Vanya Hargreeves didn't have a lot to pride herself on. Sure she had her talent for the violin, and her talent of being forgotten. But, unique to her, she was able to claim the title for most knowledge about the Umbrella Academy's weird and tortured children.
She had always been in the background of her own life, from the time she sat by and watched all of her sibling discover a strange power that conclusively divided them from the rest of the human race, immediately creating a veil between their world and the rest of the world. But she had nothing extraordinary about her.
Being a background character in a life that only featured the daring escapades of The Umbrella Academy meant a few things; She was doomed to be forgotten and dismissed forever and she had to record everything that her greatly talented siblings did. She wrote down how much weight Luther lifted every day and knew exactly when his knees would start to shake and threaten to collapse under him, bringing pounds and pounds of metal and wood down on top of him. She would describe how his face would tremble and he would nearly cry from exhaustion or frustration, or both. She scribbled down every target Diego hit with his knives and his bullets and how quickly he could destroy a group of wooden men until his hands were raw and bleeding and he collapsed on the ground. She recorded every rumor Allison threw out and described how the air seemed to thicken while reality itself began to bend events to fit a child's will. The was the air would shimmer and the rumor would spread like ripples in a pond until reaching the ears of some criminal, and they would lose all control of themselves, any sense of themselves ripped away as their reality was altered for them. How Allison played god. She dictated every time Klaus screamed at air with his hands shaking and his knees knocking. She charted every jump Five made and the way the room would shift, sucking all the air away from her lungs until a blue shimmer and a satisfying pop took the Boy to another location. The lingering effects of spacial jumps that left an echoing hole in the area, the clear absense of something supposed to be present. She cataloged Ben's Horror and the way it moved, shifted with her brother, tugged at his insides, and every time he wrapped his arms around his stomach to keep the monsters at bay. How it pushed and fought and clawed to escape him when he was angry or upset and how every time he sacrificed his own sanity for the safety of those around him. She logged how they interracted with each other; Luther and Allison clinging to each other and talking in hushed whispers while retreating upstairs to a locked door. Diego following Mom around like a lost puppy, though she was his only help with his stutter. The way Five dissapeared to his books and equations, intent on figuring out time travel. The was Klaus trailed after Ben no matter what the other boy was doing, a stubborn leech on the side of an animal.
She envied them. Despite their pain and the torture of their father's endless work, she envied them. They had each other. Her only solace was Four. Klaus.
He was like her at first, powerless, useless. He would chatter on at the air and carry on single-sided conversations with dark corners of rooms. She was almost certain he was crazy. Her father was no doubt arriving at the same conclusion.
But still, despite the possible insanity on his side, she felt a deep and emotional connection to Klaus. He was just like her. A nothing in the eyes of their father, and no powers. Vanya knew that she had been made useful, a note taker, but Klaus didn't have a job. He was still expected to learn to fight and defend himself, which he wasn't any good at. He was still expected to do just as much as his other siblings despite having nothing on them. He was skinny and tall and loud and wonderful. Klaus had a way of being that was surreal to Vanya. Almost certainly to anyone else alive. He was just so Alive. So pure and beautiful and young. Vanya had thought many times that she was just watching because she was told to, to take notes. But she began to decide it was because she was jealous of him that she watched Number Four so closely. He was so carefree, despite their father's cruelty, and he was beautiful. He could make her laugh like no one else, though she didn't laugh much, and he was constantly clinging to one sibling or another just to talk and talk and talk and talk. She loved him for it.
Despite such life rushing through him, there was something extremely off putting about Klaus. He was thin, with bones well defined under taught skin and long limbs that flailed around him dramatically. His skin itself was extremely pale, and under the right lighting Vanya would have described it as translucent. It seemed sickly, pale, yellow, sometimes it appeared as if it was peeling or decaying. She imagined peering past it into his body and seeing his muscles and bones and organs, all on display. His very insides exposed to the world as if some sick joke that his body is clear as day. He had long, slender hands with bony fingers that frightened her when he would grab her unexpectedly. They resembled a dead man's hands. He always had bags under his eyes and was constantly cold. Freezing to the touch. But perhaps the thing that frightened her the most, was how he felt. Whenever Klaus would walk into a room, the atmosphere would change. The air would become cold and dead, almost stale, and he himself seemed to carry a sort of morbid emotion with him everywhere. And looking into his eyes was the worst part, even when he was joking and laughing and giggling with Ben, his eyes seemed cold and distant. If he looked into her eyes she felt as if he was peering through her, not at her face, but at her soul.
But seeing Klaus sad was the worst part. He rarely was, so it was already strange to see. He had a way of expressing things where she could tell he hated admitting his sorrow. He would try to joke or change the subject, and then he would smile that smile trying to convince her that everything was fine when it was clearly anything but. And his eyes. His eyes terrified her. They would turn red instantly, sorrowful and inconsolable. When he was sad and she peered deep into his eyes she could swear there were people clawing at her, hundreds of souls stretching their arms up towards her in a desparate attempt to be free of their own sorrow. Intent on tearing themselves free from the shroud covering Klaus and destroying the boy to do it.
Klaus was warm and loud and funny but he was also cold and distant and frightening.
Perhaps that was why Vanya felt such a deep and personal connection to Number Four. He was just like her. He would sit in her room and listen to her play the violin and she memorized his favorites by the smile that spread across his face without his knowledge. She felt that it was her responsibility somehow, to make her brother smile like that. Because he was so so sad. Anyone could see that, crazy or not, Klaus was sad. It followed him too. In his eyes, resting alongside the woozy feeling she got from just being around him. His griefstricken demeanor was a part of him, it seemed Klaus was cursed to be mournful for his entire life, forced to carry the burden of living. She often thought maybe that was his superpower, maybe he was carrying grief for others, saving them the pain. It was a rather romantical idea.
They all felt it, they discussed it a few times too. They called it "the Klaus Aura." It was ridiculous, but then again so was everything about their lives, and Vanya was just thrilled to be included. Five had described it best; calling it a part of Klaus, a woozy, dizzying feeling when he entered the room, how one's head would spin if they looked in his eyes, or how one began to feel cold when he got close. The way his hands shook slightly and his jaw would twitch. Or how he looked at someone sideways with a tilt to his head and his huge eyes. How he made them sick with nausea just from being near them or how he always carried the cold with him. It was like he didn't belong on Planet Earth.
But then again maybe none of them did.
And when their father sat them down and explained that Four really did have a power, and he wasn't crazy, Vanya felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. Because now she was alone, Klaus was different now, one of the Academy.
So after that everything changed, but nothing seemed different.
He could see ghosts. Shadows of people who had died gruesome, violent deaths and stayed on to seek something more. He described them for her once, leaning close and whispering in her ear that it was just for her and her notebook, it made her spine shiver. He had told her how they followed him, at first they'd been shadows and whispers in the air, making him think he was insane. Then they had evolved, becoming more as he grew older. Now they were people, clear as she was before him. He told her about their wounds and their plights and how lost they were in the lonely, dreadful afterlife. He told her how they screamed and shrieked his name, pleading for him to help them, and when that ultimately failed, they would just scream horrors into his ears. He told her how they followed him from room to room and reached desparately to touch him, to feel his body, and to hurt him for not helping them. He told her about how he confused them- the people and the ghosts- and would carry on conversations with ghosts on streetcorners, positive that he was talking to a living, breathing human. She wanted to listen, she did, but she was terrified. Terrified of what was following her brother around all the time. Terrfied of him.
It made sense. HE made sense. The boy who could see the dead. The Seance.
His aura, the way the cold followed him, and his morbid personality. All of it linked back to the constant presence of murdered humans following him because he was their beacon. He was their direct route to the world and the people in it. The warmth of the living.
He had one foot in the grave and one foot out. Half alive, half dead.
His father had written it off as a product of his abilities. He concluded that Klaus was simply a bit closer to death than everyone else. It scared Vanya constantly, worrying about if her brother was going to stand up too quickly one day and croak. She worried he wasn't eating enough or was too cold or in danger on missions. Dad of course, moved on rather wuickly. The old man had often pulled Klaus aside to inform him he was willing to look past his last stunt if he would only reach into the gaping void of space and rip some poor, screaming soul into the full view of the academy. Klaus always refused.
After this, she noticed the others would include him more, but they were scared of him. Of what was going on around him. She caught Luther looking around Klaus a few times, no doubt searching for any signs of decaying bodies floating after their brother like moths and a flame. They were constantly looking for proof, proof of a stampede of souls screaming into their brother's ears and clawing at his body. Trying to hurt him. Ben seemed to find a connection to Klaus too. Ben told her in her room that Klaus had informed him they had a natural connection because they had inherited 'the worst powers.' The most dangerous.
But he was still Klaus. He made her laugh and he smiled when she played his favorite songs and he screamed at night to drown out the sounds of ghosts.
He began to get nightmares, he confessed to her once, of monsters dragging him away from the Academy to eat him or kill him because he couldn't help them. How in the dreams they wouldn't find his body because he'd been ripped to pieces and dragged down into the black void that held the souls of the dead, and there they would attack him and hurt him and try to rip his body apart more for not being able to help them. Vanya definitely worried about all of her siblings but she began to worry about Klaus the most. He was traumatized. By the ghosts, by their father, by the missions, by his dreams, he couldn't catch a break.
It was around the time of the nightmares that he went missing for the first time. They found him three days later two states over in a graveyard. The local police found him huddled up on the grave of a long dead woman, sobbing into his arms and pleading for someone to stop. The grass around him had died, leaving a yellow patch of decaying foliage and exposed dirt coating his knees and elbows. His face was filthy and there was dried blood running down the side of his head. They pulled him to his feet but he was dazed, muttering strange words and facts and names. His eyes were wide and unfocused and he kept glancing over his shoulder as if he was expecting the woman to erupt from the ground and drag him under the dirt with her. He would tell Ben the next day that he had tried to help a little girl, she had been kinder, smiled at him and asked him so very politely to please take flowers to her mother's grave, and he did. But when he arrived the girl was shrieking and wailing and suddenly she was touching him. She had actually grabbed at his face and connected, tearing her nails into his skin and scratching in a mad attempt to hurt Klaus.
She would find out much much later what he was traumatized of the most. When he whispered to her after waking up screaming for help and she had rushed into his room. The Mausoleum.
His special training. Where Reginald Hargreeves locked his son in a small room stuffed full of decaying corpses and their remaining spirits.
And as he grew older, the ghosts grew stronger.
Klaus drew more and more desperate to escape them.
When Five dissapeared he snuck out and drank himself into a stupor, before stumbling home and sneaking back into his room. Vanya didn't tell him she knew, and she didn't mention that she knew he had been up all night trying to summon a ghost. She had peeked through the crack in his doorway and seen him huddled on his floor with tears running down his face as he sobbed for one more ghost in his ensemble of souls. The despair on his face had scared her so deeply that she couldn't go in to hold him, she backed away and nearly tripped over her feet to escape him. In her book she described the moment so deeply, so rawly, she could still feel the terror. Her fear of her own brother. Of what he could see.
It seemed that he had discovered something to slow his demons down. Alcohol. He drank like the devil to muffle their screams of agony and anger, to prevent them from touching him and scratching him. It worked for a bit, enough to shove a cork on the noise and have him stumbling around the house at all hours of the night. But not long enough.
The ghosts got stronger.
Klaus got more desperate.
She knew then that he'd gone for weed. It didn't surprise her, something stronger. Something to stop his agony. She wanted to get him to stop, she cried and pleaded with him daily, but he just patted her head comfortingly and smiled his sad smile and told her everything would be alright.
That same night he went and got tattoos on both of his hands, knowing he wouldn't be able to use them for days. He said he had to get them both because by the time Reginald found out he'd slap Klaus silly and he would be locked up and unanle to go get the other. Hello. Goodbye. It reminded Vanya of the letters on a Ouija board signaling the arrival and departure of the ghosts, though he swore up and down it wasn't. She thought it was extremely fitting for a boy who saw ghosts every moment of every day, but was constantly running to get away from them.
And then Ben died.
Klaus didn't even show up to the funeral. He dissapeared and returned two days later wearing the same clothes he'd left in. He was slow in his movements, lethargic, calm. She could tell he had been crying, but she was too afraid to meet his eyes. When she did, what she saw scared her more than anything he had done in the past. They were empty. Nothing. No emotion, no pain, no souls. Just color that was dulled by the size of his pupils. A shell of her brother.
After that he was never around. He avoided everything, all of his siblings, his responsibilities, and most of all their father. He would scream at Dad and pick fights just to fight with someone. He blamed Reginald for Ben's death, that much was clear. He would dissapear and not return for hours or days and would always come back empty, numb, a different Klaus than the screaming boy who'd slammed the door on them. Vanya was afraid he would end up like Five, lost and alone in the great darkness surrounding the world. Forever stuck without anyone, without anything. She was terrified he wouldn't come back.
They all discovered what was truly happening when he stumbled into the house one day during dinner, bleeding from his nose and tripping sideways in the foyer. He was reaching his hands out to stop his fall and she heard him call for Ben. Then he collapsed.
At the hospital they found out he had been doing coke. Reginald was furious, and sent him to a rehab facility immediately. On the way Klaus leaned in close and whispered to Vanya that it was the only thing that stopped the ghosts. And along with the ghosts his pain. He sat straight back up in his seat, his head leaned against the window and his hands in his lap. His eyes were closed and there was a hint of a smile on his face. No pain.
That was when she knew, he wasn't going to stop.
And he didn't. No matter how many times Reginald threw him at rehab facilities and hospitals and professionals Klaus always ended up high again. Without fail.
That's when she lost him, sure he would still come sit in her room and tell her jokes and smile to his favorites as he fell asleep. But he was different, he was running now. Running from the ghosts. Running from reality. Running from them.
He was one of the first to leave, he snuck into her room and told her with his huge, sad eyes that he was going away, and not coming back. She had cried then, cried for her childhood, for her brothers, for her family, for Klaus. And he held her as she wept into his shoulder and ran his fingers through her hair and sang a song quietly to her. But he still got up and took his bag, pressed the palm of his hand into hers. Goodbye. Then he kissed her on the cheek before climbing out his window and dissapearing in the darkness of the alley.
Shortly after that she left too, following Allison and Diego. She'd asked Luther to come with her but he had refused, sad and alone, he had watched them all leave.
But still, on her own, the Umbrella Academy found its way into her life. Luther's solo missions, Allison's fame, Diego's vigilante justice, Klaus's occasional calls from a holding cell. Her family. Scattered across the country and alone. Without each other they were lost, unsure of how to live in a world that expected the Umbrella Academy, and only received seven traukatized children.
When she wrote her book, she could tell she'd signed her death warrant. She knew she'd been harsh but deep down she felt what she felt and she meant what she had said. It was as if some invisible force had made her write it, forcing her to type out every thought. Every sad reality. Exposing the Umbrella Academy for what it was, their hell. They'd never had the chance to be children, never had the chance to have fun or grow up. They were adults from the beginning, tasked with saving the world.
Luther's chapter had been the harshest, describing him as a suck up and a know it all who was desperate for their father's attention, willing to do anything to be Number One. Diego's had written him as a cold and distant figure, always fighting for number One, with little regard for anyone around him. She described how Allison had been consumed with Luther and completely ignored her sister, a distant figure of what should have been a close bond. Klaus's was sorrowful. She knew when she wrote it, late in the book, that it would forever be the saddest, a token of her grief in regard to Number Four. She'd titled it that 'Number Four' and described their bond, how different they were, his desent into drugs and his spiral after the loss of Ben. She knew he would hate her for it, but then again, she never saw him, so she wrote out every raw scene of Klaus's existence and his battle with the ghosts. How the dead had won, and he'd lost everything. Five's was a memoir of intellectual conversations, books, and marshmallow sandwiches left out with the light on. She described how afraid she was that he would come home and not be able to find them because the lights were off, she still held the same fear. Ben's chapter was hard. She wrote about how close she had felt to him, but how close he was to Klaus. And when he died, how that had broken the Umbrella Academy for good. He had been the end.
Of course they hated her after it. And a part of her was happy they did. She had spoken her mind and if they wanted to speak theirs then they were free to write their own books. But Klaus, he kept her up at night. She had no doubt that he had read it, some part of her could just feel that he had. And some part of her was deeply saddened that he would hate her now. But HE had left HER, left her crying into his shoulder on her single bed in a too small room in a too big house. Alone.
Until dad died.
Then he had showed up like nothing had happened and no time had passed. Acting like Klaus.
As soon as he entered the room, it seemed to shift. The woozy feeling was back, a sick feeling in her gut like she needed to throw up. She had forgotten how jarring he was, the smell of death following him like a plague and the feeling that if she got too close, he would wisk her away into the land of the dead and she'd be just like the horrifying circus marching forever behind him.
It shook her, seeing her siblings again after such a long separation. They fell immediately back into their fighting and squabbles. It felt normal. Good. So she went back to what was normal for her, studying her siblings. She started with Klaus inevitably.
He was high of course, she could tell the moment she laid eyes on him. And when he looked up, right into her eyes, she had to resist the urge to gag as she felt those souls pulling at her, reaching for her behind the shroud separating life and death, of which Klaus seemed to guard. It was different then, the ghosts were becoming too strong. Even now, high off his ass, addicted to every substance known to man, the ghosts were chipping away at him. Eating at his soul.
But a part of it felt normal, maybe they would forgive the book, forgive her, she couldn't take it back, that was clear. But they could come back together. Learn how to be a family.
And then shit hit the fan. Five came back. Apocalypse. Leonard, or Harold, whichever. Family fights. A gunfight in her concert hall. Ben. Klaus. Time Travel.
In those chaotic eight days, she felt the faded connection to Klaus brighten a little, as if hopeful of a return, but Klaus always seemed to be running from them, forever stuck in a loop of chaos and desperate attempts to wash away his own identity with whichever drug he could grasp at any given time. He was fucked up.
She knew she had to do something, something to help him, to save him.
And then he dissapeared for a while, but returned, different. Himself, softer, but his 'aura' seemed stronger. Death raced after him.
But the biggest thing, he was sober. She could tell immediately. Though she had no idea what had prompted it, he was sober. She had spent a great deal of time researching addiction, just in case he came back to her and she could help him. Just in case. She tried to reach out to him but he was unreachable, quartered off in his own world, oblivious to the concerns of his family. Jabbering on into the empty room.
Then she blacked out and caused the apocalypse and tried to kill everyone on Earth. Well, succeeded in doing so. Besides the point.
She woke up in her 15 year old body surrounded by her 15 year old siblings. Trying to gain a sense of her surroundings, she propped herself up on her elbows to get a glance around. They were sitting in awe on the back lawn of the Academy, but years and years in the past. Then Luther was in front of her, he had tears in his eyes, and was sobbing an apology to her. She only smiled shyly and reached her arms out for a hug from the big guy, who leapt at the chance. She stood up shakily, holding onto Luther for stability and found everyone staring at her, and the boys beside her. BenandKlaus. Klaus. Ben. Inseperable.
And for the first time ever, Vanya willingly raised her eyes to meet Klaus's despair filled ones. And she paused for a moment, staring at him and feeling the queasy ache in her stomach and the odd feel of the air and the aura of Klaus. The normalness of it. How it felt to be standing in front of the man who could cross the barrier between worlds and- if he wanted to- smash it to pieces, releasing the dead into the world of the living.
He slowly raised the one hand that wasn't currently gripping onto Ben for dear life and held it in front of him. A grin spread across his face, lopsided and silly. Hello.
She could have cried as she launched herself into their arms, hoping for them to feel what she was trying to say.
The hardest thing for any Hargreeves to express.
I love you.