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lion's den

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"Vanya, you dog!"

It's always easy to tell when Klaus has just woken up, because his voice is faintly hoarse and he mumbles a lot. He's never slept well, even as a child, so it takes on that quality often and at unpredictable hours. Now, however, at nine in the morning, it's obvious from the clarity and ease in his tone that he's been up since before sunrise.

"That's up by the river; how did you manage to make it all the way up there? Long night, little sister?"

Self-consciously, Vanya fidgets with the tight coils connected to the phone and stares at the ground.

"Shut up," she says into the receiver. She's already had breakfast and gotten dressed, but her own eyelids still feel weighted down by the heavy itch of fatigue. "Just come and meet me here, okay? It's closer to the market, anyway. I'll meet you in the lobby in half an hour. Do you need the address again?"

Klaus says no and is mostly convincing about it. He cheers for her delicately before he closes the line.

Spending so much time roaming the city as a vagabond had no doubt provided him with the experience to navigate its public transportation system expertly, tricks and all, which is probably why he's able to arrive so early and take Vanya by surprise.

Jasmine opens the door when he knocks, of course, because it's her apartment, but Vanya's nerves keep her eyes fixed on the entryway. Her brother's voice is unmistakable, boyish and friendly, as he greets Vanya's host.

"Hello, I'm looking for my… Oh. Well, aren't you handsome!"

"Klaus!" Vanya says. "I told you to wait for me downstairs."

"Thanks, baby." Jasmine smiles at Klaus. "I'm Jasmine."

"It's a pleasure." Klaus leans on the doorway and pushes himself off against the frame and into Jasmine's home. His eyes flicker around the room curiously.

"Just let me get my stuff and then we can go, okay?"

Vanya doesn't care that she's rushing him. She and Jasmine haven't even had a talk about making things official yet, or whatever, which means Vanya definitely isn't ready to introduce her to a member of the family-- especially a family like hers.

"No hurry," Klaus says mildly.

Without wasting time, Vanya returns to the bedroom and starts to gather her wallet and keys. Before she slings the thick strap of her messenger bag over her shoulder, Vanya uses Jasmine's deodorant because she didn't bring her own and Jasmine had worn Vanya's earlier in the week. It's probably fine. 

She knows Klaus is smart, despite the impression he tries giving off when he's in public, and he's definitely had enough romantic encounters in his personal life to know what's going on. He and Vanya weren't close growing up and they've only been spending time together for the past few months, but he certainly knows her well enough to understand that Vanya doesn't have the kind of friends whose bedrooms she sleeps in. All she can hope for now is his grace in acknowledging what he's just walked in on.

By the time Vanya steps back out, Klaus has gotten quiet. She's worried about what that might mean, whether Jasmine had left Klaus and his sticky fingers alone in the room or if he was having one of those telekinetic freak outs and had to step outside, but instead, he gives her something else to fret over.

"She's great," he's telling Jasmine conversationally as the both of them stare down at the cat slamming the side of its body against his bare legs. "Is she new or old?"

Jasmine smiles proudly and says, "She's new. About a year now."

Klaus crouches down and says, "Wow."

He strokes down her back and scratches at the base of her ears, his featherweight touch characteristically gentle as the cat leans into it. He chuckles in fond surprise when she briefly hops up on her hind legs and presses her side into him with an abundance of strength.

Mindful of the risk of appearing controlling or matronly, Vanya bites her tongue against the idea of reminding Klaus of how that might be a bad idea. He's going to start sneezing in a couple of minutes, almost definitely, but she reminds herself that it isn't her problem. Klaus is an adult and he can make his own decisions.

Besides, it looks like Ben is taking care of it for her, if Klaus briefly narrowing his eyes at the empty couch means what Vanya thinks it does.

"Are you ready?" she asks anyway, for both their sakes. The sooner she can get him out of here, the better-- for a multitude of reasons.

"Yep!" Klaus springs back up and sniffles as he straightens himself out, brushing some stray hairs off of the top of his forearm. He invites Jasmine to come to the Vietnamese market on Argyle, and hugs her goodbye after she breaks the unfortunate news that she's going to be busy all weekend with work.

It's awkward for Vanya as she follows in her brother's footsteps, because neither she nor Jasmine seems to know exactly how to say goodbye in his company. They both hesitate for a moment with their touch like strings held taut,  made up of nervous smiles and too-firm holds on one another. Jasmine ends the hug with a chaste kiss on Vanya's cheek that could be mistaken for Euro-friendly, after which Vanya realizes she can't resist and Klaus isn't the worst of her siblings to find out about Jasmine early, so she tilts Jasmine's chin and kisses her on the mouth for real. 

Klaus doesn't react at all, unsurprisingly behaving like the two of them have been an established couple forever as he waits patiently and scratches his arm. Vanya notices him scrunching his nose a few times as he waves goodbye.

At least he isn't Diego or Luther, Vanya thinks during the twenty minute stroll to their destination while she listens to Klaus tell the story of his old six-day boyfriend who used to live in the building next door. Although Five might be Vanya's number one choice when it comes to introducing new partners, because he's respectful, appropriate, and doesn't gossip, Klaus is maybe a close second.

He's only a little congested and getting better the longer he's out in the fresh air, which isn't really so bad. He barely seems to notice it, even when he gets stuck coughing for a few seconds as they wait at a crosswalk. Listening to his residual allergy symptoms is a very low-level sacrifice for Vanya to endure, all things considered.

Diego's protectiveness, on the other hand, would have either freaked Jasmine out or exasperated Vanya for weeks -- or maybe both -- and Luther's cluelessness might have gotten Vanya stuck in an awkward coming out conversation, or at least made him uncomfortable as he decided whether he should go the Diego route and try to protect Vanya from her own potential partner, or try to figure out how to be supportive without stammering his way through his how-do-you-do's.

She is planning on talking to Allison about it, but Allison is nosy and, unlike Klaus, can't be distracted into a dozen other conversations while on a mission to extract and collect information about Vanya's personal life. Vanya loves her sister, but she'd rather wait until it's a sure thing.

That isn't to say that she's not off the hook with Klaus, because he keeps finding ways to bring the topic romance back into the forefront.

Briefly, she entertains him, on and off between his chats with the vendors. For all of his grandiosity, Klaus is modest when it comes to any of his actual talents. He's always picked up languages easily, which Vanya noticed during their lessons as children, and when they'd first visited the market together months ago, he told Vanya he knew "some Vietnamese" from his time spent in the sixties. He then proceeded to engage in dialogue while sounding indistinguishable from a native speaker, light and comfortable without any issues stumbling over the pronunciation.

Even after coming around with him a few times, Vanya is still impressed by the way Klaus is so easily able to switch between that and English, especially while dealing with his body's reactive protests to him spending a couple of minutes near Jasmine's cat. Aside from the occasional couple of sneezes and intermittent rubbing of his eyes, Klaus is mostly back to normal, if not somewhat distracted-- but that's within his realm of normal, anyway.

"Could you not tell the others about Jasmine?" Vanya requests of him after he says goodbye to a sweet older woman who had been generous enough to send them off with a couple of extra cakes. Klaus gets free stuff here all the time. "I just don't want to get ahead of myself. We're not really girlfriends or anything yet."

"You're not?" Klaus sips iced green tea through a straw and tilts the cup so he can get to the last of it. "Uh, how long have you known each other?"

"A month," Vanya says.

"A month? Stop," Klaus says. He tosses the empty cup at a garbage can and doesn't quite make it, so he scurries over to pick it up and dispose of it properly. When he returns, he says, "What's the hold up? My god, a month, Vanya, ay caramba, and here I was, the fool, thinking she was The One."

"I like her," Vanya says, trying her damndest to keep the stars out of her eyes. "And she's the first person I've felt this seriously about since…" 

"Since Harold the Dastardly," Klaus says. "The World Ender. Who was a total fluke, by the way."

"Yeah, I know." Vanya says. They've already talked about this. "I just don't want to rush anything, that's all."

Klaus hums, and Vanya guesses that he doesn't really get it, but he stays true to the Secret of Jasmine under the terms of Vanya's promise to let him see her again soon.