"...Now, are there any questions?" Reginald Hargreeves stood in front of his 'students', looking at them one by one, almost daring them to actually question his orders.
One child, Number 6, tentatively raised his hand.
Hargreeves sighed. "What is it Number 6."
The other children looked around, some as if they hadn't even noticed his absence. But other than Ben, it was really only Diego who was truly interested.
Their 'father' sighed again, but quickly answered. "Number 4 is currently in quarantine. He is ill in bed and I do not wish for him to pass on any illnesses to the rest of you. Do not try to interact with him and he shall return in a few days."
It was odd. Klaus had had quite a number of sick days recently...
It felt like they had been running for hours. The soles of their feet were throbbing and they couldn't even feel their rain and sweat soaked bodies anymore- if only that were the case for their feet! The city felt weaker out here, like there were parts missing or stripped away. These were the outskirts where more nature was allowed to take hold, where there were often more green patches than towering, looming masses. The lights were more sparse and in some sidestreets it was only the glow of the moon that helped light the way. These weren't streets that Klaus was used to, the dodgy back alleys saw far fewer trades taking place, and the parks were often the sweet spaces for lovers to wander through and kids to run about in that they were meant for. Though, he couldn't help but think back to his streets, where the dealers hid behind bins or in doorways, waiting for him to stagger across and hand over the latest wad of cash he had 'procured'. Now all streets were full to the brim, spilling over the edges with the extra bodies invading the space. The alleys held the ghosts of all those who hadn't been as lucky as Klaus, who had fallen victim to a bad batch or not know their limit. There were young people lying helpless on the floors, their clothes in disarray and scrapes on their hands, knees and faces. They all looked at Klaus and god he wished he could shut them out again, that he was down these alleys looking for another hit and not running for his life. He had seen a dealer a few streets back and did for a split second think about handing over the $50 he'd stolen from Hazel or Cha-Cha's stash all those weeks (or was it merely days) back. Even if it had been one pill, it could have helped. Diego had seemed to sense his thoughts though and promptly growled at him when he'd slowed down, and what with Ben swearing at him too as he ran on ahead, he didn't have much choice.
"Why are you even running?" He had gasped out in query. "You can't die!"
"Eh, helps me feel a bit more alive again." Ben shrugged, his hair plastered to his face, wet from the rain that Klaus wasn't sure could even reach the ghost of his brother. "Besides, how can I encourage you to keep running if I'm not too?"
"I wouldn't call swearing at me encouragement." He tried not to, but his mind wandered back to his time with Dave (always 'time with Dave', never 'the time I was in the war') where any and all reinforcement was swearing and screaming.
Ben shook his head before shouting over his shoulder, "Just keep running."
Easy for him to say, Klaus was willing to bet it didn't take much for a ghost to run- they didn't even have lungs.
"No, that's true. But I was always fitter than you anyway. Now keep running!"
"Bastard!" As usual when he wanted to exaggerate things, he put his whole body into the shout, limbs flailing and head whipping in Ben's general direction to help convey his feelings. It slowed him down and caused a bit of a stumble, along with the heads of his other siblings to whip around.
"Klaus, shut up and keep up!" Diego had back pedalled a little and grabbed his brother by the arm to haul him forward slightly. Ah Diego, ever the angry protective brother, a scowl on his face distracting from the heart on his sleeve.
Klaus moaned but ran on anyway, keeping his focus on Diego and Ben in front of him and not the crowds of slightly glowing people converging around him. At one point they ran past a burnt out building, the windows still glowing from the memory of the flames and now the trapped souls staring out forevermore. Of course, to the other Hargreeves siblings, they were dark and empty shapes, only a small clue as to what the building once was. And they wondered why Klaus tried to shrink away from the world!? When all they could see were shells and distant memories, and all he could see were the trapped, stuck records of lives once lived. They were aware but ignorant to the pain of others' deaths; he was all but aware and sharing that pain.
Every so often Five would jump on ahead to see if their way was clear and find their best route. They so far had a good lead on the bad guys but it did well not to make their moves obvious and so instead of running into an alley, Five would have them run down a main street and into a shared garden space below some flats. It had helped shake off one of the faster baddies when he went sprawling over a pile of waste bags as they skipped through the rose patch.
As they ran towards more natural and open spaces, Five jumped back to the front of the group. "Up ahead there's more alleys and underground car parks..."
"Lots of places to hide." Luther interrupted. Klaus didn't need to see Five's face to know the look he had given him in return.
"And exactly where they'll think we'd go. But on the right, the road leads to the cemetery, high fences and a padlocked gate. I think I can jump you through, one at a time."
Klaus saw Allison nod and thought he heard a grumble from Diego about climbing the fence himself. He hated cemeteries. This wasn't going to be fun.
They ran a few more minutes before the fence rose above them. If they could do this it would definitely help lose their pursuers; there would be no way normally for a group to climb and disappear over a fence this high in time. One by one Five grabbed a sibling, popped away and reappeared on the other side of the fence before returning for the next passenger. Quicker that he'd wanted, it was Klaus' turn. His heartbeat thumped in his chest, the pain in his lungs and lack of oxygen now present not for the miles he had run but for the pure panic that was settling in. His body shook and that craving for a hit shot through the roof. Luckily, he didn't really have much time to think as Five merely grabbed him and jumped him across, shifting the gothic arches and spikes of the fence behind him. It felt like his entire body had pressure popped all at once, a hum hovered for a few seconds after Five deposited him in the grounds and it reminded him of his trips with the briefcase- though he thinks this is a bit more pleasant than that, a natural gift of his brother rather than the manufactured science behind their machine.
Within seconds the space around him is crowded, the humming of the jump being replaced by the cacophony of talking and harrowing wails.
"Just. Keep. Running." Ben was in front of him, and Klaus had already half doubled over in panic. He looked up to see the others already kicking off into a steady jog around the graves and trees and tried to focus on staying alive rather than everything else about his current situation. Ben smiled and jogged along with him this time, shoulder to shoulder. "That's it. Focus on your breathing and listen to the heartbeat in your ear."
Fuck. Why didn't they have time to grab his headset? How rude of their chasers to sneak up on them with no warning.
He'd once asked Ben to sing to him in a similar situation (well, it had been cops he was running from back then) but the young man had point blank refused, telling him there was only so much he would do for him. Now though he heard a small humming coming from his left and as much as he wanted to join in, to blast out the words of the song and try and drown out everything else, he knew he couldn't.
They stumbled for a few more minutes through the darkened grounds, the moon now helpfully hiding behind the clouds- typical. He wanted to joke about sprained ankles or falling into an empty grave but it seemed he had lost all sense of humour- put on or not. What seemed like hours later but was probably only 10 minutes, Luther took a sharp left and called "In here!" He disappeared into what Klaus thought was a huge area of bushes and trees but when he got close he saw the nature had actually taken over and become a blanket for the harsh corners and crumbling stone of the mausoleum beneath.
Of course the others just filed in, possibly a bit spooked but otherwise not affected. Luther's frame held open the large doors and as he looked Klaus could see the shadows moving around inside, both of his siblings and the other occupants of the area. Klaus was aware of Luther shouting at him in hushed tones, talking to and fro with someone already inside, every few seconds he would gesture towards Klaus, clearly agitated.
"Move your scrawny ass." Was what he think he heard over the blood rushing to his ears- well, not rushing, it was already thumping out a tremendous rhythm that seemed to spiral into a crescendo Vanya would be proud to be a part of. He couldn't breath, holy shit he couldn't breath.
"Klaus...have to...I'm sorry...be there..." Ben's attempts to comfort him sounded so far away, only reaching his ears when there was a seconds lull in the band playing within his body.
Suddenly he was aware of a huge shadow advancing on him and strong arms grabbing him and lifting him into the air. He'd probably make some joke about a Greek hero rescuing their damsel in distress if it weren't for the fact he wasn't 100% sure he wouldn't throw up or scream if he opened his mouth. Instead he kicked and punched at Luther's body, knowing the hits would do nothing but feeling it was the only thing he could do that wasn't completely crumble.
Don't do this. Don't do this. No. Don't put me back in there. Don't make me stay any longer. I've learned my lesson. Anywhere but in there.
As the world literally shrank around him he saw Diego locking them in, fastening the padlock through the ornate bars on the outer gate and resealing the stone doors within. They were well and truly locked in. Secure one could argue. Trapped, Klaus would counteract.
The crypt, or mausoleum- whatever!-, was old, with architecture dating back at least 150 years but someone had added modern, natural touches. Skylights in gothic shapes decorated the ceiling, letting in small patches of light and probably believed to help release the spirits should they become stuck inside- if only they knew, he thought sadly. They were probably nice touches for the other Hargreeves', giving them a bit of light to see by when the moon peaked out from the clouds, but they made little difference to Klaus. The dead would reach him anyway, light or no light.
As soon as Luther let him go he scrambled back into the farthest corner, his legs and arms splaying out like a spider on roller-skates to try and shuffle him back as quickly as possible. The moment his back hit the cold wall he curled in on himself, noticing how much harder it was now with his added height than it had been all those years ago. He brought his knees up to his chest and tucked his head as close to his legs as he could, bringing his arms across and over his ears and hair. He knew he was already rocking, probably muttering or weeping too but at this stage he hadn't a care in the world. Let them see how low he sank, let them finally get a glimpse of the shit he faced and the reasons he did what he did. 'Dad' had often expressed his disgust at how Klaus always seemed to want attention, making himself louder and more boisterous to make it all about him, and how his siblings still commented on such energy to this day. It was never about attention, there had been times he wanted a bit more love or support and maybe he had played on the hurt little boy to turn Mom away from Diego's latest knife injury but it had mostly been about distraction. He had made himself louder to drown everything else out. If he was loud and obnoxious, the ghosts became little mosquitoes buzzing in his ears, annoying but easily swatted away. They learnt quickly though, and soon became huge claps of thunder, far too loud to be drowned out by the rain. It was all distraction, and it all failed. So he grew up and left and he pursued the few things that helped and if they killed him then so be it.
His chest was on fire, the little air that was getting in felt like acid, dripping down his throat and melting him from the inside. He felt like he needed to claw at his throat but that would mean taking his hands from their protective hold around his face and that would not do. There was no way he could keep this up, the sounds he was making were terrifying even to him, the deathly rattle, the wheezed inhales, it was like the ghosts he had met that had died of tuberculosis, influenza or lung cancer. His stomach somersaulted, alternating between cramping and fluttering with nerves. One second it would feel like he had swallowed a ball, swelling his belly and twisting his organs to make room. Another second he could imagine the ghosts floating around down there, little flies trapped in a jar and bouncing off the walls. He wanted to vomit but his throat was too tight. He wanted to scream but there was no air. He wanted to die but...well he possibly would.
Around him he heard the sounds he was far too familiar with, coming back like the memories they were. Most people liked reliving childhood memories, remembering the taste of a long forgotten snack or reminiscing about the sounds of the house coming to life in the morning before the children went their separate ways or before mum moved out or dad died. He hadn't had it this bad in so long, and even during his time with Hazel and Cha Cha it had only scratched the surface of past experiences. This was like standing in the middle of a concert crowd, being the one in the centre of the wall of death. It was the epitome of the Agora in Agoraphobia, the huge crowds of the Greek markets, with no room to move or even think. Soon Klaus knew he wouldn't even be able to hear the deathly sounds his body was giving out, that the moans or hysterics would be lost in the sea of souls. Words bled into words, and he heard parts of so many stories, the murder of an old man trying to protect his wife, the wasting away of a young boy on the streets when the 'papes' cost too much, the drowning of a brave man only wanting to get back to his sweetheart, the sweetheart joining him when her sorrow became too much to bear. Their voices screeched in his ears, the cold they harboured rigid against his skin. Once or twice he swore he could feel a freezing hand around his arm, or a body laying across his (thankfully shoed) feet. It wasn't like when Ben had hit him, this was the exact way you would describe a ghost 'touching' you, their dead bodies reaching through the veil, only letting you know they were there by the cold that surrounded them. His body trembled, so much more than even during his withdrawal. It felt like he could fall apart from all the shaking, that his bones were maracas, his teeth chattering along to the tune.
Shit he needed to breath. Holy living fuck he needed air. They were stealing it. The ghosts were taking the air that they didn't even need and the memory was smothering the rest. He was a child again, and if he looked up he was certain he would see his 'Dad' standing in the doorway threatening 3 more days if he didn't calm down and control his abilities. This was not learning, this was scarring.
Though his eyes were shut tight, the pressure forcing them to ache inside their sockets, he still felt the world closing in, the blackness seeping in at the edges. Was he passing out? Good. Maybe he could fall into such a deep state that they couldn't reach him. Or maybe he'd fall too deep he wouldn't be able to surface again and he'd still be trapped with them.
Maybe this was all his wrecked body could take.
Absolutely not! You're not giving up now. Not after every gutter I've dragged you out of. You can do this Klaus. We can do this. Wake up. Jeez your heart is screwed from all the shit you've put in yourself. Do you know that? You would never pass a medical. And yes I am berating you, I think you deserve it. And talking to you like this often helps more than being kind. Wake up you absolute idiot. I am not having you join me. You need to take control, for once in your life, take control. If you keep falling I can't catch you. Klaus, please let me catch you...
Get up Number Four.
You're better than this Number Four.
Diego wasn't panicking. Diego didn't know the meaning of the word panicking. There was no worry or anxiety what-so-ever.
At least this whole time Klaus had had some sense to keep his own fears to a base volume. All they needed to do was wait a few more hours and this would blow over. Their pursuers had a time frame and once it hit 7am on Wednesday 12th January, the Hargreeves were free- as long as they weren't reinstated with another hit. By his watch it was now just shy of 1am. Holy crap they had hours left yet!
Did Klaus have hours left?
He looked like he was about to die.
He looked like he could already be dead.
It was now that Diego truly looked at the state his brother was in. It wasn't that he hadn't noticed the emaciated appearance before, how some of his bones stuck out more than they should or how the skin on certain parts of his body didn't seem to fit right. Many would say that was the way he was, that it fit his shape and stature and to some degree that is true, Klaus had always been tall and lanky, but knowing what his brother could and once had looked like, this was closer to the ghosts that haunted him.
Klaus had always been flighty and unpredictable, often seeming to be in a world of his own, but even before when he showed his first signs of discomfort at being in the cemetery it had been a new side Diego had seen. He could see the real panic in those eyes, the way they closed off and zoned out, far different to the distance he got when high. When Luther had carried him in he had kicked and spat, reminding Diego of a rabid animal, foaming at the mouth. When his breathing took a nose dive all Diego wanted to do was breath for his brother, to let him share the air in his lungs, he even momentarily slowed down his own breathing so not to take up more air than he needed inside the mausoleum.
He had seen his brother shaking during his comedown, when he had asked Diego to tie him up. The trembles had caused a small lump to form in his throat, witnessing a new action within his brother that wasn't the usual juddering knees of him being high. But now he just wanted to surround him and hold him all together, as if the bones would fall out of his body if he continued to tremble in such a way.
This didn't seem right. He knew Klaus got affected by ghosts, and where better to find them than a cemetery but Diego sensed something deeper, it was an abject fear, a memory he was trying to run away from. He had been here before. Something about this situation had caused this reaction. Maybe it had just been an accumulation of everything, of the ghosts that would find him; of being in somewhere he couldn't leave; of the dark? Klaus was always running, always flitting from room to room or place to place. Even the hovels that Diego had known he resided in every now and then changed, he didn't stay in one place for very long. He liked to know he could leave if he needed to, if the voices got too loud. Even in their youth Klaus would travel from one bedroom to another, asking the siblings for a bed share that night. It usually fell on Ben and Diego, being the only two that ever said yes. Sometimes Klaus wouldn't even try, not wanting to bother them. But they wouldn't sleep those nights anyway, for they would hear his screams and cries and lay in bed wishing they could help him, make the ghosts go away. And sometimes, selfishly and regretfully, wishing they could make him go away.
He started walking toward Klaus now, he would wrap himself around his brother and hold him tight. Usually, Diego didn't like showing his feelings, he had always thought of himself as one of the stronger of the group, and feelings were a weakness. He kept those for the special people, like Eudora, and Mom. In the last few weeks (god, was it only weeks? It felt like years) since they had reunited, he had reassessed his feelings for his siblings and how he should handle them. He could still be strong and brave, but it wasn't a bad thing to show his softer side every now and then. Especially with Klaus. The two had always been slightly closer- though not as close as Klaus and Ben had been- and he had often seen signs within the other man that the others didn't. And maybe it had been like Diego with Eudora, Klaus reserved some of his emotions only for Diego, only showing the truly broken pieces to him. He often followed him around like a puppy, grappling for lifts or just the odd ride in his car to take him somewhere different, maybe where the ghosts didn't know how to find him. It had been Diego he went to asking for help through his withdrawal, and Diego he had stuck close to when the two assassins became a problem. How hadn't he seen sooner that he should have fought for him, how he should have sought revenge not just for Patch but for his damaged brother? And not just recently, but all those years ago.
That was going to change. Klaus had Ben, and Diego didn't want to get in the way of that but he knew that his brother also needed physical love, true contact that sadly Ben couldn't give him. Diego would be that, even if he stood where Ben stood and allowed their deceased brother do the talking and used Diego as a puppet, touching Klaus when he needed it.
Right now, they needed to get through the next 6 hours and judging by the shocked and confused faces on those around him, he knew that they were in for a long morning.
"Just...just don't shout at him. Ok?" His voice cracked a little but for once he didn't mind. It was soft and probably a new sound for his siblings. "We need to help get him through until 7 and reacting badly to him isn't going to help. You got that?"
Ok, so he may have given Luther a bit more of a challenging look than he meant. Oops. But luckily they all, including the big man himself, nodded, dumbfounded. There was a mixture of pity, worry and sadness on their faces and Diego reeled, thinking that maybe, just maybe, they were all (himself included) finally realising that their shit of a brother was in need of more help than they'd ever thought before. He wasn't grasping for attention, he was begging for help.
Though he had walked forward slightly, he found his feet had stopped long ago and he simply looked down at the horror before him. It was Allison who brushed past him and crouched low on the floor, reaching a hand tentatively out to her brother's arm. The moment it made contact he flinched so suddenly that it caused them all to jump.
"No. No don't touch me. Leave me alone." It barely even sounded like Klaus, it was so quiet and scared that it couldn't possibly be their loud and brash brother. Allison looked up at Diego, her wet eyes glistening in the moonlight.
"I don't think he was talking to you." He whispered. "I think he thinks you're one of them."
Her face crumbled. The shock taking her voice just as Vanya's actions had done not that long ago. It was still weak, recovering from the damage, but her whimper seemed even more broken than it had.
As they stood in silence, frozen just as the victims of Medusa were frozen. All they could do was stand and watch as the man before them began to mumble and sound worse than any stuck record Luther had ever played.
Diego didn't know that one single word could break his heart so much.
No. No. NO. Nononononono.
In between the words, the rasping breaths continued, making the words sounds exactly like the ghosts that plagued Klaus. Haunted and terrifying. He didn't know one word could be said in such varying ways in such a short space of time but there it was. One would be lost to the lack of oxygen, another would sound more like a plea, another more like forgiveness. A whisper. A hushed shout. A moan. A prayer. A cry.
He took another breath in, if that is what you could class it as. The sound making Diego sick to his stomach. The last breath of a dying man. Or, at least that was the closest thing that came to mind.
Some of the noises were getting louder and in the dead (no pun intended) of night and middle of a cemetery, they were not going to go unnoticed and he wasn't sure how thick and soundproof these things were. He decided he needed to try and pull Klaus out of this, to try and get him to focus on anything other than the ghosts. He pushed past Allison, kneeling just ahead of where she had been moments before and forwent the niceties and delicacy she had acted with, instead grabbing Klaus in rough hands and shaking his arms from his head.
"Klaus! Bro. I'm really gonna need you to shut the hell up. If Ben's here then focus on him, or me, or Vanya, whoever the fuck you need to focus on but we need you to not give us away alright."
Yes, he was a little rough, but he had enough instances of this attitude working better when Klaus was around and so he went with it.
As he held onto the scrawny wrists he found contact with the dilated, blown pupils of his brother. He was far more used to them being pinpricks, another sign he was often as high as a kite. For a moment they made contact, the fear and panic penetrating Diego's soul. It made him regret his roughness, wishing he'd shown the compassion he had internally promised to give him. The contact didn't last long and soon Klaus was looking over Diego's shoulder. The hands within Diego's renewed their trembling and fresh tears made tracks down Klaus' face. His heavy breathing, which Diego ashamedly didn't notice had calmed down for a minute, came back with a passion. He was pretty sure that Klaus would continue his mantra of 'No' if he could get the word to come out, but as it was, his mouth contorted and his face crumbled like some deformed, tragic painting. The make up, already black around his eyes, was lost in the real blackness that had bruised from lack of sleep and hours of strain, and his face, even paler than usual, was now mottled with red. He was a wreck.
Diego never took his eyes off his brother's face, even when his own were darting around the room and drowning in tears. He wanted to see every expression, every detail. The eyes flitted back to Diego's gaze, and his pleas became ever stronger. Klaus shot forward, almost shoving his face in the man's before him.
"I can't be here. D, please get me out. I can't be here. Anywhere but here!"
Diego didn't let go, though he loosened his grip a little, not wanting to add more bruises to his brother's skin. It was a grip that told Klaus he was there, that he was grounding him and wasn't letting him go. That he wasn't alone- though, he never was alone, was he?
Klaus pulled away a little, though left his hands where they were, bunched up into fists in Diego's grip. His head dropped and if his eyes stayed open they focused solely on his own lap. Diego lowered their hands, bringing them into Klaus' line of site.
"K?" He tried to find his 'little' brother's eyes. "You with me?"
Klaus responded. Just...not directly to Diego or his question.
"Let me out. Let me out. Please. Dad please. I haven't been bad. I've learn my lesson. Let me out. Dad. There's too many of them. It's too loud. I can't...I...I can't..."
"He can't breath!"
"No fucking SHIT Five!" In a second he was on his knees, gripping one of Klaus' wrists in his right hand and trying to lift his face with his left. "Klaus, look at me. Come on bro look at me. Come back to us."
Oh hell now he was panicking. He could feel his own chest tightening and his breathing slowly caught up to that of the man in front of him. He needed to focus, how could he calm Klaus when he was just as bad.
Vanya ran forward and it seemed like neither Diego nor Luther could look at her properly, not given the implication that they had locked her up just as their father had done her and Klaus.
She didn't exactly grasp onto their brother, but she placed a hand on the back of his neck and got close to his ear. Her own eyes shut.
"Klaus, you need to breath. You need to focus on something that isn't...them. Find one sound, one thing that you can pick out amongst it all. Hold onto it and don't let go. You're not locked up, we'll be out soon. And we're here, not Dad. When this is over we can go home. This isn't prison, it's not the end. Come on Klaus, focus. Please."
They all needed a long bloody chat about how fucked up they all were. If anything, these last few weeks had only brought to light that they all had dealt with so much and probably needed a thousand hours worth of therapy. Each!
It wasn't working. Vanya looked at Diego with pity and apology in her eyes. He remembered Klaus' words from years ago. "How can I focus when there's so much noise? You know in the middle of a gunfight, or in the middle of a party when the music is so loud you can't hear the person next to you?" Diego had nodded. "They're the party. They're the gunfire."
"He can't latch on to something. They're too strong for him. Especially with so many years without practice. He isn't used to it, he never learnt how to properly control it." He knew he sounded like Dad, and that Klaus would probably hate him for his words but he wasn't saying them in anger or disappointment, it was the facts, and they had to work with the facts. They couldn't try to get him to focus when there was no chance of it happening.
"Then what do we do? How do we help?" Luther teetered on the verge of kneeling down beside them, his face morphing into concern and a hand hovering close to reaching out to Klaus. Instead he kept his distance, but seemed ready to pounce if he were needed. They were all going soft. The apocalypse had made them soft.
Diego blew out a puff of air. He hadn't a clue. "Don't suppose anyone has any headphones on them do they?"
"Only my phone. We could hold it near his ear, wouldn't quite be the same but at least it might drown some of it out."
Allison was already diving into her pocket to retrieve said phone, flipping up the screen and tapping away until she found something useful. She was wary not to make it too loud, not wanting to attract attention or deafen Klaus.
The Cure's 'Friday I'm in Love' began playing and she awkwardly held it towards her brother's face. It wasn't going to work great, and her arm would be numb by the first play of the song but she held a determined look on her face. Diego flicked his gaze between the two, trying to see any reaction.
Klaus' trembles slowed for a minute, and his head seemed to tilt minutely toward the sound. The breathing was still so very harsh but at least it could be labelled as breathing again and not choking. He looked around and found Luther's eyes, the pair nodding in acknowledgement at what they had seen.
Number One suddenly moved, putting his huge mass behind the delicate frame of his brother. He pulled Klaus to him slightly, making the smaller man lean on him and in between his legs. Gently taking the phone from Allison and placing it in the breast pocket of his jacket, it made it far easier to keep the music close to Klaus' ear without anybody's discomfort.
It was working. Klaus' trembles had near enough stopped and his breathing was slowing down, almost normal again. Diego could have sworn he saw a twitch in his foot every now and then, in time with the odd beat of the song. They all sat back in relief, shoulders falling and bodies unclenching, their own relief seeping out as Klaus found his own peace. He didn't know if he simply had his eyes closed or if he had fallen asleep, or even passed out, but he looked quite sweet, lying there draped over his brother.
"Hey Luther, it's funny, if I didn't know he was such a prick I'd say he looks almost adorable in his sleep." Diego winked, the two sharing the joke and sniggering toward Five.
"What? Did I miss something?"
"You? Miss something? That'll be the day." Luther laughed, the movement jostling Klaus and emitting an almost childlike grumble out of him. He smacked his lips and nuzzled his head deeper into the padded coat behind him.
It was like that for a while, just the six of them hanging around inside a mausoleum. Those who had still been standing slowly slid down, joining the others sat dotted around the surprisingly spacious room. It was peaceful, the first bird songs just beginning to break out and the soft lull of Allison's shuffled music playing with them.
Vanya closed her eyes. Five followed not long after. And Luther was snoring behind Klaus, Allison's eyes clearly heavy but managing to stay open to giggle at him.
Diego leaned forward to whisper in her ear, his hands still holding Klaus'. "Bet you wished you still had your phone."
"Oh don't worry, I have years worth of sound clips stored for a time of need." The two muffled their laughs, not wanting to disturb any of the others. It was like they were kids again, when they were in between missions and training and got along, allowed to play and just be kids. It had been so manic since the apocalypse, their (thankfully) short time trapped back in their younger bodies, the realisation they were still being chased, the various time jumps to and from spots in their timelines. Allison's voice was only just recovering and Vanya's hearing had slowly come back, though she often complained of pain or strange sounds. They'd messed up and they knew it. But through it all they had learnt to trust one another again, to hold on to each other when they needed it, to not leave a sibling behind. Vanya was still wary, and they would catch her side eyeing them every so often or cautiously stating her opinion in a family meeting, but she was with them and followed them and skillfully controlled her powers when needed.
Diego leant back himself, allowing his head to lean on the cold, almost damp, wall beside him. His brother's hands were still in his own and for a minute he just watched the rise and fall of his chest. The phone was now playing something he'd never heard of but it was still working and that was enough for him. Slowly, he closed his eyes.
Help us. Heeeelp uuuuus.
I seek the death of my murderer.
My baby girl is out there somewhere, alone.
WHY DID HE DO THIS TO ME?!
Listen to us.
I was wrongly accused. They hanged the wrong man.
They said I was a witch. I can't breath. My lungs...the water...
It sounded like he was drowning. That was the sound that truly dragged Diego from his sleep. There was whimpers and cries, and he could feel the body close to him kicking out and tossing and turning on the spot. It had been those that broke the surface of his slumber. But it was when Klaus' lungs sounded full of water that Diego shot up, fatigue forgotten. How could a person sound like they were drowning when they were only breathing the oxygen a person was meant to? It even sounded like it was caught in his throat, gargling and bubbling.
"What the hell?" Five scuttled forward, and damn his real age, Diego couldn't help but wince at his exposed knees becoming bloody. "Turn him on his side."
Luther did, his face betraying the internal confusion and disbelief. Klaus' chest hanging over his huge arm, and Vanya leant over and rather roughly slapped him on the back.
They didn't expect him to cough up water, maybe he was being sick and he'd swallowed it, but they knew they needed it to stop. For over a minute he choked on...something, his body once again shaking and almost seizing within Luther's grasp.
It wasn't working.
"Guys!" Vanya's voice was tiny but carried so much heartbreak. "His lips are blue."
"What?!" Luther pulled him back again until he was roughly in the same position as before, just no longer peaceful. The music now played some song about 'holding on', how apt.
Diego heard a mantra of 'Oh God. OhGodOhGodOhGod'. He wasn't sure who it was, it may even have been himself. Maybe they should just run. Get the hell out of here and leg it. The men after them surely must have moved on by now. But where would they go? And would this stop if they left their position or would the ghosts follow him now they had him in their sights, like dogs tracking a scent.
"Klaus. Klaus come on, listen to the music, listen to us. Klaus come on bro I need you to..." What did he need him to do? To breath? To calm down? To stay alive. "Ben, if you're here I really need you buddy. Klaus needs you, I know you know that but whatever we do isn't working and you've been with him longer. You need to slap him out of it or something. Klaus....Klaus, I don't want to lose you."
He seized. Klaus' entire body began to fit in Luther's embrace and his eyes flitted to and fro under the lids. Bile fizzed from the sides of his mouth, but the drowning imitation didn't seem to go away. Diego knew he shouldn't keep hold of a seizing person, that he should clear his space and take away anything that could cause injury. But he found himself unable to release the hold he had. He felt like if he let go now, it would be as if he was allowing Klaus to plunge down into the lake of pain and despair he was in and that he really would drown.
Allison and Vanya were holding each other tight, tears streaming down their faces. Five slumped against a stone effigy of some long forgotten person and for a moment Diego hated the person it represented, not knowing if they were one of those harming his brother.
A light got everyone's attention but this time it wasn't the comforting shine of the moon or the panic of a torch finding them in the middle of the burial grounds. It came from within the room, from the floor and the dying (because at this point there was no uncertainty, Klaus was dying!) man before them.
Diego looked down at his hands, and at the hands he held. The pairs were now bathed in a luminescent blue glow. It shot out in places, reminding him of the clips he had seen of CME's from the sun, the fire like tendrils flickering and blowing. Looking up at Klaus' face, he saw the eyes behind the lids held a similar glow, though not as bright. His body had gone rigid now, all shaking and seizing ceased. He took one huge gulp of breath in and held it, his mouth open as his back arched.
The glowing snaked up Klaus' arms, and licked at Diego's too. It didn't hurt. It felt strange, not exactly cold but almost electrical, a buzzing or humming on the hairs on his skin. He watched as the blue seemed to form arms connected to those of Klaus', but they didn't match Diego's arms, they were off centre and were a little thinner than his own. His peripheral vision caught even more blue and as the others in the room seemed to latch on to something behind him, he too turned his body to the expanding blue at his back.
At first his heart jumped for joy, the arms that weren't his were Ben's. He was crouched almost exactly where Diego had been, his own hands gripping Klaus'. He felt a bit awkward that he had sort of being sitting on his brother, however, Ben nodded to him and said "Don't move, don't let go, I'm using you as an anchor." The joy soon turned to panic as the blue continued to spread. If it weren't for being stuck in the moment, he would worry the shit out of their position being given away by the giant illuminated mausoleum shaped 'We're Here' sign. Within a minute the entire room was full of blue shimmering people. Looking around, Diego could see the simple deaths, those lost to old age or sickness, and he could see those who's lives had been completely ripped from them, the wounds almost pulsating with the same blue, the once red blood now congealing into a dark black colour upon their clothes or dripping down onto the floor. This is what Klaus saw? These were his demons?
"Yeah. You get it now!?" Ben's words weren't meant to berate, and maybe the anger that was behind them wasn't directly aimed at his living siblings but Diego knew that this was a moment of triumph- sad triumph. Ben was relieved they were finally seeing the shit their 'druggie' brother dealt with, the reasons why he did what he did. It was an eye opener to beat all eye openers. He could never explain it to them, so why not let them see.
"Are you doing all of this?" Diego felt like he needed to shout over the cacophony of voices, but was also deathly scared to. The hands over ears trait Klaus had picked up early in life now made a whole lot of sense, as did the headphones. And the drugs.
"I think it's both of us. Klaus and I. I'm reaching out to him as hard as I can, his body and powers are reacting with his emotions, like they did in the theatre. I latched onto them and sort of...pulled."
Diego's entire body felt...overwhelmed. His chest got tight and he felt every thump of the crowds voices. He felt like he needed air to breath, fresh, clean, open air. Eyeing the door, he began to plan his escape. This was what Klaus dealt with. This was his anxiety, his fears and phobias. He just needed it all to go away, for the world to be quiet again and to have his own space. Every time he had found Klaus in a vulnerable position, he now knew why. Every time he had seen him crack and crumble, he now knew why.
"Can we do anything?"
"I'm trying." Ben's teeth were gritted, his gaze kept firmly on Klaus' face, and if he could sweat, Diego was pretty sure he would be. "Come on Klaus. Work with me. Fight."
Whether by instinct or just pure hope, Diego grasped tighter onto Klaus' hands, wanting to ensure the bond was firm, that Ben could get to their brother. He found himself repeating Ben's words. "Come on Klaus. Fight back. Fight back."
The lump in Diego's throat seemed to grow, the absolute despair that this was a fight they never even intended in getting involved in but here they were and Klaus wasn't going to come out the other end. He wanted to cry and scream and break down the walls of their tomb in pure rage and grief. All the times he had ignored Klaus or told him to grow up, fobbed off his fits as childish attention seeking ploys. For years he had completely disregarded his drug issue as some fucked up hobby that Klaus was too lazy to get out of.
"I swear, I swear I'm going to be there for you. From now on I swear I'll be the brother I'm meant to be. But I need you to help me, I can't do it without you. We can't do it without you." Any embarrassment at the sentimentality was forgone as he looked around the room and saw all of their siblings weeping and nodding in unison.
Allison took a breath in and wiped some of the curls off his face so gently it was like he would break. "Come on Klausy, we can go for ice cream soon. We'll have a day, just us, whatever you want."
"Waffles." Ben said. And when Allison looked at him in confusion he just smiled a sad smile and said, "He likes waffles."
"Then waffles with ice cream. Sounds like a good plan to me!" She sobbed a little, the forced laugh melting away. "Klaus please..."
Luther reached out one of his arms and pulled her toward him, her face burying into his neck as she sobbed. His other still kept a loop around Klaus' mid section, holding him in case he should suddenly shoot off or flip out again.
The light seemed to pulse suddenly, a brighter wave shot out with an audible vibration, with Klaus being the epicentre. And again. And again. It was as if the power was alive, with its own heartbeat pounding out a stronger wave of energy.
"Yes Klaus. YES!" Ben practically jumped on the spot, his hands still 'holding' his brother's.
Diego stared wide eyed back, seeing that Klaus' eyes were fluttering and the blue had taken over almost his whole being. He was nearly fully awake now, his gaze matching that of Ben's. All of his focus was on their dead brother, the concentration creased his forehead and face and, whilst giving him a pained expression, was the strongest show of power they had seen, possibly ever.
"That's it Klaus! You got this bro!"
Klaus' body shook for a whole new reason now, with the sheer force of propelling his power out, and this time when his breath hitched, it was in shock at his own ability. Tears streamed down his face but he paid no mind to the other spirits in the room, only the one he loved standing in front of him. He was mouthing Ben's name, bits of spit bubbling as his mouth moved.
Was this kid ever going to get a break?
Behind him, Ben moved and his own groans became apparent. Diego turned to see the oh so familiar tentacles flying out from his body. They whipped and snapped in all directions but never seemed to reach any of the siblings. One by one they would find a ghost, grab them and fling them through the walls. Some would scream and try and out pace the 'monstrous' growths but they were caught and soon followed the other dead. Others completely disappeared of their own accord, flashing out of existence or sliding back into whatever realm or pocket they slipped out of.
Diego knew this wasn't the way to deal with this, that Ben and Klaus couldn't fight like this on a regular basis to keep the ghosts at bay. Soon Klaus would have to find his own form of defense, his own way of dealing that wasn't to get so high they couldn't reach him. Right now though, right now this was all they could do.
Ben grabbed the remaining three apparitions, their sickly glowing 'bodies' disappearing until Ben and the moon were once again the only lights in sight.
Klaus slumped hard. His thin figure completely collapsing against Luther as his chest rose and fell like it was the first clean air he had breathed in days. Diego stroked his thumbs over the hands he had never let go of.
"You ok buddy?"
"Peachy." Klaus' voice was wrecked, he was wrecked.
"So...I definitely think we have a lot to talk about."
"Hmm." Already he was slipping off again. His words slurred, sounding oh so like when he was high. "But, no' right now, eh?"
"Yeah. Ok." Diego didn't even get the words out before Klaus' head flopped to one side as he once again lost consciousness. Patting his brother's hands, Diego sat back down, his back against the wall and staring out toward Ben. "Still here?"
The glow had dimmed a great deal now but somehow a little still remained and Ben was left standing. "Oh." He said, smiling. "Maybe just a few more minutes. Just...just to make sure he's ok." The smile faded and a solitary tear slid down his face. Diego wanted to wipe it away for him, one hand rising up to do so. Both he and Ben realised at once that, yes, he could actually do so, and they met halfway as Diego gently caressed Ben's damp cheek.
If it wasn't for the adrenaline wearing off and his entire body throbbing in exhaustion, he was pretty sure he would have broken down and cried until he had no more tears left. As it was, he concentrated on the pain in his muscles and the pulse beneath his fingers miraculously pumping away.
It was 4am- how time flies when you're fighting for your life. The light of the moon was ebbing away and the first hints of a sunrise were spreading out through the small windows above them. The birds songs were louder and the sounds of the first vehicles setting off on their days was carried on the wind. 3 more hours. And Klaus was asleep.
Could they pray for 3 hours of uninterrupted silence?
To any god that would listen!
In the end they had to carry him out of the mausoleum. He had woken up around 6:30 but had no strength to even push himself up higher onto Luther's chest. His whole body felt like death- an ironic description that had always tickled him. It felt a whole lot different to waking up after an OD or a full week of non-stop highs. This, kind of felt good- as good as pain and misery could get. It felt like his body was tired for the right reason, that he had fought for something, and won.
It was Five who had broken the silence, a gentle cough that sounded nothing like him before, "it's 7:09. I'll jump out first, make sure the area's clean."
He hadn't waited for confirmation before the recognizable pop of him leaving sounded. Klaus stayed still, aware of Luther's form behind him, Allison's on his left. She was half draped on Luther, half close to Klaus, her hand pressing delicately on his stomach, fingers grazing those of Luther's who had seemed to hug him this whole time like a teddy. Towards his feet was Diego, eyes just coming to at Five's announcement. He had a hold of Klaus' right hand and kept the spindly legs of his brother's almost intertwined with his own shorter ones. Vanya was close by too, curled up a bit further away from the group but allowing one of her feet to knock against Klaus'.
His eyes stung with tears.
"You ok?" Diego whispered, almost too scared to speak any louder in case he hurt his ears.
Klaus nodded, shaking a few of the tears loose.
Five soon returned and gave them the all clear, pulling open the large doors and unlocking the padlock on the outer gate. Diego finally let go of his hand and walked over so he could get a grip on Klaus' shoulder to haul him up. Allison took the other side. He had barely walked 3 steps when his legs gave way, lucky that neither sibling had let go of their hold on him. Luther went to scoop him up but Klaus shook his head, trying to hold back the wave of nausea.
"Mm, no. No. I want to walk. Just...just hold me up."
Of course, Diego dutifully did just that, wrapping his arm behind Klaus' back and putting one of his brothers' over his own shoulder. He did most of the hauling, Klaus just tried to put one foot in front of the other, but they got out and the moment the morning sun hit and the air became cleaner Klaus let gravity take him and landed softly on the grass.
He looked up and saw Ben grinning down at him. "You're so dramatic. Just like a swooning sailor after months at sea."
"Hey!" He pointed a long finger up toward where his brother stood, the jubilation and exhaustion mixing in to create an almost drunk appearance. "I'll have you know they have valid reasons for doing that! And I am not dramatic. This would be dramatic!"
In an exact recreation of something he was certain he had done in the past, he flung himself on the ground, rolled around and even shoved a few blades of grass into his mouth. Before promptly spitting them out.
"Eurgh. I think a dog pee'd here."
His siblings didn't even ask, at this point they knew that any exaggerated conversations were most likely with Ben and that the better the banter and the lighter the tone, the more 'ok' Klaus was.
The giggling continued as Diego once again picked up Klaus and helped him along his way, Luther keeping a few paces behind should he need to catch him. Five continued to jump on ahead and Vanya and Allison walked arm in arm, their faces held toward the sun.
Klaus heard Diego swallow and sigh a few times beside him, he knew there was something coming. Not now D. I don't want to think about it now.
"Klaus?" It came anyway.
He just hummed to show he had heard and was listening.
"When we were younger, and you had days off? Dad said, he said you were sick and resting in your room. But, it happened a lot and you've never really been a very sickly kid and..." He trailed off. Klaus' heart sank at both the memories and the fact it had now come to light and was hurting his siblings too.
"Yeah D?" Just ask. Get it over with.
"You said some things in there, you said...it sounded like it wasn't the first time you'd been...fuck. D..d...did Dad used to lock you u..u..up?"
Oh hell, the stutter!
All energy completely vanished. He nodded once against his brother's form and wanted the ground to swallow him up.
"He said it was a lesson. Face my fear head on."
He thinks he said that at least. His body felt lighter than air and the black around his vision wasn't the smudged mess of make up. For what felt like the millionth time that day, he was about to let the darkness consume him.
"I'm with you Klaus. I haven't left you, I promise."
Ah Ben, sweet, glorious Ben.
"I'll keep them away. Diego and I will kick their asses."
Shaking his head to clear the fog, he focused on staying awake. He felt strong arms squeeze his, and a cool breeze whipping at his face helping him to push back his exhaustion. Klaus wasn't entirely with it, and he wasn't 100% aware of his surroundings but as long as he put one foot in front of the other, he would keep going.
The heaviness that always came with a mass of ghosts had left him, and he knew they must have made good distance between them and the cemetery. For now, the only presence he felt was the familiar hum of Ben and the distant chatter of the Hargreeves siblings.
They'd helped him get through the night, all of them. Without them he would be dead. The memory of how the witch's death had melted into his own being, of the water she had swallowed coating his own lungs. His ears still rang from the noises of the screams and his skin felt alive with the buzz of all the energy.
Allison doubled back for a moment, walking over to Luther and taking something from him. Klaus' natural curiosity made him want to have a nosy, but he found he didn't have the strength to look away from what was directly in front of him. Only a few seconds later there was a familiar beat playing out around them and he saw heads bopping and the odd skip in the step to the tune.
"...And don't you know, it's a beautiful new day, hey hey."
Klaus smiled and found just enough strength to tap his hand on Diego's shoulder in time with the beat. His brother's rough chuckle sounded next to his ear.
"Come on D, you know you like this one really." He teased.
They were going to be ok.