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The alleyways are dark and gray as the buildings threaten to close out the sky and rain falls in fat drops, soaking anyone and anything braving the grayness. Klaus stumbles along, hand reaching out to the buildings in support as if they could hold him back instead of just holding him up. At least buildings don’t call out to him every chance they get. He sighs as his shoulder crashes against the silent bricks.

“Well this is good enough,” he breathes and slides down the wall, pulling his knees in tight so he can hold himself together physically, if not in any other way. He digs a cigarette out of his pocket along with his lighter and shields the flame from the rain to light it. The rain streams down his face as he inhales and lifts his face to the sky, eyes closed and thoughts silenced.

Ben sits across from Klaus in the alley, hands in pockets, hood up. He knows Klaus can’t really hear or see him right now because of the pills, so he just watches and remembers. They were never all that close as kids since Klaus was often occupied, either with extra training from Dad or dealing with the dead in general. Ben was shy anyway and didn’t talk too much. But they shared pains and frustrations through looks and a quick touch here and there. Neither wanted to be burdened with their powers. It was a little funny to Ben that he died first; he was the responsible one after all.

“Bastard,” he whispers, with a small hint of affection. He couldn’t really suffer anymore, but seeing Klaus suffer and numb himself time and time again was its own type of suffering. Describing death isn’t something one can just do when it’s hard to remember life. He wishes Klaus could understand it better. Ben thinks he thinks death is tortured and endless, and in a way it is. Having a brother to be with all the time makes it suck a little less, though.

Ben watches the cigarette smoke and coughs just for the memory of it. Klaus perks up slightly, presumably having sobered up enough.

“Oh brother,” he sighs, swinging his head to look Ben straight-on, “I’ve missed you so terribly.” He adds a fake sob for emphasis. Ben rolls his eyes.

“Try stronger drugs,” he mumbles. Klaus feigns offence and crawls over to sit next to Ben.

“Now, I know you don’t mean that,” he pleads with the puppy dog eyes. Ben rolls his eyes and Klaus lays down where Ben’s lap would be. He wasn’t lying about missing him. It would be nice to simply touch him and get some comfort from the one person who knew him best.

“I wish you didn’t know me like this,” Klaus whispers. His gaze is unfocused but straight ahead and away from Ben’s face. Ben frowns.

“For what it’s worth, you’re my favorite sibling.” Klaus rolls toward Ben and cups his face as best he can.

“You’re as crazy as me then,” he laughs softly. Ben rolls his eyes.

“Come on, get up so you can go back to the house and get dry.”

“Oh baby, you know I’m never dry,” Klaus replies with a wink. Ben shrugs helplessly.

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

“You died before the sex thing, don’t worry about it.”

“Ugh.”

Klaus drags himself up from the ground and starts trudging himself back to that stupid mansion they called home. Ben follows, of course. It’s not a long walk, but Klaus is drenched by the time he walks in the front door. Luther looks up from the couch when he hears the door.

“Oh. Good,” is all he says upon seeing Klaus. He wouldn’t have to worry tonight.

Ben follows Klaus around as he does some semblance of a night-time routine to get ready for bed.

“Do you sleep?” Klaus asks suddenly, toothbrush in mouth. Ben shrugs.

“I don’t know that you can call it that. I’m not really sure what it is. I’m kinda just…not.”

“Oh,” Klaus replies. He continues brushing his teeth and wonders if that’s really any different from his existence. With the drugs it’s like he’s not there. He exists outside of space and time and interacts with nobody. The thought briefly crosses his mind that maybe he should save that kinda thing for when he’s actually dead and stop doing it now, but he ignores it. He knows what Ben would say anyway.

“Holy shit, you’re like Jiminy Cricket,” he laughs. Toothpaste splats on the mirror. Ben flicks him in the head even though he can’t. Eventually the teeth-brushing is finished and Klaus wanders back to his room, stripping upon entering and flops into bed.

“Sleep with me,” he mumbles. Ben lays down next to him.

“You know I can’t actually,” he replies softly. Klaus shushes him and rolls over, almost instantly falling asleep. Ben sighs as his tether to the world slips away and he’s back in the nothingness.

Chapter Text

“FAMILY MEETING!”

Klaus groans. Footsteps down the hall indicate that Allison and Diego are awake. Ben watches Klaus have a tantrum from across the room. Klaus pouts.

“I thought I was going to have a happy morning,” he sighs, rolling himself out of bed and standing unsteadily. Ben shrugs as if to say “what’s new.” Talking to Klaus first thing in the morning isn’t really his favorite thing ever. Klaus manages to hurry up and start heading downstairs anyway, so he didn’t need to say anything. Everyone was gathered in the kitchen—that is, Vanya looked like she had been there for a while with a newspaper (how riveting), Five was making coffee, Allison and Diego looked bored, and Luther was standing at the head of the table, waiting. Grace was making eggs and humming, as cheerful and kind as ever.

“Everyone is here now, so we may begin,” Luther announced stoically. Glances flit around the room with eyes meeting eyes because Luther’s so pompous sometimes it hurts. Five doesn’t turn around from the coffee.

“I know we’ve all been apart for a while and may have acquired our own habits. With that being said, I think we should discuss some of these nuances so that we don’t step on each other’s toes too much.” He pauses. No one interrupts.

“So, I would like to request that you all please stop using my toothpaste. I know this seems trivial, but for me it’s really important that…” his voice trails off in the background as everyone simultaneously begins groaning and muttering about being woken up and who even cares about toothpaste and how Luther needs to get over himself and this was a waste of time and that they’re in mourning over dad (sort of) and literally none of them are taking the toothpaste except maybe Klaus who starts defending himself while Five phases out of the room and Allison quickly gets up and leaves.

Luther sighs. Grace puts a hand on his shoulder and places a plate of eggs and bacon in front of him in a smiley face formation.

“Eat up!” she says cheerfully. Her smile stays bright and open while she begins making plates for the others in the room. Diego glares at Luther with his arms crossed.

“Why can’t you just not be a prick? Just once,” he demands. Luther glares back in exasperation.

“This household needs a leader,” he insists. Klaus begins laughing softly.

“A leader? To what? Give us training and make sure we go night-night on time?” He chuckles again and gives Luther his big, innocent eyes. “Cinnamon is an interesting choice by the way. Tell me, is that how you keep things spicy on the moon?” Diego snorts softly and watches Luther with a small smirk.

“Shut up. Both of you.” Luther sits to eat the eggs.

“It hasn’t been enough time yet. Let everyone get used to being together again,” Vanya offers softly. Luther glares at her, too. She shrugs helplessly at Diego, but he ignores her in favor of the eggs Grace just gave him.

“Thanks, Mom,” he says with a soft smile. He wasn’t going to tell Vanya she didn’t have a role in family discussions, but he wasn’t going to support her either. Not yet.

Ben rolls his eyes at everyone.

“Tell them all that when they’re dead no one cares about toothpaste. They’ll care about being alone. They’ll care that everyone they’ve ever loved can’t talk to them or be with them anymore and that there’s nothing to live for since you’re already dead,” he complains to Klaus.

“But I love you and I talk to you,” he responds, a little hurt if he’s being honest. Now would be a good time for pills. “Who wants a mimosa?” he asks the room. Ben sighs. Everyone else looks at him, eyebrows raised in a “really?” sort of way.

“Are you asking the ghosts or are you asking us?” Diego asks. His fork makes an uncomfortable sound against the plate.

“Well I was asking you all but if Ben wants in then who am I to say no?” Klaus suggests with a smile. Luther slams his hand on the table.

“Don’t talk about Ben like he’s here,” he commands, his voice harsh. Klaus throws up his hands before standing.

“Fine, fine, I’ll leave then and take Ben with me,” he clips back and makes his way out of the kitchen.

“Did you want eggs, dear?” Grace calls.

“No Mom, it’s fine,” Luther answers for him.

“Oh, okay,” she replies softly and her smile falls a little as she turns back to the stove.

Chapter Text

Ben decides to remove himself from Klaus’s reach. He hadn’t planned his little outburst at the minor disaster that was family meeting and although he didn’t mean to be that harsh, the truth tumbled out when even he didn’t expect it. Not that anyone heard it except Klaus. Still, he didn’t feel like dealing with the repercussions of his confessions that he hadn’t even admitted to himself. Being around the family again made him realize how much he had lost and how much his existence or lack thereof was shaped by Klaus’s for the past decade and then some. He can hear Klaus walking back to his room, his bare feet slapping against the hardwood. Ben ignores the sound. If he focuses too closely then Klaus will see him and try to talk to him. He never wanted to hurt Klaus, but talking to the same human and only that human for years was…tiring? In death nothing changes. If he thinks too hard about it he’ll go insane. At least he can leave. He sighs and lets himself slip away into the void, or wherever it is his consciousness goes.

Klaus is hurt. How could Ben act like he wasn’t with him and there for him all the time? Sure, Ben was more like his conscience and there for him most of the time, but it was something wasn’t it? Oh well, he’ll deal with the consequences of all that later.

Klaus starts a bath and slips on his headphones and a towel. Nina Simone flows into him as he appraises a pill he sees suddenly on the side of his dresser.

“Why the hell not?” he breathes. He didn’t want to see Ben anyway. Not yet. He pops the pill quickly and goes to slip into the bath; all of his physical and mental pains seem to slip away from him as his body sinks below the water.

***

“Do you think he’s telling the truth?” Diego asked. Luther looks up from his empty plate.

“About what? Ben?” Diego nods. Luther sighs. “I don’t know. He never talks about seeing anyone else though. He hasn’t talked to Dad either as far as I know.”

“Well, who can blame him?”

“Allison…” Luther’s head whips around as she makes her presence known. Her arms and legs are crossed and she’s leaning her shoulder against the doorframe. She shrugs.

“I’m not sure I would want to talk to Dad if I could,” she explains. Luther sighs, again.

“We need to know what happened. I feel bad we never came back, never talked to him before…” he trails off.

“Who cares? At least we’re here, together, now,” Allison insists. Luther drops his head into his hands. He loves his family, but this wasn’t just some light-hearted get-together.

“I’m with her,” Diego nods, then gets up from the table and begins to walk out. “How about just talking to each other again before we go around throwing insults?” he offers over his shoulder. Then he’s gone. Allison smiles at Luther and nods. She follows Diego out the door. Luther watches Mom doing the dishes for a minute.

“Hey Mom, do you ever miss Ben?” he tries. She stops washing the plate in her hand and turns around with a smile on her face.

“I love all you kids, silly,” she replies kindly, with warmth, like she always does, then turns back to finish washing the plate. Luther wishes her programming was different.

***

Klaus breathes in deeply and exhales slowly, opening his eyes to look up at the ceiling.

“The tiles never lie to me,” he says out loud.

“Neither do I.” Klaus shouts in surprise, splashing water over the sides of the tub. His eyes find Ben perched on the counter of the sink.

“I was alone,” Klaus whines. “And I’m naked.”

“That never stopped you before,” Ben replies easily.

“From what?” Klaus demands. Ben shrugs.

“Talking to me, conjuring me, whatever.” Klaus rolls his eyes.

“I didn’t conjure you this time. I specifically ignored you, actually, yet you are here in front of me, scaring the shit out of me, and definitely seeing my dick.” Klaus waves his hands around while talking to emphasize the point.

“I can just reach out to you. You were sober enough,” Ben explains.

“Whatever,” mutters Klaus.

“Look, I’m sorry what I said earlier upset you. That wasn’t the point,” Ben starts. Klaus raises an eyebrow but doesn’t reply yet. “It’s hard, you know? You can talk to everyone alive and so many people that are dead and you try to shut them out because it’s too much. I can only talk to you and the other dead people you conjure besides me, which is like no one, so just you. I can see the rest of the family when I’m with you, but I can’t talk to them, and it’s not like they believe I’m there anyway.” He pauses, but Klaus still says nothing. His hands play with the water while he waits for Ben to keep going. “Death is stagnant. I can’t have anything you don’t provide for me. And so much of the time that’s nothing other than your own problems. I’m super grateful to have you, but I hate just watching you struggle and poison yourself over and over again. You get to have me whenever you want but I only have you when you want me to. It’s shitty,” he finishes. Klaus sighs and sinks down deeper into the water.

“I love you,” he says, “and it hurts that you think I don’t. I know I’m fucked up. I’m sorry you’re dragged into it. You’re basically all I have right now. You’re the only one I’ve ever had since, well, you know…” Ben cringes a little. “I can’t handle it when I think you’re judging me too much.”

“I just want you to be better. Happier, healthier, all that good shit,” Ben replies. He sounds hopeful, but Klaus shakes his head softly.

“It feels good when I can get rid of the pain. I can get rid of you so I can be…me…I guess, but without you worrying,” Klaus pleads. His eyes are big and sad like they usually are when he’s sober. Ben smiles, but it’s sad.

“I always worry. When I’m conscious, that is,” he replies softly. Klaus runs his hands through his hair, smoothing it down with the water.

“Sometimes I wish you didn’t have to. That it was all okay,” he answers. His eyes close because he can’t stand to see Ben’s face anymore, so open and forgiving of his faults, like always.

“It can be. I’m always here when you want me, or when you don’t,” Ben jokes. Klaus smiles but puts his headphones back on.

“I love you,” he thinks, “but you’re too good for this. I’m sorry.”

Chapter Text

Klaus’s face is relaxed and at peace for once. His cheek bones are illuminated by the morning sunlight; his lips a slightly brighter shade of pink than normal in the golden light. His eyelashes are dark and long against his skin with his eyes shut, but he’s awake. Ben knows this because he can see them. He decides against talking since the man looks so soft and at ease, like he’s not in pain.

Ben can’t help but think about how beautiful Klaus is. He never got the chance to love someone before he died, and it’s not like they were raised to be a family anyway. Parental love, sibling love, whatever normal families had between each other hadn’t really been a part of the Hargreeves experience. He wonders what other beautiful people he might have met, might have fallen in love with. He wonders what kind of love he and Klaus talk about.

“Stop staring,” Klaus taunts, “someone might think you have a crush on me.” He doesn’t open his eyes yet. Ben doesn’t answer, but something shifts in his chest. He didn’t like that Klaus was mirroring his thoughts despite the fact that he can’t sense them. It was unsettling. And maybe a little too personal.

“Have you loved anyone?” Ben asks him. Maybe he could get some insight into the living life. Not that he had really seen Klaus with anyone for significant periods of time, but you never know.

“You’d be the first person I told if I did. Why? Afraid I’m gonna ditch ya for someone else?”

Ben snorted. “As if you could. No, I just feel like I missed out. There’s a lot I missed out on, but that seems…quintessential to the human experience. Living human experience. The dead human experience isn’t very fulfilling.”

“I don’t think I could handle a living partner when I have so many people to deal with already,” Klaus replies sincerely. He sighs and opens his eyes finally to see Ben lying next to him on the relatively small bed. The sunlight was hitting the walls so it looked like they were glowing, his art and graffiti being highlighted here and there.

Ben only nods in reply, so Klaus watches his face. He hasn’t been doing as many drugs lately so even though he’s not clean, he’s not not sober. This semi-sobriety allows him to focus a little more and see Ben’s face clearly. He wishes, again, that he could touch him again.

Luther knocks on the door gently, breaking the soft comfort between Klaus and Ben. Klaus startles and almost rolls off the bed when he jumps in surprise. The door gets pushed open slightly.

“Hey uh, family meeting downstairs. But like, a real one this time,” Luther declares softly. Klaus thinks he sounds a little apologetic. He nods.

“Yeah, okay,” he answers, and Luther nods back before closing the door and walking away.

“You know, it’s like dear old Dad never even left,” he sighs to Ben. Ben shrugs. He doesn’t want to start that conversation again. With a sigh Klaus heaves himself out of bed and stumbles out the door.

“I guess I shouldn’t be high for this,” he mutters. Ben silently thanks whatever god there is.

When they get to the living room, everyone else is already there. All five of them. It feels weird to be gathered again as a whole family. It’s like they went back in time, except Dad wasn’t there to ruin their day.

Klaus settles in on the couch next to Five and Vanya before turning his attention to the middle of the room where Luther stands. Diego is leaning on a column with Allison on the other side.

“Alright, so, Dad’s inheritance is going to be bequeathed accordingly and those of us without jobs will be able to function independently if we’re responsible,” Luther begins. Five snorts.

“If we’re responsible? Do you even understand the quantity of money he had?” Five shakes his head as Luther rolls his eyes.

“Whatever. That’s not really the important thing. I think that since we have financial security now and we’re all in the same place for once, it could be a good idea for us to pick up training again.” He finishes his statement with his hands open, his face expectant. Klaus groans.

“No, no, no, no, no, no. You can’t lock me in a mausoleum again. I refuse,” he insists while running his hands over his face. Flashbacks of the screaming dead creep into his mind and he starts hyperventilating.

“Hey it’s okay, I’m sure he wouldn’t do that to you, stay calm and breathe. I’m here with you,” Ben whispers in Klaus’s ear from behind the couch. Klaus inhales deeply and exhales slowly.

“Thank you,” he whispers. Everyone looks at him confused, but he ignores it.

“I literally can, but I won’t. I’m not sure that was effective for your training,” Luther replies finally.

“So then what are you suggesting? We train for missions again? I have my own agenda now,” Diego demands. Vanya places her hand on Klaus’s knee hesitantly. Klaus smiles at her and she keeps it there.

“I don’t really want to do missions anymore either. Being on the moon for so long made me realize that I want to enjoy life.” Ben sighs. So did being dead. “But I think we have a lot of potential Dad never got out of us because of how he did our training,” Luther answers. He sounds hopeful, but everyone else looks doubtful except Five. His face is scrunched up in the way it is when he’s thinking about a hard problem.

“That might be one of the most intelligent things you’ve said about Dad,” he begins, but Vanya interrupts.”

“I don’t even have potential. I have no powers. This would be a waste of my time and yours. I’ll just take the money and go back to the orchestra without stress now.” Five glances at her with an unreadable expression.

“Yes, well, I wanted to address that. It doesn’t make sense,” Five begins again.

“What? That I was always part of the house even though I was ordinary?” Five rolls his eyes.

“No, obviously not. Well, actually, that might be a good point and it adds to my theory. Why would Dad keep you around if you were ordinary?” Vanya scoffs and shakes her head, but Five holds up a hand to stop her.

“Wait. Hear me out. He didn’t act like a father to us, and probably didn’t feel like one, so it’s strange that he felt a responsibility to continue caring for you. And Luther has a good point for once that Dad’s training probably wasn’t ideal for us to achieve our greatest potential. Why would you, someone born under the same circumstances as the rest of us, living in our house despite having no powers and not being part of the academy, be valuable to Dad?” He stops and looks around the room, but everyone is just looking at him for the answer.

“What are you saying?” Allison demands. Five rolls his eyes.

“Fine. We all have powers; it doesn’t make sense that Vanya wouldn’t. Pair that with the fact that Dad kept her around and did some questionable things like give her meds and constantly discourage her from doing anything, and I think there’s something about Vanya that we don’t know,” he finishes.

“That’s impossible,” Vanya replies immediately. “I would know. I’m ordinary. I’m nothing like you guys. I appreciate your faith, but it’s worthless.” She shakes her head and gets up to leave. Klaus squeezes her hand as she stands. Luther and Diego just watch as she walks out of the living room, but Allison suddenly steps in front of her, eyes looking at the floor.

“Please don’t. I need to tell you something, all of you, that I just remembered. I didn’t think it was important at the time because I didn’t know what it was about. But with everything Five is saying, it makes sense now. Please don’t be mad.” As she finishes, her face raises to look Vanya in the eye. “I love you,” she adds. Vanya walks backwards to the couch and sits down again with slow, unsure movements.

“Alright, what happened then?” she demands softly. Allison sighs and looks teary-eyed and her gaze is out the window. Five crosses his arms and legs and leans back in the couch, waiting.

“Okay. Dad came to me when we were four. He needed me to do something and at the time, I didn’t think much of it because we were so young and…” her voice breaks as she trails off and she drops her face into her hand. The others watch and wait in stillness and silence.

“Allison…” Luther tries. She sniffles and looks up at the ceiling.

“I didn’t know, okay?”

“It’s okay, we’re not gonna be mad,” he prompts. Klaus looks at Diego and makes a face at that. She sniffs again.

“He had me rumor you, Vanya. He made me tell you that you were ordinary. I’m so sorry, I didn’t know,” she blurts. A tear falls down her cheek as she watches Vanya’s face.

“How could you…?” Vanya trails off. “How could you never tell me that? Why did you never think to mention that?” Her tone is incredulous and her eyebrows knit together in confusion, pain, anger, and a host of other emotions she can’t quite process.

“Oh god,” Klaus mutters. He drops his head into his hands and groans.

“We were four! How was I supposed to know? We were so young and I didn’t think it was important at the time so I guess I just suppressed it or forgot, I’m sorry, you have to believe me,” Allison pleads, tears falling steadily now.

“That’s our Dad, an asshole from beginning to end,” Five mutters. Luther’s jaw had dropped and maintained position throughout everything, and Diego just looks sad. Ben is shaking his head, but nobody sees anyway.

“I…I can’t deal with this. I need to leave,” Vanya mutters and rises again to leave.

“Wait, Vanya, won’t you stay? Luther wants us all to train again and we could do it right this time and really work to our full potential, and with you this time,” Five pleads. He’s showing more emotion than he ever has, but he has a soft spot for Vanya and if his hunch is right, her powers could be incredible.

“Oh, so you all want to include me now, when suddenly I might have special powers? When I’m just like you? You never cared about me for me,” Vanya snaps.

“Hey, Dad made us act that way. We didn’t know it was wrong; we were just kids. You made mistakes against us too,” Diego interjects. He didn’t have much to say on the topic as shock is his main emotion, but he can’t forget that she threw the whole family under the bus.

“Because you never let me be a part of this family!” Vanya shouts.

“That’s not our fault!” Klaus whines. “Dad hurt us, too. It wasn’t just you. All of our lives were shit shows because of him.” Vanya glares at him. She knows he’s the most right out of all of them, but she’s still pissed.

“You have every right to be mad about this. You have every right to be pissed at Dad, just like the rest of us. But please don’t be mad at me, or them. We didn’t want to hurt you. He used us for his own ends in the same way he did you. That’s not our fault,” Allison pleads again, copying Klaus’s sentiment. Diego nods.

“If you need some time I understand, but please don’t leave,” Five says quietly.

“Please?” Luther offers. Vanya looks around at everyone. From what she can tell, they’re all sincere. Her anger is still pumping through her veins, though, and she can’t just let this go.

“I’ll stay for now, but I’ll be in my room. Alone,” she declares, then starts walking toward the stairs to go.

“Hey!” Five calls. Vanya stops, but doesn’t turn around. “Try not taking the meds from now on,” he suggests. She starts walking again, and leaves without answering.

“Well then,” Klaus breathes, “back to training for us? Yippee…” he says as he slaps his hands on his thighs and stands.

“Oh boy. Here we go,” says Ben. Klaus twists around to look at him. As their eyes lock, both look more scared and uneasy than excited.

“I wish you were here,” Klaus whispers. Ben shakes his head.

“Kinda glad I’m not.”

In the doorway, Pogo watches, hidden by the wall.