dead! No need to mope around the house that you’re unable to leave because you’re a ghost and ponder your own mortality to avoid thinking about how fucking terrified you are for me!

And then to walk back in here with some edgy off-brand Clint Eastwood, not a whisper of acknowledgement of your existence, high off his fucking ass to boot-

Even given how goddamn furious you are right now, of all the ways this could have ended, obviously this scenario is preferable. Maybe that’s why you’re so angry, because you can be, because he’s alive and okay and there will be plenty of time to forgive him but right now you’re just really mad that he kept you waiting for nothing.

The sound of your own name warbled on his tongue melts a bit of the icy fortress you’ve built around yourself, but that’s all you have time for because Diego strolls back into the room. He’s clutching a damp ball of fabric and holding it away from himself like it’s a sack of something particularly foul and contagious.

“You don’t have any washcloths so I used one of your T-shirts,” he says. He perches on the cushion beside Klaus and uses the material to dab at the other man’s face. “You should really invest in some linens, man. I’m telling you, this place could really start to feel like an actual home if you just had a coupla hand towels or somethin’.”

“I’ll take that into consideration,” Klaus murmurs. His eyelids are sliding shut under the blissed-out haze of the medication.

Diego sighs and tosses the shirt over his shoulder like a busboy in some cheesy nineties sitcom. “Time for bed. Up you go,” he grunts as he tugs Klaus to his feet. You know firsthand how heavy the lithe young man can get when he’s sleepy.

You follow them down the hall to the bedroom, where Diego eases the other man onto the bed. He has to prop Klaus’s legs on the bedcovers because the damn moron is too out of it to move them himself. You try not to notice that the blanket is still tangled from where Ben had hastily yanked the sheet away to stem the blood from Klaus’s bullet wound.

“Alright. Well.” Diego looks like he’s about to shove his hands in his pockets before remembering that he doesn’t have pockets, and they end up awkwardly planted on his hips. “You’ll be okay for now, right? Just yell if you need me. I’ll be right down the hall.”

Klaus makes a vaguely affirmative sound and lifts his hand in what could resemble a dismissive wave. With one final glance at the sleeping man, Diego shakes his head and strides away down the hall. You don’t want to disturb Klaus from his slumber- goodness knows he deserves it after what he’s been through- so you settle into the beanbag and wait for him to wake.

Time passes more slowly, somehow. Perhaps before this you hadn’t truly appreciated how well the boys could make you forget about the progression of time at all. The house is too quiet without the distant clatter and crashing from Ben’s attempts at manifestation or Klaus’s obnoxious singing as he bops around the kitchen while he cooks. Even Thompson, who is still skittish around the living and tends to bark his little noggin off as soon as Klaus comes near him, is unusually silent as he curls up on the man’s feet like a furry little sentinel.

It seems that several eternities pass before the sun finally peeks its face high enough above the rooftops to curl its golden fingers against Klaus’s face. He wakes slowly, each part of him taking its time to rouse itself before he finally opens his eyes. A hand automatically jumps to shield himself from the sunlight, followed by a sharp intake of breath as he jostles the wound. The hand falls back to the mattress with a soft fwump .

It takes him several agonizing moments to finally notice you sitting there. He gives you a sleepy smile and a wave to match.

It doesn’t feel right to get up and go over to him, so you stay in place and wave cautiously in return. He does something with his hand that reminds you of somebody shaking a dead fish but which you translate to mean he wants you to come closer. Part of you is still miffed from everything that happened last night, but you reluctantly climb off the beanbag and cross the room, pausing at Klaus’s side.

“Closer,” he croaks, gesturing with his fingers. His voice is so hoarse you can barely hear it. You kneel down and with minimal apprehension lean toward him until your ear is millimeters away from his lips.

His breath washes over your skin as he opens his mouth to speak, and you can’t suppress the part of your brain that remembers the last time you were this close to him, in this bed. Your body stills, waiting for him to say something as the moment stretches on.

Something cold and wet stripes up your cheek, and you realize with disgust that he just licked you . You let out a horrified cry as you jerk back. You land gracelessly on your rump and immediately wipe the spittle from your skin.

“What the fuck , Klaus?” you snap.

He’s too wrapped up in laughing at his own prank to respond. The sound quickly turns into a flurry of guttural hacking, and his cracked lips look stretched to bleeding.

“I still got it,” he rasps. He lets out a few more wheezing chuckles before giving you a dismissive wave. “In all seriousness, dear one, now that we’ve established your temporary corporeality, could you be a sweetheart and fetch me some water? Quite parched.” The sugary-sweet smile he flashes your way says that there’s no getting away from the request.

You grumble a bit but do as asked, heaving yourself off the floor and heading off toward the kitchen. You peek cautiously into the other rooms on your way, but either this Diego dude is a really talented ninja or he bailed in the middle of the night, like you expected he would. You pluck a glass from the cabinet- it seems that you really have, temporarily gained corporeality. The moments have happened more often and lasted longer as you’ve practiced with the boys, but you’re not sure why your spirit chose this moment to manifest. Ah well. Gift horse, and all that.

You bring Klaus’s water back to the bedroom. His face illuminates when he sees you and his hand goes automatically to take the drink, but you hold it just out of his reach.

“I have a lot of questions,” you say, “and you’re going to answer every. Single. One. Understand?” You don’t miss the gooseflesh that rises on his arms as he nods obediently. You smother a quiet smirk. Still got it .

He drains the glass in seconds- moreso due to the fact that he clumsily spills it all over himself and the bed- but it seems to have sated his needs. He sets the empty glass on the floor and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand as he struggles into a raised position.

“Much better, thank you,” he sighs. A wave of pain overtakes his expression and a hand jumps to his side. “Ah, if I could ask one more favor…?”

You hold back the eye roll threatening to arise as you leave. The bathroom cabinet is half-ajar, and pulling it open you can see the bottle of painkillers on the middle shelf. At least, you assume that’s what they are; there is no label on the cobalt-blue bottle, but it’s the only one that you’re sure wasn’t there yesterday. Diego must have put it there before he left.

When you return with the bottle, Klaus’s expression is even brighter than before. He snatches it from your grip, unscrews the top, and tilts five pills into your hand. At a disapproving sound from you, he reluctantly slides two of the pills back into the bottle and dry-swallow the remainder.

“You’re a gem, you really are,” he says, settling back against the pillows with a contented grin. You notice that he’s shed his coat and is just wearing his boots and the fringed leather skirt. “Now, I believe I promised you answers.” He pats his thigh and winks at you. “Come sit on my lap and we can have a little chat, yes?”

“I don’t want to hurt you.” Your eyes can’t help jumping to the bandages wrapped around his torso.

“Then let me sit on your lap.”

“How about I sit here,” you say, shooing Thompson aside to take his spot at the end of the bed, “and you tell me what the fuck has been going on with you.”

He pouts in disappointment but soon loses himself in a dramatic retelling of the events. He tells you about the bar, the ghost who helped him cheat at poker (“He was practically a connoisseur and I’d never picked up a poker chip in my life! She just helped me even the playing field, so to- ow! Leave me alone!”), getting shot, then staggering the two blocks back to the apartment. You don’t need a recap of what happened after that.

The man, Diego, is his brother. Diego, according to Klaus, is something of a vigilante, and he heard about the shooting on a jacked police scanner. Once he arrived at the bar and heard a description of the victim, he knew it couldn’t be anyone else. He knew there was no way his brother was in any state to talk his way out of this the way he had every other life-threatening situation he’d ever faced, so Diego intercepted the ambulance and kidnapped Klaus (“What? I was unconscious, not like I could consent anyway, though I would have if- Christ, kid, stop hitting me!”).

That’s how they’d both ended up back at the Umbrella Academy. Probably not the family reunion either of them had been expecting, but they’d stumbled over that threshold in worse shape. You want to strangle Diego for snatching Klaus away from the safety of doctors and the sanitary hospital, but Klaus quickly reassures you that the contents of Reginald Hargreeves’s personal medical stock far surpass any you’d find in your average hospital.

Thankfully, the bullet had exited his abdomen and somehow managed not to damage any of his organs. One in ten million chance , they’d said. He was young and mostly healthy, and most anyone else in his situation would have been discharge-ready in one week at most. The rub had been the withdrawal.

Even just a few hours without any kind of substance- no drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes- can send someone into withdrawal. And Klaus, boy- it’d hit him hard. Grace had insisted on keeping him at the academy while he detoxed, both to keep him safe and prevent him from seeking out another fix. It had been a prison, he tells you, like the past thirteen years had never happened and he was a teenager trapped under his father’s thumb again. He would have done anything- really, anything- to escape. Thankfully, all he’d had to do was ask Diego.

After Klaus describes how Diego had stuck with him through the withdrawal, helped him with no judgement, even stole a bottle of Percocet from their father’s private stores (something you’re sure isn’t the best for a recovering addict, even one with a bullethole in his side, but you’re not there to judge), you find that you hate the man a little bit less. You don’t remember what it’s like to have a brother, or if you even had siblings when you were alive, but you know that you would overthrow Satan himself for Klaus, and anyone willing to go to that same length is okay in your eyes.

As for Ben, Klaus hasn’t seen him since the night he got shot. He’d tagged along in the ambulance, but that’s all Klaus remembers. Your stomach twists with worry at the thought of whatever horrible thing might have happened to Ben, but you conceal your fear for Klaus’s sake. At least you know that one Hargreeves brother is okay.

When Klaus finishes his retelling, he’s drained another two glasses of water, the painkillers have begun their work of lifting him into the clouds, and you’re halfway in his lap. He’s always handsy when he’s not sober, which is relatively often, but when he coaxes you toward him with gestures and caresses and needy whines sprinkled throughout his story, you can’t suppress the part of you that loves to indulge him. He’s like a spoiled puppy that fusses and gripes until he gets his way, and as much as you grumble you don’t really mind giving it to him.

After the tale is finished and his gorgeous green eyes are going hazy from the pills and you’re close enough to see the water droplets lingering on his chin (god you just want to lick them off his skin)- well.

You spent too much time worrying about whether you’d ever see him again to waste another fucking second not doing exactly what you both fucking want to do.

He laughs softly when your lips attack the side of his neck, the spot that you know makes him absolutely mad with desire any time you go near it. You’re careful not to hurt him, but he seems to have no such qualms as he snags your hips and tries to drag you fully onto his lap. Normally you’d smack him or stop touching him altogether for being so demanding, but it’s his day, so you let him have it. Your body fits so perfectly into his it’s like you were never apart at all. He whimpers when you grind against him over his skirt- he’s already at half-mast, god he must want it even more than you do- and his fingers clutch the fabric of your shirt like he’ll die if he lets you go.

He lets out a low whine and nudges your head with his chin, coaxing your face to his. Though you’d kiss his neck for fucking ever if he asked you to, you pry yourself away and raise your head just to be assaulted with a mind-numbing kiss. He tastes different, sweeter, though maybe it just feels that way after being denied his lips for so long. He tilts his head and presses against you with a hungry fervor that you recognize in yourself, that all-consuming need to be as physically close as you can to him, and you welcome it with an uninhibited moan. He jerks his hips so enthusiastically in response it’s like simply hearing the sounds of your enjoyment is enough to get him off.

You allow him to use you for his pleasure, grinding his cock against you in a needy rhythm while he sucks all the breath out of your body with his kiss. Even through two layers of clothing it feels fucking amazing. Quite honestly, you could probably be content with never having an orgasm for the rest of your life if you were allowed to inspire such a gorgeous reaction from this boy. Your boy. Your Klaus.

“Hey, man, I brought you some fresh gauze. Grace said to- fuck!”

You jerk apart at the unexpected intrusion of the third Hargreeves brother into the room. You waffle for a moment between shame and fear, until you realize that all Diego saw was his brother fondling empty air. But he’s looking right at you, and there’s that same confusion and terror warring in his eyes that you saw his brothers’ faces the first time you met them, and you realize that he can see you in the same moment that he shouts, “What the fuck?”

You glance at Klaus, whose gaze is jumping between you and Diego with a riot of emotions whirring over his face. You can see the wheels turning slowly to churn out a response, and what comes out is an uninspired, “You can see them?”

“No shit, I can see a complete stranger in your- fuck, man,” Diego sputters. “This is weird. I’m sorry, this is- this is fucking weird. Did you go out after I left you last night, or- or-”

“Deep breaths, Kraken,” Klaus says in the tone of voice you’d use to approach a snarling dog. “This is a… friend. We’re roommates. Of a sort.”

“Roommates?” Diego echoes. The half-explanation seems to calm him a bit, at least, because he leans against the wall with a weary huff. He tucks a lethal-looking dagger into his holster, and you realize that you’d never even noticed him take it out. Damn, this guy is scary.

“Yes. And if you’d just let me explain,” Klaus says, hands held up in an appeasing gesture, “I promise we can get this all-”

He doesn’t get to finish his sentence, because the room is suddenly filled with a burst of light like a camera flash but ten times as intense, and there’s a horrid tearing noise so loud and insidious it’s like reality itself is being ripped apart. Then there’s a thud, and you blink away the spots across your vision enough to discern the man now lying in a crumpled ball on the floor.

Ben ?” Diego cries.

Chapter Text

“Y’all better have a good fucking reason why my dead brother is sitting in front of me right now.”

The rage twisting Diego’s expression could wilt an oak tree with its power, but the accusatory finger he shoves in Klaus’s direction trembles with the underlying terror of a man confronted with his own brother’s horrific end after a decade of keeping his emotions locked in the steel trunk of his heart. A sane person might be terrified to be on the receiving end of that barrage of emotion, but Klaus appears unbothered, changing the dressings on his wound with the same air as if he was watering his plants.

Ben, for his part, seems completely ignorant of the scene for quite a different reason. He’s seated on the beanbag with his head buried in his arms, rocking back and forth in a quiet rhythm. His fingers dig into his the fabric of his sweatshirt like it’s the only thing anchoring him to reality. What you can see of his skin is blanched and sallow. 

Klaus peels the bloodied gauze away from his wound and you have to quickly yank your eyes away to avoid the twin bullet holes in his skin. He tears open an iodine patch from the little bag of medical necessities Diego had brought and dabs away the gore on his side.

“Do try to keep up, Number Two. I’ve been able to see Ben since he… left us.” He casts an empathetic glance at the mess of his ghostly brother. “We’ve been staying here for around a month. This hot little number,” he bobs his head toward you, “has graciously allowed us to take residence in their former home.”

Diego’s mouth twists into a scowl as he struggles to summon the proper words. He strikes you as a man unused to a ready munition of witty quips. “They’ve been… letting you.”

“I mean, we weren’t going to just start living here, it being already occupied and everything,” Klaus says in a duh kind of tone.

Diego still looks lost, but he summons a veneer of authority to mask it. “You mean you’ve been living here,” his jabbing finger makes a wide rotation to indicate the apartment, “all by yourself, doing god knows what to get by-”

“Don’t be rude, Diego. They may be dead, but they can still hear you, you know,” Klaus scoffs.

That’s the one that seems to do it for him. Diego’s mouth falls open with an audible pop and his arms fall slack at his sides. Protestations flounder on his lips but all that escapes is a series of disconnected syllables.

Klaus gives his brother the kind of glance characteristic of a child who has finally discovered something that they know more about than the adults. With an impatient sigh, he points to you and says with blunt finality, “Dead.” His finger swivels in Ben’s direction and he repeats, “Dead.” He points to himself. “Alive. Technically homeless. More or less sober, if we’re talking legality. And perfectly content with living in a state of perpetual hedony, thank you very much sir.

Diego looks like he’s either about to start yelling or crying, but it’s Ben’s voice that cuts through the uncomfortable atmosphere.

“I’ve been watching over him,” he says. He’s removed his head from the safety of his sweatshirt and his eyes are rimmed with violet shadows. “Been making sure he doesn’t OD, not that I could’ve done much to help him even if he did, but it helps, you know.” He takes a deep breath, eyes fixed on the weathered floorboards. “Neither of us was ever really alone.”

“And what about you?” Your body gives an involuntary jerk when you realize that you are now the focus of Diego’s ire. He’s glaring at you like you just murdered his puppy, but you notice that he doesn’t move any closer to you. Though his body is tense with rage, it’s bowed somewhat away from you, almost like he’s… afraid? You can’t tell with him, though.

“W-what about me?” you choke out. You know that Klaus and Ben wouldn’t allow him to hurt you, but something about the various daggers tucked into the man’s utility belt tells you he’s not one to be easily driven from a target.

“Who are you? What’s your name? Why are you here? What do you want with my brothers?” He spits the questions in a rapid-fire rhythm that leaves you spinning.

Klaus has finished changing the dressings on his wound and places a gentle hand on your shoulder. “You don’t need to tell him anything you’re not comfortable sharing.” He shoots a poisonous glare at his brother. “After all, he is technically an intruder.”

Diego snorts and rolls his eyes. “Classic Klaus. Can’t stand allowing someone to know a single goddamn thing about his life.” His lip curls up in a sneer. “Even his own family.”

“Hey! Don’t talk to me about- ow - family.” Klaus hisses in pain as he rises and takes a step toward his brother. “When I was out there on my own, you wouldn’t lift your pinky finger to help me out. It took a fucking ghost to get me to a place where I felt loved and safe enough to at least try getting sober.” He steps close enough to jab a finger into Diego’s chest as the latter looks on open-mouthed. “So I hope you enjoy the view from up on your high fuckin’ horse, ‘cause I’ve got much better company down here.”

The phantoms of his words cluster the room, bleeding discomfort out of its occupants like sponges. You subconsciously find yourself seeking out Diego, waiting for the inevitable explosion. His hand is clenching and unclenching at his side like it’s struggling to decide whether or not it wants to become a fist. You can see a vein pulsing in his temple beneath the meandering scars which appear even paler in the early morning light.

Finally, his hand falls slack and he shakes his head slowly.

“You do what you want, Klaus. You always have.” There is a grave finality to his voice, a note of defeat, like he’s had this conversation too many times and can’t summon the energy to keep the fight going. With a final, sorrow-heavy glance at Ben, he turns and stomps out of the room.

None of you speaks until the sound of the kitchen door slamming shut echoes through the apartment. Klaus lets out a breath delirious with a note of hysterical laughter.

“I really thought he was gonna punch my lights out,” he giggles. He swings around and flops back onto the bed, and a pained gasp punches out of his lungs as he jostles his wound. “Looks like I’m not quite up to fighting condition yet,” he sighs.

With Diego went all of the tension clogging the air, and in his absence you can finally breathe again. With the return of your faculties comes a sudden, bone-clenching fury, and before you can fully register your actions you’re smacking Klaus’s leg hard enough to make him yelp.

“Don’t! Ever! Do! That! Again!” you shout with every blow. He winces but does nothing to stop you. When your initial bout of rage loses steam and your fists fall slack upon the bedcovers, you realize that hot tears are pushing their way out of your eyes. Not the illusion of tears, but real, salty, burning, wet tears clouding your vision before spilling over your cheeks and dripping onto the mattress. Your lower lip is curling against your will and it takes every ounce of your willpower not to break out into enormous, ugly sobs.

Then Klaus places a gentle hand over your fist, and that’s enough to topple the last of your brick wall of resolve. Your breath comes in great, heaving gasps thick with hysterical sobs and your eyes squeeze shut against the onslaught of angry tears. Klaus doesn’t say anything when you allow him to pull you against his chest, and if you weren’t so goddamned relieved that he’s okay you would be embarrassed at the amount of snot and eye leakage you’re getting all over him.

He wraps an arm around your shoulders and snakes his hand into your hair, stroking along your scalp in a soothing rhythm. His chin rests atop your head and you can hear him humming a distantly familiar tune. The words swim up through your memory like an old friend. Lean on me when you’re not strong…

Slowly, your breaths turn to watery hiccups, then steady until you no longer feel like your head is full of air. Klaus’s scent surrounds you like a down blanket, sweat and sleep and the lingering whisper of a body wash that you don’t recognize. It tugs you back down to Earth, whispers that it’s going to be okay and soothes the anxious wrinkles in your mind.

“I’m still mad at you,” you mumble into his chest when you can finally speak without crying. He just laughs, a high, carefree sound, and combs his fingers through your hair.

When you finally extract yourself from his hold, you wipe the lingering moisture from your eyes and release a pitiful sniffle, eyes fixed on the worn floorboards to avoid Klaus’s gaze. He wipes the remnants of your crying jag from his chest with the corner of a pillowcase and lies back down, patting the spot next to him in an inviting manner, but you’re rooted to the mattress.

Your limbs stiffen when you see Ben’s feet cross your field of vision and then feel the mattress dip beside you. Your pinkies are just millimeters apart on the stained fabric but he doesn’t touch you, doesn’t break the fragile bubble you’ve reconstructed around yourself. When he speaks, his voice is jarring in the precarious quiet.

“Where I went,” he says softly, “there was nothing. Like, actually nothing. It wasn’t purgatory, it wasn’t the astral plane, it was just miles and miles of the complete absence of anything.” He sucks in a shaky breath. “It was horrible. Like being constantly on the verge of falling asleep, but knowing that there’s a terrible nightmare waiting for you as soon as you do. I was so tired, but I was petrified of closing my eyes. I was so, so tired.”

He places his hand over yours. “I don’t know why I was there. But in all that time, all I could think about was you, and how much I needed to get back to you.” He squeezes your hand gently. “Because you are my family now. I didn’t want to fall asleep if it meant I wouldn’t get to see your smile when I woke up. Eternal peace would be fucking worthless to me if I didn’t get to share it with you.”

Your skin burns with a strange kind of sensation, embarrassment at the intimacy of his admission coupled with a soaring excitement. You force yourself to meet his eyes and are nearly knocked back by the intensity of the emotion inside them. It’s such a striking contrast to the dewey innocence that used to bely his gaze, like he’s stripped away the outer facade and you’re staring straight into the roiling guts of his deepest vulnerabilities.

When his hand cups the side of your face, there is no hesitation, no remnant of the fear he’d expressed the last time you’d kissed. There is just a determination, a peace with the inevitability of eternity, and a need to act upon the desires which he’d been too meek to admit to before. Brushing with oblivion can do that to a person.

You let his kiss overwhelm you, reveling in the heat that erupts from the place where your lips meet. Salty tears flavor the kiss, yours or his you cannot tell, his fingers dig into your cheek to guide you closer and you want nothing but to absolutely devour him.

Your focus is shattered when another pair of lips brushes over your shoulder, pressing careful pecks along your skin until they reach the curve where your shoulder meets your neck. Then the kisses start to sting, bits of teeth like blunt needles massaging your flesh and you can feel yourself melting into the touch. A body presses against your back, holding you between the twin sets of lips ravishing your skin, fingers pressing possessively into your hips.

Hands- you should do something with your hands. You fight through the rosy haze of arousal clouding your mind to reach behind you, feeling for something you can use to leverage your position. Your hands find a leather-clad thigh that trembles at the brush of your fingers over the sinewy muscles. You find your spot and stay there, teasing the yearning flesh with steady strokes just on the edge of not enough. Klaus breathes out a huff of impatience against your neck and you feel the triumph warm your chest.

Your other hand locates Ben’s knee and plays with him over his jeans, ambles its way up his thigh this close to the seam of his pants where a fairly impressive boner is already beginning to form. The kiss grows messy, laced with short breaths and reedy whines as you shatter his concentration. His hands trembles against your cheek but he does not seem in any mood to move it, just to allow you to continue dragging your fingertips over the growing tent in his pants with careful dominance.

Klaus shuffles closer to you on the bed until his back is flush with yours, and warmth rushes through you when you feel his erection pressing against your ass. He gives a few tentative movements, and when you don’t do anything to stop him, he begins to freely grind his cock against your backside. His arms slide around your middle in a possessive embrace and his teeth leave your neck so he can rest his chin on your shoulder. His whiny panting breaths puff against your ear in time with the motions of his hips against your body.

“S-so… good… to me,” he grunts. The warmth of his breath against your cheek sends pleasant vibrations thrumming through your center. Your grip tightens on his thigh, nails digging into his flesh as deep as you know he can take it, encouraging him to take his pleasure.

Ben’s eyes are shut tight but you can see the effect the scene is having on him as he deepens the kiss, dipping his tongue into your mouth to sate his thirst for you. He’s too perfect of a boy to grind against your hand without permission, but from the way his thighs quake under your touch you can tell that god does he want to.

A naughty idea slithers into your brain, an idea so perfectly enticing that there’s no way you can’t act on it. The hand on Ben’s thigh diverts its course, cups his groin with a sudden smooth motion and the boy’s reaction is immediate. He gasps into your mouth, hot and needy, nails scraping over your cheek as he cries out in pleasure. He pulls away from the kiss and stares at you with hungry, grief stricken eyes, already so needy from the torture before you’ve even gotten his dick out. He really is too perfect for you.

“Enough,” you snap. The order is accompanied by a small smack to Klaus’s thigh. He gives a yelp at the sudden pain, and reluctantly extracts himself from you.

It’s harder to stand up than you thought it would be- partly because your legs are still shaking from the heat of the kiss, and partly because every cell in your body is screaming at you to stay with them. What you have planned, however, will make everything worth it.

You place your hands on your hips and give them your most dominant glare. God but they look so perfect, lips kiss-flushed and eyes teary with desire. “I will be right back,” you tell them. You turn your gaze on Ben, who shrinks back slightly even as he bites his lip with need. “If you’re still dressed when I return, I’ll edge you for a week.”

The eagerness with which he starts to rip off his sweatshirt makes you giggle, but you disguise the sound as you turn and exit the room. You head to the kitchen and rifle through the drawers for something Klaus had bought some time ago, fully intending to use it, and then promptly forgot among the miscellaneous cooking supplies. You finally locate it at the back of a lower drawer- a neat, unopened ball of cooking twine.

When you reenter the bedroom, the boys are sitting beside each other on the bed, Klaus swinging his legs in gleeful excitement and Ben fiddling uncertainly with his hands. His clothes lie strewn over the floor, all except for his briefs which still cling to his slim hips. As soon as he sees you and the object you’re holding, his skin turns a deep shade of tomato but he sticks out his chin bravely. 

“I wasn’t sure if you wanted my underwear to stay on too,” he says, clearly trying to disguise the tremor in his voice, “so I thought maybe-”

“Shh, baby,” you hush him. You quickly cross the room and cup his cheek in one hand, brushing a gentle thumb over his skin. He closes his eyes and leans into your touch gratefully. “You did perfect, Ben. Such a good boy.”

“What about me?” Klaus whines. “I’m already shirtless and you didn’t even have to ask!’

“You’re always shirtless,” you retort.

“Touche.”

You direct them to sit on the bed with their backs to each other, then use the twine to fasten their wrists behind their backs. “Ben should be just fine, since, you know, he’s already dead,” you say, “but Klaus, yours is a bit looser so as not to cut off your circulation.” You grab his chin and jerk his face up to look him straight-on. “Don’t give me a reason to make it any tighter.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, sunshine,” he says with a wink.

You snort and toss his head to the side. He’s still wearing that outdated leather skirt- heaven knows where he got it, but it’ll work just fine for your purposes. You climb into his lap and grind against his boner which hasn’t flagged a bit since you left him. He gives you an open-mouthed grin teeming with mischief, though you can see the way his jaw ticks with anticipation.

You drag one finger over his cheek, relishing his warmth and the scratch of his dark stubble. You bring your lips to his forehead and inhale the foreign scent of his shampoo and the perfume of his skin, letting it wash through you, pressing him into the pages of your memory like a dried-up forget-me-not. You kiss away the furrow between his eyebrows, the tip of his nose, one cheek and then the other with an affection and reverence akin to a god delivering blessings upon a pliant devotee.

You can feel the tremors miles below his skin, in a softer, darker part of him to which he rarely devotes his attention. When your lips reach his, he stretches up a bit to meet the kiss and you can tell that he shares your dread and relief, that the tremors are calling out to be quenched by your love. The kiss is a demand and a request and a prayer and a promise.

You would give them all to him, everything, anything at all.

Neither of you breaks the kiss, it just… ends. And then you are invading each other’s air, foreheads pressed together, trembling breaths spilling over one another’s cheeks and without words you know that he understands how far you would go for him.

It is not quite so painful to draw back, knowing that that understanding lingers between you. You cup his chin and tilt his head to one side, examining the jut of his crooked nose, the hollow beneath his stark cheekbone. His eyeliner is smudged in a way that should not be as alluring as it is. You want to remember all of it, print him like a tattoo on your soul so you never have to forget the graceful arch of his throat or the messy brown curls that fall across his forehead like a broken halo.

His angular lips slide into a playful grin. “You just gonna look at me all day, or are you going to help a man out?” He rolls his hips to grind his still-very-present erection against you and smirks around his teeth digging into his lower lip.

A burst of warmth blossoms in your heart, because that is just so very Klaus and nothing he does could ever really upset you. He’s ever the yeasayer, the catalyst, allergic to emotional tension and always armed with a terrible sexual innuendo to get the party going. As nice as it is to just sit and commit every piece of him to memory, you’d be lying if you said that you weren’t ready to get onto the fun stuff too.

You press one more gentle kiss to his lips, one he tries to break with a teasing tongue and biting teeth; but when you grab a fistful of his messy curls and yank , his mouth flies open on a needy moan and his body bows toward you.

Thirteen ,” you hiss into his mouth. “ Thirteen days you were away from me. How did you think that made me feel?” You twist the hand in his hair and he lets out a feeble whimper. “I was so scared I could- I could kill you , Klaus.”

“S- sor-”

“Don’t fucking say that you’re sorry. We both know it wouldn’t change anything.” You give his hair another solid tug, this time accompanying it with a hard grind against his straining erection, and the sob that falls from his trembling lips is something straight out of a devilish hymn. “You don’t deserve me. You don’t get a reward for coming back to me.”

It’s dangerous territory, you know. While most of it is played up for the sake of the scene- you had warned him how mean you could get- there is an edge of truth to the words that’s difficult to keep out of your voice. You know that Klaus feels guilty for leaving even if it was out of his control, but goddammit the sting of his absence still lingers on your heart.

The way he reacts to your words, though, the effect seems almost therapeutic. He leans into the admonishments like lashes, like a penitent desperate to flagellate himself on the altar of your forgiveness. And you want to forgive him. Want the words to stop being true.

Want him to understand that you’d go thirteen lifetimes without seeing him if it meant he was safe.

He whimpers and wriggles beneath your lap, tugs against the hand caught tight in his hair, lips floundering on a beating chorus of yesyesyesyes as he wallows in the pleasure. Your free hand catches his chin, jerks his face to yours at the same time your other hand gives his hair another good tug, causing his eyes to fly open and latch onto yours. They’re as deep a green as the ocean of vulnerability pounding against the floodwalls he’s constructed around his emotions, and they suck you in like a fucking riptide.

“I’m thinking thirteen spanks should do it. One for every day you left me alone,” you say aloud. Your eyes are locked onto Klaus’s, which widen in an expression that on anyone else would look something akin to innocence. On him, though, it just looks like expectation. You squeeze his jaw. “What do you think, Ben?”

Up to then, Ben had remained so quiet that had he not been in your line of sight you could easily have forgotten he was there. Whether he’d kept up the silence to allow you and Klaus some measure of privacy, or because he was too uncomfortable with the exchange to comment on it- the poor boy was barely toe-deep in the sexual deviancy that accompanied the kind of humiliation you were lavishing on his brother- you can’t be sure.

His shoulders tense at the sound of his name. “I- I think…” His voice warbles, but he’s trying to keep up that brave facade, trying to sound more confident than he truly is. “I think that sounds like a great idea.”

You let go of Klaus’s chin to give his cheek a playful slap. “Hear that, darling? Even sweet little Ben agrees with me.” You lean forward until your lips are close enough to his ear that your teeth scrape his skin. “ I think you and I are on a bad influence on him.

Without allowing him time to reply, you slide off his lap- giving him another light slap on the arm when he moans at the loss of the pressure against his erection- and give him an appraising glance-over. His lips are parted in perfect little breathy pants, hair messy with flyaway tangles, an obvious tent in the fabric of his skirt. He looks fucking wrecked , and you haven’t even gotten started.

“Ben, dear,” you murmur, stepping close to him. He meets your eyes with more courage than he has, as evidenced from the fluttering of his pulse in his neck and the bloody teeth marks in his lower lip. You don’t miss the significant bulge in his briefs, or the way his breathing quickens when he sees you eyeing it.

“Oh, my,” you breathe. He casts his eyes down in shame, a pink flush rising on his cheeks, but he doesn’t shrink from your gaze.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles. “I was just… I could hear what you were doing to him, and thinking about… how I want you to,” he swallows hard, “to touch me.”

“Oh, Ben, honey. You don’t need to be ashamed.” You trace a gentle finger over his chest, letting it meander down between his pecs, teasing along the trail of hair leading to the waistband of his briefs. “I’m impressed that you’re holding it together so well.”

“That’s not going to last much longer if you k-keep doing that,” he huffs.

You give him a teasing laugh. You haven’t even touched him, finger stopped a good three inches from the base of his dick, but there’s already a damp mark on his briefs where he’s leaking precum.

“I know you can keep trying. Such a good boy for me,” you reply, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek.

Klaus has grown antsy from the lack of attention and is trying to wiggle his hips in a pointless bid for friction against his dick. You cuff the back of his head and he fixes you with a glare.

“Ow! The hell was that for?” he snaps.

“On your knees. Now,” you reply. The venom in your voice immediately wipes the disobedience from his face.

He struggles to get himself from a sitting position to kneeling with his hands still bound behind his back. Ben peeks over his shoulder to see what’s holding him up and giggles when he sees his brother trying vainly to adjust himself without jostling his boner. Klaus shoots him a poisonous snarl.

“You don’t have much room to talk, Mister Premature Ejaculation,” he snaps. The effect of his words is diminished somewhat by the fact that his face is pressed against the window to try and maintain his balance while he attempts to adjust his ridiculously long legs.

“At least I know how to listen,” Ben shoots back. “Remind me again how many spankings you’re going to get because you couldn’t keep your hand off your dick for five fucking minutes.”

“He wet the bed until he was sixteen, you know,” Klaus tells you.

“Dude, low blow!”

“That’s enough ,” you snap. The brothers immediately fall silent.

You snarl your hand in Klaus’s curls and lean right up to his face. “Ben paid his dues. I won’t hear another word from you about any of his shortcomings, got it?”

Klaus snorts and rolls his eyes. “No pun intended, I assume?” You shove his face harder into the glass and he relents with a shout. “Alright, alright! Message received,” he yells.

Without further comment, you use your grip on his hair to tug him forward and shove his face into the mattress. It’s not the most graceful way to handle it, but when you let go, Klaus is face-down on his knees with his hands bound behind his back and his ass presented neatly for your usage.

You run a hand reverently along his spine, admiring the question-mark curve ending with his pert little behind still covered by the skirt. You seize the waistband and tug it down to pool around his knees. Jesus, even this man’s backside manages to look angelic when he’s lying so beautiful and pliant beneath you.

“Easy on the merchandise, will ya? I just got it waxed,” he says, voice muffled by the mattress. 

And, of course, he knows just how to ruin a mood. You give one cheek a quick slap to chastise him.

“Ah- one,” he gasps. “You wanted me to count them, right?”

“Yes, I did, but that one didn’t count. That was just for being a dick,” you reply.

He shrugs as well as he can in this position. “Fair.”

You rub over his backside in soothing strokes, prepping him for the pain about to come his way. “You remember your safeword?” you ask him.

He nods. “Reginald,” he grumbles disdainfully.

“Ew. Nice safeword, but ew ,” Ben says.

You card your fingers through his hair. “Ben, dear, you can watch if you’d like,” you say in a saccharine hum.

He gives a curt nod, sliding right back into the scene as he wiggles a bit to get a better vantage point. His lip is bright red from how hard he’s been biting it, and you can see the muscles in his thighs trembling from how badly they need something to rut against.

You give Klaus’s ass one final, sweet caress. Then you rear your hand back and bring it down again with a satisfying slap.

His entire body jerks forward, but with his face smushed into the mattress and his arms tightly bound he has nowhere to go. His cock twitches with interest and a guttural moan squeezes through his clenched teeth.

One ,” he hisses desperately.

You don’t give him time to come down from the pain of the first spank before you’re moving onto the next one.

Ow - same cheek, really? Two,” he groans.

“The more to hurt you with, my dear,” you say with a teasing grin.

You deliver two more spanks to the same cheek before taking pity on him and switching to the other one. Despite his protestations, Klaus doesn’t seem bothered whatsoever by the activity; really, calling it a punishment is a stretch. His voice trembles on every number, floating on waves of desperate, hungry  moans. He pushes back into the strikes, needy, begging for the pain in the shaking of his taut muscles and the puddle of precum gathering below his cock.

You’re careful to keep the dirty talk safe, veering away from the humiliation in favor of naughty praise. You know how much Klaus craves the degradation, but it would be too easy for it to become a tool of self-flagellation. You’ve no interest in being the blade he cuts himself on; you forgave him the moment he walked through your door alive.

You’re up to spank number seven when Ben begins to squirm. He wants so badly to obey your unspoken instruction to stay still, but his legs are easing closer together, rolling his hips to grind his dick between his thighs. His teeth strangle his lower lip as he tries to muffle the needy whines welling in his throat.

You pause and rub the cheek you’ve been working on, to which Klaus gives a hum and relaxes a bit into the mattress. Ben, on his side of the bed, shrinks away from the disappointed glare you shoot him.

“Do you need to be punished, too, Ben?” you say evenly.

“Well- it’s not- you didn’t say I couldn’t-”

“And you were doing so well up until now,” you sigh. You straighten up and stand in front of Ben. He’s trembling, and you know that part of it is from fear but the twitching in his underwear tells you that he’s also really enjoying the harsh flip side of the praise you normally shower upon him.

When you place your hands on his knees, he releases a broken half-sob and starts to squirm away before remembering not to move. You tug his knees apart, almost as far as he can stand it, until he has to slouch back against the window and press his feet flat against the mattress to avoid sliding off the bed.

“If you move without my express permission, you won’t have to worry about not cumming,” you murmur. His watery dark eyes glance up at you beneath his eyelashes, somehow innocent and terrifically alluring at once. “Because I’ll make you cum so many times you’ll lose count. Over, and over, until you’re begging me to stop touching you, and still I’ll wring every drop of cum from your pathetic cock until you can’t fucking breathe .” You give his cheek a friendly tap. “Okay?”

He nods with silent awe.

He’d do it. He’d let you do it. God, how he’d beg for the torture to end and yet silently revel in every miserable wave of overstimulation you’d inspire.

He’d do it for you. He’d do anything for you.

You return your attention to Klaus and his steadily reddening ass. You run a hand over the tender flesh, which elicits a pathetic moan. “Six more, baby. Think you can take it?”

He licks his lips and fixes you with an alluring grin, the effect of which is diminished little by the sweaty curls sticking to his face and the shadows of ruined eyeliner blurring his skin. “Never better, darling.”

He leans into the spanks, craves them like a dying man craves air, begs for them with pretty words and prettier moans spilling over swollen lips. His fingers twitch and tug against the restraints, the need to touch you stronger than the temptation of any drug. He pants open-mouthed into the sheets which are sticky from his sweat and spit and cum and he loves it, revels in the filth, the depravity of it all. His cock hangs utterly neglected between his shaking thighs, bright red and dribbling precum and so very close to orgasm; nothing has ever felt so wonderful, so purely good as this sweet torture.

And yet, it’s still. Not. Enough.

The final slap rings through the room, and with a grateful “Thirteen!” Klaus slumps over onto his side. He lets out a pathetic cry as his dick brushes against the mattress on the way down- god, he’s such a needy slut for you.

You press gentle caresses to his aching behind, tugging off the skirt the rest of the way and climbing onto the bed behind him so you can card your fingers through his damp curls. Ben watches with yearning and pure desperation in his tight expression, his body begging to disobey and just grind down into the bed, but that’s not how the game goes. He’s a good boy, your good boy, and he’ll be patient. He’ll wait his turn.

When Klaus’s breathing has eased and he appears more or less coherent, you help him roll onto his back and give one of his nipples a light pinch. The moan that drifts out of his throat hits your brain like an alcoholic buzz, fuzzy and beautiful. You pet his thigh in sympathy.

“What a good boy. Took your punishment so well for me,” you murmur. You tease one finger over the base of his dick and watch his spine seize up, teeth clenched around a desperate groan. You turn your gaze on Ben, who looks like he’s seconds from tearing free of his own restraints and absolutely devouring you. “What do you think, Ben? Does he deserve a treat for doing so well?”

Ben huffs in annoyance- he’s jealous. You stroke a hand over his cheek, and he closes his eyes to enjoy the sensation of your touch. “Don’t worry, dearest. You’re doing so well, just hold on a bit longer and you’ll get your reward, okay?”

He kisses your fingertips as you take your hand away. You turn around to hide your smile.

“Now, what to do with you?” you hum as you look over Klaus’s prone body.

He rolls his hips and gives you a stare burning with anticipation. “Preferably retie my hands in a slightly more comfortable position,” he says, quirking one eyebrow, and god he has to know what that simple motion does to you. “Not a demand , of course. Simply a request. Hope you’ll…” He makes a show of dragging his gaze over your entire body as he licks his lips. “...take it under consideration.”

You sit back and stroke a hand over your chin, carefully burning every particle of his body into your memory. He took his punishment like the most perfect little deviant, like the hungry, desperate thing he truly is. Watching him fills you with a kind of power that you’ve so infrequently gotten since you died. And here he is, laying himself before you like a suppliant before the altar, offering you freedom and dominance and unconditional trust, and you can only wonder what you did in life to afford this kind of blessing.

You trails your fingers up both of his calves, mapping your touch across his skin, feeling the soul-deep tremors rocketing through his body. You want him to associate you with the morning sunshine filtering through the filthy bay windows and an old mattress with just a comforter and no sheets, with rough twine digging into his wrists and reddening handprints seared into his flesh. You want to be solidified in his memory, too.

It’s a struggle for him to keep his eyes open and fixed on you when your hands near his groin. His teeth worry a dent in his bottom lip and he fights to keep his eyes from just rolling back at the sensation, but god does he try for you. Obedience is such a pretty color on him.

“Do you recall,” you murmur as your fingers trace dizzying patterns over his thighs and stomach, “the last time we were in this room together, like this?” You glance over your shoulder at his woefully neglected brother, who’s watching you with lust struck awe. “With Ben?” The latter shudders under the power in your gaze.

“Mmf,” he mumbles. Your nails dig into his sensitive inner thigh and his head jerks up. “I mean, yeah. Yeah, that was good,” he says.

You trail a finger over his balls and he sucks in a quivering breath. “And do you remember what you did?” Your hand twists and clamps his balls in an inescapable grip. The wail that tears out of his lungs could have been torn from the tar pits of hell, so sweet and dripping with sin.

Why do I have to punish you?

His next breath escapes in a wet sob, there are tears in his eyes and jesus he’s actually crying . Not the overwhelmed, in-too-deep kind of crying where he’s too hysterical to use his safeword, but honest, angelic, cleansing tears of pain and gratitude. He’s rubbing his soul against the sandpaper of your sin and it’s rough, it hurts , but he’s going to come out the other side shiny and clean as a garden after a heavy rainfall.

When he takes too long to answer, or perhaps doesn’t yet realize that your question requires an answer, you give his balls another twist. Not too far, just enough for him to handle, and god how you revel in the euphoric bliss that flies from his lips.

“B-because,” he gasps, voice heavy with tears. “I’m… I-”

“Tell me why you’re being punished,” you snarl, twisting your hand once more. His eyes squeeze shut in exhilaration.

“Because I came without permission,” he sobs. He sucks in a slow, shaky breath. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry-”

“And why did you come without permission?”

He turns his head and tries to burrow into the pillows, but there’s nowhere for him to go. He is bound, truly under your control, and you won’t let him hide from you. Your free hand snags in his hair and pulls at the same time that your other hand gives a vicious squeeze, and the scream that rends itself from his throat sounds painful, ragged, but it’s exactly what he needs right now.

“Because I’m a useless slut who can’t control my own cock, and I need you to do it for me,” he gasps.

That hits you like a punch to the chest. It worms through the bars of your ribcage and constricts around your heart, guts you like an animal, scoops out all your dirty insides until there’s nothing left but your heart staggering to the beat of his name. Klaus… Klaus… Klaus… 

You take your hands away and scoot back before you absolutely devour him. His body collapses back against the mattress and doesn’t he just look the picture of sin: back bowed against his hands still tied beneath him, chest rising with great, heaving breaths, muscles quivering with the rush of euphoria in his veins. His poor balls are a painful-looking scarlet, but god, the way his cock is twitching every few seconds and glistening with rivulets of precum- you’d be hard-pressed to call this a punishment at all.

He whines when you start to manhandle him, but you shush him with feathery pecks along his cheeks and he allows you to help him back into a sitting position against the alcove wall. He looks at you with teary eyes hazy with bondage and painkillers, framed by dripping eyeliner and lavender hollows from too many nights of too little sleep, bird’s-nest curls framing his gaunt features like a halo of thorns. You want to kiss away all the little chips in his mask, bleed his past from his bones and leave him hollow and shiny and clean. You want to be the only thing he remembers.

You plant your hands on his knees and yank them apart as far as they can comfortably go, breathing in the heady gasp that leave his lips at your commanding touch. You cup his chin with a grip startlingly gentle in comparison and tilt his face to yours.

“Greedy sluts who can’t follow directions don’t get to cum,” you say gently, almost kindly. Your hand trails down his throat, over the layers of necklaces he always wears. It pauses at the metal cross that sits dead-center- you’re pretty sure it’s supposed to be ironic- the charm is heavier than you expected, but it sits on a cord of thick black nylon, perfect for your uses. You slip it up over his head.

You force yourself not to look at his face as you work, because you’re pretty sure that if you look at him right now you’ll just want to end this game and spend the day drowning him in sweet kisses and that isn’t what he needs right now. He needs you to be mean, to show him your sharp edges. So you avoid looking at his face and instead focus on treasuring the beautiful little whimpers that escape his lips as you wrap the necklace around his cock and slowly, slowly ease it down toward the base.

It’s not quite the right size, perhaps just a bit too tight, but the guttural groan that rushes out of him when you’ve got the makeshift cockring fastened around his balls tells you that he has no qualms about it. He strains forward to chase your mouth with his own and you let him, because he’s being so fucking good for you and he deserves this. Klaus deserves wonderful things, and you’re perfectly ecstatic to give them to him.

When you pull apart, a string of spit connects your lips to his. He smiles at you through the haze of pleasure and darts a tongue out to graze your mouth, laps up the filth and savors it on his tongue. His cupid’s-bow lips are pink and slick with heavenly sin.

“Oh, thank you,” he moans. He grits his teeth and tilts his head back, rolling his hips against empty air, reveling in the denial of his own release. “Thank you, thank you, thank you …”

You gently bop his nose with one finger. “My pleasure,” you reply.

With one brother wholly restrained, you’re free to return your attention to the other. Ben is still leaning against the window with his feet planted on the cushion to keep himself upright, the fabric of his briefs is taut against his straining erection, his lower lip permanently chapped with bloody teeth marks. He sags in relief when he realizes it’s his turn now.

“Poor, sweet, neglected little Ben.” Your voice drips with saccharine syrup. You trail a finger over his quivering thigh and just that slight touch is enough to make him gasp out a breath trembling with suppressed desire. “What a perfect boy you are. You’ve been waiting so patiently, haven’t you?” He marvels at you with hazy eyes as he nods in agreement.

“It hurts,” he moans. You can feel the twitching in his muscles, the need to rub up against you and Anti his release, but he resists it with inhuman strength.

You trace your finger over the seam of his briefs, skip right over his dick and start down the other thigh, and you can hear the disappointed whine low in Ben’s throat.

“I know, baby, I know. You’re doing so well,” you hush him. You pause to squeeze the meat of his thigh and he lets out a warbling, high-pitched moan.“What do you want me to do, dearest?”

He swallows audibly. “C-can you kiss me? Please?”

Well, how can you say no when he asks so politely?

You’re not gentle with him, not in the slightest, but kissing Ben is different than kissing Klaus. It’s softer, more about worship than war, savoring each other’s tastes rather than competing to see who can get the other off more quickly. You let yourself enjoy the simple wonder of kissing him, the meeting of soft lips and searching tongues, breathing in all the perfect little sounds in his throat.

Your hand trails back up his thigh in a dizzying path toward his cock, but you’re startled when Ben pulls away with a gasped, “Wait.”

So you do, hand hovering over the bulge in his briefs, terrified that you’ve done something to scare him off and he’ll never want to talk to you again- but he isn’t invoking the safeword, and he’s looking at you like a divine being come to Earth, so you lean back with an indulgent smile and reach up to stroke his cheek.

“What is it, sweetness?” you coo. His eyes slide half-closed under your touch, but he forces them open as he starts to speak.

“I want to- to last… longer for you,” he chokes out. “And if you keep touching me there, I… I definitely won’t.”

The need in his quavering voice is a fierce companion to the ferocity with which his burning pupils rake over you. It hits you like a flying boulder and sends you reeling in the aftermath. Many bits of thoughts flit through your mind, most of them suitable to make even Klaus blush, but one stands out over all the others: He’s so fucking good .

“Of course, my perfect boy. Of course.” You give him another lingering, close-mouthed kiss before releasing him again. His entire face is burning pink but the determined set of his jaw tells you that he doesn’t want to take it back.

You give his cheek a playful slap and glance over your shoulder at his brother, who is still very much bound and needy, but has an expression of… contentment? Something placid, veering toward boredom. The sticky-sweet scene between you and Ben isn’t nearly enough to sate the deviant inside him.

You turn back to your other boy with a glowering smirk. They’ll both be begging for you soon enough, and Klaus will fiercely regret handing you the tool of his own demise.

Chapter Text

You are going to fuck Ben Hargreeves.

Not today, certainly- he’s nowhere near ready for that. Probably not next week, or the week after that, but one day very soon you are going to well and truly fuck him.

He is the pinnacle of submission. If you weren’t already impressed by the restraint evident in the way he requested that you stop touching him because he wanted to last longer for you, you’d be fucking enamored by how well he’s taking to orgasm denial already. He’s seated before you on the bed, hands bound firmly behind his back, anchored to you by the hand stroking his cock and the makeshift leash fastened around his neck.

He’d let you put a goddamn leash on him, for heaven’s sake.

You’d located Klaus’s belt and secured it around Ben’s throat. You can make it as tight as you want- it’s not like he needs to breathe- and the pink welts digging into his skin make you feel tingly and heady. You hold the end of the belt in one hand, guiding his movements with gentle tugs, while the other hand pumps his pathetically eager cock. His skin is shiny with sweat and precum, muscles twitching as he suppresses the instinct to fuck up into your fist. As pretty as he would look trying to get himself off with your hand, it’s important for him to learn restraint.

Other than a few slip-ups- which were punished gratuitously , as evidenced by the pink marks scoring his thighs- he’s been doing extremely well under the treatment. His head is tilted back to expose his throat for your teeth to ravish, his lips spilling forth perfect breathy moans and guttural cries and, when you demand it, the most gorgeous dirty talk.

“What a perfect boy you’re being for me,” you murmur appreciatively. He whines at the honeyed tone of the praise. “So eager to do what I tell you. You’re doing so well, darling, I’m so proud of you.”

He lets out a lingering moan from deep in his throat. “Mmm,” he groans, “I’m trying. It’s so hard…”

You giggle at the unintentional double entendre. “How hard, baby? Does it hurt?”

He nods quickly. You tighten your grip on the upstroke, squeezing just beneath the head of his dick, and he lets out a sharp gasp. “It hurts so much,” he chokes out.

“Do you want me to stop?”

He shakes his head so hard you can’t help but laugh. Your perfect, eager boy.

Behind you, Klaus is having some dick troubles of his own. He’s still bound and incapable of orgasm thanks to the impromptu cockring, and the complete lack of attention is impacting not just his sexual needs but his ego as well.

You’ve felt him getting closer to you. He probably thinks he’s being subtle, but you’ve caught right on to the little motions he’s been making across the bed toward your unprotected back. You’d shed your shirt some time after things began to get heavy with Ben, and Klaus had been utterly heartbroken that he didn’t get a glimpse of your bare torso. Classic middle sibling- whatever one brother has, he has to have as well. Now, it seems, he intends to collect.

He’s close enough that you can feel the heat rolling off his body, waves of summer sex. Despite the layer of gauze wrapped about his stomach and the twin gun wounds still very much in his side, he’s trying his damnedest to get as big a piece of you as Ben has. 

A shock of electricity runs up your spine when you feel something defined and hard brush against your lower back. You slow your strokes over Ben’s dick, making him emit a pathetic whine, but he falls silent as soon as you give a sharp tug on his leash.

You turn your head just enough to glance at him over your shoulder. “What are you doing, Klaus?”

The silence hangs like smog over the room.

You shake your head slowly, giving him a disapproving tsk-tsk . “Impatience doesn’t suit you, baby boy,” you murmur. His throat bobs with a thick swallow at the nickname. His skin is flushed pink with arousal and shame, his balls a painful-looking scarlet, thighs slick with precum. 

He sticks his lower lip out in an expression that shouldn’t be as endearing on a thirty-year-old man as it is. “I’m sorry,” he pouts. “I’m just- so-” His lip trembles and his words dissipate into steam. He rolls his hips and his cock bobs enthusiastically, emphasizing that which he cannot say aloud.

You roll your eyes. “You know the rules. I’ve had to punish you so many times today- why can’t you just be good for me?” You give the belt a light tug and Ben’s mouth flies open on a needy huff. “Like your brother?”

Klaus’s expression twists into a sneer, but given his current disposition he looks more like a disgruntled puppy. “He gets everything and he doesn’t even have to try. It’s not fair-”

“What unfair is that Ben has waited patiently for his reward, and you are rudely interrupting him.”

Klaus’s mouth shuts with an audible click . He looks like he still wants to argue, but whatever the words are they stay locked shut with him.

You flash him a cruel smile. “There, see, that’s a good boy. Just keep that up a little longer, hm?”

You turn back to Ben and lean forward to press a gentle kiss to his lips. A surprised breath huffs out of his nose, then he tilts his head and melts into the kiss with a bone-trembling moan. He opens his mouth just a bit and he’s been so good for you, so obedient and desperate to do whatever you want that you feel compelled to allow him a bit of the relief he seeks.

Your hand speeds up on his cock, and it’s like playing a finely-tuned instrument: alternating the pressure along the entire length, sometimes twisting your hand a bit or swiping your thumb over the slit, smooth, graceful gestures designed to draw all those beautiful, melodic sounds from his lips. He moans without shame as you work him into lovely oblivion and you devour the sound, tongue dipping into his mouth and swallowing every sigh and whimper that you pull from him.

His breaths grow harsher, carry an edge of desperation, a signal that he’s close to falling over the brink of orgasm. With as little fanfare as you’ve given to him all evening, you let go of his cock and sit up out of his reach. His lips follow yours until you retreat beyond the line of his balance, and his head droops in defeat.

“Thank you,” he moans to the mattress. With great effort, he raises his head and meets your eyes with his own watery gaze. “Thank you… fuck .” He grimaces and a pearl of precum wells on his dick.

“Good boy,” you coo, shooting Klaus a pointed glare. He returns with a shrug and a bratty grin.

Ben’s hair is ragged and sticking to his forehead. You brush it out of his face, stroking over his cheek with loving touches. He turns his head enough to kiss your wrist eagerly, reverently, and a pang of affection strikes your chest.

“Ben, dearest” you murmur, and he glances up at you from beneath lust-heavy eyelids. “You’ve been doing such a good job- would you like a treat?”

He perks up at that, too far gone to even try to disguise his excitement. “Please,” he says in a breathy whisper.

You lean forward to kiss him, allowing yourself to indulge in his pillowy-soft lips before you move on with your plan. You drag your fingers up Ben’s thighs, thumbs and forefingers creating a diamond frame around his cock, and he whines at the touch but doesn’t try to pull away. You continue up his body, over his stomach and up to his chest, taking a brief detour to fondle his nipples. You prod at his lips with your tongue until he finally parts them with a grateful moan. He’s too embarrassed to say how much he loves when you do that, crowding into his personal space while you twist and tweak his nipples until they’re painful red and swollen, as brutally obvious as a hickie.

Your fingers finally land on the belt fastened tightly around his neck. At this point you divert your kisses lower, to the beautiful curve of his jaw, allowing a bit of teeth to slip in to provide that intoxicating mixture of pleasure-pain that gets him and Klaus off so well. He whimpers when you sink your teeth into the softer skin below his jaw. You crawl into that sweet, intimate space and stake your territory with bruising love bites, marking him up, staking your claim in his cool, unblemished skin.

He whines when he realizes that you’re removing the belt from his neck, but the sounds are strangled beneath a keening cry when you clamp your teeth over his throat. It’s not enough to do any damage- not that you could anyway, both of you being dead and all- but you can already see the beginnings of a cherry-red bruise blossoming on his skin when you pull away.

You cup his chin and tilt his head up, letting him simmer under the heat of your appraising surveyal. “Did you like being tied up that badly?” you chuckle. You run the fingers of your free hand over the pretty little bruises marking his throat. There’s a pair of brilliant pink rings where the leather had dug into his skin. “You look so gorgeous like this, baby boy. You were fucking made for that collar.”

His eyes slide closed and he lets out a whimper at the filthy praise. You don’t miss the way his dick twitches with desire.

“As fucking perfect as you look like that, though,” you whisper, leaning closer, “I’ve got other plans for you.”

His eyes shoot open and when he sees you so close to him, how you’re crowding into his space and raking his image over the hot coals of your appraisal, he looks about ready to sink into the floor. You don’t get to admire the heat in his gaze for long, however, as you wrap the belt around his eyes and fasten it behind his head. With his hands bound and now his eyes covered, he shudders at the utter vulnerability of his position. 

You let go of him and turn around to face Klaus. Mutinous Klaus, who when he realizes your attention is on him again tries very hard to look like he wasn’t just trying to figure out a way to rub himself off without getting in trouble. He gives you a crooked, apologetic smile, but his posture exudes a contrary air of no-fucks-given.

“Darling,” you hum, and all the bravado whooshes right out of him when you drag a delicate finger along his jaw. His shoulders drop and he tries not to lean into your touch, eyes sliding closed and lips trembling on a desperate sigh.

You give his cheek a gentle smack. It’s not nearly the level that you were delivering upon his ass just minutes earlier, but he reacts as if he’s been gutted, spine curving toward you and emitting a needy moan. A bit of precum dribbles out of his cock.

“Do you still have that outfit?” you whisper. “The one you were wearing the first time we fucked.”

He glances up at you with eyes bright with the unmistakable glint of impending mischief. “You mean those leather pants with all the laces? I still have those here somewhere, do you-”

“No, dearest, the other one.” You swallow back against the knot of excitement and anxiety forming in your throat. “The lingerie.”

Surprise colors his features, melting into an expression of mischief. “You want to see me in my pretty panties again?” he croons. “I have a matching brassiere, you know, if you’d prefer to see the full ensemble.” He licks his lips slowly, decisively, the way he knows sends pure heat rocketing through you.

You know that if you try to speak right now your voice will betray the arousal pounding in your veins, so you just give him a brisk nod. You untie his wrists and help him rub them to stimulate the circulation. He glances from you to his still-bound dick and then back, raising an eyebrow meaningfully, but you just shrug and grin.

“C’mon. Haven’t I done enough? You haven’t touched me in ages and I feel like I’m about to fuckin’ lose it,” he whines.

You roll your eyes at his dramatics, but another, even more delicious use for the necklace has entered your brain, so you carefully undo the cord binding Klaus’s cock. His confident facade slips again as soon as your hands come into contact with his dick, and when you finally get it fully undone he actually whimpers at the sensation of freedom.

“If you touch yourself without permission, I won’t go near your cock for a month,” you snap.

He slides off the bed and glances at you with sultry hooded eyes, cocking his hip in a manner meant to be seductive (and damn him , it’s working). “Wouldn’t dream of it, darling,” he coos. You roll your eyes again.

While Klaus rifles through his clothing for the lingerie set, you turn back to Ben, who’s been perfectly patient throughout the exchange. He whimpers when he sees the nylon cord in your hand.

By the time you’ve fastened the makeshift cockring around him, he’s a needy, trembling heap. Precum runs over his dick in thin rivulets, his skin is flushed a brilliant pink and hair sticking out in a flyaway tangle, breath coming in sharp, desperate moans. When you drag a finger up his thigh, his entire body jerks like he’s been shocked.

You trace an invisible path over his skin, following a vein along the entire length of his cock and teasing the head with barely-there touches. He lets out a long, low whine and his body sags under the pressure of holding back.

“What a perfect little mess you are, baby,” you murmur. He whines in response.

You can’t resist placing a gentle hand beneath his chin and tilting it up to meet your kiss. You can taste sweat and the slight tang of blood on his skin. He presses against you like you’re a buoy and he’s stranded in the ocean, tired and desperate, like you’re the only thing keeping him upright. Your tongues brush inside his mouth and he moans, a broken little thing, and you’re sure no other sound has ever been quite so beautiful.

“Ta-da!”

You grudgingly pull away from the kiss and turn to the source of the interruption, but your annoyance is swiftly abated at the sight before you.

Klaus’s chest is adorned with a silky black bra sporting an obscene amount of lace and bows. The padded cups stick out a bit awkwardly on his skinny chest, but it doesn’t detract from the image whatsoever. Letting your eyes fall lower, you can see a pair of black panties situated neatly on his slim hips. The material is sheer lace on the sides and then opaque silk where it conceals his dick. Not that it’s doing a very good job, as you can see it straining painfully against the restricting fabric.

He smiles and preens under the attention you’re lavishing on him. He teases a finger over the prominent bulge in his lingerie; with his smudged eyeliner and tousled hair he looks sinfully debauched

“That’s enough,” you snap. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to keep the warble out of your voice.

Klaus gives you a teasing smile but clasps his hands behind his back. “Sorry,” he simpers, with an expression that says he is anything but.

You press one more kiss to Ben’s mouth before situating yourself at the edge of the bed. You lock your gaze on Klaus and crook a finger toward yourself, deliberate and suspenseful, projecting as much authority into your gaze as you can. His cocky facade wavers a bit as he follows the unspoken command and steps closer, standing as close to the bed as possible without touching it, his chest at your eye level just a few tantalizing inches away.

His breath hitches in suspense as he waits, watching you admire him, unsure if your next move will evoke pain or pleasure. You opt for the latter as you reach up to gently cup between his legs. His jaw pops as he grinds his teeth and holds back a moan, his hands twitching like they want to reach for you, but he stops himself.

He really is trying so hard to be good.

You massage him gently over the sheer fabric. “Here’s what we’re going to do,” you murmur, meeting his eyes with your own searing gaze. His throat bobs with an anxious gulp. “You’re going to get up on this bed, straddle one of those pillows, and fuck it for me.” Your lips twist into a sadistic smile and your grip tightens on his cock. “Really give me a show.”

His pupils are so wide they nearly eclipse the green of his irises. He starts to pull away, but you grab his wrist to pull him back. “Points for enthusiasm, darling, but I’m not quite finished,” you tell him. You retrieve the twine that you’d used to bind his hands before and, after a nod of confirmation from him, wrap it once more around his wrists so that they are fastened in front of him. He gives it a testing tug and, finding it satisfactory, sets about arranging himself on the bed.

While he does that, you return to Ben, still waiting patiently as ever. “How are you holding up, baby?” you ask, giving his cheek a soft caress.

“‘M fine,” he mumbles. You examine him for any concerns, but other than being a bit sleepy, he appears just as he says: fine. Not that his body can sustain any serious damage in this form (as far as you know), but it never hurts to confirm.

You slide behind him and sit with his back to your chest, your legs framing his. The rest of the bed is occupied by Klaus, who’s managed to finagle his way onto the bed despite his tied hands and straddles one of the pillows, pelvis hovering a few centimeters above the fabric. He gives you the self-satisfied grin of a child who has completed all of his chores and is waiting for permission to go play.

Ben squirms almost imperceptibly beneath you. He’s been so wonderful for you, so perfect, but he’s growing eager. You lips brush over his temple as you whisper a gentle “Patience, my love.” Your fingers splay over his thighs, making him shudder.

Your eyes meander up the bed and linger on the remarkable sight of Klaus, blushing bright pink down to his navel and looking the picture of sin in his lacy black lingerie. You reach for him- you can barely bridge the distance with Ben between you, but you manage to hook a finger around his bra strap. You pull it back and let it go with a satisfying snap . His breath releases in a low huff.

“You’re the devil,” he hisses.

You return with a sugar-sweet smirk. “Get used to it, baby.”

He chokes out a throaty laugh at that. You divert your hand to his chest and rake your nails over his pecs, making sure to catch his nipple in your path. The laughter turns to a hoarse cry, then a moan as he rocks his hips tentatively against the pillow.

“Stop touching him,” Ben interjects. “He loves it.”

Your hand freezes, hovering a miniscule distance from Klaus’s skin. He whimpers and tries to chase your touch, but you draw your hand back and caress Ben’s jaw instead.

“Look at this perfect boy,” you murmur, eyes burning into Klaus. “So obedient, he’ll even ruin his own brother’s pleasure to make sure he follows the rules.”

Ben’s body goes limp under the praise. Klaus, however, withers under the heat from your stare, and grudgingly stops his slow rutting against the pillow. He flexes his spindly fingers against the fabric, and you’re sure he’s imagining them wrapped around his own painfully leaking erection.

You rest your chin in the curve of Ben’s neck, forcing him to keep his head leaned back. You drag your hand down his throat, across the jut of his collarbones and his smooth planes of his chest to the willowy sinews of his abdomen. He gasps when your other hand joins the first to frame the vee of his pelvis.

“Please please please please touch me,” he whispers in a stumbling rush.

You press a smile into his neck. You begin to pepper sweet kisses over his skin as your hand slides down and teases over his shaft.

His body goes rigid in your hold. His jaw works against your temple, trembling around noiseless pleas. His fingers twitch sporadically as he suppresses the desire to reach for you around his restraints. You can feel the hot precum seeping over his cock, slick enough that he could easily fuck your fist with no lube and get himself off right now. You twist your palm over the head to feel more of it well up and spill through the gaps between your fingers.

You stroke him unhurriedly, just letting the both of you enjoy it. You slip a bit of pain into your kisses, kneading the flesh between your teeth and coating his neck in your bruises. His choked whines turn your spine liquid-hot, shooting fireworks in your muddled brain.

You turn your head to drag your teeth along the crest of his ear. “You are doing so well for me. You were fucking made for this, baby,” you breathe.

He keens, a high-pitched, pathetic, needy sound, and his breath catches on mumbled words. The hand rubbing over his cock slows down, and the other snags in his hair, tugging his face to yours.

“What was that, darling?”

He knows better than to take it back. He swallows thickly before speaking again. “T-talk to me. Please.”

You reward him by licking a slow stripe across his jaw, ending with a nip to the meat of his cheek. Then you snag his lip between your teeth and tug hard , drawing a pitiful cry from his lungs. You cover his mouth with your own and drink in all his perfect sounds like you’re fucking dying.

“Submission looks so pretty on you,” you huff against his lips. Your hand speeds back up on his cock and he arches into the touch. “I love how eager you are to obey me. You’d do anything for the promise of my hand on your cock, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, yes,” he groans. His fingernails scrabble at the inside of your thigh trapping his hands against his back. He shudders and writhes at the twin sensations of your grip on his cock and your fingers in his hair.

“You like begging for it, yeah? Like to show me how much you want me to control you, tell you exactly how to behave?” He nods hastily.

Your eyes flick over to Klaus, who’s actually trembling with the effort of obeying you. His knuckles are bleached white with the force of his grip on the pillow, his face flushed almost as violently red as the head of his dripping cock, his flyaway curls sticking to his damp forehead. He catches your eye when you glance at him and his face crumples, tears threatening to spill over as he begs wordlessly for relief.

“I think you’re a positive influence on your brother. He’s being sooo good right now,” you murmur against Ben’s temple. “You like when he watches you be a perfect boy for me? Like showing off how horny you get for me, how much you want me to fuck you? Hm?”

You drag your teeth over his neck and he cries out pathetically. “Think he’d enjoy watching me fuck you? I bet he’d be so jealous.” You glance back at Klaus, whose cheeks are damp with tears. “Oh, yeah, he’s definitely jealous. He’s crying, poor thing. I wonder what he’d do if I was really fucking you right now.”

Ben gasps and melts back against your chest, rocking his hips up into your unwavering hand. The broken syllable that passes through his parted pink lips sounds remarkably like a please .

“Aw, you want me to fuck you right here?” You laugh and lick over his jaw, messy and feral. “Trust me, there is nothing I’d love more than to toss you down on this mattress and fuck your pretty little ass until you forget your own name,” you tell him. You shift your hips to grind against his backside- there was supposed to be a “but” here, though for the life of you you can’t remember why you shouldn’t just fuck him right now .

He struggles to maneuver his fingers over your sex. “I want to touch you. M-make you feel good too,” he hisses, quickly adding a “Please.”

You press a messy kiss to his temple. “I appreciate the thought, love,” you say, “but it’s not my turn yet.” Your gaze slides up to the man before you. “Your brother’s been awfully patient, don’t you think?”

Klaus perks up at the attention. He hastily wipes away the tears and leans toward you. “I’ve been soooo good. Really, I have,” he breathes.

“Oh, yeah?” You show your teeth when you smirk at him. “Then tell me why I should let you get yourself off. Show me how badly you want it .”

His throat bobs with a tense swallow. He forms his expression into something sweeter, more alluring, his spine curling like a tiger’s as he fixes you in his scorching gaze. “I want it more than anything,” he murmurs. “Wanna show you how pretty I look in my bra and panties, fucking into this pillow and wishing it was you .”

He grits his teeth and squeezes his eyes shut. “Fuck, that’s such a lovely picture. Shoving me down and fucking me with your hand around my throat, just using me to get yourself off. Like that’s all I’m good for.”

A thrill runs through you. “Yeah? You’re gonna get off thinking about me using you as my little fucktoy? Is that what gets you going?”

Yes ,” he whines with a full-body shudder. “Fuck, yes, please. J-just fuck me until you cum, orgasm after orgasm, and leaving me completely unspent…”

Ben stirs in your grip, and you realize that you’ve been so enraptured in the show Klaus is putting on that you’ve stopped your motions on Ben’s dick. You peck him on the cheek and quickly resume stroking him.

“Filthy boy,” you hum appraisingly. “Your brother’s got such a dirty mouth, doesn’t he, Ben?”

“Mmph.” Ben rakes his teeth over his lip and rolls his hips into your fist. You chuckle and drag your tongue up the shell of his ear.

“Very well done, Klaus. So,” you murmur, “do you think you’ve earned your reward?”

He raises an eyebrow with an expression of What do you think? , but he’s smart enough not to voice the comment.

You nod toward the pillow and his face brightens. “Can I cum, too?” he asks.

You run the hand in Ben’s hair over his scalp in gentle strokes. “Should I let him, Ben? He was being awfully naughty earlier,” you muse. Klaus’s face crumples and you think he might start crying again.

Though Ben can’t see it, he seems to sense his brother’s distress and shakes his head. “He’s b-been punished enough,” he croaks.

Your lips curve up in a devious grin. “Good answer.” You nod at Klaus. “Feel free to make yourself cum, dearest. You have my permission.”

Sunshine breaks across Klaus’s face, and it’s such a rare and beautiful sight you could just kiss him. 

He braces his hands against the mattress and shifts his thighs wider apart. For a long, quivering moment, he hesitates, like he can’t quite believe he’s finally being allowed to pleasure himself; but at a soothing smile from you, he lowers his lips and grinds hard and slow against the fabric. His head tips back, mouth falling open, and lets out a quiet moan as he begins to rut against the starchy material.

He builds himself up to a steady pace, letting himself relish the infrequent rush of pleasure. He’s all gangly limbs and sweat-slick skin, damp curls falling around his face like the image of a debauched messiah, eyes rimmed red and staring baldly at the ceiling above him. You realize he’s listening for the soft squelch of your hand rubbing over Ben’s cock and synchronizing his movements with it.

You want to touch him. You want to watch how his eyes widen when you pin his wrists above his head and trap him against the wall with a knee shoved between his thighs. You want to sink your teeth into his neck and suck hickies all over his skin, hold him in place with a firm hand around his throat and feel him pretend to struggle, playing into the scene until his eyes roll  back and he gives into euphoria.

You want to fuck him. Really, wholly, wonderfully, brutally fuck him . More than that, you want him to want you to fuck him. You want to hear the pleas spilling over his lips, his moans as you pound into his ass and press harder against his throat, watch him scream as he spills all over himself and still take it even when the overstimulation is too much and you’re just using his body to chase your pleasure because you can’t. Stop. Fucking. Him.

The thought is so solid and tantalizing in your mind that you almost reach for him, but Ben’s weight against you drags you back into the moment. He himself is leaning over the edge of orgasm- if not for the cockring, he definitely would have had at least two or three orgasms by this point. He’s so gone that he can’t even moan, just pant wordlessly as you drag him into oblivion.

You take the hand from his hair and wrap it around his middle. Something wild is sprinting through your veins, telling you to fuck him, hurt him, do what feels good and consequences be damned. You roll your hips against his backside, just missing the hands still trapped against your inner thigh, and it feels so purely fucking good that you do it again, and then once more.

Ben is sex-drunk and delirious, but he soon catches onto what you’re doing. He maneuvers his fingers to press against your sex the next time you curl your hips, and holy shit is it nice. It’s more than nice, it’s indescribable, but your brain is a little occupied at the moment so nice is the best adjective that it can supply.

Your hips start to speed up, rutting against him in a concerted rhythm. “Shit,” you grunt into his neck. Your orgasm is still miles off, but this is definitely getting you there. “Shit, shit. Fuck. You want this off?” Your fingers brush over the cockring on the next downstroke.

“Please,” he gasps.

You don’t have the mental capacity necessary for any more teasing. You stop grinding against him long enough to undo the cord that had been holding back his orgasm. Ben holds himself rigid and whimpers through it, and when it’s finally off, he sags in relief.

With the removal of the cockring there also seems to go any semblance of shame. Ben turns his head to seek out your mouth, teeth clacking before he drags you into a clumsy kiss as you resume your pace. He keens into your mouth and starts to roll his hips, meeting your strokes with a brutal, eager force.

“Fuck,” he gasps against your lips. “Fuck, shit, fuck, I’m gonna cum-”

You hasten your strokes and grind your pelvis up against his searching fingers. The ghost of your approaching orgasm is rearing up, galloping toward you at an increasing speed, filling your veins with something wild and bloodthirsty. You’re possessed with the need to make him cum, to taste the pulse pounding in his neck, feel the way he shudders beneath you when he-

His spine bows at a painful angle and he screams as thin ropes of pearly white cum stripe his torso. You realize that you’ve sunk your teeth into the meat of his shoulder but you can’t make yourself let go, mesmerized by the way he quivers and keens as you coax every drop of his orgasm out of his abused cock until he finally collapses back against your chest.

The energy that had overcome you recedes slowly alongside the buzz of orgasm dwindling between your thighs. You let go of his shoulder (you can’t help but admire the red teeth marks in his skin, even though you know they’ll be gone by tomorrow) and force your breathing to steady. The hand not covered in cum rakes over his scalp in slow, soothing motions, and you dot soft kisses over his temple.

A soft clearing of the throat makes you glance back up. Klaus has stopped humping his pillow to watch you instead. Though his cock is flushed a violent, leaking scarlet, he stares in rapture at the fucked-out image you present.

“Did you cum?” he asks. You shake your head. He licks his lips and smiles like he’s just been presented with his favorite dessert. “Can I make you?”

You huff out an exasperated breath. “Much as I admire your tenacity, I don’t know if either of us is ready to move on to the next round.” You nod at his well-fucked brother lying limp in your embrace.

Klaus shoots you a dramatic pout that shouldn’t be that endearing on a fully grown man in skimpy lingerie. “What if I describe it to you, then? While you… gather your energy?” His eyes flick to the cum-sticky hand still resting on Ben’s stomach.

You smile. He really is impossible to deter from a goal. “Alright, then. Lay it on me.”

At your permission, his body falls once again into that feline disposition that somehow makes you feel like both predator and prey at once. “I want to taste you,” he murmurs. “ So bad. I want to just ravish you with my tongue, feel you shaking under me. I want you to grab me by the hair and hold me down so I can’t breathe, just keep working my tongue and fingers and doing everything I can to please you , only you.”

He takes a shaky breath. “I want you to pull my hair, bruise me, bite me, mark me up. Just treat my body like it’s something to get you off.” His eyes slide half shut as the fantasy takes over. “I’d take it so good for you. Wanna feel the way you cum in my mouth. Would you let me lick it all up?”

A violent tremor roils through your gut. He’s still looking at your hand, and the idea is a bit out there, a bit gross, but you’ve already crossed so many lines, what’s one more?

You extend the hand to Klaus and he looks like he might cry again, but this time it’s tinged with the color of joy. He treats it like the world’s sloppiest blowjob, clumsy tongue and spit dribbling over his chin, teeth scraping over your skin as he tries to gather up every drop. His mouth really was made for giving oral.

When he’s satisfied with his work, he looks up with a hopeful expression. You just can’t resist that smile.

“Perfect,” you whisper.

He preens under the rare praise. You’re searching your sex-addled brain for something more articulate, but before you can think of anything, Ben stirs in your hold. You slide the blindfold off and see a pair of red marks embedded in his skin.

“You didn’t cum,” he says. The frown on his lips is so serious, so invested in your own orgasm that you have to press an affectionate peck to his forehead.

“Don’t worry about me, lovely. I’ll be fine,” you assure him.

He shakes his head. “I want you to cum.” He nods toward Klaus. “We want you to cum. Please,” he adds.

Affection squeezes your heart. They’re sweet to think of you; it would be quite rude to deny them what they want after they’ve been so well-behaved. Besides that, you definitely wouldn’t mind putting Klaus on his knees and letting him bring you to oblivion.

Really, how can you say no?

Chapter Text

Klaus deserves nice things. He deserves kindness, and to feel loved, because he has zero qualms about giving his love to others and he should get to receive it right back. You’d give him all of that, all of everything, anything to make him feel loved and safe the way he does to you. You really would.

You want to photograph this scene in your mind and hold onto it when he’s gone. You never want to forget the way Klaus looks when he’s getting down on his knees for you, legs quivering from the approaching orgasm he doesn’t seem to want himself to have, and he leans on you to steady him because his hands are still bound and he didn’t even ask for you to untie them. You would, if he asked you to. You really would.

Klaus is tall in a way that Ben isn’t. Klaus is skeletal, and wiry, and he looms like the shadow underneath everything. Ben is thin, Ben has a little bit of muscle, but he’s tall in the way that most people are tall. Klaus is more phantasmic, more eerie, more dead than the actual ghosts in the room.

His head is at the level of your stomach. He kneels in the space between your spread legs, inserts his broad shoulders to force you open for him. You are pulling the strings, but he is in control of this one. He has the right to be; even if you could remember your life, you’re sure no other person could come anywhere close to the level of godhood to which Klaus ascends any time you put your pleasure in his hands. He deserves a fucking medal for giving head, he really does.

The wood flooring bites into Klaus’s gangly knees, his panties are stretched taut over his hips from the strain of his erection pulling at the fabric, and he looks simply delicious in a way that you cannot articulate. He’s all lanky limbs and smudged eye makeup, lilac shadows under hollow bones, skeletal and ghostly and alive and beautiful. You can just imagine how his lips would feel around the most sensitive part of you, that most unholy release after depriving yourself for such a long time. You deserve it, you really do.

Klaus presses a chaste kiss to the inside of your knee, then higher, peppering slow kisses along the inseam of your pants until he reaches your zipper. His mouth hovers there, tongue flattening against the denim, peering up at you from behind the curtain of his eyelashes and you can feel the bloodthirsty wild thing stirring inside you again.

Behind you, Ben sits with his legs framing yours and his chest flush to his back, a mirror of how you’d held him through his earlier orgasm. His chin rests on your shoulder and his hands brush over your bare ribcage in slow, gentle movements. He’s not teasing you, not yet, just helping his brother set the stage for the opening scene. You’re still in the goddamn overture , for heaven’s sake.

Klaus takes his mouth away and holds up his bound hands. “Pretty please?” he asks, sweetly.

It’s cute, but it’s not what this type of scene requires. You school your expression into something coldly detached. “If you really want it,” you say, “you know what you have to do.”

Disappointment flashes across his features only for a brief moment, then it melts into something warmer, seduction and sin. You don’t see him move but it seems somehow that his spine curves a little bit deeper, the dimples above his ass a bit more prominent, and did his skinny chest fill out the bra that well just a moment ago? His eyebrows draw together and he pouts his lips like the caricature of a pinup model but damn does it look incredible on him.

“Please please can you untie my hands so I can take your pants off?” he whimpers. His voice is thin and husky, like the femme fatale in a noir from the 1940s. He traces an index finger over his lip, eyes sliding closed like he’s imagining it’s you, his tongue peeking out just to graze the pad.

You nearly moan when he slides the finger into his mouth, just to the first knuckle, but holy shit that image is really doing it for you. He only indulges you for a moment before pulling it back out with a wet pop! and tilting his head innocently.

“I want to taste you,” he whispers. “Pretty please with a cherry on top?”

Well, how can you say no to that?

You grab his hands perhaps a bit more roughly than you meant to and start to undo the twine. Your heart trembles when his index finger brushes your wrist, still slick with his saliva.

Once you’ve finished, he rubs over his wrists to help the circulation and gives you a cocky wink. “ Danke , sweetheart,” he says.

Instead of returning to your zipper like you’d expected, his hands jump to your ankles. He runs his hands over your skin like it’s something holy. He extends one of your legs and kisses right below the cuff of your pants, stubble grazing over your ankle sending all kinds of tinglies through you.

“I thought you wanted to blow me,” you manage through quivering lips. “What’s the delay?”

“I’m getting there, I’m getting there. I just don’t want to forget what it feels like to be able to touch you,” he murmurs as he kisses up your calf.

Oh. Oh .

Your heart twinges as he imprints the sensation of you upon his memory, and you wish, not for the first time but certainly the hardest, that you weren’t so unreliably intangible.

Ben releases a low sigh against your ear. You’d almost forgotten about him, you’ve been so wrapped up in Klaus’s performance. You turn your head enough to press a kiss to Ben’s temple.

“Enjoying the show?” you ask him.

He smiles. “I wouldn’t mind if he’d hurry it up a bit.” His fingernails scrape over your hips, circling threateningly close to the waistband of your pants. “I want to see the main event.”

You thread a hand in Klaus’s hair and tug him back so you can meet his eyes. “You hear that, darling?” you say. He nods quickly, though you suspect that might be more so he can feel the tugging of his strands against your hold. You guide him closer to your center. “Enough teasing. Get on with it, or I won’t let you touch me at all.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” he protests with a wounded look, but he brings his hands up to undo your fly.

It takes some maneuvering to get your pants off, but soon you’re bare except for your underpants, a fact which seems to bother Klaus more the delay of his own orgasm. He tugs at the fabric with pleading fingers and watery eyes, but this is one of those times when it feels just too fucking good to say no to him.

“You’re mean,” he pouts.

“And you’re being a brat,” you reply. “You know how this game goes. You need to work for it, love. Show me how badly you want it.”

He levels a sour glare at you, but he does as asked. Bracing his hands on your thighs, he drags his tongue over the fabric in a deliberate line, then prods at the area where he knows you’re most sensitive with fleeting, burning little strokes that turn your spine molten. Your fingers tighten subconsciously in his hair and he moans, sending beautiful vibrations through your core. It’s a tool you can use to turn him on and eke out your own pleasure in return, that easy pain, but it gives you just as much enjoyment to know that he’s having fun too.

Your fingers twist in his curls, tug him closer to your core until you’re essentially grinding against his face, and he is here for it. He makes a low, pleased, rumbling sound that you think is as close to purring as a grown human man can get. He doesn’t even have to do anything, just digs his fingers into your thighs to anchor himself as you use his mouth to get yourself off. It’s a slow, heady kind of arousal, one that lets you know right away that it won’t bring you to that peak for another hundred miles, and that’s okay, because you would exist for eternity and never have another orgasm if it meant Klaus was happy.

You’re so caught up in watching Klaus letting you dry hump his face that you don’t feel Ben’s fingers drifting lower, don’t notice his scheming until he catches the elastic of your underwear and the next time you roll your hips against Klaus’s tongue he brushes over the bared skin. The three of you share a gasp, theirs of arousal and yours of betrayal, but it’s no longer possible to stop your frenzied motions against Klaus’s tongue. Ben tugs the elastic down a little more, not quite fully exposing you but damn near. Damn near.

“Traitor,” you gasp, tongue anxious for blood, but you can’t even focus enough to locate his mouth in the harried puddle of limbs and sex so you latch your teeth onto the first bit of skin you find. Ben groans and jerks his hips against your lower back, and you can feel, implicitly and without question, the beginnings of an erection pressing against you.

You tut-tut at him. “Dirty boy,” you admonish him. “You getting hard again just watching me get ready to fuck your brother’s face?”

Ben and Klaus gasp in the same breath, both their fingers clawing into your flesh.

You can hear the train-whistle-scream of your orgasm coming on fast, but this is not how you want to finish it, you need to regain control of the game. So you use your grip in Klaus’s hair to force his head back, ignoring the heartbreak on his face, and smack Ben’s thigh to stop him.

“Now you’re both acting like brats,” you scold them. “Naughty boys don’t get to cum. And they definitely don’t deserve to make me cum in their mouths.” You level a glare at Klaus, who deflates under the heat of your admonishment.

“S-sorry,” Ben mumbles. He’s not used to this, being on the wrong side of your attention, and it’s dirty and sweet and he’s not sure how to feel about the fact that he enjoys it.

You release Klaus’s hair and give his cheek a soft caress. He closes his eyes and leans into it, the affection and intimacy of touch, the kind of love you’d give him every chance you could. You lean over and guide him closer, almost close enough to kiss, his roiling green eyes ready to consume you.

“I know it’s hard, darling, I know it is,” you whisper. “I know you’re trying so hard, and you’ve been- so good, mostly. So I’m going to let you cum.”

A brilliant smile breaks across his face. “Really?” he cries, bouncing with excitement.

You laugh and rub your thumb over his cheek. “Yes, really.” You glance behind you at Ben, who’s still looking a bit withered after his scolding. “But not until your brother does.”

You sit back up and twist to brush your lips over the side of Ben’s neck. “And you can’t cum until I do.” He whimpers and closes his eyes like he can already feel it.

It’s possible. It’s difficult, but possible. Moreso for Ben, who’s still so oversensitive it wouldn’t take much to push him over the edge, so waiting for you must seem like an eternity. You wonder if either of them would cry if you denied them long enough.

You fist your hand in Klaus’s hair and guide him back to your center. This time you allow him to ease your underwear over your thighs and toss it over his shoulder with a careless throw, and then his mouth is on you in earnest. He’s not neat about it, doesn’t tease or show off, just drags you under the waves of euphoria emanating from his expert tongue. You let it crash over you, melting boneless against Ben’s chest as it consumes you. The latter leans his weight against you, a counterbalance to your sagging spine, frantically trying to match his brother’s pace as he rolls his hips against your lower back. 

Klaus’s slender hand begins to tug his own erection, drawing the most delectable moans from his lungs that shudder against your flesh in a mortifyingly intimate way that just makes you want him closer . You can feel that ferocity clawing out of your chest again, howling for blood, coaxing your grip tighter and your hips faster as you take your pleasure from Klaus’s eager tongue.

He wants this. Wants you to use him for your own needs like that’s all he’s good for. He’s not, he’s worth so much more to you than that, but the animal banging against your ribcage doesn’t care because his submission just feels too fucking good

You buck against his tongue and he groans, tightening the grip on his leaking cock. His other hand comes up to pinch and rub at his nipple over the bra. He looks like- he looks like such a slut , playing with himself and quivering with the effort not to cum before he’s allowed.

Arousal is burning through you like poison, tightens your limbs in its powerful grip. Tiny, desperate whines spill through your lips as your hips work faster, bowing between the sensation of Klaus’s tongue on you and Ben’s desperate little jerks against your backside.

Distantly, you feel something new brushing over your skin, feather-light. It isn’t until a finger is brushing your entrance that you realize Ben’s got his arm under one of your thighs and is slowly, sneakily easing into you. You hiss at the intrusion but it’s not pain, it’s something closer to shame but not quite, not in a bad way. Your thighs spread instinctively, heels digging into Klaus’s back, serving the dual purpose of holding him closer against your sex.

Ben doesn’t wait to shove a second finger in and slide them up to the second knuckle (not that you need much prep with how slick you already are from Klaus’s spit and your own arousal, though you’ll never admit to it if asked). You shriek and your free hand jumps to Ben’s thigh, nails raking nasty gouges over the flesh, and he moans desperately into your neck. His lips brush over the skin, teeth find purchase and begin to knead your flesh, sending sparks of bright, brutal pleasure through your sex-addled brain.

The world has narrowed to the three of you and the beautiful way you come together. It’s like a symphony, each of you tuned to the others’ bodies like lifelong virtuosos, pulling the exact strings to evoke a perfect harmony of pleasure. It’s beautiful and perfect and cliche and you never ever want it to be over.

You could easily cum just like this, given a little more time, but then Klaus, chin glistening with your arousal, draws back to suck in a breath, and something marvelous happens.

Ben scissors his fingers and flattens his palm against you, holding you open, and when Klaus dives back in he shove his tongue, without pretense or preamble, as far into you as he can manage.

You scream his name and twist your hand in his hair sharply enough that you feel a couple strands pop out. He strokes his tongue inside of you like his only purpose in life is to get you off, while his free hand continues to work between your thighs. He flicks his thumb over the most sensitive areas in a way that has you just shrieking in his hold and leaning back against Ben to fuck up against his face.

Ben himself is getting closer, you can tell; he’s wrapped his unoccupied arm around your middle and is tugging you back toward him with every thrust of his hips. You’re pulled between the frantic rhythm of his hips and the drag and pull of Klaus’s tongue inside you. The ferocious thing in your chest has bowed under the weight of something much bigger and brighter, a sun getting ready to explode, and you let yourself fall to it, let it yank you under the waves and toss you like a broken doll among the riptides.

Your orgasms thrums in your bones, in your blood, it is part of you and about to born of you. It hits you like a bullet train, like the last burst of energy before you die, monsoon and hummingbird heartbeat crashing over and through you and around you. It’s brighter than you’ve ever seen, enormously so, wonderfully, achingly so.

You don’t think you passed out, but at some point you must have closed your eyes because the world does not reappear until you open them. Ben’s arm hurts where it’s digging into your stomach, but you let him continue, feel him rut against your backside and let his breathy grunts echo in your ears until they climax into a low, wispy groan and he stills.

You look down at Klaus right as he spurts over his own hand and stomach and thighs. His mouth is open in a noiseless scream, eyes screwed shut, bracing himself against the bed with a trembling arm. His face is so red you’re afraid that he’s stopped breathing, but finally he slumps back onto the floor with a warbling moan.

The final notes of your sonata fade into the still summer morning as you all come down from your collective highs. Tiny aftershocks echo through your blood, a million mini-orgasms tingling at the memory of pleasure still flooding your limbs. It’s good. It’s better than good. It’s perfection. Like them.

It takes the joint efforts of both you and Ben to haul Klaus up onto the bed. They settle with you in between them, Ben snuggled into your left side, Klaus claiming your right with an arm thrown across your torso and a leg hooked around your own. You let the sunlight warm you and make sure to burn this into your body’s memory, something to hold onto when you become incorporeal again.

You’d die a million more times before you let this go.