The Hargreeves vs. Katz match was set to start in an hour and Klaus was missing. Still feeling guilty from not noticing the last time, Luther scattered everyone in a search party, convinced that Klaus had been kidnapped again and was probably being tortured within an inch of his life. Five stayed behind despite the obvious travel advantage he had because, as he put it, he “didn’t really care,” and “doing one family activity per day is more than enough.”
What was the point of paying to go see Diego beat some guy up? They’d all been watching him do it for years, free of charge.
So it was just Five sitting in the kitchen when Ben appeared across from the table and asked, “Where is everyone?”
“Family bonding,” Five said, sitting on the counter and banging the heels of his shoes against the counter while he ate a bowl of marshmallows.
“Why wasn’t I invited?”
“Klaus is missing again.”
“No he isn’t,” Ben said, confused. “He’s in his room.”
Five blinked and stared at Ben, who shrugged and faded away. Luther came barrelling through the door a few minutes later with Vanya and Allison trailing behind. Before he could even mention the moon once, Five had blinked in front of him.
“Nice observation skills, Luther. Klaus is in his bedroom. He has been this whole time.”
“I checked! He wasn’t there!”
Allison checked her watch. “We have to leave soon or else we’re not going to make it.”
“I’ll go check if Five’s right about Klaus,” Luther said, ignoring Five's response of "I am!". He took the stairs two at a time, stopping when he got to the top and trying to make it look like he wasn’t freaking out. He’d learned a lot in the past few years about taking care of his family, but he didn’t want to be overbearing. He was, of course, but the others had the decency to see his attempts at understanding and kindness for what they were.
He opened the door to Klaus’s room. Nothing had changed. The room was an explosion of clothing. Clothes covered every single surface in the room except a small table where there was a stack of books, a crack pipe (a souvenir of the old days, Klaus said, and it seemed like he was telling the truth. It had a layer of dust on it that proved it hadn’t been used since Klaus got clean a year ago), and a copy of Men’s Health that looked like it had been lovingly read many times. Luther stepped over the threshold and into the chaos. It was clear Klaus wasn’t here, but he really wanted to know what the magazine had to say about “10 Waxing Tips that Will Change Your Dating Life”.
“Don’t touch my porn,” a voice said.
Luther, startled, pulled his hand away from the table. He looked around, frantically. “Are you a ghost?” he asked, eyes darting from side to side.
“Yes. The ghost of Leave Me Alone-mas Past.” Luther could pinpoint the origin of the voice to the direction of the bed.
“Where are you?”
“Down here.” What Luther had mistaken for a pile of dirty clothes on the ground was actually his brother. He looked like shit. His eyes were bloodshot, his hair stuck up in all directions, and he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. One of Luther’s favourite Hawaiian shirts. There was something seriously wrong.
“We have to go to Diego’s thing tonight,” Luther reminded him.
“Shit,” Klaus said. “Do I have to?”
“Well-“ Luther wanted to say yes. Old Luther would have said yes. But new, post-apocalypse Luther really was trying and tried to remember the book on depression he read last year when Klaus refused to get out of bed for two weeks. “It might be good for you to get some fresh air,” he said instead. Oh great, he thought. Now it sounded like he just told his brother that he smelled bad. It wasn’t a lie, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world to smell a bit… unique in a gym with a bunch of sweaty guys getting even sweatier.
Klaus sighed. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. Do I have time for a bath?”
Luther was going to regret this. “No.”
“Oh, okay.” Klaus peeled himself off the floor and began rooting around the piles for something that passed the sniff test. He settled pretty quickly on a yellow button up with a ruffle running down the front and a pair of blue and green striped pants. He surveyed himself in the mirror, nodding. Luther thought he looked like a clown, but nodded also. Klaus then picked up a brush, but thought better of it and put it back down, trading it for eyeliner, which he applied in record breaking time. Luther was impressed. He must have amazing dexterity to trace his eyes so close and not poke them out. Maybe he should try it sometime. In secret.
Klaus pushed past him to leave the room, calling out “No dawdling, brother! We can’t be late!”
He stalled for another five minutes when they all piled in the car because he figured he should probably brush his teeth first. Allison almost protested, but Vanya, who was sat in the backseat next to him, shushed her and said, holding her breath, “That’s a great idea.”
Diego was warming up in the ring before the doors opened. His rival, Dave, was skipping rope on the floor, counting to one hundred before pulling out some crazy moves that Diego had only seen done by twelve year old girls in the playground. It was impressive.
“You learn that from the girl scouts, Katz?” he yelled over the sound of their warm-up music. Dave laughed. He was an easy going guy, and Diego had enjoyed boxing with him for the past couple of years. He had come in one day, curly brown hair shaved down to a buzz cut and a faraway look in his eye that said more about where he’d been the last few years than his simple answer of “Asia”.
“Four sisters, Hargreeves. You don’t make it through that without picking up a few tricks.”
“Six siblings, remember? I know the tricks.”
Dave laughed again. “Your family coming tonight?” He hung the jump rope up on a peg.
“They sure are. And so’s my girl, so don’t embarrass me.”
Dave climbed up into the ring with him and leaned against the ropes. “You don’t need my help to embarrass yourself, Hargreeves. Besides, isn’t she your ex-girl?”
“Well, technically,” Diego said, leaning against the ropes next to Dave. “But she said she might consider taking me back if I win tonight.”
“I could just talk to her for you, you know.” After invaliding out of the army due to a piece of shrapnel lodged in his spine, Dave came back to the States and transitioned almost seamlessly into his job as a paramedic. He’d been in school during the whole apocalypse fiasco, so Diego never saw him around before the day he came into the gym. But now, he had a stable job working split shifts downtown on the ambulance and therefore ran into Eudora a lot more than Diego did these days. She liked him, Diego knew, but he couldn’t fault her for it. Dave was a great guy.
“Definitely not. She’d never let me live it down if I got someone else to talk to her for me.”
“I just meant you could ask for help, Di. It won’t kill you.”
Diego grinned. “Wanna make a bet?” Dave groaned. Diego’s boxing gym bets were legendary. Once he promised the owner of the gym that he would swallow a live frog if he didn’t give him a raise. He didn’t get the raise, and one frog was very nearly swallowed until Dave stepped in and saved it. He liked frogs. He liked their long legs and their happy little faces, and Mr. R. Bibbit now lived in his apartment in a tank that cost more than the monthly rent.
“If you win, you can try to get me and Eudora back together your way. If I win…” he paused for dramatic effect, “I get to set you up on a date with one of my sis- siblings.”
“Good save on the siblings thing, Di. I’m pretty sure I’m straight, though.”
Diego shrugged. “It’s 2022, man.”
They clapped each other on the back and left to go get changed. “You know, I’m not going to go easy on you just because Patch is coming to watch.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, buddy.”
Dave was really looking forward to the fight. In their running rivalry, it was the rematch of the century. Last time, Dave had just barely lost and he had trained long and hard to finally best Diego. It was a shame that he was planning on kicking his ass in front of his entire family, but it couldn’t be helped.
“Oh God, she’s here,” Diego said. He was sitting on the bench in the locker room while Dave finished taping up his knuckles .
“Huh? How do you know? Or did you finally join the 21st century and get a phone?”
Diego leaned back and hit the back of his head against the lockers. “I can just like, feel her, man. She’s like a magnet. Drawing me in.”
Dave sat down on the bench beside him, a foot away. Diego was a great guy, and Dave was proud to call him his friend, but he wasn’t sure if they were close enough for Diego to cry on him yet. Diego had his head in his hands now and was shaking his head. Dave pitied him, but in a way was envious that Diego had someone who he loved so deeply.
“You know,” he said carefully, knowing full well he was about to divulge a secret that Eudora had made him swear he would never tell lest she break down his door and beat him with her baton. “She still loves you. She made me promise not to tell you, but she does.”
Diego’s shoulders began to shake. Oh God. He was crying before the boxing match. Dave didn’t know how to comfort him. “Um,” he said, thinking it was a good place to start.
Suddenly, Diego couldn’t hold it in anymore and sat up, laughing his ass off. “I knew it!” he said. “I knew she told you something!”
Dave sighed. “Please don’t tell her I grassed. She’ll hurt me,” he whispered.
“I won’t,” Diego promised. Dave hoped he didn’t have his fingers crossed behind his back. “But really dude, they’re all here. Let’s go say hi.”
He was surprised they all came. Diego knew just as well as anyone that trying to get all six (living) siblings in one place was like herding hamsters. Sure, Vanya was ignoring the rest of them in favour of her new girlfriend and Five looked like he’d rather die than be here and Klaus looked like a clown on welfare and was staring, bored, into the middle distance, but they were here and that in itself was an act of such devotion that Diego was touched.
He quickly forgot about how touched he was when Luther stepped to the side and Eudora came into view. She was gorgeous in a leather jacket and motorcycle boots with no makeup and her hair still up in a bun from work, and Diego felt the stutter rise in his throat.
“Eudora!” Dave called, jogging past Diego and sweeping her into a big hug. “I haven’t seen you in like, four whole days! How has life been?”
Diego watched with distaste as Dave so easily engaged his ex-girlfriend in conversation. He watched, afraid, as Eudora touched his shoulder casually in conversation and smiled at him and laughed at the things he said.
“Who’s your friend?” Klaus said dreamily beside him. There was a curl near his ear that sproinged out perfectly horizontal like a spring. The other side of his hair was squashed and matted like he had been sleeping on it for a couple of days. Truth be told, he probably had been.
“Off limits,” Diego said, accidentally shouldering Vanya into her absurdly tall girlfriend as he stalked up to Dave and Eudora and desperately tried to think of something cool to say.
“Here for the fight?” he said.
Eudora looked at him like he was an idiot. Which, considering what he had just asked her, he was.
“Why else would I be in a shitty gym on a work night?”
“Working,” he said. “Picking up criminals. You know, liars. Guys who betray their friends.”
“Wow,” Dave said, so quietly that only Diego could hear.
“We should go prepare. Bye, Dora.”
“Don’t call me that!”
The lights were on and the ring was set, and Dave and Diego stood in the ring facing each other. The ref was taking a phone call, mighty professional fight that this was, and so they waited. The crowd was silent.
A shout of “Diego, have my babies!” came from the crowd. It was Klaus. Of course it was Klaus. Dave chuckled and looked for the wise guy who had just finished wolf whistling. Diego shook his head, trying to indicate for Dave not to bother because it was just his idiot brother, but Dave’s eyes found the Hargreeves siblings in the crowd and grew wider and wider like flying saucers touching down in a corn field.
“Who is that?” Dave asked, turning to Diego with an awe-struck look on his face.
Diego huffed. “Who? Not my idiot ex-junkie brother?”
“The beautiful one. The absolute babe sitting near Patch.”
“Uh, Vanya? Or Vanya’s girlfriend?”
“No, no, I know Li. We work together. The one in the ruffles.”
“No, next to her.”
“There’s no one next to her.”
“Yeah, in the yellow.”
Diego squinted into the crowd. There was Patch (beautiful, angelic, amazing Eudora), then Vanya and her girlfriend, and then Klaus and Allison and Five and then Luther, taking up two seats on the end.
“Between your sisters,” Dave said. He’d seen a picture of Allison once, and apparently he knew Vanya somehow, but there was no way.
“There’s no way you’re talking about Klaus.” Diego said it definitively, because there really was no way that Dave could be talking about his brother.
“Klaus…” Dave said, rolling the name around in his mouth and smiling stupidly into the crowd. With horror, Diego saw Klaus catch Dave’s eye and wink, and then continued on the tracks towards utter mortification when he watched Dave flush bright red.
“Wow,” Dave said.
“I thought you said you were straight,” Diego said.
“Clearly not,” Dave said, still staring straight at Klaus, who was staring back.
“Quit staring at him, it’s weird!”
“I feel like my eyes were made specifically for the purpose of looking at him,” Dave said. Diego was so confused. Klaus’s yellow shirt was an affront to all the senses, and his unruly hair made him look like a fluffy dog startled out of sleep. The eyeliner he could understand, but Dave didn’t seem like the type of guy who would go for the goth look. Underneath the eyeliner, Diego could tell even from here that Klaus’s eyes were bloodshot, meaning he hadn’t slept in at least two days, and the state of his hair told him that it had been a lot longer than that since he last had a bath.
“Do I get to choose which sibling you set me up on a date with if I lose the fight?”
Diego was taken aback. “I guess?” he said.
“Just checking,” Dave said. He had a soft expression on his face now; the wonder had faded and now he just smiled at Diego’s brother, refusing to take his eyes off him.
“Klaus,” he whispered again, and he was so distracted that he didn’t notice when the ref climbed back in the ring, rang the bell, and Diego turned and socked him right across the cheek.