Luther, Allison, and Diego stumbled into the academy, trailing behind their father with mirrored shell-shocked expressions and with no small about of trepidation. Reginald Hargreeves, for his part, only looked mildly annoyed, as one does when faced with an unexpected, but ultimately minor, inconvenience.
Hargreeves marched to his office, head held high as he left his stunned children at the doorway. Diego was staring at his trembling hands while Allison was trying to hold back tears. She had lines of mascara running down her face. Luther could only stare at them both and try to come up with some leader-y thing to say that would make this all better.
Nothing came to mind and he doubted anything ever would. There was no coming back from this and they were all starting to realize it.
Nevertheless, he gently nudged both of their shoulders to encourage them to take those first tremulous steps inside the mansion and, for once, Diego let him take the lead. They all hesitantly stepped inside, each fully aware in their own way that nothing would ever be the same again, that by going inside it would seal their fates and solidify that everything had changed.
They all stood in the foyer, unsure of what they should do next. Do they go talk to Dad? Should they go to their rooms? Were they still expected to go back and finish the mission?
Would they be punished? Surely this was punishment enough already. But with Sir Reginald Hargreeves, one could never be sure.
Everyone else had been sent out on some mission to stop some stupid drug cartel in the city, except Vanya of course. And Klaus this time. No skin off his back; his power was next to useless in a fight anyways, though he was a little miffed at being left out and left behind.
But, then again, did he really want to go on another mission where people would be shooting at him while the spirits of the people they just killed screamed at him? No, Klaus would much rather stave off the delirious ramblings of the dead with a couple shots of scotch. Or maybe some Bacardi?
It didn’t matter either way. Vanya was off sick again, Dad was who knows (and who cares) where, and Klaus had several grams of weed, access to Dad’s booze, and time to kill.
Klaus lit his blunt and poured himself a wonderful mixed drink, if he did say so himself. Exactly the right ratio of fruity to hard liquor, though he didn’t seem to taste it much as he drank it all in one long gulp and refilled his glass. “No time like the present to get absolutely wasted, am I right?” he thought.
He made his way over to one of the couches in the center of the room and stared up at the ceiling. It was all bright and golden, like everything else in the house. A shiny facade to cover what was inside. How ironic. He giggled at the thought.
Everything was becoming more and more hysterical as the intoxicants had time to take effect. Perhaps drinking so much at once wasn’t the best idea for health but it certainly got the job done faster.
And he couldn’t see or hear the ghosts anymore, which was the real goal, after all.
He continued staring up at the ceiling. The silence in the room was almost stifling. How odd, especially considering how much he wanted this not ten minutes ago. He would have killed for a moment of peace and quiet. But at this moment it served only to remind him of how alone he was. Where was Vanya when you needed her?
A child, high and all alone in the shining tower of gold. He smiled at the thought. Everything was funny at the moment, except how fucking quiet it was.
He needed some noise, anything to distract him from the silence. Not happy with the cacophony of spirits, not happy by yourself. Get yourself together, Klaus!
Klaus managed to sit up on the coach, pausing for a moment while his stomach protested at the movement. Perhaps he should have eaten something before drinking that much. Still, he glanced down at the nearly full and forgotten glass that he had in his hand and finished it as he walked to the record player.
He pawed through the records. Most of them were Dad’s educational records that he played at dinner with subjects ranging anywhere from German to rope-making to how to kill someone when both your legs are broken and you have nothing left but your wits. Flipping though he found I Think We’re Alone Now. Perfect!
All seven of them used to dance to this song together when they thought they could get away with it. They never could, of course, but it was always fun while it lasted. Klaus put the record on and smiled, humming the familiar words.
He swayed a little, letting the rhythm guide him, beginning to feel the thrum of the alcohol burn through his veins. Klaus wanted to move, consequences be damned! Like Dad could hear him from the study anyways, if he’s even at home...
Klaus jumped up on the table and let himself stop thinking. He just danced, forgetting all about the Academy for a brief and blissful second and smiling all the while. It was so rare he got a chance just to have fun with no annoying siblings around and no looming responsibilities for the moment.
The record was playing out the last few notes of the song when Klaus opened his eyes and saw Ben standing at the entrance to the living room watching him.
“Ben! You’re back early! How’d the mission go?”
“That good, huh? Tell me, just how much of a pushy jerk was Luther this time?” Klaus laughed, continuing to sway around on the table.
Ben gave a weak smile. God, Ben was being weird. Why couldn’t he go to his room and let Klaus have this one thing by himself? Ben was always following Klaus around, trying to stop him from having fun. Still, Klaus wanted him to be okay, even if he was annoying him at the moment. It wasn’t like Ben did it on purpose.
“You good? You’re being weirdly quiet.” Ben didn’t say anything. “Shouldn’t you be lecturing me by now about how I’m too young to drink and I’m destroying my body and yaddda yadda yadda?”
Again, Ben didn’t say anything. This was just weird. Klaus finally paused to look at Ben. He didn’t seem too worse for wear, no more bloody than usual after summoning The Horror and no more bruised than they normally were after facing off with somebody on a mission or during training. What was his problem?
Psh, that was a problem for a future, more sober Klaus. Current, inebriated Klaus wasn’t about to deal with this. He jumped down and scrolled through the records again, selecting one that never failed to make Ben, at the very least, sway back and forth. “Come dance with me, Ben! It’s been a while since we’ve done that, just the two of us!” If Ben was going to be weird, then they might as well try and have some fun together, Klaus thought. Klaus climbed back onto the table.
Ben’s strange smile came back. “Okay.”
“He speaks!” Klaus laughed. “Come on, Don’t Stop Me Now is playing. Your favorite,” he sing-songed. Ben walked up the table and stepped up. “Finally!”
They both grinned at each other, eyes bright and the horrors of their life forgotten for a brief second as they let loose, moving and dancing to the song and not caring at all for how ridiculous they must have looked.
This carried on for several long, joyous moments, until they hear steps approaching. Klaus glanced over to the door, still moving to the music and taking a long drag of his joint. Allison, Diego, and Luther were all standing there with equally appalled expressions.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Luther hissed, face almost rapid in appearance.
Klaus gave him a look. “I know jock types like you are supposed to be idiots but I didn’t think you were that stupid, Luther. What does it look like I’m doing?” Ben snorted beside him. Klaus grinned and gestured to his left. “See? Ben gets it.”
Allison didn’t react beyond furrowing her brow, but Diego and Luther’s faces morphed into nearly identical ones of fury. “What exactly do you mean by that you-” Allison cut Luther off with a quick jab to his side and a stern look.
“What do you mean by that Klaus?” Allison gently asked. She always was the one with more tact and patience than the rest of them combined, even if that still didn’t add up to much.
Klaus, for his part, was lost. What were these idiots talking about. Was he more drunk than he thought? He shouldn’t be that far gone yet…
“Weeeeell,” he dragged the word out, “I mean that Ben here-” he gestured to Ben with both hands, one still clutching his glass- “also thinks that you, Luther dear, are an idiot and that we are oh so obviously rocking out to some Queen.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Diego all but shouted, the words escaping like water from a burst dam. He had a deep cut along his right temple that was starting to sluggishly bleed. Jeez, just what had gone on while they were gone? “Nobody is there you fucking junkie! And how dare you pretend to see him? Ben deserves better than that! And I would think that you, of all people-!”
Klaus interrupted with a face of pure confusion. “Just what are you people talking about?”
“Ben is dead you idiot!” Luther yelled.
“Luther,” Allison hissed. “Klaus, I’m so sorry. We were overwhelmed. There were just so many of them and I, and, and we… We just didn’t notice. And then there was this awful scream and-” She broke off and swallowed a few times. The tears were threatening to fall again.
“The Horror,” Diego finished.
“I… No! Why are you all doing this? Ben is right here! Look! You can see for yourselves! I mean, just,” he turned towards Ben and reached out with a trembling hand. “He’s right- you’re right here,” he whispered.
Klaus reached out to Ben’s face, still hoping that his brothers and sister were just playing a cruel joke on him. Ben couldn’t be… He just couldn’t. He was the strongest one out of all of them! The best, the nicest, the only one who would always put up with Klaus’ shit.
His hand went through Ben’s face and there was a sharp shatter as Klaus dropped his glass, the shards forming a horrific display at their feet and the noise echoing across the empty house.
“No! He’s right there! He can’t be!” Klaus’ voice broke and tried to grab Ben, arms once again moving through him as if he was nothing but air, nothing but a figment of Klaus’ imagination.
Klaus dropped to his knees, cutting them open as he kneeled in the shattered glass, his head in his hands. “No no no no no, not you Ben…” Ben kneeled down in front of him and tried to put a comforting hand on his brother’s shoulder and let out a noise of distress when he found out, as Klaus did, that he couldn’t.
“Klaus, Klaus, it’s okay,” Ben started.
They both jerked as Diego was suddenly there, next to the table, next to both of them, and wrapped Klaus in a tight hug. “Come on, big guy, let’s get you cleaned up.” They all watched as a tear fell onto the broken glass and no one was quite sure whose it was.