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The distances are far between us

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"Hey."

Klaus groans. 

"Hey. Get up!"

"Five more minutes..." He slurs, lifting his arm to cover his eyes as he's rudely assaulted with bright, bright light. He frowns. He's pretty sure there's no window where he sleeps that can send sunlight directly onto his face...

The light is blissfully cut off. 

"Hey!" He gets told again, this time in an annoyed tone.

He squints his eyes open, and finds the silhouette of Ben leaning over him, blocking out the light from the unusually bright sky.

Except...

Klaus squints again in confusion. Ghosts have never... well, ghosts can't cast shadows. He should be getting assaulted by evil sunlight, right through Ben's head. But he's not. What...

Everything comes back to him in a rush. Vanya. Vanya has powers. Her boyfriend, Leonardo or something. How he was a colossal asshole... how Vanya destroyed the theatre, and... and the moon. Then nothing.

He sighs and lets his arm fall back onto his face. Figures the world would end and everyone would die just as he was starting to feel like he might be able to try again at getting sober.

"So, I'm dead, huh?" He asks Ben, voice muffled by his arm.

"Looks like it," says Ben. "But everyone else is too, so don't worry, I guess?" he says unsurely. 

"Eh," says Klaus. "Yeah, I guess there's nothing that we can really do, is there?" He lifts the arm off his face and starts to push himself up into a sitting position. He's wearing the same thing as he was on the day, but it feels cleaner than it ever had. In fact, he feels cleaner than he has for as long as he can remember. Both his body (thank god, he couldn't remember his last proper shower) and his mind. He's clean.

He supposes it would follow, though. He... technically didn't even have a real body anymore, did he?

"I want to find the others," Says Ben as Klaus manages to stumble to his feet. "I've missed them, and-"

"They've missed you," Klaus grins. Ben grins back.

Klaus looks around. The world is monochrome, but he finds he's not really bothered by that. He's standing in the middle of a street with Ben, the people passing by giving them nothing more than a glance and a polite smile before moving on. Funnily enough, the street looks exactly like the one their mansion was on. Griddy's Doughnuts is even there.

"Yeah," Says Ben, "This is definitely the afterlife. As far as I can tell it's just like the regular world, minus the obvious," He waves his hand, indicating the lack of colour. "I'm pretty sure all the shops and stuff are the same, too..." He trails off.

Klaus and Ben exchange a look.

 

***

 

The bell on the door to Griddy's tinkles just as Ben takes a hearty gulp of his sweetened coffee. Klaus bites heavily into his jam doughnut as footsteps approach and the stool next to where he's sitting at the counter gets pulled up with a screech. 

Klaus glances up, meeting the sullen gaze of Luther head-on. Klaus grins, jam spreading all over his teeth.

"Lughffherr!" He says with a mouthful of doughnut. Luther rolls his eyes.

"Klaus," says Luther, "...we're dead, aren't we?"

Klaus swallows his doughnut and smiles. "I'm afraid so, big guy," he says, lounging back on the stool. He waves his hand vaguely to his right. "Ben's there if you wanna say hi~"

Ben leans forward and waves. "Hi Luther," he smiles. Luther stares.

"Ben..." he chokes. "I..."

They're interrupted when the bell jingles again and another stool is pulled up next to Luther, Allison sitting down heavily on it with a sigh.

"Hi Allison!" Ben waves again, a smirk gracing his features. Allison looks up with a start, her eyes meeting Ben's. They widen. 

"Ben-!" She gasps. She stares for a second, then her eyes turn downcast.

"...So I guess I was right, then," She sighs. "We are dead. We failed." She groans and hides her face in her hands. 

Ben looks on in sympathy as Luther puts an arm around her comfortingly.

"If it makes you guys feel any better," begins Ben, but he's cut off by the bell once again. This time they all twist themselves around to face the newcomer. Diego saunters in, looking considerably pissed off. He yanks the stool next to Ben out of its spot and sits down, scowling.

Before any of them can get a word in, the waitress comes by again to take orders for the three new people. It's even the same waitress as it's always been, her familiar kind eyes and wrinkled face calming the atmosphere a little bit.

Everyone really is dead. Stuck in this weird monochrome imitation of their city and their life.

"What can I get you?" She smiles, glancing over Luther, Allison and Diego. Luther orders three mugs of coffee and a plain glazed doughnut ("Oh don't worry about that sweetheart, refills are free so there's no need for more than one"), Allison orders a black tea and a strawberry-iced, and Diego gets a single mug of coffee after prompting from Klaus. 

"So," sniffs Diego as the waitress retreats to prepare their orders. "Who the fuck saw that one coming?"

Luther sighs and Allison shakes her head. "She destroyed the world," growls Diego. "We have to do something."

"I'm afraid there's nothing we really can do, buddy," yawns Klaus, leaning back again. The bell jingles a final time, Diego and Luther tensing as they hear the door close softly. Allison scrambles out of her seat and turns around to face their nervous looking sister.

"I-" chokes Vanya, her eyes darting between her siblings. They pause briefly at the sight of Ben, widening a fraction. "Buh," She begins, but is cut off when Allison rushes over to embrace her. Vanya closes her eyes and lets out a sniffle, then a sob.

"I'm so sorry," She wails into Allison's shoulder. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry-"

"Shhh," Comforts Allison, rubbing a gentle hand down her back. "It's okay, we know it was an accident."

Diego scowls. 

 

***

 

The six siblings move to the largest table in the small diner, sitting around it with their drinks and doughnuts. Ben orders Vanya a cream-filled, insisting that it would help to calm her down. Now they all sit, staring at her expectantly. She stares at the table.

"Well?" Snarls Diego. "How do you feel, Vanya?" Vanya flinches away, her hands trembling as she grips the edge of the table.

"I..." She whispers. "...I didn't mean it. Leonard, he-"

"Don't want to hear it." Diego snarks in response.

"You asked!" Vanya protests with a frown.

"Hey guys," Says Ben, placing a hand on each of their shoulders. He sighs. "We shouldn't argue. We literally can't do anything about it, and I don't think fighting will solve anything."

Diego sighs, resigned. 

"He's right guys," Says Allison, still staring wide-eyed at Ben. "At least... well, at least we're all here together again."

"No we're not," Says Vanya quietly. They all turn to look at her.

"What?" Says Luther. "What do..." His eyes light up in realisation. "...oh," He says. "Five."

The others stare at each other. Five. The brother who had been gone longer than he had been there.

"Do you think he's here?" Asks Luther, unsure. Diego scoffs. "Of course he's here," He says. "That damn moon chunk destroyed everything; no way he's not dead."

Allison nods. "Even if he wasn't dead before..." they all feel something twinge at the thought. If he wasn't dead, where on earth was he? Why did he just disappear off the face of the planet without saying anything for seventeen whole years?

They had thought for sure he was dead. Maybe he was.

Either way, he was definitely here now. If he wasn't before, he was now.

Luther turned to Klaus. "You can summon ghosts, right?" He asked. Klaus tilted his head thoughtfully. 

"Weeeeelllll," He says, "I've never tried exactly, summoning one before, they've always just, uh, sort of come to me-"

"Wait wait wait," Allison cuts him off. "Do our powers even work still?"

They all turn to look at each other, considering. Allison turns to Diego.

"I heard a rumour that you took a sip of your coffee," She says unsurely, staring him right in the eyes. Diego goes rigid and his eyes flash with some unknown energy, before he picks up his mug and takes a sip. They all stare at each other. 

"...Okay," Says Luther. He grips his hand on the table. When he lets go, there are visible dents in the wood. "That's both of ours. Diego, do you-" He gets interrupted when Diego withdraws a pointy knife from god knows where and throws it at the wall. It curves at the last second, hitting the door to the bathroom instead.

Ben blanches. "I don't think it's a good idea for me to try using mine here, guys," He says. 

"Yeah, you're right." Sighs Allison. 

They all turn to Vanya.

"Uh," She says. "Maybe it's better if I don't-"

"Yeah," Cuts off Diego. "I think it's safe to say that her powers work." He glares at her, and she shrinks back.  

"Okay," Says Klaus. "Our powers work. So, you want me to try summoning the little guy?" Vanya nods. "Are we even ghosts, though?" Continues Klaus. "Or are we just, like, spirits or something? What even counts as a ghost? A dead person? Or a dead person haunting someone or something? Do they have to be in the real world? Because I dunno if-"

"Klaus," Says Vanya softly. "We wont find out if you don't try." She looks down. "I..." She begins shyly. "I miss him. Please try."

Klaus stares at her. "Okay," he says. "There's an easy way to test it out first though," he grins. He jumps up out of his seat and waltzes to the other side of the cafe.

"BEN!" He shouts, thrusting one arm up into the air. "I SUMMON THEE!"

Nothing happens, of course. Ben gives him a deadpan look. "Wait wait wait," says Klaus. He closes his eyes in concentration. He's not high right now, and he can clearly picture Ben and where he is, so maybe...?

Sure enough, there are a few intakes of breath from the table as Ben's form flickers before disappearing and re-materialising at Klaus' side. Klaus opens his eyes to Ben's beaming grin.

"You did it, Klaus!" He says excitedly. Klaus grins easily. "Of course I did, bro!" He exclaims. They high five, before Ben staggers back over to the table and returns to his spot.

He turns to the others. They look at him expectantly. "Alright," he says. "You want me to try it right now?"

The others glance around at each other, before Vanya nods.

 

***

 

Vanya watches Klaus expectantly as he takes a deep breath and shakes himself out. She can't help the bubble of hope that swells up in her chest; she feels awful for it, terrible, but she can't help but feel the tiniest bit glad that her missing brother is now most assuredly dead. Even if she might have killed him. 

It means they can see him again.

She misses him so much, every day. She misses his snarky comments and overconfidence, even when directed at her. She misses sitting with him and working on their schoolwork together, even if he was way ahead of her and ended up tutoring her most of the time. She misses playing her violin for him and the sense of satisfaction she got because she could do something he couldn't. She misses sitting in the library and reading with him and Ben, the only two of her siblings who would let the atmosphere lapse into comfortable silence. At least she's back with one of them now.

She misses him so much it physically hurts her sometimes. She can feel his absence in her soul, and she's sure the others feel the same. 

When Ben died, the same feeling took over their lives once more. The same hollow, gnawing emptiness that consumes you and interrupts your daily life. Though with Ben it was different, because they knew he was dead. He had left a hole that could never be filled, but with that one, they could let it scar over and learn to live with it.

They never knew what happened to Five, and the horrible mystery kept the hole fresher than the one for Ben, though not any less painful.

Vanya wonders what he'll look like. She's only ever been able to picture him as that thirteen-year-old immortalised by the portrait above the fireplace. She supposes it's entirely possible that he might look older. What if he looks so different that they can't even recognise him? 

The thought makes her stomach turn. Will Klaus even be able to summon him if he doesn't know what he looks like?

"Klaus," she says nervously, and he opens one eye to look at her. "What if he's older, or looks different? Will it still work?"

Klaus makes a thoughtful noise. "That's a good point," He says. "Wait a second, let me try something..."

He closes his eyes again, and after a few seconds, Vanya starts to feel vaguely tingly. She blinks, and finds herself stumbling next to Klaus, like Ben had before her. "Yep," grins Klaus. "I just pictured your little girlie face, and it still worked~" He said happily. "I probably just have to know the person, or their name, or something," He says. Vanya nods, relief filling her. She walks hurriedly back to her seat, the others eyeing her briefly before turning back to Klaus.

 

***

 

First things first, try to locate him. Klaus had an inkling it would be much easier to summon him if he knew where he was being summoned from.

Klaus strains. He can sense all the ghosts in this part of the city, then the entire city. Wow, his powers are way easier to use here. He feels like he could go forever. He grunts as he stretches his radar even further. The ghostly imitation of the state, all the states, the whole country, the entire world. He sorts through the spirits and dismisses them en-masse, none of them quite fit the bill, he's sure he would know his brother anywhere-

He starts as he reaches the end of his range. His range is apparently planet-wide, because he's pretty sure that eskimo he just sensed was on the other end of this afterlife-land-thing. He could never previously sense ghosts beyond his immediate vicinity... his powers must just be stronger here as well as easier to use. Like, a lot stronger. He had never even tried sensing for ghosts on purpose before, not like he'd want to. The extra strength and ease was not unexpected, considering.

Nothing.

Confused, he draws his power back in, and works it back out again, this time more slowly. He passes briefly over smaller groups of souls in the city, nothing. The state, nothing. The country, nothing. He breathes in.

"Guys, this will probably take a while..." he murmurs. He hears shifting around him, before drawing his focus back to his search. He sifts through the souls he passes as he spreads out much more carefully. Nothing, as he reaches what he guesses to be Europe, or whatever imitation of Europe this place had. Nothing, as he reaches Africa. Nothing, as he stretches as far as Asia once again, and nothing, still nothing, when he finally reaches Australia, and then New Zealand, and then Antarctica.

Klaus frowns, drawing his power back in again. He opens his eyes to see that his siblings have moved their chairs to surround him in a circle. "Uh," Says Klaus awkwardly. How on earth is he supposed to tell them that their brother's soul doesn't seem to exist? "...Well," he says. "I've worked out that this, uh, place is in the shape of the Earth?" He tries. Luther frowns.

"That's weird," he says. "Way more people have died than can fit on a planet the size of Earth; are you sure that's it?"

Klaus shrugs. How the hell would he know? "I dunno," he says, annoyed. "Maybe there are layers or some shit?"

Luther pinches his chin in his fingers, considering. Diego twirls his knife impatiently.

"But did you find him?" Asks Allison, concerned. 

"No," Klaus bites back reluctantly. "I didn't."

"Well try again then," Says Diego irritably. "Wait a second," Vanya says abruptly, getting out of her seat and walking quickly over to their abandoned table. She picks up Klaus' chair and brings it back over to the circle, placing it in the middle. "Here," She says shyly. "Danke," Klaus grins back. He sits himself on the seat and closes his eyes again. 

He spreads out his power much more slowly this time. He can sense the burning forms of each of his sibling's souls, and other ones nearby brushing at the edge of his senses. He spreads out again, the doughnut lady's soul burning bright close by, and extends his search to the street outside. His radar grows at a steady, but slow pace, and in doing so, he comes to the realisation that the spirit-world or wherever the hell they are is actually much bigger than he initially thought, with way, way more souls than he could feel before. The slower he spreads, the bigger the distance seems; the city feels unlimited, billions of deceased souls residing there from every time period; the whole of the spirit world must have trillions, an infinite number of ghosts, the entire population of Earth several times over. It should be expected that it would feel bigger when he did more than skim the surface this time, he supposes. He also figures it must be like this everywhere, and he has no chance of finding their brother if he tries to go through every soul in the endless afterlife.

He retracts the radar. "Okay," he breathes, and opens his eyes. "It's actually a lot bigger than I thought- I think it's some weird ghost magic or something, but I definitely won't find him if I try to go through everywhere on the damn planet," He says. Luther nods, and Vanya looks nervous. "Keep trying, Klaus," Ben smiles at him. He smiles back, and settles back into his chair. This time, he'll try to straight-up summon him. Like he had done for Vanya. No location required. It might be a bit harder, but it's going to be worth it.

Klaus furrows his brow in concentration as he pictures, as clear as he can, the face of their missing brother. He remembers what he can about him; things that are so Five that his powers cannot possibly fail him. 

The insufferable way he would brag about winning their stair races. The endless scribbling he constantly did in notebooks upon notebooks, any available surface. His smirking face and the condescending tone he would always talk down to them in, always an insult. He never seemed to have anything polite to say.

How he would sometimes teleport into Klaus' room after a night in the mausoleum and just sit with him. How he would treat them all equally, no matter what their number was, even if that equality was usually arrogance. How he would purposefully piss off their father so he wouldn't pay attention to the rest of them. He thought they didn't know, but they did.

Nothing.

Klaus starts to get worried. With Vanya and Ben, he could feel their presence tug at his soul as he pictured them, and knew it had worked. When he pictured Five, and he knew he was picturing him just right thanks to that damn portrait, he felt nothing.

He wasn't there.

Klaus opens his eyes again in a panic. "He's not here," He gasps, and clutches the sides of his head. Ben gets up out of his seat and comes over, placing a comforting hand on his back.

"What do you mean?" Asks Ben, worried. Klaus shakes his head as his other siblings surround them. "He's not here," gasps Klaus again. "I can't feel him, he's not here,"

Allison and Diego exchange a concerned look.

"Th-that's not possible," stutters Vanya. "He's dead, right? He has to be dead, everyone's dead-"

"Did you think hard enough?" Demands Luther, looking lost. "Shut up," snarls Diego. "Klaus," He continues. "Are you sure? Maybe he's just too far away?"

"N-no," Klaus stutters, "I'm way stronger here, I would be able to find him, I know it-"

"Hey, no pressure," frowns Allison, wringing her hands in her lap. "He's probably just warping around or something, making it hard for you to pinpoint?" She tries weakly, not even sounding sure of herself. Klaus shakes his head. 

"No," he says again. "I didn't have to know where Vanya was, she just came to me," he explains. "I can't find him." He whispers.

The siblings sit in silence.

When Five disappeared, he did a damn good job of erasing himself completely and utterly. Especially if he was undiscoverable in the afterlife, when Klaus of all people was actively looking for him.

"What happened to him?" Whispers Vanya, her voice trembling. Klaus puts his head in his hands.

"I don't know," he replies in a small voice. 

"We'll find him," Allison says, determined. She turns to Vanya and smiles. "He can't get away from us that easily!" Vanya sends a weak smile back. "Yeah," She agrees, perking up a little bit.

"Okay," Says Luther, turning to Klaus. "Klaus, ready for round two?"

"You know it!" Grins Klaus. Nothing would stop them from all being reunited as a family, finally, after years of absence that ate at them and ate at them and ate at them. 

 

***

 

Up on the material plain, on the remains of a burning street, a peculiar sound echoed around the fiery destruction. If anyone were left alive on the planet and happened to be watching, they would see what appeared to be a tear in reality itself, an odd blue glow surrounding it. It was only present for a split second however, before a boy, around thirteen years old, came strolling smugly out of it and it disappeared as if it were never there. He took a step forward before his expression morphed into one of confusion; he stood in place, turning around, taking in his surroundings with a face quickly morphing to one of terror.

The Apocalypse.

He ran; he ran back the way he had come, through a snowstorm and through brilliant sunlight, back to the where the gates of his home should be standing with those stupid umbrella insignias, but it wasn't. It was completely destroyed, and the boy collapsed to his knees in front of it in a swirling mix of disbelief and horror.

"Vanya! Ben!"

He never found them.

And even though they looked as hard as they could, dedicated years of their afterlife to finding the brother that had been absent for much too long, they never found him either.