Work Header

something borrowed

Chapter Text

Allison's bedroom door is wide open.

Were she elsewhere -- like back home in L.A., for example -- she wouldn't be referencing her training to assume a combat stance, legs apart and muscles braced, because her house out west is plenty protected by a gate and a guard and another gate and a long driveway shrouded by a precautionary pathless forest, and nobody's sincerely threatened her livelihood for as long as she's been living there.

But here in the city? God, their home had just been attacked less than a few months ago just before the world almost ended (and then didn't), and that wasn't the first time Allison's family's lives had been ravaged on or near their own territory, either. It feels like second nature to be cautious when her space has been so crudely invaded.

Like the seasoned warrior she is, Allison doesn't speak as she steps lightly into her own domain. And that doesn't matter because she forgets how old the mansion is and how the faithless creaky floorboards have only become noisier as the place ages even further.

Her brother is still so jumpy for somebody so entrenched in the macabre, voluntarily or not, and when his shoulders drop from what had been a jolt of anxious tension as he recognizes her and relaxes, Klaus connects to Allison with imploring green eyes.

"Can I help you?" he says, and he has the nerve to sound a little bit offended at the interruption as though Allison is the intruder in the situation instead of the other way around.

Allison reclaims her turf and steps in further, standing in front of her vanity as she faces her trespasser. "Can you help--? Klaus, this is my room," she reminds him.

"How about-- Ah, you're right, so you can help me, that's better," says Klaus like he owns the place. To be fair, Klaus says everything like he owns every place, and to be even fairer, he does do this constantly, and aside from an initial question or two, Allison has never shown much reluctance in letting him. His indirect, intrusive intimacy is so telling of that intrinsic desire to be close, but doing so by spending time together or connecting emotionally hasn't really been an option for any of them for years. In a way, Klaus helping himself to everyone's spaces and making himself right at home, using and taking what he likes without apology, acts as a surrogate for what Allison thinks they all need from each other every once in a while.

And it's an easy sacrifice to make, turning a blind eye to a few things she could easily forget she ever owned, especially to somebody like Klaus.

The sheer Nailah blouse he's slung over his shoulder looks like it's about to fall off, and he's wearing a pair of boots that Allison thinks might be hers from four or five years ago, but she can't recognize them exactly and doesn't remember the two of them wearing the same size. He hasn't slipped either one on fully, his heels putting weight on the back edges and bending them inward. Allison is surprised he hasn't tripped yet.

"How long have you been in here?" she asks. "I was only at the pharmacy for an hour and a half."

"Oh, definitely not that long," says Klaus, who Allison knows is able to leave a room looking like he'd never been there at all and has still chosen to leave one of her drawers open with a pair of tights hanging off of its side to act as a souvenir of his presence. He pulls a scarf off of one of the hooks on her wall and waves it at her. "You left a lot of stuff back here, Allison, I'm surprised. Unless you own two of everything, an identical copy of your lavish wardrobe waiting for you back in sunny California."

Allison smiles and crosses her arms. She's always missed Klaus in a way that's different from the others. The reliability of his humble, convival, stubbornly affectionate nature provides a solace that Allison's never been able to find anywhere else. 

"And you waited until the day after my flight arrived to raid it all?" she asks him.

"Are you kidding me? I couldn't come in here while you were gone," Klaus says, the last word dipped in a deep, scandalized falsetto. "So heartbreaking, frangine chéri, I think I would have missed you too much." 

That isn't true, but Allison plays along. "I was only gone for six weeks," she says.

"And you're back for how long? Only one. Must you spoil our beautiful retrouvailles with your grisly reminders, Allison?" Klaus pulls the scarf over his shoulders and scrambles to catch the wayward blouse when it finally falls. "All right, since you're here. What do you think," he says, draping it over his skinny outstretched arm like a curtain on a rod, "of these pieces together?"

The ditsy print headband he's tied up around the crown of his boisterous dark curls hasn't seen the light of day since Allison was twelve, and she notices lawless dusky locks both poking out above and flattened underneath its raspy fabric. Somehow, Klaus always manages to find bits and pieces from the early years of Allison's life and fasten them upon himself while she's not looking. Although he's wearing this one askew, it doesn't really look out of place. She wonders if he positioned it that way on purpose.

Allison approaches him and reaches up to readjust it, the edges of a laugh pulsating lightly in her chest but not yet coming entirely to fruition.

"Oh! I forgot about that one, thanks," he says.

"It's crooked," Allison tells him.

"You don't think it looks better crooked? Superstardom's changed you, Madame Hollywood." The headband's tiny bright bow is nearly lost among the mane above his left ear. He moves away from her and bends down so he can see himself in the mirror, then he gingerly adjusts it before spinning back around and saying, "I actually meant these, though. Spectacular, aren't they? I haven’t seen them before. You don’t wear them." 

He bends the elbow of his silk-bearing arm without much grace and grabs it with the other hand, then reaches for something he's left in a stiff, wrinkled pile on top of the chair by Allison's bed.

As she reels back to get a better look, Allison says, "Those would look good on you. I couldn't pull them off--" 

"Ah, you're right."

"--but I think you'll need a belt to get them to stay up," she finishes, looking down at the floor with a shake of her head and a grin. Maybe it's because her own life and powers have never felt so high-stakes, but Allison has always wondered why no one else has been able to appreciate that Klaus is funny as often as she does. Even when his intention is to be annoying, which actually is most of the time, she finds herself accidentally smiling. 

She had received the flashy brocade pants Klaus is holding as a gift from a European designer years ago, but they were a size too big and not really her style so Allison sent a polite thank-you and folded them neatly to collect dust in the back of her closet. They're just ornate and bizarre enough to captivate her brother, who is just enough of the same to pull them off without a shred of ineptitude.

"Here, just a sec," she says, and Klaus steps aside to grant Allison access to her own armoire. He usually doesn't take this much from Allison at once, especially not in front of her, and it's been a long time since Allison has collaborated with Klaus on anything to do with decoration, or… anything to do with anything, she has to admit, which may have been unavoidable for a while anyway but feels unfortunate all the same. While they were growing up, he was the only one in the house she could share this kind of thing with.

Allison hands him a cream embroidered belt and Klaus takes it from her affable hands to inspect its quality.

"Are you planning on wearing these out anywhere?" she asks, hoping to give off the genuine impression of curious sister instead of suspicious hound. She doesn't know anything about what Klaus gets up to these days, now that he isn't in living in and out of clinics or flying by his friendly charm and the seat of his pants to maneuver the streets and keep the exclusive company of unpredictable delinquents -- the dangerous kind, not just pot dealers, underpass taggers, and petty thieves.

It's got to be something, though. His unrelenting electric energy is still there, his sociability and fluidity and talent in moving conversations, and you don't maintain something like that through sitting around your childhood home chattering away at your siblings.

Klaus experiments, distracted, twisting around to see whether the belt will wrap around his waist. He hums.

"I don't know," he says. "Should I?"

She decides to do it. Allison would have laughed with wide, disbelieving eyes at the idea of inviting him out anywhere substantial six months ago, but Klaus has been so much better after his attempt at sobriety and learning to try and hone his powers. He remains as the same tenacious sense of irony and aimless behavior and flailing limbs, but there's less of an edge to him, more of a lucid show of compassion like Allison remembers from him when they were kids; he's easier now, softer, becoming slowly and steadily more readable as the seven of them begin to try and trust each other just a little bit more.

"Well," Allison says, wishing her younger adult self were here to watch her now, because the person she was back then could have used a a thrill or two, "I'm taking Vanya downtown to meet up with some of my city friends tonight, if you want to come."

Klaus looks at her through the reflection in her floor-length mirror. She does know him well enough to rely on a two-second glance to figure out that he's about to say yes -- but he's going to tease her about it first.

"Wow," he says, dropping the belt on her chair and facing her with a hand on his hip. "You're inviting me to meet your fancy celebrity friends on your girls' night out! Pray tell, Allison, is there a twist, is there an occasion?"

"It's not a girls' night," Allison corrects. That's a 'yes'. "There will be some guys there, too."

"Oh, well then, thank God," he says, and then he scares her and winks.

If Klaus sleeps with one of her friends again, Allison is going to blast her current self, saturated with nothing but regret and flecks of self-imposed shame, to Kingdom come.

One thing at a time, though. She's never been one to catastrophize. 

"So, are you coming?"

"Goodness, I just don't know," Klaus says, hands on his cheeks. "Do you think I'll be able to handle the paparazzi?"

Allison rolls her eyes and says, "We're leaving at seven."

"Wait! Allison," Klaus says as she hands him the rest of his self-appointed hand-me-downs and makes the start of an effort to usher him out. "Remember to expect me back here in a few hours to get ready. I want to sample some of your perfumes."

And that's the thing about Klaus: his entitled carelessness, while at least partially genuine due to the inattentive way his mind works, is rooted in a guarded maneuver to keep Allison and the others at arm's length so as to not allow himself to fall too deep into a circumstance of appreciation in case any of it becomes lost by his own hands or taken away by any of theirs. That much is clear in the way he takes things from them and flees, expressing all sorts of familial endearments and pretending he's going to hang around but then flinching away and enacting all sorts of avoidance tactics the moment any of them shows him any form of genuine concern or offers to help him in a way he might actually need. 

"Come by a little earlier," she amends, warmth filling her up from the middle as she extends the invitation. Things could be different now, and she realizes she's excited. "I'll need some help, too. I haven't done my own makeup in a while."