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god doesn't want him and neither does the devil

Chapter Text

 

The world spun. It collapsed. It concaved, and his chest did the same. Ghosts died, and were reborn, and he watched them die again. Fingers flirted with each other and slipped away. He reached back and found a wrist. There was a hand on his shoulder. His bones melted and broke and were glued back together again. God didn’t want him, and neither did the devil, and he’s died enough to prove that he can’t anymore.

He opened his eyes.

“Fuck,” someone said. He looked up, surprised his neck wasn’t broken, and stared into the face of his dead brother.

“Ben,” he said.

Bodies rose around him, groaning and moaning and it was hard to let go of whoever’s wrist he was holding onto.

“Klaus? You good?”

He wished he died when the world did. Oh, well.

“That was my third time time traveling!” Klaus exclaimed proudly, letting his hand unfurl from Diego’s arm to stretch. Luther was holding his blonde head in his hand, his shoulders slumped and his chest now back to its 15-year-old frame. Allison, her hair darker and wilder, was leaning against a tree that was removed long ago (or hasn’t been removed yet, Klaus mused), Vanya in her arms. She was staring at Ben, who was staring at Diego, who was staring right back at him. Five was unconscious in the grass.

“Morning all,” Klaus said with grin. He felt frail and fragile, like he how he feels when he received a slap from dad or when Luther took his anger out on him during sparring.

“Did it work?” Allison murmured aloud, eyes still fixated on Ben. His once-dead brother (apparently), reached out his left hand to brush against Klaus’s face.

“I don’t think that’s very reliable now,” Klaus blurted, and Ben split into a smile and choked out a laugh, and Klaus felt one building his ribs but his head hurt and his hands were no longer his ouija board salutations, his goodbyes. Ben reached out and touched Diego instead, and Diego laughed, and Ben kept laughing, and Luther smiled and Allison giggled as she pet Vanya’s hair and Klaus realized Dave’s dog tags were no longer on him.

“Shut up, will you,” Five grumbled. “God, it’s like I’m hungover.”

“Thank God you’re alive, Five,” Klaus said. “You were so pale I thought I’d have to be stuck with another brother for all eternity.”

Ben punched him in the arm then and lay back down on the grass. Klaus wondered if ghosts could feel the earth.

“You were being serious that whole time?” Diego, in his boy-like self but stutter-free, asked. Klaus scowled.

“No shit, Sherlock, don’t you know my power?”

In Vietnam, there were so many ghosts it was hard for Klaus to tell who were alive and who weren’t. “Jeez, I thought you’d be the one to believe me,” and he reached for a bottle that wasn’t there.

Diego fell silent and looked down at his hands, his skin outlined by their uniform sleeves. Klaus felt stiff. Sober. Dave’s dog-tags must’ve fell off around here somewhere, he just had to look.

“What do we do now?” came a whisper, the question none of them wanted to answer. It came from Allison, ever the resilient, fearful to test her voice. Her hand never left Vanya’s head. “Do we… train her? Will she even remember what happened? What do we tell dad?”

“Someone should go get her medication,” started Luther, rubbing his temples, and this small statement sparked outrage among their siblings which began another bout of Five complaining about their sound.

“Sorry, Five, we’ll let you sleep,” Diego murmured, glaring daggers (this was quite a funny pun, in Klaus’s mind) at Luther. Five mentioned something about Delores and Klaus felt a pang in his stomach.

“Aww -” Klaus grinned, hands clasped together at the sight of Five’s curled up body “- look at him. Such a cute little killing machine.” Oh, the ghosts he’ll see by his brother.

“Fuck off, Klaus.”

“We’re not locking her up,” Allison hissed and Luther spread his hands in shock.

“I never said anything about locking her up!” he exclaimed, rather loudly. Ben nudged him and put a finger to his lips, and his touch made Luther start.

“That’s what you’ll want to do, eventually, when you get scared of her again,” Diego whispered and rose to his feet - only to sway slightly and decide the ground was a better option at the moment. Allison nodded her approval. “Exactly,” she said. “We’ll… we’re gonna fix her. We’re gonna help her. We just need to make sure dad doesn’t find out, yeah?”

Klaus can feel the others nodding, can feel their bodies shifting around in the great green grass and can see Vanya stirring, but he focuses on his chipped nail polish. Light pink and black, the colors of poodle hoop skirts from the 50s. Dave was born in 1940. Maybe his mother wore those, or his sister, or his first girlfriend. Someone grabs his shoulder and he realizes that, with this new ability, the ghosts can touch him.

He looks up and sees Ben, Ben and his little uniform, Ben with his tousled black hair but always neater than Klaus’s. He missed Ben’s hoodie.

“You good?” he whispered, and Klaus smiled and got on his hands and knees.

“Have you seen those dog-tags around here anywhere? I must’ve dropped them coming through, or they fell off my neck or something.”

“Don’t be a dumbass, everything we had on in that timeline has now been reversed to what we have on now,” Five grumbled and Klaus stuck out his tongue.

“Yeah, but I was holding them. They should be around here.” He spotted something glint in the sun and realized it was a piece of glass, most likely from bottles he smashed at nighttime when he was a kid (he’s a kid now, Klaus realized).

“Alright, we better… we better get inside,” said Allison, right before Luther leaned over and vomited onto the lawn. Klaus let out a guffaw and slapped his mouth shut, his crinkled eyes gateways into how humorous he found his brother’s embarrassment. The ‘children’ all collectively groaned and scooted back from the stench, Allison pulling Vanya closer to her and Five demanding Diego drag him farther away.

“Sorry,” Luther groaned, eyes shut against the harsh summer sun.

“Don’t worry big brother,” Klaus snickered, holding his blazer to his nose, “it happens to the best of us.”

“I miss not being able to smell,” Ben snorted, and suddenly Klaus felt compelled to give him a hug, so he did, and he hugged him tight and tried to remember the last time he touched his brother while he was alive. Diego joined them, and then Luther despite Klaus’s comedic complaints, then Allison lay Vanya on the ground so that she could touch Ben, too, and say his name aloud, and Klaus called for Five to join them (who promptly gave them the middle finger), and then Vanya woke up.

“Wh -”

The arms broke away, the bodies slid under each other and Klaus imagined them as snakes, slithering towards their prey, and Vanya backed herself up against the tree and covered her face in her hands and screamed.

“Oh my God oh my God oh my God I didn’t mean to do it I didn’t mean to do it I’m sorry I’m sorry oh my God -”

“Shh,” Allison whispered, pulling Vanya’s fingers away from her eyes and Klaus wished that the earth would stop shaking, shaking, shaking -

“I’m so sorry,” Vanya sobbed, and her voice was to childish, too girlish, she reminded Klaus of the dead little girls he played with as a child, and he imagined Vanya to be like that - dead and empty and mourning and crying out for help. He couldn’t give her it.

He stayed back with Luther while the others gently explained to her what happened, told her they’re going to help, she won’t have to take those pills anymore (it would calm the ghosts in her mind, Klaus thought with a giggle), that father wouldn’t hurt her anymore (promise me that, too, please). She’d calmed down enough that only the branches of the tree above them shook and occasionally dropped their green leaves. Klaus watched one drift to the ground as Vanya tentatively reached out to touch Ben’s face.

“Ben,” she whispered. He cupped her hand in his.

“Hey, V,” he said back.

In an attempt to be sympathetic, Klaus pat Luther on the back. “It’s alright bud, she’ll get over it.”

“I just want to apologize,” his brother muttered, knees drawn up to his chest. “I didn’t - I didn’t mean to.”

Klaus didn’t answer. He just told Luther it wouldn’t be best for her to see him yet. Klaus didn’t like being the wise one for once (in truth, he didn’t think it was appropriate for Luther to be listening to him), but his forearms were itchy and he felt that if he scratched them enough he’d find drugs. A swing of alcohol. A fleeting kiss. God, he would always be this, a fucking junkie, an addict, a body they find in allies, his death only on the news because of his last name and because everyone expected him to end up this way. Fuck, he hated this place, he hated the stone and brick house that stood over them and the 10 by 10 backyard with the little tree and the shrubs that took up half the yard, hated how the grass withered and died every year and hated how he felt like if he tried hard enough, he’d see the ghosts of the flowers ever winter.

The door swung open. He hated that sound.

“Children!” Grace gasped, hurrying down the stairs. Her apron was pressed and her hair was perfect, and Klaus looked to see Diego’s eyes welling with tears. “What on earth are you doing out here? Your father will be back soon.”

“Mom,” Diego shouted and stood quickly, wobbling for a minute before stumbling over and wrapping himself around her waist. Grace laughed, as delighted and surprised as a robot could be, and rubbed his back. “I l-l-lo-love you,” he mumbled into her chest.

“Why, I love you too Diego,” she giggled. “But whatever are you all doing out here?”

“Resting,” came Five. “We’re tired.”

Grace sighed and gently pulled away from Diego, who watched after her like a hurt puppy. “I suppose your father has been training you all pretty hard recently, but he’d like it better if you rested inside. Come, take a nap and I’ll make you all a snack!”

With that, she twirled around and nearly floated after the steps, and they all stayed there - even Diego. But Klaus was tired, so he brought himself to his feet and drifted to the door.

“Klaus!” Allison hissed, loud enough for Klaus to look back over his shoulder. “What are you doing?”

“I’m tired,” he said lamely and Ben locked eyes with him.

“Klaus,” he growled (the demons in his closet). His voice was warning, waning. “Don’t, okay?”

Klaus nodded. He was numb. He didn’t need anything else to help.

He went up the stairs and listened to his siblings bicker amongst themselves about how irresponsible he was, and he thought he heard Vanya lamenting on how heartbroken he looked when she was locked away, and he maybe heard Diego - or Ben? defending him, but his eyes were too heavy to contemplate any of this, so he just went to bed.

He woke to an alarm.

The sound was too familiar not to miss but still, after years and years of not hearing it he jerked awake, about to cuss off whoever pulled it, before he remembered where he was.

His walls were somewhat bare, a new coat of yellow paint covering his old poems, his thoughts, his conversations. He hid his posters under his bed before Grace painted it (at the demand of Sir Reginald Hargreeves) so that she wouldn’t report them. He knew she would never, but one of the ghosts advised him on it, and sometimes ghosts were right.

Still, Klaus was still Klaus, so he shouted fuck off! before falling back to sleep.

“Up, children, up! Another robbery on 16th street!” came the voice. “Number Four, out of bed this instant!”

“Sir, Number Seven and Three are feeling extremely under the weather today,” Luther was saying, “I will bring them to Mom for treatment.”

“Very well, Number One, and get Four out of his godforsaken room this instant.”

Klaus’s room was soundproof, he suddenly remembered. No one heard his curse. He waited until Luther threw open the door - exasperated and annoyed, before shouting it again.

“Shut up,” Luther growled. “Come on. He can’t know anything is wrong.”

“What about five?” Klaus mumbled, grabbing a bottle of advil and popping three pills. “Is he okay?”

“He’s fine, and even if he wasn’t he’s too stubborn to miss out. Come on, Two and Six are waiting.”

Klaus scowled at that. Their names were Diego and Ben, thank you very much, and they sometimes asked if Klaus is okay, and Klaus believed that that deserves calling them by their real names.

Groggily, Klaus stumbled out in half his uniform (without any shoes, as he preferred it that way) and met his brothers at the door. He earned a flick to the back of the head from daddy dear before he briefed them on the situation: it was a very busy morning at the bank, just like it was on the first mission when they were revealed to the public; the gunners had run in, killed five hostages already - including a couple of the tellers - and was threatening to kill off another every twenty minutes if their demands weren’t met and they weren’t guaranteed a safe way out of there.

“Better to kill them,” Reginald said, very matter of fact. “Six, stop that shaking this instant. One, lead them on.”

Klaus hold onto Ben as they exited - the poor boy hadn’t been in the field in years (then again, neither had Klaus) and obviously wasn’t excited to unleash “his horror.”

“It’ll be okay,” Klaus murmured and Ben stiffened, as if he knew Klaus didn’t believe his own words. “They won’t make you do anything.”

“I can’t control them.”

“I know.”

Klaus, when they got there, was the distraction. Beforehand, Luther and Diego filled him in on the situation with Vanya and Allison; their sisters would be “sick” for a while, so they could figure out strategies to just calm Vanya down, figure out how to switch her pills, how to control what’s inside her just a little more.

Klaus stayed in the back of the bank, near the vault which was supposed to be empty, according to Five - who, apparently, could barely walk but was still fighting (what a tough little 58 year old). He was to make sure no one escaped through there. That was fine. It was a nice, easy, pleasant job, something he’s used to, something he’s content with. He scratched at his nails as he waited, sitting, against a wall. The sounds of the fighting continued, dimmed by the thick walls of the vault. He contemplated snatching a few hundred bills - no, not for drugs, he would tell Ben if he was with him, but he liked saving up money for new posters, doughnuts, things like that. No, Ben, not alcohol either. Not even weed. I promised you, Ben, I’m staying clean! I’m staying sober, for you! Then again, I don’t need to be sober to see you clearly anymore, but I promise you! I promised myself! Maybe I’ll even see Dave again, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? It’d be weird though, I’m just a child. No, Ben, just for doughnuts -

“Hey! What are you doing here! Get with the others!”

Klaus looked up, looked at the man staring at him through the door and for a second wondered if he was a ghost or not. There were tons roaming around when he entered; the gunmen had been busy. He saw a couple children. He did not respect these gunmen.

“Oh!” Klaus shouted. “Oh! Oh, I’m so sorry. Uh, the leader put me here. I don’t know, I think I’m bait or something, heh.”

The man narrowed his bushy eyebrows and shouldered his rifle (thank God, though Klaus didn’t fear getting killed at that moment), leaned forward and grabbed his collar.

“Watch it!” Klaus snapped, struggling against him. God, he was even weaker as a child. “I could charge you for this! This is assault.”

“Shut the fuck up or I’ll kill you,” said the man, his stubble raking across Klaus’s chin as he leaned in to give his message. He reminded Klaus of Dave, for some reason. Maybe it was the way he shoved the gun against Klaus’s temple, but Dave would never shove him forward so violently.

Klaus thought about his options here. He wouldn’t be able to take on the man himself - he’s too small, too weak, too skinny and too pale and the man knew this. There was no way Klaus could just ‘summon a ghost,’ like he did with Ben a couple nights ago (fourteen, fifteen years in the future, though?), but he also wouldn’t like being dragged out in the middle of the bank lobby to be humiliated in front of his brothers. Not that he cared, of course, but he really wanted that couple hundred bucks.

Perhaps he could - ah, yes, kick the guy in the dick, grab the gun before it goes off - yeah, he’ll try that. He did. The gun went off earlier, diverting the attention from the main fight off to the back.

“Klaus!” someone shouted.

“Christ, you’re one of them!” the man he was now piggy-backing cried. “Fucking freak! Get off of me!”

He grappled with his gun, trying to reach up to shoot Klaus - but in doing so would shoot himself, so he resorted to smashing Klaus’s body against the marble wall. “You motherfucking bastard! Get off me! Aghhh!”

Twelve people circled around Klaus, each with gunshot wounds to the head. They killed them execution style.

“I’m sorry,” Klaus said to the ghosts, and they realized that he could see them and they flocked closer. Fuck, Klaus thought to himself. That wasn’t really the outcome he wanted. There was blood on his fingernails now, too; he’d have to repaint them. Blood always leaves a stain on this type of polish.

Klaus dug his elbow into the guy’s neck, briefly stopping the periodical smashing, and continued to dig his fingers into the guy’s face, his eyes, his mouth, his nose, disgusting himself in the process but he could’ve been the one to kill the 12-year-old girl standing in front of him holding her little sister’s hand.

A knife slashed through the man’s neck and the two of them dropped to the ground.

“We told you to stay put!” Diego seethed, and Klaus could still feel the barrel of the gun against his head.

“Help,” said the girl and her sister, and the others repeated the mantra, and they knew his name and they screeched it, and Klaus stumbled back to the vault finally doing what he was told but mainly because he was afraid the ghosts could touch him now. He felt one of their fingers brush against his forearm and he screamed.

They killed the rest of the gunmen. Ben didn’t have to fight like Reginald used to make him do. He fought with his combat skills alone, which was quite enough. Klaus was busy scratching his arm and staring at the ghosts of the gunmen, shouting, shouting, shouting. They reached for him and reached for their guns and Klaus wondered what would happen if they could pull the trigger. Who would they shoot first?

“Come on Klaus,” Ben sighed, grabbing him by the collar like that man did and pulling him to his feet. “Come on.”

Klaus nodded, silent, because he knew that if he acknowledged the demons it’d only enrage them more.

“Severely disappointed in you, Number Four,” said their father when they approached him in the alleyway. The public knew this was an act of the Umbrella Academy but they weren’t doing press that day. “Phenomenal job, One, Two, Six - I see you failed to unleash the horror. We’ll work on that. Come, let’s get home.”

Sometimes, ghosts followed him home. One did, that day, the one whose neck was slashed and eyes gouged out. He waited in Klaus’s room for him to return to dinner, and no one heard him crying because his room was soundproofed and he was crying out for Dave, who probably couldn’t hear him either.

Chapter Text

“Fuck off, please,” Klaus called. Perhaps it was to God, or maybe to whatever ghost was floating around at this ungodly hour. Pff. Witching hour. He scoffed, took a glug of his coffee, and wished for his father’s ultra-rare Jack Daniels. He was too small to get it down from the shelf, but it wasn’t like he was going to drink it or anything - he was sober, finally, the sober he’d been in… God, time travel was fucked up. Fifteen years? Thirty? Would you multiply the life he’d lived in this timeline by two, or three? Or zero? It would be fun to see if he was a ghost himself.

He stuck with his coffee.

In a blast of blue light, Five appeared, cross-legged on the table, and Klaus screamed and dumped his coffee on his lap.

“God, fuck you Five! ” he growled, hissing at the scalding pain. The other boy didn’t do anything, he barely scoffed. This was strange of him.

“I miss Delores,” he said softly, and that was even more strange of him. Klaus stopped patting at his lap for a second to look up at the man-child.

“Well, I miss alcohol so,” he muttered. Five rolled his eyes.

“Of course you do.”

“Hey! It’s not my fault! I’m a recovering addict! I’m allowed to miss it. Just like,” and he softened his voice, as he was getting really good at being wise now, “you’re allowed to miss your only companion during the apocalypse.”

Five nearly slid off the table, silent, and grabbed the rest of the pot. “What are you doing up, anyway?” he asked.

Klaus locked eyes with the gunman Diego killed.

“Couldn’t sleep. Kept dreaming about those yummy, yummy drugs.”

That warranted a small chuckle out of Five - perhaps out of pity, disgust, or humor, Klaus couldn’t tell. “You?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” he deadpanned. Klaus nodded slowly. The burns on his thighs were scalding.

“Are you like… sure you’re okay, bud? You just time traveled - I mean, the first time I did I immediately had to go fight a war, but you just did it, you barely got rest and then you had to fight again and now you can’t sleep. I don’t know about you man, but maybe you could go to the store and get us some sleeping pills.”

“Shut up, Klaus,” Five rasped, slumping into the chair beside him. The man was standing right behind Five, yelling incessantly. Five was saying something. Klaus couldn’t hear over the yelling.

“Jesus Christ shut up already,” he muttered, grabbing hold of his curls and pulling. Five stopped abruptly. “No, not you, Five, sorry. You -” and this he directed at the ghost (who was dripping blood all over the floor, quite rudely), “ you better shut up. I can’t hear this man speak.”

The gunman raged off into the corner.

Five stared at him, narrow-eyed - which only made the bags under his eyes worse. “Who’s there?”

“Some guy from the bank today,” Klaus yawned, tapping his fingers against the wooden table.

“Victim?”

“No, shooter. The one who I was piggybacking.”

Five scoffed. “Yeah, that was a dumb move.”

“I didn’t have a choice! The guy had a gun to my head, I didn’t know what else to do.”

“Could’ve called for help.”

Klaus rolled his eyes. After this exchange was over, he had to take an ice bath. The burns were growing hotter. “Yeah, and then have Luther tell me what I did wrong again? No thanks. We have a chance to redo everything. I’d like to prove myself for once.”

Five raised his hands, as if he believed what Klaus was saying - a gesture that made Klaus puff out his chest with pride.

“Couldn’t you have, like, used the ghosts though?” Five inquired, and the gunman turned around and garbled. Klaus held a finger to his lips and shook his head.

“No, no, no, I can’t. They can’t touch me, I can’t touch them, that’s it.”

“But you’re able to,” Five protested, “you’ve done it before. You can’t just quit now.”

The man was at the edge of the table, screaming at Klaus that once he’s able to touch him, he will kill him.

“Hm,” Klaus said, ears ringing at all the noise and his eyes shut hard. “Yeah, I’ll take that into consideration. Thank you, Five, for your wisdom. Auf wiedersehen. Tell this guy to piss off for me, yeah?”

“Klaus -”

He found a joint in his bottom drawer, climbed into the bath, lit it, and listened to jazz from 40s. He closed his eyes and imagined sinking below the water, to be greeted by beings who told him he was no good to be in either situations, so he may as well make the best of his life on earth. He slept in the water, the weed numbing any overlapping voices, until it was cold and Luther woke him up in the morning.

 

This sight of his brother in the bath, the water making his old pajamas stick to his skinny frame, his knobbly fingers draped over the side holding a near-gone joint made him mad. He banged on the door to make his point.

Klaus jerked up, dropping the joint and his headphones into the water. His skin was pale, pale, and his lips seemed blue. Luther wondered how cold the water was. “Fuck, Luther, knock for once!” Klaus barked, fishing around for his headphones. “Can’t you see I am in decent?

“You’re in your pajamas, Klaus,” said Luther. His hands were in fists. Klaus paused, contemplating what he was just told, looked down at himself, and began to laugh. In between huffs he drawled, “Still, c’mon man. I-I’m busy.”

“Breakfast,” Luther shot. It’s not like he didn’t like being mean to Klaus, but someone had to set him straight and if anyone was to do it, it would be him: Number One. “Christ, Klaus -” his brother giggled at the alliteration - “I thought you were sober!”

“I - I am!” Klaus stammered, backing up against the tub as Luther marched forward, snatched his collar and held him up out of the water. The icy liquid sloshed against the sides and splashed Luther. “This is just weed, Luther, it isn't even a drug! I just - I just couldn’t sleep, that’s all.”

Luther scoffed, let him go. Typical. “Just be downstairs in five, alright? Vanya and Allison won’t be there,” and he slammed the door as loud as he could on the way out, making sure he wouldn’t wake father.

“What was that?” said a voice, spinning around the corner. Luther jumped - Ben. God, he wasn’t used to that.

“Klaus was just taking a bath,” Luther grumbled. “In his clothes. Smoking weed.”

Ben rubbed his face and nodded. “Yeah. Okay. Just weed?”

Luther widened his eyes in shock - “Yeah, just weed. I thought he was supposed to be sober? Isn’t weed a drug?”

“Well, it isn’t heroin,” Ben mumbled. “He’s fifteen, Luther, be grateful he isn’t back to the hard stuff.” He grabbed fresh clothes from Klaus’s room and opened the bathroom door. Luther heard a brief greeting on Klaus’s part before turning away at Ben’s chastising.

Five was asleep at the table, his head on his plate. Diego was watching over him quite awkwardly, not sure if he should wake the kid or not.

“Wait till dad gets up,” Luther advised gently. Diego, surprisingly, agreed without protest.

“Good morning, children!” Mom announced, sliding into the room with a new dress, a new apron, and two platters in hand. “You’re up early!”

“Good morning, mom,” Diego breathed out, his focus leaving Five and settling on Grace. Luther shifted around in his seat. It wasn’t like he didn’t love Grace - mom - it was just he didn’t understand why Diego loved her so much. He knew that she helped him with his stuttering when he was younger, but mom helped all of them, and she was programmed to ‘love’ them all equally.

“How are Vanya and Allison doing?” Luther decided to ask, tearing himself away from his own thoughts. She smiled brightly and went around to pat his head.

“It seems like a case of a stomach virus, nothing terrible. The girls have wished to stay together in the attic. You may see them, if you wish, they are no longer contagious.”

“Thanks, mom, I’ll be sure to do that later.” At that, the ceiling above them shook a bit and dust flew down onto Luther’s plate. Grace’s smile didn’t waver.

“How strange,” she said.

The woman - the robot - mom began to set the food on the plate, humming to herself as she did so. Luther missed these breakfasts - meals of bacon, waffles, pancakes and eggs, fresh fruit and a pitcher of creamy strawberry smoothies. Three lazy susans adorned the table, ready to serve whoever.

Their father appeared at the door just then - stiff, tall, his beard clipped and monocle in hand. Diego punched Five, who cursed and stood at attention with the others.

“Language, Number Five,” Reginald snapped. Five rolled his eyes. “Grace, where are Number Four and Six?”

“I’ll go fetch them.”

“So terribly sorry, daddy, we’re here,” Klaus expressed, nearly leaning on Ben for support as they made their way into the dining room. His wet hair stuck to his scalp but otherwise he was rid of the soaked clothes.

“You’re late,” their father said stiffly.

“We apologize, father,” Ben fretted, nodding at Klaus to go sit down at his own seat. Luther tracked number four - his brother cringed at the air around them and swatted it as if there were flies. He would never understand this boy.

“Nice of you to join us, Four, Six. Sit.”

It was strange, sitting here, his father in front of him at the opposite end of the table, Diego beside Five and across from them Klaus and Ben, then two empty seats beside Diego and Ben. The bacon was delicious, though. He was distracted, however, but Klaus’s constant shifting, the way his hands twitched and swatted and flicked at invisible things. Luther wasn’t blind to Klaus’s power - he knew he could communicate with the dead and, as it seemed, even summon them to physical form. He also wasn’t a fool; he knew the reason Klaus started drinking but he also knew that was why his powers had always been stunted. He’d never reached his full potential. Sure, Luther may sound like dad when saying it aloud but - their father told the honest truth.

Finally, after an agonizing seven minutes (how poetic), Sir Reginald Hargreeves slammed his fist on the table and ordered Klaus to stop this incessant fidgeting at once and to go to your room, I will deal with you later. Klaus flinched, rather violently it seemed, but didn’t move. His eyes remained fixed on an inanimate portion of the room. He didn’t move again until Ben nudged him.

“Shut up!” Klaus cried, and their father banged the table again.

“Excuse me?”

“No, not you daddy dear,” Klaus muttered - “ You, shut up or I swear to that little girl in the sky I’ll kill you again -” and then he marched up to his room, yelling piss off all the while. Reginald hmph ed and continued reading his newspaper. Luther locked eyes with Five, who looked rather bored, then with Diego, who looked frightened (fear was a strange look on his brother’s face), and then Ben, who anxiously devoured the rest of his waffle and asked to be excused.

“No,” their father deadpanned.

“Please, sir?”

“No,” he said again, “And no talking at the table, Number Six.”

Ben groaned.

“No complaining.”

“Is he alright?” Diego whispered, leaning across the table to hear Ben’s response. Six sighed.

“I don’t know, that’s why I need to check on him.”

“Six!” cried father.

“Sorry, sir.”

Klaus romped up the stairs, past his room (an act of defiance), past the gunman, and up to the attic, where he supposed the girls would be. As Klaus opened the narrow door Pogo stepped out simultaneously, issuing a yelp from the former.

“Master Klaus,” spoke Pogo, “It is breakfast time.”

“Daddy let me go and see my favorite sisters,” Klaus sneered, almost feeling apologetic for his tone but the harsh breathing (ghosts breathe?) in his ear made up for it.

“They are resting.”

“Let him in, please, Pogo,” came Allison, and Klaus smugly ducked inside, slamming the door in the face of the gunman. He wondered his name.  

Vanya and Allison were relaxing on two beds in the corner of the dank and musty room - there were four beds in total, each one facing another on opposite sides of the window. Years ago, Klaus remembered, he snuck in here to play and strung up colored lights you find on Christmas trees, and he brought coloring books up and markers and crayons and drew on the walls with a girl who drowned a few weeks prior.

“Comfy,” he smirked.

Allison was rubbing Vanya’s back; the latter was trembling, her hands kneading the quilt of the bed and staring at the opposite wall. Klaus wondered if she could now see ghosts, too. The girl was small, and fragile, and Klaus realized he still loved her.

“It was hard,” Allison explained gently, “Seeing Pogo.”

Taking this as an opportunity to spread his wisdom once again, Klaus sprung onto the bed and held Vanya by her shoulders. “Don’t worry, dear sister, little monkey man won’t hurt you.”

“Monkey man, monkey man, funny little monkey man,” he sang, rocking her back and forth.

“Klaus,” Allison warned, but Vanya was giggling, and that was enough.

“How are things going, though?” he asked, letting Vanya settle back into Allison’s arms.

“Well, after the two days we’ve had -”

“Eh, eh -” Klaus stopped her - “Let the violinist here speak.”

Vanya startled, surprised, and cleared her throat. “Um, I haven’t had any episodes. I made Allison promise me she’ll Rumor me if I do have one.”

“Which I object to,” Allison interrupted, “You need to learn how to control it yourself.”

Vanya shrugged. “I know. Just not right now.”

“We’re gonna rest up here for the time being,” Allison continued, looking out the window and into the gray sky. “I’ll keep rumoring Pogo and Grace to let us be at peace, and dad probably won’t notice anyway. Later on, though, we’ll just need someone to distract him while all of us help her. I won’t be able to train her on my own.”

Klaus felt his heart drop a little.

“Oh. Yeah, I can do that!”

Vanya perked up with a smile, and Klaus suddenly felt very confident in his new job. “You will?” she whispered.

“Yeah, of course! I’m great at distracting. It’s one of my best qualities.”

The two chuckled and his fallen heart lifted back up. He couldn’t help but watch the old woman in the rocking chair sing a song to her stillborn child. He kept scratching.

“Thank you, Klaus,” Vanya murmured, and she held out a hand to him. He took it, shakily, and her thumb against palm helped the tremors subside a bit.

“Are you going through withdrawal?” Allison asked, suddenly. Unexpectedly. “You haven’t stopped twitching since you got in here.

“On the fringes of it,” Klaus declared, letting go of Vanya’s hand. Would a ghost’s hand, when manifested into physical form, be cold or warm? “I’ve been sober for… four days, now!” Not counting the joint. “I’m feeling fresh, spry, I am a new being and I am ready to impress father with my otherworldly skills!”

They smiled.

“I’m proud of you, Klaus,” said Allison, “You’re finally taking it seriously.”

Klaus’s smile faltered. “Yep,” and his voice was timid, and small, and reminded him of Vanya in Allison’s arms. “Got to go now, father will be waiting. I’ll tell him you two just threw your guts out and the stench was so disastrous I nearly threw up myself.”

“Bye, Klaus,” his sisters echoed, and he thought that maybe that the old woman waved a hand goodbye as well.

The gunman met him outside, a deep growl in his chest and his throat still leaking blood. Klaus rolled his eyes at the sight of him.

“Leave me alone, won’t you?”

“Not until I kill you,” said the man, “and not until I kill your family and make you watch.”

Klaus took a double-take. “Wait, kill me first and then my family? Then I wouldn’t be able to watch? Or the opposite, have my family watch you kill me? They can’t even see you. Please, friend, think before you speak. Even Reginald was able to teach us that.”

The man grabbed his arm.

Grabbed his arm.

Klaus froze, stared at it, and the man stared at it as well, and just like that- it was mist.

“Come here,” the man shouted, and reached for Klaus’s neck, only to stumble forward and wash over Klaus like an icy bath. The boy stumbled back, down the stairs, into his room and under the covers as he did when he was a child, and he heard the man scratching his nails across the walls and howl his name. Klaus, Klaus, and the others appeared as well, they helped him shout, they filled his room, they reached for him, clawed for him, and Klaus could only think -

He felt the man’s hand on his arm.

A ghost’s hand is cold. A man’s hand is warm. He was alive. For that second, in that instant, the gunman with the gouged eyes and bleeding neck felt alive. Klaus made him alive. Like he made Ben that night he Patrick Swayze-d Klaus, and he did it without his hands glowing blue and oh my God, oh my God, oh my God -

The ghosts disbanded as the door threw open.

“Four, get out of there at once. It is time for training.”

Klaus couldn’t remember if the red lines adorning his arms were from himself or the ghosts.

Chapter Text

Training was a routine, as was everything in the Hargreeves household. Their days went by like this, as they had been their entire lives:

Breakfast - 0700

Studies with Grace - 0745 to 1100

Lunch - 1100

Physical fitness - 1145 to 1300, just general fitness that Luther always had an advantage on.

Special Training - 1300-1800, or whenever the man found fit. One of them would be pulled off alone, giving the others time to rest or train under the surveillance. Luther would return sore, aching, but proud of himself. Diego would return, hands blistering from the rubber grips of knives and head drenched from swimming underwater for hours. Allison wouldn’t want to speak after hers, and Five slowly walked from room to room. Ben shut himself away after his. Vanya would play her violin for all of them until she cried. Each of them had a day of the week: Luther, Monday, Diego, Tuesday, Allison, Wednesday, Klaus - Thursday. On and on it went.

With Klaus, there wasn’t much daddy dearest could do except train his physical fitness and explore the extent of his powers. He shut Klaus away every other week, or whenever Klaus was especially annoying. Sundays, though, all of them found it the worse. They were used to sparring with each other, powers restricted. Their father liked seeing how they’d do against each other. He trained them for their petty fights in adulthood.

Today was Sunday. Yesterday, Ben was free from training as there was a mission. But today was Sunday, and thus: Klaus will fight his brothers until someone ends up in the infirmary. It usually was always number Four.

Studies were cancelled that morning so that they could each prepare for the fight. Instead of doing this, all seven of them converged in the attic for a delightful team meeting. Klaus grabbed a blunt and a lighter on the way out, preparing himself for Ben’s stare and Luther’s sigh of disappointment. In fact, he was almost looking forward to it.

The ghosts (the gunman, a little girl, a drowned fellow and someone without a head, even) followed him up. He couldn’t wait for the gunner to disappear in a haze of his own high.

“Lordy, have I missed these Sundays,” Klaus proclaimed, easing into the room - the second time that day. “Sundays with the fam. Nothing better. No-thing-better,” and he enunciated every syllable. Allison was still with Vanya, who both looked relieved that 1. Allison didn’t have to participate and 2., Vanya didn’t have to watch. Five was staring out the window, arms folded, Luther was across from Allison and Vanya and Diego was talking softly with Ben, their heads together. They looked up as Klaus emerged.

“Put that down,” Ben said suddenly, bursting to his feet.

“Uh, I think the fuck not.”

“Wh - whoa,” Diego choked out, “What’s this?”

Ben backed Klaus into the wall - Klaus, who had not expected this at all but got a little nostalgic over Ben shouting at him over his drug habits. (Not that weed was a drug. Just something to dull the sounds.)

“What’s this guy’s name?” the gunman barked, reaching for Klaus, and the latter flinched on all accounts.

“Put it away,” Ben murmured, hand catching Klaus’s. Klaus’s fist closed over the blunt and jerked away.

“Make me,” he spat.

“Uh, can we stop acting like children for once?” Five grunted, spinning away from the window. In the moment of distraction Ben snatched the weed from Klaus and crushed it on the floor. Klaus stared at him, dead-eyed, and held up his middle fingers.

“I miss when you couldn’t touch me,” he leered. Ben smirked.

“Guys, come on. Pay attention to Five,” Luther was saying.

“Yes, thank you, Great Number One,” Five went on, “Point is, Hargreeves is gonna make us fight each other. Like we used to. He’s going to make us use our powers. I, for one, aren’t strong enough right now.”

“Ooh, he’s humble,” Klaus taunted. The gunman was shouting and the lady in the rocking chair was singing.

“Shut it,” Luther and Diego said simultaneously. Klaus was beginning to feel a bit ganged-up on so he went to sit by his sisters.

“Point is, unless you all want to beat each other to death because you have some pent up frustrations, go ahead, but it’s only going to delay our progress. We’re here to prevent the apocalypse. Let’s at least try not to revert back to our old ways.”

This was all directed at Diego and Luther. They were the only ones who really ever fought during these sessions - Ben was too scared to unleash his monsters, Klaus was essentially useless, Allison sometimes found it amusing to see them going at each other. Klaus supposed they were all fucked up.

“What do we do, then?” Luther asked. “We can’t let dad know anything is wrong.”

“He - he - he’ll get mad,” Diego stammered, voice small. And hopeless. And pained.

“We could get a distraction,” Vanya offered softly, not looking up from her hands. “Just… get someone to distract dad.”

“How?” Five snorted. Vanya shrugged, almost violently.

“I don’t know, Five. It was just a suggestion.”

“Klaus could go,” Diego offered, flipping one of his knives.

Klaus, of course, didn’t hear this, because he was silently trying to shut up the gunman - who just realized that it was Diego who killed him.

The ghost crowded number Two, shouting quite magnificent things and making everything oh-so-harder to concentrate on.

“Klaus? Klaus!” Ben snapped, drawing Klaus back to his attention.

“Dear brother,” Klaus mourned. Ben narrowed his eyes.

“You up to it, Four?” Luther asked - Klaus didn’t like the sound of that.

“O-of what?” and Luther threw up his hands.

“Christ,” he muttered, and turned towards the window. Klaus sunk in on himself. “Sorry! Jeez, I just didn’t hear you.”

“Then try paying attention,” Luther retorted. Diego put a hand on the former’s back.

“Calm down, Luther. Klaus, we’re thinking of getting a distraction so we don’t have to fight each other. Are you willing?”

He wished for the little brown girl with the bike.

“Take one for the team,” Allison offered, her voice light. Klaus locked eyes with Vanya who quickly averted her gaze, and so Klaus smiled tightly and nodded.

“Of course! Golly, anything for the team.”

“I’m gonna kill this son of a bitch!” screamed the ghost, which attracted the attention of some other demons (well done, gunman), “And then I’m gonna kill you!” That he directed at Klaus, who pretended not to hear.

They promised him they would switch off every weekend, just anything to prevent having to use their powers against one another.

Klaus floated downstairs, dancing with any ideas of how to piss father off enough he would forget about the others and just focus on… him.

Oh.

His powers.

Klaus knew that something, something, something unlocked inside of him the last time he died - suddenly, even if he didn’t want it, the dead became corporeal. This was a very frightening thing to Klaus and would be a very exciting thing for Sir Hargreeves.

Klaus drifted to the great oak door separating the man from the rest of the house and knocked - once, twice, he waited. Again. A third time. And then a fourth, and his father answered. Very poetic of him, Klaus mused, and gazed lovingly at his father’s liquor cabinet before slipping inside.

“Yes, Four, what do you need.”

All at once, Klaus wished for Dave. He wished for his kiss and the way his fingers unfurled Klaus’s curls. He wished for his fellow sky soldiers, he missed their songs and he missed how they told jokes as they bled out. He missed the certain ache that came after overdosing. He missed the haze, the fog, of smoking, as if the smoke circling his head could sink into his mind. He missed blue happy pills, missed what they did, missed what they brought and missed what they took away. He was 15, and he was sober, and he was hurt, and he didn’t think how much longer he could ignore the ghosts in his house. He was beginning to think they were all victims of his siblings.

“Four?” came Hargreeves, sharp and bitter and Klaus didn’t miss him at all.

“I believe I’ve unlocked a new ability,” Klaus found himself starting, he found himself clear and focused and confident and God, he just wanted to drift away -

“Is that so?”

Klaus nodded. “Yes, sir. It happened recently. I didn’t know if I should tell you or not, that’s why it’s taken me -”

“Insolent boy,” Hargreeves muttered, still not taking a hand off of his journal. “Of course you tell me. Immediately.” He glanced up. “Come, Number Four, I have questions.”

Klaus wasn’t sure if he should lie, make up a power, or go with it. He was afraid that the angry gunman would manifest and try to kill his family (or perhaps he could unleash him on father), he was afraid he would fail, he was afraid he would cry, he was afraid that nothing would work or his hands would glow blue or -

“Well, Number Four?”

“The ghosts,” Klaus blurted, “I - it’s only happened a few times, but I think they can now touch me, and I can touch them.”

Klaus figured he’d be able to fake it. After all, no one else could see the ghosts but him. He could pretend to punch one or be punched, or hug one or tap one or play a game with one. He couldn’t tell who his statement excited more: his father or the gunman. Lordy, he must give that man a name - maybe Voldemort, or whoever the villain in The Lord of the Rings is called. Sauron, that’s it. He liked that for the gunman. Sauron.

Reggie whisked Klaus away to the training room, asking an unnecessary amount of questions with his hand wrapped tight around the back of Klaus’s neck. More ghosts followed. After he smoked the blunt (bless, Klaus thought), the amount of dead lessened, but the temporal and weak high had long-since worn off and they were back to play. And it wasn’t as if all of them were scary or rude or yelling at them to help. It was just an annoyance, how they followed him around (follow your killers around, Klaus once shouted at them, and that only made them bitter), speaking in broken languages. It was the angry ones he didn’t care for, the ones who entered his dreams while he was sleeping or tried to choke him to death.

Now, they filled the makeshift gym, murmuring, curious. Sauron stayed in the corner. Klaus swallowed. He wished he would go bother Diego.

“Show me,” his father demanded.

“Uhh…”

The walls shook a little. Vanya and the others must be getting to work. Come on, Klaus. You can do this. Take one for the team. Just lie. You’re good at that, just lie.

“Go on, Number Four.”

Klaus tentatively walked forward and kneeled in front of a pre-teen girl who reminded him of God. She gazed at him with wondrous eyes and a small smile. She was smothered to death.

“Hey there,” Klaus whispered. “What’s your name?”

“Elena,” she responded, happy and bright and for a second, Klaus thought he was doing good.

“Elena,” Klaus repeated aloud. “Very beautiful. Where are you from, Elena?”

“Mommy said not to talk to strangers.”

Klaus snapped his fingers. “Right, of course. Very wise, your mommy. Would you like to play a game?”

“What is going on?” Reginald Hargreeves gawped. Klaus held a finger to his lips. God, he hated this. Elena nodded happily and sat, cross-legged in front of him. Some of the others watching sat down as well.

Klaus sat on his ankles and held out his hands. “Do you know patty-cake?”

“That’s my favorite game!”

“Mine too! Would you like to play?”

Elena nodded again. Klaus grimaced.

The two began the chant - patty-cake, patty-cake, and the girl’s expression crumbled into hurt as their hands went through each other, and the hurt transformed into confusion as Klaus praised her, loudly, for doing such a good job.

“Is it working?” his father glowered, and the girl met Reginald’s eyes and then looked back at Klaus.

“Yes, it is,” Klaus muttered.

“Speak up!”

“Yes, father, it is.”

“Extraordinary.”

The girl stood and the ghosts rallied behind her, and Klaus kept playing with the air. Tears pin-pricked his eyes as the Elena wailed at him. Liars go to hell! she screamed, and Klaus didn’t want to tell her he wasn’t welcome there.

The father and son spent the better part of the afternoon together (Klaus just loved quality family time!), Klaus continuing to lie and block out the shrieks of the dead (undead? They might be soon, he pondered), his father taking various notes in his little journal of his (fuck the journal), muttering to himself the possibilities. Klaus knew Reginald just absolutely loved this. His Number Four, his disappointing Number Four who was more sober at this moment than he had been since he was thirteen (which was a long time, considering how he was really 30 years and 10 months old). Klaus caught some of the ideas whenever the shouting ceased for even just a minute - he’ll be able to control the ghosts in no time, manifest them into being, seems as if his fear is calming down.

He dragged himself back to the attic, dragging the ghosts along with him as he went.

The general consensus of the siblings was that in order to understand Vanya’s powers, they’d have to get the journal.

“Well, what’ll we do when we get it? What happens if he catches us?” Luther pressed, his beach blond hair tousled. Five snorted.

“First we read it, dumbass.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“No, guys, Luther’s right,” Allison interjected, and Five caught the look of relief on Luther’s face. Disgusting. “How are we even going to get it? Dad never leaves his office unlocked, and even if he does he always takes his journals with him.”

“Another distraction?” Diego offered. Five scoffed.

“Are you all forgetting my power? Jesus Christ, you’re worse than Delores. I’ll just pop in, grab it, we’ll read it, and I’ll put it back before he notices.”

“I don’t like it,” Luther grumbled.

“Boo hoo,” Five sneered, “We don’t always get what we want.”

Ben grabbed Luther to keep him from rising to his own defense, which Five thought was humorous.

The door swung open.

“Hello, my beautiful family,” Klaus drawled. He was twitching again. He was always twitching. He was wearing a big fur coat, probably Grace’s, that stuck out a bit on the side. “Mr. Reginald - oh, terribly sorry, Sir Reggie is a Grade A bitch.”

“What’d he do this time?” Vanya asked, softly. Five stared at her. She was drawn in on herself, like she had been their entire life. He missed her, in the apocalypse, missed her violin - even though she was shit at the beginning. But she was the constant in their family. A constant presence, a constant reassurance. Her book was good, it was. He read it fourteen times, twice for each of them. It was a shame she probably couldn’t write it again this time around. Klaus swished around and plopped down beside Ben, who regarded him and his coat wearily.

“Oh, nothing. I was just stating that. It is a fact.”

“What’d you guys do?” that was Allison, his sister enraptured by fame and cameras and lights and reporters. Ever since they were revealed to the world, she reveled in the questions, in the fans and the fanart and even took pride in the adults who found her beautiful.

“Uh, I pretended to be able to touch ghosts,” blubbered Klaus with a sly smile. “They’re very angry at me right now.”

Five wondered how many people he’d killed were in the room. It’d be funny if he went through with killing Kennedy - Klaus could have a conversation with him. It wouldn’t any stranger than what he already was doing.

“But… you are able to touch ghosts,” Ben remarked, followed by a fierce shake of the head on Klaus’s part.

“Liars go to hell, Benny boy, don’t you know?”

Five watched him, watched him shift and twitch and give the middle finger to someone in the corner of the room.

“What’d I miss?” he asked, grinning and shivering. Five wondered if he was high. He probably was.

If Delores was here they would bond over their brother’s stupidities.

“We’re gonna get dad’s journal,” began Luther, taking charge once again. “Figure out Vanya’s powers, her triggers. Five will zap in, grab it and go.”

Five hated that. Zap in.

“Oh, splendid. I suppose there’s no need for me here, then. Good bye, brothers, sisters, Elena.”

He was almost out the door before Ben darted up, grabbed his shoulder and pulled him into the corner. Five watched, curious, ears trained to hear what the two were bickering over. Klaus swatted at number Six who pointed angrily at Klaus’s jacket. The latter held his hands up in innocence but twisted away when Ben tried to reach for him.

“What the hell?” Diego muttered.

We don’t have time for this.

Five stormed over, catching Klaus by surprise when he yanked open his coat, brought out a bottle of hard vodka and held it over his head like a puppy. Ben shoved Klaus’s shoulder, who whimpered.

“C’mon Klaus,” Ben hissed. “You promised me you’d stay sober.”

“I am sober! Currently! As of now! But, brother, dear sweet number six,” and Klaus bent to cup Ben’s face in his hands, “They’re so, so annoying.” He huffed out a laugh and looked around the siblings to see who would agree with him. Five shivered, as if there were ghosts standing beside him right then. He wondered how many ghosts he walked through during the apocalypse.

“They’re, like,” Klaus chuckled, “ Really mad at me right now. I just need them to quiet a bit! I - I’m not, like, popping pills or anything buddy, I just want to sleep.”

“Klaus, stop being a baby and suck it up!” Luther cried and Five whirled around at him, the vodka sloshing.

“Real helpful, Luther, thank you,” Klaus expressed, and looked longingly at the bottle. “F-fuck. Fine. What do you want me to do, then, huh? Cause I sure am not manifesting you so you can kill Diego!” and this he screamed at the wall, and apparently the wall responded and Klaus then directed his shouting to Diego’s area, telling - whoever - to calm the fuck down and shut up. This was going to be great.

Ben brought Klaus back. “Just - I don’t know. Stay here, with us. I have a feeling if we let you out of our sight you’ll go overdose in an alley.”

Klaus pouted his lips.

“You know me too well,” he mourned. Ben dragged him back to the others and Five ruthfully followed behind. Diego leaned forward at Klaus: “Does someone want to kill me?”

Klaus waved a hand. “Yeah, one of the guys you killed at the bank. I was piggybacking him. We were having such a great time together.”

“Can we take this seriously, for once?” Five snapped, surprised at himself that he was agitated. He didn’t like getting mad at his brothers, but sometimes things must be done. “Vanya is the cause of the apocalypse. She has a bomb inside of her. That isn’t going away. But we can avoid fucking up this time. We can make sure we don’t fuck up. Okay?”

They were quiet. Klaus was muttering.

“What if -”

There came Vanya. Her voice still small. “What if I just… take my medication again?”

Five watched his siblings protest, watch them yell no and absolutely not.

“Listen to what she has to say,” he heard Klaus murmuring. Five repeated that, louder.

Vanya, wide-eyed, continued timidly. “Just - a few times a week, or every other week or something. Just to dampen my powers, until we understand them. We’re trying to figure out how to control me, and so far those are the only things that can.”

“But -” Allison started. She stopped. Five shrugged.

“Eh. It could work. If you’re up to it.”

Vanya nodded, almost eagerly. She was scared. Of herself. Five understood that.

“When was melatonin invented?” Klaus blurted, drawing the attention back to him. Five couldn’t figure out if he liked being the center of attention or, in his mind, nothing was true unless he announced it to others.

“It wasn’t invented,” Ben explained quietly, “It’s a hormone. Helps you sleep.”

“Right, I know that, that’s why I’m wondering when it was, like invented.

Luther threw his hands up and let them drop in disgust. Klaus sunk down.

“I don’t know,” Five offered, trying to keep his voice as un-judgemental as possible. “Sorry.” Klaus shrugged.

“Would your headphones help?” Ben whispered to him, as Allison, Vanya, Luther and Diego discussed strategies. Klaus nodded, almost numbly. He seemed choked up.

“I’ll go get them,” Five offered - anything to get out of this stuffy attic. Klaus cracked a smile and Five slipped into space.

He returned, instead, with Luther’s record player and big boxes of 70s, 80s, and 90s music, as well as 1930s jazz and old Broadway musical soundtracks.

“Hey!” Luther protested and Diego elbowed him. With a sigh of relief, Klaus grabbed something Queen, gently placed the record onto its player and lifted the needle. Love of My Life spread through the room and Five imagined the ghosts dancing. Suddenly, Diego perked up.

“Hey! Allison, can you Rumor dad so we can stay up here?”

“No, dad would never let me. I can do it to Mom and Pogo, though,” and her voice grew more excited. “I can say we’re all sick! Then we can have more time to read over the journal!”

“That’s not such a bad idea,” Five mused. Klaus was lip-syncing to the lyrics, his eyes closed. “Let’s wait until after dinner, then Allison, you call Grace up and we’ll reconvene. I’ll wait until Hargreeves is asleep before getting the journal.”

“I didn’t know robots could be Rumored,” Klaus contemplated softly, and Ben rubbed his arm. The song switched to Who Wants to Live Forever. No one, Five answered. At least not alone.

Chapter Text

Vanya was asleep in Allison’s arms, who had her eyes closed but didn’t seem to be sleeping. Luther and Diego were both pretending not to be tired and quietly bickering over who should keep watch. It was past 1:00 am, Hargreeves would be in bed soon. The Rumoring worked. They were all terribly sick with the flu and their father couldn’t give a shit. Surprising, Five mused.

Klaus was now listening with his headphones, head gently bobbing along, and Ben was passed out - his head on the former’s shoulders. Five felt fine. He had his coffee to sip. He just wished he could speak with Delores.

“Five,” Klaus rasped, calling Five’s attention. The lights in the attic were dim, Klaus’s old fairy lights the only source. Five could barely see his brother’s features. “When you get the journal, just read Vanya’s, okay?”

Five nodded. “Of course, Klaus.”

Four leaned his head against the edge of the bed, murmuring a thank you. God, he seemed tired.

An hour passed and the house settled, shifting in its sleep before beginning its slumber. Five nodded a goodbye to Klaus and zapped into his father’s office.

It was dark. The wires that used to be attached to their temples were loose without owners and the security footage was blank. Five flicked on the desk lamp and pulled open the top drawer - thankful that, for once, it wasn’t locked. He searched for a minute for the oldest journal, back when Hargreeves took notes on Vanya. It was covered in dust. Musty. Damp and crude and Five wanted to burn it, he wanted to burn all the others and he wanted to burn the house. He wanted to burn.

Before heading back up, he fixed a pot of coffee and whisked past Grace - sitting, peacefully, in front of her paintings.

“Wake up bitches,” Klaus announced as Five headed in. He couldn’t help but smile. Ben jerked up, Allison raised her head and nudged Vanya and the other boys essentially pulled each other back to the others. Allison frowned.

“We need more blankets,” she mumbled. “And pillows. I’ll be back.”

“Get some food, too,” Klaus called. He hadn’t taken out his headphones. Five passed around the pot, regretting for just a moment to have not brought cups but found it amusing to see his brothers grumble about drinking out of the same thing. Vanya declined a sip. Five studied her, watched the ways she stared at Luther - who was sitting by her, on the floor, watched how her shoulders tensed and she drew even further into herself - which seemed impossible, but Vanya always was small.

“Vanya,” Five said. “Come sit by me.” She seemed grateful.

Diego slapped Klaus’s shoulder, earning a glare from Ben. “Dude, take out the headphones.”

“I’d rather not, bro.”

Luther rolled his eyes. Five began to feel tired, so he chugged some of his coffee and waited for Allison to return with the (unnecessary) other supplies.

The six of them sat together, awkwardly. Damn, this was rough. For once, Five wanted Klaus to sprout some dumbass fact, but he was quiet. There were red lines on his neck.

“Klaus,” Five began, “Where’d you get those scratches?”

Ben turned to look while Klaus, barely paying attention and probably hadn’t even heard him, shrugged.

“Dad didn’t do that, did he?” Diego asked softly, and Five remembered all-to-well the cuffs around the neck, the flicks and the slaps to the back of the head, the pinches and the rulers to the palms of the hands. Klaus shook his head. He looked high.

“Don’t be silly, Dee Dee. I was just itching.”

“Dad would never do that,” Luther scoffed, and Vanya stared at him.

“Dad would never lock me up either, huh?”

They were quiet. Five liked this Vanya. He wished she was defiant more often.

“You are quite like dad, aren’t you, Luther?” Five pondered. “Hm. Even look like him.”

“Psh - he’s an old man!”

“You will look like him,” Ben snorted, sprouting a laugh from Klaus.

“Ten years time,” Klaus said, “Five bucks on the table. Luther will have a gray beard and weird monkey arms - wait!

The others chuckled and Luther looked down, fingers into fists. Five saw Klaus peek at Luther’s hands and he, too, retreated in. Silent. His music was so loud even Five could hear the melody. It sounded like Frank Sinatra.

“Listen,” Luther began - and oh, lord, he was going to defend himself for something - “Vanya, I’m sorry that we put you in there -”

Everyone groaned. “Christ, Luther,” Diego cut in, “ you tried to put her in there. We tried to get her out.” Not very successfully, Five wanted to point out.

“She hurt Allison!”

“She didn’t meant to!” Diego and Ben shouted back, and Vanya whimpered. Five put a hand on her shoulder and she leaned in.

Luther sighed and began to reach forward for his sister - “Vanya, I’m sorry -”

“Don’t touch me,” she growled. Yes, Five definitely liked this Vanya. Luther jerked back, hurt, and Five wanted to tell him that that’s how Vanya felt.

“I’m back!” came Allison and her voice quieted when she saw the tension in the room. Five wanted to laugh, though: Klaus was humming the lyrics to Here Comes the Sun. “Oh. Bad timing, huh?”

“Come in, come in dear sis,” Klaus drawled, gesturing for her. Allison’s arms were full of old quilts and pillows and she held a bag of cereal, bowls, milk and cookies. Klaus snatched it up once she came close and began pouring himself some French Toast Crunch, eating it dry. Ben wrinkled his nose but grabbed a handful regardless.

Five continued to wait as his (younger?) brothers and sisters set up the attic; Klaus, Ben and Diego offered to sleep on the floor (how valiant of them), while the others got the four beds. However, they still piled together onto the blankets, the pillows, the cereal between them and the cookies in Luther’s hands.

“Let’s begin,” Five said, and Vanya shuttered.

He pulled out the journal and flipped to the seventh section. His father’s handwriting was obscure - messy but dignified cursive. Luckily, Five’s was the same. He supposed that was the only thing he had in common with Reginald Hargreeves.

He began to read aloud.

“Number Seven.

I came across her power very recently when she threw a fit and the windows cracked… seems to be cataclysmic telekinesis… set up seven wine glasses, played a G sharp on the tuner - didn’t respond well… fairly cooperative with training, prefers to play with the others… close to Five, their abilities will do great together… killed three nannies so far, pulling up plans for Automatron… a stubborn child, showing resistance… growing too rebellious, drew blood, broke Two’s wrist throwing him across the gym… working on formulas with Pogo… had Three Rumor her….”

It went on.

By the end, after Reginald stopped taking notes once the medication had set in, Vanya was crying softly. Diego was staring at the wrist, presumably the one she’d broken, Allison was holding her sister and Luther was focused on the ground. Klaus was listening to music.

“Cataclysmic telekinesis,” Five repeated. “Make sense.”

“I barely remember any of that,” Vanya choked out. “I’m sorry, Diego, I’m sorry -”

Two held up a hand, stopping her. “Please, sis,” he said with a grin, “You only built up my endurance.”

“I think that’s enough for tonight,” Allison squeaked out. No one wanted to get up from their pillow heaven, and for once, for once, Five didn’t want to move. Didn’t need to. He just wanted to stay like that, a kid, for just a little longer.

“Klaus,” Five said, softly.

“Hm?”

“Turn the music up.”

His brother removed his headphones, cradling them to his chest, and unplugged them from the turntable, letting the soothing words of Ella Fitzgerald pour into the room. Klaus had alright music tastes, Five’ll give him that.

They sat there, together, in the dimness and the solitude of the world, and Five wondered when he would disappear. Then,

“Am I still going to die?”

Five didn’t know how to answer. He didn’t think the others knew how to, either. Even Klaus didn’t speak, and based on Vanya’s book, Klaus was the one who took it the hardest. He slipped further into his self-destructive ways, fueled by blame and guilt and ghosts. Five wondered how long it took for him to see Ben, how long he ignored the shadow of Number Six.

“I don’t know,” Five said, eventually. “But I’m not going away. That’ll be the first big change in the timeline. I’m not going away.”

“Is the Handler going to find you?” Luther asked, soft. Five shrugged and ate a cookie before he responded.

“If she does, I’ll kill her. I’ll kill anyone who tries to kill me. Or any of you.”

“Hm, you’re a little late for that,” Ben muttered and Klaus elbowed him. Luther narrowed his eyebrows and Five sighed, figuring out where this was going.

“What? What do you mean?” the once-monkey man faltered. “Yeah, Five made mistakes but he was there for us. He was trying to protect us the whole time.” Ben shrugged.

“He wasn’t there for Klaus.”

“Christ, Ben, shut up,” Klaus hissed, putting his hands over his eyes. Five’s stomach flipped. No, he wasn’t.

“What are you talking about?” Vanya questioned, taking a break from picking at her chocolate chip cookie to stare at Ben’s face. Ben turned to glare at Klaus.

“Seriously, man? You never told any of them?”

“It never came up during conversation, no.”

“H-he told me,” Diego offered. “He was with Hazel and Cha-Cha for a day, right?”

“Brother dear, you make it sound like I wanted to be there,” Klaus murmured.

“I’m confused,” Allison spluttered, “Klaus? Why were you with them?”

“Again, not voluntarily!” Klaus burst. Five’s stomach sank more. “I just - they were interrogating me for like, not even a day. Don’t worry about it. Ben’s just bitter because he had to be stuck with my complaining ass for that long,” and he chuffed out a giggle. Ben smacked the back of his head.

“Sounds fun,” Luther croaked. Klaus shrugged his bony shoulders and sank into his pillow, grabbing his blanket and pulling it up.

“It was pleasurable, sure,” and he grinned. “I’d rather discuss it later, though. Much too tired currently.”

“My point being,” Ben continued, “Is that no one looked for him. Not even Five. Or Diego. It was Diego’s lady friend who eventually let him go.”

“Don’t t-talk about P-P-Patch like that,” Diego growled and Allison put a comforting hand on his chest.

“Guys,” she said, “Let’s not get riled up over this. Klaus, what do you mean by interrogated?”

Klaus shrugged again. He was thin, knobbly, and his limbs stuck out, and his head was wild with black curls, and he looked too old and too young and his cheeks were gaunt, his green eyes dark, and he held his knees to his chest.

“Just, like, just some stuff to get information out of me. About Five. I didn’t know anything, though.”

“He had to go through withdrawal,” Ben snapped. Luther sneered.

“So what? That’s good, isn’t it?”

Klaus lifted his head. “I am the most sober I’ve been in fifteen years,” he began, voice shaky but in that condescending Klaus tone Five missed, “But I swear to God, Luther dear, I don’t need drugs to make me crazy enough to choke you.”

He suddenly looked over to the corner and turned the music up louder. “Shh,” said Diego, “someone will hear.”

“I don’t care.”

“Listen, Klaus, it’s good you’re sober,” Luther pressed, “Honestly, and the only way you’d be able to get there was by going through withdrawal. Be glad you got it out sooner or later.”

“Damn, you’re dense,” Ben muttered. Luther continued.

“I mean, aren’t you feeling better? Isn’t it -”

“Fuck, Luther, just shut up!” Five screamed and Vanya flinched, and that was his only regret. “Jesus Christ you all are in sufferable. Luther, you’re not getting it through your thickass head - which is surprising, because you’re not a motherfucking ape yet. Listen. Klaus was captured at the house when Hazel and Cha-Cha came for me. No one noticed he was gone. I didn’t, either, but to be fair I was drunk off my ass for the full ten hours. You and Diego were looking for me. Meanwhile, Mr. Seance here went through withdrawal, alone except for his dead brother, was tortured by two of the best assassins the Commission has to offer. Against all odds, he got out, and went back in time for ten months.”

“Wait, hold up -” Allison went, but Klaus stopped her.

“Y’know, I’d really not like to get into it at the moment,” he groaned. “This can all be a topic for another time. Five, thank you for so valiantly sticking up for me, your brother in need, who is - yes, hold the applause - ten months older than everyone else. This - this night is about Vanya! Our” - and he took a pause to reach across and stroke Vanya’s arm - “dear little sister - eh, Vanya, do not protest - who we, y’know, kind of ignored our whole life. Heh. Alright. I have some extra French Toast Crunch, if anyone would like it.”

Ben requested to keep the lights on. Diego thought that maybe that was for Klaus, not him.

Klaus went to bed with his headphones on. He said he was listening to some 80s greats by Tiffany - great music to fall asleep to, in his opinion. Vanya was out first, then Allison, then Luther, to Diego’s surprise. Next it was Ben, seemingly reluctantly, and even Five passed out. Diego might dream of Eudora, he realized. Did he want that?

Allison opened her eyes, groggily. Someone was moving, fidgeting, kicking around. Her eyes searched until she found the source: Klaus, a muttering, mobile form, even in his sleep. His headphones had fallen off and she could faintly hear Britney Spears playing. Slowly, carefully, she leaned down to her brother, placed the headphones back onto his ears and turned the music up. After a while, he calmed, and she did too, and so she fell back asleep beside her sister.

Yay, sisters.

Klaus needed a drink.

He needed a drink so goddamn bad.

The problem was he really wasn’t up for Luther’s disappointment, nor his father, but when he woke up at 4 am, and he was surrounded by the dead, he took comfort in the grandmother who was sitting beside him.

“Hush,” she told the others, and her tone was so demanding even Sauron backed up. “Can’t you see you’re scaring him? He’s just a boy.”

“We want help,” they rasped. Klaus didn’t blame them. He wanted help, too. But the grandma tsked and shook her little grandma finger at them. “Oh, you can get help in the morning,” and even Klaus felt the scolding. “If he doesn’t get to sleep he won’t be able to help any of us, isn’t that right Mr. Klaus?”

His name was overused. He nodded.

Grandma settled down beside him, his own shield to keep the ghosts at bay. Klaus decided that she must’ve just died in her sleep - she was pleasant, and gray-haired, and she wore a nightgown; the ones grandmas wore. She seemed to have been from maybe the 40s or the 50s, or the 60s or whenever before Reginald bought the house. Maybe she died in his room.

Anyhow, grandma pulled out ghost thread and continued to knit what looked like a small ghost hat for a ghost grandchild. When Klaus died he would go with her so she could knit him sweaters.

“Go on to sleep, child,” grandma whispered with a smile, and went to pat his head - before retreating her hand. Klaus wished for his powers more than ever at that moment. “We’ll talk in the morning, all right? Take those headphones out, go on.” He did. It was quiet. His siblings shifted. He was tired, and he went to sleep. He didn’t dream.

The next day continued as followed:

Sir Reginald Hargreeves announced that, with the children sick, he would be gone for the week, off to Egypt to rob a tomb or something like that. Pogo went to move the children back to their perspective rooms to avoid spreading more germs but Allison had them covered and told the talking monkey to tell Grace not to check up on them.

They got to work. After, of course, a box of doughnuts from Griddy’s that was left over under Klaus’s bed.

“Lordy!” Klaus cried, more to himself and grandma than the others, “Wonder how old these are.” But they felt more-or-less soft, so he kept eating them.

Grandma had ushered some of the more grotesque looking ghosts out (bless), and while Sauron remained and occasionally made comments about how he looked forward to strangling Klaus and Diego (simultaneously, of course), was otherwise quiet. It was nice. Klaus felt calm. He was even able to tune out his siblings bickering over what they should do next until Ben flicked him on the arm.

“What?” he groaned. “What do you need me to say? Yes, Luther, I agree with you a hundred percent on everything you do. Let me go back to eating my doughnut in peace.”

“You do?” Diego snapped. Klaus rolled his eyes. “Of course not, Dee-Dee dear. I just wasn’t paying attention.”

“Of course he wasn’t,” Luther muttered. Klaus ignored that.

“We’re figuring out our game plan,” Vanya explained. Klaus nodded.

“Yeah, we’re always doing that.”

“We’re gonna take Vanya to the park later today,” said Ben, “To that open field no one goes to. Private property. Wanna come?”

“I’m honored you’d invite me but I’d rather stay here,” Klaus whined. He waited for a sarcastic comment from Five, or Luther, or somebody. It didn’t come.

“Suit yourself,” Ben replied. He was so quiet Klaus didn’t think he meant for him to hear it.

“You guys go on,” he drawled. “I won’t overdose while you’re gone,” and his face crumpled into a grin that made Five look away. As did the others. Klaus didn’t care. He’d stay true to his word, at least today. Just get through today.

The park was quiet and serene and still and it reminded Vanya all-too-well of the place that Leonard - no, Harold took her, back when she should’ve let the branch that fell kill him. She would’ve turned out so much better if it did.

Allison led her into the field, Vanya’s hand slipped through the crook of her arm. They were flanked by Diego and Five, with Ben trailing back with Luther. Luther. She could still feel his arms around her, squeezing, squeezing, and she could hear her neck begin to crumple, could feel her spine cracking, her feet off the ground, and then she woke up and she was there, in that cell, that prison, and oh God, she hurt Allison, she killed Pogo, she killed mom, she almost killed her brothers and her sister and no, no, she was sucking the life out of them, she knew what Klaus’s ghosts looked like, she -

Allison squeezed her arm.

“It’s okay,” she whispered. Vanya realized she was shaking and the grass was trembling. She was becoming all-too-like her Number Four. “Just breathe.”

Vanya mustered up a nod and leaned in closer. She wanted to tell her sister (yay, sisters) thank you, but the words didn’t seem to come.

Five had the journal in hand. “It seems as if this is all triggered by sound,” he began. “Certain frequencies, perhaps. That’s what Hargreeves experimented with. I didn’t bring a tuning fork, but Vanya, you said focusing on just the little sounds around the world helped?”

Vanya confirmed. “Yeah,” she said, “And when I’m playing my violin. I-I didn’t bring that either.” Allison rubbed her arm again, as if this was something Vanya needed to be comforted by. No, she wasn’t weak, she was strong, she was strong, she was so, so strong, stronger than all of them and she didn’t need a pat on the back when she makes a mistake -

Ben traveled to the outskirts of the field, nestling down on a rock and sticking his hands in a hoodie, his only piece of clothing beside their uniforms. Vanya wanted to take him shopping. God, who was she?

She missed her brother. She missed both of them. Even now, she couldn’t figure out who she missed more, who hurt her more - she knew that Ben was dead, knew how he died and knew that despite what their siblings say, Klaus could see him. She didn’t know if Five was dead, though, didn’t know if he was a ghost that haunted the halls and only appeared at Klaus’s more sober of moments. But Ben was kind, and gentle, and calm, and he liked coming into her room with Klaus and listening to her practice. He was soft-spoken and despised his powers, despised his monsters and the horrors in his head and he said that Vanya’s music put them to sleep. So she played on for him. She played for his statue. She wanted to join him, right then, on that rock, and talk about another American literature classic. She just wanted all of this to go away.

“Vanya? Ready?”

That was Allison. Vanya nodded, clenched and unclenched her fists, and turned away from Luther and Number Six.

“Focus on a sound,” Five began but Vanya held up a hand. He sounded too much like Leonard - Harold. Harold Jenkins. He was a liar. He never loved her either.

“Don’t. Let me do this myself.”

Five murmured something but backed up and she wanted to make him another peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich and wait for him to come home.

She took a breath, let it go. She closed her eyes and felt the cooling summer wind. It was July. Their birthdays would be coming up in two months. The grass in the courtyard, where they landed, was green and lively. Birds were singing and she heard their winds. She called back to them, called for them to come home, she called her siblings back home.

Vanya lifted a hand and opened her eyes. She stretched the trees toward her, inhaling as she did, and as she exhaled they bent back, leaves rustling. She shuddered and her powers dropped.

“Wow,” Diego said, and Vanya wanted another doughnut.

Klaus needed an out.

Not necessarily drugs, per se, he just needed to get out of this goddamn stuffy house. So he expressed this to Dr. Pogo, who then went But you’re sick, Klaus!

Yes, Dr. Pogo, I am.

The now-15 year old skipped out of the mansion, re familiarizing himself with the way his neighborhood was 15 years ago. Weeds grew out of the cracks in the sidewalk in the form of flowers and awnings stretched across storefronts. Parents pushed their children in strollers and Klaus wondered if his father ever did that, or if his true mother ever did before he was bought.

Maybe he would go to Griddy’s. Maybe he would go to a bar that didn’t card. Maybe he’d even go join his siblings at the park; if they returned after he was back Ben would surely flip his shit. Klaus grinned at the thought.

He kept grinning as a black car pulled up next to him and Sir Reginald Hargreeves stepped out, and that is when his smile fell.

Chapter Text

Klaus was gone.

Luther punched a wall and Five zapped throughout the house, calling for Number Four. Ben pounded his head and Diego threw a knife at the stuffed head in the living room. Vanya sat with Allison who anxiously wrung her hands.

“M-maybe Pogo knows where he went,” she blabbered. Pogo said he went “out.”

“Damnit,” Ben muttered, then screamed it. “Damnit! Damnit damnit damnit!”

Five returned, fuming and angry and red. Ben was angrier.

“God damnit, Klaus! You promised! You promised you promised you promised!

Vanya didn’t know how to console him. It didn’t look like Diego or Luther or any of them did for that matter, and it seemed as though Number One and Two didn’t want to bring up their brother’s addictions.

“I’ll go check Griddy’s,” Five panted, but Luther stopped him.

“No, Five, you’ll just tire him out. I’ll go. Diego, stay with everyone else.”

They sat together, silent, in the living room, lounging on couches and watching Diego’s knives fly back and forth. “We shouldn’t jump to any conclusions,” said Vanya and Ben scoffed. She didn’t like him angry and knew it hurt him, too. “He might’ve just gone on a walk or something. You know Klaus, he was always sneaking out when we were kids.”

“Yeah, to get high,” Diego snapped. Ben didn’t defend him. Luther returned. No Klaus.

For the next few hours they ignored Pogo’s questions and concerns. The sky went dark and starless. Vanya just wished that Klaus was somewhere where he could count the constellations.

Then their father walked in. Five was still holding the journal and the man wasted no time in snatching it from his hands before any of them could think.

“D-dad!” Luther exclaimed, “You’re back! Early!”

Reginald scanned the room and situated himself in front of the fireplace. Allison was the one to speak up first.

“Do you know where Klaus is?”

“If your brother wants to throw his life away on the streets, so be it,” the man growled and Vanya glanced down. No, no, no. “You children have been lying to me. You have set foot in my office, stolen my property, you have used your powers against me and your caretakers. You have corrupted Number Seven’s mind once again. There will be punishments for this.”

“Please don’t lock me up,” Vanya whimpered, and his head whirled to her.

“If you lock her up I will kill you,” said Five, and he said it so still and so serious that Vanya was sure she saw her father flinch.

“You will be confined to your rooms for the remainder of the week,” their father articulated, “Leaving only for meals. There will be no talking. Five, if you use your powers to leave I will put Number Seven in that room, regardless of your empty threat.” It’s anything but empty. “I will know because of the cameras. If you try breaking the cameras, I will put her away. When and if your lowlife brother returns, you will not speak to him. Seven, you will continue taking your medication. Do you all understand?”

Luther answered for them, he even fucking apologized, and Vanya wanted to scream. She wanted to kill the man himself, she wanted to kill Luther, she wanted to burn this house, she wanted -

breathe, Vanya, breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe.

Klaus counted the times he’d died.

The first was when he was thirteen and overdosed on cocaine, the first time he’d tried a hard drug. He swam in black and woke up in the bathtub. He would die in the bathtub four more times after that. One time he even drowned, which was exciting. Grace gave him CPR and his siblings never found out.

Sometimes, he wasn’t sure whether or not he meant to die of overdoses; he always knew how much to take, how much would give the right amount of high or how much would send him over the top, spiraling into space and reaching for the red giant Betelgeuse. He learned about it during an astronomy lesson and he liked the movie.

Sometimes, he blamed the deaths on the dealer, as if the dealer would slip some rat poison into his weed or something like that. That’s happened before, he knows, it’s common to get impure bags. Oh, well. Those were always the most exciting to experience.

He died for Luther, and that’s when God graced him with her presence (yip-fucking-hurray). One time, when he was younger and he shot himself up so full of heroin that he felt his heart stop beating minutes later, a voice - not a deep, musky one, but something sweet, and motherly, a tinge of maliciousness - told him that he wasn’t welcome “down there,” either.

Klaus wasn’t sure what to think about all of this. He was pretty sure he wasn’t immortal - perhaps he just had a high tolerance for death and was able to be resuscitated all those times. If he did die, though, he was content with floating peacefully in the bath for the rest of eternity. He didn’t need anyone else to speak with him, he’s had enough of words and people - either dead or alive, his whole life. Even if he wasn’t allowed music in the afterlife, he’d be alright with that, too. If it was just quiet, and still, with a few patches of bubbles left in the water, and if the bath was pleasantly warm, and maybe if it was raining outside or even snowing, that’d be real nice. Sweet nothing.

He wished for that, then.

There were bruises on his wrist from his father’s grip. He was thrown into the car, screamed at incessantly, and he was taken there. It was still afternoon but light fades quickly in the shadows.

At first, they didn’t realize he was there. He didn’t want to cause a ruckus by yelling, didn’t want to attract any beings, so he kept silent until they emerged from their beds.

Was grandma waiting for him, at that house? That wretched house? Was Sauron waiting? Was he here, in the corner, watching?

His ghosts were feral. They were animals, they were rabid, and their claws were sharpening. They were whispering, and then they were growling, and then they were screaming and Klaus had to pretend that he didn’t hear them so they didn’t scream his name.

Reggie said his name, though, for all of them. First time he’s ever said Klaus.

They loved his name, his Germanic name that Grace gave him so many years ago. They loved how it rolled off of their ghoul tongues and they had competitions to see who could scream it the loudest, the longest, and they were dead, so the competition never ended and there was no winner. He put his hands over his ears and they howled in triumphantly.

They shouted their killers’ names and then acted like Klaus was the one who did it - who slit their throats, who broke their bones, or drowned them, who stabbed them, who shot them sixteen times over in the face.

Klaus was crawling at the walls, at the stone and pried at the tombs. Maybe, if he could pull out a coffin he could sleep in it and they’d forget about him. There was no moon that night.

This is went God felt most powerful, Klaus realized. She could stop all of it and she chose not to. She was the true Handler and she laughed at adversaries. She laughed at the victims and sided with the tormentors. God was not a little girl on a bicycle, God was the fire that burned churches and slaughtered a nation’s cattle. God ate their sacrifices and blew out their candles, disturbed their vigils and giggled at an oncoming storm. God was watching him, now, a mere boy, with bruises on his body and blood in his hair and his fingernails all ripped up and his breath ripped out of his lungs.

Klaus never prayed before, at least not since he was first put in here. He knew that if there was a God they would not listen, and know he knew that there is one, and she does not listening. Still, though, he felt that maybe, maybe, she remembered him. Maybe she would have sympathy for this weeping figure. So he called to her, and he asked please, and the ghosts jeered at this and they burned their fingerprints into his back.

Klaus hadn’t returned yet, and it has been 32 hours since Ben had last seen him.

Ben lived those 32 hours in silence. There were 168 hours in a week. He would have to be silent for 136 hours more.

Ben had his books to read, and before they were locked away he lent a couple to Vanya to hold her over. She wasn’t aloud to play her violin and she was sobbing. Silently, of course.

Allison was given the same threat as Five; if she used her powers Vanya would go to her prison. Ben hated how Reginald always averted that word: prison, cell, locked away. He hated Reginald. He hated him and he hated his monsters but in those lonely 32 hours he wished he could unleash the monsters on that man and he knew he wouldn’t regret it.

Klaus hadn’t returned yet, and it has been 35 hours since Five had last seen him. Five lived those 35 hours in silence. There were 168 hours in a week. He would have to be silent for 133 hours more.  

He didn’t want to antagonize his brother, he didn’t, but he supposed that all those years of betrayal and solitude made him see the worst in people.

He wanted to kill his father. He needed to kill him. But he couldn’t, he couldn’t destroy the timeline just yet. Reginald already found out that they knew Vanya had powers, and this only increased the chance of Vanya being locked away, which increased the chance of the apocalypse occurring again. None of this was ideal.

Klaus hadn’t returned yet, and it has been 42 hours since Allison had last seen him. Allison lived those 42 hours in silence. There were 168 hours in a week. She would have to be silent for 126 more.

She just wanted her brother to be safe and not dead in an alley somewhere, which was what they were all expecting of him (and she hated that). She was mad, mat at Luther, mad at dad, mad at Klaus and mad at herself, and fuck, she missed Claire (damnit, Allison, don’t cry, don’t make noise), and fuck, she missed when she and Klaus were younger and they painted each other’s nails whatever color they chose. Klaus was with her when she got her ears pierced and Allison pierced his, which resulted in tears but a happy grin afterwards. She just wanted him to be safe.

Klaus hadn’t returned yet, and it had been 44 hours since Vanya had last seen him. Vanya lived those 44 hours in silence. There were 168 hours in a week. She would have to be silent for 124 more.

She was sitting on her bed, unable to open Ben’s book, staring at the bottle of pills in front of her. Maybe she should start taking them. Maybe that’d just be better for everyone. Maybe she should get Allison to Rumor her again, or maybe she should just run away and go live in Thailand and become a Buddhist or something.

Her hands were shaking and tears were threatening to spill and she knew Reggie wouldn’t like it if she cried, so she stayed silent. Silent.

Klaus hadn’t returned yet, and it had been 51 hours since Diego had last seen him. Diego lived those 51 hours in silence. There were 168 hours in a week. He would have to be silent for 117 more.

Diego didn’t know what to think of his brother at that moment, but he began remembering as he threw his knives at framed pictures of their comics. He remembered when he found Klaus passed out in front of the toilet, the room smelling of blood and vomit, remembered the sly grin Klaus gave him when his eyes flickered open. He found him two more times like that and watched him get carried out two more times. On a third, separate occasion, he heard a body hit the floor in the bathroom and he left to get gelato with Allison. Klaus was in the infirmary two days after that.

Klaus hadn’t returned yet, and it had been 56 hours since Luther had last seen him. Luther lived those 56 hours in silence. There were 168 hours in the week. He would have to be silent for 112 more.

The apology to his father slipped out, like a reflex, an instinct, that day in the living room when Klaus didn’t come home. He saw his siblings’ faces, but he was supposed to be the leader. His father would only worsen the punishment if there was no apology at all, and they should be grateful, but every few hours Luther regretted the words I’m sorry.

He almost wanted to say I’m sorry to Klaus, but at the same time he wanted to punch the boy in the face.

When the door opened, Klaus ran.

He ran, wheezing, bleeding, horrors running after him. The world was bending, it was flipping, it was collapsing and he was being crushed with it. He had no shoes on and his shirt, trousers were ripped. His schoolboy socks were gone and he missed his puffy jacket.

Klaus ran. He was weeping.

He stumbled into an alley, he stumbled into a bar, tore pills out of someone’s hand and didn’t register the beating. He found more pills and he found liquor and he drank, he drank, he drank, and he melted whatever it was he stole but had to search for a syringe. He didn’t want to go home, he didn’t, he didn’t, he didn’t, he couldn’t, he couldn’t.

He hid the bottle and the pills when his father found him again.

Klause returned on the 62nd hour.

Torn children pressed up against their doors to hear his footsteps. He was stumbling. He was drunk. Their father was with him, and he was whispering. After Klaus went into his room, they could hear nothing more.

Klaus didn’t come down for dinner. The six of them filed in, as they always did, neat and orderly and even Five seemed scared to piss Reginald off. This is all my fault, Vanya was thinking, and her brothers and sister were thinking the opposite. This is all Klaus’s fault.

Klaus was alone in his room, and he was weeping. He wept, like a willow, and he cried out his sorrows and the alcohol wasn’t strong enough to shut them up.

They could hurt him, now. Or at least then, in the dark of that mausoleum, in the dampness and the mold and the shrieking. They clawed at him - didn’t hurt him bad, scratches and bruises and whatnot, but they were growing stronger. They were growing stronger as he was growing stronger.

Slowly, as the hours went by (63, 64, 65, 67), he began to remember the evening. He was in an alley with a bottle and someone tried to kiss him, and there were people nearby, watching, and the person kissed him and he smelled of whiskey and Klaus hit him and grabbed the pills on the man’s back pocket, and they pinned him down and he couldn’t tell who hurt more: them, or his ghosts. As he ran, he still had the pills in his hand.

Klaus didn’t really know what to expect. It seemed as if history would repeat itself. He went back there, he relapsed, Five would run away, Ben would die, and they would all leave, one by one. Oh, well.

It was nighttime. Starless, as always, and their doors were locked but a key was slipped under. Pogo, Five thought with fondness, and as the clock ticked and the hours passed, each of them slowly opened their doors.

The siblings met each other’s eyes, and they all collectively looked to Klaus’s door. It was slightly open. They looked angry. Disappointed. Upset. All of the above. They were pissed, and Five was pissed too, but the footprints marked by red on the floorboards reminded him of the day he came back from wherever he went.

Their brother was underwater, eyes closed. He looked dead. The bubbles escaping his nose proved otherwise.

Luther grabbed him by his shirt collar and hoisted him up, clapping his hand over Klaus’s mouth, preventing a scream. Klaus looked like he continued to try to scream for a good time after that before he stopped struggling and hung, limply. There was a bottle of liquor beside the bath and a little baggie of blue happy pills.

“What the hell were you thinking,” Luther hissed. It was strange, to hear the noise after the silence. Klaus didn’t answer and Five took stock of his injuries: bruises around his neck, a black eye coming in, a cut lip, a cut on the bridge of his nose. The water was red. There were bruises on his forearms, on his left wrist. His hair was matted even when wet and his eyes were feral, darting from body to body, to something that wasn’t there.

“Put him down, Luther,” Vanya murmured. “Put him down.”

Klaus collapsed. He reached for the bottle but Ben slapped his head, earning a flinch. Stop touching him, Five thought.

“Yeah Klaus, what were you thinking?” the Horror growled. “Where were you? Jesus, Klaus, you were finally sober, you were finally doing well.”

“I went out,” Klaus answered lamely. “Sorry.”

“Christ,” Diego muttered.

“Klaus,” Five started, “How many ghosts are in the room right now?”

A smile crept on his brother’s face. “None, not anymore.”

Ben left the room, then Luther, then Diego and Allison, and then it was just Vanya and Five and Klaus. Klaus was shivering.

“Who did that to you?” Vanya asked, quiet. So quiet.

Klaus didn’t answer.

Later, in his room, Klaus threw the bottle against the wall and screamed. He screamed, he screamed, he screamed at the gunman Sauron to kill him, he screamed at God for being a coward, he screamed at himself and he walked over the glass and he buried his face and he screamed. He didn’t want to weep, he’d wept too many times, but he did.

Klaus didn’t show up for breakfast that morning. Five spoke up.

“Sir, should I go get Number Four?”

“No talking at the breakfast table, Number Five.”

Later, Five saw Klaus grabbing three bottles from the locked cabinet. He followed him. Klaus’s feet were bleeding.

Klaus was high and drunk and he wanted to drown in the bath but the bath wasn’t private and Luther would just drag him out. But God, he wanted to swim around in that black nothingness for just a little more, in the quiet and the dark and the melodies of Ms. Fitzgerald. He heard about father’s punishment he inflicted on the others. It was hour 83. They had 85 left.

He smashed more bottles on his walls and saved a couple for himself. His bed was covered in shards so he slept beneath it with a throw pillow he stole when he was young. He found a pack of cigarettes beneath the floorboard - he was a resourceful little bugger - found some blunts, rationed the pills, and it felt right. It felt right, to be like this, the addict, the junkie, the alcoholic, the drunk, the dying and the dead. Grandma never visited again. Maybe she realized he was a lost cause. Pff, he didn’t need her! He didn’t need Sauron, either, who he was beginning to miss. He didn’t need the ghost of his dead brother, either, curse him. He didn’t need his looks or his speeches about how he’s throwing his life away when his poor, poor brother already died.

Then again, Klaus was wondering when he’d show up, it was taking a while. Ben always showed up, whether he was fleetingly sober or not.

He was alive, someone reminded him. God? Was that you? You bastard, show your face.

He screamed at night, in the dark, and then began to laugh and smoked a blunt.

 

Chapter Text

Ben didn’t feel like eating.

His first night they were back, he couldn’t stop. He raided the cabinets, tearing out boxes of cereal and packages of cookies and ate bundles of bananas. Diego even had to stop him, he was eating so fast.

Now, though, he didn’t like this body. Didn’t want to nurture it or stuff it or think of it. He just wanted to calm what stirred under his skin, preferably with a Charles Dickens or a thick book of Langston Hughes’ poems. Anything but sitting there, at the dining room table, on the 94th hour of their punishment (74 left), with platters of roasts and dried fruits and potatoes and silent children sitting around it all.

Klaus was there, that night.

“Got the munchies,” his brother giggled to him before taking his place, Ben beside him. As always.

Ben caught Luther’s eye roll and Diego’s shifting of focus to his lap, and suddenly Ben felt a pang of remorse for leaving his brother limp and pale in the bath, as he’d seen him so many times before. Klaus was the only one eating. It’s the munchies, Ben thought, and for some odd reason he allowed himself to smile. Klaus always goes for the waffles when he’s got them, but roast pork is the next best thing.

As if reading his thoughts, Klaus announced (quietly, even), “You should try this piece. Real nice and juicy, like you used to like it.”

Silently, Ben took it from his plate and began to delicately cut. Each sound was too loud, each scraping of the knife on the plate was too loud, each swallow was too loud, there were forces pushing down on his chest - harder and harder and harder, Klaus smelled like vomit and Ben felt like doing so -

“Breathe.”

A whisper.

Klaus.

He was always very intuitive, his brother.

Their father appeared late, strangely, and didn’t speak as he sat at the head of the table. He only acknowledge Klaus with a, “Glad to see you, Number Four.”

At this Klaus put down his knife and fork and leaned across the table to look Reginald in the eye. “Oh, papa,” he whined, “I just missed you so much I couldn’t bear being away for so long!” He burped (whiskey) and held up a hand apologetically. “So, so, so sorry I’ve been… out and about. I just - I just didn’t want to be here, you know?”

“Four,” Reginald warned. Five narrowed his eyes.

“Klaus, we promised we wouldn’t just run off like that. We have to stick together.”

“You’re one to talk,” Klaus muttered, and Five banged his fist on the table.

“Five!” went Reginald.

“You left us,” Vanya said, sorrowful and nearly mute, and in an instant, Klaus looked crestfallen.

“Listen,” he began, and then Reginald shouted his Number and told him to get up that instant and go to the living room with him and Klaus begrudgingly followed.

“Fuck,” Diego scoffed, and the six of them plodded after their brother.

Ben couldn’t tell what Reginald was saying to Klaus. They stood together by the fireplace - neither their father or Klaus was particularly short but it seemed as though Reginald towered over their sulking Number Four. Their backs were slightly turned, shielding their expressions but Ben could tell Klaus was trying to pull away; his movements were jerky and crude and he was spitting and hissing like hurt cat.

Then, without warning, Reginald pulled out a hand and slapped Klaus across the face. Ben flinched as Klaus let out a quiet yelp, his whole body reeling from the force and he heard his siblings suck in their breath. Vanya stepped back behind Ben, whereas both Diego, Luther and Five stepped forward, apprehensive. Waiting.

Quite appropriately, and what Ben thought was justifiable, Klaus then spat in their father’s face.

“Fuck you,” Number Four said, loud and clear and menacing, and then he began to stalk off.

“Number One!” Reginald stammered, and no, Luther wouldn’t go to his aid, he couldn’t, but then precious Luther proved himself to be their leader and he blocked Klaus from leaving the sitting area.

“Klaus,” he sighed, “Don’t do this.”

“Get out of my way, please, I have to go.”

“Klaus. Don’t make me do this.”

God, Luther, do what? Do what?

But Luther wasn’t a huge ape-of-a-man in this timeline. He was muscular, sure, strong and fit but not towering, not made of broad shoulders that couldn’t fit in a car. No, he was the same height as Klaus, and Ben knew Klaus took this into account when he punched Luther in the face.

“Klaus, no!” Ben shouted, and at the same time Allison screamed at Luther - as if she knew what he was going to do. Ben supposed she just knew him that well. Diego and Five let out a collective fuck.

All at once, Klaus was ducking and jabbing and Luther was fighting back and drawing blood and Klaus probably wasn’t even leaving bruises but he himself was already covered in them, covered in cuts and marks and why didn’t Ben ask him about them? Why didn’t he care?

Diego was trying to pry Luther away and Five with Klaus, as they were closer to the same body mass but Klaus was an animal - howling and clawing and Ben didn’t know what to do.

“Stop, stop!” Vanya sobbed, and Ben was vaguely aware of Allison hurrying her away, hurrying her to safety so she shouldn’t unleash a bomb and kill everyone.

Luther landed a punch to the side of Klaus’s head.

The latter fell.

He was thin, bony, pale and bruised and hurting.

Reginald was backed up against the fireplace, speechless. He hadn’t raised a finger or spoken up against it.

Luther was panting and Diego was pushing him away, and Ben could make out Five trying to help Klaus but Klaus was hunched on the floor, dripping blood onto their priceless carpet. All at once, Reggie rushed forward, taking advantage of his weakened state - he pushed Five away, grabbed Klaus by the back of his neck, nearly pulling him up by his curls and practically dragged him away, hissing into his ear, and Ben just… stood there.

“No,” he heard Klaus moaning, “No, please, no, I'm sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

“G-guys!” Ben uttered, and in that instant he didn’t care that Luther hurt Klaus, he cared about the next villain they had to face.

Their father was forcing Klaus down to the back entrance and Klaus was pleading with him, whimpering like a kicked dog, pawing at Reginald to let him go. Diego rushed forward and yanked Klaus back by the arm, spurting a yelp but stopped his struggling once he was out of Reginald’s hands. Reginald whirled around, huffing at the chaos and the noise and the clatter and he stamped his cane on the ground - silencing the siblings.

“I do not know what has gotten into you all,” he snarled, “But you are to go to your rooms this instant and spend the rest of the 74 hours in there. No meals at the table, no interaction, no talking. You have been disrespectful, disorderly, childish and foolish. Number Four must take responsibility for his actions but seeing as you all are so quick to defend him, I will be taking away your past-times. You will sit out the rest of your punishment reflecting on your actions without music, books, knives, or anything of the sort.”

“But, sir -” Luther started, but their father shook his head.

“No, Number One. I will not hear it. All of you, return to your rooms. If I hear conversation the punishment will be extended beyond ten hours.”

Fuck.

Fuck this.

Klaus looked truly apologetic as he limped to his room, his head bent and his feet dragging behind him. He glanced up at all of them, prepared to apologize when Five stopped the march.

“You all need to get your heads out of your asses,” he flared. “We cannot fuck this up. We’re here to fix this, alright? Don’t waste my time. Don’t waste your time, either. Use this as a do-over. Just… Jesus Christ, let’s not fuck it up, okay?”

He had blinked away before any of them could answer, and Ben watched Klaus float to his room and shut the door. There was a click of a lock and then there was silence.

His body ached and he suddenly hated the thousands of shards on his floor, the dried bloody footprints and the empty bottles on the windowsill. What did he do? He was serious, that time, he really was, he was gonna do it, he was gonna get sober, he was going to prove them wrong. He wasn’t worthless. He was… worthful. A giggle escaped. Yeah, he was worthful and he was worth getting sober.

Klaus knew the drill, though. He knew what was to come but he also knew that afterwards his siblings wouldn’t look at him like that. Like he was worthless. Immature. High and flamboyant and carefree and weak.

He remembered when, before the apocalypse and before he died the last time, Luther told him he wanted to be like him. He wanted to be high like him, to shoot up like him, to smoke crack and drink whiskey and take some xanax with alcohol to test the fates. Klaus tried to show him, tried to explain that it wasn’t like that, he wasn’t taking drugs just to take drugs he was taking them to shut everything up, but then Luther threw him across the room and Klaus died trying to help him. And then Luther left and Klaus was called a bitch by God and his sister ended the world, and look where we are now.

He found a broom in the closet and danced around the glass, humming a tune to block out the monsters at the edge of his vision. He sifted through stuffed animals and shoe boxes and longingly stared at little blue happy pills before flushing them down the toilet as well as whatever liquor he had left. You can do this Klaus, come on.

His heart ached even more watching them twirl down through the water, and the ache turned into a stab when he remembered Papa’s no music statement. Ah, fuck him. What else could he do to Klaus? Kill him? He would welcome it.

Back in his room, Klaus surveyed the battlefield. It was growing darker (thank God for short summer nights). Maybe grandma would come back to be his shield after he threw all his toys away. She was probably proud of him, he smiled. Anyhow, his walls were still somewhat bare of his nostalgic carvings, sketches and stories and poems dead authors told him. He liked doing that, writing down last words or taking a message. He did it more when he was younger, when he really wanted to help the unfortunate or whatever. Maybe he could try it again this time around.

Then again, the only thing the ghosts did was just scream his name and it’d get boring writing it over and over again, so perhaps he’ll stick to the poems he remembered.

It was growing darker. For a moment Klaus felt bad for what his siblings would have to hear but remembered what his father had to do to his walls after his first trip to the crypt. They would hear nothing and they would sleep soundly.

It was growing darker. The cut on his lip had begun to bleed again and the iron tasted like drugs. He wished for a sharp edge of glass and a downing of rum. Why, oh why, did he throw it away?

It was growing darker, he was growing tired, his eyes were beginning to burn and his high was almost out. The ghosts were coming back, the mean ones now, and they weren’t that happy with him.

It was growing darker and he was hot and sweaty and cold and shivering. Klaus was on his floor, staring into the security camera in the corner, wondering that perhaps his father could see his ghosts through the screen. Were they reaching for Reggie, too?

Hours passed. It was dark, still dark, and it wasn’t growing lighter. The black dug into his bones and the ghosts fed on its ink. They drew on his skin and he almost asked them to write down their stories on his walls (less work for him), but he vomited into his trash can and passed out.

His door was locked. Klaus couldn’t recall who’d locked it, him, the ghosts, or the man that’d locked him up so many times before?

The wood felt like stone and his fingernails screamed from being torn against it. He was yearning to breathe, to drink, and he passed out again and the ghosts drank from his tears.

For all the beings that visited Klaus, none of them were him. Klaus credited that to bitterness and fucked up time shit. Still, it was comforting to trace his face out in the dark and imagining it shining beside the other, more mutilated corpses. One day Klaus would paint him, and maybe that’s the day he’d come back.

He threw up again, missing the trash can. He was thirsty, so incredibly thirsty, and it was hard to move. Their were demons swimming around in his head and they were pushing to get out. He wished he could help them. Maybe when the sun comes out.

It was growing lighter. Ghosts swayed with the morning bird calls, and they screamed like they were trying to sing. They were the ghosts from the mausoleum, not grandma, the little girl in the training center, not Ben. He could see Sauron watching him from the corner. Sauron was a melancholy ghost, Klaus decided, and if he had not killed those girls perhaps they could’ve been friends.

He is drowning.

He never learned how to swim before. Perhaps that was the problem. He wasn’t trying to be metaphorical with these thoughts, though - he’d seriously, legitimately never learned how to swim. He liked the feeling of being underwater. Powerless. Helpless. Nothing, no one to help him. He liked waiting out those last few seconds of consciousness, imagining that this is what it felt to die. He always emerged for breath.

In the hazy light of his bedroom, the world smelling of blood, piss, and vomit, he found himself not enjoying this choking thickness. A smog. The battle to stay afloat. But, at the same time, he didn’t want to come up for air.

He threw up the waffles Grace made him. The next chance he got, Klaus would smash all of his father’s liquor and laugh at the sky.

Luther woke to a ring of a bell.

Their 168 hours were up.

Walking through the hall, he let his fingers dance across their laminated posters - upper block, eye gouge, nose twist, elbow snap, Americana. He idolized those posters as a kid. He would stare at them for hours and practice the moves on his stuffed animals or, when obliged, Pogo. He was always willing to let Luther show off on him.

It was early, probably around five or six in the morning. No one was up yet. Mom had left them all breakfast, despite them being able to go down to the table finally (begrudgingly, Luther knew no one would want to go down there).

Floorboards creaked. Through the early morning fog in hallway corners he saw dust rise and fall. The earth was still sleepy and mild and he felt like watching the sun climb over the trees was a nice way to start this unforgiving day, so he decided to go on a walk.

Luther inched through the halls, thankful he had slimmed down to his 15-year-old body and wouldn’t cause too much of a noise. He continued his trek, calculating how long he could be gone without anyone noticing, and only stopped when a putrid smell of throw-up hit his nose.

“F-what the fuck?” he coughed, holding his shirt up to cover his nose. It was coming from Klaus’s room. Shit, if he OD’d again…

Luther tried the handle. It was locked. He knocked, no one answered, so Luther, as silently as he could, broke the door and stepped in.

The first thing he noticed was the smell. He thought it might’ve been bad out in the hallway, but in the room - Jesus fucking Christ, it was a fucking shit hole. The singular trash can was brimming with blood mixed in vomit, which also happened to grace some of the floorboards and Klaus’s shirt collar. It was a wonder he didn’t choke on his throw-up.

Speaking of which, his brother was huddled in the corner, whimpering, mouth partly opened and shaking violently. He was sweating, rather profusely, and panting out mumblings. Still, he managed to flick open his eyes and produce a signature, feeble smile.

“Bro,” he groaned, “I am… busy.”

“Did you overdose?”

“Ye of little faith.”

“Did you?”

Klaus frowned, looked at his lap, around the room, at the disaster, looked at Luther. “No,” he said, simply enough, and he seemed to contemplate what he said next. “The opposite, I guess.”

That took Luther a minute. “Oh. Withdrawal?”

“Binga-rooney. I wanna see if I can conjure Ben again.”

“Ben’s alive, Klaus.”

Shock wiped through Klaus’s face before he giggled. “Oh, I’m just fooling with you, Luther,” and he dissolved into a fit of coughing that caused him to double over in pain. “Is the sun out?”

Can’t he see the light? “Yeah, Klaus, it is.”

His brother leaned back against the wall, pulling a blanket up close in what looked like an effort to hide his tremors. “Good,” he breathed out, softly closing his eyes. “That’s nice.”

Luther stood there for another minute - and another - waiting, watching, until: “C’mon, Klaus. Let’s go on a walk.”

“Oh, ffffuck you,” he drawled out, managing to open his eyes again. “Can’t - can’t you see the, the state I’m in?” and he drew out his voice into a childlike whimper. “Oh, I’m hurting Luther, pwease just let me west in peace.”

“No,” Luther grunted, stepping into the pig hole, “Let’s go. Exercise is good for you. It’ll clear your head. C’mon, up, get changed, let’s go.”

Klaus whined but allowed Luther to pick him up (gently, so gently, Luther was terrified he would snap his arms or break his neck or bruise his bones -) and guide him to the bed, pulling out a loose t-shirt for him and shorts. Klaus had his eyes closed the whole time and continued to let Luther bring him to the bathroom, wash his face, flick water into his tangled hair and force him to brush his teeth.

“I’ll get Grace to clean your room later,” he murmured as they drifted down the stairs. Klaus clutched to his arm and Luther was nearly surprised he wasn’t flinching away after… what happened.

“Her name’s mom,” Klaus sniffed. “She’s our mom.”

“Yeah,” Luther said. “Mom.”

Klaus chose to walk barefoot. Said it helped him think better, made the voices a little clearer - strange, when Luther thought that the whole point was muffling them.

“How many are there?” he whispered, leading Klaus out into the early morning. It wasn’t rush hour yet; the streets were near-clear.

“Many.”

“Are they angry?”

“Some of them.”

“At who? You?”

“They’re mad I don’t want to help them. They’re mad at the world, I think.”

“Well… why don’t you just help them, then?”

Klaus was silent for a while before answering. “I just. I don’t know how. And,” reverting to his mock-pathetic tone with a giggle, “I don’t want to.

Luther frowned at his humor. “Isn’t that kind of, like, cruel? Though? Not to help them?”

As they walked (or stumbled, in Klaus’s case), what little passerbys there were stared at the shaking frame of a boy and another supporting him, holding him.

“Probably,” Klaus agreed. “I - well, I used to try to be nice, y’know, but they’re all so damn impatient!” and the last two words he shouted. Most likely to the ghosts and not to the pregnant woman on her morning jog across the street. “And,” he continued, voice quieter, “There are just too many to help, yeah? It’d be unfair to just help a few. Some of them you can’t do anything about, though. The ones who’ve been dead for years and years.”

“What do they look like?”

“Mm. Depends,” Klaus pondered. He tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and waited to finish until he’d caught his breath. “Some are like,” and he huffed a laugh, “Pretty ugly. Pretty grotesque. Oh, please, you know you are,” he snapped. “Some of them look normal, too. The kids either look really peaceful or really disgusting.”

“You see kids?”

“Death doesn’t spare anyone, dear Number One.”

They passed through the park and Klaus asked to sit for a while, his legs were aching and his stomach was turning. They listened to the birds in the soft morning haze before Luther had the courage to speak.

“I’m sorry about what happened. For… fighting back with you.”

A mourning quiet. Then, “Yeah, I am too, I guess. I was just… you know. High.” He laughed, coughed. “Mad. I didn’t mean to punch you. I don’t really know what I expected out of that, though. I guess I. I guess I just wanted a fight. Something to feel other than the drugs.”

Oh. Oh.

“Oh.”

Luther had to convince Klaus to come back on the promise that he’d give him a piggy-back. “Thank you bwother,” Klaus giggled. He was skinny and so, so weightless.

Luther found he was more courageous than he thought when he asked, “Where’d you go, man? Like, why’d you leave? You - you left us. You came back, all high and shit, and I never hear anything from your room but….”

Klaus asked to be let down.

“My room is soundproof,” he said softly. He was scratching his forearms. Luther narrowed his eyes.

“What? Why?”

“I just… when I was a kid. With the ghosts. I was scared of them. Dad didn’t want me disturbing you guys while you slept.”

Oh. Oh.

“Oh.”

“And I’m sorry I left. I am. I didn’t have a choice.”

“Bullshit.”

“No,” Klaus growled. “No, Luther, I didn’t have a choice. Dad… dad made me go.”

What the fuck? He wouldn’t, and he repeated that outloud.

“I’m sorry. I just - I left, something bad happened and I couldn’t handle it so I had to get an escape. I’m sorry, I am, I’m sorry.”

“You were doing so well, though, Klaus, we were all so proud of you -”

“You see,” Klaus snapped, “I hate that. I hate that you can only be proud of me when - when I’m not who I am.”

“What - don’t say that, you’re not, not a junkie.”

“Strange,” Klaus huffed, “You guys have always told me that. I mean, I get it. I get you don’t want to tell me you’re proud of me if I’m shooting myself up or sucking guys off to stay at their place for a night or whatever, but I’m your brother. That’s quite a shock, I’m sure, but you don’t know what it was like living in that house -”

“Of course I know what it’s like!” Luther hissed. “Of course I do! I’m your brother, Klaus, and he was my father, too!”

“But you were Number One!” Klaus shouted, and his voice broke. “You were Number One, and I was Number Four, and I was terrified of the ghosts and he did things that made me more afraid, and I couldn’t turn to you guys be-because you would call me a coward. And - and I’m not. I’m not.”

“I know you’re not,” he said, gently, because God, he really didn’t want to fuck this up this time. “I’m sorry. That you couldn’t come to us.”

“Yeah? Me too.”

It was growing lighter outside. They would be expected at breakfast soon.

“Luther?”

“Mm?”

“You - you wouldn’t lock one of us up if you found out we could do… more, right?”

Sadness tore his heart.

“No, Klaus. I wouldn’t lock you up.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

Ben was no idiot.

He knew what Klaus did and he was sure to catch his eye at breakfast, smiling proudly at his shaky, sweaty, itching form. Klaus let a smile slip by fleetingly and looked back down at his food. His face was still all torn up; he was subject to an obvious beating, probably the result of him trying to grab some pills out on the streets, and God - Ben hated the thick blanket of guilt he wasn’t there to try and hold his hand. Though Ben knew Klaus must be starving, he also knew that Klaus hated throwing up - especially in front of people - and if he ate anything at all, in this precious stage of withdrawal, it wouldn’t stay down.

Ben nudged Klaus’s leg, startling him but gaining his attention. “I’m proud,” he murmured, quiet enough their father wouldn’t notice, and the small and childish smile appeared again. Klaus ducked his head in a sign of thanks and curled in on himself once more.

As punishment for their… punishment, Hargreeves was intent on enforcing extra and special training on all of them. It was Monday, Luther’s day, and that meant that they watched as he beat up a bunch of dummies and see which he can throw farther. Today, however, the gods had other plans. While they all watched him uppercut a CPR head on the sidelines, Reginald calling out commands and Luther following them like a good Number One, the dreaded scream of the alarm pierced through the air.

“Damn,” Diego muttered, looking around at the others. Ben was lounging with Klaus, who was trying to sleep in the corner and periodically went out to empty his stomach’s contents (mainly just acid, now). Vanya was speaking quietly with Allison, her hands wrapped around her knees only to release at the alarm. Five had his back to the mat, hunched over Vanya’s journal, scribbling equations on the walls but jerked up at the sound. In an instant, he was gone, and Ben punched Klaus in the arm to wake him up.

“Fucking fuck,” said his brother. “I… am in no shape for this, Benny. Can you just tell dad I, like, ate a turd or something.”

“Come on man,” Ben whispered, “You got this.”

“Children! You heard it! Chop chop, get a move on!” came their father, slapping his hands together like a goddamn seal. Perhaps Five would let Ben kill him in this timeline. Here’s hoping.

The mission was nothing special, save for the fact that Vanya was with them (despite verbal protest on Reginald, Luther and Vanya’s side) and Klaus was shaking like a twig (then again, nothing new). Kennedy airport had been overtaken by guys trying to hijack the Monday morning flight rush hour, a feat that turned into a hostage situation. Three planes were being held up and the law enforcement were too stupid and incompetent for their own good to know what to do.

“There are three planes,” Allison murmured, “Three planes and seven of us… two of us are essentially incapacitated, leaving five.”

“Hey!” Klaus called and Vanya sunk into her chair.

“She’s right, Klaus,” their sister muttered, “I don’t know how I can… I’ve barely had any training. Besides, in such close quarters, I don’t want to hurt anyone. I think it’d be best if I stay out of it today.”

“Excellent point, dear Vanya,” Klaus whined. “I’ll stay out with you. Hey, we’ll check out the perimeter, yeah? Get some fucked up bonding time in, ay?” and he leaned on her with a goofy smile on his face. Vanya held a wobbly grin.

“Alright, Klaus, sure.”

Ben didn’t like this mission any more than the other six of them. It’d be just him in one plane, Luther in another, and Allison in the last, with Five jumping in between them - draining him out - to help. Unless they attacked one plane at a time, which could lead to more casualties and the other guys might escape.

Ben knew he couldn’t unleash Them. It’d be too disastrous, catastrophic, scaring. He couldn’t. He couldn’t. He just wished he wouldn’t have to.

Klaus’s idea of a perimeter sweep was Vanya supporting him, his arm hooked through hers, as they wandered through the near-empty airport and picked up (stole) some coffee and donuts on the way.

“Can you even eat these?” Vanya teased, watching Klaus take a tentative bite.

“No,” he admitted, “But I’m real starving and Ben won’t get off my back if I don’t end up eating something.”

He was cold and hot to the touch and seemed to shrink as they walked, pressing into her, almost violently at some points to get away from empty spaces. A few minutes after finishing the donut he threw it up and drank some water.

“So,” Vanya began. Her voice was small. “You did it. Got sober again.”

“Ruefully.”

“Why - why’d you leave? In the first place?”

Klaus sighed. “Dear Vanya, my favorite sister, I… I didn’t have a choice.”

“Yes, you did, you could’ve stayed with us. With - with me,” and she hated how her lip quivered as the sound of battle picked up outside. Klaus tightened his grip on her, or perhaps it was the other way around.

“I know,” he said quietly. “But I… I really,” and he laughed, “Didn’t have a choice.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

He was silent. Then, an admission. “I know.”

They kept walking, admiring the rising sun and the smoke rising from engines. There was a hint of pink around the gray fumes, evidence of the early morning light hitting it, and Vanya found that symbolic - a silver cloud, or a silver lining, or whatever the hell the saying was.

“I hope they’re alright,” she eventually commented. Klaus didn’t answer, his eyes distant and unfocused. She tapped his cheek and he jumped, grinned, and asked what she’d said.

“I hope they’re alright,” she repeated. He nodded.

“Oh, Benny’ll be fine.”

“The others, too.”

“Of course he’ll be okay! Diego too.”

“And Allison, Five, and Luther.”

“Mm-hm. Say, do you think they have any music here? Like, anything we can put on the loudspeakers? That’d be nice, ay? We could, you know, rattle them up. It’d be quieter.”

“I think it’d be louder if we did that, Klaus.”

“Hm? Oh, you’re right.”

He was sagging and she clutched him closer.

Vanya wished she understood him. Better, at least. She knew Klaus, knew him well enough, she’d say, maybe not as much as Ben knew him (if Ben was truly with him all those years they thought he was cold in a grave), but she… knew him. She wrote about him. His mistakes. His grief and anguish and how he had so many nightmares their father had to soundproof his room.

She winced at the remembrance of her own soundless prison, where the only thing she could control was the humming lights and her own beating heart. She hoped that Klaus had more sound than that in his own room, hopefully more than his screams.

Vanya regretted Klaus’s segment in her book the most. She was young - young er, then, unaware about what the exposure of his addictions and tortures would do to poor Number Four. She heard he read it in rehab and the recollection of all his disappointments in the eyes of the family was probably no help to recovery. She did leave the part out about his sexuality, though, as she knew that only Ben and her were aware. She didn’t leave out his flamboyant nature, however - watching him dance around in Allison’s dresses and makeup was the highlight of her childhood. He made her laugh and she loved him for it. Of course she wouldn’t leave that out.

She remembered when it was reported that Klaus was physically assaulted by a guy yelling homophobic slurs, calling him out on his outfits, etc, all the good shit. The man said he had read her book the night before the attack and she ripped out the chapter from her own copy when she heard.

A large crash and a gunshot startled her, causing a few tables around them to scatter. Klaus squeezed her hand to center her, or maybe it was because the gunshot frightened him more.

“It’s alright,” he muttered, “We’re just doing perimeter sweeps.”

“Yeah,” she squeaked, but she couldn’t help but wonder if that bullet was meant for one of her brothers, for her sister.

“He’s okay.”

“They’re okay,” she echoed.

They kept walking and a deep rumble from outside reminded her of a boy, blue and floating, in a damaged theatre many years in the future.

“Hey, Klaus?” she started. “What - what do you remember about, uh, that night? At Icarus? You… did something. I can’t really remember what. Something big.”

“I made Ben corporal,” Klaus replied, voice cold and distant and not right. “I guess I can do that with the other ghosts now, too.”

“Have you, since?”

“No, not really,” and his voice is timid, hesitant.

“Do you want to?”

“No.” His answer was sure and hard and Vanya knew not to bring it up, but - Klaus kept talking. “Sauron, no, I’m not doing that to you. Shut up. No, shut up, I’m not doing it! I don’t - I can’t!”

“Klaus?”

“Hm?”

“Who are you talking to?”

“Oh, just -” he pointed to a fake potted tree in front of them. “Uh, no one. Sorry.”

“S’okay.”

Vanya could tell they were nearing the three taken terminals, as the police count grew and the screeching of radio chatter increased. They wove in between bodies, legs catching on legs and feet tripping over feet. There were guns and a SWAT team and men ready to run but there was no movement - there was stillness, calm, as the crowd watched The Umbrella Academy save the day once again.

One of the planes rocked back and forth. More gunfire. Screams. Klaus flinched and covered his ears with his hands, letting go of Vanya to dart away.

“Klaus?” she called, hoping he’d hear her over the chaos. “Klaus, are you okay?”

He nodded, numbly, with his eyes closed and his ears shut and he was shaking, shaking, shaking, and there seemed to be red marks on his bare arms, his neck, new ones. The world was swaying and Vanya was afraid it was because of her. Most likely.

“There are many dead,” Four mumbled, sinking to the ground. He released one hand to give the middle finger to the air and then to swat at his head. “They killed… they killed them.”

“Who, Klaus?” Vanya demanded, “Who’d they kill?”

Suddenly Reginald was there. He swooped past Vanya and grabbed the trembling boy, dragging him away to the window. “Who, boy?” Reginald roared. Glass cracked and people ducked down and oh God, Vanya was shaking the ground.

Breathe, Vanya, breathe. You are in control of your own body. You are in control. Breathe. Just walk over to Klaus. He needs you. Just walk over to him.

“F-four in the first plane,” Klaus whimpered, “Three in the second and six in the last. Twenty-one casualties in total. Three gunmen down but they’re - they’re strange. Strong. So many. I -”

Five blinks into existence, bleeding from a cut at the eyebrow and holding his arm to his body. “Vanya, we need you,” he hissed. She shook her head wildly while Reginald answered for her.

“Absolutely not! She is too unpredictable! She could cause great harm to the civilians. Number Four, go with Number Five this instant.”

“But -” Klaus began, still on the ground, but he was silenced by a zap of blue light and was gone.

“Number Seven,” Reginald shouted, “Get as far away as possible. We cannot risk you lashing out.”

“Sir, please, maybe I can help.”

“I will not hear of it. Go, now!”

Klaus was frightened.

He didn’t like being scared. He was very used to it but it was never pleasant. If he actually liked being scared then he wouldn’t be scared, now would he?

In this situation one could say that he was very, very frightened. The ghosts of the past had clung to him throughout the day, through his walk with Luther and into the airport with Vanya. His stomach was burning and his head was screaming with the words of thousands and Sauron was following like a lost puppy, and God, it was so, so loud.

Five dropped him off at Diego’s plane. It was full of blood and death and crouching passengers, children screaming, babies wailing and fathers calling home only to be met by voicemail. There were only two gunmen left and they reminded Klaus all-too-well of his beautiful, beautiful and lonely Sauron. The latter wasn’t happy to see Diego there, hilariously, as Number Two was his beloved murderer, but Klaus didn’t care for Sauron’s opinion at that moment. He cared that one of the gunman had seen him and was drawing a gun.

Klaus let out a girlish squeal and flipped over into a first class seat, nearly squashing a middle-aged man.

“Klaus!” Diego shouted.

C’mon, Klaus, think, think. It was hard enough with all the demons around him, wailing condemning confessions - God, if only he had a drink, if only his hands stopped shaking long enough to -

Ah, fuck it. He’s pretty sure he can’t die, anyway.

He leapt over the chair, staring down the eyes of the second gunman through the mangled, translucent corpses. He dodged and jumped and wove in the aisles, not caring if a bullet scathed his arm or if his ankle twisted horribly. Diego was at the other end of the plane and there were bodies on the floor and he could match the bodies to the soul and -

The gun was in his hand and he pulled the trigger.

Five grabbed him, took him to the next plane. Allison was screaming her commands and kicking her legs up high and throwing punches and there was luggage on the floor.

Klaus was in Vietnam.

Rocks covered the path and their dead comrades littered the ground, but they kept moving through the mud, hunched over in the weeds and stepping on the faces of friends as to not sink into the stomach and get stuck. It was hot, humid, and Klaus was blanketed by sweat, water, dirt and blood. It was raining and there wasn’t a cloud in sight.

He and Dave wove through the trees, silent, gun in hand, traveling towards the gunfire.

“You got this,” Dave murmured. Klaus smirked.

“Of course I do.”

“That was more to myself than you, love. Of course you got it.”

Klaus grinned and slipped through some roots, feet sloshing in the water. Damn, he’d have to be more careful not to disturb the pools.

It was quiet, silent, with bugs chittering and birds settling into the wood.

The world exploded.

“Ambush!” Sarg screamed and he, too, was blown apart. Mines. Damnit! Mines and soldiers in the brush.

“Down, Klaus, down!” Dave was shouting, but Klaus drove forward, driving the butt of his gun into any unfamiliar color. He moved and ducked and dipped and shot and shouted and his squad followed him. They were untouchable. He was untouchable. There was death all around, but there was also life, and his fellow (dead) soldiers moved with him. They were one. He was winning. He had Dave.

Five had Reginald evacuate the terminal. It seemed like more armed men were coming and Klaus was a storm.

The gunmen broke through with new ranks, new guns, and it didn’t faze their delirious, sick brother, and he yanked a gun off a dead man and moved with the expertise of an army man, a Marine, an… Airborne. He shot with a precision of a sniper.

Five had been to Vietnam during that era before, a couple times, to rid some soldier who was stirring conflict and controversy. He’d watched the Airborne platoons from afar, saw how they moved together, fought together, fought ruthlessly and true. They fought like no other.

Klaus was in the Airborne. 173rd.

The others took his lead, knowing that guns would be the only things able to stop the terrorists (they must be from the Commission - how’d they find him so fast, damnit? An equation must’ve been off, fuck). They pushed the men out the terminal and into the airport and they were together, powers combined, Ben back-to-back with Klaus and Luther back-to-back with Diego. Five didn’t think he’d ever see the day.

He jumped from space to space, jabbing guys in the neck with plastic McDonald’s knives and hitting them with metal chairs. God, they were never-ending. Five could feel himself running out of steam, could feel his jumps occurring farther and farther between. Allison was waning too, her voice hoarse and kicks weak and Five could tell she just wanted to make sure Vanya was safe. Diego had run out of knives and began picking them out of bodies, and the passengers on the plane hadn’t stopped screaming yet. Fuck all, just stop screaming.

Suddenly a man in one of the gunman’s black suits grabbed Five’s wrist, stopping a jump.

“The Handler wants to see you,” he growled, and Five kicked him in the balls.

“They’re from the Commission!” Five yelled, gaining his siblings’ attention. Even if they knew fuck-all about the organization they knew that it was bad they were found out.

Bodies sprayed blood across the ground and more kept coming. They were swarmed, swarmed with bullets and guts and gore and Five was tired, exhausted, and his arm hurt and blood was dripping into his eyes and Christ, he was so fucking tired he just wanted one good fucking black coffee but all the stores in the airport were fucking closed because there was a fucking shootout going on.

Five was able to pause, momentarily, to observe who he should aid next.

Ben was wielding a gun and knife rather than tentacles. Five respected that; he wasn’t about to tell Ben to harness what he was most afraid of. Five understood what it meant to be weary of your powers, of what they could do, of the unpredictability. The ants under your skin, the need to run, jump, escape, claw at your own flesh, anything to get what lives under there out - Five supposed that for Ben it was more than a metaphor.

Then the world flickered a hazy blue and Five caught sight of Klaus stumbling forward, a hunting knife in hand and a machine gun in the other, fists streaming light, setting up post behind a counter.

“C’mon, Skipper, get the ammo going! Let’s go, let’s go!” he bellowed. “John, get your ass into that foxhole! I don’t care there’s a body in it, go!”

Five watched, bewildered, as the air grew colder and seemed to glitch and Klaus kept yelling out commands to invisible forces and then -

There were soldiers, running, armed with pistols, infantry rifles, machine guns, with packs slipping off shoulders and boots covered in mud. Their enemies screamed as the blue - what, ghosts? People? Airborne? Paratroopers? Corpses? sunk their weapons into their flesh. Allison screamed and backed up, as did Luther and Diego and Ben dropped his gun, mouth agape at Klaus.

“Lieutenant! Sir, get over here! Where’s Mitchell? Dead? Fuck - Sarge, no, damnit! C’mon Dave, head north, let’s go, squad’s advancing. Watch out for mines, boys! Fuckin Nam. goddamnit! I’m out of ammo! Private, gimme your pistol, set up those machine guns right there, hold the line! Hold the damn line! Dave, move up, move up! Get to that foxhole, 11:00. Smith, get your ass over here! Smith! Oh, fuck, medic! We need a medic!

They were real.

They were blue and hazy and glitching but they were real, corporal, the soldiers Five saw in 1968, slaughtering the men in black, the Commission. Soldiers from ‘Nam. Klaus’s comrades.

Oh, Klaus. He was there now, wasn’t he?

A ghost of a man with broad shoulders, a shouldered gun and a square face yanked Klaus up from his sitting position and pulled him along, gathering the straggling apparitions as they advanced toward the remaining few gunners. “Watch your head, boys!” Klaus called, ducking down and nearly crawling. “Dave, watch it - there’s an untapped mine here, under this tree here, watch it! Someone, we need a medic for Smith! Hurry, let’s go! Dave, follow me, don’t fall behind.”

The gunners were dead.

The world was silent except for the chatter and the shouts of the soldiers and Klaus’s own commands. Vanya was watching, sobbing, near the entrance to the terminal, Reginald’s hand on her shoulder. Allison was curled in a ball, hand over her mouth and Ben stood, unmoving, watching the masses. Diego and Luther were holding each other back - from what? From confronting the dead?

Five had to move. He had to.

“Klaus,” he said. Nothing. “Klaus,” he repeated, louder, and saw his brother’s head flinch. The boy was huddled with the man, Dave, under a table, a bloodied knife at his feet. Five knelt and put a hand on Klaus’s shoulder. “Klaus,” he said, quieter. “Wake up. You’re not there. You’re not there.”

Klaus jerked.

The spirits seemed to melt. Literally melt, skin rotting into bone and flesh falling off in flecks, intestines pouring and bruises growing around necks, bodies transforming and oh my God, Five recognized some of these people, he’d killed some of these people, oh my God, this is what Klaus was seeing, this is what -

they wailed and screamed and he heard his siblings shouting and Klaus stared into Five’s eyes until Ben pushed past him, seemingly unaffected by the ghosts, grabbed Klaus and pulled him in and Dave disappeared in a flash of light. The world became clear again. Klaus vomited over Ben’s shoulder and passed out in his own blood.

Chapter Text

Klaus wished he dreamed of Dave.

It would’ve been nice, to see him smile, to feel his lips against Klaus’s, to feel his warmth, to bask in his beauty. But he did not dream of Dave. He didn’t see his smile, didn’t kiss him, and the world was cold, and there was no beauty left. His mother was dead, his love was dead, his brothers were dead, his sisters were dead, and they were screaming at him like the ghost of Sauron. They didn’t stop screaming. His name danced through the room, breaking through windows, ricocheting off of tears. They were dead. Mangled, like the rest of them, forever stuck with him, forever watching him try to join them.

Maybe it would’ve been easier to bear if Dave was whispering into Klaus’s ear, so he could focus on his voice and long so hard to hear his silent words it would block out his siblings’ own. Dave wasn’t there and Klaus knew that when he opened his eyes, he wouldn’t be there either, and his siblings wouldn’t be there because they were either dead or gone or uncaring. He kept his eyes closed then and searched for a melody, some alt rock shit or maybe Duke Ellington. If only Duke would grace him with his ghouly presence, that would be nice.

Ah, fuck it, let’s try this.

He opened his eyes. The world was black and white and he was back on that same path, with pale and hazy light flickering on the dirt path. A little girl with a rather stupid hat on a stupider bike was in front of him, her face stone cold.

“Oh fuck, it’s you again.”

“Hm. Nice to see you, Klaus.”

He looked down at himself - tattooed hands, wiry wrists, his face bristly with stubble. “Huh, my sexy sexy body’s back. Was all that a dream? Fuck, that’s sick. Twisted bitch, how’d you pull that off?”

“No, Klaus, it wasn’t a dream. Here, your body reflects the age of your consciousness. When your 58-year-old brother dies he will look his mental age.”

Klaus scowled at that. “Don’t you mean if?

“Everyone dies, Klaus.”

“Apparently not me.”

“You’ve died plenty of times. You just haven’t stuck with it.”

“Oh, so I have to commit?”

God pursed her lips. “This is why I don’t you here. You’re annoying.”

Klaus scoffed. “Oh please, you’ve had to have met someone more annoying than me.”

“Well, I don’t really like to interact with… them.”

“Oh? The people you’ve created and killed? How interesting.”

God snorted. “Besides, you’re the only one of them who can see the dead ones, and I suppose I don’t want them following after me whining about how they prayed every night for forgiveness or some shit.”

Klaus scowled and plopped down on the grass, now staring up at her. “I get it. You’re selfish,” he blubbered, “You’re one selfish bitch.”

“So what if I am? You guys aren’t my problem anymore. I don’t like you.”

“I’ll try not to be incredibly insulted by that, kiddo. I thought you and I had a nice bond going on, yeah? A bond that could last for eternity. Hm, I wonder how many dead people are up in this shithole.”

“Enough wasting time,” God snapped, and for a moment Klaus worried if he pressed too far - after all, she created… everything. Him. One mental push of a button and they would all be gone, obliterated, nothing. She could even close the afterlife’s doors so they would be truly gone forever. “You have someplace to be. Come.”

Klaus stood, begrudgingly, and walked alongside her as she pedaled down the road. They traveled in silence and he took this as an invitation to ask, “Hey, can’t you like… stop the apocalypse? I know you like killing people and whatever, and I know you’d set a record by letting it happen, but I mean - you wouldn’t want to lose the moon, would you? The moon’s nice.”

“I told you, you guys aren’t my problem anymore. You have to figure this out on your own.”

“That’s just not fair.”

“That’s just not fair,” she mocked, much to Klaus’s surprise. He didn’t take her for the mocking type, but then again she would probably be in 6th grade in the real world. “Too bad! Life’s not fair, get over it.”

“I - you’re literally God! Regular life doesn’t apply to you!”

She was quiet and they kept walking, and in the absence of words Klaus wondered how he died. It wasn’t an overdose - he just got sober, he wouldn’t do that to Ben or Dave. God (ha), Dave must be searching for him in the afterlife now, calling his name like he did, sifting through wildflower fields in his childhood home, the fields he told stories about in the trenches. Klaus once painted a memory of Dave’s, of his white farmhouse and the flowers and the trees and the mountains of Virginia, when they were on a weekend break in town. The painting was marred by bullet holes and splattered with mud and blood and they abandoned it, but it was a nice piece to begin with.

They came upon the shack in the woods where God had told him to go last time he died, the place where Reginald confessed his suicide and gave Klaus the best shave of his fuckin life, damn him.

“Oh no,” Klaus huffed, “You’re not tricking me again. I don’t wanna see that bastard, not right now.”

“Please, Klaus, don’t be stupid. Your father isn’t dead in this timeline yet.”

Klaus hummed.

“Dave?”

“No, Klaus.”

“Well, then I’m staying here.”

“No, you’re not, I forbid you. You’re so terribly annoying, a complainer, and a downright child. You have to go through there, Klaus. You have to.”

Klaus sat again, sat in the dirt, listened to the black and gray and white birds, stared up into the face of God herself. “But - I don’t want to go back,” he whined, and to his surprise the girl put down her bike and sat next to him.

“It looks hard,” she sympathized, “being down there. Being like you. I didn’t mean to do it, to give you guys all of those powers. Honestly, I didn’t. I was young then, childish, immature and naive. I was asleep for a long time, Klaus,” and her voice was soft and quiet and grief waned her tone. “I created all of you and became very tired and so I went to sleep. I’m just now waking up but it’s taking me so long to get out of bed.”

“Is that… is that why the world’s so fucked up? You’ve been fucking sleeping? You’re tired? Are you kidding me?”

She doesn’t raise her voice. In fact, Klaus thought it grew softer. “I’m sorry, I am. Let them know, yeah? I didn’t mean to hurt everyone like this. Go on, Klaus, through the doors. I’ll see you soon.”

Trancelike, he nodded, stood, climbed over the wooden fence and into the shrubs to the shack. She was still sitting, her back against a post, staring into the trees and listening to the birds.

Ben held tight to Klaus, wouldn’t let anyone go near him, but their father ripped the weeping boy from Ben’s arms, left with him in a hurry, and they all floated back to the academy. They heard Reginald yelling for Grace and Pogo. Five didn’t know if they were taking him to the infirmary or somewhere else, but the four of them were gone, and Five was left with his siblings in the attic.

Allison was crying. She said the ghosts had touched her. Diego was silent. He heard their screams. Ben was shaking. He was mad at himself, and Five could tell. Luther was mumbling answers to equations Five couldn’t solve and Vanya had a look of understanding on her face.

“It’s happened before,” Five offered. “At Icarus Theatre. With Ben.”

“He needs me,” the latter was crying, “I need to be there with him.”

He didn’t let anyone touch him and Five wondered if that was because if he tried hard to be a ghost again, he could find Klaus.

“He was in Vietnam,” Five muttered. “Hazel and Cha-Cha… when they came to the house, they left with Klaus. Tortured him. We didn’t - we didn’t notice. He got out with the briefcase, opened it up for money, and traveled to the A Shau Valley. He fought there for ten months.”

Allison was still crying. “Jesus, we didn’t notice? Oh my God, oh my God, fuck -”

Luther reached out to grab her hand but she yanked herself away from him. Good, Allison, don’t let anyone distract him. “God, what are we going to do?”

“Help him,” Vanya insisted, and she spoke louder than any of them. “We’re going to help him, like you guys are helping me.”

“He was gone for nearly a week,” Diego murmured, “While we were all locked up,” and Ben let out a sob.

“He said something about how dad made him go,” Luther added, quiet and thoughtful and fuckfuckfuckfuckFivehatednotknowingwhattodo.

“I wasn’t there for him,” Ben croaked out, his voice shaky and breaking and things crept up his neck, “Fuck, fuck I wasn’t there for him, I wasn’t there for him -”

“None of us were,” Five grumbled but Ben shook his head no.

“No, no, you don’t get it, none of you believed him, none of you ever believed him!” and now he was standing, shaking his finger at the siblings and shouting and Five noticed that the record player was still up there and maybe he should bring it down to Klaus? “None of you believed him about me.”

“He never told us!” Luther snapped.

“You all never took him seriously!” Ben shot back and Five really hoped he had some control of the things under his jacket. “Never! He was just a junkie to you all, a deadbeat, and he knew it and he was dying. He was dying for you all, and Luther - Luther, he died for you at that rave, do you remember that? The night you told him you wanted to be just like him? He fucking died saving your life and God kicked him out and you all didn’t believe him when he told you about dad. Vanya, Vanya bless you, because you took him in on those nights, and Vanya I was there when he was high and drunk and vomiting on your couch and he never thanked you and I was never able to so thank you, Vanya, for giving him things to eat and a place to sleep.”

Vanya did that to him, too, Five recalled.

Ben slumped, like his puppeteer had cut his strings, and he fell to his knees and leaned against the bedpost. His eyes were glossy and his cheeks were flushed and Allison wasn’t crying anymore.

“Thank you,” he said again, and Vanya nodded.

“Of course, Ben,” she said softly, so very softly, “He’s my brother. I love him.”

“He’s our brother,” Diego muttered and Five rolled his eyes.

“Please, Diego, let’s not get into another petty -”

“He’s our brother,” Diego continued, “We love him. I want to help but damnit, he’s never accepted it and I just… I just don’t know how.”

“Me neither,” Allison echoed, and then Luther, and Vanya was looking at the ground and Five didn’t know what to say.

“He knew no one would come for him,” Ben spoke up. His eyes were unfocused, like he was looking at one of Klaus’s ghosts. “In that damp motel. He told them, too. Said no one would come looking for him. That they kidnapped the wrong guy. Cha-Cha and Hazel? They left a message, Five, in front of that building they destroyed. They told you all that they had our brother.”

“I didn’t see it,” Five whispered. “I’m sorry,” and his voice cracks and he is, he is sorry.

Suddenly Diego stood, eyes bright and alert. “I’ll be back.”

They didn’t question him when he returned after half an hour with a framed photo of dusty soldiers. They hid it under a pillow and waited.

In the morning they were called down to breakfast. They didn’t have to get changed, it’d be a quick one, Grace said, just to be together as a family. The siblings go down. Klaus is fully dressed, eyes staring straight ahead, curls slicked back, hands on his lap. His split lip and black eye are nearly healed and he’s trembling, eyes red-rimmed. Reginald is already eating his eggs and listening to the recording of some Nazi philosopher and they all enter, watching. Ben very pointedly slid into a seat beside Klaus.

“Hi,” he whispered.

“Number Six!”

Klaus smiled his hello back.

“I’m sorry,” Ben whispered. What for?

Klaus nodded. Me too, he mouthed.

God, he hated this, the tension, the stares, the looks. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, he has to do something, he has to do something -

Klaus looked up. Everyone met his eyes, even good old Reggie (fuck him). “If I can make ghosts solid now,” he began, slowly, and humor built up in his throat, “Can I fuck them? Like, is that legal? Morally speaking? Can I do it? Wonder what ghost dick is like.”

Five spat his coffee across the table, Luther grimaced and Diego hid his grin, Vanya snorted into her orange juice and Allison was giggling and Ben squeezed Klaus’s hand. Good, good, keep it up and maybe the ghosts surrounding him would get scared he would try to fuck em and back off.

“Furthermore,” Klaus said, louder, standing up from the table and wiping the crumbs off his lap, “Vanya, you little savage, I know those ladies you killed when you were younger. Don’t worry, they’re not mad, but they’ve been haunting the shit out of Reggie here, it’s quite hilarious.”

Vanya’s mouth dropped and for a moment she looked aghast before scoffing and sharing a laugh with Allison.

“Oh yeah, they’ve got some stories to tell,” Klaus continued.

“Number Four.”

“You guys wanna hear about the time Reginald had a lady over? Yeah, he was fancying someone! Imagine that!”

“Number Four!”

“Quit while you’re ahead, Klaus,” Ben was muttering. Klaus ignored him.

“He even waxed his legs for her, poor thing. She never showed up, ha. You deserve it, dumb bastard.”

Their father was out of his seat. Ghosts were stirring. Klaus was grinning. Anything to let them know he was okay(helpme)that he was fine, smiling(heisgoingtohurtme), regular old Klaus(muddyfootpathsinthemountainofthecrouchingbeast).

“Christ on a cracker, I’m itching for a high. Vanya, you got any of those depressants with you? Any leftovers? Take them twice a day sis, or papa’s gonna lock you up.” (pleasepleasepleaseunderstandpleasedontlethim-)

He let Reginald pull him away and he mouthed to Ben that it was okay, let him go, he wanted to be alone. He was okay(nostophim). His siblings were on their feet, ready to go bring him back and he was shaking his head, he was smiling(davessmilerememberhissmile), and Grace’s calm complexion was twitching because even she knew what was about to happen and suddenly a ghost grabbed onto Klaus’s arm - Sauron - and yanked at him and Klaus screamed at him to get away -

Klaus had been cracking jokes.

Allison knew what this was. She knew what he was getting at. Still, she didn’t like it when he yelled at them to stay put when their father had him in his clutches, she didn’t like it when he suddenly screamed at the air and was forced forward by something, something, something and she didn’t like it when he was no longer in sight.

“Ah, fuck,” said Five.

Klaus spat in Reginald’s face and did it again after a slap.

He was back there, in the mausoleum, the cemetery, but Reginald hadn’t left yet. He moved to other side of the crypt, Klaus matching his glare. They both stood, defiant, staring, and Klaus didn’t let his gaze falter even as the ghosts began to notice him. They seemed like they missed him. Did he miss them?

Fingers like velvet grazed his skin and passed through but shit, he felt something, but he didn’t let his terror show.

“What do you see?” Reginald asked. He was taunting Klaus.

“When I was younger,” Klaus hissed, “When you locked me up in here, I would claw at my arms until I drew blood to remind myself I’m still alive.”

“What do you see?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know.”

Reginald wrote something down in the notebook and Klaus wanted to burn. “I know you lied to me before, Number Four,” Reginald was saying. “I’m only trying to enhance your powers. What you did at that airport was… extraordinary.”

“I don’t even remember what I did.”

Partly true.

He remembered Vietnam.

He remembered slipping on bodies and splashing through puddles. Dave holding him. Remembered Sarge. The bombs. The mine under the tree. His siblings, afraid. Dead.

“I don’t believe that’s true, Number Four.”

He could feel the demons pressing in on him. He said he had wanted to burn but they were growing so cold.

“Please,” Klaus mumbled, “I’m sorry back there. I’m just really tired, yeah? I’m sorry, dad, I am, just… let me out. Please. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.”

His father snorted. “Still scared, are you? Weak, wicked child. Nevertheless, I will go.”

No.

“No, no please I didn’t mean it,” Klaus started, “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, you can lock me in my room or the basement but please, please -”

Pressure was building, screaming, thumping in his chest and he didn’t realize it when Reginald left because fuck, the ghosts were whispering their hymns again, they were yearning to go to heaven(hell) and he wanted to tell them that they weren’t wanted(hewasntwanted) but all he could do was claw at the door and claw at his hair and claw at his arms to make sure he was still alive.

Five knew what he had to do.

Reginald hadn’t returned yet (neither had Klaus, for that matter), which meant his office was vacant. Five slipped in, tore the drawers open, found what he needed, and met the face of Pogo at the door. The doctor said nothing and let him blink away.

Grace told them to head to their rooms and wait for their brother - “He’ll be back soon, children, don’t fret!” and Diego started to go but Allison dragged him back to the attic. Vanya consoled Ben, who was uttering useless nonsense about lookouts and how angry Russian ladies could be, and the murmurings of all his siblings was so incessant and pounding that Five crept to the corner of the room to read.

“00.04 is quite troubling. Even at his young age he is seen speaking to ‘the dead’... this has yet to be proven officially, but I saw a blue apparition of a man who was killed in a car accident last week standing in our dining room… 00.04 has been exhibiting more such behavior… apparitions now frighten the other children… growing more afraid… refuses to conjure said beings into solid form, useless in missions… had an outburst and caused the apparitions in the street to become visible, frightening Number Seven and Number Six, who were in tears… woken by nightmares… heart rate increased during sleep… will begin the experiment tomorrow… result: I will conduct more trials, Number Four is terrified of his ghosts - doesn’t understand he must learn to control them the proper way.

“Number Four refuses to cooperate with training, even training with the others… I have punished him with more hours in the crypt, though I know this will make him more indignant… goes to sleep in Number Six’s room at night occasionally, should I let this continue? Perhaps the ghosts would affect Six’s monsters… screaming… crying… disruptive behavior… cheeky, worthless boy with worthless powers if he doesn’t learn how to access them… I think he may have turned to drugs. I will see how this experiment plays out.”

An address.

For the cemetery.

A mausoleum.

Klaus.

“Ben,” Five said aloud, “Ben, I know where it is.” He is.

Ben understood, and so did his other siblings (even if they didn’t know what true darkness looked like), and no one hesitated to get up and run.

Allison wasn’t exactly sure what happened next.

They were hurrying out - either through the backyard or the fire escape or the front yard, she couldn’t remember, and then father appeared with Pogo and Grace (Grace, with her false smile), and three burly men, and one of them grabbed Vanya and forced a pill down her throat and then Five was distracted, so he didn’t have time to react with he was cuffed with glowing handcuffs and a needle to the neck and then Ben cried out and she’s pretty sure he got a shot to, and Diego was shouting and he choked down a pill and there was a pinch in her neck and Allison suddenly couldn’t feel her own voice anymore (bloodbloodbloodtheresabladethroughherthroat) and she didn’t know if Luther was fighting back but the world was fading quietly (has the moon died yet again?) and their father was speaking.

“This has gone on long enough. You all will experience true punishment. You want to see your brother? Fine, I will bring you to him.”

Chapter Text

 

Klaus’s siblings had finally kicked the bucket.

Was he surprised? Sure, maybe a little. He hadn’t been gone too long, had he? He supposed it was enough time to get all their asses killed. Poor Ben; he had to go through that whole tedious experience all over again. Dying wasn’t fun, Klaus knew this. He wasn’t stupid - he knew the routine, knew how it felt. Perhaps that was one way to connect with ghosts - if you died enough they’d flock to you, only becaues you understood what it felt like. The underwater-ness of it all. A blanket of heat pressing on your chest and icy chills to your back, like you were standing between two fronts, protecting the atmosphere from colliding and molding into a storm. But he was the storm, not the protector, he had always been the storm. Dangerous and unruly and dark and cowardly but oh, he didn’t like having his siblings dead.

Ben saw this place in Klaus’s nightmares before.

Sometimes, when his brother was particularly vulnerable, and their connection was particularly strong, Ben had an insight as to where Klaus went in his dreams. He figured out he had severe claustrophobia because of these blinking memories. He figured out Klaus was afraid of the dark. He figured out why Klaus kept his nails long - so he could claw, claw at… whatever. He figured out the ghosts in the place were cursed. They were wrong and wrinkled and withered and they all either died in a very horrible way or - or the spirit of the crypt dragged its fingers down their translucent skin, pulled blood and flesh from feeble bones, just to make them all the more scarier. Like a Halloween prank. Like a conspiracy with their father.

The poison that had been slammed into his neck was dragging him down, dragging his beings inside him down, and he wondered if the point of the shot was to kill the monsters. No, he didn’t want that, Ben realized, he didn’t them to be gone, because the past few weeks or so Ben had understood -

They just got a little antsy sometimes, being cooped up in there. Ben would, too. He had dreams… They whispered to him, murmured lullabies, They said the word friend in every language as if They didn’t know which one Ben spoke. (He spoke two: English, he was good in German. Klaus taught him German indirectly through his own mutterings).

His beings, Ben realized, never forced Themselves out of their ‘cage.’ They knew violence, yes, They knew what it did, what it could become, transform into, and They unleashed this violence on those Ben, internally, had deemed the bad guys. Robbers, assaulters, murderers. Perhaps he could never control Them, but would he need to? Like They said: friend.

It was almost nice to have this philosophical realization, but it probably would have been better if Ben hadn’t just been thrown into a mausoleum with his siblings and was staring into the face of a shivering boy.

Friend, They called out. To Klaus, or him? Ben didn’t need to shush Them; he felt the beings retreat at his own anguish.

Klaus’s back was against the wall and he was held up in the corner, holding his knees. His eyes were glassy and his face blank and it had been hot outside in the thick summer night but it was fuck, so fucking cold. There was almost a dreamlike expression on his face and he was looking at them, their siblings, but not looking at them, he was looking through them, past them, into them and into the darkness, and he was so uncharacteristically silent.

Tearing himself away from his brother, who looked like he had looked so many times before - after emerging from alleyways, undone and staggering and grinning and crying, Ben took stock of his siblings as best he could, given the circumstances.

Five was vomiting in the corner. Luther was dazed, crouched on the ground and curled over - Ben wanted to get mad at him for ever assuming their father wouldn’t do this, but in that moment - Ben couldn’t. He, Ben Hargreeves, Number Six, the tortured soul with tentacles in his stomach, who had suffered the abuse from their father just like all his other sisters and brothers and died so very terribly at such a young age (they never stopped reminding him of it), suddenly came to the conclusion that he didn’t expect his father to go this far. He really didn’t think Reginald had it in him. Was this punishment? Abuse? Neglect, pain, heartbreak, betrayal, refusal, lifeless, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, he was going to die -

It hadn’t been long since they all came-to before Diego tried slamming his body against the thick door with the little window pane at the top. Doped and sloppy, he stumbled around and only injured himself further with the incessant pounding.

Ben saw Allison out of the corner of his eye, screaming soundlessly. She was clawing at the throat, her face, her mouth. He imagined it was probably pretty bad for her - the feeling of being voiceless, essentially powerless in so many different aspects. She was bawling, she was shaking, and it was all quiet.

Vanya, too, was soft, like she’d always been. As Ben studied her he found that she didn’t look too traumatized, too angry at the situation, and maybe she was relieved to have received the sedative. Maybe.

(There was still poison in his blood. It was making its way down his veins and They were mourning.)

(Klaus never needed a manufactured sedative to dull his powers.)

(He found his own.)

(Dad helped.)

(Fuck dad.)

(Ben wanted him to come back.)

Five knew he was too smart for this old bastard’s game.

A mere shot couldn’t stop him, not him - not a 58-year-old assassin, who’d survived over 30 years in the apocalypse and went on to pull triggers in order to keep the timeline set in stone. No, a little concoction of drugs couldn’t stop him. This was a game, a game to their father, to see how they would react - powerless - trapped in a little stone mausoleum that could so easily be escaped from. Five could tell it was only an experiment by the blinking red light from the security cameras in each corner. Perhaps he had more in common with Reginald than he realized.

Yet, Five didn’t enjoy this experiment. Though the data hadn’t yet begun to roll in full force, he knew that it would be botched, corrupt and sad and jagged lines on a scatter plot graph - a graph where there was only supposed to be one line, straight and simple and not twisted like his family. It all felt silly, really, to be in here, of all places, to experience his brother’s nightmare when Klaus had not yet experienced Five’s (and Five hoped it would stay like that).

The last time his powers failed him was the first day of the apocalypse when space spit him back out when he tried to slip back in. Now, he couldn’t get past the mossy wall of the crypt and instead of darkness and crouching shadows he saw a world on fire. He threw up grief but refused to feel defeated by the man they called father.

Was it bad, that Vanya didn’t mind the dull aching? The suppressing of voices at the back of her mind, the grooming of emotion that turned into oppression. She wasn’t afraid to admit she was afraid of herself. Perhaps not out loud, but inside, in her head, and wasn’t that better? To be self-aware? Maybe she was just remembering what her psychologist was always yapping on about.

However, she didn’t need to be self-aware to realize the gravity of this situation, of what just happened and what their father did to them. The sight of a mute Allison made her gag and the quivering form of Luther made her guilty. Ben was quiet, curled in on himself and clawing at his chest, Five was heaving and pounding at the walls, Diego was silent and staring at Klaus.

Klaus, Klaus, her lucky number was four and she knew his was six.

He was staring at them from the corner, a murmuring moon illuminating his features. There were more bruises on his pale skin and he was crouched against the wall, hands at his sides, no longer keeping himself closed in. His eyes were wild and manic and he was mouthing words in broken languages. He was shaking. Violently, uncontrollably. He hadn’t said anything and Vanya knew she had to be the one to step up.

“Guys,” she called, voice weak and breaking. No one listened. “Guys, please,” and Luther shifted to a sitting position. “Guys, we have to - we have to figure this out.”

Luther was nodding and Allison was wiping tears from her face and Five was finding loose stones to carve equations onto the walls with. Diego grabbed him up and Ben slowly moved over to where they were all reconvening. Klaus was left on the other side and she could hear him singing a lullaby in Vietnamese.

“This is shit,” Five spat but he collapsed on the ground, twitching. Vanya remembered the days when he came back from his private training, worn out and red-eyed and she held him close so he couldn’t jump away. She reached for him, then, and he didn’t protest when she drew him in. “This is absolute bullshit,” he was whispering. “Dumb and stupid and I’ll kill him.”

“You can’t,” Luther croaked. His response wasn’t malicious, though; Vanya knew he spoke the truth, and she knew that Five understood it, believed it. They couldn’t kill their father.

“The Commission’s after us,” Five muttered, “A guy at the airport told me so. The Handler sent them all there to draw us in. I… I didn’t think she survived.”

“We’ll win,” said Diego, his voice soft. Vanya hadn’t heard him stutter in days. He was such a shy boy, she highlighted in her book, calm and quiet but always fearless when it came to standing up to Number One. “We’ll beat them. I don’t care how. I’m not going to go looking for them. We’ll beat her when she comes to us.”

Five didn’t seem to disagree.

“As soon as we get out of this shithole,” Luther added, “We’ll figure it out. It’ll be alright.”

Allison had a pained expression on her face, her mouth stretching in silence. Vanya’s lip quivered and a hot thickness settled in her head. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.

“Speaking of this glorious shithole,” Diego continued (his voice was growing in confidence - he was the least affected out of all of them, Vanya mused, except maybe her. She was used to this.), “Is this where Klaus has been?”

They all turned to Number Four.

He was still staring at them, glassy-eyed, smiling wistfully. His hair was being gently flipped, pulled, tossed around by what Vanya supposed was wind. There was no wind in the mausoleum.

Ben was crawling over to him in an instant, arms outstretched and suddenly Klaus shrieked and stood and dragged himself over to the door and suddenly he was slamming his palms against the wood, slapping his arms, his whole body, slamming his head -

“Klaus!” Diego shouted and Ben moved to grab him but Klaus darted away again, something dark and bad oozing from his hairline.

“Get away from me!” he whimpered, backing himself up against the far wall. “Get away! Leave me alone, just leave me alone, dad I’m sorry, I’m sorry I’m sorry please just let me out, let me out, let me out -”

“Klaus, we’re alive!” Luther started, “We’re here!”

“Let me touch you!” Ben interjected and Klaus shook his head wildly.

“Nonononono get away, get away, get away,” and his hands were pressed up against his ear sand his body was thrashing and he wouldn’t let anyone get close to him and the air flickered blue and died out and Vanya knew that it would’ve happened if he wasn’t so weak. Frail. Scared. Like her.

Diego pulled Ben back who slumped in the former’s arms, eyes locked on their brother. No one spoke as they watched him ride out his fit, jerking back and forth and screaming and crying and Vanya wondered how much fun Reginald was getting out of this. His precious experiments breaking apart, one by one, starting with the one who was perhaps broken from the start.

Things calmed, quieted, and no one made a move (everyone was probably just too exhausted and drained and drugged to do so). Klaus sunk back into his vegetable state, eyes scrunched and whispering a fast-paced version of The Impossible Dream.

To dream the impossible dream

To fight the unbeatable foe

To bear with unbearable sorrow

To run where the brave dare not go

“I can show you I’m alive,” Ben hummed, “Just let me touch you.”

“Doesn’t work anymore,” Klaus mumbled. “It’d just encourage the others, no thanks, not now.” Then, “How’d you all go?” and he giggled, squeaky and cracking. “Was it poison? Dad got bored? Suicide? How interesting,” and he laughed, clear and sharp and there were tears in his chuckles.

To right the unrightable wrong

To love pure and chaste from afar

To try when your arms are too weary

To reach the unreachable star

“Feel my heartbeat,” Ben pleaded, inching closer to Klaus. “Put your hand on my chest, Klaus, feel it. I’m here. I’m here.”

Klaus’s head lolled to his chest and breaths came in heaving sobs.

“Dave would do that,” he mourned, “Grab my hand and put it on his chest when he was so covered in someone else’s blood because I couldn’t tell the difference between the dead and alive.” A laugh. “Undead, morelike. Please don’t touch me.”

This is my quest, to follow that star

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

To fight for the right

Without question or pause

To be willing to march

Into hell for a heavenly cause

“He would… take my hand, so I could feel his heartbeat. It went ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump, always real slow and steady, even if his head was almost just taken off by a mortar. Ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump, like a song. A beautiful lullaby. Women sang us to bed in the A Shau Valley.”

And I know if I'll only be true

To this glorious quest

That my heart will lay peaceful and calm

When I'm laid to my rest

“The other guys would let me do it, too. I don’t know if Dave told them. He was quite the intimidating officer.” A giggle, a heartache. “Maybe other guys also needed to reassurance. Oh, I don’t know. Quite silly, if you ask me. I couldn’t drive the jeeps because I didn’t know which wandering bodies to run through or which to avoid.”

And the world will be better for this

That one man scorned and covered with scars

Still strove with his last ounce of courage

To fight the unbeatable foe

To reach the unreachable star

“Hm. Then there was the last time I did it, when Dave just… fell to the ground. Put my hands to his chest, right dead center where the heart was, not to the left or to the right, right where the heart is, y’know? And I felt it, heard it go ka-thump, ka-thump, ka -...” His brow furrowed, his hair fell still. “And then… I couldn’t feel it anymore.” God, his voice was so small, his tone was so weak and fragile and it was as if he was breaking down all over again.

“I don’t like heartbeats,” Klaus finally announced through the silence. Vanya wondered how loud it must be in his head. “They sound like war drums.”

Chapter Text

Reginald Hargreeves wasn’t a man easily impressed. At least, he always tried to conceal it out on the outside. He learned that the Numbers thrived better under scrutiny than praise, but he allowed a compliment every now and then. He could see their physical yearning for his approval. Pathetic, really, but Reginald didn’t blame them. He just wished that they grew up faster.

Often Number Four was a pity. Reginald made sure to let Number Four know this, as he would make sure every Number knew their own, true worth (honesty is the best policy, no?). Even now, when he should’ve grown past silly childish nightmares, Reginald must suffer his fits on the security footage. As a babe and into his toddler years Reginald was discouraged by his snotty tears - a prelude of the disappointment to come. In truth, Reginald didn’t bother hooking him up to the monitors anymore, and he’d much rather read a pleasant book and wait for the house to settle than hear silent weeping.

And again, Reginald Hargreeves wasn’t a man easily impressed. The morning at the airport was a… fluke, he wanted to think, but at the same time, Reginald was relieved at some progress in Number Four’s abilities. Based on what he accomplished in his earlier years and how that faded out with the acceleration of self-medication, Reginald had been waiting for the old Kl-Number Four to reappear. If only he wasn’t so terrified of his own abilities, foolish boy. (Reginald kept his own fear in the very back of his mind, even if his own Grace - the one of flesh and blood, whose delicate fingers tickled violin strings in his youth - told him it’s alright to be afraid.) (Reginald knew it wasn’t.) (He wouldn’t allow his Numbers to be afraid.) (He didn’t like it when he became afraid of them.)

Reginald had no idea what had come over the children over the past few weeks. First, Grace - the automatron, with a false smile and twitching eyes - found them piled in the courtyard, then it seemed that they all became ill, Number Four was wandering the streets while the others were at the park… and Seven had, unfortunately, discovered her powers once again. This was all very unfortunate. Very very unfortunate, and Reginald knew that something must be done to teach them all a lesson rather than silence and a week in their rooms, so he decided it’d be best to just give them what they want while taking away everything they had. They were nothing without their powers, he knew, and watching them become incapacitated at the hands of mere humans was somewhat amusing (and discouraging, but the whole situation was unfortunate, so he let it slide).

He watched, with interest, their arrival into the mausoleum, with Four still paralyzed and shaking in the corner. Number Five and Number Three seemed to take the drugs hardest, with Number Six seeming to be in a quiet anguish and Number Seven seeming serene. His Number One was in a state of disbelief (get over your denial, boy, don’t trust anyone cares for you) and Number Two was trying to take over as Number One. As usual. Nothing really changed.

Number Four refused to be touched, dragging his weak body away from the others. Perhaps this was an insight into the ghosts manifesting, finally? Reginald recalled the Four had locked that ability deep in his subconscious with nightmares as the key and heroin as cell bars. The audio of the camera was mediocre at best but didn’t hide his shrieking pleads as he continued to back up against the walls. Finally, the boy began to talk but spoke at a buzzing murmur and Reginald banged at his desk in frustration at the quiet.

“Pogo!” he snapped. The doctor scurried up to him, eyes burdened with heavy emotion. Pathetic, like his children. “What is he saying?”

The ape shrugged limply. Reginald snorted. “Don’t be cross, Pogo, what is he saying?”

“I do not know, sir.”

“Well - find out, then!”

And as he barked the order Number Four stood, suddenly, dashed to the other side of the mausoleum, away from the others, and slammed his head up against the wall until he crumpled, and the others were too slow to tear him away. Something caught in Reginald’s throat, a thickness. He didn’t know what it was. He didn’t like it, either, and he didn’t like the small urge to tear the children from the crypt. Perhaps he went too far this time. Perhaps this would only inspire more rebellion. Oh, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps, and he continued to watch the scene unfold until Five druggingly grabbed a rock and hurled it at the security camera. Reginald didn’t have the urge to go replace it so he sat in front of the darkness with a pen to his journal.

“Oh, this is bad, this is bad, this is bad,” Five slurred, pacing back and forth as best he could given his weakened state. Fuck, he hadn’t felt this bad since the first day of his apocalypse, or when he thought he almost lost Delores to a wind storm, or when he realized it was his sister all along who would bring about the end -

He kept pacing until he couldn’t so he slumped on his knees beside the bleeding Klaus. Vanya and Ben were tending to their unconscious brother, as they would. Six, Seven, the gentle, quiet beings of the bunch. Ben never did much to hurt Vanya when they were children. Five could tell the two understood each other and Vanya highlighted this friendship in her book several times - Ben knew her nature, the days where it was hard to move from bed, when her drugs had nulled her to the point of no return. Sometimes Five walked in on Vanya rubbing Ben’s back or his shoulders or his chest, the latter usually passed out, or would peek in on their hushed conversations. Five was pretty sure they had a two-man book club going on before he left (and he hoped that it continued despite his absence).
But anyway, back to more pressing matters at hand.

They were all devoid of their powers. Silly, stupid, a waste of time, and fuck it, the Commission had found them again, fuck it, Five could see the wasteland of a city, fuck it, Klaus had gone mental, fuck it, Allison was choking on lost words, fuck it, Luther and Diego were gonna have it out again, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it, fuck it -

There was a small gasp.

Five glanced to his side to see Klaus lifting his head up at him. At that moment Five realized he had his nails digging into his palms and was borderline hyperventilating (weakweakweakgetyourshittogether).

“Breathe,” Klaus muttered. Five narrowed his eyes.

“You’re one to talk.”

Vanya tapped Ben, signaling for them to both retreat, leaving Klaus and Five all by their lonesome.

“Breathe,” Klaus repeated, dragging himself up to a seated position. “I can tell you’re freaking out. Being dead sucks, I know.”

“I’m not dead.”

Klaus considered this.

“Sure.”

Five scowled. “I’m not, Klaus. I’m just worried about the Commission, and I’m mad at dad, and this whole situation is fucking bullshit, and -”

“Are you mad at me?”

Five paused. “What?”

Klaus glanced down at his bloodied hands. “Me, Five, mad at me?”

“Wh- no, Klaus, I’m not.”

It was hard to see the other’s features in the murky darkness but Five could tell that Klaus seemed to believe him well-enough.

“Alright then,” Four continued, “List them off then.”

“List what off?”

“You’re smarter than this Five, c’mon. What are you upset about?”

So Five listed them off, and he could tell the others had hushed but he was too focused on fixing one aspect of his list that he let Klaus continue talking. Kill two birds with one stone.

“Mm, better to get high than worry about all that stuff, baby bro.”

“I’m older than you.”

“Physically, perhaps, but spiritually I am a wise old duck.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite.”

Klaus quieted. Then, “Okay. What do you have control over?”

Five snorted, rolled his eyes. Waste of time. “Over what?”

“Over what you’re upset about.”

“Well, I could be seeking out the Commission as we speak, I could be doing something actually productive but instead I’m here, weak as fuck with nothing to do but keep my brother from trying to kill himself.”

Klaus huffed out a laugh. “Yeah! That’s right! But you can’t look for those guys yet, because you’re stuck in here, with me,” and his voice got low and sultry before returning to its normal broken tone. “I guess I can keep trying to kill myself so that’s something you can control while we’re in here. But otherwise, everything else? You just have to wait. Focus on the moment or whatever. That’s what all my rehab directors have told me, and look where it’s gotten me! I’m trapped in my nightmare with my nightmare siblings in a nightmare body as a nightmare 29-year-old.”

Five watched him take a drag of an invisible cigarette. He didn’t like admitting other people were right, but he supposed that he would humor his crumbling brother for the moment.

“I guess.”

Klaus cleared his throat. “Thank you for, uh, letting me talk with you,” he said quietly. “Kind of shuts them up for a little.”

Keep talking then. Even if you feel like you’re gonna pass out. Even if you feel like there’s ash coating your lungs, filling your mind. There’s smoke in the air and it blocks out the sun for three years. It seems as if night never sleeps and the only bodies you find are blackened or pure white bone. You find a way to get to the marrow -

“Of course. What do they look like?”

Klaus pffed. “Oh, I don’t know. Out there, it’s usually a nice variety of those who’ve passed peacefully and those -” he giggled “- didn’t. In here…”

He went silent again.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck Five didn’t want to do this - “Hey, uh, Klaus? Do you want… a hug? Or something?” fuck fuck fuck Five did not like hugs fuck -

Five suddenly realized Klaus was uncomfortable with the prospect of a ‘ghost’ hugging him.

“Nevermind,” he said softly, and Klaus took a swing from an invisible bottle. The latter suddenly flinched - a cringe so violent his limbs tucked in on themselves and his head ducked down and elbows went flying and hands over his ears and he was muttering again, shit! Five was losing him, ah shit, fuck -

As Klaus looking like making another break for the wall Five grabbed him around the waist, earning a scream, and yanked Klaus to his chest, pressing him against his body and holding his arms still.

Their hearts beat together in rhythm and Klaus stilled.

“You’re alive,” he breathed out. Five knew he felt him nod.

“We all are,” Vanya murmured, and Five suddenly remembered that everyone had been listening in. “We’re here, Klaus.”

Klaus shook his head repeatedly. “No, no, no, that doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t make sense, this is my training time, not yours.”

“This isn’t training, Klaus,” Ben said, rough. “It’s punishment. He’s punishing us.”

Klaus rose to his knees and then to unsteady feet.

“No,” he said again, more forceful. “No, no, no, that doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t work out, I don’t care if I’m being punished but you guys can’t… fuck, he really is a crazy bastard isn’t he?”

He advanced towards the broken camera, wagging a finger at it and tripping over cracks in the floor. “You’re one crazy bastard,” he called, voice cracking. “This isn’t - this isn’t fair, you guys have to leave. Go, leave, why are you here?”

“He took away our powers,” Luther mumbled. He sounded numb. Weak. Alone. “I don’t know how. He drugged us. We’ve been in here a couple of hours… should wear off soon.”

Klaus clutched at his hair. “What? Like - like what he did to Vanya? Are you shitting me?”

His hair tinted blue and Ben rose, staggering, to grab his arms. “It’s okay, Klaus, we’re okay,” he said earnestly. “Breathe, Klaus. We’re through the worst of it.

Five didn’t know what that last bit meant but it seemed to mean something to Klaus because the boy nodded, numbly, and sank into Ben’s arms.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled. “I didn’t want to get you guys mixed up in my shit.”

He smiled with bloody teeth. “This is a very laughable situation though, isn’t it? Mm… daddy dearest, always the one to bring the team back together again. Strange we didn’t see this coming. Quelle surprise, ja?”

Allison’s body trembled like a choked chuckle. A squeaky groan stumbled out of her throat; the drugs were fading (but why did Five still feel useless?).

“We never saved the world,” he said slowly, speaking out loud as thoughts rolled in like musty waves on a broken beach. He and Delores went to the beach a few times. Their city was by the coast, and as they traveled Five always veered south. Delores liked the waves, but the sea salt tasted too ashy to Five and he found it difficult to swim. “We cheated,” he continued. He couldn’t see straight. Was this what Klaus felt when he got high? Being high must’ve been much more enjoyable than this. Subduing powers was always Klaus’s thing, and he always did by choice, and for Five this was his own strength being ripped away -

“I won’t do it again,” Vanya said. Her voice shook. “I’m gonna do better this time. Stronger.”

“Stronger isn’t what we want,” Diego muttered. Klaus tsked.

Suddenly feeling very bare and very afraid, Five sunk down, wrapping his hands around his knees as he did during the dark nights of the apocalypse. Earth had been stripped of near-all life but Five always felt like the ghosts of his siblings followed him, and he was frightened of them.

The others continued to murmur and sounds became muddled as Five pressed his head into his knees, eyes scrunched closed so tight they ached. C’mon Five, c’mon, just wait it out, wait it out, it’ll be okay, just breathe, breathe, breathe, fucking breathe, where the fuck is Delores oh no no no where is she where’d she go did I leave her by the library fuck did she burn to death fuck did Reginald take her did Luther drop her did Klaus pawn her off for coins shit shit fuck where’s Delores I need Delores I need Delores I need Delores the Handler’s coming the Handler’s coming the Handler’s coming and she’s going to kill everything, she is God, she is God, she is God, she is

Vanya pulled him in, pulled him in close and held him. Five felt foolish. He was 58-years-old, after all. He was just being foolish.

Still, he let Vanya rock him and he let himself slip into a pocket in between time and space, and he knew that Vanya would still be there when he woke up.

“I’m sick of this,” Luther growled, rising to his feet unsteadily. Klaus raised his head, nudging Ben, who snorted.

“What are you gonna do, Luther, huh? We’re stuck in here.”

Stuck in here.

“We have to talk to him,” Luther insisted, now beginning to pace. “We - he’ll listen to me, Ben, I know he will. He’s just mad. We just pissed him off, but he’ll listen to me.”

Allison made gurgle of noises that sounded suspiciously like don’t be stupid, but when ghosties were screaming their trials and tribulations in Klaus’s ear, it was hard to hear anything, really.

His siblings argued on, much to Klaus’s dismay (and his already pounding headache). He watched with blurred vision as Luther punched the wall and then, amusingly, began to slam his body against the ancient door.

“I may not have super strength but I'm still strong,” he was shouting. Klaus giggled at that - oh, Luther, ever so humble. However, even in his equally-weakened state, Diego joined Number One in throwing themselves against it (please, boys, don’t fight over me, don’t hurt yourselves now, c’mon now).

It worked, though, and Klaus was somewhat aware of being pulled to his feet and dragged out the crypt and into the cemetery.

Despite the noise, it was relatively calm, relatively beautiful. Willows arched over resting places. The moon graced the dirt path, the edges laced with summer wildflowers. Once-vibrant colors blended into a cool palette of dark blues, grays, and whites, glittering with the evening drizzle. This was where the nice ghosts came out to play, Klaus realized, watching an elderly couple pass through the siblings, holding each other by the elbows. If he was forced to sleep beneath that oak over there, he wouldn’t be mad. The 1800s grandma who was buried beneath its branches would watch over him. Still, he kept his eyes down and didn’t acknowledge the passing ghosts.

Little Number Five seemed to be faring worse than the others, Klaus noticed with a grimace and a pang of guilt. Vanya, though smaller than him, was essentially supporting his weight as he dragged his feet and stumbled. Diego and Luther had been beautifully united, as if in a moonlit, ghoul-like wedding, and they headed on side-by-side, each leaning on one another. Ben was whispering kind words to Allison we’re through the worst of it and this was nice, it was nice, Luther said they were headed to Griddy’s, they didn’t have money but it would be okay, Ben said it would be okay, he would be okay, it would be okay in the end. When he would trip and fall to his knees, he let Ben pick him back up, even when sometimes he forgot that Ben was alive.

They made it to Griddy’s with little-to-no issue, despite Five’s strange breakdown and Klaus’s recurring collapses. The flickering neon lights reminded him of disco hazes, film reels from Times Square, electric fire, spittering, spattering bullets. Vietnam tasted of copper, black pepper, muddy fish from marsh banks. Vietnam was of a bittersweet origin. Klaus remembered the Red Berets, men stronger than any of their Americans, war-hardened and wise. They were honorable, Klaus was honorable. The Academy mansion tasted similarly, but the spices were bland and the hallways were trenches free of men, like the rain had buried their bodies in dirt. The Umbrella Academy was of a bloody origin. There was no honor in its walls, and Klaus would never salute the basement with the soundproof cage.

Agnes said nothing when the seven of them walked in, even with Five phasing in and out of space, flickering blue. Electric.

Chapter Text

A Simon and Garfunkel song played over the radio. It had that cool, record player crackling noise, like the brown paper Mom used to keep cookies sticking to the pan was being crinkled into a ball. Diego always had an affinity for records and their sounds, the way they looked, how dust trailed after the needle if the record was unclean. He named Luther’s player Betty, though he never told his brother this (because fuck him), and always tried to seem indignant towards the player itself (but whenever Luther was away on solo missions Diego snuck into his room to listen to Betty sing Dolly Parton and Elton John and Duke Ellington).

He remembered that night, not so long ago - the first week they arrived back in this time - where they all listened to Luther’s extensive collection, up there in the attic, amidst musty blankets, pillows, cereal boxes, and empty milk cartons. The glow of the little fairy lights felt right, natural, and Diego wanted to spend every moment in there, listening, curled up with his siblings, with the lights and the shadows and the whispering (but he would never let Luther know that. Probably not anyone else, either [maybe Eudora]. [It looked like Klaus needed a reminder of that night.])

The seven of them had squeezed into the largest booth Griddy’s had, which was the same size as any other booth and generally meant to seat four people. Five and Klaus were sitting opposite of each other - the ones most vulnerable at that moment - squished to the wall, with Vanya beside Five and Ben beside Klaus. Diego took an uncomfortable seat beside Ben and made eye contact with Luther as he slid in with Vanya and Allison. Sitting in the silence, Diego took stock of their current states.

The drugs didn’t have a horrible effect on Diego - they essentially just gave him muscle cramps, weakness in the legs and the arms, like if you walk on solid ground after jumping on a trampoline for an hour. Not that he’d ever jumped on a trampoline, of course. He assumed it was the same for Luther and it looked like they’d both recovered to an extent - Diego’s fingers couldn’t stop shaking and it was hard to walk straight, and Luther struggled to move and pick up little things like a spoon, the napkin box, the salt. (So they might not be that recovered after all.)

Allison’s voice seemed to be coming back bit by bit, though she didn’t try talking much. Her neck was highlighted with red scratch marks, her long nails enunciating the pain. She probably wouldn’t care to talk for a while. Diego understood. He didn’t have an inclination to toss knives into some guy’s eye, either.

Vanya seemed to be the least affected out of all of them, staying the same mousy silent girl she’d been all their lives. Diego knew that she would still remember feeling the numbness of her old drugs - and who knows, she could’ve been taking them behind their backs in the solitary of her room. Wouldn’t matter much to Diego, anyway.

Ben kept shifting and groaning in pain, clutching his chest and stomach and visibly trying not to double over. Diego wanted to let him know it’s okay to let Them go if it’s causing that much pain, but for some reason, looking into his brother’s eyes he could tell that Ben knew he could do it. He chose not to.

Klaus and Five weren’t looking hot. Then again, Diego had never really seen Klaus in a state of ‘hotness’ - his various cuts, bruises, sores, his tremors, distant gaze, hair wet with sweat forced Diego to recall the nights he had to pick Klaus up from the station, the hospital, or a pay phone. It was as if he was coming down from a terrible high, plummeting from the cliff into the inky, choking waters below, or if he was climbing up to that cliff edge, with a shaky smile and a wild attitude. It was always hard to tell with Klaus what was going on. If he talks, loud and sure and crazy, he was being Klaus. If he was quiet, something was off. If he was crying, like the rainy afternoon after Eudora, in the bar, with tears Diego hadn’t seen since they got their tattoo -

Now, however, Diego was considering that all those times Klaus emerged from his Academy room or Diego opened its front doors to reveal his skinny form in this state wasn’t drug-related, or crime related, or sex related, or whatever. It was the ghosts.

Of course, Diego wasn’t an idiot. Sure, he knew Klaus did special training and all that, and he knew Klaus didn’t like it, didn’t like talking about it, but no one did - he wasn’t special in his own anguish. Dad threw Diego into water before he could swim (which was the point). Dad handcuffed him to a bannister and made him throw knives at targets (he did the same thing with Five, too, tying him down somewhere to see if he could jump away. Diego never figured out if Five could). Sometimes, he even made Diego throw his little needles at his siblings to make sure that he wouldn’t miss again. Klaus would volunteer, and when he wouldn’t, dad made him do it. So, Klaus wasn’t special. They all went through it. They all knew what each other went through (except he didn’t know what Klaus did. He didn’t know what dad did to him).

Eudora is (was?) a big movie buff, though she’d always deny it. Diego knew that if she saw them now, bloodied, bruised, packed in like a can of sardines and Klaus numbingly bobbing his head to the beat, with the waitress strolling up to take their order, she’d call it poetic cinema.

“Black coffee,” Five deadpanned.

“Mmhmm. Anything else.”

“I’ll, uh, have a coffee too,” Luther sighed.

“Ma-k-ke that th-ree,” Diego muttered, and Allison held up a four.

“Powdered donut for me, please,” Vanya murmured, and when the waitress looked to Ben he shook his head.

“Waffles,” Klaus said, voice skittish. “Waffles, please, thanks. Ben, share my waffles with me.”

“Sure, Klaus.”

“You kids alright?” the waitress drawled with an expression that made it seem that she really didn’t care that much. “I can, like, call someone for ya.”

“We-we-we’re good,” Diego said through gritted teeth, and the girl hmphed, said a suit yourself, and swayed away.

The food and coffee were abnormally late, and if they had any money at all, Diego wouldn’t tip for good service. In that span of waiting, and then as they dredged their coffee mugs and scarfed down their stale food (Allison denied a piece of Vanya’s donut. She gave it to Five instead, who accepted but didn’t eat it), Diego’s world was silent. He blamed his oncoming stutter on the drugs, but he knew it was probably from one of the shittiest fucking nights he’s ever had in his whole goddamn life. Jesus. This has been a fuck-all experience, huh?

Ben never got a bite of Klaus’s waffles, and he didn’t move to grab a piece either - just watched their brother shovel it down and guzzle maple syrup.

“God, you guys have to try this,” he mumbled through a stuffed mouth, “It’s like - mwah, Heaven on Earth, if Heaven was the Heaven that -” he giggled, it came out a snort “- Matthew or John or whoever the fuck wrote the bible said it is.”

“We’ve all had waffles, Klaus,” Luther said, tone strained and tired and Diego wanted to reprimand him for speaking to Klaus like that but he knew he would’ve sounded the same.

“Mm, Luther, du hässliger Ziegenficker, don’t rain on my parade like that, alright? Don’t you - uh, don’t you see how -” and his voice dipped into that Klaus-like, pitiful and mocking whine - “Emotionally compromised I am right now?”

“This isn’t time to joke around, Klaus,” Five growled, his fingers pressed into his hair and he glitched again, shivering. Klaus reverted into stillness.

“Yeah. I know.”

Everyone sat, muted, for another minute or so, and then Klaus excused himself to go to the bathroom and came back with bleeding fists and glass bits stuck to skin.

“Klaus,” Ben groaned as Four slid in beside him, “What did you do?”

“Not my fault the waffles didn’t agree with me.”

“Your hands, Klaus, what did you do?”

“Hm?” and he looked down as if he just noticed them. “Oh, that, right. I punched the mirror.”

“Goddamnit,” Luther muttered, his face in his hands like Five.

“Why?” Vanya asked, tone waning. Klaus shrugged.

“I saw a ghost.”

Ah fuck, Klaus.

“C’mon, then, lemme see it,” said Vanya, and Klaus outstretched his knuckles to her across the table.

“I told you I’m emotionally compromised,” he slurred and that’s when Five slammed his trembling little fist on the table.

“Klaus, damnit, stop fooling around!” he yelled. “We got you out of there, you’re welcome, it’s over now. The Commission is on my ass. They know our timeline, they know where we are, they are prepared to set things back to the way it should be. Listen, I don’t give a fuck if this is your strange little coping mechanism to whatever dad did to you or whatever, but at some point you just gotta grow up. We all went through it, alright? Now get your head out of your ass, we’ve got work to do. And I swear to God if I find you high as a kite again -”

“I’m not gonna get high, Five,” Klaus snapped, his voice loud and shrill. “Christ on a cracker, that’s all you guys think of me, huh? I can handle this without pills, alright, and I’ll have you know that drugs were my best-fucking-friends for half my life because none of you guys cared enough to stick around!”

“What do you mean, stick around? ” Luther cut in. “You left, Klaus! After Ben, you left! You were the first one to go! You can’t pin that on us! You can’t do that! You left, and whenever you came back - and you can’t deny it - it was for a place to sleep for one night, a couple bucks, and then you’d be gone.”

“Yes, Luther, I came back because I needed somewhere to sleep,” Klaus hissed and fuck, this was getting heavy. “And I stole some money - yeah, I’m sorry - because sometimes I need things other than drugs, Luther! Like food! Or - or actual medication or some shit! I was homeless, Luther! I came back those nights because I had enough sense to realize it wasn’t safe to be on the streets then, and to be honest it was our brother Benny here who convinced me to go to you guys!”

“Don’t pull me into this.”

“Yeah! He did! Our dead brother, Ben, and yeah, he’d been with me since his death because I can see dead people. That’s my power. And whenever I mentioned it you guys were just like, Klaus stop fooling around, stop dishonoring Ben’s name, stop, stop, stop, you’re just high, Klaus, and yeah, sometimes I was high because I was high a lot -” and he choked out a laugh, which seemed inappropriate to Diego - “But sometimes I’d like it if my own family thought of me as more than a - a junkie! A drug addict!”

Allison looked conflicted. Vanya looked upset. Five looked annoyed and like he was about to pass out.

“Because you were a junkie, Klaus!” Luther shouted. “You’ve said it yourself! You got high! You stole our money! How are we supposed to trust you? Be proud of you - for what, not dying after another overdose?”

“I’m your brother!” and Klaus slumped, trembling, and Diego could almost feel his fluttering heart. “I’m your brother, Luther, and that’s why you should love me.”

“I never said I didn’t -”

“And I’m not high, now, am I? No, I’m as free as a bird. I’m finally sober, just like you. Just like how I was that night I found you in the rave and I almost took that pill and then I didn’t, because I knew that you and Ben and dad and everyone else would be disappointed in me. So I’d like it if someone would be proud of me for being a little sober now, because I worked real hard to get here. And you know where I was when daddy locked y’all away? Back there, in that fucking crypt, and then I got out and I wanted to die and just join those ghosts in the mausoleum so I found a bunch of drugs and I took them. And it felt great. Hm? Does that satisfy you? I mean, I can leave right now, go get some opioids or heroin or some of that good shit. Maybe you and I can shoot up together, like brothers.”

“Klaus,” came Ben’s soft, solitary voice, but Klaus had finished.

“Does anyone want a refill?” asked the waitress. Five raised his hand. Oh, poetic cinema.

“He was our father too, y’know,” Diego said after a long period of the worst fucking silence of Klaus’s life. Was he proud of himself for blurting out that long, Shakespearean King Lear speech? Well, there were some aspects of it that really empowered him at the moment, but the aftereffects weren’t great.

“I never said he wasn’t,” Klaus huffed, because he didn’t.

“Well,” Five grumbled, taking a sip of his refill, “Now that we’ve gotten that useless shit out of the way, let’s have an actual discussion, shall we?”

“Yeah,” Allison squeaked because all she could do was squeak now and Klaus would be amused if his knuckles weren’t on fire. At least, he knew that he would be amused if he was high, and he wasn’t, which was the whole point.

His siblings descended into a very adultlike conversation about time, Commissions, Handlers (Five, you kinky bastard), et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, and Klaus tuned most of it out, as he knew he wouldn’t be of much help anyways. Also, he was sure his siblings probably weren’t eager to hear his opinions on the matter (eh, fuck ‘em, he wasn’t so keen on sharing his opinions either).

Ben, thank the Lord Ben, was always very empathetic, intuitive, whatever, and Klaus felt a snap of guilt when he realized that Ben was worried for him. He didn’t want Ben to be worried for him! No, no, no, Ben had his own stuff to deal with, Klaus was doing fine, ah fuck, he shouldn’t have made that speech, shouldn’t have had the waffles, shouldn’t have punched the glass at the first sight of a ghost.

“Talk to me,” Ben keened, soft and slow and it made Klaus very guilty but knew that he would worry more if Klaus didn’t talk. And who knows, maybe it’ll help Ben, too.

“A girl killed herself in the bathroom,” Klaus rumbled. “OD’d. I recognized her from when I was like, thirteen or fourteen or something. Saw her in the reflection. She said my name so I punched the mirror.”

“Okay.”

“Yeah,” Klaus chuckled, “The beloved irony of it all.”

Ben hummed. “We’re through the worst of it though, aren’t we?”

Ah, Ben’s favorite mantra for withdrawal, pain, heartbreak, whatever else the fuck Klaus and him were going through (mainly Klaus, as Ben was dead and couldn’t feel anything. Lucky boy).

“Mmhmm,” said Klaus.

Ben as the only one of the siblings who knew, really knew about Dave. While he might not have been there with Klaus during the war, and while they never really explicitly talked about Klaus’s dead love, they had some sort of strange connection, like a fictional empathy link or whatever. Ben was able to - to understand, to an extent, what was happening inside of Klaus jumbled little mind, and Klaus was able to understand, to an extent, what was happening inside of Ben’s jumped little chest. Ben, his monsters, Klaus and his ghosts. A match made in Heaven. Bless.

The pair fell back into their uncomfortable mutual understanding, basked in their own muted voices, content in listening to their brothers and sisters bicker than try to interact. Five was insisting that in order to remain on the quote-unquote, downlow, everything in the timeline would have to remain as it was. Sure, they would continue to train Vanya, either secretly or out in the open - no one really gave a fuck about dad anymore - and yes, everyone could fix their mistakes or whatever, Five wouldn’t run off, they would keep being the ‘Umbrella Academy’ as best they could. But the essential plot points must remain. They must, Five insisted, the world must keep turning as best as they could because even if the Commission wasn’t able to find them (and they already had), they would notice a major shift in the timeline (Ben?).

“Who knows, though,” Five groaned, “Time is fickle, rude and boring. We could be in a whole other timeline altogether, one where all this was meant to happen.”

“Someone up there hates us,” Diego muttered. Klaus raised his hand.

“Uh, yes, it’s true, she’s not great,” he said and Vanya furrowed her eyebrows.

“Do you mean God?”

“Oh, yeah,” Klaus mused. “She and I have had many chats over the years. She isn’t that fond of me, or Earth in general. Hey, Five, you don’t look so swell, you doing alright?”

“I’m doing great,” he croaked. “Other than the fact that we’re all completely useless at the moment.”

“Hey, my powers are working!” Klaus put in.

“That’d be great if you knew how to use them.”

“Five,” said Vanya, gentle and nurturing and putting an arm around Five to rub his shoulders, “It’s okay. We’re okay, Five, we’re safe. Hey, eat the rest of my donut. You need food.”

“I don’t want your donut and I don’t need food.”

Vanya withdrew her arm. “Suit yourself, then.”

“I will.”

“Great.”

“Jesus,” went Diego, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “You guys are children.”

“We’re all children,” Luther glowered and Allison nodded her approval. Oh, One and Three, a Two’s between ya but you know the saying, Six is scared of Seven cause Seven Eight Nine - oh, wait.

Klaus could feel himself slipping, dancing off into the deep end, and the water was the type of cold where it pressed on your chest so that you couldn’t breathe, and there wasn’t any lighting in or around the swimming pool but he was night swimming for some reason, even though the ghosts that drown like to come out at night, so it wouldn’t make sense that he’s night swimming out here, in the blackness, the darkness, the blank-ness, the cold-ness? Ness? Coldness a word? Blankness, whiteness, whitest, blackest, add an ‘est’ to it and it’s like a Latin superlative. More blank, more white, more black (blank seems like a combination of white and black, doesn’t it?) is a comparative, change the ending to -ior, you can tell it’s a superlative by it’s -imus, imus, emus, the Great Emu War in Australia, he would’ve liked to be killed by an emu, ha ha ha what the fuck was he high or something what the fuck was going on his head was hurting and Five was in pain and Allison was in pain and little Vanya was in pain and Ben was ignoring him and Diego was mad at him and Luther was being Luther and he could hear the electricity in the air, it was buzzing far too loud, and he was too hot squished up against this wall, he needed to move, he couldn’t breathe, they were talking too loud and too much, his legs were shaking and his chest was closing up and his stomach was hurting, das Blaue vom Himmel versprechen,

and then

The little bell on the door rang and a trio of businessmen with important looking briefcases strolled in. His siblings glanced at them then resumed their conversation, hushed. Still bored by his brothers and sisters, Klaus turned his attention to the businessmen.

“More of our buddies will be coming in soon,” one of them was telling the waitress. “Coming back from a big meeting upstate, separate cars. You wouldn’t happen to know of a cheap motel around here, would you?”

Oh, Klaus knew the best motel in town.

He watched the three of them slide into a booth not that far from the siblings, order coffee, a box of donut holes, doing regular things like regular people. No, Klaus would never be jealous of monkey suit men like they were, but it seemed nice to do normal, grown-up stuff like that, have normal friends or business partners, the like. The others at Klaus’s booth must’ve heard that more were coming in because no one turned to look at the arriving members of the party. They all spoke regular, talked about regular business stuff, about the commute, flirted with the waitress (who Klaus was sure was underage), ate their donuts, the works. Normal, normal, normal, boring, boring, bored.

A couple of them were women, and they talked about stereotypical women stuff in a separate booth - a conversation that Klaus found hard to believe, it was so cheesy. Some guys leaned over the back of their booths to chat with the girls, one of which looked strangely familiar - a face that Klaus couldn’t put a finger on, but she was turned away from him and he didn’t think much of it.

Then, to his unamusement and to his siblings’, a couple of the guys got up and wandered over to their booth.

“Hey, kids,” the first greeted, and Klaus recognized his voice from the one who first talked to the waitress. He was lean, broad shoulders and short, slicked back brown hair. Klaus would think that after the hours of driving he said they’d done he’d look raggled, but not a hair was out of place and his suit was clean and pressed. Same goes with his partner, too.

Five was not in the mood for any pleasantries, though, and he promptly told the pair to fuck off.

“Hey,” Luther hissed and Five rolled his eyes.

“What are you kids doing here so late? Shouldn’t you be in bed?” the first questioned, an easy smile on his face. “I’m Frank, by the way.”

“Well, it’s a 24-hour diner, isn’t it?” Five drawled. Frank chuckled.

“Yep, I suppose that’s true.”

“I don’t like this guy,” came a voice, and Klaus didn’t have to turn around to see who it was. Sauron was back, bless his heart.

“Oh yeah?” he muttered, and Frank’s eyes flickered to him but he kept his smile.

“This is my partner, Ollie,” Frank continued with Five’s groan. “We’re just stopping by here to get a bite to eat, some coffee, like you kids, I suppose.”

“Awesome,” Five deadpanned. Vanya cleared her throat.

“Yeah, cool,” she began, beginning uncertain. “Uh, why’d you come over here, though? Sorry to ask.”

“No, no, that’s alright, that’s alright. Well, we just saw that you kids were,” and this was still Frank speaking and he did his signature Frank chuckle, “Looking a little worse-for-wear. Under the weather, if you know what I mean.”

“Well,” Five continued, keeping that beautiful sarcastic tone, “It is -” and he checked the clock - “Two twenty-seven AM. I guess we’re a little sleepy,” and he forced out that beautiful sarcastic Five-smile. Frank and Ollie laughed at that.

“You got a mouth on you, kid, huh?” Ollie commented. “Cute.”

“Yeah, I don’t like these guys,” Sauron said again.

“Why should I trust you?” Klaus questioned, louder than he intended. Frank looked at him.

“Excuse me?” he said brightly, with that too-bright smile.

“Schizophrenic,” Klaus said, bemused, and put on his best smile. “Sorry.”

“I’m gonna go check them out,” Sauron mumbled and Klaus waved a feeble goodbye.

To everyone’s frustration and annoyance, Ollie and Frank continued to hash it out with them.

“Hey, do you guys need any help or anything? Ollie and I can spare a couple of bucks.”

“Yeah, we’re good, thanks,” replied Five. “It’s been great talking with you all -”

“Hey!” Frank shouted, all sudden and chipper and it made Klaus jump. “Hey, I recognize you guys! Y’all are the Umbrella Academy!”

“Whoa!” said Ollie. Oh, Christ. “Karen, get over here!”

“I’m gonna shoot myself,” Five moaned.

Klaus sunk down in his seat as the three adults fangirled over them, asking for pictures for their kids or whatever, blah blah blah, even kind Vanya was getting pissed off.

“Oh, get over here, guys!” Karen called.

“Hey, Klaus!” came Sauron. “Klaus, these guys aren’t good!”

“What?”

Sauron was peeking into their bags, their pockets, ducking around the swarm of bodies. “Klaus, they got guns, man! They got guns!”

“Shit,” Klaus muttered and leaned across the table to Five.

“Five, they have -”

Suddenly he was yanked upwards, out of his seat, his legs banging against the table, and was thrown backward two tables back. He felt something crack as he landed awkwardly on his wrist, head slamming on the edge of a table, and fuck, this wasn’t good. Through bleary vision, he could make out his siblings rising to their feet but raising their hands as the killer businessmen pulled out their weapons.

“Hiya, Five,” said Frank, and Klaus could hear that Frank-like grin in his voice.

“Oh, f-f-fuck th-i-is,” Diego scoffed and darted towards a butter knife. Number Two, however, was stopped with a pistol pressed to his head. Klaus’s heart thudded.

“I wouldn’t try that, bud,” Ollie hissed. “We know what your daddy did to ya. Who do you think took you down?”

“Oh, you’re the Handler’s bitches,” Five snarled, eyes narrow and harsh but his body faltering with prolonged weakness. “What does she want?”

“Ask her yourself,” came a retort, and Klaus was able to lift his head up enough to see a tall, very fine woman with a pretty cool hairstyle, carrying a gun equipped with a silencer. “Nice to see you again, Number Five.”

“I’ll kill you.”

“Not in this state you won’t,” she laughed. “Oh please, Five, do you think you can beat us? Your most powerful sister is numbed like a junkie, the actual junkie is lying over there, probably with some brain damage, the Horror’s horrors are dying, future monkey boy is about as strong as a 14-year-old boy, mister Kraken can throw a knife about as accurately as a penguin can fly, and little miss Rumor has lost her voice. You’re no match for us.”

“Good to know. Now, what do you want?”

Klaus shifted to his feet, wobbly and weak but fffuuuccckkk her if she thinks she can snark little Five like that. Five is the snarker of the bunch, it’s a fact.

The villainess continued on with her cute villain monologue, as all the villains do (admittedly, villainesses have much better monologues, they usually have a pretty valid reason for their tyranny), Klaus stumbled forward, behind the gaggle of gun-wielding maniacs. He made a shifty eye contact with Ben, who nodded ever so slightly, and Klaus’s grin grew.

He eyed the waitress ducked under the counter, gave her a thumbs up, even though she was trying to crawl away to the back and consequently couldn’t see him. Oh, well, he knew she felt the thumbs up in spirit.

The Handler was standing in the back of the squad but with a clear path between her and their table. Klaus grabbed a chair, hoisted it over his head, and grinned in triumph, then slammed the chair against the side of her head. The woman crumpled and Allison snorted.

“Who’s the junkie now,” Klaus swayed. “Wait, that doesn’t make much sense…”

“Yeah, Klaus!” cheered Sauron. Damn, this must be some delirious psychotic dream.

In the surprise, the gunners whipped around, aiming for Klaus, who guffawed.

“Try me, bitches!” he crowed, and in the distraction, his siblings moved.

Diego didn’t need accuracy to stab a guy in the neck, Luther didn’t need super strength to punch guys in the face, Allison didn’t need a voice to kick ass, Ben didn’t need tentacles to snap a bitch’s neck. Hm, Klaus pondered, it seemed that daddy dearest forgot that he didn’t just train their powers, he trained their bodies, their skills, their fighting, and sure, Luther kept getting thrown to the ground, Diego was only able to graze skin, Five was in no condition to fight, but they’ll prevail, right? Right.

And see, Klaus would help except he was feeling quite woozy; he was sure something was broken or sprained and he was positive he had a concussion based on the A-Minor pitch ringing in his ears and the way the light turned into a hazy dancer. So instead he slumped on the ground, nursing whatever hurt and watching the battle through slit eyes.

This wasn’t good, Five realized. Yeah, no shit, he could hear Delores saying, and that warranted a little smile before he involuntarily collapsed to the ground again. Crap, his knees were still too weak and he couldn’t procure a full jump but it looked like the Handler was rising to her feet and his siblings were falling so suck it up, Five, let’s go.

Before the Handler could center herself Five slammed his small body into hers, knocking her into the ground and twisting her arms behind her back, earning a little cheer from the dazed Klaus, leaning against the wall. Someone tried to tear Five off so he elbowed them in the dick (if they had a dick, he sure hoped they did), grabbed their arm, wrapped his legs around it and arm-bared until the elbow snapped at a 90-degree angle.

“Fuck off!” he shouted, the person wailing. “And you, don’t move or I’ll break every bone in your body.”

“Sounds delightful,” the Handler mused, and before he knew it Five was bucked into the air, her head smashing against his nose and her high heels tearing into his stomach.

“Unfh,” Five grunted, doubling over as a lightheaded spell took over. The Handler clicked her tongue.

“Mm-mm-mm, Five, c’mon now,” she chided. “Look around you. This is a battle you cannot win.”

To his and his siblings' credit, Five thought that they were doing pretty OK so far. Half the gunners were incapacitated, withering on the ground, but as he stared closer he could see that his sisters and brothers were faltering. Vanya, who’d never really been trained in martial arts, kept to the corner and had picked up a fallen gun (though Five knew she had no idea how to use it). It seemed as though she was gaining strength, spreading out a free hand, ripples of sound waves radiating from her fingertips - that is, until she was yanked forward, the pistol knocked out of her hand, and then knocked to the ground by the butt of a gun. Five watched, helpless, as blood oozed from a gash across her eyebrow, and she slumped, barely conscious.

Luther was taking on three guys twice his size all at once, which might’ve been an easy feat with his power but now he was feeble and puny and was falling under punches. Diego was diving for guns but a shot rang out and Two slipped, a bullet catching his shoulder. It seemed, though, that the Handler didn’t have the intention of killing them, despite the guns - then what did she want?

Five moved to rise, to help his losing family, but the Handler had him immobilized on the ground.

“Can’t you see, Number Five?” she quavered, kneeling to his level. “Let us do what we need to do, Five, and no more harm will come to your brothers or your sisters.”

“What,” Five panted, “Do you need to do?”

She tsked. “It’s my little secret,” and at that moment some pressure was released off of him and Five ran - darted for a gun, a weapon, anything, and before he whipped around to face the Handler he cocked it and shot one, two, three, four, six, seven, nine of the remaining gunners (because he was always a good shot, powers or not), and then he heard Allison cry out, hoarsely, and he turned and saw

Klaus, with the Handler, a knife to his throat and a gun to his temple. He was grinning, madly, and the Handler had this soft smile gracing her face. As Five stepped over him, he shot Frank in the face and positioned his aim at the woman.

“Now, now, Five,” she drawled. “I’ve got my finger on the trigger, alright? You shoot me, it’s gonna go off. You shoot me in the gun hand, I’ll slit his throat. You shoot the knife, his brains go pew.”

“Try it,” Klaus gargled, his puny body struggling against her grip. “C’mon, then, shoot me. I double dog dare you. I’ve tried it before, alright, won’t work for me.” He spewed out a choked laugh (and Five really didn’t want to think of what Klaus truly meant behind that statement.). “You’ve got the wrong guy, mein Freund.”

Diego limped up beside Five, clutching his shoulder, and then Allison was next to Diego and Luther was beside Allison and Ben helped Vanya up and they were the only ones left and there was only Klaus, and the Handler, facing the six of them.

“Let him go, you witch,” Five growled. “He hasn’t done anything.”

“Well, there was that little stint in Vietnam,” the Handler chastised, teasing the knife against Klaus’s neck and drawing a thin line of blood. Klaus whined. “But we took care of that, didn’t we?”

Klaus’s eyes widened, pupils dilated.

“Just let him go!” Vanya croaked. “What do you want? Why are you doing this?”

“We’re not going back,” Five snapped, “The apocalypse won’t happen again.”

The Handler sighed, drove the knife a little deeper, produced another whimper. “No, I suppose not. Nothing to do there. But, overhearing your little conversation over coffee and donuts, it seems that you do understand what must be done to keep everything the way it was.

What?

“What?”

No. Fuck. No. Fuck, fuck, fuck, no.

“No,” Five uttered, his heart scraping against his skin in a thump, thump, thump, and he understood why Klaus didn’t care for their drum beats.

“I cannot have you messing up the timeline any further, little Number Five,” the Handler continued. “If I cannot kill you, bring you back, then I will try my very hardest to keep you and your sisters and brothers in line. This is my duty, Five, to preserve time. Time itself is more valuable than any insignificant human life, no? That’s why I must do this, Five. I can’t say I’m sorry.”

“That has nothing to do with killing Klaus!” screamed Diego, and a flicker of remorse, or grievance, or emotion washed over her face for but a moment.

“No,” she said, almost sadly, “It doesn’t.”

And she withdrew the gun from Klaus’s temple, aimed, and fired.

Chapter Text

Boom, snap, click, clap, thud.

Boom, a snap of the gun.

Snap, a click of the fingers.

Click, a clap and a scream.

Clap, a thud on the ground.

Thud, Five’s heart.

A bullet travels 2,600 feet per second. 1,800 miles an hour. The Flash’s average x-velocity is 706 miles an hour, but he outruns bullets all the time.

Five counted the seconds as the clock ticked on by.

Second 1: Five knew the Handler’s intended target before she even removed the gun from Klaus’s head. His state weakened, it took him the amount of time to charge up one last jump as it took the woman to prepare the final shot. Two seconds.

Second 3: He fell into the Space between Spaces, some unknown deity pulling at him from both sides, stretching his drugged consciousness throughout planes. He made it to the other side, heard a shot fire. At sea-level, assuming the air temperature is 59 degrees Fahrenheit, sound travels at 761.2 miles per hour. In his sluggishness, Five struggled to recall if the bullet was fired before or after the soundwave hit his ears. Nevertheless, before the third second was over he slammed into Number Six, and as the clock struck the fourth second the window behind them shattered.

Second 4: Five watched through bleary eyes as Klaus slammed his head back into the Handler’s nose. She grunted, raise the gun again, blindly.

Second 5: Another shot.

Second 6: He saw Klaus fall.

Second 7, 8, 9: His siblings are enraged, and Five is lying along the booth, the wind having darted from his lungs. It was hard to breathe.

Second 10: Ben shouted for his siblings to get back. Where to go? Five wondered.

Second 11: The Handler aimed to finish the job on Klaus, whether or not she had intentionally shot him in the first place.

12, to 15: Ben’s monsters are unleashed over their bleeding brother. A shield, but they were droopy and mangled and death-ridden.

Second 16: Five saw that the Handler still had the gun. He wanted to yell for someone, but God took his voice away.

Second 17: Boom, snap, click, clap, thud. Another shot. A window did not break; the bullet must’ve lodged itself in the flooring.

Second 18, 19, 20: The monsters screeched and Ben’s voice was lost in the sound. He concaved over Klaus.

Second 21: His siblings were screaming. This continued into the 30th second.

Second 31: The Handler was getting away. She made it to the remaining briefcase at the 45th second.

Second 46: Five’s still couldn’t speak. He could tell his siblings couldn’t move. Fourteen seconds left in the minute, and then the clock would strike two thirty-one, in the AM.  

Second 62: There was a flash of blue, he could no longer see the Handler.

On the 65th second, Five felt Klaus dying. Five watched his family make their way to the respective body. Five had failed, yet again.

“This spiel is getting a little old,” Klaus complained, strolling alongside God. The girl hmpfed.

“I’m not that pleased about it either,” she retorted. Her bike wheels jiggled over a bump in the dirt road. “I don’t like it any more than you do.”

“Oh, I’m sure I like it more,” Klaus hissed, indignant. “Don’t try to steal my thunder with this. I just saved my siblings’ lives.”

She was uncharacteristically quiet and didn’t reply with the characteristic snark. A hint of dread tainted Klaus’s pride but he let it be washed away by the promise of future bragging rights.

“You took a bullet.”

“Damn right I did.”

“You’re not dead yet, Klaus. You’re dying.”

“Oh, that’s good. Wouldn’t want to scar them with my dead, bloated corpse,” and he shifted into a lumbering gait, overarching his arms like a storybook monster. “Aaaargh!”

God wasn’t amused, which Klaus wasn’t surprised by. Was she ever?

“At the moment,” she began, “They are working to save your life. You were hit here,” she said, pointing to a spot on the left side of his chest. “Your left lung. It’s filling up with blood as we speak. You’re choking on it. Your siblings are powerless to help you, but they’re trying.”

“Oh my God oh my God oh my God,” Vanya was crying, leaning over Klaus and pressing her bundled up shirt into his chest. Luther tore her off, switching out her pressure with his. He was quiet, determined, and Vanya watched as he pressed firmly into their damaged brother. Blood, thick and warm and a twisted rose color, gurgled up through the shirt, staining Luther’s fingers. Vanya’s own slid into her sight, the wound from the butt of the gun that struck her throbbing.

Five was incapacitated, unmoving since saving Ben from the initial shot. Allison seemed to have lost her voice again and henceforth clutched Diego, staring wide-eyed at little Number Four.

“C’mon Klaus,” Luther said through gritted teeth. “C’mon.”

“Stay with me,” Ben pleaded, hunched over Klaus curls. Through the shadow that he cast over Klaus’s head, Vanya could see the latter’s eyelids flickering, his irises a strange and murky gray color. His mouth, open and bloody, released a choked wheeze. “Please, please, stay with me.”

“You’re drowning in your own blood,” God explained.

“Well, I’ll come back soon though, right?”

“This is the end, Klaus.”

“He’s not breathing,” came Ben’s voice. “Fuck, fuck, he’s not breathing!”

“CPR won’t do any-anything if his lungs are col-l-lapsing,” Diego snapped and Vanya wondered who he was angry at. Still, she watched as he abandoned Allison, climbed over Luther and kneeled, tilting Klaus’s head and lifting his chin then pinched Klaus’s nose to begin mouth-to-mouth. Vanya stumbled back, hand on her face, smearing her own blood across her cheek. Diego came up for breath, his mouth ringed red.

“His pulse is going!” Luther shouted, abandoning the shirt to start chest compressions. Klaus’s body jerked limply with each thrust.

Panic sunk deep into his bones.

“What do you mean?” he asked, voice waning. “I - I can’t die.”

God stopped in her walk to glance up at him but didn’t meet her eyes with his. Instead, she looked back down, at her little bike, her sundress, her 11-year-old body shielded by the shadow cast from her hat.

“I thought you wanted this.”

“I -”

Klaus stopped.

He finally had an out, except this time it wasn’t slipping off a wave of a high or alone in his room with his dangling lights. No, this wasn’t the bathtub with its lukewarm temperature and tendrils of blood floating around in the water. No, there was no music serenading his passage, no lopsided grins, there were no feelings of ‘no regrets’, that no one would notice or care and yeah, Ben, I know the right dosage but you know how I love science experiments.

No, this wasn’t that, no, not at all.

This was cold, like the mausoleum. God’s afterlife was gray but Klaus’s favorite color was yellow like Dave’s magen David, his David’s Star necklace. מגן דוד. “You’re a real Jewish boy,” Klaus would giggle. “Mr. David Katz.”

“You’re a real German, Mr. Klaus,” Dave would tease. “How’s your Berlin Wall?”

“Nothing keeping me away from you, darling.”

“You would see him,” God said, softly, and Klaus realized the toll of omnipotence. “That’s what you want, right?”

“I - would he… would he remember me?”

“Time is different here, Number Four.”

“That’s not my name.”

“Sorry. I noticed your siblings liked to use your Numbers during times of great importance.”

“Well, fuck them.”

I didn’t mean it, he thought desperately, yearning to make sure that God knew the truth.

“C’mon, you bastard,” Ben moaned. “Don’t do this to me, Klaus. You have to keep going. You have to keep going.”

His head was pounding, aching, and in the depths of his mind - somewhere far deep into the forest - Klaus heard someone shouting his name.

“They’re calling for me,” he sniffed.

“Who?”

“I don’t know… my family, I think, I don’t know.”

“How can you tell?”

“I just - I hear someone calling for me,” Klaus growled. “I don’t know how, or who.”

“Well, are you going to go to them?”

“I - I don’t know. I can’t tell if they’re ‘out there’, in the real world, or ‘in here.’”

“What if it’s Dave?”

“And what if it’s Ben?” Klaus snapped, turning on the girl. She met his eyes, stone-faced. “Or Diego? Or Five, or Vanya? What if they want me back?”

“Do you want to go back?”

“I don’t - Christ, you’re making this difficult for me,” and he fell back on his ass and leaned against the fence posts. The headache was worse. Wasn’t he shot in the lung, not the head? Or is a headache just a side effect of dying?

“I’m just trying to make you understand,” God explained, sitting down in front of him. A gust of wind blew her hat off, messing up her long brown hair, but she didn’t flinch.

“Understand what?”

“What you need.”

“That doesn’t - you’re a stubborn bitch, you know that? Talking in riddles and shit.”

“Klaus,” God started, voice edging on impatience (a small victory for Klaus), “You aren’t getting it. You’re dying. Dying, dying. Because you saved Ben from a bullet that was supposed to kill him.”

“I know, I’m awesome.”

“Klaus!” she snarled. “Listen to me! His death is set in the timeline! In every timeline! Yours is not!”

“Yeah, but I saved him, right?”

NONONONONONO

“He is the only one who is supposed to die. No one else can, not right now. It won’t be fair for your siblings to lose two brothers. You must go back. You cannot die.” NONONONONONO

“So, what,” and he forced out a startled laugh, “I go back and then - then Ben dies instead?”

“It is what has to be.”

“You’re asking me to choose between myself and my brother.”

“The universe is. And he will die sooner or later. I’m trying to spare the pain. You will still see him, Klaus. No one would see you.”

“I don’t want him to be a ghost!” Klaus cried. “I want him to be my brother! Here! With me!”

“If you die he won’t be with you at all.”

So they were trading lives, Klaus realized, and God nodded her head without him having to say anything aloud.

“I - If I stayed,” Klaus croaked, “I’d find Dave?”

“Yes, you probably could.”

“Fuck. This is really sick, huh. Making me choose. Fooling me with all of that temptation in the beginning."

"I just need you to understand why you must return."

"Hm. You made Jesus go through this shit?”

“If we’re taking the written path, sure. Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, Guru Nanak.”

“Ah, so you consider me among the greats.”

“None of them could do what you do.”

“Couldn’t Jesus raise the dead?”

“Are you able to do that yet?”

“Touché, bitch.”

He sighed. “So this is it, huh? Living so Ben can die.”

“Yes, Klaus. I’m sorry.”

He stood, stretched, nodded to God. She dipped her head.

Klaus died on August 17th. It was 2:35 AM, gunshot wound to the left lung, nothing anyone could’ve done. It was raining again. Vanya had to pry Luther’s body off their Number Four. He wouldn’t stop pounding on Klaus’s chest. He was covered in blood, not his own. Vanya knew she probably had a concussion. She didn’t care. The windows of the diner were shaking, the ground was rumbling, so she hoped her headache would put her to sleep and stop the world from ending again.

As Ben moved, he groaned, as if in pain, and Vanya, whimpering, asked if he was alright. Uninjured. He nodded but didn’t hide the look he gave Five.

Five knew the excess bullet had entered into Ben. He knew his brother was smart enough to hide the bloodstain by bending over Klaus, mixing each other’s blood and keeping his own wound from sight. He knew his brother was smart enough to know that he was meant to die. This all came into fact when Vanya, whimpering, asked if he was alright. Uninjured. He nodded but didn’t hide the look he gave Five, who closed his eyes at him. As much as his tears went unshed, Five didn’t care to lose two brothers.

Klaus came back to life on August 17th. It was 2:37 AM, the gunshot wound to the left lung seemingly healed. It was still raining. He opened his eyes and heard his siblings’ sobs - for who, him, or Ben?

He ignored the screams of terror, surprise, the hugs.

“You bastard!” Allison screamed, her blessed voice back, “God, you boys.”

“D-d-don’t do th-at again, K-l-Klaus,” Diego stammered, pulling him in. Klaus laughed.

“Of course not, baby boy, but it’s fun to get some excitement in, huh?”

“You’re an ass,” Luther growled.

“Glad to see you,” said Five, still sitting on that booth, still sipping his coffee. He didn’t even turn to look at Klaus yet.

“Yes, yes,” he choked out, “I’m alive, hooray! T-told you guys God doesn’t like me!” but his false grin slid as he gazed into Ben’s eyes. There was a slight nod on Ben’s part, and then Klaus opened his arms, and the former struggled to stand, letting slip a breath of pain, but let himself fall into Klaus.

“Ben? Are you alright?” asked Allison, ever so intuitive.

“It’s not that scary,” Klaus whispered, clutching Ben tight. A new sense of warmth and wetness spread across Klaus’s stomach as Ben’s bullet wound bled into him. Ben snorted.

“I’ve been through it before,” he wheezed.

“Ben? What’s going on?” demanded Luther, and for once (but honestly, all the time), Klaus wanted everyone to shut up.

“Still,” he continued, his voice at a low murmur because he really didn’t want to fuck this up again. “It’s not that bad. I - I'm sorry.”

“S’not your fault.”

“Klaus, is Ben okay? Oh my God, Ben, you’re bleeding!”

“Klaus! Let go of him!”

“Guys, just shut up!” Five seethed. “There’s nothing we can do!”

Ben sucked in another gasping, quivering breath. “It was fun, being alive,” he spluttered. “But we knew what was gonna happen all along.”

“Yeah.”

“Still, it was pretty -” hnfh, “Pretty badass when you took that bullet for me.”

“Selflessness baby,” Klaus cooned. Ben’s grip on him was growing limper. “But up there, with God, I was just being selfish. I chose myself over you.”

“No, you didn’t,” Five interrupted, and Klaus didn’t realize he was talking so loud. “It’s in the timeline.”

“There has to be something we can do!” went Vanya.

“Please,” Ben rasped, and Klaus loosened his hug so that Ben could turn to their siblings, unveiling the hole in his gut. “Just… be with me?”

“We can’t lose you again,” Vanya sobbed, covering her mouth with her hands. “We can’t lose you.”

“Once Klaus gets his shit together you’ll be seeing a lot of me,” Ben grinned, and then he let out a moan and let himself collapse back into Klaus’s arms.

“How can you be so calm about this!” Diego shouted, turning at Five who was watching the scene, panting, and the five of them bickered as Ben lay, dying.

“Hey, Benny,” Klaus called, faintly. “Stay awake for a few minutes more, alright?”

“You’ll see me soon,” Ben murmured.

“Yeah, but they won’t, and they’ll miss your sorry ass.”

Ben chuckled, coughed, wheezed.

“I heard you calling to me,” Klaus continued and it seemed as though his family had finally quieted down again. “In there. I heard you calling. I thought it was Dave. I - I almost stayed.”

“Wouldn’t - wouldn’t have blamed you.”

Klaus giggled. “Yeah,” he said, letting his voice drawl off into a whine. “Hey, let me know if - if you see him, out there. I think you guys would make good friends.”

The sound of a siren pierced through the pittering and pattering of the rain. The waitress called the police. They’d be there soon.

“It was nice having you around,” Klaus sang as his brother’s eyes sunk deeper and deeper into his head. “Nice hugging you. Nice fighting with you. Nice not to be seen as crazy when I’m talking with you.”

“Wasn’t -” gasp “Long enough.”

“Shh,” Klaus sniffled. “S’okay. I’ll see you soon, Ben,” and fuck, his face was crumpling into tears and so were his siblings and a gradient of reds and blues flashed across his vision, across Ben’s face, and they were the last colors that Ben would see.

The cops called Reginald when they found out who they were. Luther made to grab Klaus off of Ben but the boy let go willingly, let the paramedics herd him out in a bag. A part of Klaus wanted to rip that bag out of their hands because body bags were for dead people, and Ben wasn’t dead, no, he wasn’t, he couldn’t be, because people can’t die twice, but Klaus has died many more times than that but that doesn’t count -

He was pretty sure that Reginald paid the cops off so that they wouldn’t be questioned. He wondered what they would say to him, who all these people were and where they’d come from.

Klaus didn’t stick around to see the lecture, witness the crying, hear the reprimands.

He stood, he hopped behind the counter, grabbed a powdered donut, waved goodbye to the anguished waitress, and left into the rain, his father’s protests echoing behind him. Walking down the street with a still-bloody shirt and his many bruises and scars, he felt Ben die. Truly die. It was probably around 2:45, 2:46, maybe later. He wouldn’t appear as a ghost until he was strong enough. Klaus bit into the soggy donut, let it fall to the ground in the mud, watched a midnight bus pass on by and took a seat on a soaked iron bench. He watched the rain fall down onto the street, the way raindrops marched as an army, line by line. He was asleep, this was a dream, and the droplets made a cold and miserable blanket. He didn’t trade his life for Ben, Ben didn’t trade his life for his, he was asleep in the mausoleum, this was just some drug-induced allusion. God’s version of his afterlife. Yeah, that’s it, he stayed up there and as punishment was sent down there. This is his hell.

The rain stopped not too long after, maybe around 4. Soon the skies began to lighten, which surprised Klaus - he would think that, in Hell, it would stay dark and dreary forever. His perfect type of weather.

This vision of Hell was accentuated when Diego arrived, eyes red as if he was wildly high (or crying? Klaus pondered, but that wasn’t right). His brother let out a long, tight sigh, then sat down on the bench beside Klaus.

“Dad’s looking for you,” he muttered. “Luther told him you died and came back to life.”

“Is that what happened?” he giggled.

“Jesus, Klaus, can we be serious?” Diego snapped, shifting to glare at him. “I - I watched yu-you die, and then I had to w-w-watch -” his lip blubbered, eyebrows creased, fresh tears falling, and Klaus knew he messed up.

“Hey! Hey! It’s okay!” he hushed, pulling Diego in, unconsciously aware that he was still wearing Ben (and his own)’s blood. “It’s gonna be okay man, alright?”

“You can’t pu-pu-sh us ou-out again,” Diego mourned. “We had to see our brother die again. I can’t see you go destroy yourself.”

“Hey, he won’t be gone forever, alright?” Klaus keened. “I’ll - I’ll bring him back, Diego, I swear.”

“You never did before.”

“Yes, well, that’s when I was high out of my mind, but now - now I’ve got something to prove! Right?”

Diego slid out of Klaus’s hug, all snotty and sad. “You don’t have to prove anything to me,” he muttered. “M-maybe dad, b-but if you say B-Ben is here, I be-be-believe you. You wouldn’t lie about him.”

“No, Diego, I wouldn’t.”

“Just…” and Diego struggled to find his next words - “Can you? Come back? So we can grieve, as a family? Normally? I - I’m not accusing you of, of going to get high or whatever, I know you’re sober but I just want, and I think Ben would want us all here, and -”

“I’ll come back,” Klaus assured him. “I’ll come with you, Diego. It’s okay. I’m okay, see?” and he grabbed Diego’s hand and pressed it to his heart so he could hear the ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump. “What Dave did, what Five did. I’m here, I’m alive. It’ll be okay.”

“A-are y-y-you?”

“Let’s go, Diego. I'm hungry.”

Chapter Text

The Handler was a very good liar. She knew this. She was also a very good manipulator. She knew this as well. She was a snake, but she was smart. Very smart. She knew this. She was proud of it. And, to her enjoyment and simplistic irony, was always five steps ahead of Five.

She didn’t expect the kid to save his brother with that first jump, didn’t expect to fire into pretty Klaus’s lung. She was satisfied, though, when she saw that final bullet enter Ben’s gut, was satisfied when she saw Klaus alive, bulletless (and intrigued. She look into this further.) and sad. Finally, watching from outside the window in the rain and the lights, she felt a rush of pure satisfaction and a sense of victory when Number Six slumped. Dead. As he should be. A little earlier than she would’ve liked - in the true timeline, he died around the age of 16 to 17, but close enough. The Handler knew her window of opportunity was closing. It didn’t stop her from moving forward in her plan.

Back at headquarters, she gathered her A-Team of losers and eager interns together, ready to brainstorm (they really were just like any other company, really!).

“Alright team!” she exclaimed, slapping her hands together at the front of the table. “Let’s discuss! What are our obstacles?”

Her mousy, but usually pretty dependable, workers came up with a list.

  1. Little ‘V’ was getting training from her siblings. Not a lot of training, frankly the Handler hadn’t observed much going on the past few weeks, but they were training her in theory.
    1. This could be good and bad. Good: more training, more abilities, more potential power. More fuel for the bomb. Bad: more control, if they ever pull it off.
  2. Five wouldn’t relax.
    1. The Handler understood this, anticipated it. It was in his nature. It’s why she hired him in the first place - his intuitiveness, inability to sit still, in one place (literally).
    2. He probably had a suspicion she wasn’t done yet.
      1. Oh, well. She saw it in his eyes, earlier at that diner, that he knew what was to come. Everything had its place.
    3. He can be taken care of easily. Bribed, probably. Loves his family a lot. Backing down in exchange for them? Ooh! Safety during the apocalypse? Katie, write this down!
  3. Number Four was worrying. A little. Not that she was worried-worried, but he was… intriguing.
    1. His inability to die was fascinating. Strange it didn’t occur in the apocalypse the first time around.
    2. He’ll probably fall back into his old habits now that Ben kid was gone. It was set in his timeline that he would always revert back to the drugs (one way or another. Do certain chemicals affect his powers in a positive, rather than a negative, way? Josh, jot that down).
    3. It seemed as though he will be receiving training like Vanya. Perhaps. The Handler was pretty confident in the fact that Five cared more about Seven than Four, at least in the ‘control’ and ‘power’ sense. He had a soft spot for Klaus, though, the Handler could tell. She mustn’t forget that.
      1. She knew he had untapped potential, a potential that probably wouldn’t ever be fully ‘tapped into’. What’s set in the timeline is set, and they gotta take care of outliers. She had to oversee that they took care of the outliers.
  4. The old man, Reginald, was going to be taking an interest in the events that unfolded at Griddy’s. He’ll probably be wondering about where she got the serum to incapacitate his Numbers.
    1. This wouldn’t take too long to fix as long as Five didn’t come up with anything stupid. Like, tell the man. But he won’t - the Handler knew Five. She knew that all her secrets would be safe with him and she knew he wouldn’t be giving away any of his own.

“Uh, I think he might tell his siblings, ma’am.”

“Mike, don’t be silly. Five hardly tells his family anything they don’t need to know,” and she let a smug smile spread. “Like what he’s done. What he’s gonna do. To me.”

“But… we don’t want that, ma’am, do we?”

“I - Christ, no, Jesus fuck. C’mon, just… get back on task, let’s go.”

Next, they need some solutions up on the board. Katie, Jemal, Lorraine, and Mike were being ass-kissing overachievers, as always, but the Handler just wanted this whole Hargreeves family situation to be over with that she didn’t care that they wouldn’t shut up.

“Alright, alright!” she snapped, waving her hand. “Just, write down any thoughts, let’s go.”

Mike suggested they kill the entire family and the Handler made a mental note to fire him and his stupid ass after the meeting.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Katie hissed, elbowing him in the ribs. Good girl, Katie. There’s a promotion in your future.

In the end, they came up with another numbered list (how appropriate).

  1. Get Five out of the picture.
    1. The family truly began to fall apart when Five skipped town to go kick it in the apocalypse. With Ben gone, the Commission would be working backward: first, it was Five, then Ben, now it would be Ben, then Five. They wouldn’t know what to do without him.
      1. Mike, you fool, we’re not gonna kill him. Jesus Christ.
    2. Persuade him to return to the Commission, where he can assist in the recreation of their ruined briefcases after the fiasco with the grenade. Only a couple were in operation and the Handler was getting very antsy witnessing all of the fluctuations in the timeline, in any decade, that were going unchecked. (For example, Michelangelo died a year early. Tragic.)
      1. He and Vanya were always close. Dismantle her by taking her support away.
    3. But how to get him back?
    4. Ransom?
    5. Bribery?
    6. Interesting.
  2. Perhaps mute Allison Hargreeves once again?
    1. Jemal brought up the point that then she wouldn’t make it to stardom, which was pivotal in her life, Katie contradicted that by bringing up how they didn’t have to mute her immediately. Just when the time was right. Whatever that meant.
  3. Enforce Four’s drug habit.
    1. Anything to keep the family the same fuckups they were before this mess.
    2. Weaken him.
    3. Not that the Handler was worried, or anything.

“All this must happen soon,” the Handler explained. “Soon as in… in terms of their own construct of time, not soon as in a hundred years. We must act fast. Number Five will be more hyper-aware about any monitoring. He will want to continue training Vanya Hargreeves. If we want to silence Allison Hargreeves, it would have to be in the midst of battle and temporary. Muting her would bring too much attention to the Hargreeves in the wake of the recent shootouts. Let’s wait for the slit throat until she’s thirty, like last time.”

“Great idea, boss!”

“Awesome job!”

“Wow, ma’am, you know how to fix everything.”

“Shut up!” she shouted. “I know, I know, Jesus Christ you guys are like mongooses or something. Fuck. The family will, uh, be unalert and out of commission for a while. Dead brothers will do that to you. We’ll reconvene when the time is right. Also, Mike - I never want to see your face again, get out of here.”

“Of course, ma’am! Have a nice day!”

“Christ.”

Alan Watts: born in 1915, died in 1973. He was a philosopher with a record player voice and album ideals. Klaus liked listening to him speak. He didn’t like how their father’s response to Number Six’s untimely and early demise was to play the man on every speaker, in every room of the house and forced the children the stay in the living room while he held hushed conferences in his office with Pogo.

Klaus never took Reggie for the philosophical type - he knew he wasn’t, but Klaus supposed that Reginald was enough of a human to try to go a little easier on them, and in Reginald’s mind that meant: meals together, in the living room, served by Grace (without him), listening to Mr. Watts explain his truths for hours on end, and finally: yes, Quelle Surprise, even sleeping in the living room. Another wonderful slumber party, orchestrated by the Sir Hargreeves himself. They weren’t allowed to leave the room except to go to the bathroom. Grace said, ever the sympathetic automatron, that “your father wants you to grieve together, as a family, in this hard and difficult time.”

“He isn’t even here,” Five replied, and Grace smiled and went to fetch more funeral snacks.

Ben hadn’t appeared yet. He was probably mad at Klaus. That wasn’t a surprise, either. Everyone seemed to be mad at him.

On love, Alan Watts said: “Love is not something that is a sort of rare commodity, everybody has it.” Klaus reflected on this, reflected the love of each of his siblings and his own acquaintances:

  • Number One: Luther. Luther loved his idea of leadership and perfection. He loved Allison and he probably loved getting high that one time. Luther loved his model planes, which Klaus admired, and his records, which Klaus also admired. Klaus was pretty sure that Luther felt some sort of love towards the rest of the family: in all truth, he did want to protect them from Vanya, and he cried for Ben and had Diego’s back, he mourned Five when he was lost, he told Klaus he was proud of him. That was family love, though, caring. Not affection.
  • Number Two: Diego. Klaus knew of his love for that girl, Eudora Patch, the woman with a very beautiful name and beautiful hair. He liked the three different words stitched into her first name (something he pondered on a lot while high): Eu - you, and then ‘dor’ - door, and then ‘Dora,’ which counts as a word because it’s a separate name, and that all combined to be Diego’s dead lover. She was shot point blank in the chest for helping Klaus. Seems as though everyone who came to his aid got in trouble, and Klaus loved the guilt that came with this realization.
  • Number Three: Allison. Allison loved her stars, her lights, she loved the sound of her voice and without it, she was loveless. Klaus heard her share stories of her daughter, little Claire, who - honest! - Klaus really wanted to meet, but it seemed as though Allison (and Luther, who wasn’t even Claire’s dad) was hesitant.
  • Number Four: There was a man, named Dave. Klaus still dreamed of him.
  • Number Six: Ben, a shy boy who loved his books, loved their words, loved listening to the stories that father’s recordings spit out. He lapped it all up, collecting it all in that big head of his to be stored until he can continue to pass it down. Klaus loved Ben. He was pretty sure Ben loved him too, which was reassuring because sometimes Klaus worried no one loved him back.
  • Number Seven: Vanya, V, a pretty and somber girl. Klaus wasn’t sure what she’s loved throughout her life. There was that bastard, Leonard Jenkins or Harold Peabody or Peabody Jenkins or whatever. A man who gave his ‘love’ to Vanya and she believed him. This time around, Klaus was sure to give all his love to Vanya, to make her believe him, especially because he wasn’t lying.
  • Reginald Hargreeves: Klaus liked to think that there was no love left in that white-haired head of his, that coal-black heart. There probably wasn’t, save for his funds, his estate, his reputation. Oh, well. He and Reggie had something in common after all.
  • Pogo: A being who let a man abuse children even after they flew the nest did not love those children, not really.
  • Grace: Klaus liked thinking she had love somewhere inside her, that Reginald programmed her to be caring - because he did, she was kind and sweet, but those were just gears and wires and emptiness. A flicker, maybe, but it was made of metal and she had to be reminded of who to love every time she sat down to recharge.

The others:

  • There was a man, named Jamie, who Klaus stayed with for three weeks. Jamie told Klaus that he loved him and Klaus liked the way Jamie looked. He was a good cook, made Klaus breakfast, gave him his drugs in exchange for more love. Then one night Jamie loved Klaus too hard, when Klaus didn’t want to be loved, and then at 3 in the morning he made Klaus Osso Bucco, Klaus complimented it, and then Klaus fled.
  • There were many who proclaimed their love for Klaus. There were many who Klaus proclaimed love to when he felt none. Was it selfish of him to display that false emotion in exchange for something real (yes, he reminded himself, drugs were real)? Maybe. Klaus didn’t really give a damn.
  • God: (will get back to later. Still not sure what goes on in her head.)

The track switched to something on emotion. “There are no wrong feelings,” Alan Watts informed Klaus, and Klaus contemplated summoning his ghost to question this statement.

“First of all,” he would say, “Dying isn’t a fun feeling. Losing someone isn’t a fun feeling. Pressing into a dead lover’s chest long after he’s gone to try and stop the halted bleeding isn’t a fun feeling, a fun memory. Alan - sorry, Mr. Watts, I understand your view on how we’re afraid of our feelings and all that because I think that’s the one true thing you’ve said. I am very afraid of my feelings and wouldn’t like to discuss them.”

Alan seemed to hear this and the track changed.

Watts once said that one man’s death could be considered honorable, making way for another man to live. Is this what Ben felt? That how he died was honorable? Was Klaus trading Ben’s life for his own considered honorable? Was Klaus honored to live in place of Ben?

Reginald was still adamant in their daily lessons to be done together in the living room, something more productive than endless grief. He, however, continued to be held up in his office and Grace wasn’t programmed to punish the kids if they didn’t do any work, and for a robot, she seemed to have enough empathy to not pester them to do anything. Their brother was dead, after all. (“The meaning of being alive is just being alive.”)

The siblings were strewn across the room, draped on couches, chairs, by the fireplace, with blankets and pillows and each other. It reminded Five of that sleepover in the attic, so long ago. This would’ve been nice if Klaus wasn’t resurrected and Ben hadn’t died in his place.

Five didn’t blame Klaus for what he did, though. Five knew that there would come a time where Ben would have to go; it was inevitable, but he could see his other brothers and sisters and their shady glares at Klaus’s huddled form, their salty tears stinging with their snapping words, their shifting bodies and masses always inching away from him. They believed that Klaus brought death wherever he went. Maybe they were right, but really, Five didn’t give a damn, so he was the one to be beside Klaus during those mandatory grieving days.

The couple weeks since Ben’s death had been eerily quiet - Five assumed it was much more chaotic the first time around, and now they all seemed to be tired of the constant losses. There were murmured conversations, Five trying to distract himself with his own theories and thoughts, and he would explain them to Klaus, who would nod every so often. If Five didn’t trust him he would think that Klaus was high, that he had relapsed or done something stupid (c’mon, then, shoot me. I double dog dare you. I’ve tried it before, alright, won’t work for me). He had that crazed, manic look in his eyes, and his curls seemed too curly and his mouth was drawn too tight. He seemed to notice Five inspecting him and promptly turned away, wordless. Five looked down at his lap. Worth a try.

Vanya, with a shaky but persistent voice, said that they should hold a memorial for Ben. It didn’t seem like there would be a proper funeral, one that Ben would want, and if they were all stuck together in that one room, wouldn’t it be nice to immortalize their brother in the 19th-century upholstery?

And so the family went off to gather what they believed Ben to love most and Five didn’t bring up how he knew that Ben would just like them all to sit, be together, be at peace, and calm the fuck down. Still, he let Vanya and the others (sans Klaus, who was still sitting on the couch, unmoving) plug their grief with Ben’s favorite books, records, the little orange recorder he used to play incessantly when they were younger. Five wondered how Allison found it. She’s good at that kind of stuff, Five mused.

When they all shuffled back in, Luther looked at Klaus's eyes, filled with scrutiny, and spat, “What’d you get for him?”

Klaus didn’t answer.

“I asked you a question, Klaus.”

“Nothing,” came his response, muffled and muddled. Why don't you question me, Luther? Five wondered.

Luther scoffed. “Of course you didn’t.”

Five was suddenly overcome filled with a sense of responsibility. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Luther shifted with the unexpected retort. “Uh - it’s just… he’s not taking responsibility.” (“Never pretend to love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.”)

“For what?”

Klaus whimpered.

“Five, let’s not get into this,” Allison sighed, rubbing Ben’s recorder. Five opened his mouth to respond when he caught sight of Klaus turning his head, meeting his eyes with Five’s in an unspoken please, no, so Five stayed quiet. His siblings, however, did not.

“Klaus,” Vanya said, her voice gentle and welcoming, “Is Ben here?”

“No. Too early. He’d probably think this is stupid, anyway.”

Luther snorted. “No, Klaus, he’d probably appreciate his five other siblings trying to celebrate him as best they can.”

“Celebrate him? Celebrate what?” Klaus scoffed. “That he’s dead? That we’re stuck in here, in this prison? He’d call dad a prick if he was here, and he’d be right, but he wouldn’t have the balls to get up and leave. He’d do that if he was here.”

“Well, he’s n-not!” Diego shouted, fist slamming onto the delicate tv stand. Five winced, Klaus was still. “And who’s fault is that?”

Whoa, Diego, pull it back. Even Allison seemed uncomfortable at this point; Klaus shrunk further into himself, shielding his face.

“At least I’m here,” he murmured. “Would you be happier if I didn’t come back? I could’ve stayed, y’know, been with Dave.”

“Then why didn’t you?” Diego growled, and Five wanted to speak up, wanted to snap back, but he knew Klaus had to handle this himself.

Klaus shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I wanted to see if… I don’t know. I wanted to see my beautiful family!” and his grin dripped off.

Diego’s voice, thankfully, edged into softness. “H-how did you - how’d you come back?”

Another shrug. Klaus was shaking. “She gave me a choice, this time. She said - nevermind.”

“What? What’d she say?” asked Luther. “She - she gave you a choice, and you chose yourself over Ben? What kind of brother does that?”

“He would’ve died eventually, too!” Klaus burst out, finally sitting up, finally meeting their anguished faces. “And - and I didn’t want you guys to cry over two bodies - well, knowing you,” and his tone slipped into a snarl, “Cry over one.” (“There is nothing but the eternal now.”)

“Klaus,” Vanya whispered, eyes red-rimmed and cheeks puffy and crusted over with dried tears. There was a scab over her eyebrow still, physical evidence of the siblings’ recent plight. Klaus clenched his fist, unclenched it, reached for his chest, grappling for an invisible chain around his neck.

“We didn’t mean it,” Allison added, wiping a tear. “We -” sniff “- just want to honor Ben right now, okay?”

“Yeah, sure. He’d still think this was stupid.”

So they did just that - told stories, giggled at anecdotes of Ben’s clumsier days, reminisced over memories that Five could never experience, and then Grace came in, dimmed the oil lamps, lowered the Alan Watts recording (never turning it off completely), announced in a sickly sweet voice that it was time for bed. (“You and I are as much continuous with the universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean.”)

The couches were by no means comfortable, so they gathered the blankets and pillows as they had done before, and they mourned over how Ben was taken sooner than before, and they shut Five up whenever he tried to bring up the Commission because, Five, this if family time. Silly name to call it, Five thought bitterly. We’re barely a family.

The Grandfather clock ticked on by, steady and continuous like an army’s march. Each boot hitting the dusty paths, is that what Klaus heard? And with this thought Five allowed himself to sink into unconsciousness with the mentality of keeping one eye open (just in case, to watch over his sleeping brothers and sisters. It didn’t work out, though, and soon he was deathly still).

The first time that serene, quiet somberness was disturbed was around 11:46 pm when Allison lifted her head to see Klaus shifting around in his place beside Five. A hand flailed out, she watched as Five lifted his head up, put Klaus’s hand back, and fell back asleep. Allison did as well.

The second time that serene, quiet somberness was disturbed was around 12:20ish am. Diego felt a stray foot kick him in the shoulder so, angrily, he twisted around and saw a fretful Klaus fidgeting rather wildly. Restless leg syndrome, Diego decided and moved further back as to avoid anymore kicking feet.

The third time was around 1:15 am; Vanya heard distinct mumblings coming from the corner of the living space - she looked up, to the side, saw Klaus talking in his sleep. Frowning, she grabbed another pillow and put it over her ears and went back to sleep.

(“Through our eyes, the universe perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”)

The fourth time was around the witching hour. If Ben was there, he would know what to do, but he wasn’t, and Klaus’s veins were free of toxins, so that couldn’t help, and in conclusion: Klaus was at the mercy of his figurative and literal demons.

Journeys into the mausoleum plagued the corners of his mind, ghosts on the fringes of forest paths leading into the jungle. Watch out for those Vietcongs, boys! but wasn’t he back home? Wasn’t he safe? Always watch your back, the sergeant told him, no matter where you are, and Klaus couldn’t remember if that just pertained to the battlefield or at the homefront, too. No matter, because the ghoulish, fleshy ghosts had their eyes set on him; there was no going back, hip hip hooray! Oh, how fireworks hurt the ears, he found his Vietnamese tattooist dead later that week, the man who would supply him pills was shot for desertion, the cut on Klaus’s neck was burning, but wasn’t that at home, at Griddy’s? Where was he, here, now? Explosions coming up front, they’re headed for the front lines, but Ben’s calling his name, ghosts that hadn’t even been born yet were tugging him back, he was split on a borderline, his hands were on Dave’s chest, the world was purple and orange and black and he didn’t care if he was shot, get a medic please, get a medic please, get a medic please, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t know what I’m going to do, get a medic please, get Ben please, get Ben please, get Ben -

“Klaus!”

The mumbles turned to soft cries, the cries turned to groans and the groaning turned into mouth open in muted screams, thrashing limbs and sweat rolling off of a pale, skinny body, devoid of tattoos save for the one on his forearm, the one that bound the siblings together in a label.

“Klaus, wake up!” Vanya begged, hands gripping into Klaus’s shoulders, and the boy burst up, eyes wide and mouth gaping. His previous silence erupted into gasping shouts, screams, panting, and in a panic that their father would find them, Allison shouted,

“I Heard a Rumor you stopped making noise!”

Klaus’s mouth clamped shut but his body didn’t stop jerking. Luther leaped onto him, grabbing his arms and pinning them down but Klaus was wild, scratching at the mark on his neck and kicking his legs. Five liked the loudness better than this choked version of a living nightmare. Klaus scrambled away, moving to get away from his siblings’ hands, eyes still vacant and unseeing - Five realized he hadn’t woken up yet, not fully, and was probably terrified as to why his voice was stolen.

“Klaus, no!” Diego gasped, as Klaus slammed his body on the wall, slipping and sliding to the liquor cabinet.

“I Heard a Rumor you could talk again!”

“Please,” Number Four begged, punching his way through the glass before Diego could get to him. “Please, shut up, shut up, please just shut up, just shut up!” and he grabbed a bottle from the very top shelf, Five prepared to zap over to stop him from chugging when Klaus wound his arm back and pitched the bottle across the room. It slammed against a column with a sickening smash. Diego stopped his chase, scurrying backward at the sight of his brother chucking alcohol and wine, shattering them into glass bits that sprayed across the room. Amber, burgundy, peach-colored liquid seeped into the priceless carpet and original hardwood floor, and Five never saw anything more satisfying.

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Klaus screeched, his eyes shut tight, and he didn’t comprehend that he was out of bottles until Vanya rose, slowly, rose and drifted to their brother - their brother with a weeping face and blue tendrils snaked around his fingers. She reached out, touched his arm, and swept in with a hug. She murmured something, her head pressed into his chest, and Klaus sagged.

“I’m sorry,” he sniffed, collapsing into her despite being a head taller. “I had to do it  or-or else I would -”

“You’re okay, Klaus,” Luther said, doughy. “We’re - we’re here. Nightmare?”

“No shit, mi hermano.”

“Come on,” Vanya smiled, leading him back to the others (still frozen in shock and anticipation). “It’s alright, Klaus. You’re alright.”

“Wait!” Diego blubbered, standing on shaky feet. “Wait, hold on, I’ll - I’ll be right back, don’t tell mom,” and he dashed off upstairs. While he was gone, Allison slid off her place on the couch to hug Klaus tight.

“I’m sorry for that,” she whispered, genuine. “I didn’t know what to do.”

“S’okay. Long as you didn’t make me forget I had powers.”

Allison tensed.

“Oh, too soon?” Klaus teased, still breathless, and the two girls relaxed.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” Vanya offered, stroking his damp hair. Klaus shrugged.

“Not much to talk about,” and his words wobbled. “I - I was back in that damn crypt, you know, daddy’s favorite, but then I was in Nam, at the same time. Like -” and he giggled “- the two worst things that I could dream about, combined, y’know? Ben… he used to help, on sober nights. I knew I was gonna go to the bottle so just, fuck it, get rid of them.”

“He would be proud of you,” Allison hummed. Klaus dipped his head.

When Diego returned, he carried a familiar-looking framed photo, and when Klaus saw it he let out a garbled cry, tears beginning anew.

“Oh my God,” he breathed out, chuckling. “What - where did you find this, Diego?”

“Uh - b-back at that bar,” Diego stammered. “I… remember you liking it. Is - is that him?”

Klaus’s finger traced a man off to the side of the group, a soft and wistful smile gracing his teary face. “Yeah, that’s him. And, and look!” and he laughed again. “That’s Perkins, that’s Jack - we called him Jackie Boy, and then that’s Sarge, and Beck, and Ollie Masters, and -”

So, in the midst of all that, Five pondered, in the midst of death and blood and sadness and black dreams, Klaus could still see who he loved. It’d be nice to see Delores again. Maybe just once more, so he could take a photograph and frame her on his cracked wall in that crumbling house. Yeah, that’d be nice.

“When one gets to an extreme - that is to say, the point where you realize there is nothing you can do about life. Nothing you can not do about life. Then you are the mosquito biting the iron bull. But so, in the same way, you said look, you heard a bomb coming at you. You could hear the whistle. You knew it was right above you and headed straight at you and that you were finished. And you accepted. And suddenly, there was a strange feeling that everything is absolutely clear. You suddenly see that there isn’t a grain of dust that is in the wrong place. but you understand completely, absolutely totally, what it’s all about, but you can’t say what it is. but… in so many cases the bomb was a dud and you lived to tell the tale, so you see this is always the opportunity presented by death. That if one can go into death with eyes opened, and have somebody help you… to give up, before you die. This extraordinary thing can happen, so that your standpoint from that position at that time, you would say I wouldn’t have missed that opportunity for the world. Now I understand why we die. The reason we die is to give us the opportunity to understand what life’s all about. By letting go. We have missed this golden opportunity by institutionalizing death out of the way. Instead of having a socially understood acceptance of death and rejoicing in death… To be important, existence doesn’t have to go on any longer than a moment.”