Klaus was a restless sleeper, Diego thought as he watched his brother twitch and mumble silently as he lay on the mattress across the room. He was sprawled across much of the available space, as was usual for Klaus, but still looked small in his thirteen year old body. Beside him, Vanya was curled up into a tiny ball with Ben beside her, while Five and Allison occupied the bed opposite them.
They were all sleeping quietly, bar Klaus who seemed to be constantly muttering and tossing around every few minutes.
It had been an exceptionally long few hours since they had traveled from the future, and Diego could feel the weariness and fatigue seeping into his now young bones. Their consciousness had been transported back to their younger bodies, or so Five had explained in a tired but still marginally condescending voice as an explanation, and it had taken a toll. Five looked pale and exhausted as he lay beside Allison, but his young face was a now familiar sight, compared to their newly de-aged bodies.
Diego absentmindedly studied his hands, feeling a pang of sadness that the scars and callouses that he had built up during his life were now wiped from existence. It felt as though he had lost a part of his identity, and he wondered was it the time to mourn his scars? His heart gave a painful beat then, at the thought of mourning, and suddenly his thoughts were consumed by Patch. Her face, her smell, her smile all flashed into his memory and then suddenly his hands were in fists.
But Patch was alive. She was alive because she hadn’t died yet, and the timeline was safe for now, or so Five had muttered to himself before passing out.
He let out a breath he hadn’t realised he had been holding, and forced himself to put the image of her motionless body out of his mind.
Beside him, Luther also seemed to be having his own existential crisis, rubbing a hand over his smooth face as his brow furrowed in thought. The two of them had stayed up to keep watch, in silent agreement with each other as the rest of their siblings had crashed in various states of exhaustion onto the beds and passed out.
Diego shook his head slightly in delayed gratitude that Five had somehow landed them on one of the few dates that Sir Reginald Hargreeves had gone on a business trip. That had meant that they’d only had Pogo and their mother to deal with, and Luther’s adult tone had left no room for argument when he’d informed them that they would be having a team bonding session that evening in one of the rooms. There would be explanations demanded and attempted punishments doled out once their father returned, but for now at least, they were uninterrupted.
Klaus’ murmurs got louder suddenly, sounding more distressed, and Diego looked up sharply at the glow of blue light that caught his peripheral vision. Klaus’ hands were clenched into fists in his sleep, and emitting the same light that had surprised them all in the theatre earlier, the light that had brought Ben into being.
Diego frowned, and exchanged a look with Luther who also looked concerned. They didn’t yet know what this new power was that Klaus had developed, and Diego expected that Klaus himself didn’t even know.
“Should we… wake him?” There was a note of uncertainty in Diego’s voice, and he found himself looking towards Luther after a moment.
One of the blue glowing fists seemed to spasm then, catching Ben in the side of the head and he woke up with a sharp inhale. Ben’s eyes widened and the whites were visible for a few moments, before he caught Diego’s concerned gaze, and then seemed to calm down. Diego guessed maybe ghosts didn’t need to sleep, so perhaps this was the first rest Ben had had in years.
Ben sat up slowly, and then looked down at the glowing light sleepily.
All traces of fatigue vanished from his expression after a brief second though, and he looked frantically at his brothers, “When did this start?”
“Uh, just now,” Luther answered, the urgency in Ben’s voice prompting him to sit a little straighter, “Why, what’s the problem?”
Ben scrambled to his feet, and the movement of the mattress seemed to disturb Klaus even more. The still sleeping boy shuddered, and a whimper escaped from him lips. His previously relaxed, slackened posture on the bed had shifted into a more tensed, rigid one.
Diego suddenly got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, and he stood up, unsure of what to anticipate.
“Klaus, Klaus – wake up. Klaus you need to wake up,” Ben said softly to his brother, and the two other brothers moved closer in curiosity. Klaus grimaced and made a pained expression, his eyes darting around behind closed lids.
His hands, still surrounded by blue spheres began to flex and extend, the long fingers trembling slightly.
Diego could feel the sensation of dread growing, as he got closer to the bed, and he swallowed hard before saying, “Ben, what’s going on?”
And then, everything changed.
A pulse of bright blue light filled the room, emitted from Klaus’ fists, and blinded them all temporarily.
When his vision returned moments later, Diego nearly screamed. Suddenly the room was packed with people, and it took Diego a second to realise what was going on. His eyes flicked rapidly from the elderly man with a gaping skull and exposed cerebral cavity, to the woman with half her torso missing, to the runner with pieces of his limbs missing. And then onto the next disfigured disembowelled adult, the next drowned woman with soaking wet hair, the next child with a shotgun wound to the chest. And the next, and then next.
His brain felt like it was in overload as it struggled to take in the sudden additions with no context, and he could feel his mouth opening and closing like a fish.
Beside him, Luther seemed to be having the same struggle, and his hand reached out to grab Diego’s out of reflex.
They stood there for what seemed like hours struggling to remember to breathe as the people stared at them with cold empty eyes. They shifted from side to side, as if restless, and their mouths seemed to be twisted in agony.
Dead. They’re dead.
If the copious amounts of blood running down most of the people, or the gruesome nature of their injuries wasn’t enough clue, the whimpering of Klaus would have been. Ghosts. Diego could feel his whole body trembling as he faced the ghosts, only able to take shallow breaths as he struggled to process the true horror of what he was seeing.
And then they started howling.
The sound pierced though his stupor and forced him to his knees instantly. It was like nothing Diego had ever experienced before, and he was consumed with the intensity and overwhelmed by a deep chilling fear. It felt as though his mind had been taken over and all he could hear was the shrieks of grief, more intense than any emotion he had ever felt.
Somewhere in the midst of the agony, Diego was aware of his siblings going through the same trauma. He could barely hear over the wailing, but he was aware of the fact that he was howling as well, along with Luther, Allison, Five, and Vanya.
Diego then attempted to open his eyes from his shaking position on the floor, and instantly regretted it.
The ghosts had clustered closer around him, and their bleeding, mangled faces appeared only inches away from his own. Their eyes had turned from an empty blankness to a terrifying fury, and they reached their hands out towards him.
As Diego attempted to scramble backwards, half paralysed by fear but also consumed by the need to get away get away, he could see Luther’s shaking figure taking steps towards the bed.
Allison and Five were clutching onto each other, tears streaked on their confused faces. Vanya was hyperventilating, with Ben attempting to ground her with one hand on her shoulder, his other hand shaking Klaus’ shoulder as he shouted, “Klaus! Wake up! You’re projecting, Klaus, stop!”
After a few moments, Diego realised that he could break down the overwhelming noise into a mixture of screams, shrieking pleas of “help me, help meee,” and a number of moans and other unintelligible sounds. The sounds reverberated through his skull, and he gripped his head with both hands and descended into an uncontrollable scream again.
He could feel himself getting lightheaded from the constant stimulation of his senses, and the rapid beating of his heart. He didn’t know how much more of this he could take before it destroyed him.
And then, as quickly as it began, it was over.
The room went from being overflowing with horrors and everything that Diego’s worst nightmares had never even come close to, to being occupied only with six teenagers.
Klaus woke up with a gasp, and rubbed a shaking hand over his eyes. He yawned and shrugged off Ben’s hand on his shoulder, stretching out his arms, his hands no longer glowing blue but retaining their baseline tremor that he’d had since childhood.
Then he looked around at the various states of his siblings, and frowned, “What’s going on guys?”
Diego’s hands were shaking, his teeth were clenched together to keep from chattering, and his skin felt like it was crawling.
His eyes tracked along the outlines of the room, and he shuddered as his inspection revealed nothing. No ghosts, no growing pools of blood, no nightmares ripping into his subconscious. The room was quiet, apart from the shuddering breathing of the siblings, and they all appeared gaunt and pale in the dimly lit room.
Only Klaus looked the most normal, or the most normal for himself anyway.
It was his brother’s baseline to constantly be fidgeting and moving around, and Diego watched with new eyes as Klaus’ gaze darted from corner to corner within milliseconds.
He finally knew what Klaus was also looking at.
Luther looked devastated as he sat down heavily on the bed beside Vanya, who had tears falling silently down her cheeks. She leant into Luther, all former wariness from previous recent events forgotten in the midst of this new horror. Allison was looking on with wide eyes, her mouth opening and closing silently – as if for once in her life she simply couldn’t find any words.
Even Five looked extremely rattled, something which they rarely saw.
Diego did another inspection around the room, and then attempted to relax his jaw to say something, anything really to break the silence that they’d been plunged into.
He struggled though, and found himself looking down towards the right, where the ghost of a young woman had been dragging herself towards him only moments before. She had been missing her legs, and the lower half of her abdomen, and he found himself shaking again as he remembered the wet shine of her entrails along the floorboards.
A small cough caught his attention, and he snapped his head up to see Klaus studying him and the space beside him.
His brother’s eyes were full of grim understanding and pain. Diego’s heart let out a painful beat, and he swallowed against the lump in his throat. He broke eye contact with Klaus then, feeling too full of emotion and an unfamiliar type of shame that he couldn’t place.
He looked back involuntarily at the floor to his right, and couldn’t help but flinch. He took a step away from the empty space, moving closer to the beds. Five silently moved his legs so that he could fit onto the bed, and Diego sat down heavily, crossing his legs underneath his body. He remembered what – or who – had been emerging from beneath the beds and couldn’t face the idea of his legs hanging down.
It was Luther who spoke first, his tone betraying the fear that shone through his controlled expression, “Klaus, I… We didn’t realise…”
Klaus’ face twitched slightly then, and he just cocked his head to one side, studying Luther’s, “How could you have?” He replied, but not in a bitter tone, just a logical one. Klaus’ fingers scrambled against the threadbare blanket on the bed, and he began to pick at the threads absentmindedly.
Something caught his attention then, off to the right, and he flicked his eyes over to look at something invisible for a split second before returning to meet his siblings’ gazes.
Diego wondered what had happened, and a residual shudder ran through his body. Klaus caught sight of the movement, and gave him a pitying look.
Ben was the only one out of the six Hargreeves apart from Klaus who didn’t look traumatised, his face drawn into a grim frown. His eyes looked weary, but there was no hint of surprise in his face, only sad resignation.
Diego wished above all things then that this wasn’t how it always was, that what they had experienced was a rare anomaly in the world of Klaus.
But the heavy feeling in his heart told him it wasn’t true.
He recognised the everchanging facial movement of Klaus now though, as his body constantly reacted and adapted to unseen stimuli – his eyes flickering over their shoulders, head turning minutely in response to noises that the rest of them couldn’t hear, and his lips twitching as if always on the brink of responding.
Everything seemed to fall into place, all the irritating and isolating mannerisms that they had learned to block out over the years, the muttering and whispered pleas of their brother that they had unrelentingly ignored.
The years of alcohol and drugs, of overdoses and nights where Klaus would drug himself into a stupor and barricade the doors. The countless times Reginald Hargreeves would drag him off for punishments, would lock him in his room and throw out every trace of drugs while Klaus screamed like he was being tortured, only for Klaus to turn around and do it all again the next day. And then when their father finally gave up, and Klaus’ addiction spiralled further and further – when even his siblings gave up and Diego turned his back on his brother, his tragic addiction fuelled brother. Klaus kept going.
A chill set into Diego’s bones that had nothing to do with the temperature in the room.
“Well, apologies for that brief foray into the world of the ghosties, everyone!” Klaus clapped his hands together suddenly, the noise making Luther startle, and his voice was back to the artificial cheeriness that they all knew so well, “Let’s hope no one got the heebie jeebies!”
Klaus then gave them all a sickly smile, and ran a hand through his unruly hair that seemed to be sticking up more than usual. The tremor seemed more pronounced than usual though, and he only succeeded in scuffing his curls more to one side.
“Klaus…” Luther attempted to say something substantial again, but trailed off once more, looking tortured.
Vanya let out a sob that she quickly stifled, and Klaus’ expression softened, “Come on now, they’re gone now. Well, not gone – but gone for you.” He reached out and awkwardly patted her on the shoulder.
“But not for you,” Allison finished his sentence then, and the mourning in her eyes shone through the unshed tears. Klaus shook his head briefly, and shrugged slightly, attempting a weary smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
Ben seemed to be regarding them all with some form of guilty relief, and Diego could see the way a weight seemed to have been lifted from Ben’s shoulders. Finally, his quieter brother seemed to be saying with his expression, finally Klaus wouldn’t have to bear this alone with only Ben to support. Ben, who until only recently had been one of the spirits.
Oh god, Diego suddenly thought, had Ben looked like… what those ghosts had looked like? Had his brother been frozen in the same horrific state that death had left him in, with shredded clothes and dark splattered blood marring his smooth skin. And his abdomen – the sight that had given Diego nightmares for weeks until he had forced himself to compartmentalise it and never ever picture it again, except on the rare occasions that he slipped up.
Had Klaus spent the last decade seeing their brother destroyed and bloody every. single. day?
Eventually Diego was able to clear his throat, and his voice came out with that same note of terror that was present in Luther’s, “Klaus, is that – is t-that h-h-how it is n-normally? Is that – do t-they always scream like that?” Klaus tilted his head slightly to look at Diego, and seemed to consider the question. There was a seriousness present in his expression that they rarely saw, and it felt like it was the most honest conversation they’d had in years.
“They don’t always howl so loudly,” Klaus replied carefully, sidestepping the first question, “There’s an old chap who occasionally sings opera badly, and a kid who likes to yell rude words. He gets quite creative actually.”
“I’m sorry,” Five blurted out then, in a strangled voice, and Diego felt the guilt flood through him as he thought back to the immeasurable amount of times that they had treated Klaus like a nuisance for simply trying to exist.
The rest of them all tried to apologise together then as well, but their sentiments came out as a nonsensical jumble of I’m sorry’s and Klaus, we didn’t know and can you forgive us – mixed with some choked back tears and residual whimpers.
Their brother looked at them solemnly for a moment, and then grinned widely, “Look at this, Ben,” he said brightly, “who knew it would just take a few ghosts to rattle the fearsome Umbrella Academy? Just another new pesky power.”
Ben shook his head with a resigned smile, and the connection between the two brothers was so evident that Diego felt a pang of sadness.
“Group hug!” Klaus announced then, and without even thinking they scrambled over to one mattress, elbows and knees brushing off each other and warm bodies crashing together. It felt grounding to be pressed close in a group huddle, the likes of which they hadn’t done since they had been young kids, or recently when they’d crashed into the past in a tangle of limbs.
“Oh hush now,” Klaus muttered to the side in a vaguely irritated tone, as they embraced with still shaking limbs, and it was so Klaus to be talking to the silence that Diego felt a pain in his chest.
Klaus giggled then, and Diego could feel his thin body twitching slightly as his bony shoulder dug into his ribs.
It was just Klaus, being his usual self.
The response to this was so overwhelming and incredible. I was apprehensive about posting for the first time in years, but all your comments and kudos kicked me into gear and came up with this addition. Hope I did your expectations justice.
Let me know what you thought, and keep an eye out - I have a few more ideas to come for these characters in hopefully longer pieces over the next few weeks.