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one.

To get his hands on the book, he has to go inside a bookstore for the first time in like, years. Maybe ever. No, he has to have been to a bookstore at some point in his life, just not very recently. Recently he’s been doing a lot of things, but none of them involve bookstores.

He gets the book and then he has to go to an NA meeting, because he’s set a goal this time — Ben has set a goal, really, and he doesn’t want to be arrested or something because he’s still on parole — and doesn’t wanna miss a meeting. So he cracks open the book and reads whatever he can while everyone else talks, because this is Important. Important enough that he thinks Luther or maybe Diego — probably Diego — tried to get ahold of him to tell him about it. He doesn’t have the money for his cell service right now, but the last text he got was from an unknown number, saying I know you probably don’t know what a bookstore looks like, but go to the nearest one.

Yeah, he thinks, sounds very Diego of him. He used to have Diego’s number, but he dropped his old phone off a bridge by accident and never managed to ask again. He doesn’t know how Diego has his number, but he doesn’t think too hard about it. Doesn’t matter.

What does matter, though, is the book in his hand, and how it’s Vanya’s. Vanya wrote it — quiet, unassuming, ordinary Vanya, who said his tattoos were pretty neat and never got to be in any of the pictures. She wrote a whole ass book about like, all of them, and all the family secrets and shit. Or so he’s gathered. He’s still blinking hard, getting his eyes to focus so he can read the introduction.

He flips to the first chapter instead, eager and vaguely anxious. My name is Vanya Hargreeves, it says, plain and to the point, and this is my story.

There’s a table of contents, and the chapters are vaguely titled, but just clear enough for him to know what she’s probably gonna talk about in each one. Frantically, he flips to Ben’s chapter — Tragedy, simply put. He feels Ben peering over his shoulder, even though he’s only halfway sober right now. This is the kind of thing that transcends sobriety.

When we were young adults, she writes, my brother Ben died. Ben was a quiet boy, worried and kind of sad, and he always wanted to please our dad. He did whatever he or Luther told him to do. He tore people apart with his power —

Ben gasps behind him. “I can’t believe she wrote this,” he says, affronted, “Why would she write this?”

“Shh,” He hisses, waving in his general direction. Nobody blinks an eye when he talks to Ben anymore; one of the benefits of being a drug addict is that eventually, people stop questioning the crazy shit you do. He’s sure half of these people think he’s schizophrenic or something.

She goes into... incredible detail, considering she wasn’t even there when it happened. Enough detail that he has to shut the book for a moment. He doesn’t want to see that; he doesn’t want Ben to see that. It’s not like they don’t both relive it enough.

He’s anxious to flip to his own chapter —Hello, Goodbye, just like his hands. He wants to know what she thought of him — what she thinks of him, after all these years. He and Vanya were never very close, but he doesn’t think he was ever mean to her. How much is there to even say about him?

Klaus, he reads, fingers shaking along the edge of the page of his sister's book, was a very eccentric child. He could also see ghosts.

This, he thinks, is very spot on.

He sticks his nose in the book and reads all through the meeting, and all through the clean up; the leader guy knows him well enough by now that he lets him sit there for an hour after the meeting is over. He’s the last one in the building, Ben hovering behind him.

She goes into detail about him, too — as much as she knew, at least. She talks about him wearing Mom’s heels and tripping down the stairs, about accidentally outing himself on live TV when he was fourteen, about how absolutely fucking pissed their dad was — how he said that he didn’t care who he screwed as long as he didn’t let people know, how they had a reputation to uphold, how he locked him in his room and told all of them that he wasn’t allowed to answer any unrehearsed questions anymore. She talks about the tattoos on his hands he got when he was eighteen, how dad was pissed about that, how he was always some kind of pissed at Klaus. How Klaus had a way of making people mad. How he started using, how he would roll blunts in his room and sneak out, come home late and ruffled and high as a kite, how he got his hands on vodka and acid and whatever the else he could find. How he was all — fucked up. Everyone knew about it, she wrote, but nobody did anything. Not even Dad. He lectured him again and again, but he never sent him to rehab. Diego always had to do that.

It’s like — like she’s airing out all their dirty laundry, for everyone to see. Peeling away all their layers, his and Diego’s and even Allison’s — Ben’s — and for what? What does she want to get out of this?

Like, knows he’s fucked up. He knows that. Everyone knows that! But not everyone has to know how much! Damn!

After Ben died, there was nothing keeping us there anymore. We were just strangers living in the same house, destined to be alone.

It makes him feel lonely, and sad, and like, empty. The way he feels when he’s not high, when he’s not drunk, when he’s not ten kinds of fucked up and loving it. There’s nobody left in the room with him; it’s just him and Ben and all their family secrets.

Ugh, this is why he hates rehab. It never makes him feel like himself. (Or maybe it does, and that’s why he hates it).

We were all affected by Ben’s death, she wrote, but I think Klaus was affected the most. He wasn’t quite the same, afterwards. He went out more, he got into more trouble. He was gone three weeks later, and he didn’t come back.

And Ben was there for all of it, it doesn’t say, because he was the only one who ever knew.

His hands shake, from withdrawal or from whatever it is he’s feeling, and he shuts the book. He doesn’t want to read about himself anymore, and he doesn’t want to read about Ben. He doesn’t want Ben to read about Ben. He doesn’t want any of the strangers who are gonna pick up his sister’s book for the drama of it all to read about Ben, to read about him, to read about whatever she wrote about Diego, or Allison, or even Luther.

Let the world know how shitty a dad Sir fucking Reginald was, but don’t let them know how fucked up all of them are because of it. It’s none of their goddamn business.

 

two.

He’s fourteen, like a year after dear old daddy locked him in a mausoleum with a bunch of corpses, so he’s getting a little better with his powers — his dad would say he’s improving because of all the Hard Work (read: Fucked Up Shit Like Making Him Sleep In A Graveyard) he’s been doing lately, but Klaus wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of agreeing with him.

But anyways, they’re on some talk show, he and the rest of their little gang, being asked questions about like, what they do for fun and how they train and what Allison does to keep her skin so clear. Klaus thinks it’s rude that they don’t ask him that question, because his skin is totally clear, too. He saw this rose water stuff in a magazine once, and then he bought it with some of his dad’s money, and it makes his skin shiny and like, rosy or whatever.

Ben is stuttering through a question about how he controls his crazy tentacle body, and it’s almost as bad as Diego was before their first few publicized missions. Klaus thinks that’s kind of a rude question, too, because everyone thinks Ben’s power is the freakiest — he’s read it in the papers — and they’re just putting him on the spot for it.

He says “well, it’s like—it’s like, I don’t really have to control it,” which is a lie, “I just let it out.”

The talk show lady smiles a tight smile. “Well, it’s very effective.”

And then they ask Luther how much he can bench press, and ask Allison how she takes care of her hair (they ask her all the beauty questions, which is dumb and probably sexist or something), and then they ask Klaus if he’s ever had a crush on someone. Which, whatever. It’s the kind of weird, invasive question he’s gotten used to, because everyone wants to know everything because they’re not just kids, they’re kids with powers.

He says: “Yeah, I guess.”

“Oh,” the lady raises her eyebrows in a plastic sort of surprise, “Who’s the lucky kid?”

Klaus shrugs, “We went on this trip to England, and there was this boy who was at the fancy dinner thing. I think he was a senator's son, or something, and I think his name was Oliver? Which is like, the most British name in the world, but he had nice hair.”

It takes him a moment to realize that the lady is staring at him with this frozen look of surprise on her face — not all fake and plastic, this time.

“Oh, jesus,” somebody says next to him — probably Diego. It sounds very Diego. He feels Ben squeeze his arm tight, and ohhh.

Oh. Oh, shit.

Everyone’s looking at him, like it isn’t the turn of the new century, like he’s the first not-straight person on the planet. Oh, he doesn’t think he was supposed to say that. Oh, Dad’s gonna tear him up and wring him out to dry.

He can’t help it: he bursts out laughing.

He can feel Luther’s shoulders going up and up on the far end of the other couch, and he presses his hands against his mouth to try and stop it.

“I’m sorry,” he says, “I totally didn’t mean to say that.”

And then he remembers he’s on live television — it was supposed to be this special event episode thing. This shit was live; he just told the whole world he likes boys.

Oh, jesus was right.

“We’ll, um, we’ll be right back, after a quick commercial break!”

They’re going to commercial because he just dropped a gay-bomb on their special live episode.

He laughs even harder.

“You’re gay?” Luther asks on their way home. The air in the limo is tight and tense; Ben’s hand is still wrapped tight around his arm, like he’s afraid Klaus might bolt if he lets go.

“Luther,” Allison says, “He stole one of Mom’s skirts last week and tried to wear it on a mission.”

Luther pauses, and seems to think about this very hard.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” He asks.

Klaus just shrugs, which is kinda hard to do with Ben holding him so tight. “I didn’t really realize it was a thing. I just like skirts, and I like boys. Maybe I like girls, too. I don’t know.”

“And that’s totally fine,” Allison says, voice all frantic and sincere.

Klaus blinks at her, “I know. But uh, thanks.”

“Dad’s gonna be pissed,” Diego says. Always the brooding bearer of bad news. He doesn’t seem surprised about any of this; Klaus wonders if everyone but Luther knew without him having to say anything. Luther is Daddy’s Number One, but he’s never really been on Klaus’ wavelength. He’s too serious, too wound up in his position on The Team, too not willing to have any damn fun.

“Yeah,” Klaus sighs.

And he is mad — good goddamn, is he mad. It’s like Vanya writes in her book later: he yells, like yells yells, and he's pretty much always yelling at them but never really like this.

Klaus doesn’t cry, because he’s fourteen now and he cried in the graveyard when he was alone with a bunch of dead people with his dad nowhere near him because his dad would throw all of them into all sorts of shit but he never touched it himself. He was too good for that; he wasn’t an experiment, he was the scientist. And anyway, he doesn’t wanna give the old man the satisfaction of crying in front of him. It’s not like he meant to do it on purpose — and he’s not ashamed of it; he never tried to hide it, either. It’s not his fault everyone assumes everyone is baseline straight, or something.

He doesn’t lay a finger on him, other than to shove him into his bedroom so he can lock the door behind him, but it all still hurts. He doesn’t even get any dinner or anything, and he complains about it loudly.

Later, everyone should be in bed, and he’s resorted to cracking open some of the candy he hid in the back of his sock drawer, next to the lipstick he snuck out of Allison’s bathroom. Sometimes, he practices putting it on in the mirror. It’s more difficult than he expected it to be—it takes him a few tries to learn how to keep it from smearing on his chin, or his teeth. The first time he tried it out, it looked like a bright red crime scene smeared all over his mouth. He had laughed at his reflection, and washed it off as best he could before someone could interrupt him.

Now, he’s lying on his bed, eating a kit kat and thinking about trying the lipstick out again, when he hears someone whispering outside his door.

“Diego,” Ben says, “We’re gonna get in trouble.”

He hears Diego sigh his signature Diego Sigh, like he’s the only reasonable person in the room. “This was your idea.”

“I know, but you don’t have to get in trouble with me.”

“We won’t get in trouble if you stop talking so loud.”

By now, Klaus has crept across the room and put his ear up to the door. There’s no light in the hallway, but he still knows for sure that the two of them are standing right outside.

“What’re you whispering about?” He whisper-yells, just loud enough to be heard.

“Klaus?” He hears Ben say.

“No, it’s Freddie fuckin’ Mercury,” he answers.

He can hear Ben frowning.

“Don’t be a dick,” Diego says, “We’re bringing you food.”

Klaus’ mood immediately lifts. “You are?” He asks, both loudly and hopefully.

“Shh,” he hears both of them hiss.

“Sorry, sorry. What did you bring? I’m starving to death, here.”

“We couldn’t save any dinner, or Dad would see,” Ben says, “but I got some carrots and those veggie stick things you like.”

“I do like those!” He’s oddly touched, even though he doesn’t love carrots. “Just, just slide them under the door or something.”

There’s a lot of shuffling, and whispering, and then the bottom end of a veggie straw bag is shoved through the little bit of room under the door. Klaus grabs it quick, and tries to pull it though, but it’s too big—all the air they shove in the bag to take up space takes up too much damn space. He pulls harder, they push harder, and then the bag pops. Half the veggie straws explode all over his bedroom floor, and the sound echoes like a bomb in the silent hallway.

“Shit!” He hears Diego whisper-yell, and then the carrots are being frantically shoved under the door.

“Sorry, Klaus,” Ben says, ever apologetic; Klaus can already hear Diego hurrying away, “We gotta go. I know you didn’t mean to—do that, on the show, but no one’s—I mean, I already knew. And it doesn’t change anything.”

Klaus refused to cry earlier, but maybe he feels his eyes prick a little bit. “Thanks, Ben,” He says, and then doesn’t have time to say anything else. Ben’s footsteps pitter patter down the hallway, and his door clicks shut right before the hallway light clicks on

Klaus grabs at the veggie straws all spilled out, grabs the carrots even though he doesn’t like them, and throws himself into his bed. He pulls the blankets over his body and buries his face in his pillow, just as the lock turns and his door squeaks open.

He knows it’s either Mom, or Pogo, or maybe even Dad, standing in the doorway. He does his best to even out his breathing, and prays that whoever it is doesn’t look down and see the veggie straws he couldn’t grab.

The seconds drag on for hours, until finally, he hears the door swing shut. The lock turns again, and the footsteps disappear down the hallway.

He breathes out a sigh of relief, blinks back whatever heat was building behind his eyes since he got home, and reaches for a veggie straw.

Fuck his dad, and probably Luther, too, he thinks, Ben is the real hero of the family.

 

three.

As all celebrity or boy band-esque sensations, the Umbrella Academy eventually fades out of the limelight. They grow up, somehow, and then Ben dies, and everyone but Luther gets The Fuck out of there. There are still the comics floating around, and he still gets recognized sometimes, but he spends the rest of that time separating himself from his fucked up childhood as much as he can with his dead brother still hanging around.

Then, of course, the whole thing with Vanya’s autobiography happened. And the controversy was suddenly alive again! It didn’t last as long as he thought it would, but it was long enough to generally disrupt all of their lives.

He watches the paparazzi harass Allison for answers on the TV in the corner of the of the dollar store he visits from time to time to buy like, soap and veggie straws and shit. They shout questions about Ben and how she feels about Vanya now and if she knew about ‘the abuse’ some of her siblings ‘endured’. She, gracefully, doesn’t answer any of their questions. He thinks that’s very professional and super-star of her. He pops a pill and waves at her on screen, and the cashier looks at him like he wants to ask him to leave. Ben tells him to stop acting like such a crackhead, and Klaus says that he’s an adult so he can act however he want.

He’s at a party later that week, in some shitty apartment he’s never been to, and he’s been sending signals to and receiving signals from this strong-looking guy all night. He’s pretty cute, and Klaus is suitably high enough to go for it even if he wasn’t that cute. He’s just been feeling all empty lately, all sad and drained out because Vanya’s book has been dredging up a lot of stuff that didn’t need dredging up.

So he’s dancing with him, and then they’re in the hallway, Klaus’ back pressed up against the wall with a picture frame digging into his shoulder, when the guy — he thinks his name is James, or maybe Jared, and that makes him think of the jewelry place and he snorts — pulls back, squints at him, and says: “Hey, you were in that umbrella thing, weren’t you?”

Klaus immediately feels his mood go Down. He sighs, slumping back against the wall in a very unsexy way. “Yeah,” he admits, “Why?”

The guy looks vaguely eager, “You’re the kid who can see ghosts, right? The one who came out on TV?”

“Ugh,” Klaus groans, “Please don’t talk about that—it’s a total buzz-kill. My boner’s gone.”

The guy’s, James or Jared or whatever’s, is decidedly not.

Klaus snorts again, the closest thing to a casual laugh he’s gonna manage, “What, did you have a crush on me as a kid, or something?” He wonders if that sounds as obnoxiously self-centered as he thinks it does.

Jared-James laughs a little, looking sheepish, and no fucking way, Klaus thinks. The wildest things always happened to him.

“Maybe,” He says. “When you came out, it really, y’know, inspired me to do it, too. And you were a cute kid.”

Klaus doesn’t know if he likes the way he says that, but—well, if he was also a kid back when Klaus was a kid, then it’s not a big deal. He’s obviously feeling it for grown up Klaus.

“Well,” He says, dragging the word out because he almost forgot how to say it, “I’m glad my fuck up could be of some use.”

The guy laughs again, and Klaus’ high is starting to wear off; if this guy doesn’t do something soon, he’s gonna have to go find someone else, or something else, to fill him up with whatever he can get. Lucky for him, JJ is still plenty willing to get it on with him even though he found out that he used to run around in schoolboy shorts and talk to dead people.

The whole time, he can’t shake the feeling of being watched—of being observed, more than he’s used to. This JJ guy knows exactly who he is, and where he’s from, and who he used to be. He isn’t used to that; this isn’t supposed to be fucking rehab, this is supposed to be fun. The sex is fine, sure, but it’s not fun like it usually is.

He lights up a cigarette afterwards, and the guy takes a drag, says it was cool to meet him, and then fucks off to take a piss or something.

Klaus lies back on the stranger’s bed he just fucked around in, and sighs up at ceiling. 

He never really thought his Big Gay Accident would’ve had some positive effects on the world, other than giving some struggling journalists gossip material to keep their jobs. It’s weird to think about, and it makes him feel like, disconnected from the world or something, so he fishes a little ziplock baggie out of his pocket, ignores Ben’s disapproving stare, and decides not to think about it at all.

 

four.

Allison takes to publicity better than any of them. Which is obviously to be expected. She’s been on magazine covers since they were like fifteen. She’s been in movies and TV shows and at one point she was guest judge on Project fucking Runway. He only finds this out because there’s this one lady who works at the rehab center who really likes the show—it’s on all the time, whenever he manages to land his ass in there again.

So he’s sitting there one day, munching on some vending machine cookies and enjoying a nice fashion show marathon, and then suddenly Allison is on screen being introduced, and her smile is all radiant and lighting up the screen and shit. She looks good—looks nice and Hollywood, the way she used to talk about wanting to look.

When they start judging the clothes like, thirty minutes in, Klaus finds that they agree on a lot of the fashion choices. They have similar fashion opinions, if you will, similar refined tastes. It’s so funny, the way he’ll say “god, that’s tacky,” and then when they’re judging she’ll say “it was a bit cliche—a little tacky, if I was gonna be rude,” and she makes the other judges laugh because she’s so charismatic, and he just gets a dirty look from one of the junkies who apparently really likes gaudy jewelry and tacky clothes.

It almost makes him want to call her or something, and talk about the episode with her. Talk about what shoes go with what dress or what they’re dream outfit would look like, the way they did once when they were fifteen and Luther was off doing something else, which meant that Allison finally had some free time to spend with someone else. They swapped ideas on her bed, Klaus leaning back on his hands, almost oddly afraid to encroach on her space.

Then he remembers that he lost his phone, and that he doesn’t know Allison’s number even if he hadn’t. So he tucks that idea away under all the others thoughts he has about how goddamn much he wants to get high right now, and how he’s gonna throw another thirty day chip right down the drain because that’s just the shitty kind of person he is.

No, he thinks, he didn’t take to publicity well at all—he’s not in any kind of spotlight anymore, and he’s still not dealing with it well! But it’s whatever. He goes to see Allison’s new movie in the shitty one-dollar theater on 2nd street, and he doesn’t call her to say congratulations, but he does think it. Projects it into the universe, or whatever.

The idea of calling Allison makes him think, inexplicably, of Diego. Diego also didn’t take super well to publicity. Or maybe it was that publicity didn’t take too well to Diego.

Everyone was super psyched when he got into the Police Academy—the family, and like, the general journalist population, because again, it gave them more material—and everyone was super surprised when he got kicked out of it.

It was this huge scandal, blown way out of proportion, because he wasn’t any kind of child super-star-slash-hero anymore, so what did it matter anymore? It was like everything they did, everything their crazy father made them do, just stuck to them and wouldn’t ever stop following them around. Luther stayed, and then he went to the fucking moon, apparently; he stayed all wrapped up in that messy shit, didn’t even try to leave.

Which is none of Klaus’ business anymore. He’s out of there and done for good, has been for years, and he has no intention of being dragged back in. Vanya’s book puts a dent in that plan, but not for long. Controversy comes and goes and then fades into the past. 

That’s just how it is. And that’s just fine with Klaus.