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Climb Every Mountain

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In college for his sophomore year, Leo's roommate was a guy named Craig Goldberg. He was an okay guy: a computer science major who looked older than he really was and used that to his advantage to buy them alcohol when they were both only twenty. Craig wasn't precisely good-looking, but he was interesting to look at, with wideset blue eyes, a sharp nose, and a wide thin mouth. He was sloppier than Leo, which meant his stuff sometimes ended up encroaching over the invisible dividing line of their room, but he was a generally affable guy and never demanded a lot of attention or interaction. He could chatter nonstop for hours, but he never forced Leo to pay attention -- if anything, he always seemed to find it funny when Leo came back to a conversation about three subject changes too late, confused by how they'd gone from talking about the latest bad B movie Craig had watched with his other friends to the possibility of building a moonshine distillery in one of their cubby-sized closets.

All in all, he was a pretty decent roommate. He didn't eat Leo's leftovers, he didn't bug Leo to be more social than he wanted, and he taught Leo the finer points between ale and lager, the proper way to kick a washing machine that refused to start, and also the best way to hold his breath while giving a blowjob.

They'd only fooled around a few times before the year ended and Leo had gone home to find out his parents meant to take Michella to Liberty Island over the summer, but it had been a very educational few times.

"You just gotta remember not to rush 'em," Craig had said, when he'd come home from a date with his face flushed and hickies all over his neck and a boner that had stayed obvious no matter how much he rearranged his legs. "Like, okay, if they're into it on the first date, that's great, that's perfect, but if they're not? You gotta be polite. They say no, you go. They'll tell their friends if you don't. We're living in that sorta age, Leo, buddy."

Leo hadn't thought of him in years, to be honest, but he found himself thinking about Craig Goldberg one late October night, as he walked to his small Hellsalem's Lot apartment.

Maybe, he conceded, it had to do with the man walking next to him: Klaus had the same sort of thing going with his looks that Craig did -- not exactly handsome, but absolutely striking, and ... well. Interesting to look at, which was true even if that made it sound kind of bad.

And also that whole "first date" thing.

That had actually gone a lot better than Leo had been afraid of -- when he'd first extended the invitation, two weeks ago, hey, so, there's this photographer who's gonna have their work on display, I've got two tickets, do you wanna ... ? he'd expected a polite rejection, or -- worse than that -- a polite acceptance and an evening that dragged on with awkward and weirdly-placed tension. He knew Klaus had an appreciation of art, but he seemed like a guy who'd have old-fashioned tastes. Would he even accept photography as art, exactly?

So he'd dithered over asking and finally just blurted it out, in front of God and Zapp and everybody. He'd had approximately five seconds to consider what a mistake that was (especially the part with Zapp) and another five seconds to really, really wish he could disappear the same way Chain had when--

"I would love to," Klaus had said, and his eyes and voice had been so warm that Leo couldn't even begin to misconstrue his interest. He held out his hand, and Leo put one of the tickets into it mutely, feeling his face go bright red. There'd been a full thirty seconds where he and Klaus just looked at each other stupidly ("you were so red I thought you were gonna die, Shorthairs") before Zapp tackled Leo straight to the floor and dragged him out yelling something about lunch.

That had been a meal that Leo couldn't wait to purge from his memory entirely. Hell was Zapp Renfro trying to give you advice in between loudly talking about how that's fuckin' weird, you and the Boss, he's gonna break you in half, you know? also no homo but daaaaaamn. He'd never been happier to have a meal cut short by a rampaging herd of eight-legged sheep.

(Where did these things even COME from?!)

So. That had been two weeks ago. And in spite of all of Leo's anxiety and second-guessing, at precisely six on the dot, Klaus had shown up at his doorstep, dressed ... well, like he always did, but that meant he was both sharp and classy -- and had smiled at Leo when he'd answered the door. He'd even offered his arm like a goddamn gentleman, and even though Leo had been the one to invite him, he couldn't help but be charmed by that.

His other worries had melted away quickly too, once they arrived at the gallery. Klaus had been both attentive and interested, and even if he (admittedly) knew very little about photography, he had a good eye for composition and light and color. Half an hour in, they were chatting more than any other group in the gallery. For someone who was always polite nearly to the point of stiffness, he was ... not necessarily more talkative than usual, but he was more animated now, warm and brilliant and surprisingly funny and-- and ...

And good god, Leonardo Watch, he thought, you've got it fucking bad.

After they'd left the gallery, Klaus had offered to walk him home. Leo almost refused -- even this late at night, he was used to taking all manner of squirrely shortcuts to avoid muggers, and a good seventy-five percent of the time he was successful.

On the other hand, the conversation had been nice, the company had been nicer, and Leo had all-seeing eyes which meant that even when it was relatively dark outside he could still see very clearly just how intensely green Klaus's eyes were.

So he said yes, and while the walk home was quieter than when they'd been in the gallery, Leo found himself feeling bubbly and warm with all sorts of good feelings.

And thinking about Craig Goldberg, whom he'd fallen out of touch with entirely after that fateful summer. Craig had also been a large guy compared to Leo, though Klaus would likely dwarf him. He'd played sports, so he'd been pretty fit, and his hands had been broad and warm.

Leo glanced aside. Klaus had his hands in his pockets. Of course. He resisted the urge to sigh. It wasn't like he didn't know what Klaus's hands looked like, but at least for the moment, he was saved from the embarrassment of reaching out when his efforts might be rebuffed ...

Distracted as he was, Leo ran smack into his own door.

He bounced off with a yelp, and immediately Klaus was there. And that was one way to get to feel what Klaus's hands were like -- huge, for one, and definitely warm enough that Leo could feel it through his COAT, not just his shirt -- helping to steady him. Klaus was a bit wide-eyed, not quite fussing, though he was clearly concerned.

"Leonardo, you're all right? I'm sorry, I thought you had realized--"

"No," he said. His voice came out nasal and pinched, and after a beat he moved his hands. Good, no blood. "No, I was just sort of ... distracted ... sorry."

"Distracted?" Klaus cocked his head. He looked almost nervous, Leo thought, and for perhaps the first time, he wondered: how long had it been since Klaus had been on a date? From the bits and pieces he'd heard from both Klaus and Steven, they'd been busy even before the Great Collapse and the formation of Libra. A Fang Hunter's life probably wasn't the best for any kind of relationship, unless you took the sort of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am route Zapp did.

Leo couldn't even begin to imagine.

He managed a small laugh, embarrassed, and rubbed the back of his neck. "I was, uh -- I was just thinking about how ... I had a lot of fun. I didn't really want to think about it ending."

Which was not the smoothest thing he could have said, but it seemed to be the right one: Klaus's eyes went wide, then soft. The lighting was bad, but there was definitely a blush on his face, all the way to his ears. When he coughed and cleared his throat, it was more of a low rumble than anything, and that got Leo's heart pounding. For a moment, it wasn't that the lighting was shitty and in dire need of replacement -- there were all sorts of interesting shadows, and they made Klaus look even more interesting.

"Leonardo," Klaus said. "I understand that this is a bit ... sudden, but -- if you don't mind --"

"I don't," Leo said, quickly and maybe a little too loud. If he kept it up, one of his neighbors was going to complain to the landlord. At that precise moment, he found he didn't really care. "I don't mind, whatever you want, Mr. Klaus." Is this where I rip my shirt open and throw myself over as an offering? Well, I'm not wearing anything with buttons, so that'd be a pain, but ...

"If I may, then, a kiss?"

"Yes," Leo said again, as fast as he could, almost tripping over the words. "Absolutely. Please do."

And while I'm at it, let me turn in every single last scrap of dignity I have. God, what is even wrong with me.

Klaus leaned in. He outright radiated warmth, and the sheer nearness of him was enough to make Leo's mouth go dry and his throat tighten up. Some distant part of him gibbered in near-panic, oh shit, oh shit, I really DO like this guy, when and how did that happen, shit, don't you dare pussy out of inviting him inside, Leonardo Watch, you can do it, you can--

"Excuse me," Klaus said, and ... took Leo's hand.

And lifted it.

And kissed the knuckles. His mouth was surprisingly soft, despite its stern edge, and Leo could feel the faintest hard pressure from the fangs. It was actually surprisingly nice. He could feel a sharp, almost electric jolt that went from his hand to straight between his legs. He'd always liked hand stuff.

Then Klaus straightened and let go.

"What," Leo said.

Klaus ducked his head slightly at that. His ears were bright red now, and he was actually fidgeting slightly. That in and of itself was enough to make Leo stare, and he couldn't tell whether he was more annoyed or charmed in that moment.

"I apologize for being too forward," Klaus said. "If that was too much--"

"... No," Leo said. He resisted the urge to sigh, or rub his face with one hand; instead he smiled as widely and comfortingly as he could. It seemed to work, from the way Klaus brightened. "I didn't mind at all. Good night, Mr. Klaus."

"Good night, Leonardo," Klaus said, and his voice was doing that unfairly warm thing again, so deep that Leo could feel it in his toes. He'd never believed that could even be a thing until this second. "Sleep well. I, ah, I hope that you and I might--"

"Let's do dinner," Leo said. "Soon. Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow is not good," Klaus said, and he sounded deeply regretful. "... But, the day after?"

"Yes," Leo said. "Okay. Cool. Day after tomorrow. You, me, dinner. We'll go to Artie's or something. Good night, Mr. Klaus."

You already said that, god, you're too old to be doing this stupid teenager thing, didn't you get over that when, you know, you stopped being a teenager--

"Good night again, Leonardo," Klaus said, and his eyes and voice were even warmer at that, and probably that was the way he looked at someone HE really liked, maybe when they were in bed and rolling around after sex and-- and god. Godddd. Leo sort of hated everything a little in that second. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah," Leo said, dumbly, then fumbled for his keys. "Yeah, uh. See you tomorrow, Mr. Klaus."

He got the door unlocked through some minor miracle and stumbled inside. He waited until he heard the sound of Klaus's footsteps retreating, then dropped his keys and slapped both hands hard over his face.

"Ow," he said.

That did not actually help the boner, but at least it was a distraction.

"If I gave myself a black eye, I fucking swear ..."

Leo sighed and headed straight for bed. A shower might've been nice, but for the moment he just wanted to sleep.

After all, the sooner he did that, the sooner it'd be tomorrow, and the sooner it was tomorrow, the sooner it'd be the day after tomorrow, and--

Oh, you have got it fucking bad, Watch. Good job there.

Leo tipped face-first onto his bed and lay there as still as he could until he fell asleep.