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Five’s been acting really weird since he came back.

Which, okay, it’s Five, not like he was ever the most normal guy to begin with, but on top of the whole ‘I’m fifty-eight even though I look thirteen and also the apocalypse is really soon and also coffee is my religion now’, he’s suddenly acting like there’s something wrong with Klaus.

“You need to get sober,” Five tells him bluntly when he’s been back for like, three hours. Klaus stares.

“Uh, you’re chugging a glass of wine?”

“I don’t need to get sober. You do.” Five finishes said wine and throws the glass to the side. He just. Yeets it. Like there’s not a bin he could teleport to in less than a second. “You have a serious problem.”

Moi? I’ve been in and out of rehab for like, years, so thanks for the advice but I don’t think that’d work out.”

“Listen to him,” Ben insists. Klaus sticks out his tongue.

Five frowns. “You don’t have time for rehab,” he muses, not even looking at Klaus. “But you can get shoddily sober in the time we do have, so you need to do that. We need to know the full extent of your power.”

Well then.

So Klaus tries to get sober. It’s a half-hearted attempt, which is exactly the sort of thing getting sober shouldn’t be, but the only one keeping tabs is Ben and Ben’s seen him go through this whole song and dance before.

Five starts fucking off to threaten prosthetic eye manufacturers and doesn’t even seem to care if Klaus gets sober. Somehow Five being fickle feels like the weirdest part of all this. Five has always been many things, but once he got an idea in his head he used to focus on it until he was satisfied.

Now he seems to be trying to do too many things at once and thus isn’t actually getting a lot done. Klaus doesn’t know what half of those things are, but they seem important, so he lets Five do his thing.

“Five told you to get sober,” Ben says disapprovingly as he watches Klaus roll a joint. Klaus shrugs.

“Eh, we all knew it’d last five minutes. Ha, five.”

Ben doesn’t laugh.

“If your fifty-eight-year-old brother from the future tells you to do something, you really should do it. Didn’t he say something about an apocalypse?”

“He might’ve, between the rants about equations and confessing his love for mannequins.”

Ben stops being disapproving for a second to look freaked out.

“What is it with him and that mannequin?”

Klaus raises the joint to his lips, wagging a finger. “Don’t be so judgey, Ben!” He inhales. “Love is love.”

“Even with a mannequin?”

“Hey, objectophilia isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.” He holds the joint up and grins at it. “I think I might marry this joint.”

Ben must be used to Klaus saying weird things by this point, but he still looks horrified.  

--

Five stops him in the corridor.

Klaus thinks it’s because he stinks of weed, but Five doesn’t say anything about it. Instead he searches Klaus’ face for a few never-ending seconds.

“Hey, Klaus?” Five starts haltingly. He sounds thirteen. “Have you noticed anything…weird about the others?”

What the fuck.

“Uh, other than that they’re all dysfunctional assholes with complexes and daddy issues and also superpowers?” Except Vanya, but Klaus has always figured her superpower was being super left-out.

Five scowls. Oh, good. He’s back to being fifty-eight again.

Obviously other than that.”

“Welllll,” Klaus says, desperately racking his brain for any of his siblings’ behaviour that isn’t the result of complexes, daddy issues or superpowers. “I think Allison and Vanya are friends now?”

Five’s scowl gets deeper.

“I’m getting weird vibes,” he says through gritted teeth. What an adorable little psycho. “From everyone but you.”

“Ha ha, what,” Ben says, for once completely reflecting what Klaus is thinking.

“From everyone but me?” Five nods. It’s such a funny statement that Klaus genuinely can’t laugh. “I think you might’ve got a few calculations wrong, there, kiddo.”

“Equations. And don’t call me kiddo!”

It’s very hard not to call someone who looks thirteen kiddo. Klaus decides to keep this to himself.

“Is Five okay?” Ben asks. It’s a very good question. “Well, less okay than we all usually are.”

“I don’t know.” Klaus says it to Ben but it’s Five who responds.

“Of course you don’t.” It should be illegal for someone who looks so young to look so pissed off. “It’s whatever. It’s fine. I’ll figure it out myself.”

Five disappears in a flash of blue light. Klaus smirks.

“You don’t have to do everything yourself, you know,” he says to the empty corridor. Even Ben doesn’t reply.

--

Then Klaus gets kidnapped and tortured and time-travels and loses The Love of His Life in the Vietnam War of all things, and suddenly Five having weird coping mechanisms because of extreme trauma doesn’t seem so weird.

“Are you okay?” Ben asks quietly. Klaus waves a hand out the duvet. He’s not getting out of bed right now.

“Oh, I’m fine.”

“You really don’t seem okay.”

“Well,” Klaus says, and is too tired to go any further.

He manages to get up later, because he always does. Five comes in to nag. Apparently nagging is the stereotype about old people he wants to uphold.

“There’s something else,” Five says when Klaus has very nearly walked out the door. His voice is smaller, so Klaus turns around. “When you were gone, the others – they were weird.”

“What?”

“I don’t know. They just seemed weird. Confused. Like they had something to get back to but they couldn’t remember what it was.”

“Okay,” Klaus says calmly, even though he’s screaming inside. He’s just – he’s too tired for this. Who cares if everyone got confused? Five probably said some weird scientific mumbo jumbo and they just couldn’t keep up with it. “Well, isn’t there kind of an apocalypse coming? Shouldn’t we focus on that?”

“I guess,” Five relents, still not looking happy. “Just…keep an eye on them, okay? I couldn’t find anyone for a good few hours.”

“You know it’s weird that you’re asking me to be responsible, right?”

Five doesn’t even answer. He just poofs out.

Klaus turns to Ben. “You’re being awfully quiet.”

When Klaus went to the past, Ben wasn’t there. He almost got used to it, to having no one to constantly look over his shoulder and judge his life decisions. He could finally piss in peace.

Now Ben looks at him and says: “You need a shower.”

He’s right.

--

Ben starts being quiet around Five.

Where before there were bitchy comments about what an asshole Five is, now there is silence. Ben keeps looking at him like they’re sharing a secret, but it’s just confusing because Klaus is 99.999% sure Five has no idea that Ben is even there.

It’s weird. He feels weird.

“Weird how?” Diego asks bluntly when Klaus confesses. He’s sharpening a knife. Psycho. “Weird like getting sober?”

“Well, yeah, but other than that.”

Diego squints. “So it’s, what, a complex? Daddy issue? Superpower?”

“Super weird.” Klaus stretches slowly against the counter, feeling a lot like a cat and enjoying it. “Five said some stuff about the rest of you and it’s got me thinking. I don’t really know what I’m thinking about, but I sure am doing it!”

Diego’s sharpening gets harsher.

“Was that little asshole bitching about us?”

Klaus winces. “Not…exactly. If by ‘bitching’ you mean ‘getting weird vibes and a losing track of you all for a couple hours like that’s even an abnormal thing anyway’, then yeah.”

“What the fuck, Klaus.”

“What the fuck me?” Klaus protests, shoulders dropping in relief when Diego finally stops his knife-sharpening. He’s been doing it for a very long time. Almost like he has issues. “What the fuck Five, more like. He’s the one asking me of all people weird questions he must know I can’t answer!”

“Because you don’t know the answer, or because the questions don’t make any sense?”

“Wow that was philosophical. And, uh, both.”

Diego stares at him. Klaus is well aware that he’s making less sense than usual, he doesn’t need this judgement, thank you very much.

“Never mind,” he sighs, smile coming out thin. “I’m sure he’ll explain later. Y’know, how he explained everything we didn’t understand as kids? Because he’s so humble and thinks we’re all just as smart as him?”

“Very funny.” Diego frowns down at his knife. Maybe it’s not as sharp as he wanted, like he grabbed a butter knife by mistake or something. “He said he…lost track of us?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Weird.”

“Do you remember what you, like, did? Like right around -” He stumbles over the words, not really wanting to let his brain latch hold of the whole Vietnam War thing right now. “Uh, before we started hanging out and getting in fights at bars.”

Diego obviously notices his little game of dodgeball, but he doesn’t comment. Only says, “Of course I remember” in a very non-convincing tone.

Okay.

So it’s not just Five that’s acting weird now. That’s cool. Great. Ben’s all quiet, Diego’s a shit liar and when asked Allison and Luther look at him like he’s crazy, which he may well be.

Fuck.

--

Weird how Klaus is more bothered by this strange sub-plot more than the main plot of Saving The Entire Goddamn World, which is apparently something that they’re doing now. They’re only doing it because Five said so, and what Five says goes, for some reason. Something about time and space? A dude called Gerald? What is even going on.

Even worse than the pounding headache and the mantra of Dave Dave Dave his brain’s decided would be a good thing to focus on today, Klaus has got a crippling sense of déjà vu that’s making him second-guess everything he does. Tie himself up? Sure, already done that once. Except no. No he hasn’t.

He narrows his eyes at an empty space, pretending it’s Five. The real bastard is off Saving The Entire Goddamn World, but he’s the time travel guy and he came back rambling about it and if he’s to blame for Klaus feeling like he’s in Groundhog Day without knowing, he fucking swears –

“Do you feel you are finally coming to terms with your abilities as a medium?” Dad asks when Klaus is dead and receiving the best shave in the universe from the most unlikely person, amen. “With the way they are able to grow?”

“Aw, what? I thought we were talking about how disappointing I am. Can we go back to that, I liked that.”

“Keep up. The topic has moved on.” The blade runs against his neck. Klaus closes his eyes. “A shame. I thought you might be more knowledgeable than this.”

Klaus lets out a breathy laugh, if a dead laugh can be breathy.

“You want someone smart, go talk to Five.”

Dad is silent for several long moments. As kids it meant one of them was in serious trouble. Vanya would probably cower right now, but Klaus can’t quite bring himself to care.

“The communication between the lot of you is dysfunctional at best and non-existent at worst. I suggest you have a talk with Number Five.”

Trying to talk to Five is like talking to a brick wall that thinks it’s smarter than you and disappears as soon as it gets bored, which is quickly. Dad doesn’t get to hear Klaus’ amazing metaphor. Simile. Whatever. He’ll save it for when he sees Ben in the afterlife.

Or, as it turns out, when he sees Ben in his regular life.

“It is a simile,” Ben says with a worried smile, “and I do like it, it’s perfect for him, but – are you okay? You died and talked to Dad, like, what?”

Klaus is getting pretty tired of Ben asking if he’s okay and even more tired of lying and saying yes.

“I’m great and fine and stupendous, and even if I wasn’t, which I am, it sorta has to wait until the world isn’t ending, no?” He flips a pancake. “Do you think it’d be better if I turned the brick wall into a steel wall? Or, like, an ice one? ‘Cos Five’s heart is made of equations?”

“I like the brick,” Ben says calmly. “But can we please talk about this?”

Spoilers: they don’t talk about this.

--

Vanya’s got an evil boyfriend, she almost murdered Allison, and they have almost no time to save the world, so Klaus isn’t doing great. He’s especially not doing great when Vanya tears down the house and kills Mom and Pogo. He’ll be the first to admit that he’s got bad coping mechanisms, but really, Vanya? Tearing the house down?

He manifested Ben, though, so there’s a silver lining to this whole mess.

This whole mess which is about to end in less than a day when Vanya destroys the world, but, hey, sobriety is turning out to have a couple perks.

“What the fuck,” Five says, conveniently showing up after the rest of them have had to narrowly dodge getting crushed by a falling building. “What happened?”

Allison shakes her head, tears in her eyes. Luther stares at the floor.

“Vanya happened,” he says. “She destroyed the Academy -”

“I don’t mean that, I can see that, I mean with you.

What?

Allison points at Five and gives him a pretty clear gesture to explain. Five rolls his eyes.

“You all just faded into existence in the rubble, and I know for a fact none of you can teleport.” Five’s eyes narrow in on Klaus. Fuck. Why is this the most uncomfortable feeling on the planet. “You. You didn’t fade in. You were clear as day.”

“We have a world to save,” Ben cuts in, almost suspiciously quickly. Klaus nods dazedly.

“I think we should stop Vanya killing everyone now,” he suggests. It’s probably the first time everyone is in wholehearted agreement with him.

--

Vanya’s on the stage. She’s going to kill everything. Everyone. She’ll even kill them if these randos shooting at them for No Reason don’t manage to first.

Ben sorts them out. Go Ben!

Five appears next to his shoulder. “I’ve figured it out,” he says, not sounding very happy about that. Which is weird, because everyone knows the way to make Five happy is to let him figure something out. “Why the others are acting weird, I get it now.”

“That’s nice and all, but I think we have bigger problems.” A falling piece of ceiling takes a chunk out of the seat Klaus is hiding behind. What the fuck is happening?

“Klaus!” Five yells, somehow hurting Klaus’ ears way more than Vanya’s song. He winces.

“Jeez, no need to yell! God, you were so much nicer when we were kids!”

“We’re not kids anymore, and this is important! You have to listen to me!” Five grabs his arms and physically turns him round, staring into his eyes. They’re supposed to be running at Vanya any second now. They’re supposed to be Saving The Entire Goddamn World. “Klaus, I figured it out. You have to let them go.”

“What?” Klaus ducks. It’s pretty useless, considering there’s stuff coming from the ceiling, but. It just feels safer. “Who?”

The grip on his arms gets tighter.

“All of them. Everyone. It’s not fair to keep them in stasis like this, and – and if you let go, they can let go and the world will be saved.” Five’s voice is getting really desperate. And are those tears in his eyes?

Klaus stares at him numbly. He doesn’t understand.

“Please,” Five says, pleads. “You have to let go.”

“Is this about Ben?” He manifested Ben, everyone saw, it has to be that, right, Five wants him to release Ben again or something -?

“This is about the others!” Five yells. “Luther, Allison, Diego – and Vanya. Especially Vanya!”

“What is going on over there?” Luther shouts from across the theatre. Allison is staring at them with horror all over her face. “We have to run for her, now!”

“Why?” Klaus asks Five, fingers moving to grip Five’s arms back. “What are you talking about?”

Vanya’s song is screaming. The building is shaking. So is Five.

“They’re dead!” Five practically screams, and he’s shaking so hard Klaus is scared he’ll fall over. “They’re all fucking dead, Klaus! You’re a medium, you’re all that’s keeping them here! You need to let go before Vanya ends everything!”

No.

He’s wrong. That can’t be true.

Klaus looks at the stage. At Vanya. Closes his eyes.

All the barriers in his mind, all the ones about the ghosts and Dad and Dave and his siblings, his fucking siblings – he lets them fall.

On stage, the violin clatters quietly to the ground.

--

“I figured it out when you summoned Ben,” Five murmurs to him, legs dangling comically far off the ground from their seat at the stage’s edge. “You brought his powers and everything, too, you – you’re more powerful than you know.”

Klaus understands but he wishes he didn’t. Everything is empty. Numb.

The world is saved and it feels even worse than before.

“I don’t know when it happened, but they – they must’ve all gone, all at once, sometime after Ben died. It might’ve been more recent than that, fuck if I know, and – and you didn’t know either, because you projected them all here.” Five’s crying. Five doesn’t cry, he just doesn’t. Five isn’t the type of person to cry and say, “You’re a really good medium, Klaus. You kept them all around and you didn’t even know it because your brain couldn’t handle you knowing it.”

He’s got a million questions, all sitting on his tongue. He can’t speak. He can’t move. He can’t breathe.

“I – I got back and the house just felt weirdly empty, even with everyone about, and. You went back and everyone just faded, and the more sober you got the weirder everyone was acting, like they were losing themselves, and I don’t think sobriety was stopping your powers at all, I think it was dampening the voices but keeping the ghosts of the others there even stronger, the more high you were the more they were basically there and they could use powers and they were themselves but they’re gone and we’re the only ones left -” Five’s monologue is starting to get a bit hysterical. Bet he’s fucking babbling because he doesn’t know what else to do, because Klaus isn’t talking and this is the sort of thing that should be said out-loud.

The theatre is silent. Outside sirens are wailing. People are screaming.

“I’m sorry,” Ben says into the quiet. He’s the only one still there and Klaus doesn’t understand why. “I didn’t know how to tell you.”

It takes Klaus a few tries to speak, but Ben’s voice makes him furious enough to turn and demand: “What?”

Five stares up sadly at him. “Klaus -”

“One minute, dude, I’m talking to Ben!” Klaus rises to his feet, practically seething at the mouth. “You – you knew this whole time? How?” Ben looks so sad and it’s so unfair. He isn’t the one going through this. “Fucking tell me how!

“Of course I knew, Klaus,” Ben whispers. “You didn’t project me like you projected the others because I died first, you’d accepted it and could handle it but when they went – the projections were so strong, you didn’t remember them dying and even they didn’t -”

“You should have told me,” Klaus grinds out. He’s so tired. This can’t be real. Not this on top of everything else. Fuck, this isn’t even a last straw, this is a fucking straw avalanche that apparently happened ages ago and his best friend never thought to fucking tell him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t think you could handle it.”

Klaus stares at Ben for a good few seconds. He’s vaguely aware that Five has moved to stand beside him, looking in the direction that he must now know holds Ben.

Klaus opens his mouth to say he can handle it. The words get stuck. He knows the truth, of course. He’ll handle this like he’s handled everything. God it’s always one thing on top of a-fucking-nother isn’t it, and this is just the nail in the (ha) coffin, he’s such an idiot for not guessing this sooner, because of course.

Of course his family would be dead.

Of course he can’t even have this.

“Are you real,” Klaus gasps out, turning to Five and desperately grabbing at his arm. “You’re dead, too, right, Five, you really got murdered by some creep when we were thirteen like I always thought and that’s why you look the same now, Christ you were just a kid -”

“Klaus, Klaus stop.” Five clutches at him tightly. This is the most tactile they’ve been with each other since that time Five snuck into the mausoleum and held him through the night. This feels a lot like that. This feels worse. “I’m real, Klaus. I never died, or I would’ve disappeared with the others when you let them go.”

The logic just about gets him past it. Klaus smiles shakily, scarily. He probably doesn’t even look human. Probably isn’t even human.

“You’re alive.” Five’s alive. He has a beating heart. Klaus’ family isn’t all gone. He still has this left. He still has Five. “So what now, huh, brave leader?”

“Now?” Five looks as lost as he feels. “I – I don’t know.”

Klaus doesn’t know either.

But maybe they can figure it out together.