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Counting Down The Days To Go

Chapter Text

It started off small. Klaus had lost a little weight, but then, his appetite had never really bounced back after he’d gotten sober. The itchy feeling could be put down to the cravings for the happy little pills that his body had gotten accustomed to. He got breathless easily, found himself coughing sometimes, but then, what do you expect from someone who had been chain smoking since he was thirteen? And sure, sometimes he woke up at night drenched in sweat, but you would too if you had nightmares like Klaus did.

 

All in all, the symptoms were easy to explain away.

 

That was his downfall, in the end. He kept dismissing those nagging thoughts until it was too late. By the time he noticed the little lump in his armpit, it had gone on too long, had gotten a tight hold on his body.

 

When his doctor - a real doctor, not Grace, who had looked disturbingly concerned when he had rattled off his symptoms - received the biopsy results and told him the diagnosis, Klaus had laughed and laughed and laughed. The doctor had looked alarmed, and that made him laugh harder.

 

Hodgkin lymphoma, already in the later stages.

 

Klaus had never expected this. He had expected to die young, but he figured it would be the result of one too many highs, poisoning himself over and over until his heart couldn’t be shocked back to life. He thought, at least, that if it was cancer, it would be lung cancer, but no. This had nothing to do with the drugs, or the cigarettes. Totally random. Mundane. It was hilarious. Klaus had survived his childhood, and his father, and countless overdoses, had outlived war and the goddamn apocalypse, and he was dying of cancer.

 

Ben cried in the corner of the sterile doctor’s office. Klaus thought that fair enough. That was what you were meant to do, probably, in these sort of situations. Klaus considered faking a few tears for his sake, but couldn’t quite find the energy. Klaus was tired a lot, these days.

 

The doctor then started rambling about treatment options, but Klaus got distracted by one of the many ghosts crowding the room. He hated hospitals. A lot of them, here in the oncology ward, were pale and hairless. He wondered absently if he would lose his hair. He rather liked his hair.

 

“-sir? Do you want me to repeat that?”

 

“What?” asked Klaus, refocusing on the doctor.

 

The man looked at him with sympathetic eyes, and Klaus felt his skin crawl. Stop looking at me like that, he wanted to say, but that would only provoke more pity.

 

“I said, looking at your test results, we don’t expect that the cancer is curable, in your case.”

 

“Oh,” said Klaus. He licked his lips. “Well, that’s unfortunate.”

 

“Yes,” said the doctor, hesitant. “I would still recommend that we start you on chemotherapy. It may help slow the progression and relieve some symptoms.”

 

“Sure,” said Klaus agreeably. Then, “Wait. Will I have to stay here for that? In hospital, I mean? I really don’t like hospitals.”

 

“No. We can give you them in tablet form,” the doctor explained.

 

“Oh. Alright then.”

 

“However, first - I’m sorry, I know this is may seem insensitive, but I have to ask - you see, these drugs are very expensive, and you don’t have health insurance,” said the doctor, grimacing.

 

“Well, that’s where we’re in luck. My very rich father passed away back in March,” Klaus said.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the doctor.

 

“I’m not,” Klaus replied, a sharp laugh bubbling out. His grin was forced. He blamed it on the fact that Ben was still crying.

 

“Um. Right,” the doctor blinked. “Well, I recommend that we start you on chemo straight away. I will also set up an appointment for you to meet your key worker. They will be your first point of contact for me and the rest of your team.”

 

“Team?” questioned Klaus. “That seems a bit excessive.”

 

The doctor gave him a long, serious look. “Your cancer may not be curable, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done. We’re here to make sure that you get the most time you can, and are able to live to the best quality possible.”

 

Klaus coughed. “Sure, sure. So… how long do I have, doc?”

 

The doctor grimaced. “It’s difficult to tell, varies from person to person.”

 

“But if you were a betting man?” Klaus persisted.

 

“Six months. Maybe less.”

 

“Right,” said Klaus. “Is that everything?”





Klaus walked home. It was longer than he would usually walk, but he had been avoiding busses since the whole ‘Nam incident, and didn’t feel like harassing Diego into picking him up. Fortunately, he was intimately familiar with every hospital in the area, so he could walk home with his eyes closed. Ben was curiously silent. Klaus almost asked him what he was thinking, before deciding to be selfish and enjoy the quiet a little longer.

 

When Klaus got home (and wasn’t that a novel concept?), he stood in the hall for a moment. He felt lost, like the ghost he was soon to be. It was funny, he thought, how nothing had changed. Intellectually, he knew that he had only been gone a few hours, but it felt like a lifetime. It had been… significant. Klaus thought that the mansion should reflect that, somehow, like the chandelier that had laid on the floor for the duration of the week leading up to the almost apocalypse.

 

When he got up to his room, he took out the new pills he had received and looked at them for a while. They were small. Innocent looking. He had taken a million pills that had looked just like these. They had all been toxic, in the end. These were just a more socially acceptable version. The leaflet inside was long and dense with tiny script, the list of side effects long and important looking. Klaus tried not to look too closely, letting his eyes skate over them the way he did with the more violent ghosts. He popped his first one, and swallowed it dry. The motion was familiar in a sickening, exciting way. Something in his brain begged him to take another, and he had to remind himself that these weren’t the kind that got you high. Then he tucked the package away where he wouldn’t have to look at it. It felt like contraband.

 

He stood, looked in the mirror. He had thought that dying people looked worse than this. He didn’t look sick, or, not much sicker than he usually did. His bones were a little too prominent, skin slightly sallow, but he didn’t look like a cancer patient. Not yet. He ran a hand through his dark curls. Dave had always like his hair. He pushed the thought down.

 

“Hey Ben, do you think I will still look hot bald?” he asked, glib.

 

“Klaus,” said Ben, voice exasperated and crackly from crying.

 

“You’re right,” Klaus said with false seriousness, “Of course I will.”

 

Ben started crying again.

 

“Shit, don’t do that!” yelped Klaus. “I might not even lose my hair, not everyone does, you know. Sometimes it just thins out a bit, and my hair’s nice and thick, so I can afford to lose a little bit.”

 

“This isn’t about your hair, you idiot!” Ben hiccuped.

 

Idiot? Is that the way you talk to dying people?”

 

“Stop it! Stop acting like this is okay!” cried Ben. “This isn’t okay!”

 

“Alright, okay!” Klaus acquiesced, hands up. Hello. Goodbye.

 

“I don’t want you to die,” said Ben, arms wrapped around himself like he’s physically holding himself together. Klaus hadn’t seen Ben this upset since they were kids. Something pinched uncomfortable in his gut.

 

“I don’t think it sounds like a great time either, bro,” said Klaus. “But hey, it’s not like you won’t see me anymore, right?”

 

Ben shook his head. “It won’t be the same. We won’t be able to talk to the rest of them anymore.”

 

Klaus swallowed, ducking his head. “They survived without me for eleven years. They’ll be alright,” he said. It felt like a lie.

 

“Things were just getting good,” mumbled Ben.

 

“I know.” Klaus slid down to sit on the floor, legs crossed underneath him. There was a bitter taste in his mouth.

 

Ben joined him on the floor. “We were just getting to be a family again.”

 

“Yeah,” Klaus agreed tiredly.

 

Ben eyed him. “You need to tell them, y’know.”

 

“Sure, I will. Just- not yet,” said Klaus.

 

“Then when?” questioned Ben.

 

Klaus shrugged. “When I feel like it, I guess.”

 

“Klaus-” Ben started, reproachful.

 

“Yeah, yeah, spare me the lecture,” Klaus interrupted. “I’m taking a nap.”

 

He lumbered over to the bed, tucking himself under the covers.



When Klaus woke, he felt groggy and a little nauseous. He wondered if that was the chemo kicking in, or just a result of the nap. Still, at Ben’s insistence, he dragged himself out of bed and fixed his eyeliner before going in search of dinner.

 

In the kitchen, he found his siblings gathered eating. Something sour and envious simmered in his stomach, but he tried to ignore it. “Hello, my darlings.”

 

There was a round of greetings from his siblings.

 

“Hello, Klaus!” Grace sang, “There's plenty left over, why don't you take a seat?”

 

“Thanks, mom,” said Klaus, sitting down and pulling out the chair beside him so that Ben could take a seat. No one blinked at his behaviour; now that his siblings believed that Ben was around, they were more accepting of his strange habits. Grace placed a plate in front of him. His stomach rolled slightly at the smell, but he expected that it would only get worse later, so he made himself take a bite.

 

“So where were you today, bro?” asked Diego.

 

Klaus was careful not to let the tension show. “Oh, y'know, around. Did you miss me?”

 

“Nah,” Diego teased, “I was just wondering why the house was so peaceful.”

 

Klaus almost said, don't worry, brother, soon you'll have peace every day, and then his stomach lurched so suddenly that he had to press his palm to his mouth and take deep breaths.

 

“Klaus?” said Vanya, “Are you okay?”

 

When Klaus looked up, he realised that all his siblings were watching him, and plastered on a grin. “Never better!”

 

“Are the cravings bad?” asked Allison.

 

Diego interjected, “Or is it, y'know, flashbacks and shit?”

 

Klaus smiled, and it was genuine this time. Sometimes he was still floored by how things had changed between them. “I'm okay,” said Klaus, more open than he had ever been with his siblings as a child. In that moment, it even felt like the truth.



Two days later, and Klaus woke from his sleep to his name being yelled, and not by the usual ghosts that haunted his nights. This was Ben, and more distantly, Luther.

 

What?” Klaus whined.

 

“Luther’s calling for you,” explained Ben.

 

Klaus gave a wordless grunt, and reluctantly staggered out of bed. He squinted against the midday sun as he made his way downstairs.

 

“Finally!” said Luther, “Someone’s on the phone for you.”

 

Klaus frowned. There weren’t all that many people that knew he was staying at the mansion, and all of them shared his surname. Still, he took the phone and said, “Hello, Klaus speaking.”

 

“Hello! I’m calling from St Mary’s treatment centre to set up an appointment for you to meet your key worker?”

 

“Oh!” said Klaus. He tucked the phone closer to his ear and angled himself away from Luther, who was hovering behind his shoulder. “Sure, sure.”

 

“Are you available on Friday? At half past eleven?” the receptionist inquired.

 

“Uh, yeah, that’s fine,” said Klaus.

 

“Excellent!” she trilled. “See you then!”

 

“Bye,” said Klaus, hanging up. He turned around, expression an attempt at nonchalance. He was much better at acting when he was high.

 

“Who was that?” asked Luther.

 

Klaus froze for a second. Then- “Your mom.”

 

Luther rolled his eyes. “So mature,” he grumbled, stumbling away.

 

Klaus let out a slow breath, leaning against the wall. Maybe Ben was right. Keeping secrets was stressful, and he wasn’t very good at it. Then he imagined their faces when he told them that they would lose a brother, just after getting the others back, and shook his head. Not yet. Not yet.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Friday morning came around fast, and Klaus found himself watching the clock as he poked at his breakfast. His appetite had disappeared, so that even when the nausea abated he found it difficult to eat. He stabbed his waffle, feeling morose. He loved waffles. Yet, here he was, not eating his waffle.

 

“Who pissed in your cereal?” came Diego’s voice as he marched into the room, planting a kiss on Grace’s cheek and reaching for the eggs.

 

“It’s waffles today, actually,” said Klaus.

 

Diego looked at him, dark eyes intense. Klaus tried not to squirm. “You aren’t eating enough. I would have thought things would have settled down more by now. You’ve been sober a few months.”

 

Klaus shrugged. “Guess not.”

 

“Well, try to eat, yeah? You’re already too skinny,” said Diego.

 

“I’m supermodel material, baby. Cocaine skinny is all the rage,” Klaus drawled.

 

Diego rolled his eyes. “Careful, or you’ll end up looking more dead than Ben.”

 

Klaus formed fists, glowing faintly blue so that Ben could say, “Hey, not cool, man!”

 

Diego startled slightly at the appearance of his brother, but quickly grinned. “If anything, it’s a complement. You look great for a dead guy.”

 

Then the blue light fizzled out, and Ben was gone. Klaus watched as his brothers both slumped a little, and felt the hot slick of guilt. “Sorry,” he muttered, “kind of tired today.”

 

They both rushed to reassure him, but he felt bad all the same. If he was struggling to manifest him now, what about in a week, or a month?

 

Klaus glanced at the time, and decided that he could leave now and not be ridiculously early. “Well, mon frère, I must be going,” said Klaus, pushing his still full plate away. He pulled on his jacket where he had slung it over a chair.

 

“Where to?” asked Diego, “I can drive you.”

 

“That’s so kind of you, but not necessary,” said Klaus, with a sweep of his goodbye hand.

 

Diego’s brows pulled up. “You sure, bro? Normally you’d be begging me for a lift.”

 

Klaus smiled and ignored the way his palms were sweating. “Nah, I figured I could do with a little fresh air. Keep me occupied, y’know?”

 

“Okay,” agreed Diego, although his forehead didn’t quite smooth out.

 

Klaus set out, lighting up a cigarette, his one last vice. The sun was glaring off of the pavement, and Klaus wished he owned sunglasses. He had always said, with eyes as pretty as his, it was a sin to cover them up. Now, he didn't feel pretty. He felt like a wreck.

 

“Are you really smoking?” Ben questioned, incredulous. “You have cancer!”

 

“Exactly. I'll die before I get the chance to develop a lung tumour,” Klaus replied smartly.

 

Ben huffed, but let it go.

 

When he met the Specialist Cancer Nurse - or, key worker, as they called her - he was pleasantly surprised. He had expected to find the sickly sweet, motherly kind, but this woman seemed tough as nails. She had no nonsense expression and short cropped hair dyed a sick purple colour, which matched her nails. She introduced herself as Billie. “I'm the one you got to with problems, and I can sort them out for you, either myself or by contacting the rest of your team.”

 

Klaus nodded seriously. “Like my sugar momma.”

 

Billie quirked a grin, her eyes sparkling. “Exactly,” she agreed. “So, she glanced down at the file splayed on her desk, “have you started your chemo?”

 

“Yes, ma'am,” said Klaus dutifully.

 

“Any side effects yet?” she asked.

 

Klaus shrugged. “A little nausea.”

 

“That's very normal,” she said, nodding. Klaus thought that none of this was very normal, actually, but didn't voice this. “So, let's set you up some appointments, shall we?”

 

“Sure,” said Klaus.

 

“We’ll want to see you next week for your first blood count, just to keep an eye on things,” she explained. “Are you available next Friday? Ten thirty? ”

 

“Yeah, that's fine,” said Klaus, not daunted by the thought of needles.

 

“Great,” she said, noting something down. “I'd like to set you up with counselling sessions weekly. What day would be best for you?”

 

Klaus frowned. “Is that, like, mandatory? I don't really see the point.”

 

Billie tilted her head. “I can't force you, but it's recommended. So that you can come to terms with your life ending.”

 

“Eh, I think I'm okay with it. This isn't my first rodeo with the whole dying thing.”

 

Billie snorted. “Okay, saying stuff like that? Not convincing me that you don't need counselling.”

 

“Ugh, fine,” said Klaus, slumping petulantly.

 

“How about Tuesday? Same time?”

 

“Sounds fantastic,” Klaus snorted.

 

“Excellent,” said Billie, soundly ignoring his sarcasm. “This is my number. Any questions, any worrying symptoms, don't hesitate to call.”

 

Klaus gave a sloppy salute, and got the hell out of dodge.

 

The next day was the first time that the chemo made him vomit. Klaus was no stranger to it - in  fact, it wasn’t so long ago that vomiting was practically routine for him - but it was still unpleasant. He spat into the toilet and rested his forehead on his arms, feeling sweaty and dizzy.

 

A knock on the door. “Klaus? You okay?” came Allison’s voice.

 

“Yeah,” he called. “Be out in a second!”

 

“Okay,” said Allison, and he footsteps faded.

 

“Come on, bro,” said Ben, balancing on the rim of the tub. “It’s time to tell them. If you pass out in your own vomit, I won’t be able to roll you on your side.”

 

Klaus sighed. “And people call me dramatic,” he said.

 

“Klaus.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. Soon,” said Klaus, wiping his hands over his face.



When Tuesday came, Klaus had gone back and forth on whether or not to go. The thought of being psychoanalysed made his skin crawl. Besides, he had been subjected to counselling before in rehab, and never found it an enjoyable experience. It tended to bring up memories that he would rather forget, and leave him craving a fix. What if this ruined his sobriety?

 

In the end, it was Ben’s increasingly desperate words that made him go. He sneaked out that morning, hoping to look casual. Five gave him a sly, suspicious look when he passed him on the stairs, but that wasn’t unusual for Five, so Klaus wasn’t too worried.

 

In the waiting room, Klaus chewed his nails. He hated the habit, but it had come back full force since kicking the drugs. It made his hands look scraggly, but he figured it was better than the alternative.

 

“Klaus Hargreeves?”

 

Klaus looked up. A tall, bearded man was looking around the room expectant. Klaus lifted a hand. “That’s me.”

 

“Hi,” the man said, smiling warmly. He nodded towards one of the doors with his head, saying “We’re in here.”

 

Klaus followed obediently.

 

The room was more personal and cosy looking than he had come to expect from therapists. The walls were covered in posters, some cheesy, inspirational quotes, others just picturesque scenes or movie posters. There was no desk, just a coffee table pushed up against the wall, and two squishy chairs facing each other. He took a seat heavily, taking stock of his counsellor as he sat opposite.

 

“So. I’m Jim,” the counsellor introduced himself. “What should I call you?”

 

Klaus thought that was unusual, when he already had Klaus’ file, but said, “Klaus is fine.”

 

“Nice to meet you,” said Jim. “Why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself?”

 

“Oh, y’know,” said Klaus, “just a normal guy.” Ben hadn’t entered the room with him, citing privacy, but Klaus could imagine him rolling his eyes at his answer.

 

Jim raised an eyebrow. “And what exactly is a normal guy?”

 

Klaus shrugged. “Shouldn’t you be the expert on that?”

 

Jim paused for a moment, expression thoughtful. “I’m guessing you don’t like the idea of counselling.”

 

“Just not sure I see the point,” said Klaus.

 

“Why’s that?” asked Jim.

 

Klaus pursed his lips. “I’m dying. Seems a bit late to fix all my crap.”

 

“Well, that isn’t what we do here,” said Jim.

 

“Then why the hell am I here?” asked Klaus, pulling himself upright.

 

“It isn’t about fixing you. Think of it more as… preparing yourself. I won’t lie, this isn’t going to be easy. Dying - especially young - is hard. Not just on you, but on the people who love you,” Jim explained earnestly. “This is an opportunity for you to make sure you know what you want from the time you have left.”

 

Klaus deflated. “God, you’re good at his. Five minutes in, and you’ve already made me question my own beliefs.”

 

Jim gave out a huge belly laugh. Klaus couldn’t help but smile in response. “Why, thank you. So, how about we go again? Tell me a little about who Klaus is.”

 

“Uh,” Klaus mumbled, stalling. “It’s complicated.”

 

“Most people are,” encouraged Jim.

 

“You’ll think I’m lying,” Klaus warned.

 

“Try me,” said Jim.

 

Klaus assessed the other. Fuck it. “I was sold as a baby to a man who tried to shape me and my siblings into superpowered child soldiers. I can see the dead, and I’ve spent most of my life high to drown out their screams. Up until a few months ago, I was homeless, and the only person in my life was my dead brother. I time travelled to 1968, fought in ‘Nam. I fell in love there, and then he died in my arms. Then I came back, and had to stop my sister from causing the apocalypse. And now? Now I have cancer.”

 

To Jim’s credit, his face barely twitched from his neutral expression. If he had recognised Klaus from the Umbrella Academy, he didn’t show it. He took a moment to reply, clearing his throat, before saying, “I see… It sounds like you’ve had a very difficult life.”

 

Klaus laughed, the sound just on the wrong side of hysterical. “Understatement.”

 

“What about now? Where are you at in your life?” prompted Jim.

 

Klaus scratched at his neck. “Well, I’ve moved back home, along with my siblings. My father offed himself, and then the whole saving-the-world thing… we’ve been trying to give the whole family thing another go.”

 

Jim nodded. “How’s that going?”

 

Klaus considered this. “Good. Surprisingly so. We’re still a bunch of dysfunctional assholes, but this is the closest we’ve ever been to siblings.”

 

“That’s great,” said Jim, an encouraging smile lighting up his face.

 

“Yeah. It’s ironic, really. I finally have people who care whether I live or die, and now I’m dying.”

 

Jim leaned forward slightly. “That sounds very upsetting. Have you discussed your condition with anyone yet?”

 

“No,” said Klaus. “My brother Ben knows, but he’s a ghost, so he kind of sees everything.”

 

Jim seemed to take this on face value. “Is he here now?”

 

“Nah, he said that I needed a safe space to express myself privately.”

 

“Sounds like a smart guy,” said Jim.

 

Klaus smiled. “Yeah. I’d be dead ten times over if it wasn’t for him. Even now, I don't know what I'd do without him. It sucks because… without me, he can't really talk to anyone, y'know? It's kind of like he's dying too.”

 

“So how did he take the news?”

 

“Bad. He's freaked out. Wants me to tell our siblings, which makes sense, since he's losing them too.”

 

“That sounds difficult,” said Jim.

 

“Yeah,” said Klaus, glancing away. “Yeah.”

 

As Klaus was leaving, Jim handed him a couple of leaflets - one for a cancer helpline, another for a narcotic anonymous group. Klaus smiled and thanked him, despite having no intention of using them. He suspected that Jim knew it, but the man didn’t call him out on it.

 

Things carried on.

 

It’s funny, that. Even when it feels like the world is ending - even when the world was ending - time continues on.

 

By time Friday rolled around, Klaus had managed to go almost two weeks without letting his secret slip. He had caught a few worried glances between his siblings, mostly at mealtimes, which he still attended to give the illusion of normalcy, despite the fact that he usually only ate a few mouthfuls. Outwardly, he didn’t look too bad, so he figured he was in the clear for a while yet.

 

It took a few tries for the clinician to find a good vein. Years of heroin had caused collapsed veins in the crook of his left arm. His left was a little better though, since he struggled with doping up left handed. The woman taking his blood tactfully made no mention of the scarring there, just pressed the needle in with gentle hands and a gentler smile.

 

The walk home was a quiet affair. The sensation of the needle had left him craving a high, triggering sense memories and making his hands shake. Ben watched him with knowing eyes. Klaus shot him what he hoped what was a reassuring smile. He wasn’t about to spend his last few months with his siblings too high to remember anything. Still, it was hard. He couldn’t even light up a smoke, having found that it made his cough worse, especially when he was walking about. He tucked his army vest a little tighter around his body, and kept walking.

 

By the time he made it home, he was heavy with exhaustion, and resigned himself to a nap. He had been napping a lot recently. He hated the way it was robbing him of the time he had left, but the blanket of fatigue gave him little choice on the matter.

 

When he awoke, it was to Grace calling him for dinner. He had skipped lunch, and was actually feeling a little hungry, so he skipped his way to the table to join his siblings. He dug into his food with a vigour that had been missing for a while.

 

“Nice to see you eating for once,” remarked Diego.

 

Klaus blinked. Apparently he had been a little too obvious. “Well, I’ve got to get my protein to maintain all these muscles,” joked Klaus, flexing his biceps for good measure.

 

“No offence, but I think I have more muscle than you,” said Vanya, mirth in her eyes. The table broke into laughter. Every time Vanya cracked a joke, it felt like a small victory.

 

The conversation moved on, and Klaus thought he was in the clear.

 

And then-

 

“What’s that?” hissed Five.

 

Klaus recoiled slightly at his tone. “What?”

 

In answer, Five reached across the table to and twisted his arm, so that his palm faced up. “That,” he repeated, pointing at the pinprick and slight bruising at the bend of his arm.

 

Klaus swallowed. “Ah. That.”

 

“What the hell, Klaus? You’re using again?” said Luther.

 

“No!”

 

“Don’t lie!” Luther retorted.

 

“Hey, let’s all calm down,” interjected Vanya, the mediator of the family, “and let Klaus explain.”

 

Six pairs of eyes turned to Klaus. “Well, uh,” Klaus blustered, “you see-”

 

“Oh, Jesus,” muttered Five.

 

Klaus closed his eyes, overwhelmed by the urge to confess. He didn’t want accusations and mistrust. He wanted to be comforted. He wanted to be told that everything would be alright. But then he remembered how Ben had been looking at him since the diagnosis, all pain and pity, and his resolve hardened. “I went to get tested. I used to share needles when I was desperate, and I figured I should make sure that I hadn’t… y’know,” said Klaus.

 

There was a short silence.

 

“Sorry,” said Luther, shoulders hunching inward.

 

“It’s fine,” Klaus said.

 

“So, did you get the results?” asked Allison.

 

“Yeah,” said Klaus, and the words tasted like Napalm in his mouth. “Yeah, I’m fine. Perfect health.”

Chapter Text

When Klaus woke up to see hair on his pillow, he made a noise that he felt vaguely ashamed of. His heart was stammering in his chest at the sight. Maybe it was vain, but he had been dreading this. He stumbled across to his mirror, and sighed in relief. It wasn’t noticeable yet. He prayed that it would stay that way. He had looked into the chemo he had been prescribed, and read that it was less likely to cause complete hair loss than most chemotherapy drugs, so there was a decent chance that he would be able to hide this new development. Then again, he had never considered himself a fortunate kind of person.

 

Klaus looked up to Ben, who was watching the scene with mournful eyes. “Time for a shopping trip, don’t you think?”

 

When Diego offered to drive him over breakfast, Klaus agreed this time. There was nothing unusual about Klaus going shopping, right? Anyway, the nearest mall was a long walk, and Klaus was already drooping, despite only just waking up. He was like an old battery, never quite fully charged.

 

They chattered easily in the car. The pair got on well, despite having little in common. Klaus often regretted not making an effort as kids. He thought that if they had been this close back in the academy, Klaus might not have fallen into drugs so hard. Or maybe that would have happened either way.

 

Klaus was surprised when Diego decided to follow him into the mall. Diego wasn’t much interested in shopping unless it was for knives. He wore the same outfit constantly, and cared little for material things. When Klaus questioned him, though, he had shrugged him off. Ben and Klaus shared a glance, both perplexed, but Klaus decided not to push. Instead, he led them to a high end store which he had never been able to afford before. Now, he had his inheritance - Reginald’s estate was split evenly, against the man’s wishes - and he decided to make the most of it. After all, he wouldn’t be taking it with him when he died.

 

He strolled around the store, inspecting the long line of hats (in the women’s section, as the men’s hats were deadly boring). He tried on a large sunhat, liking the way the green matches his eyes.

 

“Hats?” asked Diego.

 

“I have come to the sudden realisation,” Klaus said grandly, “that there is a sad deficit of hats in my life, which I intend to rectify immediately.”

 

“Sure,” said Diego, clearly out of his depth. The only accessories that he was familiar with came in leather.

 

Ben perched on a shelf, an improbable position. “You should tell him. You think they won’t notice the sudden obsession with hats? And what if you lose all of it? They’ll still be able to tell.”

 

Klaus resolutely ignored him, passing the sunhat to Diego and trying a pink beret.

 

When Klaus got home with what Diego had described as an unreasonable amount of hats , he immediately shoved them into his closet. Out of sight, out of mind. He really didn’t want to think of the possibility that he would end up needing them.



 

 

Klaus was back in the counselling room, chewing his thumbnail.

 

“Is there anything specific you had in mind for today?” asked Jim.

 

“Whatever’s fine,” said Klaus. He didn’t know where to start.

 

“Well, we’ve got a couple of options. We could talk about your week, whatever’s been on your mind. Alternatively, we could make a timeline.”

 

“A timeline?” questioned Klaus, brow furrowed.

 

Jim pulled out one of the storage boxes that were piled up in a corner. “We start with one of these,” he said, holding up a sheet of paper, stretching about a meter across. “Then we take these little sticky notes, and create a timeline of significant events.”

 

Klaus couldn’t really see how that would help, but he shrugged and said, “Why not.”

 

“Great,” said Jim, with what Klaus thought was an unnatural amount of enthusiasm. The man folded out a table, and dug out sticky notes of various colours, and some felt tips.

 

Unsure, Klaus picked up a pen, a pretty purple colour, and smoothed down the paper. “Where do I start?” he asked.

 

“There’s no wrong way of doing it. You can go chronologically, or just as things come to you. You can always move the notes around if you forget something,” said Jim.

 

Klaus chewed his lip, feeling ridiculous. Even as a child, he hadn’t messed around with felt tips and colourful paper. Arts and crafts were firmly discouraged in the Hargreaves household. Eventually, he picked up a sticky note in a pale yellow, and wrote, born. He placed it at the far left of the paper. Then, he picked a blue and wrote, bought , placing it alongside the first.

 

“Do you remember anything from before you were- bought?” asked Jim.

 

“No,” said Klaus. “I mean, sometimes… I thought I did. I had this memory of a lady singing. I can’t of, though, because I was really young. I think I just liked the idea that I had a mother who cared enough to sing to me.”

 

“Understandable,” said Jim, voice soft.

 

Klaus looked at those words for a while longer - born, bought - before picking up another blue. Discovered power , he wrote, and placed it along a little from the first two.

 

“How did that happen?” Jim prompted.

 

“I don’t remember too well. I’d always gotten in trouble for imaginary friends, but then one day I was talking to one of the nanny’s, except she had died the day before. My father realised that they weren’t imaginary,” said Klaus. “I was four.”

 

Then he took another sticky note, and wrote, first mission . “It was a bank robbery. Our father sent us in, and then afterwards he announced the Umbrella Academy to the press.”

 

A beat. Klaus waited to see if he would react to the mention of the academy, but instead Jim just asked, “How did you feel about that?”

 

“We were twelve, and we were murderers. My power was more of a distraction than an advantage, but I was still expected to go in and stop the bad guys. I was twelve.” Klaus’ jaw was clenched to the point of pain, so he took a deep breath and let it out slow, the way Dave had taught him.

 

Klaus chose a grey sticky, but didn’t write anything. “You can’t, like, repeat anything I say in here, right?”

 

“Everything you say is strictly confidential,” Jim confirmed. “I would only ever share information if I thought you were a danger to yourself or others.”

 

Klaus nodded, but still didn’t move to write.

 

“Is there a reason that you’re concerned about that?” Jim inquired.

 

Klaus twisted the pen in his grip. “My sister… Vanya. She wrote a book. All the family secrets.” Klaus grinned, a manic thing. “People will forget about privacy if the money is good.”

 

Jim’s expression was sad, but he held Klaus’ gaze when he said, “I swear to you. That isn’t going to happen. Anything you say here is safe with me.”

 

Klaus blew out a long breath. “Thanks, sugar,” he said, though the words felt flat. With slow, careful letters, he spelled out, the mausoleum. He counted to ten in his head. Memories clawed at him, but Klaus was determined to stay present. Jim must have sensed his distress, because he didn’t interrupt, just allowed the silence to stretch out.

 

“The ghosts. They-” Klaus choked. Started again. “They’re terrifying. They’re bloody and hurt and they’re so loud , all the goddamn time. I was scared of them.” The use of past tense was probably misleading, but he pushed on. “My dear dad, he wanted me to get over the fear. So he took me to this- this mausoleum. He locked me in there for hours.” He felt his breathing picking up, and clasped his dog tags, trying to hold on.

 

“Take your time,” said Jim.

 

After his breathing slowed, Klaus said, “There were so many of them, and they were all screaming. It’s worse in the dark. Every few hours, my father would open the door and ask if I was still scared. I lied, and he would leave me there for a few more hours. Rinse and repeat.”

 

Jim said, “It sounds like a very traumatic experience.”

 

“Yeah, you could say that,” said Klaus, a shrill laugh bubbling in his throat. “I missed an entire day in there, and no one even noticed. I never told them either.”

 

“Why’s that?”

 

“I don’t know. I didn’t want to talk about it at the time.”

 

“And now?” asked Jim.

 

Klaus scratched at his wrist. “No. I mean-” he looked away at one of the posters. A wide stretch of open field. He liked it. “I just wish they understood why I did it. The drugs, I mean. It wasn’t for fun . After that, I couldn’t function without something to block out the ghosts.”

 

Jim nodded. “Holding traumatic experiences in is a very common reaction. Sometimes, in the long run, it can make it harder to heal from those experiences. Have you considered discussing it with them?”

 

Klaus gave a wave of his goodbye hand. “Seems a bit late now.”

 

Jim said, “I don’t think it’s ever too late to heal.”

 

 

 

“Hey, Diego,” said Klaus.

 

“Hm?” Diego hummed, distracted by slicing up some veg. He liked to cook every now and then, to give mom a break. He was a sweetheart, and no one dares complain, despite his culinary skills being somewhat lacking.

 

Klaus hesitated. It had been days since he had talked to Jim about the mausoleum incident, but he hadn’t been able to get it off his mind. He had almost broached the subject it at least a dozen times, and his siblings had started to look at him strangely. He supposed it was understandable; Klaus wasn’t known for holding back. Ben had started to get impatient, prodding him with cold hands and telling him to just do it already.

 

Apparently he had paused for too long, because Diego stopped chopping and turned. “You okay, bro?”

 

“Yeah! Yes, I’m fine, just dandy,” he said. Diego crossed his arms and looked at him sternly. He cracked. “Actually, there was something I- I mean, it’s dumb, it’s really nothing-”

 

“Klaus.”

 

“Okay, okay! I just thought, y’know, now we’re doing the whole sharing thing, I should probably bring it up,” started Klaus.

 

Diego seemed to sense the seriousness of the situation. He sat down opposite Klaus, giving him his full attention. “What is it?”

 

“You remember when I started the drugs?” asked Klaus.

 

“Yeah,” replied Diego.

 

“So, a couple of weeks before that, dad had started to get impatient with me. I didn’t want to practice summoning or anything. The ghosts, they freaked me out, with all the blood, and the gore, and the screaming, So dad, he, uh-”

 

Klaus paused, words failing him. Was he doing the right thing, sharing this?

 

Then, Diego reached out and put a hand on Klaus’ shoulder. Klaus looked at it for a second before continuing.

 

“He took me to this mausoleum, and he locked me in.” He heard a sharp intake of breath, but he didn’t stop, afraid that he wouldn’t be able to start again. “He’d come back and ask me if I was still afraid. And then he’d leave me there for another few hours. It was- fuck. It was bad, Diego. They were so loud, and so angry , screaming at me like I was the one who killed them.”

 

“Shit,” said Diego.

 

Klaus swallowed. His mouth was dry. “After that, it was worse. The ghosts, they never left me alone. It got worse in the dark. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. And then I stole some of dad’s whiskey and they just- went away.”

 

Diego’s voice shook. “How d-did we not notice?”

 

“I don’t know. It’s not like we were close back then.”

 

“Still,” said Diego, “I should have seen it.”

 

“I’m not trying to blame you or anything. I just wanted you to know that I didn’t do it for fun, or to rebel against dad, or any of that shit,” said Klaus, itching the back of his neck.

 

“Fuck. I’m sorry,” said Diego. Klaus shook his head, but before he could say anything, Diego gathered him into a bear hug. Klaus startled for a moment - Diego had never been a hugger - before relaxing into it, clinging to his brother like a kid. If he shed a few tears, they were quickly absorbed into Diego’s sweatshirt, and no one mentioned it.


Chapter Text

 

Dave had been on his mind a lot recently.

 

Well, actually, Dave had never left his mind since Klaus had blinked into 1968 and caught his first glimpse of Dave. Recently, however, his thoughts on Dave had taken on a slightly different tone. After realising that no matter how sober he was, Klaus wasn’t able to summon his love, he had developed a miserable kind of acceptance. Whenever he thought of Dave, it was mournful and wishful and painful. Now, though, it had turned to a buzzing sense of anticipation. He knew it was fucked up, to be somewhat excited for his death, but he couldn’t help himself. Whilst half of him was sick with dread, the other half was bright with hope. Would he be able to find Dave again, in the afterlife? He assumed that Dave had moved on to wherever spirits went when they weren’t haunting the earth.

 

He hated thinking about how long it had been for Dave. He knew that Dave had loved him, but 51 years was a long time to wait for someone. He might have forgotten all about Klaus. Klaus knew that he wasn’t giving Dave enough credit, but he felt an anxious twist in his stomach all the same. As he had every day since Dave died, Klaus took a moment to rage against whatever cruel god or devil had decided to let Dave die that day.

 

Then again, what would have happened if they had both made it out of the war? If they had found their little countryside house and their cat and their happy ever after? A few more months of happiness, and then the diagnosis. Maybe it was selfish, but he was glad that Dave wasn’t here to watch the slow, ugly end that was coming for Klaus. Or would Dave be dying too? They had both been exposed to Agent Orange, the whole jungle rotting and toxic around them. Who knows how long they would have had together?

 

He wondered if they could still get their happy ever after, even if it wasn’t in the land of the living.

 

“Hey, Ben,” said Klaus, “when I die, are you going to stick around? Or do you think you’ll… move on, or whatever?”

 

Ben looked vaguely uncomfortable. He never liked talking about his death. “I guess you’re going to move on? To look for Dave?”

 

“Yeah,” said Klaus.

 

“Guess I’ll follow you there, then. The last time I left you alone, you went and fought in Vietnam,” said Ben.

 

Klaus hoped that his relief didn’t show on his face. “Good. Someone needs to stop me doing something stupid.”

 

Ben snorted. “I think you’re setting your expectations a little high there.”

 

“Well,” Klaus amended, “nothing catastrophically dumb.”

 

Ben pursed his lips. “It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it,” he said.

 

“Hey, maybe you and Dave could tag team me,” said Klaus.

 

Ben smirked. “We can make a club.”



Klaus was getting real tired of the chemo, and he had only been on it for three weeks. That morning, Klaus had gotten out the shower and started looking through his closet, but was interrupted.

 

“Klaus,” said Ben.

 

“Yes, darling?”

 

“You, uh,” Ben faltered. Klaus turned to watch his brother. “Your hair… at the back, there’s a bald patch.”

 

With shaking fingers, Klaus felt the back of his skull. There, behind his left ear, a patch of skin. Damn. He had just started to believe that he wasn’t going to lose his hair too significantly, at least not enough that anyone would notice. It had thinned out, sure, collecting in the drain of the shower and the teeth of his comb, but with a little product he had kept it looking okay. Now though, it was going to take more that some extra volume to disguise the effects of the chemo.

 

He felt the sting of tears in his eyes, and hurriedly blinked them away. It was vain of him, but something about the thought of losing his hair made his lungs feel tight in his chest. He knew he was dying, but he wasn’t ready to look like he was dying. It was going to be hard to convince himself that he was okay if he was reminded of the cancer every time he caught his reflection.

 

“Well, brother of mine,” Klaus said, voice crackling, “it’s a good thing we bought those hats, huh?” He pulled out a floppy sun hat, and a striped summer dress that had once belonged to Allison. His outfits were routinely strange enough that he might not be questioned.

 

“God, this is shit,” said Ben. Klaus hummed in agreement.

 

Those weren’t the only side effects bothering Klaus. He had started getting mouth ulcers, and kept finding himself prodding them with his tongue despite how the stung. The nausea had stepped it up a notch, leaving him to vomit up anything he ate. He had started avoiding mealtimes, worried that his siblings would notice how sometimes he had to stop eating to go throw up. He was losing weight, more than he could really afford. He probably looked more like a junkie than he had when he was actually an addict.

 

One morning he braved dinner, only for Luther to blurt out, “Klaus are you, like, anorexic?”

 

“Luther!” chided Allison.

 

“I- what?” said Klaus, a giggle bursting out.

 

“What? We’ve all been thinking it!” said Luther. “You barely seem to eat, and you’ve lost weight, too much weight.”

 

“Guys, I pro-” he broke off, laughing, “I promise that I’m not anorexic. Which is good, because you couldn’t have been more tactless if you tried!”

 

“Luther isn’t exactly known for his subtlety,” said Five.

 

“Alright, alright, I was just asking,” Luther grumbled.

 

As much as the terrible guess had made him laugh, he had ruminate on it for a long while. Luther’s words -   we’ve all been thinking it - were haunting him. Had they been discussing him behind his back? If so, it was only a matter of time before they staged some sort of intervention, which would be unfortunate for Klaus. Maybe he should have just told them that he did have an eating disorder, but the whole reason that he was keeping the cancer a secret was that he didn’t want to worry them, so that probably was a bad idea.

 

As it happened, Klaus fucked up before any sort of family meeting could be planned.

 

He popped a pill out and tucked the rest away, as if not looking at the label meant that it would be some other, better drug. It was routine at this point, and like all routines, he had done it without thought. Unfortunately, that meant he hadn’t thought to close the door.

 

He lifted his palm, opened his mouth.

 

And then his hand was smacked away, pill falling to the floor.

 

“What the fuck?” cried Klaus.

 

“I can’t believe you!” said Diego, grabbing Klaus roughly by the arms.

 

“Wait, Diego, let me-,” he started, but was cut off by Diego dragging him roughly from the room. “Hey!”

 

“Family meeting!” Diego bellowed, wrestling Klaus down the stairs.

 

“Stop!” said Klaus, panicked. “Just let me explain-”

 

“You can explain it when everyone’s here to listen,” said Diego.

 

Klaus tried to elbow his brother in the gut, and got a slight groan for his efforts, but Diego didn’t lose his grip. He heard Luther’s thundering footsteps behind them, and the pop of Five appearing. They were in the parlour by now, and despite knowing it was too late, Klaus was still writhing.

 

“Klaus! If you don’t stop, I’m going to have to tie you down,” growled Diego.

 

Klaus huffed, but stopped struggling. He allowed himself to be pushed down onto one of the sofas, and sunk down like he might disappear if he tried hard enough.

 

When everyone had arrived, Diego announced, “Klaus is using again.”

 

“God damn it,” hissed Five.

 

“No, I’m not!” said Klaus.

 

“I saw you! You had a goddamn pill in your hand!”

 

“Diego,” said Vanya, “yelling isn’t going to help.”

 

Diego let out a long breath. “Sorry. I just- I can’t believe, after everything you went through to get clean…”

 

“How long since you relapsed?” asked Allison, voice gentle.

 

Klaus put is his face in his hands, hunched over on himself. He counted the seconds between breaths, trying to keep his cool. “I haven’t relapsed,” he said, the words muffled.

 

“Klaus, come on. We can’t help you if you aren’t honest with us,” said Vanya.

 

“I don’t need your help!” Klaus exclaimed, standing so suddenly that black spots danced in his vision. Diego pushed him back down.

 

“If you’re clean, what were you taking upstairs?” asked Five, eyes narrowed.

 

Klaus licked his lips. “That’s private.”

 

Diego rolled his eyes, throwing his hands up in frustration.

 

“Why can’t you just trust me, this one time?” Klaus asked.

 

“You haven’t given us many reasons to,” said Luther. Klaus groaned.

 

“Please, Klaus,” said Allison, “just tell us what you’ve been taking.”

 

“I’m sober!” Klaus denied, putting his hands up in surrender, “I swear, I’m clean.”

 

“Klaus-” Five began.

 

“Wait! Ben! Ben, tell them!” Klaus interrupted, hands glowing blue.

 

Ben stepped forward from where he had been observing in the corner. “Yeah, he’s stayed sober,” he confirmed.

 

“Thank you! ” said Klaus.

 

“But he does have-” Ben said. Klaus cut the connection. “...cancer,” he finished, defeated, knowing that only Klaus could hear him.”

 

“Oops!” said Klaus cheerfully.

 

“Does have what?” asked Five.

 

“I don’t know, he’s not here anymore,” Klaus lied, convincing exactly no one. “Can I go now?”

 

His siblings shared glances, trying to determine what to do next. With Ben confirming his sobriety, they didn’t have much to go on. “Fine,” Diego eventually said, “but I wish you’d tell us about what’s going on with you.”

 

“Noted,” said Klaus with a little salute.

 

He got up and stomped back to his bedroom. He new it was a logical conclusion to come to, but he still felt a sense of hurt at their assumption. He picked his pill up from the floor and swallowed it dry.

 

“Klaus,” said Ben, “please-”

 

“Would you shut up?” Klaus snapped. Ben faded from view.

 

Klaus laid down on his bed and closed his eyes. He tugged his hat off, scratched at the hair that was left. He was exhausted, bones aching with fatigue, but it still took him a while to fall asleep.

 

Chapter Text

Klaus was feeling pretty shit.

 

He had woken up that morning feeling extra crappy, head aching and feeling cold and shaky. He had pulled on a huge sweatshirt (Luther’s) and tugged a beanie over his head. Klaus had joined his siblings for breakfast, but it had been tense and quiet. Everyone was tiptoeing around him since the incident last week, watching him as if he was going to break out some heroin and shoot up at the kitchen table. It left Klaus on edge.

 

Therapy was intense that day. Klaus had been talking about ‘Nam, and then found himself in a flashback. When he came back to himself, he was cowering behind his chair, with Jim talking him through a breathing exercise from a safe distance away. That had taken up most of the session, and left Klaus feeling unsettled.

 

When he had gotten home, Grace had make him a cup of tea, and he cracked open a book. He had found a list of Fifty Books to Read Before You Die. He enjoyed the irony, even if Ben had shot him a dark look. Klaus was only three books into the list, and probably didn’t have long enough to finish it, but as Jim liked to remind him, that wasn’t a reason not to try. He was reading Slaughterhouse 5. Despite some of the depictions of war making him clench his jaw, he had found the book surprisingly funny, cracking up at the dry wit of it all, the same morbid humour that soldiers developed to get themselves through.

 

Diego walked in and froze. Things had been particularly awkward between the two of them since the impromptu family meeting. “Hey,” said Diego.

 

“Hi,” said Klaus, too tired for any theatrics.

 

“How’s the book?” asked Diego.

 

“Good. Funny,” said Klaus.

 

Diego nodded, rocking back on his heels. “I just w-wanted to say sorry, for what happened last week,” he apologised.

 

Klaus gave him a melancholic smile. “It’s understandable, really. I would have come to the same conclusion,” said Klaus.

 

“I should have at least given you a chance to explain,” said Diego.

 

“I’d appreciate it if you gave that a try next time,” said Klaus, letting his head fall back to rest against the back of the sofa.

 

“I’ll do my best.”



 

Klaus found himself dozing on the sofa a few hours later. Someone - presumably Diego - had draped a blanket over him, and bookmarked his page. Klaus smiled, and let himself fall back asleep.



Klaus woke.

 

Something was wrong.

 

“-aus. Klaus, please, wake up!”

 

His lungs were on fire. It felt as though they were lined with gasoline, and he had breathed sparks. Each breath was agonising. He panted, breathing shallow, barely enough to move his chest; any more, and he thought he would pass out from the pain.

 

“Thank God! Klaus, what’s happening?” said Ben. It sounded far away, and Klaus couldn’t think enough to come up with a response, let enough get enough air to speak.

 

His hands were tingling and the room spun.

 

Fuck. It hurt.

 

“Klaus, I can get help, but you need to manifest me,” Ben instructed.

 

Klaus tried to focus on the power inside him, but it seemed to be smothered by the ebb and flow of agony in his chest. He mouthed, I can’t, tears slipping from his eyes. He was trying not to panic, but he had never felt anything like this before, and he was scared. He was scared.

 

“Please, Klaus, I can’t help you,” Ben was saying, and he sounded afraid too.

 

Klaus formed fists, trying to find some reserve of energy, but his hands didn’t even spark. It was no use.

 

What if he died here? He imagined his siblings finding his body in the morning, and stifled a sob.

 

“Klaus, you’ve got to get help. Go get someone, please, Klaus.”

 

Klaus steeled himself. It hurt, but pain was an old friend. He could do it. He could.

 

He slowly pushed himself up, room swaying. His legs were shaking so hard that he stumbled slightly, but managed to get to the doorway and prop himself up against the frame. Black was encroaching on his vision, and his lungs were an inferno, but he grit his teeth around a scream and staggered on.

 

Fuck.

 

The stairs. He hadn’t thought about the stairs. There was no way, just no way. He’d come this far for nothing.

 

“Klaus, the phone! Get to the phone!” Ben urged him, watching helplessly.

 

With renewed hope, Klaus dragged his failing body and fumbled the phone. He paused for a moment, forgetting for a moment what he was doing with it, before punching in Diego’s number on muscle memory alone.

 

It rang. It rang.

 

Please.

 

A click. “Hello?” came a groggy voice.

 

Klaus opened his mouth, but the fire licked his insides and the pain stole his breath away.

 

“It’s three in the morning. Speak now or I’m hanging up,” said Diego.

 

“Help,” gasped Klaus, head pressed to the wall as if that might make everything stop spinning.

 

“Klaus?” said Diego, voice urgent.

 

“Downstairs,” said Klaus, just before his legs gave out and he slid down the wall. He let gravity take him, too weak to sit up. The phone dangled from it’s cord.

 

He heard quick footsteps. Oh good, Diego was home. Would have been awkward if he was staying at his place at the gym tonight.

 

“Klaus? You gotta stay away, okay? Diego’s coming,” said Ben. Klaus waved a hand. He wasn’t going to sleep, he just wanted to close his eyes so that he couldn’t see the way the room was rocking.

 

More footsteps, closer now. “Klaus? Klaus! What’s wrong?” said Diego.

 

“Need... hos-... pital,” said Klaus, words broken up by his shallow breaths.

 

“Fuck. Okay, I’ll go get Luther-”

 

“No,” said Klaus, as loudly as he could, which wasn’t very loud. “No one... else. Please.”

 

Diego hesitated, expression conflicted. “Fine,” he said, “Let’s get you to the car.” He wrapped an arm around Klaus and levered him upwards, taking most of his weight. Klaus tried his best to walk, although his feet were clumsy. Klaus whimpered.

 

When Diego deposited him in the passenger seat, and jogged around the car, before speeding away from the academy.

 

“Are you hurt? Did you overdose?” said Diego, eyes flicking between the empty road and his brother, who was pale and clutching his ribs.

 

“No,” said Klaus. He didn’t have enough air to explain any further. Diego seemed to sense that, because he shut up and pushed down on the peddle.

 

He parked haphazardly outside A&E, and helped his brother in through the doors. The waiting room was quiet except for a couple of drunk looking dudes and one elderly woman. He sat Klaus down carefully on one of the plastic chairs and went to the nurse station. Klaus would sigh in relief at being able to sit, but didn’t have the capacity for it. The fire was burning his oxygen, and he had none to spare.

 

Some time may have passed before Diego returned with a woman in scrubs. He sat beside Klaus and put a comforting hand on Klaus’ shoulder. “Hello,” she greeted, clipboard propped on her hip. “Can you explain your symptoms to me?”

 

Klaus thought that if he could breathe enough to talk, he wouldn’t be here in the first place. “Lungs-... hurt,” he whispered.

 

“Are you struggling to breathe?” she asked. Klaus nodded.

 

“Okay. Can you rate the pain on a scale of one to ten?” she asked. He held up nine fingers. She scrawled something down. “Do you have any other medical conditions we need to be made aware of?”

 

Klaus closed his eyes. This isn’t how he wanted things to go. He didn’t want Diego to find out like this. His eyes stung with tears.

 

“Hodgkin… lymph-... phoma,” said Klaus. He felt Diego freeze up beside him, hand on his shoulder tight. “I’m on… chemo.”

 

The woman nodded seriously. “We’ll get you seen to soon, and I’ll notify your key worker, okay?” she said, hurrying away.

 

“Klaus,” said Diego, “w-w-what…”

 

Klaus swallowed. He couldn’t meet his brother’s eyes. He wasn’t ready.

 

“What do you mean, chemo?” choked Diego.

 

Fuck. He sounded… devastated. Klaus didn’t want this. Not like this. “I’m… sorry,” he panted.

 

“No, you… I don’t understand.” A hand on Klaus’ chin titled his face up. Klaus closed his eyes tight, although tears still slipped out. “Klaus.”

 

“Sorry,” said Klaus. “Sorry.”

 

“Stop saying sorry. Just- I don’t understand, just tell me what you meant,” said Diego, his voice so desperate, and Klaus felt something break inside.

 

Klaus let himself just breathe for a moment. It was hard not to hold his breath, when each one felt like another stab. His ears were ringing, and he worried that he might pass out. “Cancer,” he said finally.

 

Silence.

 

Klaus dared to look, and immediately regretted it. Diego’s eyes - huge and expressive, no matter how tough he pretended to be - were swimming with tears, sticking to his eyelashes. Klaus hadn’t seen Diego cry since they were kids. He didn’t want to make Diego cry. With an unsteady hand, Klaus reached out and wiped away the tear that was making its way down Diego’s cheek.

 

“Klaus-”

 

“Klaus Hargreeves?” a professional voice interrupted.

 

Klaus rubbed his palms over his face, before waving a hand.

 

The doctor looked at his chart for a moment. “Okay, we’re sending you straight to x ray, and then we’ll put you in a room before we do any further testing. Before that, we can give you some codeine for the pain-”

 

“No,” Klaus wheezed.

 

“Sorry?” the doctor replied, blinking in surprise.

 

“He’s an ex addict,” Diego interjected, expression and voice back under control.

 

The doctor frowned. “We can start you with a mix of ibuprofen and acetaminophen for now, and see if we can avoid opiates,” he said, looking at Klaus’ pale and tearful form with a dubious expression.

 

The next hour was a blur of pills and x rays and stethoscopes and blood tests. Diego and Ben were by his side throughout, Diego silent and Ben whispering comforting words. The rooms were all crowded with ghosts, but Klaus was so delirious with pain that he could barely hear them.  

 

Eventually, the doctor returned with his results. Diego straightened, eager to hear them. Klaus remained sagging into the mattress. His breathing was a little easier now with the non-opioid painkillers, but it was nowhere near enough.

 

“Looking at the results, it seems you have bacterial pleurisy - inflammation of the lung lining. We’ll need to give you antibiotics through an IV and monitor your lungs, so you’ll to stay in hospital for five days at least, but it should resolve without causing any lasting harm. However…” the doctor paused, looking solemn, “we’ll need to take you off chemo, at least for a while. It seems to have prevented your bone marrow from producing healthy blood cells, which is putting you at risk of opportunistic infection.”

 

Klaus chewed on his lip. “Will it… speed up my time frame, if you know what I mean?”

 

“It may cause the cancer to progress more rapidly, but if we don’t do it, we would be risking you developing some other, potentially fatal infection,” the doctor explained.

 

Klaus tried to swallow the lump in his throat. He just couldn’t catch a fucking break. “Alright then.”

 

The doctor looked apologetic as he left the room.

 

Diego waited for the doctor to leave before speaking. “So you’re sick.”

 

“Dying, actually.”

 

Diego was watching his hands like they were the most interesting thing he had ever seen. “How long left?”

 

Klaus sighed. “A few months? They’re not too sure,” he said.

 

“When did you find out?” Diego asked.

 

“Five weeks ago,” muttered Klaus.

 

A pause.

 

“Fuck!”

 

Diego stood, hands fisted. He clearly wanted to punch something, but didn’t want to break hospital equipment, or his sick brother. He clutched at his short hair, almost shaking with rage. After a moment of this, he stormed out of the hospital room.

 

“Well,” Klaus said into the silence, “that went well.”

 

“He’s just upset,” said Ben, perched on the end of the bed.

 

“He’s upset? I’m the one with cancer!”

 

“Klaus,” said Ben, reproachful.

 

Klaus huffed, and ran his palms down his face. “I know,” he said, voice small.



It was about an hour later that Diego came back, looking small and apologetic. “Hey,” he murmured.

 

“Hello,” said Klaus, tone trying for light.

 

“Sorry. About earlier,” said Diego.

 

“Oh, don't worry about it,” dismissed Klaus, “none of us are known for our healthy coping mechanisms.”

 

Diego shook his head, eyes on the floor. “I made it about me. I don't want to be like that. I want to be here for you,” Diego said, speech carefully controlled, as if he had rehearsed them.

 

Klaus’ throat went tight. Here Diego was, dangling what Klaus had wanted to hear since- well, since he was a child. How unfair, that it was only now at the end that someone was there to support him. “Thanks, bro.”

 

Diego seemed to take that as permission to sit in the chair at Klaus’ bedside. “If you're staying here for a while, I can pick up you up some stuff from home?”

 

“Yes please! Some clothes and maybe my knitting needles? Oh, and I'll need headphones - hospitals are not quiet places for me.”

 

Diego grimaced at that. “That sucks,” he said. “Do you want me to bring the others back with me? I can tell them to wait, if you'd like.”

 

“No!’ yelped Klaus. “No, you can't tell them, Diego.”

 

“What? Klaus, they need to know!”

 

“Please, not yet. Please? I just want things to stay normal. Just a little longer,” Klaus begged.

 

Diego's forehead creased. “Then what do I tell them?”

 

“Don't say anything,” suggested Klaus.

 

“I think they'll notice if you disappear for five days,” said Diego, rolling his eyes.

 

“Will they?” Klaus asked coolly.

 

Diego tensed slightly, hands flexing at his side's. “What do I say if they ask about you?”

 

“Just say you saw me earlier, and that I'm probably just out with Ben. Technically it's true,” said Klaus.

 

Diego assessed him for a moment. “Fine,” he said, “but I'm not keeping it a secret forever. You need to tell them, and soon.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Klaus had never realised how long five days could be.

 

Between the ghosts and the boredom and the pain and the sobriety, Klaus could honestly say that this totally sucked ass. Diego had been the only thing keeping him sane (and Ben, of course, but that goes without saying). He had visited every day, bringing snacks and magazines and gossip. Sometimes they would fall into an awkward, heavy silence, when the conversation skirted the cancer. Klaus couldn’t blame him; this was still very new to Diego. The first time he had come in to see Klaus without his beanie pulled down, he fell silent for a full minute, looking lost. Klaus had put the beanie back on. Other times, they would be laughing and chatting with a familiar ease, like the brothers they were learning to be.

 

On the fourth day of his medically induced imprisonment, Diego entered the room with a look of panic on his face.

 

“What? What is it?” questioned Klaus, his heartbeat speeding up.

 

“They know,” said Diego.

 

“They know?” Klaus echoed, voice high and panicked.  Betrayal hit hard, stomach dropping. How could he?

 

“Wait- not about the cancer!” Diego rushed to explain.

 

“Oh, Christ on a cracker! You scared the shit out of me!”

 

“Sorry! Sorry, I just meant that they know something’s up. They know you haven’t been home in a few days; Five checked the security cameras, the paranoid bastard,” said Diego.

 

Klaus groaned. “Why do people only notice me when I don’t want them to?”

 

“What are you going to tell them?” questioned Diego.

 

“I’ll figure something out,” said Klaus. He could feel the disappointed look that Ben was shooting him, and hissed in his direction.

 

“Is that Ben? Can you…?

 

Klaus clenched his hands, and they glowed faintly blue. Ben appeared as a hazy outline, and said, “Hey, Diego.” The sounds was fuzzy, a bad connection, and then the call dropped.

 

“Sorry,” said Klaus.

 

“No, it’s okay,” Diego reassured him. “I guess it’s getting harder to manifest him, what with…”

 

“Yeah,” Klaus said, “it takes a lot of energy, which I don’t really have right now.”

 

Diego nodded, and Ben was putting on a brave face, but it didn’t stop Klaus feeling a sickening twist of guilt. If it was this bad now, what about next week, next month? Looking at Ben, Klaus realised that Ben had already realised this. It really wasn’t just Klaus that was dying here. He dropped his head back into the pillow, closing his eyes. He knew that the world wasn’t fair, any illusion of justice had been painfully stripped of him by the age of thirteen, but the unfairness of it all still ached.

 

A hand touched his, and Klaus startled, eyes opening wide in alarm.

 

Oh.

 

Diego had reached out and tentatively placed a hand over his, the touch so light that it almost felt like a ghost. Klaus must have stared for too long, because Diego began to withdraw his hand, ears flushing pink. Klaus hastily grabbed Diego’s hand, pulling it back and holding it tight. Diego squeezed back in response. The pair sat for a while like that, both staring at where they were connected, gripping tight enough that their knuckles were pale. Maybe, if Diego kept a firm grip, Klaus wouldn’t slip away.




Klaus was ecstatic when he finally was freed from the hospital. The doctor had let him go, after making Klaus promise to continue taking antibiotics. His lungs were improved, the inflammation mostly gone, but they wanted to make sure that the infection was completely eradicated to avoid a recurrence. He had also been booked in for more bloods. Hopefully, if the results were good, he would go back on chemo. As much as he hated the side effects, the thought of not being on it, of giving his body to the disease, made his palms sweat.

 

Diego had picked him up, packing away the bits and bobs that had amassed in Klaus’ hospital room - books and sweets and several balls of yarn in various colours.

 

In the car, Klaus fussed with the radio - pretending not to see Diego’s glare - until he found a good station, and turned to volume up until David Bowie was blaring from the speakers. Diego rubbed the bridge of his nose, but allowed it when he noticed how brightly Klaus was smiling.

 

Unfortunately, that smile melted from his face when he stepped into the academy and was quickly surrounded by his siblings, who’s expressions ranged from suspicion to pity.

 

“Well, this is quite the welcoming party,” quipped Klaus, failing to shoulder his way through.

 

“Klaus,” said Luther, in full leader mode. “Where have you been?”

 

“Aw, worried, were you?”

 

“Yes,” said Vanya, with such directness the Klaus faltered, just for a second.

 

Plastering a smile on his face, he said, “Well, there was no need.”

 

“Then tell us where you were,” demanded Five, arms crossed and eyes narrowed.

 

“None of your business!” sang Klaus.

 

“Diego?” prompted Allison.

 

Diego put his hands up. “That’s his business,” he said. Klaus shot him a grateful smile.

 

“Can I go now? I need a shower, and then a nap, preferably in that order,” said Klaus.

 

“No,” said Luther. “Not until you tell us.”

 

“Luther-” Diego started, but Klaus put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a halting look. Diego sighed, but dropped the combative stance that he had fallen into.

 

Klaus looked around at his siblings, letting his smile drop slightly. He was going to have to pull out the big guns. “I went to visit Dave’s grave,” he said, voice wobbling slightly at the end for that extra touch of realism. It wasn’t exactly something he had to fake.

 

“Oh, Klaus,” said Allison, sweeping him into a hug. Klaus ducked down to press his face into her shoulder, taking comfort in the embrace, even if it was under false pretences.

 

“Sorry,” said Luther, gently patting Klaus’ shoulder.

 

“Yeah,” said Vanya, “We shouldn’t have pried.”

 

Five said nothing.

 

“It’s okay,” sniffled Klaus. “I just want to go sleep.”

 

His siblings dispersed obligingly, except for Five, who held his ground. When Klaus met his eyes, Five stared back, expression clearly saying, you’re not fooling me. Klaus was the first to break. “Well, my bed is calling. See you later, Five.”

 

“Klaus,” called Five. Klaus paused on the stairs, but didn’t turn. “Take care of yourself,” said Five, sounds uncharacteristically soft. Klaus’ mouth went dry. He walked away.



Klaus was lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling. It was the first time in a while that he hadn’t been able to sleep. It was one of the few positives of being bone tired every day. He shifted, trying to find a position that felt comfortable, but it was futile. His body ached, and he thought wishfully of all the drugs that would make it all fade away. He checked the time: 3 am.

 

With a sigh of defeat, he rolled out of bed. Maybe some warm milk would help? It’s something mom would make for him when his nightmares were bad as a child. He padded downstairs, shivering as the cold floor leeched the warmth from his bare feet.

 

Downstairs, Klaus hesitated and took a detour.

 

When Ben joined him, he was sat on the hard floor, legs crossed underneath him, and staring up at the family portraits. The unsmiling faces stared down at him disapprovingly. He observed the way that the group had shrunk throughout the years, remembering the agony of losing a sibling. If that was then, when they barely knew each other, let alone liked each other, how much would it hurt them now? They would be losing two brothers. He tried to imagine Diego and Luther dying on the same day, and never returning, but he couldn’t quite grasp the enormity of it. Then, he remembered that essentially, that would be happening soon; Ben and Klaus had agreed to move on the the beyond rather than stick around. Would he ever see his siblings again? The idea of permanence was something hard to grasp when you could see the dead, but this was something like it.

 

“Klaus?”

 

“Hey, Ben,” said Klaus, voice tired and low. In his peripheries, he saw Ben sit next to him, mirroring his position.

 

“What are you doing?” asked Ben.

 

The silence drew out for a moment, but it was comfortable; the pair were very familiar with mutual silence. When Klaus spoke, it wasn’t an answer. Instead, he said, “I’m sorry, Ben.”

 

Ben’s eyebrows pulled together. It creased his forehead where, in time, wrinkles would have formed, if he had the chance to grow old and grey. “What for?”

 

“The longer I wait to tell everyone, the chance of you getting to say goodbye gets lower. I can barely manifest you now. If I wait a couple of months, it might be too late,” said Klaus heavily,

 

Ben’s lips parted in surprise. “Klaus, that’s- that isn’t why I’ve been telling you to tell them,” he said.

 

Klaus shuffled so that he was facing him directly, and said, “Why, then?”

 

“Because you all should get a chance to process, and get closure before you die. I’m already dead, Klaus. Sure, it would be nice to say goodbye in person, but I accepted that I couldn’t do that years ago. I don’t want that for you,” explained Ben.

 

Klaus’s breaths had turned shaky. “Oh.”

 

“Don’t worry about me. You need to do what’s best for you, okay?” said Ben.

 

“I love you,” Klaus blurted. It wasn’t something they usually said - they both knew it regardless - but in that moment, he felt the need to make it clear, to put it out into the world.

 

Eyes wide, Ben said, “I love you too.”




Chapter Text

“Jim, Jimmy, Jimbo!” sang Klaus. “I’ve missed you so!”

 

“It’s been two weeks,” said Jim.

 

“Exactly,” said Klaus, beaming as he took his seat.

 

Jim laughed genially. “So, what have I missed?”

 

“Well,” said Klaus, crossing his legs. “I had to go into hospital, because my lungs are shit.”

 

“Is that the medical term?” teased Jim.

 

Klaus adopted an earnest expression. “I don’t have a medical degree, but that’s what I was diagnosed with. Shit lung disease, I believe the official name was.”

 

“How unfortunate,” said Jim. “How did that go?”

 

“Well, I woke up with my lungs hurting. Like, they hurt more than the time I broke my jaw. It sucked. I couldn’t make Ben corporeal, so I had to go to the phone and call my brother, Diego. He drove me to the hospital,” said Klaus.

 

Jim asked, “So did you tell him about the cancer?”

 

“Yeah,” said Klaus. “I mean, I sort of told the nurse, but it was in front of Diego.”

 

“How did he react?”

 

“I won’t lie, Jim, he seemed pretty fucking upset,” said Klaus, a giggle escaping. He wasn’t sure why he laughed, because none of this was remotely funny.

 

“That sounds rough,” said Jim.

 

“Yeah, it was, but… It was kind of nice, after he calmed down. He was with me through all the testing, and he came to visit me every day in the hospital.”

 

Jim nodded. “I’m glad that you have someone to support you.”

 

“Me too,” said Klaus quietly. “Ben’s great, but it’s nice to have someone physically there, y’know? He actually drove me here today.”

 

“And what about the rest of your siblings?”

 

Klaus picked at his chipped nail varnish. “I haven’t told them yet. They’re suspicious, though.”

 

“Are you still adamant about not telling them?” questioned Jim.

 

Klaus shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”



Things had been easier, in a lot of ways, since Diego found out. His brother had gone full mother hen, bringing Klaus hot tea and snacks when he couldn’t find the energy to get up, and volunteering to drive him to and from appointments. He also started organising Klaus’ pills, after a tired Klaus got mixed up on how many he had taken that day. Diego even bought some multivitamins to make up for the missed meals. It was nice, having someone to call when the pain was bad, or when he let himself think about things until he was edging into a panic attack.

 

On the other hand, his other siblings were making up for Diego’s thoughtfulness. They bothered him constantly, quizzing him on his whereabouts whenever he left the house, or showed any symptoms. His diet, appearance, and mood were all topics of debate. On several occasions, he was cornered by one of them, and begged to spill his secrets. It made it increasingly difficult to distract himself from the morbid truth of his situation.

 

Three weeks after his release from hospital, Diego drove him to the hospital for another blood test. He still hadn’t been able to return to chemo yet. As much as he hated the chemo, the thought of the cancer growing uninhibited inside of him made him almost as nauseous as the drugs. He had noticed that morning that the patches of hair loss were filling in with soft, downy fuzz. It didn’t feel like a victory.

 

Diego stayed with him, even when the needle was being pushed in, although he had gone pale and had his eyes trained carefully out the window. He even held Klaus’ hand, despite Klaus having no problems with needles. Getting addicted to heroin was a great cure for needle phobias.

 

The pair met with Klaus’ haematologist the next day. She looked through his test results and said, “Your bloods are much improved. I’m happy for you to start back on your chemotherapy.”

 

“Darn, just as my hair started coming back in,” joked Klaus with forced levity.

 

Diego clearly picked up on it, because when they were driving home, he said, “This is good, right? That they’re treating it?”

 

“Yeah,” Klaus agreed.

 

“Then why are you all- like that,” he said, gesturing vaguely in Klaus’ direction.

 

“Like what? Fabulous? Handsome? Charming?”

 

“Sad,” said Diego.

 

Klaus deflated, dropping the act. “Chemo makes you feel like shit. I haven’t missed it.”

 

Diego chewed the inside of his cheek for a moment, dark eyes thoughtful. “What can I do to help?” he asked.

 

Klaus looked over, smile blooming on his face. “You’re getting good at that.”

 

“What?” asked Diego, eyes flicking between Klaus and the road.

 

“Being a good brother,” said Klaus, voice unusually sincere.

 

Diego’s lips quirked into a small, shy smile. It made Klaus’ grin stretch wider.

 

“Yeah, whatever,” said Diego, but it held no real irritation. Klaus kept on smiling.

 

They entered the mansion, frowning to each other at the sounds of muffled thumps and chatter from upstairs. The pair went up to investigate, Ben following behind, but they stopped dead when they got to the bedrooms.

 

Luther, Allison, and Five were all in Klaus’ room. The furniture was all out of place, rugs rolled up, draws opened. The place was entirely ransacked. His siblings all span around at Diego’s hiss of what the fuck . Luther and Allison both looked guilty, like children found with their hands in the cookie jar, whilst Five was unreadable. Vanya stood in the hallway, looking frustrated, arms folded, clearly apart from the others.

 

“Why, pray tell,” said Klaus, voice tight and controlled, “are you searching my room?”

 

“We- uh,” stammered Luther.

 

“We were worried about you,” said Allison.

 

“And so you decided to invade my privacy?”

 

“You forced our hand when you refused to tell us what was wrong,” said Five.

 

“Do not blame this on me!” Klaus snarled, vibrating with rage.

 

“We’re not,” said Allison, “We just needed to make sure you were okay.”

 

Klaus shifted, hands flailing wildly. “What exactly were you looking for? Drugs? Diamonds? A guy in the closet?” Ironically, he didn’t even have any pills in his room, since Diego had started organising them for him.

 

No one said anything at that. Allison hung her head, but Five lifted his chin stubbornly.

 

“Get out,” said Klaus. “Get out!”

 

“Not until you tell us what’s wrong,” said Five.

 

“Five,” said Diego, tone warning.

 

“Guys, let’s just go,” added Vanya.

 

“No,” said Five, “This had gone on long enough. I’m sick of the sneaking around and weird looks and the pills that you keep lying about. Didn’t we learn anything from the apocalypse?”

 

“I already told you, I’m sober! Ben told you!”

 

“You cut him off half way,” said Luther.

 

Ben said, “I’ll tell them again if you want. I won’t tell them anything else.”

 

“Conjure him again. Let him speak this time,” suggested Allison.

 

“I can’t,” admitted Klaus.

 

“Because you’re high,” accused Five.

 

“No! Because I have cancer, you asshole!”

 

Silence.

 

Fuck.

 

Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.

 

“Klaus,” murmured Diego, all soft and worried.

 

Klaus, the coward he is, stumbled back, ready to run as far from here as he could. He didn’t get far before a familiar pop sounded and the back of his shirt was grabbed. He turned, ready to shove Five off when-

 

“Klaus?” said Five. His voice, usually cold and superior, was thick and wobbly. Suddenly, he sounded every inch the thirteen year old that he looked. “Klaus, what-” his voice cut off, body shuddering.

 

Some forgotten instinct broke through, and Klaus pulled Five close, wrapping his body around the boy’s. “Hey, don’t- don’t cry,” said Klaus.

 

“I don’t understand,” said Vanya, her voice faint.

 

“Cancer?” said Luther.

 

“Why don’t we all go downstairs and sit down to talk,” said Diego. It wasn’t his I’m-the-leader-now voice, it was just their brother, sounding weary and sad.



Downstairs, they sat in tense silence. Were they waiting for Klaus to speak? That didn’t seem right. Klaus had already told them about the cancer; what more was there to say? He wasn’t even sure how he felt. Did he regret telling his siblings? Die he feel relieved? Mostly he just felt numb.

 

Mom sashayed into the room, duster in hand. “Oh, hello, dears,” she said, her voice cheerful and unconcerned. “Can I get you anything? Snacks? A drink?”

 

“How about a hot chocolate? Hm, Klaus?” said Diego, from where he sat at Klaus’ side.

 

“Sure,” said Klaus.

 

“I’ll go make some hot chocolate, then,” she said, hand smoothing Diego’s hair before leaving.

 

Five spoke up. “When you said that you went to visit Dave’s grave...”

 

Klaus swallowed, a look of regret passing over his features. “I was in hospital.”

 

Five nodded slowly. Tears started slipping down Vanya’s cheeks. Silence reigned once more.

 

Mom returned with a tray of mugs. “Here we are, dears!” She had made seven, even though Ben wasn’t visible.

 

Diego passed Klaus’ a mug before grabbing his own. Klaus shot him a thankful look. He didn’t know how he would have managed without Diego here to have his back.

 

“When were you diagnosed?” asked Allison. She was sat up straight and regal, the way she usually did during interviews or at award shows. Klaus knew that it was hiding her nerves.

 

“Uh, a couple of months ago now,” said Klaus.

 

“And you didn’t tell us?” she asked, voice going sharp. Vanya put her hand on her sisters knee and squeezed, and Allison visibly softened. “Sorry. I just-... Why didn’t you tell us?”

 

Klaus looked away, cheeks flushed with shame. He thought up a dozen excuses, before blurting the truth. “I guess I thought that telling you guys would make it real.”

 

Vanya made a pained noise and crossed the space between sofas, ducking down to pull Klaus into a hug. Klaus sucked in a surprised breath, before passing his hot chocolate off to Diego and wrapping his arms around his sister. She overbalanced and fell forward, but Klaus just pulled her closer so that she was half on his lap, face buried in his chest. He felt her tiny frame shake, and ran a hand through the soft locks of her hair. He didn’t say that he would be okay, or that he would stay with her, because he didn’t want her to hear the lie in his voice.

 

“What kind of cancer is it? Are you undergoing treatment?” asked Five, turning practical, as he was wont to do when his emotions threatened to overwhelm him.

 

“I’ve been having chemo, but…”

 

Five voiced the words that Klaus had left unsaid. “Its terminal.”

 

It wasn’t really a question, but Klaus nodded anyway.

 

“God damn it,” whispered Luther, huge shoulders slumping forward.

 

Silence. What else was there to say?



Chapter Text

 

The house had been taken over by a heavy, solemn mood. Even Grace, who had always been a constant source of cheer, could often be found looking at the old family portraits with an absent expression.

 

Someone - Luther, probably - had explained the situation to Pogo. The old chimp had stopped Klaus as they passed in the halls, and said, “I’m so sorry to hear of your illness. If there’s anything I can do…”

 

“Oh, well, thank you,” said Klaus, off balance.

 

“I also wanted to tell you,” Pogo continued, “That I’m very proud of the man you’ve become.”

 

Klaus had been struck speechless, which Pogo seemed to sense, as he just patted Klaus’ arm and started limping away, the sound of his cane echoing.

 

Klaus wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Pogo had never been cruel or malicious, and offered support where he could, but he had also been complicit in his father’s abuse. How many times had Pogo watched passively as Klaus was locked away in that mausoleum? The chimp had seen the torment that Reginald dolled out, and gave the children sad, regretful looks which did nothing to mitigate the trauma. What did his pity do for Klaus? What does the sentiment mean without action? Even when the old man had died, he had continued to gloss over the way Reginald had treated them all, speaking with respect that the man had done nothing to earn. The way he undermined the experiences of him and his siblings made Klaus sick to his stomach. And yet, Pogo was a victim too, wasn’t he? Stuck in this house, obeying his master, with no experience of the outside world.

 

His siblings had taken to talking to Klaus with hushed voices, as if he was dead already. They constantly asked questions about how he was feeling, but they didn’t seem to want an answer, because when Klaus mentioned the pain or nausea or whatever, they always clammed up and looked uncomfortable. He was trying to be patient, allow them to process in their own time or whatever, but it was starting to get on his nerves.




 

 

“Hello, darling!”

 

“Hi, Klaus,” said Jim with an indulgent smile. “How was your week?”

 

“It’s been some bullshit,” said Klaus. “My siblings - you know how they were suspicious of me? - well they searched my room whilst I was out. Like, they have zero concept of privacy! Or trust! Anyway, I got pissed and told them I had cancer in like, the worst way possible.”

 

Jim raised his eyebrows. “Hell of a week, huh?”

 

“You can say that again,” sighed Klaus. “So now everyone is tiptoeing around me like I’m spontaneously die if they talk too loudly. It’s exhausting. I want to go back to last year, when they didn’t care if I lived or died.”

 

“Do you think they really didn’t care?” challenged Jim. “Or were they bad at expressing their worry?”

 

Klaus pouted. He hated when Jim did this, even if he might have a point. “I don’t know,” he hedged.

 

“You also weren’t actively in your siblings lives. If, say, Diego had died, would you have not cared?”

 

“No! That’s different,” said Klaus.

 

“How so?”

 

Klaus hesitated, chewing his lip. He pushed down his usual urge to fill the silence with crap, and allowed himself to think before speaking. “I guess- I always felt like, maybe, I cared about them more than they cared about me?”

 

Jim nodded slowly. “Is there any evidence to support that?”

 

“Well… I don’t know,” said Klaus. There were plenty of instances of his siblings being rude or thoughtless, but Klaus hadn’t exactly been a kind and supportive brother in the past either, usually too caught up with his own shit to think about anyone else.

 

“So do you think that it’s a rational thought, or an irrational thought?” prompted Jim. They had been talking a lot recently about thought processes, incorporating some ‘CBT’, as Jim called it. Klaus wasn’t a fan; analysing thoughts could be a dangerous road. To question thoughts that you’ve always held as true was unsettling, and left Klaus feeling small and stupid. Jim assured Klaus that everyone had irrational thoughts, that it was normal, but it didn’t mean that Klaus enjoyed it.

 

“Irrational, I guess,” Klaus admitted.

 

Jim gave a proud smile. “Good!”

 

“Yeah, yeah.”

 

“So,” said Jim, “Have you put any more thought into whether you wanted to make a bucket list?”

 

“A little,” said Klaus. “The thing is, most of my life I spent doing crazy stuff. By the time I was fourteen, I had already travelled around the world. I’ve gone to wild parties, met all sorts of people. I’ve already done all those things.

 

“In fact, what I really want to do is what I’m already doing: the normal stuff. I want to eat dinner with my family, and bicker without worrying that it’ll turn into a fistfight. I want to paint my nails with my sisters and have movie nights and be a part of something.”

 

Jim had a peculiar expression on his face, which Klaus had come to recognise as his trying not to show how sad he is face. Jim never made anything about himself, which, after growing up with his siblings, was a novel experience. “That makes sense,” said Jim.

 

“Although,” said Klaus, “there is this one thing I want to do before I die.”







Klaus was at dinner with his siblings. He had cooked a Vietnamese dish which he had favoured back in ‘68. Dave had always talked about learning to cook it, once the war ended. It wasn’t quite the same - Klaus suspected that the recipe he found was an Americanised bastardisation - but he did his best, using authentic ingredients from an Asian food store. If his sibling’s reactions were any indication, it tasted pretty good, although he felt that the amount of enthusiasm might be slightly exaggerated. They were trying to be supportive, Klaus knew, but he would rather that they were just genuine.

 

Then, because good things never seem to last, he felt his stomach turn, an acidic taste rising. He stood hastily, chair scraping noisily, and clamped his hand over his mouth. Fuck, he wasn’t going to make it to the sink and-

 

In a flash of blue, he was in a bathroom, toilet in front of him. He bent double, expelling the contents of his stomach. His knees wobbled, and a pair of hands steadies him as Klaus kneeled, holding on to the seat. Klaus retched a few more times, stomach heaving and eyes watering. Distantly, he noted that Five was stood behind him. His brother was stroking a hand along Klaus’ spine in an uncharacteristic expression of tenderness.

 

Klaus spat and took some slow breaths, waiting to see if he was done.

 

A flash of blue and a thwip . Klaus had long enough to think, fair enough, I wouldn’t want to be here either, before Five was back, passing him a cool glass of water.

 

“Thanks,” rasped Klaus, accepting the water. He used it to rinse a couple of times before sitting back and taking small sips, sloshing a little water over the sides when his hands shook too violently.

 

“Is there anything else I can do?” asked Five.

 

“Just gotta wait it out,” said Klaus.

 

To Klaus’ surprise, Five sat down, leaning against the wall. He hadn’t expected him to stay. Maybe he should stop underestimating his brother. The pair sat quietly, Five watching for any indication that Klaus might vomit. Nausea rolled in waves, before stabilising at a low level of queasiness that Klaus had come to expect.

 

“Okay,” said Klaus, “I’m good.” He pushed himself up, clinging to the wall when his vision went spotty.

 

“You sure?”

 

“Yeah. I just need to lie down,” he muttered, stumbling over to the sink to wash his hands and splash water on his face.

 

“Alright. Come on, then,” said Five, herding him out into the hall and up to his room.

 

Five pulled back his duvet, and Klaus flopped in, sighing in contentment. “You gonna tuck me in too?” Klaus teased.

 

“I’ll tuck you into a shallow grave,” said Five, perfectly deadpan.

 

Klaus laughed tiredly. “Maybe next month.”

 

Five snapped, “That’s not funny.”

 

Klaus sobered. “Sorry.”

 

Five looked away, up at the doodles and phrases scrawled on the bedroom walls. “What if- What if I could go back?”

 

“What?”

 

“I could go back in time, fix this.”

 

“Five-” Klaus started, voice gentle.

 

“If you got diagnosed earlier, if I made you go to the doctor sooner-”

 

“Five, stop,” said Klaus. “You can’t.”

 

“No, listen,” said Five, frantic, “I can fix this, I’m getting better at-”

 

“Five.” Klaus reached out and grabbed his hand, watching his brother go still. “Five, you can’t. To go back far enough to make a difference, you’d need to go back to when I was in ‘Nam. If I didn’t fall in love… if Dave hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have gotten sober, and I wouldn’t have been able to conjure Ben. You can’t.”

 

Five clenched his jaw. “Then what about the serum the dad used on Luther? Luther was dying and it fixed him, we can use it on you,” he said.

 

“I’m not a doctor or scientist or whatever,” said Klaus, “but the serum makes cells grow and reproduce super fast, right? With cancer, that’s sort of the whole problem, so…”

 

Five laughed humorlessly. “This is just hilarious. I travel 45 years into the past to save my siblings lives, so that- what, so that you get to suffer for a few months before you kick it?”

 

“You can’t control everything, Five. Some things you just don’t get a choice about it.”

 

“Don’t give me that some things are meant to be bullshit. What, that’s it? You just accept it?” said Five, pulling out of Klaus’ grip and baring his teeth.

 

“What else am I meant to do?” cried Klaus, frustration bubbling over. “I’m dying, Five! I’m dying, and it doesn’t matter that I’m not ready, because that’s not going to stop the cancer from killing me. I’d rather spend the next couple of months living, rather than moping!”

 

Five’s mouth snapped shut. Klaus was sat up, breathing hard. His face felt damp, and he scrubbed his face with his palms to get rid of the tears.

 

“Sorry,” said Five. “I didn’t mean- fuck.”

 

With those parting words, Five flashed blue and disappeared with a pop.

 

Klaus let himself fall back down into his pillow. Tears were still escaping, sliding down his face and soaking his temples. He closed his eyes, and hoped that things would feel easier tomorrow.






Chapter Text

 

Klaus had been biding his time. Ben rarely left Klaus for an extensive amount of time, so when Ben mentioned that he was too busy reading to come to lunch (especially when he couldn’t even eat), Klaus had pounced on the opportunity.

 

“Guys, I need to call a family meeting!” said Klaus over his plate of sandwiches.

 

Luther frowned. “Can’t it wait until after we’ve eaten?” he asked, eyes his food longingly.

 

“No. This is time sensitive,” said Klaus. Luther gave him puppy eyes. “Ugh. You can eat whilst I talk, okay?”

 

Luther took a victorious bite from his sandwich.

 

“What’s this about?” said Five. His voice was bored, but he didn’t meet Klaus’ eyes, an indication that he was still embarrassed from last week when he had gotten upset and yelled. Klaus was totally over it, but couldn’t seem to convince his brother of the fact.

 

“Well, I was talking to Jim about creating a bucket list-”

 

Luther raised his hand. “Who’s Jim?”

 

“My therapist,” said Klaus.

 

“You’re going to therapy?” asked Allison, eyebrows raised.

 

“Yeah,” said Klaus, trying not to get defensive about it, even as his shoulders went rigid.

 

Vanya said, “That’s great!” She was so sincere that Klaus couldn’t help but smile back.

 

“Thanks. Anyways, we’re getting off topic. I didn’t end up making a bucket list, since I’ve already done more crazy stuff than most people ever will, but there is one thing that came to mind. I’d need you all to help, though, I’m not sure I can do it myself, and it would have to be soon.”

 

“Klaus,” said Luther, “Whatever it is, we’ll help. We’re family.” The rest of his siblings nodded in agreement.

 

Klaus found himself getting choked up. “Thanks. Thanks guys.” He cleared his throat. “First of all, you all have to promise me not to tell Ben, okay?”

 

His siblings shared looks of confusion, except for Five, who looked intrigued. “Deal.”

 

Klaus shot him a grateful smile, and Five met his eyes, lips quirked up.

 

“What about the rest of you?”

 

After a bit of silent communication - shrugged shoulders and raised eyebrows - Diego spoke for all of them. “We’re in.”





“What’s happening?” asked Ben, bemused.

 

“You’ll have to wait and see,” said Klaus, grinning mischievously.

 

“No,” said Ben. “You’ve got your plotting face on. I don’t like it.”

 

“Aw, don’t be like that, bro!” Klaus whined, pulling on a pair of flip flops and angling a huge straw hat on his head.

 

“Klaus,” said Ben, all stern and disapproving.

 

“Can’t you just trust me?”

 

Ben snorted. “How dumb do you think I am?”

 

“Touché,” said Klaus, making his way downstairs to where his siblings were waiting in the foyer.

 

“Come on, Klaus, just tell me!”

 

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you that patience is a virtue?” sang Klaus. His family looked up at the sound of his voice, all looking excited, if a bit rumpled - it was earlier than they would usually get up. Allison opened the doors, and everyone began piling into the minivan that they had rented for the occasion.

 

“Hasn’t anyone ever told you not to speak ill of the dead?” sniffed Ben.

 

“At least I say it to your face,” said Klaus. They had left a space for Ben to sit next to him. Ben smiled slightly at the gesture.

 

“Hi, Ben,” said Vanya, turning around to look in Ben’s vague direction.

 

“Hi, Ben!” echoed Allison from the driver’s seat, the rest of the siblings quick to chime in.

 

“Tell them I said hi,” said Ben, smiling shyly. Klaus hadn’t had the energy to make him visible in a while, and he knew that Ben missed being talked to by people who weren’t Klaus.

 

“Ben!” Klaus gasped, grasping his metaphorical pearls. “What an awful thing to say about your family!”

 

“Klaus!” yelled Ben and Diego in perfect synchronisation.

 

“Okay, okay, he said hi back,” said Klaus, folding quickly. “Jeez, you guys are no fun.”

 

Allison started off, Vanya in the passenger seat with a map folded out over her lap, a line of highlighter carefully marking their route. Klaus hadn't taken anything resembling a road trip since his academy days, when their father would haul them across the country or further to fight various foes. Since leaving, he had spent little time in cars. Occasionally, he would shack up with someone to find a bed for the night, and maybe they would call a taxi to go back to theirs. Apart from that, it was mostly just ambulance rides, or on a few occasions being escorted in the back of a police car, and he was usually too high or drunk or unconscious to remember those trips.

 

The radio was playing, although they rarely unanimously decided on a station, bickering when someone wanted to change the station during one of the best songs of all time, Diego, what the fuck. The windows were rolled down, a warm summer breeze pleasant on Klaus’ skin. He was sticking to the leather seat, regretting wearing his tiny cotton shorts every time he had to peel his legs off. He was a little sweaty, and his joints were stiff and aching, but he kept finding himself smiling at nothing in particular.



Klaus was telling a story involving a bet, a Vietnamese stripper, his commanding officer, and three tubs of Vaseline, which had Five honest to god giggling, when he cut off mid sentence.

 

“Klaus?” questioned Allison, voice concerned.

 

Klaus clutched his stomach, turning pale. “Pull over,” he said.

 

“What? I can’t-”

 

Diego, who was sat on his other side, took one look at his brothers ashy face and yelled, “Pull over!”

 

Allison made a questionably legal manoeuvre to pull up on the side of the road, the passengers knocking into each other with the force of it. Klaus was moving before they had even come to a stop, tearing his seat belt off and pushing straight through Ben’s form to open the door. He stumbled out and onto his hands and knees, gravel cutting into him as he wretched violently. His breakfast splattered onto the ground, but he continued heaving for a long time after, spitting up acid, back arching with the force of it. Someone had followed him out, crouching down and rubbing the back of his neck.

 

When Klaus was finally done, an arm wrapped around him, and he was carried back a few paces and placed down so that he could lean back against the car tire. Klaus was thankful, because he wasn’t sure that he could hold himself up right now.

 

Diego’s face swam into view. “That’s it, you’re okay,” he hummed, squeezing Klaus’ ankle.

 

The crunching of gravel announced someones approach. “Here,” said Five, handing Klaus a bottle of water.

 

“Thank you,” said Klaus, eager to rid the sour taste from his mouth. When he was done, Five pulled a packet of unopened gum from his pocket, offering them out to Klaus, who blinked in surprise.

 

Five noticed his befuddlement, and shrugged. “Figured you might need it,” he said.

 

Klaus gave a weak smile, taking a piece with a shaking hand. “Thanks.”

 

“Are you sure you’re up for this? It’s not too late to go back,” said Diego.

 

“A little vomiting never killed anyone,” said Klaus, waving a dismissive hand. Diego and Five shared a look, having some sort of secret conversation that Klaus couldn’t make sense of.

 

Diego sighed. “Ready to get going?” he asked.

 

“I thought you’d never ask!”



After another hour, they stopped for gas and snacks. Klaus picked up a bunch of food, despite the fact that he was likely to bring it back up, and a few magazines too. Allison payed without complaint. That was one the positives of dying; no one wanted to say no to you. It was like it was his birthday, except that his birthday was also all of their birthdays, so maybe that wasn’t the best analogy. Klaus used the bathroom to fix his eyeliner, which was smudged by the heat. He looked pale and angular under the harsh fluorescent lights, and Klaus wished he hadn’t looked. He adjusted his sunhat, and plastered a smile on before he went back to the minivan.

 

“Okay, come on,” said Ben, “this is getting ridiculous.”

 

“You’re ridiculous,” said Klaus, half dozing against Diego’s shoulder.

 

“Excuse you?” said Diego, although his voice held a note of amusement.

 

“Ben is harassing me,” explained Klaus.

 

“You’re being unnecessarily secretive!”

 

“I’m being the perfect amount of secretive, I’ll have you know,” quipped Klaus.

 

“He still hasn’t figured it out, huh?” said Diego.

 

Ben gaped. “Is this some kind of conspiracy?”

 

“Honestly, Ben, don’t be so paranoid,” giggled Klaus.

 

Ben sighed, grumbling to himself under his breath.

 

The car slowed and came to a stop. “We’re here!” announced Allison.

 

Klaus sat up, grinning widely. The siblings shuffled out of the van, stretching their stiff muscles, and collecting several large bags from the boot, except for Klaus, who allowed Luther to carry his bag for him.

 

Klaus turned to Ben. “Close your eyes,” he said.

 

“What?” said Ben, squinting at Klaus.

 

“If you don’t trust me, trust Vanya!” said Klaus, gesturing to where their sister stood, Bambi-eyed and innocent.

 

Ben huffed. “How am I meant to follow you if I can’t see?”

 

“Just follow our voices. It isn’t far. Please?”

 

“Fine,” Ben relented, closing his eyes.

 

“Yes! Okay, guys, let’s go!” said Klaus, keeping up a constant stream of chatter as they walked - although, that wasn’t unusual for Klaus.

 

The group came to a stop, smiling at each other excitedly.

 

“Okay, Ben,” said Klaus softly, “you can open your eyes now.”

 

Cautiously, Ben’s eyes flickered open.

 

“Oh my god,” he whispered.

 

Klaus watched as an expression of childlike wonder lit up his brother’s face. His eyes were sparkling with joy, hands coming up to press against his mouth. “Klaus,” he said.

 

“Yeah?”

 

Reluctantly, Ben tore his eyes away to look at his brother. “You… you took me to the ocean?”

 

Klaus grinned, a strange mix of pride and shyness playing over his face. “Yeah, we did.”

 

Ben let out a noise that was somewhere in between a laugh and a sob. “Oh my god,” he repeated, shaking his head in awe.

 

“Come on,” said Klaus, slipping his flip flops off so that he could feel the sand between his toes. His siblings followed suit, strolling down to where the waves lapped the shore. They stripped, revealing bathing suits hidden under their clothes (except for Luther, who kept his shirt on), and deposited their bags down in a pile. “Last one in the water is a rotten egg!” yelled Klaus, despite knowing that he was easily the slowest of any of them; in fact, just yelling had left him slightly out of breath. Luther and Diego, still competitive, even if it's in a healthier, less deadly way, raced ahead. Five shot Klaus a smirk, and with a blue flash, was stood in the shallow waves.

 

“That's cheating!” said Diego.

 

“He adapted,” said Luther, in a spot on imitation of their father which had all of them cracking up. If someone had told Klaus last year that Luther would be making fun of dear old dad, he would have asked what they were on (and whether he could have some of that).

 

Allison dived in, splashing Diego, who yelped out a supremely unmanly cry. Ben was laughing so hard that he was doubled over, which only served to make Klaus laugh harder.

 

Vanya had stayed by Klaus side as he meandered down to the waterline. “Are you letting me win, sis?” he joked.

 

Vanya smiled. “I'm valiantly taking the fall for you,” she explained, with infinitely more charisma than she had ever possessed on those goddamn pills.

 

“My hero,” Klaus drawled. The pair started wading in to where Ben was stood, gazing out over the water.

 

Klaus shot Vanya an excited look and clenched his first, closing his eyes in an attempt to concentrate. He searched inside himself for that well of power, and tugged-

 

“Holy shit!”

 

Klaus opened his eyes to Ben, who was looking down with amazement to where his wet clothes were sticking to his skin. Been reached down to experimentally dip his hand into the water, cupping it and watching as it escaped through the gap in his fingers. He laughed to himself, a musical sound, and tilted his face towards the sun. Klaus’ thought he saw tears on his cheeks.

 

“Hi, Ben,” said Five, wading forward to touch Ben's arm, the pair looking at the place of contact.

 

“Hi, Five,” said Ben, voice thick. The rest of the siblings were loosely circled around their dead brother, reaching out to touch as if he was a lucky statue. “Thank you all for- for all of this.”

 

Allison smiled. “We wanted to,” she said.

 

“It's so-” Ben cut off, flickering out of existence, as Klaus wavered where he stood.

 

And then-

 

Splash!

 

The siblings whirled around.

 

“Klaus!” Vanya shrieked, thrusting her hands out, and the air rippled as her power reached forward. Klaus, grabbed by invisible hands, was lifted up out of the water, spluttering weakly.

 

Luther launched himself forward, scooping Klaus up before Vanya could lose her grip.

 

Diego was by his side, cupping Klaus’ faces, watching the way his eyes rolled, unfocused, before fixing on Diego. “I'm okay,” Klaus said, barely audible.

 

“Are you okay? What happened? Do you need to go to the hospital?” Luther quizzed, rapid fire.

 

“No, I'm okay,” Klaus wheezed. “Just- it's a lot of energy.”

 

Ben raged next to them, unheard by the other siblings. “You idiot! What were you thinking?”

 

“I don't regret it,” said Klaus.

 

“Let's get you dried off,” said Luther, noting the way Klaus was shivering, even under the warm sun. He started back toward shore and up the grass to where their bags were, carrying Klaus with a concerning ease.

 

He set Klaus down on the sand, and wrapped a fluffy tower around his shoulders. Klaus tugged it tighter around himself, teeth chattering.

 

Klaus turned to his dead brother. “Ben, I’m fine. I didn’t bring you here so that you could look at me,” he said. “Go take a walk down the beach or something.”

 

Ben debated with himself for a moment before agreeing, trudging back down towards the water.

 

“Did he go?” asked Luther.

 

Klaus hummed an affirmative, eyes closing of their own accord, only to fly open when Klaus felt himself being lifted slightly. “Here,” Luther said, depositing him pressed against his side, so that Klaus could lean against Luther’s solid form and leach some warmth from him.

 

“Thanks,” said Klaus, surprised. Luther had never been tactile, especially with Klaus. In fact, the last time they touched might have been that night at the rave. It was nice, thought Klaus, letting him drop his head on Luther’s shoulder. His brother didn’t even complain about Klaus’ wet hair dripping into his shirt.

 

“Hey, Klaus,” said Luther, voice tentative.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“You remember, after Five came back, at that rave? Afterwards, you said something about how-,” Luther paused to clear his throat. “How you had died, but God had sent you back?”

 

Klaus lifted his head so that he could read Luther’s expression. “I remember.”

 

“Do you think that it might happen again this time?” asked Luther, face so hopeful that Klaus felt his heart twist in his chest.

 

“Maybe,” said Klaus, although his tone was sad. “But I don’t think so.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Last time, I think, I wasn’t meant to die. The apocalypse was coming, and I was needed. This feels... more permanent, somehow,” explained Klaus, looking out to where the sun glistened on the water.

 

“But we can still hope, right?” said Luther.

 

“Yeah, big guy,” said Klaus, patting the broad plane of his brother’s shoulder, an empty smile at his lips.

 

Klaus laid his head back down, sagging under the weight of his fatigue. His family were still in the water, splashing and laughing, playing a game of chicken fight. Five was dislodged, and fell into the water as Vanya cheered victoriously, the sounds carrying up the beach. Ben was standing close to them, unseen. Sensing Klaus’ gaze, he turned and waved, the line of his shoulders relaxed and content.

 

When Klaus went to bed that night, that was the image that stuck with him; Ben waving, silhouetted by the sparkling water, looking peaceful under the summer sun.



Chapter Text

“I want you to meet Claire.”

 

“What?” asked Klaus, looking up from the scarf he was knitting for Vanya.

 

“Claire. I want you to come with me during visitation next weekend,” said Allison, sitting next to him and passing him a cup of coffee.

 

“Are you sure?” Klaus asked.

 

Allison frowned. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”

 

Klaus snorted, because really, he could think of a thousand reasons. “Well, I’m not gonna be around much longer,” he said. “I don’t want to upset her.”

 

“I did think about that,” Allison admitted, “but she’s going to be upset either way. She’s grown up hearing all the stories about you guys.”

 

Klaus raised his eyebrows. “You tell her about us?” About me .

 

“Yeah! She always loved hearing about you guys,” said Allison. “I want to give her a chance to meet you, before…”

 

“Well, if you think it’s for the best,” said Klaus, a shy smile lighting up his face, “I’m in.”




 

Klaus’ leg was jiggling. He hadn’t been in a plane since his academy days, and back then it was a private jet. Allison had shelled out for first class, so the seats were wide and comfortable, and his longs legs had space to stretch out. Still, he found himself tense. He was worried that he would throw up in front of a plane full of people, and the anxiety was only making his stomach more unsettled.

 

“Hey, you okay?” asked Allison, laying a hand over his knee.

 

“Yeah,” said Klaus, playing with his dog tags.

 

He closed his eyes. He had been struggling recently to stay awake through the day, taking a nap in the afternoon usually, or two if necessary. He was like an old battery, never fully charging.  There were no ghosts here up here in the sky, so Klaus took the opportunity to get some sleep. Although, if he was being honest, the ghosts had been a lot quieter recently. Klaus was grateful, even if thinking about the cause, that he was too weak to see the dead, made him feel a sick sense of dread.

 

Allison woke him as the plane began to land. The pair waited for everyone else to get off first, as they didn't want to be rushed, and Klaus moved quite slowly these days, aching and breathless as he was. He was taking a mix of ibuprofen and acetaminophen to manage the pain, but they really only took the edge off.

 

The closer they got to meeting Claire, the more nervous Klaus got. By the time they were unloading their luggage from the taxi, he was sweating and his heart was hammering. Klaus had very little experience with kids. Hell, parents usually turned their children away if they passed him on the street. Nothing about him had ever been child friendly, from his drug habit to his powers. Truthfully, children kind of frightened him. They were too soft and fragile, and Klaus too brash and thoughtless. The idea that he might fuck up some kid, the same way that Reggie had fucked up him, made his mouth dry.

 

So, when Allison rang the doorbell, Klaus faced it with the same expression he had worn whilst facing enemy fire.

 

The door opened, and he was promptly bowled over.

 

“Uncle Klaus!” said Claire from where she was wrapped around his waist. Allison had to steady him from behind to prevent him falling back with the force of it.

 

“Hi, Claire,” said Klaus, looking to Allison for guidance. She just smiled, so he carefully put his skinny arms around her tiny frame to hug her back.

 

In the doorway, a cautious look on his face, was Patrick. He recognised the man's face from magazine front covers. He was handsome in a generic way, he supposed, but he wasn't sure what had convinced Allison that he was husband material. He had a instinctive dislike for the man, borne from him taking Claire from his sister. Klaus knew that Allison's treatment of their daughter was borderline abusive, and that Patrick had been trying to protect his daughter, but he found it difficult to be objective. He was determined to be polite, though, now that Patrick was allowing Allison regular visits.

 

Patrick looked Klaus up and down. Doubtless, the man had heard stories of Klaus, the seance, the druggie. He wondered what he saw now, if it matched the image in his head. Klaus was dressed relatively conservatively, both because he wanted Allison's family to see him a normal adult, and because he often found himself too cold for the crop tops and skirts that he once favoured. His beanie hid the sparse hair on his head, and the layers disguised the worst of his body, the jut of his hips and the bumps of his spine, protruding from his skin like they were trying to escape. Still, he knew that his face was skeletal, eyes sunken, skin a ghastly pale, stretched over his cheekbones. He wished he had come earlier, when the cancer was an abstract fact and not written over his body for strangers to see.

 

For all that it should be tense and awkward, Patrick welcomes them into his home pleasantly, not letting any judgement show on his face. Allison gave him a quick hug - they had been trying to become something like friends, for Claire’s sake, even if the process was slow and painful. The house was lovely, but in a way that Klaus hadn’t expected. From Allison’s descriptions, he had imagined something modern and cool and reeking of money, but this wasn’t that. This was… warm. Homely. The walls were lined with family photos, Claire smiling brightly with gaps in her teeth. Claire pulled him forward by the hand. The kitchen was well used looking, with childish drawings on the fridge, and the living room had a few toys that hadn’t been put away. Klaus wondered if these things were recent additions. Ben had appeared at some point, and was studying the house with a quiet intensity. He wondered if he was thinking the same thing: this was nothing like the Hargreeves mansion.

 

Claire was chattering excitedly (“-and mom told me about the time with the Eiffel Tower! That’s so cool! I just started learning French at school. It’s super hard, but I can count to 10 now! You would be Quatre, if you were French. Hey, let me show you, I drew that fight in the bank-”) as she tugged him around, Klaus stumbling beside her and trying to keep up.

 

“Claire, honey, how about we let Klaus sit down first,” said Allison.

 

Claire pouted. Klaus prayed that she wouldn’t start crying.

 

“We talked about this, Claire. Your uncle is very sick, so we need to be considerate,” said Patrick. Klaus felt himself flush.

 

“Sorry,” said Claire, but she looked mostly disgruntled.

 

Klaus smiled. “It’s okay. How about I sit down, and you can bring me some of your drawings to look at.”

 

“Okay!” said Claire, skipping away.

 

Klaus let out a breath as he sat down. Maybe this would go better than he thought.

 

As it turned out, the weekend rushed past before he had time to catch his breath. Claire was generally easy to please, and fascinated by his powers, not even a hint of fear at the thought of ghosts. She often asked about Ben, asking Klaus to relay messages from him so that they could chat. Ben wore a pleased smile for the rest of the day. A few times, Claire asked to do things that Klaus couldn’t manage. She had oodles of energy, wanted to go swimming, practice cartwheels, take a walk on the beach. He hated saying no to her, watching her bright smile fade, but Allison and Patrick were always quick to save him. Instead, they did low energy activities, like painting each others nails and applying face masks. Even Patrick had a face mask done, to Klaus’ surprise. It was clear that he loved Claire a lot, even if his relationship with Allison was still rocky at times.

 

Claire was a sweet kid, surprisingly intuitive for her age. Whenever Klaus got the shivers (despite running a constant low grade fever, he was always cold, especially now as October crept in) she would wrap her favourite pink, fluffy blanket. If Klaus winced in pain, she would offer him her favourite teddy to make him feel better. It was adorable.

 

By the time he was leaving, he had become painfully attached to the kid. He knew that it wasn’t likely that he would see her again, not in this life, and it made it difficult to say goodbye. At the airport, he squeezed her tight and promised to call. She was teary, which made Klaus feel horrible. Before they left for security, she gave him a crayon covered sheet of paper. She was stood in the centre, brown curls sprouting from her head. On her left, stood two figures labelled Mom and Dad. To her right, another two shapes, one stick thin, and the other drawn entirely in blue. Uncle Klows and Uncle Ben, it read. Klaus thanked her profusely, folding it into his bag like the precious cargo it was, and tried to blink his tears away.

 

“Did you have fun?” Allison asked on the flight back, a knowing look on her face.

 

“Yeah,” said Klaus, “I’m glad I came.”

 

“She loves you, y’know,” said Allison.

 

“The feeling’s mutual,” said Klaus.






Klaus had a meeting with his key worker, Billie. Diego had joined him. Despite the rest of his siblings being involved in his treatment somewhat, Diego was still the one who joined him at appointments and monitored his medications. Klaus remembered his first meeting with his key worker, and felt lucky that he didn’t do the whole thing alone.

 

“So,” said Billie, “I’ve been monitoring your progression, and thought that now might be a good time to discuss your care, going forward.”

 

“Okay,” said Klaus, chewing a ragged thumbnail.

 

“You have two main options, in term of end of life care,” said Billie.

 

Klaus noted the way that Diego tensed up, and reached out to take his hand, keeping his eyes on Billie so as to not make Diego embarrassed.

 

“What are the options?” asked Diego, battling to remain calm and controlled.

 

“Basically,” said Billie, producing a couple of leaflets from her desk, “we have hospice care, or at home care.”

 

“Oh, we’ll do at home care,” said Diego, before seeming to realise that it wasn’t his decision. “I mean, if that’s what you want, you know that I’ll be there.”

 

“Are you sure? I mean, you just got your PI license,” said Klaus.

 

“Klaus,” said Diego, exasperated, “Don’t be an idiot. You come first.”

 

Klaus gave his brother a shaky smile. “Then, yeah, I’d prefer to be at home, at, y’know, the end.”

 

Billie nodded. “Of course. In that case, we need to discuss palliative care. We would coordinate community nurses to help with your care, and provide any help you might need.”

 

“Well, our mom is a- a nurse, she has a lot of medical experience,” said Diego.

 

“I see,” said Billie, jotting something down. “In that case, we can play it by ear and see how much outside care you need. Another thing to discuss is pain management.”

 

“I don’t want opiates,” said Klaus, “nothing addictive.”

 

“Bro,” murmured Diego.

 

“C’mon, I just got clean this year,” said Klaus.

 

“An ex addict?” asked Billie, direct but not judgemental.

 

“Yeah,” said Klaus.

 

“Okay. Well, at the end of the day, it’s your choice, but we wouldn’t want you to suffer needlessly. Please think about it,” she said.

 

“You’re already in pain. What you’re on now barely touches it,” implored Diego, voice low. “No one would be disappointed.”

 

Klaus chewed on his lip, tasted iron when it cracked slightly. “I’ll think about it.”

 

“Just let me know what you decide,” said Billie. “Then, there are legal matters. We recommend that you set up a permanent power of attorney, so that someone you trust can make decisions for you if you’re unable.” She pulled out another leaflet, and some paperwork, sliding them across the desk. “As well as finalising your will.”

 

“Right, sure,” said Klaus, chest tight. My will , he thought. Suddenly it all felt very imminent. It felt real. It felt terrifying.



By the time they got home, Diego had to half carry Klaus to bed. Klaus was drooping, exhausted from the small amount of activity. He hated it. Diego was careful when he helped Klaus to take off his shoes and jeans, before ushering him into bed.

 

“Diego?” said Klaus, eyes already closed.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I want you to be my… power of attorney person.”

 

Diego swallowed noisily. “Sure. Of course, bro.”

 

A pause. “Diego?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Can you stay? I don’t want to be alone right now,” Klaus mumbled.

 

“I’m right here,” whispered Diego, sliding in next to Klaus. He tucked an arm around the frail body of his brother. What remained of Klaus’ fluffy curls tickled Diego’s jaw, and his elbow was digging into Diego’s side, but he wouldn’t move for the world.



Chapter Text

“Well, Jim,” said Klaus, “I spent, like, 80% of this week sleeping.”

 

“And the other 20%?”

 

“Hmm…” Klaus drummed his fingers against his knee, an arrhythmic beat. “I tried to write a will, but then I remembered that I don’t really own anything. My inheritance just about covers the hospital bills. The only really important thing I own is my tags,” he said, reaching up to fiddle with his dog tags, “and I want to be buried with those.”

 

Jim asked, “Does that bother you? That you aren’t leaving things behind?”

 

Klaus shrugged. “I just wish I could leave my family with something important.”

 

“You’re leaving them with memories. What else could be more important?”

 

“You sap,” accused Klaus, playful.

 

Jim laughed. “Guilty,” he said. “Anything else happen this week?”

 

“Well, apart from sleeping, uh…”

 

Klaus trailed off for a moment, losing his train of thought. He was just so tired . He couldn’t remember the walk from Diego’s car to Jim’s office being so exhausting. “Right, yeah. I haven’t seen Ben in three days.”

 

“And that’s unusual?” asked Jim.

 

“Usually I see him every day. The longest he’s been gone since the diagnosis is, I don’t know, a few hours?”

 

Jim’s eyebrows drew together. “Hmm. Why do you think that is?”

 

“I don’t see that many ghosts anymore. Ben’s always been different to the rest - even when I was high as a kite, I could see Ben - but maybe I’m too sick,” said Klaus, worrying the skin around his nails.

 

“Okay. Is there anything that helps you summon ghosts?”

 

Klaus blinked. He wasn’t very familiar with trying to see ghosts. “I guess, a few things.”

 

“Then maybe you could give those a try, and if they don’t work… you said you’ll be seeing him soon anyway, right?” said Jim, a toothy grin on his face.

 

Klaus laughed. Wheezed. “True, true. It’s just weird,” he said. His eyes kept closing of their own accord, but he was determined to stay awake. He thought that Jim might have said something, but his brain hadn’t translated the sounds to meaning. “Sorry, what?”

 

Jim seemed to soften himself, his posture open and easy. “Klaus, man, you know I enjoy our meetings, but we’ve talked about this before-”

 

“I knew I was your favourite patient,” said Klaus, an attempt at lifting the suddenly heavy mood.

 

“Klaus. You know that as long as you’re coming here, I’ll be here, but if we’re being honest, I don’t think that this is where you should be,” Jim murmured.

 

“Jim,” Klaus whined.

 

“I know,” said Jim, more candid than Klaus had ever seen him, “but eventually, you’ll have to accept that this is coming to an end either way. You have a limited amount of time and energy, and I don’t think you want to be spending that on therapy appointments.”

 

Klaus sunk down in his chair. “I know. It just feels like, when I stop doing this, that means it’s over. That I don’t have any time left.”

 

“I’m sorry, Klaus.”

 

“I’m not ready, Jim,” said Klaus, eyes damp and shining.

 

“That’s okay. No one really ever is. I know it’s scary, but Klaus, you’ve got people who are going to be by your side the whole time. You won’t be doing it alone,” said Jim.

 

Klaus took a shuddering breath. “So, is this it, then? Our final session?”

 

Jim smiled, a small thing. “If you want it to be.”

 

Klaus swallowed, chewed on his lip. Then, he nodded decisively. “Yes. This is our last session.”

 

“In that case,” said Jim, “I want you to know that I’m really proud of the progress you made, these last few months. I’ll be thinking of you.” He blinked a few times, suspiciously fast.

 

Klaus wiped his eyes. “See you on the other side, brother,” he said, a sloppy salute and a wobbling grin.





That evening, after a long nap, Diego helped him out to the courtyard, where Klaus sat barefoot on the ground, skinny legs crossed, eyes closed tight. He pressed his palms to the dirt, felt the energy in the earth beneath them, and reached out.

 

“-Klaus? I’m right here.”

 

“Ben!” gasped Klaus.

 

“Klaus, you can see me! Man, I was worried,” said Ben.

 

“I’m sorry,” said Klaus, “I think my powers-”

 

“No, don’t apologise,” Ben interrupted.

 

Klaus shivered slightly. Diego wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, shooting him a supportive smile. Klaus nodded his thanks.

 

“I don’t know how long I can keep this up,” admitted Klaus.

 

Ben smiled sadly. “It’s okay. Even if you can’t see me, I’ll be right here.”

 

“I know. I’ll see you soon, okay?” said Klaus.

 

“Don’t rush,” joked Ben.

 

“I won’t,” said Klaus, a shrill giggle rising in his throat. Another shiver ran through him.

 

Diego kneeled down next to Klaus. “Bro, we’ve gotta get you inside. It’s too cold out.”

 

Klaus looked back to Ben, urgent. “Anything you want me to pass on? Might be your last chance.”

 

Ben shrugged, kicked the dirt. “They already know I love them,” he said. “What else is there?”

 

Klaus nodded, letting a slow breath out through his lips. “See you, Ben.”

 

“Bye, Ben,” added Diego, even though he couldn’t see him.

 

“Bye, guys,” said Ben, voice already distant, fading. He flickered - here, gone, here, gone, a spinning coin - and then he was no longer.

 

“He’s gone,” whispered Klaus, clinging onto Diego’s arm to get up. The world started spinning, dark spots bleeding into his vision, but his brother was quick to scoop him up.

 

“I’ve got you,” said Diego, carrying him with ease.

 

“Thanks, bro,” whispered Klaus, letting his head drop against Diego’s shoulder.



Klaus spent most of his time in bed, now. Even when he wasn’t sleeping, which took up most of his day, he only really got out of bed for excursions to the bathroom, or to have dinner at the table if he was having a good day. Klaus felt like he should have been antsy, bored, but he just didn’t have the energy for it. Besides, it wasn’t too bad; Klaus was rarely left alone for more than a few minutes at a time. One of his siblings were often by his side, and if not, Grace would be there, quietly cross stitching, offering to bring him tea, or food if he could stomach it.

 

The last week or so, Klaus had begun eating less and less. It scared him. He knew that he needed to eat if he wanted to stay alive, but it felt like an uphill battle. Still, he tried to force himself to swallow a few mouthfuls down, if nothing else but to assuage his family. He knew it was a bad sign, though, that once you stopped eating, things started to deteriorate fast.

 

Klaus was attempting to read. He was halfway through his list of Fifty Books to Read Before You Die, but he suspected that he wouldn’t manage to complete this book, let alone the list. Despite the book - The Little Prince - being short, and an interesting read, he continuously lost focus halfway through a sentence, or nodded off before the page could be turned. He read in stops and starts, but made little progress.

 

Klaus groaned, and folded the corner over before placing the book down. He was alone for once, but found himself suddenly thirsty. He could go and get some water, he decided. He wasn’t dead yet, after all. He would be fine.  

 

He levered himself out of bed, wincing as his body protested. Every bone in his body seemed to throb and ache, and his head swam as soon as he was upright. He allowed himself a minute to find some equilibrium before he started walking. He made it to the door okay, and fumbled the handle for a moment before making his escape. He was feeling breathless. Was it a result of the pain, or the cancer itself? Either way, it wasn’t helping. He lumbered down the hall, limbs clumsy and shaking, like a zombie. When he came to the stairs, he became doubtful. Maybe he should have just called Diego? It was too late now, Klaus decided, he had committed. One step at a time, he thought. Just like sobriety.

 

He made it almost to the bottom before he fell.

 

Ouch.

 

Klaus’ vision wavered, body screaming. Goddamn stairs.

 

“Klaus? Klaus!”

 

Oh no. Diego.

 

“It’s okay,” Klaus reassured his brother, “I’m fine.”

 

Diego skidded down onto his knees, grasping Klaus with searching hands. “Does anywhere feel broken? I can’t see any blood. What were you thinking? Jesus Christ-”

 

“Diego, I’m fine, really,” said Klaus, batting his hands away.

 

“What the hell, Klaus?” said Diego, standing back up, hackles raised. “What were you thinking, huh?”

 

“I just wanted some water,” muttered Klaus.

 

“Then why didn’t you call for someone?” Diego questioned.

 

“I wanted to do it myself,” said Klaus, petulant.

 

“You can’t do it yourself, Klaus! You’re fucking dying!”

 

Silence.

 

“Shit, wait. I didn’t mean-”

 

“Fuck you,” croaked Klaus.

 

“Klaus, I’m sorry,” said Diego, hands running through his cropped hair.

 

Klaus pushed himself up to standing, mostly out of spite. “No, screw you,” he said wetly.

 

Diego stepped forwards to support him. “Please-”

 

“No!” cried Klaus, shoving Diego with weak hands. Diego stepped back, hands up in surrender.

 

“I was just scared,” whispered Diego.

 

Klaus’ lip quivered. “You think I’m not?”

 

Klaus took a few steps towards the kitchen, Diego hovering behind him. He was going to get himself his goddamn water.

 

Klaus’ knees gave out.

 

Diego was quick to catch him, arms strong and steady. “I’ve got you,” he said.

 

“You- fuck,” sobbed Klaus, chest heaving. “Fuck.”

 

Diego lowered the both of them to the ground, Klaus cradled in his arms. “I know,” he said, voice tight. “I’ve got you.”

 

Diego rocked them gently, and waited for Klaus to cry himself out.





 

Klaus was in bed. Shocker.

 

He had been kind of grumpy for the last couple of days. He was trying not to take it out on his siblings, but he knew that he had been sharper than usual with them. Yesterday, he had admitted defeat and requested a prescription for heavier painkillers. He hated the idea of spending what was left of his life doped up, the same way he had wasted most of his time, but truthfully, the pain was getting to him. His family had all been insistent that he deserved to feel comfortable, that this wasn’t the same as relapsing, but Klaus still felt some hint of shame. Diego was out picking up the prescription now. Klaus knew that he wouldn’t get out of control, that he was too weak to seek out the pills like he would have before. Mom had promised to monitor his intake and ensure that he wasn’t taking extra.

 

The door creaked open, and Klaus wondered who would be babysitting him. Did they have a rota?

 

To his surprise, both Allison and Vanya entered, holding a bag of cosmetics. “You look like you could use a manicure,” Allison declared.

 

Klaus coughed out a laugh. “Damn right, I do.”

 

Vanya smiled shyly before sitting on his bed. “We wanted to do something to cheer you up. We have nail varnish, and make up, and stuff.”

 

“Excellent,” said Klaus. “Who would like the honour of doing my nails?”

 

“Go on, Van,” said Allison.

 

Vanya blinked. “Are you sure? I don’t have much practice.”

 

“I trust you,” said Klaus.

 

Klaus managed to stay awake for most of the makeover, only dozing for a minute during his second coat. By the end of the afternoon, Klaus’ nails were sparkling gold, and his eyeliner was sharp. Vanya’s expression was tentatively pleased, looking at her red lips in the mirror, and Allison was admiring her pedicure.

 

“Wait!” said Allison, “We need to take a photo.” She ran out of the room to her bedroom, retrieving an old Polaroid.

 

The trio crowded onto Klaus’ bed, helping him prop himself up against the bed frame.

 

“Say cheese,” said Allison.

 

“Cheese!” they said in unison, blinded by the flash of the camera.

 

They waited in quiet anticipation for the image to form, watching the hazy shapes reveal themselves like ghosts.

 

“Oh my god,” laughed Klaus, “we look like total dorks. I love it.”

 

Vanya handled the photo with care. “We should frame it.”

 

“I’ll make copies,” Allison decided.

 

When Diego returned with the prescription painkillers, Klaus was feeling much better about the decision to take the drugs. He looked up at his sisters, and said, “I fucking love you guys.”

 

Vanya planted a kiss on his forehead. “I love you, too.”

 

Allison smiled, and no one pointed out that her voice wobbled when she said, “I love you too, Klaus.”



 

The last time that Klaus went downstairs to join his siblings, Luther carried him down to where a nest of blankets had been prepared. Someone had set up a TV and DVD player, and bowls of popcorn littered every available surface.

 

“A movie night!” gasped Klaus.

 

“We have a few options,” said Allison, brandishing a stack of movies. “We’ve got Legally Blonde , the new Star Wars movie, Grease, and Forrest Gump.”

 

“Oh, we should watch the new Star Wars,” said Klaus.

 

“Really?” asked Five, raising an eyebrow.

 

Klaus explained, “Ben has been wanting to watch it.”

 

Surprised, Diego asked, “Ben’s here?”

 

“Oh, I can’t see him or anything, but I’m sure he’s around.”

 

“Star Wars it is, then,” said Vanya.

 

Klaus fell asleep after the first twenty minutes, but curled up, with his head on Luther’s shoulder and his feet in Five’s lap, he didn’t mind so much.



Chapter Text

 

A few days after the movie night, Klaus got worse again.

 

Before, it had been difficult to stay awake, but now he was never sure that he was awake. Instead, he floated.

 

The days were no longer counted by books and barely touched meals, but by impressions, interrupted by periods of deeper sleep. His dreams bled into reality. When he was semi-conscious, he would sometimes catch an image - an outline, a flash of colour - but more and more, it was just sounds. Voices. Music. Occasionally he felt a hand brush through what was left of his hair, and felt himself settle. Sometimes he could put a name to these moments of connection - the stutter of Diego’s words, the crackle of Luther’s vinyl player, the thwip of Five popping in and out. Other times, he wasn’t sure. The small hand in his, was that Vanya, or Mom? A deep laugh. Luther, or Diego? He supposed it didn’t matter too much, since they were all family, whoever they were.

 

One morning (or evening, or night, who could tell?), someone read to him. He thought it was from The Little Prince. The voice read, steady and slow, “- and at night you will look up at the stars. Where I live, everything is so small that I cannot show you where my star is to be found. It is better, like that. My star will be just one of the stars, for you. And so you will love to watch all the stars in the heavens…”

 

Klaus thought that maybe he would finish the book after all, and he was glad that he wouldn't leave it incomplete. The words washed over him, and he fell back into the quiet.

 

-

 

Later, when his awareness crept back, he heard two people talking, one of them feminine, the other sounding young.

 

“-should have seen dad’s face, I thought he was going to explode, and Klaus just smiled and said, ‘ but father, all the other girls are wearing them!’

 

The other voice was laughing. “I can’t believe I missed that. He always was-”

 

Klaus smiled slightly, or would have, if he could find his mouth. He remembered the day that she was talking about. He had just bought his first mini skirt. Reginald had been furious, and it ended with Klaus locked in the mausoleum, but it had been worth it. Klaus thought that it was a pretty good way to be remembered; young and wild and alive, alive, alive.

 

-

 

Someone was crying, thought Klaus. A hiccuping sob was floating through his brain.

 

“I know,” someone was saying, “I know.”

 

“He’s my little brother,” the other cried, voice hitching. “He’s not meant to-”

 

“Shh, I know.”

 

Klaus thought that he should probably say something, comfort them, but he was already drifting back to oblivion.

 

-



Sound, again.

 

“...need to get some sleep.”

 

“I’m gonna stay a little longer.”

 

A sigh. “Diego, you need to look after yourse-”



-



A voice. Whispering, close to his ear.

 

“I hope you find Dave, up there. I hope you get to be happy. You deserve to be-”



-



The waning sound of a violin, crooning, beautiful. The music swelled and crashed like the waves.



-



“-not fair. I don’t want you to go. Please don’t-”

Go where?

-

 

“-don’t be scared. We’re-”



And then nothing more.

 

-



Klaus died at 3:37 in the afternoon, on a sunny day in early November.

 

He had been sleeping for a while, for too long, and they all knew it was coming. That morning, Mom had checked his vitals and warned them that it would be soon, that they should stay if they wanted to be there at the end. Everyone was quick to gather their things and move themselves into Klaus’ room. They had waited, sun moving across the sky, gathered in a close knit circle. Pogo periodically hovered by the doorway, looking mournful. Occasionally someone would bring up a funny memory, and they would smile. Other times, one of them would break, and the rest would gather around them, squeezing each others hands when there were no comforting words left to say. They watched his chest rise, and fall, and rise again.

 

It was 3:37, and Klaus’ chest stopped moving.

 

Then, it was 3:38, and Klaus sat up, looking down at his emaciated body.“Shit,” he said.

 

“Klaus?”

 

“Ben!” yelled Klaus, levering himself - his spirit - off the bed, and into his brother’s arms.

 

“Fuck, I missed you,” said Ben, holding him tight, hands fisted in Klaus’ shirt. Klaus looked down at his hands, noting the way they looked healthy and strong again.

 

The pair were interrupted, then, by Allison’s shaking voice. “Is he-?”

 

Mom stood, and checked his body’s pulse, perfunctory. “He’s dead,” she said.

 

“No,” rasped Five.

 

Klaus watched on, unseen. The need to reach out, to tell them that he was here, was unbearable. How had Ben coped with this?

 

Vanya started crying, almost silently except for the hitching of her breath.

 

“Wait,” said Luther, “Just, give him a minute.”

 

“Luther-” started Diego.

 

“Just wait. He’s died before and come back, right? He might- he could-”

 

“Luther,” Diego repeated.

 

Luther stood, snarled, “Shut up! Shut up, he’s not-”

 

Diego stepped forward, and the siblings tensed, wary, watching. Luther squared up, ready for a fight. Diego’s hands came up-

 

And pulled Luther into a hug.

 

“He’s gone,” he croaked, head leaning onto his taller brother’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, he’s gone. He’s gone.”

 

Luther shattered, sobs wracking his huge body. Diego clung on. “I don’t- I can’t-”

 

“I’ve got you, bro,” said Diego, tears soaking into Luther’s shirt. “I’ve got you.”

 

“They’re going to be okay, y’know,” said Ben, putting a hand on Klaus’ shoulder. “They’ve got each other.”

 

“Yeah,” said Klaus. “I just- I wish I could stay.” Klaus watched with mournful eyes as Vanya pulled Five into a hug, Allison wrapping both of them in her arms. Mom stroked a finger along Klaus’ face - his body’s face - expression distressed, more human than he had ever seen her. Pogo stepped into the room and placed a comforting hand on Grace’s shoulder.

 

“I understand,” said Ben, and Klaus knew that he really did.  “Are you ready?”

 

Klaus took one more look at his siblings, his family, before turning to Ben. “I’m ready.”

 

The brothers reached out, and took each others hands.

 

And then they were gone.



-

 

Klaus woke up. The sky, grey, stretched above him. Underneath him, the tickle of grass. He sat up.

 

“It’s you,” he said.

 

“Hello, again,” She said, bike balanced at her side.

 

Ben pushed himself to his feet, looking at the girl in confusion. “Sorry, but- who are you?”

 

She smiled. “I’m the Creator.”

 

“Oh. Okay,” said Ben faintly.

 

“So, do I get to stay, this time?” asked Klaus.

 

The girl nodded. “I still don’t like you much,” she said, “but it was your time. You can stay. You can find him.”

 

Klaus’ face split into a bright smile. “Dave?”

 

The girl smiled too, a tiny uplift of her lips. “Dave,” she agreed.

 

“How? Where is he?”

 

The girl turned, pointed. There, through the trees, was a house.

 

“Thank you,” said Klaus, more reverent than he’s ever been. Then, he grabbed his brother by the wrist, and ran.

 

He pushed open the door, unable to contain his grin. He wandered through the house, finding it empty, until he got to the back doors. Out on the patio, a cup of coffee in hand, stood a familiar figure.

 

“Dave?” choked Klaus.

 

The figure span, coffee spilling onto his fingers, unnoticed. “Klaus?” asked Dave, voice cracking.

 

They both ran, colliding in a tangle of limbs and laughter, kisses and tears.

 

“My god, I missed you so damn much,” said Dave, pressing kisses to his nose, his jaw, his forehead, his eyelids.

 

“I’m here now,” said Klaus, pulling away just enough to turn around. “This is Ben.”

 

Dave flushed, seemingly only now realising that they weren't alone. Ben looked awkward, but also pleased, almost proud. “Hi,” said Ben.

 

“I’ve heard so much about you,” said Dave. “Nice to finally put a face to the name.”

 

“You too,” said Ben. “You mind me sticking around? I'm kind of attached to this idiot.” He gestured to Klaus, ignoring his brothers indignant hey.

 

“Are you kidding? I've been dying to meet his family,” said Dave, squeezing Klaus’ waist. “Right, Klaus- Babe, what's wrong?”

 

Klaus was crying. Tears were spilling faster than he could wipe them away, dripping off of his chin.

 

“Klaus?” said Ben.

 

Klaus flapped his hello hand. “I'm okay.”

 

“Then why are you crying?” asked Dave, voice soft, wiping away tears with his thumb.

 

“I just… I'm happy.” And when Klaus said it, he found it to be true. Sure, it was hard to say goodbye to his old life, and he already missed his family like a physical hole in his chest, but this was his family too. If it would take a while for the others to join him… well, he couldn't think of a better place to wait.

 

Klaus was dead, but death wasn't the end. Death was just another end in a long string of endings. Death was an end, but also a beginning.

 

Klaus was dead, yet here he was, with his favourite brother and the love of his life, about to begin again.

 

Klaus was dead, and he was going to be okay.