It was an accident this time, it really was! Klaus didn’t mean to die. He was actually pretty embarrassed about how it happened this time, he was in the stupid shower of all places. He usually took baths, because they were more relaxing, but he wasn’t planning on being in the shower for that long. Then he had heard a gleeful call from Allison of Vanya’s name, and he had slipped. After all, that was the first thing he’d heard Allison say in a month and a half. She had been mute since the apocalypse that they averted, when they were a family for once and let Vanya out of that cage. Everyone had been awaiting the day where Allison could talk again.
Now here it was, Klaus was in the shower, and then he was dead.
“You’re lucky I gave you clothes, I really would have hated to have to see you without them,” She said, staring down at him from Her bike. She didn’t seem angry, but She was definitely exasperated. “You’re back already?”
“Good to see you too,” Klaus groaned as he stood up. “I didn’t mean to this time, honest.”
“Doesn’t mean anything different, not really,” She said, shrugging. “You’re still here, and you still can’t stay. I can’t have my Seance dying for good just yet.”
“Yeah, I got that the last time.” Klaus looked around, taking in the monochrome trees. They really were pretty, but they weren’t what he had imagined Heaven to look like. He hadn’t indulged those imaginations for too long, not once the ghosts got too bad, but he remembered them still.
“So why haven’t you left?” She cocked her head, her hair falling to one shoulder. Klaus frowned.
“Don’t you have to send me back?”
“I can send you back, but you’re special. You can leave on your own, as long as it’s before your time,” She explained. “You left on your own the last two times.”
“ That’s what that was? I thought you were just being a prick and sending me back in the middle of a sentence,” Klaus chuckled, cutting himself off in surprise when he heard the little girl in front of him laugh too.
“Yes, Number Four, that’s what happened. So why are you still here?”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you didn’t like me,” Klaus mock-pouted, crossing his arms. She frowned, raising Her eyebrows at him.
“I don’t. Answer my question before I send you back,” She demanded, not unkindly but stern nonetheless. Klaus paused, his hand going up to where She had been kind enough to put his dog tags. Or maybe those were there already, he did wear them in the shower after all. That’s what had him distracted when he heard Allison’s voice. It had been over a month since he lost Dave, and it hadn’t gotten any easier. His siblings were getting better about listening to him and not assuming every word from his mouth was a lie or a beg for attention, but that didn’t mean he felt comfortable telling them about the love of his life. He couldn’t handle them not believing him on that. He just couldn’t take that. But that meant that the only person who knew what he was thinking about when his hand went to those dog tags was Diego, and he was never really good with emotions. He still stuttered when his own got the best of him, and he didn’t like talking about them very much. That meant that Klaus got a sympathetic look and a pat on the back, maybe a hug on a good day, but Diego wasn’t the best ear to talk to. Ben knew, of course, and Klaus did talk to him, sometimes just one person wasn’t enough.
He missed Dave like crazy, he had never missed anyone like this, except in the two days before Ben manifested as a ghost when Klaus thought he had lost his brother for good. And this time, Dave hadn’t shown up to talk to him. Klaus had tried, he really did, but Dave never answered his summoning.
She watched him rub the tags softly, Her face slowly becoming kinder.
“You miss him.” It wasn’t a question, and She didn’t require a response. So Klaus just looked down at the ground, shifting his eyes so that She didn’t see the sudden sadness in them.
“Where is he?” He asked, his voice quieter than he wanted it to be. “Why can’t I talk to him?”
“The longer a spirit has been gone, the harder it is for them to hear your Call,” She said. “Your love has been dead for fifty years, and he is with his family. But I pass by them every once in a while, and he misses you too. He’s told them about you. He’s waited for you all these years.”
Klaus’s hand gripped the tags painfully tight, the edges digging into his already dead skin.
“Can’t you just let me go to him?” He asked, hating the sudden desperation in his voice.
“Is that what you truly want?” She asked, moving away from Her bike to stand directly in front of Klaus. “To die for good, to move on and leave your family behind before your time? If that’s truly what you wish for, I suppose I can make it happen.”
Klaus was silent. He wanted Dave, he really did, and he almost blurted out a yes, but…
Could he do that to Ben? Never mind the rest of his family, they could get over it and they had each other now that they were becoming a real family. But Ben couldn’t be a part of that without Klaus. He needed Klaus to pass on his thoughts, to make him corporeal, to keep him company when he was feeling especially lost in his own mind. When the phantoms of Them reared Their heads in his mind, a feeling that he thought would go away when he died, and Klaus was the only one able to calm him down and be there for him.
And, being honest, could Klaus be without Ben? He was, for ten months, and it was horrible. Vietnam was awful, but Dave made it better, and he knew that it would have been so much easier if Ben were there too. The two hadn’t been apart for thirteen years, and those months felt so lonely without him. Could Klaus leave without Ben?
She saw his face fall and nodded in understanding.
“It’s the right choice,” She said. “They still need you down there.”
“Sure they do,” He shook his head, laughing a little. “‘Cause they do a great job of acting like they need me.”
“You of all people should understand how messed up your family is, Number Four,” She said.
“It’s Klaus ,” He corrected, grimacing at his number and half expecting his dear old dad to pop up. “And of course I do, we’re all fucked up. But they don’t care about me like he did.”
She thought for a moment, staring around at the trees and the small cottages in the distance.
“Klaus,” She said, Her sharp eyes pinning him in place. “While I know that you are wrong, I also know that your family will never truly understand what you lost. Except for maybe the small one, who has caused me a lot of trouble, or perhaps the dead one.”
“They have names too, you know,” Klaus raised his eyebrows as She looked at him tiredly.
“I know. But your whole family exhausts me. You’re the only one I need to deal with right now, and it would be great if you would stop dying so that I don’t have to do that either.” She crossed Her arms and took another look around. “I am about to make you a deal. But know that I do not do this lightly, and that it will not be easy.”
“...okay?” Klaus stuck his hands in his pockets, watching the little girl carefully.
“I don’t like you much, but you are one of my chosen. You are my Seance, and seeing you distance yourself from your family due to this loss does, in fact, cause me pain,” She began. “So I have another option for you. There are three trials that were made centuries ago, known as the Trials of the Dead, for mortals to prove themselves worthy of life again. They have not been used in many, many years, but they still exist.”
“But...I’m not dead?” Klaus asked. She took a deep breath and sighed.
“Right now, you are. But you would not be completing the trials for yourself.”
She let that sink in. Klaus stared at Her, his eyes slowly widening as his hands felt the chill of the metal on his skin. Did She mean that She would bring Dave back? His heart never beat when he was in Heaven, but he almost felt it stop again.
Then he frowned.
“What about Ben? He’s dead too.”
“But he has not come up here,” She said. “I cannot give someone the gift of a second life if they are stuck down on Earth as a spirit. Not to mention, you still have far to go with your abilities, and I have a feeling that he will not mind his status so much once you get the hang of them.”
“And, um,” Klaus hesitated a second, “will he want to come back? He’s been dead for a while, you said he was with his family. Will he be...upset?”
Her smile grew a little softer.
“He is with his family, but he misses you. And his family will still be here when he returns eventually.” She sounded as if She was merely reciting facts, but the look in Her eyes showed that She knew how comforting the words were. “I do not know him as you do, I only know what I made, but I would bet quite a bit that he will not be upset.”
“Then yes,” Klaus answered without a second thought. “I’ll do these...trials or whatever.”
“It will be difficult. But I believe you can pass them all. Would you like to wait until tonight? I can bring you back here while you sleep, but you’ve been in that shower for a while now.”
“Nah, I’ve been in there for longer,” Klaus replied. She frowned.
“It’s been an hour.”
Klaus shrugged. “As I said, I’ve been in there for longer.”
Her eyes widened in exasperation as She shook Her head.
“Alright then.” She blinked a few times and then was back to business. She turned and got back on Her bike, not leaving, but leaning on the handlebars to stare at Klaus. “There are three Trials. The Trial of Strength, the Trial of Truth, and the Trial of Honor. I can offer you no hints except to trust yourself. I believe that you can pass them. Do you have any questions?”
“Yeah, uh,” Klaus frowned, “can I die in these?”
“You’re already dead, Klaus. So no, you cannot die even more. If you fail, you will simply wake up.”
“Can I try again if I die again?”
“If I promise you that, then you’ll keep killing yourself to be here, and these Trials are not something that you can keep throwing yourself at until you break through,” She said. She seemed regretful, but Klaus could never be sure with Her. “You have one shot.”
Klaus sighed. “Ok then. Fuck it, let’s go.”
She smiled, and snapped Her fingers.
Everything went dark.
Klaus awoke to screams. That was nothing new for him, and he expected to open his eyes and see his familiar writing covered walls, with one or two wailing spirits standing over his bed and dripping spectral gore all over his carpet. So when he was greeted with metal and no ghosts, he sat up with a start. He looked around wildly until he realized that he was in a warehouse of sorts. The scream came from off to the side, but it suddenly cut off with a strangled cry and Klaus stiffened.
Right. The Trials.
This was the Trial of Strength, and Klaus felt a pit forming in his gut as he realized he knew exactly what was expected of him in this one. He was a child superhero and a war veteran, after all. There were hostages here, and it was clearly his job to save them. His eyes narrowed as he lowered himself to the cool metal of the floor, and looked around at his surroundings. He preferred to remember the sharp but warm voice of his Sargeant rather than the cold and demanding tone of his father, and so he followed his army training. There were storage containers all around him, and loud voices coming from his right, the clicking of boots on a metal floor echoing in the air. Klaus grit his teeth and stood, digging his fingers into a rusted crack on the container closest to him and pulling himself upwards. He felt the broken metal digging into his skin, but what were a few cuts in the long run? He’d done worse things to his body with the drugs over the years. He tried to stay quiet as he reached the top of the container, lying flat and crawling to the edge for a better vantage point. He’d need a gun, that was certain, and so he needed to know which bad guy was farthest away from the action.
He found the mark pretty fast, a man with a semi-automatic slung casually over his shoulder as he took a smoke break by the window. He was looking around furtively, more on guard as he obviously broke his protocol to smoke his cigarette, but Klaus knew that no one would see his body for a while. Dropping back off the side of the container, Klaus lowered himself to the ground and crawled along until he was below the man, who was standing on a platform that led to the offices, about two feet off the ground. Readying himself for everything to go to shit, Klaus jumped up and latched onto the gun before the man could really focus on him, ripping the strap off his shoulder and slamming the butt of the gun into the man’s forehead. The helmet that was under his other arm began to fall to the ground and Klaus cursed, darting forward and catching it before it clattered against the floor. The man wasn’t so lucky, slumping against the railing and sliding to the ground. Klaus pursed his lips.
“This is why you don’t smoke, kids,” he snarked, quietly. Then he checked his new gun and hopped back off the platform, creeping back to the container. He was about to sling the gun over his back and climb it again, when—
“Alright now, let's try this again.” A smooth, smarmy bastard of a voice drifted through the air, making Klaus pause. “You’ve got no way out of here, I’ve made sure of that. And as for your missing number, well, you all know he won’t make it through my men. So tell me what I want to know and we can move on to the swift and painless deaths.”
Klaus felt anger begin to curl around his heart as he began to have a horrible idea of what was going on here. Climbing the container quicker this time, despite the deep cuts now on his fingers that would probably get infected if he weren’t already dead, he crawled the other way so he could see who was behind this voice. His eyes, however, were drawn to the figures right behind the voice. He had hoped he was wrong, but the massive, hulking body of Luther was hard to miss. He was unconscious, with metal chains wrapped around his body. How that had happened was beyond Klaus, but it filled him with a cold sort of dread. Especially when he saw Allison gagged next to him, Diego with his hands tied behind his back and legs hogtied underneath him, Five bound and held between two men, and Vanya with her head lolling against the back of the chair she was tied to, with a small trail of blood making its way from her hairline down her cheek. How in the hell? Klaus hadn’t seen a single one of his siblings held in a hostage situation since they were sixteen, and that was just one of them. It was also one of the worst moments of Klaus’s life, but that was beside the point. He was supposed to save all five of them?
Then the bastard smacked Allison across the face, and Klaus saw red. Yeah, he was gonna save all five of them. But he was gonna save that son of a bitch for last. He looked between the gun in his hands and the man staring at his siblings. Then to the twelve or so men surrounding them. Then to the four men down by the door. If he made a move, the man would kill one of his siblings, but if he could catch them off guard long enough to draw their attention away…
Aw, screw it. Klaus was never one for fully thinking through a plan anyway.
He took a running leap off the metal container, drawing the shocked eyes of his still conscious siblings and the surprised glance from the man he was rocketing towards. When his feet hit the ground with a jolt of pain, he didn’t waste a second in throwing the gun as hard as he could into the bastard’s face, which was pretty hard ever since he trained in the war. It smacked him in between the eyes and he went down , leaving an opening for Klaus to elbow the guard next to him in the throat and yank his gun off his body. Darting back away from the crowd, he ducked as they finally started firing at him.
“Klaus! What the hell are you doing?” Diego shouted, and Klaus kicked a guy hard in the knees, shooting him as he fell.
“What does it look like?” He shouted back, running back to the shipping container and taking out a few more guards as he dodged the bullets that flew past his head. “Saving your asses!”
“Well if you got me out of— shit , watch out!” Diego cut himself off and Klaus turned back just in time to see the bullet catch him in the side. It went right through him, embedding itself in the shipping container, and Klaus swore as he dropped a hand to press against the wound. It missed anything vital, but it was bleeding pretty badly. Not to mention it hurt like a motherfucker. Luckily, he was used to being shot. His unit in Vietnam didn’t truly believe him about his powers until he felt a bullet bite through his neck during one of the battles, only to wake up as the men who had become his closest friends hurriedly carried his corpse back to the camp. Needless to say, it was war. She had gotten pretty tired of him showing up Upstairs during those ten months. But he saved lives in the process, so it was totally worth it.
Swinging his gun like a sword, he knocked down two other guards, eventually taking his hand off his wound and returning to shooting. Not like he could get much deader, the worst-case scenario was he failed all this Trial crap and had to wait to see Dave like most people. Of course, Klaus was not most people , and so his next two shots landed between the eyes of the guards holding Five.
He had taken out a significant number of the guards, but he wasn’t done yet. As he was forcefully reminded of that fact by another bullet grazing his shoulder, he turned and let Five work up the energy to teleport out of his restraints. Klaus could do this on his own. This was his Trial, and he could save them. Another guard down with a well-placed elbow in the jugular, and another with a bullet in a horribly familiar spot right above the collarbone. Klaus knew that it was not fun to get shot there. Not that it was fun to get shot anywhere , but that was beside the point.
He shot down two other guards as a bullet hit his stomach, and he hissed in pain. Couldn’t She at least let him keep the nice part of being dead? AKA, not feeling pain?
“Five, get Luther and Vanya out of here! It doesn’t look like they’ll be waking up anytime soon!” Klaus called behind him as he took down another man. Whatever tranquilizer knocked out Luther, it wasn’t gonna wear off for a while.
Somewhere in his mind, he knew this wasn’t real. But it felt real, it looked real, and he knew that if he stopped treating it as real, then Dave was as good as gone. So he let his brother zap away Vanya in a flash of blue light, and he turned to shoot down a guard who was turning his gun towards Diego.
Four left. They spread out, surrounding him, and he stifled a chuckle. Idiots. Moron Number One, not to be confused with Dumbass Number One (Luther), pulled the trigger on his right, and he dropped to the floor, hearing the bullet find a home in the guard that had stationed themself on his left. He took out the other two with some fun, watching them collapse to the ground with bullets between their legs. Hey, this was all fake, he could fuck around a bit. Then he turned, wiped the blood off of his face, and limped over to the man still lying passed out on the floor. When did Klaus get shot in the leg? He hadn’t noticed, but now he saw the hole in his thigh and the blood dripping down his leg. It was a bad wound too, the exit point had blown away a chunk of his leg and left a nasty thing to look at. If Klaus looked hard enough, he could see bone that had been fractured by the bullet. But he didn’t look hard enough, because he didn’t want to throw up. He was used to gore like that, seeing it on the ghosts all the time, but seeing on himself was a whole other issue.
The man was groaning, the only noise in the now silent warehouse. Klaus swung the gun up onto his shoulder and looked at Diego. Luther was gone, which meant Five would probably be back soon.
“Do you have a knife still on you? Or did they take them all?” He asked, his voice exhausted. Every muscle in his body was screaming at him, and he felt the blood dripping down his head from a bad hit he had taken. Diego’s jaw had hit the floor a while ago, and he struggled for an answer.
“Um, uh, yeah, there’s one in my- my boot.”
Klaus dropped to the ground and shoved his hand down Diego’s boot, feeling the knife stab his fingertips as he tried to grab it. He winced, but pulled it out and cut Diego’s hands free, handing him the knife immediately and turning back to the bastard on the ground.
“Hey, asshole,” Klaus kicked him in the stomach, making the man jolt awake in pain. He was met with a gun barrel pointed at him. “This is for hurting my fucking family.”
Bullet to both of his legs, then between them, and then in the chest. Klaus didn’t like making the dude suffer, but he did deserve it. He hit Allison, Vanya too from the looks of it, and clearly had to do something to get Five in his custody to begin with. That old man was too slippery to be caught like that without something happening. Klaus grinned.
“I’d tell you to say hi to Her for me, but you won’t be going there,” he said. And you’re not real , he didn’t add. Then he added another shot right at the bastard’s forehead. His dead eyes stared at Klaus as his head fell to the side. Klaus dropped the gun to the ground with a clatter. Immediately, he felt the pain worsen in his wounds, making him gasp and curse loudly. It felt like every nerve was on fire.
“Klaus, where did you learn to fight like that? Dad never let you use the guns,” Allison asked, her gag removed. Klaus wanted to answer, he really did, but his mouth felt like it was sliding off his face. It felt like it was melting, like he was made of wax.
“Klaus?” That was Diego. Was his vision always this fuzzy?
“ Klaus! ”
He felt himself pitch over sideways, then his head hit the floor and it all went black.
“—aus? Klaus!” Someone was shaking him. “Klaus please , not like this!”
Klaus’s mouth felt like it was stuffed full of cotton and his ribs ached like someone had driven a steamroller over him. And his head pounded like hell too, as he slowly cracked his eyes open to see Vanya’s worried, crying face. Damn, he hated scaring Vanya. His sweet little sister should not be finding him dead in the bathtub.
Wait. He was in the bathtub. The shower had been turned off, but water still dripped from the showerhead. Oh no, he was back. Shit . He had been sent back. He failed.
“God damn it!” He groaned, shutting his eyes tightly. What did he do wrong? Was shooting that guy in the dick too much for True Strength or whatever the hell that trial was testing? He had saved his family, what more did She want from him?
“Klaus?” Vanya said, her eyes widening. “Oh my god, you’re okay?”
“Yeah, Van, I’m fine,” Klaus responded, his eyes still closed as his hand instinctively went to his dog tags. “Sorry to scare you.”
Sorry, Dave . He thought, hoping that She wouldn’t be too disappointed the next time he inevitably bit it.
“Scare me? Klaus I-” Vanya shook her head. “You were dead!”
“Yeah,” he said. “That happens.”
Vanya frowned, her eyes were still red from crying.
“What does that mean? You died , Klaus.”
“Yeah, I said that happens. Took a tumble, met God, woke up. Old hat by now.” Klaus was too tired and too upset that he failed to care about what he just told Vanya. Silence rang in the bathroom and Klaus cracked an eye open to see Vanya staring at him. She seemed more worried than upset, but she gripped his arm tight and dragged him out of the bathtub nonetheless.
“We are calling a family meeting. Now.” She was stern, showing a ferocity that had only reared its head after she quit those awful pills their dad had her on. Klaus whined.
“C’mon, Van, it’s not a big deal! Don’t bother everyone else with this.”
“No arguing, Klaus, this is important!” She didn’t even let him get dressed, instead tossing him a robe as they left the bathroom and calling up the stairs to everyone else. Klaus grumbled and flopped down on the couch, feeling the back of his head to make sure any residual blood was dry. She usually healed him fully, but sometimes the blood stayed behind. Thankfully it all seemed to wash away before Vanya turned off the water.
“What’s going on?” Diego asked as he strolled into the living room. He looked from Vanya to the groaning Klaus and sighed. “What did he do this time.”
“I didn’t do anything .” Klaus’s voice was muffled by the couch cushion, but Diego scoffed.
“Yeah, I believe that. Vanya never calls family meetings.”
“Diego, this is serious,” Vanya said, looking over at Klaus. “He died .”
“What?” Allison gasped as she entered behind Luther.
“Hey sis, good to hear your voice.” Klaus gave her a tired wave as he reluctantly sat up and crossed his legs.
“He seems fine, Vanya,” Luther said as he sat down in a chair. Allison worried her hands together, staring at Klaus.
“Klaus?” She asked. “What happened?”
“Nothing happened!” He argued. “I slipped in the shower, no big deal. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go to my room.”
“Why?” Diego asked. “Vanya says you died. Did you?”
“It’s not a big deal. I just need to go talk to someone.”
He wanted to ask Her what he did wrong. He might not be able to try again, but knowing what fucked him up would make him feel a little better. Maybe. Allison frowned.
“Ben? You talk to him in front of us all the time.”
“No, not Ben. I gotta ask a little girl on a bike how I fucked up reviving the love of my life, and trust me when I say you don’t wanna be there for that.” He let his head fall back onto the couch, hearing Luther sigh.
“And he’s high again, great,” He groaned. Klaus felt his lips start to curl into an offended scowl, when Diego interrupted.
“Oh shut it, Luther, you know he’s been clean,” He defended, and Klaus paused in surprise. Diego was defending him?
“ Thank you, Diego, I am still sober.” Klaus rolled over so that he was facing his siblings with a slightly annoyed expression.
“So what are you talking about?” Luther asked. “What is Vanya talking about?”
Klaus sighed and braced himself for the inevitable scolding from Ben as he avoided the question yet again.
“I think the more pertinent question is what made her check on me in the first place? I have taken far longer showers than—”
“—Klaus it had been four hours,” Vanya interrupted, her face pale. “You can take day-long baths, we all know that, but you’ve never taken a shower that long. I got worried. And for good reason.”
Four hours? That one trial took three hours? Klaus furrowed his brows as he thought. He didn’t even think his family noticed how long he took in the bath or the shower, much less enough to be worried about him.
“Klaus? It’s okay, we’re just worried about you.” Allison leaned forward, the pale scar on her throat shifting as she spoke. Klaus felt a sudden burst of anger.
“You’re worried about me? None of you seemed to care the last time, hell, I don’t even think Luther noticed .” His voice was sharp, further proof that he was very much sober, and every last one of his siblings stared at him in shock. He sighed and leaned back against the cushions, wishing he hadn’t just said that.
“...what do you mean?” Vanya asked, very much sounding like she didn’t want to hear the answer. Klaus chuckled, the sound only slightly bitter.
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it. I’m headed upstairs,” He said, moving to sit up and leave. He was stopped by a sharp gaze from Diego. He stared down his brother, but Diego wasn’t budging. Klaus turned to roll his eyes at Ben, but—
Where was Ben? Klaus suddenly found himself glancing around the room in confusion, noting that his sixth sibling was nowhere to be seen. He frowned. Ben was always there. Even when he was high. Klaus also noticed that there were no ghosts at all . The room was empty. And deathly silent. Klaus thought he would relish the silence, but it was very unsettling at the moment. Did She decide to give him a break? He might tell Her that next time, he would rather She not make Ben go away too.
“Klaus, sit down,” Diego ordered. Klaus crossed his arms and cocked a hip out.
“You’re not the boss, Di,” he rebutted. Diego scowled.
“Dad’s dead, I’m Number Two. Sit the fuck down.”
“ Number Two ,” Klaus scoffed. “I thought you hated that. Can’t expect me to care about that when you use it as a valid reason to hate our dear old dad.”
“Okay, fine,” Diego said, lightly pushing Klaus back towards the couch. “I’m your older brother and I care about you. Sit the fuck down.”
Klaus felt that anger again. He didn’t remember ever actually feeling angry towards any of his siblings, not since they were kids and Luther kept agreeing that Ben needed to train and use Them more. It was about time, then, wasn’t it? For him to feel mad?
“You care about me? Sure, you care more than the rest of these chucklefucks, since you actually picked me up off the streets and let me stay with you for a night, but you still never cared . You never understood why I was in that alley, high off my ass, in the first place!” Klaus knew that none of his siblings had heard him shout in years. He didn’t care. “You just told me to get clean, with that disappointed tone that I’ve been hearing for years, from you, from Dad, from everyone! The only one of you who took the time to learn why I didn’t get clean was dead !”
Silence. Too much silence. Klaus had to keep talking, he couldn’t listen to the sudden ringing in his ears from the empty room around him.
“And speaking of Ben, he is the only one who noticed that I have another aspect to my powers apparently! He was the only one there the first time I died! And guess what, assholes, that wasn’t even after we had left the Academy.” Klaus paused for a breath, and Allison pounced.
“The first time you died? What does that mean? What happened?”
Klaus was surprised they were listening to him and not writing him off.
“Yeah, sis, I can’t die. God kind of hates me, so She never keeps me very long,” he said with a sardonic grin. “Remember when Dad used to take me for special training? I’d be gone sometimes for a night and sometimes for a few days? Well I was around 15 when I came back from one of those sessions and was so scared of my own shadow that I didn’t even notice where I was until I fell full-tilt down the stairs. Luckily, Ben found me just seconds before I woke up, he didn’t have time to tell Daddy dearest that I had died. Otherwise, who knows what new testing I would have been subjected to.”
They all had the good sense to wince at that idea, even Luther.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Vanya’s voice was soft. Klaus laughed.
“Would you really believe me? I was already just a junkie to you all back then, and Ben told me that he didn’t want to be the reason you all believed me. I thought for a minute, back when the apocalypse happened, that maybe you not knowing would be a good thing. Y’know, in the club? Luther dear?” Klaus looked back at a confused Luther and rolled his eyes. “Right, you were high as shit. I really don’t think you can get mad at me for using anymore, not when I actually had a good reason to do it. Anyway, I thought that maybe I’d get you to actually show you cared about me if you didn’t know I’d get back up again. But nope! You just left me there on the ground, leaving with that girl when I was fucking dead .”
Allison let out a quiet gasp, and Diego turned an accusing stare to Luther. Luther, to his credit, didn’t try and say Klaus was lying. But he clearly didn’t remember.
“You fucking left our brother to die? You left his corpse to go get laid? What the fuck is wrong with you, Number One?” Diego hissed, pointing his finger aggressively at Luther. Klaus shoved his hand down.
“Not the time, bro, fight him later,” Klaus said sharply. He was proud of himself for getting all this out there, but something didn’t feel right at the same time. For one, while it was totally like him to not show up to family meetings, it still felt wrong for Five’s favorite chair to sit empty with such an important discussion going on. For another, why were his siblings suddenly defending him? Sure, Diego took every opportunity to get mad at Luther, but even Allison and Vanya hadn’t expressed concern over him in at least a decade. And where the hell was Ben? He could use his ghost brother’s sage advice right now. He wanted to ask if he should tell them about the mausoleum. After all, that was really the start of everything. The drugs, his first death, his running away and truly getting addicted, his frantic panic attacks in that motel room that led to him escaping through the stupid air vent, which led to Vietnam and...Dave. That mausoleum could be blamed for it all. But it was personal. And Klaus hated airing his personal shit. There was a reason his siblings all looked stunned as he yelled at them. But it was about damn time they knew the truth.
Oh god damn it. This was a fucking Trial all along! That's why there was no Ben, because Klaus was still dead! Trial of Truth, most likely. So...theoretically all he had to do was keep airing all this out? Did She really just want him to get pissed at his siblings? He didn’t want to, he didn’t want them to feel bad for him or feel upset that they weren’t there. And he certainly didn’t want them to not believe him. But these Trial versions of his siblings were a lot more believing than the real ones. Probably because She didn’t know them like Klaus did. Klaus frowned. Of course, the one time his family gets concerned for him (and not just about his drug problem) was when it was all just a big fake test. Now he actually was pretty mad. But not at these versions of his siblings. The real ones, who probably wouldn’t be as worried if he told them he had died multiple times. Klaus sighed. He didn’t know what She was doing this for, but if this wasn’t real, then he could totally get mad at his family.
“Klaus?” Allison asked, quietly. Klaus turned to look at her, finally not trying to keep his expression happy. She seemed taken aback by the sudden exhaustion and bitterness on his face. “H-how many times have you…”
“Died?” He asked, and at her nod he paused, counting. “Well, probably around ten, maybe fifteen times? I mean, I got pretty desperate at points, and OD-ing is easier than you’d think. And that’s not even counting Vietnam, I mean—”
“—Sorry, Vietnam? ” Vanya’s eyes were blown wide. Klaus sighed.
“Oh man. This is gonna take a while, isn’t it?” He didn’t know if She was listening, but he hoped She was enjoying the show. He was getting pretty damn tired. “Y’know what, I’ll give you all the short version. Creepy dudes in kid’s masks come looking for Five, take me instead, I have a fun little torture session, a nice cop lady comes to save me-” Klaus pretended not to notice the look of pain that flashed across Diego’s face, “- and I stole their briefcase that made me time travel back to the Veitnam war, where I fell in love and stayed there for ten months. Then...he died and I came back here.”
So much fucking silence. He thought he’d like having no ghosts around, but actually being able to hear the creaking of the couch underneath him was really weird.
“Can you...give us the long version?” Vanya ventured to break the silence. Klaus frowned.
“I don’t actually feel like doing that, Van, because I don’t think you guys get to know about Dave,” he said as he crossed his arms. She wanted honesty? Well truth be told, Klaus had a lot of feelings. Usually pushed aside by whatever cocktail of drugs in his veins, they now bubbled to the surface, begging for attention. He loved his siblings to death, literally, but sometimes he wanted to tear them a new one. And this was his fucking chance. “I was saved from those assholes by a cop that I had only met once before, when she picked me up for possession and ended up sending me off with a breakfast sandwich and twenty bucks. None of you all noticed I was gone for literal hours, and none of you noticed anything was wrong when I finally came back! So no, you get the short version. I went to ‘Nam, I died a bunch protecting people who became almost more family than you guys, met and lost the love of my life, and came back. That’s all you get.”
“Klaus, are you...okay?” Diego asked with a frown. “You went to war for ten months, and just came back over a month ago? Don’t most veterans go to therapy or something?”
“You think any therapist is gonna believe that I fought in Vietnam?” Klaus laughed. “Nah, dude, there’s no way. So I gotta deal with those fuckin’ memories all by myself.”
“You didn’t answer me.” Diego stared Klaus down, and every other one of his present siblings were looking at him too. “Are you okay?”
Klaus felt something pinch inside of him. He knew this was fake. But he didn’t want to answer anyway. He was Klaus , the comic relief, the junkie, the conduit for his much more functional and much more dead sibling. Although calling Ben functional was still a stretch. Klaus was the odd man out, never taken seriously and never put first. He had his role and he played it well, trying to make his siblings laugh or at least get upset at someone other than each other, even if that someone else was him. Without that...who was he? He was already struggling to figure out who he was without the drugs, could he take the step into being taken seriously on top of all that? He didn’t know if he had it in him.
But he had two people in his corner who never failed to care about him and kick his ass when he needed it. Sure, both of them were dead, but death never really meant anything different to Klaus. He was devastated by Dave’s death because they had plans , plans that couldn’t happen if he was dead. He was broken by Ben’s death because he lost the one sibling who understood hating your power, who saw his nightmares and his haunted eyes and truly got it. But even that feeling only lasted a few days. Klaus knew he couldn't wait in ‘Nam for Dave’s ghost to appear, and that’s why his death still hurt so much. For Klaus, death wasn’t a permanent obstacle. Death was around him, constantly, it was in his blood. So Ben being dead only bothered him when his brother desperately wanted to talk to his siblings and Klaus couldn’t get his powers to cooperate. Otherwise, Ben helped him through some of the worst years of his life. And Ben would tell him to say the one word. The one word that had been trapped at his lips as he stared back at Diego for the past five minutes.
It was so quiet. Klaus never understood the expression ‘so quiet you could hear a pin drop’, but he knew that this was it. He closed his eyes and let out a breath.
“...no.” The word hung in the air, breathless and afraid, full of the pain that Klaus had spent years shoving to the bottom.
The fake Diego smiled, and Klaus felt the world begin to fade, greying at the edges as he lay back down on the couch.
He didn’t care too much about Her, but he found himself hoping that She was proud of him.
This time, he woke up and it was still silent. He was standing, and there was a weight in his right hand. A cold weight that felt eerily familiar. Tightening his grip, he felt that it was indeed a gun.
His eyes opening slowly, he looked around at where he was, noting the blank grey walls that seemed to stretch for miles. He couldn’t remember what this Trial was called, but he figured he’d work it out soon. At least he knew this was a Trial.
It took him longer than he’d like to realize that he was standing in front of six figures. Small, tied to chairs, and with their heads covered by black cloth bags. Klaus frowned, looking between the gun in his hand and the people in front of him as a pit formed in his gut. She couldn’t really…
“I’m afraid so, Klaus,” Her voice came from his left, and he turned with a start. She gave him a small smile. “I knew you were smart enough.”
“You...you’re asking me to kill someone? An innocent person?” Klaus asked, indignant. There was no way She could ask him to do that!
“I told you that these Trials would be hard,” She replied softly. “But you must choose. It’s not your decision to shoot, but who to shoot. That is the real trial here.”
Klaus gaped. “And here I had begun to think you might not be that bad.”
“This isn’t real, Klaus, and you know it.” She crossed Her arms. “But, if it makes you feel better, I don’t like this trial. I never have. But it tests an important quality. If one is to be brought back from the dead, they must have Honor.”
Klaus frowned and turned back to the six figures in front of him. She was right, it wasn’t real. And it made sense for Honor to be the hardest for him. He had never been very honorable, just ask his dad. He never followed orders, he got high, and he was the first to leave the Academy for good after Ben died. This was his chance to change that, to follow someone that actually was better than his dad, to do one fucking order and get Dave back. Honor. Have Honor in these trials.
He was about to choose at random and get it over with, when he noticed something that stopped his unbeating heart.
Tattoos. Identical, far-too-familiar tattoos.
“You’re not serious,” He said, his voice filling with horror as he looked to where She had been standing, only finding the blank grey wall once more. “You bitch! ”
Once he knew, it was impossible to unsee. They were all thirteen. Luther on the end with his perfect posture and his muscles that already bulged despite how young he was. Diego next to him, with a knife sticking out of his boot and his muscles tensed and ready to spring. Allison, her hair making the cloth bag stick out from her head, her skirt perfectly pleated as it always was, her hands clenched into fists. A number skipped, and then it was Five. He hadn’t aged a day even in real life, and so he was unmistakable. Klaus turned to the next number quickly, expecting to see Vanya’s hair falling past the bag, and instead falling on a small figure that he knew all too well. He felt his throat close as his eyes began to sting. Ben . Small, scared Ben, with the power that terrified him and the father who forced him to keep going, don’t let them control you, you can’t let the blood bother you . The power that gave him nightmares much like Klaus’s own ability. Klaus almost didn’t look at where Vanya sat beside her young, alive brother. But he had to. Because She couldn’t seriously expect him to do this, right? He loved them. They were assholes sometimes, but he loved them.
“You love me, too,” A voice spoke from his right side, and Klaus felt his heart tear itself in two. He turned, and met the affectionate smile that greeted him. Dave lifted a hand to wipe away the tear that fell from his eye, grinning lightly as his hand caressed Klaus’s cheek.
“Dave,” Klaus’s voice broke as he hesitantly whispered the name into the quiet air. “You’re here.”
“I’m here. She let me come and help you make the decision.” Dave was staring into Klaus’s eyes, and Klaus wanted nothing more than to forget this whole Trial and go back to Heaven with him.
“I can’t do this, Dave,” He said. “I love them.”
“I know you do, baby, I know you do,” He replied, his voice a breath of fresh air after so long of Klaus imagining it. “But this isn’t real.”
“It feels real, though.” He remembered the bullet wounds from the first trial, the ache in his head during the second. He knew that if he shot one of his siblings, that wouldn’t just go away.
“It’s alright, Klaus,” Dave assured him with a hand threading through Klaus’s hair. “They would understand. I know they would, you told me so much about them.”
“I just— sure, I may have joked about wanting to strangle Luther, or give Diego a taste of his own medicine when he throws his stupid knives around, but I never wanted to actually hurt them!” Klaus felt the hand holding the gun shake, and Dave slowly wrapped his hand around it, steadying his arm.
“Of course you didn’t, they’re your family.” Dave smiled. “But they aren’t real here, Klaus. Once this is over, it’ll all be okay.”
“What if it’s not, though!” Klaus felt his anxiety spike. “What if this is more than just a simple decision for the Trial? What if this is me actually choosing which of my siblings dies first? What if She’s making me decide that ?”
“Ben is already dead, though,” Dave whispered quietly. Klaus shuddered a breath.
“But She could take him from me. Bring him up to Heaven. I need him, Davey, and he needs me.”
“What about Luther? He left you for dead, baby.”
“He was high! And he was distraught, and the world was ending, and we were all a little fucked up!” Klaus shook his head. “No, I can’t.”
Then a thought hit him like a lightning strike down his spine. His eyes shot wide open.
“What if I’m why Ben dies?” he hissed into the air. “What if She means for me to pick him? And that’s why they’re young here, so that I mark him for death in a few years? What if I’m the cause for him dying like that?”
“Then you can’t blame yourself, it was fate,” Dave murmured reassuringly, but Klaus pulled away.
“No! Fate is bullshit ! She might know when people are supposed to die, but people still have choice ! If we didn’t, then She wouldn’t be annoyed every time I die, because She would be anticipating it!” Klaus cried, his arms thrown wide open. “The choice I make here could doom one of my siblings, Dave, and I can’t do that.”
“Even if it means leaving me?” He asked, watching carefully as Klaus hesitated. “I’ll wait for you forever, Klaus.”
“I want you back, Dave, I really do,” Klaus said, pleading to Her that this wasn’t really what She wanted from him. Was she really making him choose between family or Dave? He had chosen Dave once, and that had given him the love of his life and taken it away all in one year. Was it time to choose the other option?
“I know. But Klaus, you’ve come this far. You’ve completed two Trials, and I’m so proud of you. This is the last one, baby.” Dave stepped forward again, reaching out for Klaus’s hand.
Klaus felt...something. Something wrong. He frowned.
“You’re not Dave,” He said, stepping backward. Dave cocked his head.
“What do you mean? I’m here to help you, you need to make a decision.”
“No! You’re not Dave, you’re some sick trick, I know it,” Klaus ignored the part of him that called out that it didn’t care, ripping his arm away from the fake-Dave as fast as he could. “I don’t know why I didn’t notice it faster. Dave never called me baby. He would never encourage me to shoot my family. He would understand.”
‘Dave’ smiled, a soft, sweet smile, and then he vanished. Klaus stared at the spot where he was, until a voice spoke up from behind him.
“Good job, Klaus,” She said, making Klaus whirl around to look at Her. “I apologize for the deception. But I needed to help you make a decision somehow.”
“I’m not fucking doing this,” He spat back. “I can’t.”
“Yes you can,” She said. “It’s fairly simple. Point, and shoot. You’re perfectly capable. And you proved in the last Trial that you don’t harbor purely affectionate feelings towards your family.”
“But that doesn’t mean I can kill them! And knowing you, there’s some sick monkey’s paw shit to all this!” Klaus scowled. “I kill one, and then I trade them for Dave, is that it? Is that your game here?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that,” She replied, looking between Klaus and his tied-up siblings. “It’s time, Klaus. Choose.”
Klaus looked back at his siblings.
Luther was a dick, but Klaus couldn’t kill him. He was a teddy bear when he wasn’t stuck under dad’s thumb. Klaus remembered the times when Luther joined them for movie nights, and ate three whole ice cream cartons all by himself, then tried to pin it on Diego.
Speaking of Diego...he was angry and violent, but he was the softest of them all. All a person had to do was overhear Diego talking to their mom, and it was all clear. He loved as deeply as Klaus did, and was just as shitty at showing it. Klaus couldn’t hurt him, especially not after Diego was the only one to find him on the streets.
Allison didn’t deserve it. She was just as emotionally stunted as the rest of them, and she was making such good progress. She had just taken Klaus shopping, and she had bought him his own skirts in an attempt to get him to stop taking hers. A failed endeavor, but one that he appreciated.
Five was an asshole, a murderer, and all around a prick. But he saved them all. He saved the world. It was clear he still cared. And he had suffered for forty-five years trying to get back to his family after he found them all dead in the apocalypse. Poor guy deserved to wind down and just live.
Ben was out of the question. No fucking way.
Vanya deserved to learn about her powers and find love in someone who wasn’t a manipulative douchewad.
Klaus clenched his fist around the gun.
“You said that the real Trial is who I shoot, right?” He asked. She nodded.
“Yes. Choose, Klaus.”
He chose. He had a bad feeling that he chose the only one that She wasn’t gonna like, but it was too late to pretend to be smart. She told him to choose, and Klaus chose.
Quickly, before he could think about how bad this idea was, he raised his arm, aimed the gun, and he fired.
Silence followed the bang of the gun, and then Klaus heard something he had never expected to hear.
She laughed. Honest-to-Her, She was laughing. The sound was bright, like a sunny day where everything is okay. She wasn’t phased at all by the bullet hole that was closing over on her forehead. Klaus felt like his chest was in knots as he waited for her to get mad at him. To tell him that he failed, that it was all for nothing and he had lost Dave again. But She just stopped laughing, took a deep breath, and gave him a genuine smile.
“I knew you had it in you,” She said, pride laced in her voice. Klaus dropped the gun.
“You kept saying you ‘can’t’ shoot your family, Klaus, and I kept pushing back,” She explained. “The answer I was looking for was that you won’t . And that’s the answer I got.”
“I— I didn’t fail? I did it right?” Klaus could barely hear his own voice. She looked so happy, and for a moment he forgot that he didn’t like Her.
“There are many types of Honor, Klaus, and it’s not all about following through on what you’re supposed to do.” She waved her hand and Klaus’s siblings disappeared, then the walls, leaving them back on the path with her bike leaning against a tree. “When everything you love is on the line, you still refuse to harm those you care about. You are loyal , Klaus, despite everything you think about yourself. And that, my dear Seance, is honorable. That is what I needed to see.”
“Do you mean…” Klaus couldn’t finish the sentence, worried that he was wrong. But She just smiled.
“You passed, Klaus. All three Trials. I’m proud of you.” She walked over and picked up Her bike. “You know, I might not hate you anymore. But still, try not to make your visits a habit. I rather like the quiet.”
“Thank you,” Klaus said, blurting the words out as he felt the familiar tug of waking up. His ears began to fill with the sound of rushing water, the sound of the shower he left behind. She looked over her shoulder, her face almost seeming fond.
“I hope you’re happy, Klaus. You deserve it.”
Then Klaus woke up.
In a record five minutes, Klaus was out of the shower, dressed, and waiting in the living room. His hair was dripping, but he didn’t care. He saw from the clock that he had been in the shower for almost three hours, and he knew that someone would be coming to find him soon to yell at him for using all the hot water. He had to get to the door before that happened. He had to answer the door for Dave.
A part of him was worried that Dave wouldn’t actually show up. After all, She didn’t really give any details. But Klaus came to find that he trusted Her. So his foot tapped and his fingers picked at the couch cushion as he waited.
The doorbell rang. He could hear Luther’s heavy footsteps, but Klaus sprinted to answer it. And he felt tears in his eyes.
“Hey, sunshine,” Dave said, grinning from ear to ear as Klaus opened the door. Klaus lost any sense of composure that he had cobbled together, throwing his arms around Dave and dragging him inside the house.
“Dave, you’re here , you’re alive!” he said, his voice muffled by Dave’s shirt. Dave chuckled, and Klaus felt the sound throughout his entire body.
“Yeah, sweetheart, I’m here. She told me what you did,” He said. “Thank you, Klaus.”
“Anything for you, Davey.”
“Klaus?” Luther’s voice came from the stairwell. “Who is this?”
“Luther, call a family meeting,” Klaus said, never tearing his eyes from Dave as the first truly happy smile in over a month graced his face.
“What?” Luther didn’t move. Klaus couldn’t find it in him to be mad, instead just pulling Dave closer and resting their foreheads together.
“Call a family meeting, Luther. I’ve got a long story to tell.”
And as Luther turned to get everyone else, Klaus leaned in to kiss Dave. He heard Ben wolf-whistle and then loudly gag in mock disgust, but Klaus didn’t even move his hand to flip him off. He was too goddamn happy.
Sure, Klaus was about to take Her advice and tell his family everything, but for once he wasn’t nervous or scared about what might happen after.
Because Dave was alive, his hands were strong and warm, and everything was perfect.