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Bird Song

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The Umbrella Academy was not all it was cracked up to be. What seemed like an extraordinary school for superpowered children destined to save and protect everyone else and propose some other kind of advancements for the human race quickly became a shit show of either dead or missing children or traumatised and emotionally stunted adults. Composed of seven children, two of which had been born with no powers whatsoever, by the end of 2018 the Academy only consisted of three children. Excluding the ones with no powers, of course. They had never truly been part of the Academy, and Reginald Hargreeves had tried his hardest to ensure that they knew that in every way short of kicking the children out. 

Number Four and Number Seven. The only powers Seven had was the ability to become nauseous with anxiety, and the only ability Four had was the ability to drive himself insane without his meds, for Vanya had anxiety that seized her and Klaus had hallucinations that hounded him without his medication. 

Growing up powerless in a home that only cared about power was incredibly isolating. Five had never much cared for the obvious distance Reginald tried to cause between them, and he had always been more than happy to talk to either Klaus or Vanya. But then Five had disappeared. Ben, quiet, kind Ben, had died. Allison talked to them as kids but as she found that she could get anything in the world that she wanted, she had found out quickly the idea of popular and unpopular. Of course, Klaus and Vanya did not fall under popular or cool, and so she distanced herself. Luther would rather be caught dead or, if the rumours of Ben's death were to be believed, allow the death of his sibling than be caught disobeying Reginald and associate himself with them. And Diego's schedule was always busy, and he never really got along with Vanya. He talked to Klaus, sometimes, but after Ben's death he had become even more isolated.

So, quickly, Klaus and Vanya became close. The Academy had not abandoned them, as Klaus liked to say, but they had abandoned the Academy. They saved their allowances up and the night of their seventeenth birthday the two of them ran away together. Klaus decided to ditch the self-doubt and second-guessing and the low self-esteem that the Academy had drilled into him and he bloomed into something akin to a social butterfly, an eccentric, loud, confident person. And he tried to teach Vanya how to speak louder, too, and how to stop isolating herself, because if no one else then at least she had him.

They hardly talked to the rest of their siblings. Luther refused to leave the Academy and Klaus decided he had never really been that pleasant to be around, especially not when he refused to learn about anxiety or schizophrenia or tried to see past them as the two powerless ones. Allison turned selfish and Klaus didn't like what she became, abusing her powers to bring herself fame and fortune, and Diego - well, Diego tried and, admittedly, without the Academy around them, he tried harder. Sometimes they got lunch together. He had a bright future in the police academy, Klaus thought. A chance at a normal life.

Klaus embraced it, really. He knew Vanya harboured a slight obsession with the idea of normal and ordinary, but Klaus didn't. Klaus simply wanted to live his own life and forget all about the Umbrella Academy like a bad dream. He wanted to forget about powers and forget about medicine and hallucinations. He got a job and he went to parties and went on dates, put himself out there, wore outrageous clothes and, when he got an apartment, bought horrendously mismatching furniture. While Vanya pursued her talent in music, Klaus pursued his talent in art.

Klaus did not like his hallucinations. But sometimes, even with his daily dose of anti-psychotics, they broke through. Wavering, muffled like a reflection beneath an ocean of water, but there nonetheless. And so he painted. He painted them, their pale skin and their sad eyes, bloody wrists and bruised necks, the old couples who seemed content and weren't as unpleasant. 

When Ben died, he drew him, too. Drew him because the portraits in the Academy was all wrong, what with their false smiles and dead eyes, and the statue built in commemoration of Ben was horrendous, too. What Reginald saw Ben as, but not who he really had been, so Klaus made his own painting and hung it up in his living room, right above his orange couch. He drew him without the blood and gore of his corpse, drew him with his dimples and his smooth hair, his paper-cut thumbs and shy eyes. He thought it captured him well, and the hallucination that his cruel, cruel mind had conjured up of him had cried when Klaus hung the painting up.

Long gone was the Umbrella Academy, and Klaus was fine with that. He had his own apartment and, with Vanya and Diego's encouragement, he had applied for art school, and he had gotten accepted. He was working on catching the name of a cute barista of a nearby coffee shop, and his meds kept his sanity together. He didn't need the Academy, and he was fine with that.

"Does she look haunting enough?" Klaus asked, and he turned his gaze onto Vanya. His sister sat sprawled out across his couch, her cheeks slightly rosy, and Klaus stood in front of an easel, one hand cupping a glass of red wine and the other pinching a paintbrush. His hair, of which he had begun to grow out to the point it brushed his shoulders in thick ringlets, was held back from his face with a pink scrunchie, and the painting in front of him captured a woman, almost as grey as the background, curling away from the viewer, a night gown draping off her pale frame, brunette hair curling down her back, and blood pouring from her chest.

"She... she looks pretty, in an odd way," said Vanya, sitting up and leaning closer. "In a tragic way, I guess." Klaus hummed, nodding his head. "And sad."

Klaus glanced up. There, wavering in front of him like a flickering, weak hologram, stood the woman whom he had painted. She did look tragically pretty and very sad, Klaus thought. 

"Is the painting done?" Vanya asked, and Klaus hummed thoughtfully. 

"I think so, I think so." Klaus narrowed his eyes at the painting as if he expected it to morph into something else, or to spring to life. It, of course, didn't. Klaus threw his paintbrush aside and collapsed gracefully onto an armchair. "Yeah, she's done."

"Is it part of your work? Or were you just painting her for the sake of painting her?"

"For school," confirmed Klaus. His eyes rolled over to Vanya, his lips pursing against his wine glass. "How's the orchestra going? First chair yet?"

Vanya shook her head. "No," she sighed, chest heaving. "Not yet."

"Growth mind set," said Klaus, pointing at her. "I like that." Vanya snorted. 

"We're supposed to be doing auditions soon, though-"

"It's a sign!" Said Klaus, sitting up with enough force that the wine in his glass sloshed over the rim and down his fingers. He hurried to catch the drops with his tongue before he continued to speak. "You're gonna get this. You're so gonna get it, Vanya. What are you going to get? It."

Vanya rolled her eyes at him, shaking her head with a small smile on her lips. "I don't know... Helen's still just so good and I don't know how she does it."

"Ask her on a date, fuck her brains out, and, while basking in the after sex glow, get her to spill all her secrets."

Vanya choked, sitting up slightly. "Klaus - no! I'm not - I don't-"

"I'm sure," drawled Klaus, watching the wine as it swirled around in his glass, lips pursed sceptically. "Suuuuure."

Vanya, with cheeks bright red, looked down at her lap. "I - no, Klaus, just no."

"It's an option! You can try it!" He insisted, pointing at her. "Don't deny that it's not an option."

"It is an option, Klaus, just not one I'm willing to do-"

"Just wait, just wait," hummed Klaus. "I'm sure your mind will change."

"Enough talk about my sex life-"

"The lack of it."

"Klaus." Vanya fixed him with a glare. "Fine, then. What's with you and that guy from the coffee shop - Dan? Darrel? Da-"

"Dave," corrected Klaus with a dramatic eye roll. "And he's still spiffing as ever, my dear. Still makes me fear for the condition of my heart every time I dare lay my peasant eyes upon him." He laid a hand across his chest, leaning back across the arm of the chair.

"I don't think having a heart attack while giving him your number is a good first impression."

"Why not?" Klaus asked, a slow grin spreading across his lips. "I'd, quite literally, fall for him." Vanya responded with a pained groan, tipping her head back and closing her eyes. 

"Not smooth, Klaus. Not smooth."

"I think so." Klaus sipped his wine and then set it down on his coffee table, crossing his legs at the ankles. "I'm working on it, okay? Before you know it we'll be married."

Vanya hummed, high pitched and sceptical. "I'll hold you to that."

"Good. You can be my brides maid of honour."

"I'm honoured," said Vanya with a small smile. His sister was a shy thing, still so uncertain of herself after the isolation of the Umbrella Academy. Sometimes Klaus regretted not taking her out more. Often times Klaus would sneak out, bored beyond belief of the four walls of the Academy. He would go out, sneaking into parties and raves, taking stranger's drinks and winking at anyone who looked at him. Perhaps not the most safe or smart things to do, but the music, the energy, the people; it was a drastic change to the stuffy Academy and he loved it. He still did. 

He felt as if part of him was really made in that scene. The people he met there, the energy and the confidence and the unapologeticness, especially when Klaus, sheltered and afraid, was trying to find himself and struggling with his own identity in more than one way, rubbed off on him and, thankfully, in a good way. He stole their brashness, their unapologetic attitude, their carefree nature and their openness. He learned how to introduce himself to strangers and he learned how to have fun, learned how to wear makeup and glitter in public, to act on impulse because fuck it, he was himself and why not do something if he wanted to do it? Klaus was loud mouthed, obvious, unapologetic, and himself. And he was perfectly happy with that.

Vanya was rather the opposite. She might open up with him, sure, but to hardly anyone else. He wondered what would have been made of her in raves and clubs. Maybe it was better they didn't know. 

"How's the galleries?" Vanya asked, and Klaus peeled open his eyes to look up at her. 

"Shit," he groaned, dropping his head back over the edge of the couch. "I've written to a few and not received a single word in response - not a single automated response email! I'm convinced that unless your name is Banksy or Picasso then no galleries care." He huffed, folding his arms across his chest and cracking open one eye to stare at the picture across from him. Perhaps his art was simply too dark for most people's fancy, but that was hardly his fault. 

He could create other things, of course. If he wanted to he could create an entire series of beaches and sunsets and majestic animals, gorgeous sights that looked like a photograph. He could, but he didn't want to. He had spent his entire life being haunted by unimaginable horrors created by his own twisted mind, and he had spent his entire life not being taken seriously. And he wanted people to know, to see what he did, even if it was sad or gory. He wanted to be acknowledge, to be known, and not for little beach cliffs and lighthouse sunsets. He wanted people to feel the pain the hallucinations so often told him about. 

Klaus bit his lip and looked away. He lifted a hand, pulling the pink scrunchie out of his hair and letting it all fall down. 

"I'm sure one of them will," offered Vanya. "You've just got to keep trying."

Klaus let out a long sigh, expelling a dramatic breath of air. "I know, I know," he grumbled. He hauled himself upright, setting his bare feet on the floor beneath him. He scrubbed his hands down his face and pressed his lips together. "Do you think I should try something new?" He asked.

"What do you mean?"

Klaus waved a hand at the painting in front of him, then the ones around the room. He had plenty of canvases around the room, some hung up, some stacked carefully out of the way, all covered in corpses. "A new style. Maybe it's time for lighthouses."

Vanya gave him a look. "You've been pretty adamant about not changing your style, Klaus, and I think you're fair in deciding to do that. You've said it yourself; you don't paint to paint idealistic scenes. There's no point in changing simply because some people might not like it."

Klaus groaned, dropping his head into his hands. "You're right, I know, but still..." He peered out of his fingers, eying the paint-splattered easel in front of him. "Maybe I should try sculpting..."

"You could try," said Vanya optimistically. 

Klaus threw his hands down, slapping them down onto the couch cushions beside him. "Let's go out," he said, suddenly. Vanya sat up a little, staring at him. 

"What? Where?"

"Let's go out... somewhere. I know where. Come on, find your shoes, let's go." He stood up, ushering her to her feet, too, and he shoved his own feet into a pair of sandals. He grabbed his jacket when Vanya grabbed his wrist, looking him up and down, unimpressed.

"You're covered in wine stains and paint, Klaus. At least change your shirt."

Klaus looked himself up and down. Clad in sandals, sweatpants with a tie-dye pattern and a white shirt that he had cropped, now covered in messy paint splatters, he thought he was the epitome of fashion and beauty. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with this outfit," he stated, gesturing himself up and down.

"There really is," insisted Vanya. Klaus rolled his eyes but with their destination in mind, he found himself drifting into his bedroom and to his wardrobe. When he came back out, his boots clicked with their slight heels, and he wore a sheer, gold cheetah print button up shirt, of which he did a few more buttons in at Vanya's insistence, and a pair of black trousers with gold flowers dancing across them, and they sat dangerously low on his hips for fashion, he insisted. He kept his hair down, curls brushing his shoulders and framing his face, bouncing with each step he took.

Deemed dashing enough, Klaus guided Vanya out of his apartment and down the uneven staircase, out onto the streets. His head still buzzed slightly from the wine he had uncorked, a pleasant lightness that worked through his muscles and put a spring on his step, and even more so as he rounded the corner onto a familiar street and caught sight of a familiar bookshop-slash-coffeeshop. 

"You just want to see Dave, huh," Vanya accused.

"I want to get a brioche, actually. And if a dashingly handsome war veteran just so happens to serve it to me, well, that's nothing but a bonus, my dear," Klaus responded with a grin. The door chimed as he opened it, heels clicking as he strode in as if he owned the establishment which probably wasn't the best as people had a tendency to occupy the bookshop-coffeeshop mix to study and read quietly. But at least his entrance very clearly announced him.

He took a detour to the café, leisurely walking the maze of bookshelves and breathing in the scent of pastries and coffee and paper. Ben would have loved it here, no doubt. Sometimes Klaus saw his face flicker in his periphery, but when he looked, there was nothing. The little bag of his prescription he kept on his person in case of emergencies would ensure that he stayed no more than a flicker, a waver in reality. It still hurt, though, when Ben cried that he was his brother and he just wanted to talk to Klaus and Klaus kept taking the pills and shutting his dear brother out. It hurt. The screaming when he didn't take his meds hurt more.

He forced himself free of that suffocating feeling and went to the café, finding a table for himself and Vanya by the window. He already knew what he'd get, so he slid the little menu in Vanya's direction, crossing one leg over the other and watching people walk by on the streets. He watched them until the tap, tap, tap of business shoes came close and he swung his head around to meet Dave's smile with one of his own.

"Hey there, handsome," Klaus purred. "Come here a lot?"

"Klaus," Vanya moaned opposite him, and Dave chuckled, low and deep and heartily.

"Yes, and you know that, Klaus," said Dave. He glanced at Vanya and offered a warm smile to her. "You must be Vanya; pleasure to meet you."

Vanya's cheeks and ears warmed red at that, her gaze briefly flicking to the table. "Yes, I am. Klaus mentioned me?"

"A few times-"

"Of course! You're my fave sister, after all," said Klaus with a grin, nudging Vanya's arm. He turned his gaze back to Dave, resting his cheek on his hands clasped together. 

"Can I get either of you something?" He asked, and Klaus smiled. Vanya kicked him under the table.

"Oh, yes, certainly." He grabbed the menu from Vanya's hands. "Van, what do you want?" 

"Oh, uh... could I have a tea, please? And a croissant, please?"

"Of course," replied Dave, "it'll be a second. And you?"

Klaus slid the menu across the table towards Dave. He felt oddly anxious and he swallowed around the lump in his throat. "Chocolate milkshake. Bendy straw, please - I know you have them. And-" He pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. "Your number."

Dave raised an eyebrow at him, a small smile tugging his lips upwards. He took the piece of paper and the pen, winked, and walked back to the counter. As soon as he was gone Klaus coughed as if he had been holding his breath for minutes, spluttering on the table.

"Christ, Klaus - breathe!" Said Vanya, and Klaus thumped his hand on his chest multiple times until he could breathe clearly again.

"Holy fuck," wheezed Klaus, voice raspy. "I didn't think it would work."

"You're an idiot," tutted Vanya, shaking her head. Klaus threw her a smile. They fell into silence for a moment, then Klaus leaned in.

"But did you see his smile, though? He's into me, right?"

Vanya gave him a look. "Yes, Klaus. He's clearly interested in you," she told him with a fond smile, shaking her head. She cast her eyes around the little café, then remarked, "this is a really nice place."

It is, Klaus thought. It was small and cosy, very welcoming; warm earth tones everywhere, with fairy lights and paintings - a couple which were Klaus' - and it had a few coat stands and umbrella stands, and a shelf to place books on after reading them while you ate. In the corner of the bookshop part of it, too, was a smaller sitting area dedicated for students studying, and it was right by a window overlook the park behind the shop, with fairy lights, soft seats, a table, coloured pens and pencils, and a few plug sockets for laptops and chargers, and the wifi password. Thoroughly generous, Klaus thought, and he had spent many afternoons reading art theory in that corner.

Dave returned with a tall chocolate milkshake - with a straw that had little loops in it - a tea and a croissant, and he slid a piece of paper with his number back to Klaus, who beamed widely. 

"Pull up a chair, dear Dave," Klaus said. "Tell us about your day. Or we'll tell you about ours, either way."

Dave snorted but, after a hasty glance around the room, he did just so, tucking the chair into the open side of the table. "It's not been a very eventful day," admitted Dave. "I thought I lost my cat again."

"Julie's?" Asked Klaus.

"Julie's," confirmed Dave. Klaus shook his head, then leaned across to Vanya.

"Julie is his neighbour. The cat loves Julie more than she loves Dave."

Dave frowned. "She does love me. Julie just bribes her fat with treats."

"I'd love anyone who fed me treats every day, too," stated Klaus. He sought out the bendy straw, hands hugging his milkshake, and let his eyes roam around as he drank.

His eyes fell onto the small TV screen hanging in the corner of the room. It played the news at a low volume, humming away, and Klaus glanced away. Then he quickly glanced back, startling and almost choking on the milkshake in his mouth.

"Holy shit," he said, jaw slack.

Eccentric billionaire and creator of The Umbrella Academy Reginald Hargreeves has passed away last night.

"Oh, god," uttered Vanya, eyes finding the TV as well.

"Fuck," said someone to Klaus' side. He glanced over, startling even more as he saw Ben standing there, gazing up at the television with blood soaking his t-shirt, pooling on the wooden floor beneath him, so vivid, so real.

"Dad's dead."

Chapter Text

"Are you alright?" Dave's voice pierced through the sudden fog clogging up his mind and Klaus blinked a few times, forcing his eyes from the television screen and to Dave. Klaus swallowed, instead sharing a look with Vanya.

"Uh... yeah. Yeah," he said, nodding his head shakily. "That's... that's our dad," he added after a moment, tipping his head to the television. Dave's eyes flicked over to the screen, reading the news headline, and his face fell.

"Oh," he said. "Oh. I'm so sorry-"

"Don't be," Klaus interrupted. He didn't really know how to feel in that moment. Reginald was dead. He had finally kicked the bucket. After years of torment, he was dead. Some part of him felt frozen with shock, something that settled heavily inside of him and chilled him. A part of him felt lighter, as if a weight had been lifted off of himself. He turned to look at Vanya again, a little laugh falling past his lips. "Oh, shit. Bastard."

Vanya seemed as conflicted as he did. Her eyebrows furrowed together and her lips twitched, and she stared at Klaus when he laughed. "Well..." She said, but the rest of the sentence got lost somewhere in her mouth.

"I mean... he had to kick the bucket eventually," Klaus commented. He leaned back in his chair, letting go of the bendy straw for his chocolate milkshake and running his hands through his hair. "Part of me thought he was immortal, though. Doomed to haunt us forever."

Vanya snorted lightly. "He did look like he was seventy years old for two decades," she uttered. She looked down at her food, and Klaus reached out for his milkshake again.

He did feel bad. A part of him felt almost desperate. For years he had tried, and failed, to gain his father's approval and love, and now he would never again have the chance to do so. As much as Klaus told himself he didn't care at all what Reginald thought of him, there was a deep part of him that wanted nothing more to be his favoured son, his successful Umbrella Academy student, and that part of him twisted in fear and shock and sadness. 

Another part of him felt like the shackles on his wrists and ankles that bound him to the Umbrella Academy had finally fallen free. They had grown slack over the years since Klaus had left, but only now did they truly fall away and leave him completely and utterly free. It was a relief. He felt like he could breathe a little easier. 

A part of him, deep down, screamed for answers to questions Klaus couldn't remember. 

He sucked on the bendy straw until more of the milkshake came through it, cool and soothing on his throat and sweet on his tongue. Silence enveloped them, thick and heavy and awkward. Vanya picked at her croissant, running a finger over the handle of her tea absentmindedly. "Do you think the others know?" She asked, and Klaus glanced over to her. 

"Luther will," Klaus murmured. "He'll tell Allison. Diego will probably find out at some point, I guess. Pogo might reach out to him or he'll see it on the news." His foot tapped an erratic rhythm on the wooden floor beneath him.

"There must be a funeral, right?" Vanya asked, and that caught Klaus' attention. 

"Do you want to go to it if there is one?"

Vanya shrugged. "I don't think the others would want to see me."

Klaus grinned. "Probably not," he admitted, and Vanya kicked him. He snorted, looking away and cradling his milkshake to his chest. "Eh. Ohana and all that, right?"

Vanya rolled her eyes at him. 

"Wait, wait, wait. You never told me you were part of the - the Umbrella Academy?" Dave blurted, looking incredulous and shocked. Klaus and Vanya exchanged looks, and Klaus sighed.

"Don't get so excited, Dave," he said, and he held up his arms, showing clean, untattooed forearms. "You met the two least interesting members of it. Do we even count as members of it?" Klaus turned to Vanya, eyes narrowed in thought.

"Yes, you do, Klaus."

Klaus flinched at Ben's voice, his lips pressing together in a tight line. Vanya raised an eyebrow. Klaus shook his head. 

"I... don't understand," Dave murmured. 

"Ol' Reggie bought seven kids. Me and Vanya here are two of them. Two of his kids turned out to be boring little ordinary kids." He waved his hands. "Et voila. C'est moi."

"Oh," said Dave, glancing between the two of them. "Well, I think you're both very interesting."

Klaus laid a hand over his chest. "You make me swoon, Dave," he cooed, slumping in the chair. He found the bendy straw in his lips again. "Hey, at least our day just got interesting." He turned to Vanya. "Want to get wasted? Our dad died, we're allowed to do it." He turned to Dave. "Want to get wasted with us?" He asked. 

"No, Klaus," Vanya snorted, shaking her head. She lifted her hand to tuck her short hair behind her ears, and Klaus deflated in his seat.

"I'm down," Dave mumbled absently. Klaus grinned, twirling the straw in his fingers. 

"Not tonight," said Vanya. "There's... there'll be a funeral. Pogo and Luther wouldn't let there not be one."

Klaus groaned. "I'm trying to drink my milkshake in peace, Van. And I've got art deadlines! I've not got time for funerals! Why would we even go?"

"They'd expect us all to be there," Vanya stated.

"Would they, though? I doubt they'd even realise we'd be there. You'd be ignored and Luther would call me crazy." He felt slightly bad at the way Vanya flinched minutely, face screwing up. "And we'd all pay our respects to our lovely daddy who didn't even give us real names." He spread his hands out innocently, then closed them around his milkshake again and brought it up to his mouth.

Vanya struggled to find her next words, fiddling with her sleeves. "Pogo might phone," she finally said. Klaus heaved a sigh, tipping his head back. 

"Fine, fine." He sucked the straw harder until the milkshake was empty, creating an irritating, echoing sound as he drank any last trace of it and then set the cup back down on the table. "Dave, my dear, can we fetch the bill?" He asked, turning to Dave. The brunette nodded, replacing the chair he had taken to sit down in and disappearing briefly to grab their bill. They paid for themselves and Vanya pulled her coat on and, after a lingering smile at Dave and an apology for leaving so soon, they left. 

"Go to the funeral, Klaus. You need to go."

"Are they bad?" Vanya asked. Klaus hummed, snapping out of his daze and turning to look at her. "I can tell, you know. You get tense. Dazed."

Klaus sighed, running a hand down his face. "Yeah. Not bad, but fucking irritating," he said pointedly, as if he could insult his own hallucinations. Most of them didn't actually react to anything Klaus said. They seemed stuck in their own world, stuck in their only goal to torture Klaus. Ben, however, did react. He grimaced at each insult and looked ready to argue and, really, it was almost impressive how his mind could conjure up such a complex hallucination. Even now, at that comment Ben hissed between his teeth, shaking his head. Blood dripped down from his mouth. Klaus ignored him. It was better to ignore them all.

"Are you alright?"

Klaus waved his hands. "I'm always alright, sis. I'll take another dose at home, but you should probably go back to your own apartment. You know, in case Pogo phones." 

Vanya lingered, eying Klaus, who gave her a bright smile. "Alright. Yeah, probably. Just - you know, phone me if you need me, Klaus. And tell me if you get invited to the funeral and if you're going."

"Of course. I'd never go without my favourite violinist," he said with a smile, and he opened an arm to wrap it around her, squeezing her in a breath hug. He could feel her, she was real, solid and warm beneath his hands, breathing and alive and real. And, with that, they parted ways to their own apartments. In place of Vanya by his side, Ben drifted into place. Klaus didn't spare him a glance. 

It was painful seeing Ben, honestly. He had seen the coffin go into the ground, had stood as they erected his statue in the courtyard, had walked past his empty bedroom and lingered in the doorway. There were voids where Ben was supposed to be, ripped out of life too quickly, and his brain took advantage of his grief and endlessly tortured him with it. He didn't want to see Ben, didn't want to hear his voice again. He wanted Ben to rest in peace and be somewhere better, but he seemed to cling to Klaus no matter what he tried.

He threw open his door, kicked off his boots, and went straight into the kitchen. Ben stood in his way. Klaus tilted his head right down, avoiding looking above Ben's knees. Blood dripped down them. It stained his floor.

"Klaus, please." His voice was warbled, muffled as if the wind was stealing it away. "Just look at me. Please. Just let me talk - just for five minutes."

"You're not real," Klaus muttered. He looked up at the ceiling, sighed, clenched and unclenched his fists, and then he stepped around his brother's corpse and into his medicine cabinet. He found the little bottle of prescription pills, shaking two out onto his hands.

"Klaus, please," Ben begged. His voice wavered, something utterly desperate. It broke Klaus' heart. He fetched a glass of water in a shaking hand. "Please Klaus, I'm real. Just look at me - look at me, Klaus!"

Klaus didn't. He swallowed his pills and leaned over the counter, eyes screwed shut until Ben's begging turned silent and there was no more dripping blood. He let out a relieved sigh, rolling his shoulders and glancing around his apartment. Not a single person other than Klaus was in the place. The silence was bliss.

While other hallucinations begged Klaus to save them, Ben always begged him to look at him, or to just talk to him, or he just insisted that he was real. Sometimes he told Klaus that everything he saw was real; not some horrific hallucination, but real ghosts. That was his power. The idea was ludicrous, horrifying, and painful. Even if it was real, even if it was his power, why would he want to keep it if that's what he saw? Either way, he decided he was better off on a strict schedule of pills for the rest of his life. 

A part of him yearned to know, though. If what Ben spoke was the truth. He couldn't imagine what he'd do if that was the case, truthfully. 

But he ought not to think about that. He shook himself of those thoughts, stood up and threw himself onto his couch. His glass of wine was still out, sitting tauntingly on the coffee table, and he stretched to snatch it and bring it to his lips. He let himself laze there, thinking of nothing in particular and listening to the streets outside. His thoughts wandered briefly back to Vanya and what she had said concerning a funeral.

Did he really want to go? The only siblings he wanted to talk to were either dead, missing, or not likely to show up either. Perhaps he could call Diego over to his with Vanya and they could all get shit-faced and go to a party, or something. But he hadn't actually spoken to Diego for a while, and Diego, he knew, despised Vanya's book. Sometimes he wondered if Klaus had helped her write it. He hadn't, actually. He had been mad at her for writing it himself. He didn't feel the need to expose all the secrets of their family like that, and while he knew where Vanya was coming from, he wouldn't have been able to bring himself to do that. He had stopped talking to her shortly after she published it but found that the gap between them made him horrifically lonely, and he didn't want to wade in a grudge for years.

He knew if he asked Vanya not to go to the funeral but rather to stay at his house, she would. Diego might, too, but not with Vanya. He had no real desire to see Allison, for apparently having a schizophrenic brother in Hollywood wasn't necessarily a good thing and, rather than using her platform to perhaps share Klaus' struggles and destigmatise it, she had laughed when people made jokes, nodded her head in agreement. Klaus wasn't one to hold grudges, but that had hurt.

And Luther, too. He certainly didn't want to see Luther. 

He did miss Grace, however. 

His phone rang. He groaned, wine gurgling in the back of his throat before he swallowed it down, and he swung himself up onto his feet and snatched it off the wall. "Hello?"

"Master Klaus," greeted Pogo, his voice weary. Klaus braced himself.

"Pogo," he returned. "I bet I can guess why you're calling."

"No doubt. I'm sure you have heard the news of your father's passing."

"Certainly have."

"And I'd appreciate if you were to attend his funeral tonight."

Klaus pursed his lips together. "Have you phoned everyone else?" He asked.

"I just have Miss Vanya to phone after you."

Klaus inhaled deeply, watching his wine swirl like blood in his hands. "Sure," he said. "Count me in. What time?"

"Seven tonight, Master Klaus."

"See you then, Pogo."

"Thank you." 

Klaus hung the phone up, pinched the bridge of his nose, and groaned. For his inheritance, he told himself. He'd wasted a ton of money thinking he'd finally get a painting in a gallery, and he needed that money back. Unless, he thought, Reginald had just cut him out of his will entirely. Klaus wouldn't be surprised.

It only took a few minutes for his phone to ring again.

"Klaus?"

"I'm going," he said, leaning against his wall.

"Really?" Vanya blew out a breath. "I said I would too."

"Old bastard better have left some money for me," Klaus tutted, shaking his head. 

"I'm still not sure I should be going-"

"Nonsense," said Klaus. "We're still part of the family, yeah? No matter how hard dear old dad tried. You have a right to be there. Look, how about we meet? We'll go there together, huh?"

Vanya sighed, uncertain. "Sure. Yeah, yeah, let's do that."

"It's a date," Klaus joked. "I'll meet you outside the cinema, yeah, and we'll get a taxi?"

"Deal. I'll see you there, Klaus."

"See you soon, dear." Klaus hung the phone up and, after a moment of staring contemplatively at the floor, downed the rest of his wine.

He found himself outside of the cinema not long later. He had changed shirts, going for a plain black button-up because of funerals, and he had thrown on a calf-length black coat with fur lining it, tickling his jaw. He stood waiting for Vanya as the rain began, droplets spitting from the heavy clouds above, promising much more, and eventually he saw his sister coming up. She, too, had thrown on a button-up shirt, pulled her hair back from her face and clutched an umbrella in her hand. Klaus beamed at her, waving her over and then waving down a taxi.

In the backseat, he turned to her. "You excited?" He asked. Vanya snorted.

"Have you ever been to a funeral before, Klaus?"

"Once, actually. It was sad. But this is a Hargreeves funeral, which means yelling, swearing, wrestling, and broken things. It's like watching a train wreck happen right in front of you!"

Ben's funeral, off course, had been a nightmare. Diego had tried to throw his knives at Luther, only failing because Allison rumoured him, and Klaus and Vanya had sat silently on the sidelines. Reginald had backhanded Diego and yelled at everyone to either go to their rooms or leave, for by then only Luther and Allison remained in the Academy. Klaus had critisiced the statue the second it came out.

"If Diego still wears that knife harness..."

"I know he does," Klaus said sadly, looking out the rain-splattered window. "I don't think a funeral will make him take it off, either."

Vanya shook her head. "Definitely not." She wrung her hands, fiddled with her umbrella. "Are you feeling any better now?" She asked. Klaus hummed and closed his eyes. Silence, save for the sound of wheels on the road. Blissful silence.

"Much," he said, peeling open his eyes. "Feeling fantastic and ready to get my inheritance!"

The taxi slowed to a stop. They split the fair for it, and Klaus hopped out onto the pavement, staring up at the Academy that loomed over him like some haunted house.

"Home sweet home," he murmured, and pushed open the gate. They walked in together, shoes clicking loudly against the marble floor, and Klaus felt a wave of gross nostalgia wash over him. He felt young again, suddenly, walking by Vanya's side and into the foyer. He could see multiple other umbrellas sitting up by, signifying the presence of their other siblings, and it stirred some anxiety in his stomach like a coiled snake, wound up and tight. He grimaced, drumming his fingers over his thighs. 

"Well... where first?" He asked, resting his gaze on Vanya. 

"I... honestly think I just want to look around quickly," Vanya admitted. Klaus hummed thoughtfully, nodding.

"I'm going to raid the kitchen," he said, patting her shoulder. "You know where to find me." He gave her a quick salute and then slunk off towards the kitchen and immediately to the cupboards. He swung them open, pursing his lips and eying the contents before moving onto the other cupboard. There he managed to pull out a small bag of chocolate chips and he opened them, dropping some into his mouth as he began to look around. 

It definitely felt odd being back, and not in a good way. It was as quiet as it always had been, no sound even without Reginald's presence. It felt as if he was there, though, in every corner, in every nook and every cranny, in the eyes of every portrait and hidden in the walls, behind closed doors. The whole building breathed in Reginald's place, oppressive and unwelcoming. Klaus half expected to hear the tapping of his shoes as he came down the stairs and into the kitchen, the echo of his voice as he told them all to sit down.

He hovered in the kitchen, sitting up on the counter and eating chocolate chips until he heard footsteps come in, heels clicking. He tensed slightly, turning, but it was not Allison but rather Grace. He let his shoulders relax and he stood off the counter, and Grace greeted him as she always had.

"It's been so long!" She said, coming over to him. "How have you been, dear?" She asked, lips in a perfect smile. She opened her arms and Klaus slipped close, returning the hug and patting her on the back.

"I've been well," he said, glancing her up and down. He wondered what she thought of Reginald's death, if anything, or if she had been programmed to react in a specific way after he died. He wondered a lot about Grace, but he supposed he would never really know. "I got into art school."

"That's great, dear!" She enthused, eyes not quite brightening. "You always were a very creative kid." She squeezed his arm gently and then took a step back, glancing at the back of chocolate chips in his hands and frowning. "Those are for baking, Klaus," she scolded, shaking her head.

"I'm sorry, I just love chocolate," Klaus pouted. Grace offered a fond, exasperated smile. 

"The rest of your siblings are here, I'm sure they'd love to see you." Klaus had to hold back a scoff at that, nodding.

"I'll be sure to see them," he assured her, and then he slid from her side and out of the kitchen. He lingered in the hallway, eying the place. The grand chandelier hanging above him, dust-free and sparkling, and all the expensive ornaments and decorations and trophies Reginald had gotten. He glanced up at the sound of footsteps, eyes going up the stairs as someone turned the corner. 

"Klaus?"

Klaus let a hesitant smile spread his lips and he waved meekly. "Hey, bro," he said. "Didn't expect to see you here, honestly."

Diego came down the stairs clad in all black and, of course, the horrendous harness stocked full of knives. They jingled slightly as he hopped down the stairs, thoroughly taking away from his bad-ass vigilante-ness, but Klaus would never voice that opinion aloud. 

"Debated on it," Diego admitted jokingly. He stopped a few paces from Klaus, lingering awkwardly around the tension that Reginald had grown between him and his superpowered siblings. Klaus offered a smile, shrugging and opening his arms.

"Do I get a hug from my best bro? Or are you too manly for that?" He asked, wiggling his eyebrows. Diego snorted, hesitated, glanced around as if expecting to see a crowd ready to mock his masculinity, and then he crossed the space and gave Klaus a hug, albeit a rather a brief one. Taking a step back, Diego looked him up and down.

"So you can actually clean up when you want to?" He mused, and Klaus rolled his eyes.

"Ha, ha. I would say the same about you, but..." He grimaced, gesturing Diego up and down, who looked rather affronted.

"What's wrong with my clothes? They're black."

"Sure, but have you ever been to a funeral?" Klaus raised an eyebrow. "People typically don't bring knives to funerals, Diego."

Diego pursed his lips, absently running his fingers over one of the straps and then shrugging. "Have you seen Allison or Luther yet?" He asked.

"Do I want to?" Klaus snorted, then shook his head. "Not yet, no. They around?"

"Upstairs." 

Klaus shrugged. "They'll come down at some point," he said, then jabbed Diego's arm. "It's been ages! How's life going?"

Diego pursed his lips and glanced away. He murmured something under his breath, and Klaus leaned forwards, raising his eyebrows. "I didn't quite catch that, sorry."

"I said," began Diego, glaring at him, "I left the police academy."

"Oooooh." Klaus' eyebrows drew together. "Wait, wait, wait; why?"

"I... might have gotten kicked out."

"See, you should have just said that - that makes more sense."

Diego rolled his eyes. "Yeah, whatever. How about you? How are you... doing?" He asked the last bit as if trying to talk about some taboo secret that they couldn't voice aloud and Klaus rolled his eyes.

"Still painting, still in art school, still getting rejected by galleries and, yes, still on meds, if that was what you were trying to slyly ask." He tapped the side of his head and, with a little more venom than his usual jokey tone held, he said, "still keeping things sane up there."

Diego gave him a look. "You know that's not what I meant." Klaus waved a hand.

"Yeah, I know," he grumbled dismissively. "Do you know anything about this whole thing? When's the actual funeral? When do I get to say my goodbyes to our dearly deceased beloved?"

Diego shrugged. "I think Luther wants to hold a family meeting about it all first." Klaus rolled his eyes and Diego nodded his head in agreement. "He's obsessed with dad's death. Thinks it was planned, or a murder." Klaus' eyebrows crawled up his head. 

"Murdered? Really?" Diego nodded mutely. "God, I wish I'd thought to do that," he muttered. Diego snorted and, at that moment, a pair of footsteps, one light and clicking, the other heavy and thudding, and Luther and Allison appeared at the top of the staircase with Luther. They descended slowly, their conversation falling short. Klaus hesitated, tongue running across his teeth as he glanced between the two of them. Allison clearly hadn't changed much, but Luther certainly had; built now like a giant, muscles threatening to burst out of the clothes he wore, and a good several inches taller than the last time Klaus had seen him. It was almost intimidating. No, it was intimidating, especially when he looked down his nose at him, something in his eyes.

He and Luther had never really gotten along. Klaus had been more than happy to see him as the older brother, as the Number One. He had been happy to see him as a source of protection and security. All up until they began to get older and Reginald began to get to them more, and Reginald had never liked Klaus so nor did Luther. He saw his hallucinations as the ramblings of a mad man, because if they weren't real to Luther, then they weren't real at all. He had looked down upon Klaus when he insisted that they were real and that that must be his power, and when he had refused to take his meds, or when he had screamed and cried. 

Klaus didn't want to know what Luther still thought of him. 

"Hey, Klaus," offered Allison. "We weren't sure if you would come."

Klaus shrugged, spreading his hands out. "You know me," he said. "Wouldn't miss it for the world."

An awkward silence enveloped them, then, broken only by Klaus' tapping feet. He looked at the living room. "I think Vanya's in there." 

"Good," said Luther, clearing his throat. "We all need to talk."

"Told you," muttered Diego to his left. Klaus snorted. Nonetheless, Diego and Klaus strode into the living room, shortly followed by Allison and Luther. A moment passed in which Vanya and Diego caught one another's gaze and Klaus feared an argument might break out, but Diego seemed content to simply give her a cold look and then sit in one of the arm chairs nearest to the crackling fireplace. Klaus took his seat next to Vanya on the couch. He crossed one of his legs over the other, slouching back and simply waiting out the awkward silence that encroached them all once more. Whatever natural flow there might have once been between them all as kids was evidently gone now, for everyone's shoulders were tense and they all seemed to regard one another with a barrier up, as if they were little more than strangers. And maybe they were, now.

"I suppose we should get this started," said Luther, rising up to bring everyone's attention to him. "I was thinking we could have a sort of... of memorial at sundown in the courtyard. Say a few words, right by dad's favourite spot."

"Dad had a favourite spot?" Allison asked, her eyebrows drawing together.

"Yeah, under the oak tree. We used to go out there all the time. None of you did that?" Luther's minutely shocked gaze roamed his siblings and Klaus stifled a laugh. Of course no one else had little picnics with their father. Affronted by the silence, Luther looked down at his hands briefly. 

"Memorial," said Klaus, pulling the train back onto its tracks. "What about it? A little thing? A party? Music? Food? Here? Somewhere else? Keep on topic, big boy." Luther gave him a look that Klaus thought that the only thing saving himself from being torn a new one was the fact that he, helpless and useless and ordinary as he was, wasn't worth Luther's time or was too small a victim for Luther to pick on. He grinned savagely. 

"There's something else we need to talk about," said Luther, barrelling on. 

"Like what?" Diego asked, a hint of warning in his tone. His eyes caught Klaus'.

"Like the way he died."

Diego shook his head, eyes rolling. "And here we go," he muttered.

"I don't understand," said Vanya, glancing around. "I thought the coroner said it was a heart attack?"

"Yeah, according to the coroner."

"Wouldn't they know?"

"Theoretically."

"Theoretically," Klaus echoed with an amused little smile. 

"I'm just saying that, at the very least, something happened. The last time I talked to dad, he sounded strange. He sounded on edge, told me to be careful who I trust."

"Luther." Diego stood up, rising from his arm chair gracefully and turning to his brother. "Dad was a paranoid, bitter old man. He was starting to lose what was left of his marbles." 

"No," said Luther, shaking his head. "He must have known something was going to happen." 

The two stood there, Diego with a challenge glinting venomously in his eyes and Luther warning him not to start anything, and Klaus waved his hands. "Okay, okay, children-"

"Klaus," Luther said, his voice low, and Klaus raised his eyebrows. Admittedly, he had thought his presence would have annoyed Luther much quicker. He had lasted longer before snapping at him, and it was almost impressive.

"Yes, my dear brother?" Klaus asked, and his tone was almost challenging, daring him to keep going and ramble into a tirade of insults and the argument they always ended up in.

"Can you be serious for one second?"

"You say that as if I was the one getting ready to fight one of my siblings at our dad's funeral," he snorted, rolling his eyes. "Do try and stay on topic."

"No one asked you for your input, Klaus-"

"No one asked you for yours, either, wise guy, and yet here we are because someone has an over inflated ego." Klaus folded his arms across his chest, raising one of his eyebrows. 

"Do you ever think before you open your mouth, Klaus?" Luther asked, and he took a step forwards. Klaus didn't bother getting up from his seat.

"Well, you see, the thing is; I don't really care." Klaus shrugged casually. "Now are we here for dear old dad, or are we here for you to say what you're thinking?" He leaned forwards, elbows on his knees. 

Luther huffed, pressing his lips together and struggling to hold himself back. "Fine. There's also the issue of the missing monocle." He let his gaze linger on Klaus like a warning for several moments before moving on. Beside him, Diego scoffed.

"Who gives a shit about a stupid monocle?"

"Exactly. It's worthless, so whoever took it, I think it's personal. Someone close to him. Someone with a grudge."

Klaus shared a look with Vanya. "Where are you going with this?"

"It's obvious, Klaus. He still thinks one of us killed dad." He wore a bitter smile as he regarded Luther. 

"How could you think that?" Vanya asked, her voice quiet and soft, hurt.

"Great job, Luther Way to lead," Diego commented, and then he strode out the room, patting him as he went. Klaus sat up slightly, shaking his head. 

"You're crazy, man. Bonkers. Off the deep end," he said, jabbing his fingers in Luther's direction. He stood up, continuing to utter variations of the word 'crazy' as he left, trailing out of the kitchen and heading to the courtyard. He had time to kill before the actual memorial, then, and he wanted to spend that nowhere near Luther and his stupid accusations. Not that he had expected any better from their dysfunctional mess of a family, truthfully. 

He killed his time with cigarettes. He wasn't a huge smoker, but he had picked up the habit at some point in his life and tended to carry a packet around with him just in case. He lit them up, perched it between his lips, and wondered if he could paint his family. Or some kind of metaphor, symbolic painting that was supposed to resemble them without properly being them. He could do that. That could be a good project. 

He stamped the cigarette out beneath his toe. He spared a glance at Ben's statue. He really did hate that mess of a statue; it didn't capture any aspect of Ben at all. He could do a much better job of it than whoever Reginald had commissioned to make that. 

He smoked another cigarette. Found the chocolate chips he had stuffed into his pockets and brought it out, pinching some and raining them down into his mouth. 

A breeze picked up. It ruffled Klaus' hair and pushed it back from his face, and then it kept picking up. Thunder rolled in the distance, getting rapidly closer, and the wind picked up violently, and lightning began to crack like a whip. It became so violent Klaus stood, watching in awe as the air began to ripple, like some glitch in the matrix, and it began to crack, spider-web across reality, and Klaus' hands slapped his pockets, fumbling to pull out the little emergency bag of his medicine. 

It was so real, though, and so different from every other hallucination he had ever had. His heart pounded beneath his skin, and he swallowed down another pill and he considered downing another one with how vivid it was. He had already taken more than his usual dose thanks to the reappearance of Ben earlier. He fell back, tripping over a root and scrambling back, ducking his head as twigs and rocks got thrown up in the wind. The crack in reality widened into a chasm, an endless pit of blue that threatened to devour Klaus. Just when he was beginning to think he was truly having a complete breakdown from reality, the doors behind him were thrown open by Diego, running out and shielding his face.

"What the fuck?" Diego spluttered, and Klaus looked at him. His eyes were trained on the - the thing in the air, and when the rest of his siblings came out, they looked towards it, too. Luther and Diego ushered everyone behind them and Vanya hauled Klaus up onto his feet. He peered over Diego's shoulder, eyes wide and jaw slack, ignoring as everyone began talking about what it might be. Because, right inside of it, pushing out against it, was a man. An elderly man that had his features become warped as he inched closer towards them all until, finally, he fell out in a blinding flash. When he landed on the floor, Klaus was sure he was hallucinating. 

"Five?" Vanya gasped, her voice sounding as weak as Klaus' knees felt.

Chapter Text

Despite falling out of a crackling vortex of energy, Five hardly seemed to bat an eye. He sat up, looking slightly dazed and immensely relieved, clad in a suit way too many sizes too big for him, and then he stood up, looked himself up and down, looked up at his siblings, and said, "shit."

He disappeared, then, in a flash of blue that appeared behind them through the kitchen window, and everyone hurried inside after him, all still in varying stages of shock. They crowd around the kitchen table and Klaus goes from leaning on the kitchen table, to sitting on the edge, to crossing his legs and sitting right on it. Five dashed to and fro, looking at the calendars, getting bread and peanut butter. "What's the date? The exact date?" He asked. 

"The twenty-fourth."

"Of?"

"March."

Five's shoulders slumped a fraction. "Good," he said. His eyes were focused on the bread he was pulling out of the bag, laying them out on the cutting board. Then he moved on, grabbing the marshmallows and the peanut butter to create that abomination of a sandwich that he had always had a sweet spot for. Klaus remembered sneaking downstairs after curfew with Vanya to make the sandwiches and leave them out on the off chance that Five would return, and he would return hungry, and tired, and afraid. 

"So," said Luther, "are we going to talk about what just happened?"

No one spoke up. Klaus let his eyes awkwardly roam around everyone, a grimace on his lips. Five didn't even look up. Klaus wondered if he was simply that hungry or that disinterested in them all. Luther rose to his feet, then, frustrated, and he took a few steps closer to Five. Klaus had to roll his eyes at the attempted intimidation - it seemed an ingrained behaviour for Luther nowadays, had started since they were fourteen, really. "It's been seventeen years," said Luther.

Five scoffed. "It's been a lot longer than that," he stated, something gritty in his voice. He stared Luther down for a moment, and it was almost a comical thing; Five, not even reaching Luther's shoulders, wearing ill-fitting clothes and somehow still managing to look more intimidating than Luther. Maybe it was something in his eyes. Then Five stepped forwards and disappeared, reappearing behind Luther. 

Luther blew out a breath. "I haven't missed that."

While it could be annoying, Klaus certainly had missed it. 

"Where'd you go?" Asked Diego. He didn't look at Five as he appeared once more in front of his sandwich.

"The future. It's shit, by the way."

Klaus held up a hand, sitting up. "Called it!" He said. Everyone stared at him and he sighed, rolled his eyes, and slouched once more. Five continued on his grumbling, seeming to speak more so to himself than any of them. 

"Should've listened to the old man. Jumping through space is one thing, jumping through time is a toss of the dice." He glanced up, then, eying them all, his lips pressed together and brow furrowed slightly. "Nice hair," he said to Klaus, who tipped his head to the side slightly, lifting a hand to twirl a curl around his finger.

"Why thank you. Nice suit," he returned, nodding at him. 

"Wait, wait; how did you get back?" Vanya asked suddenly, sitting upright a bit more. Five scooped some peanut butter with a knife.

"In the end, I had to project my consciousness forward into a suspended quantum state version of myself that exists across every possible instance of time."

"That... makes no sense," muttered Diego.

"It would if you were smarter."

"It kind of does..." Klaus mumbled, fiddling with his shirt. Five gave Diego a look as if personally insulted by his own idiocy, and Diego rose to his feet with a cold look, only to be stopped by Luther, and then he nodded to Klaus.

"Thank you." 

"How long were you there?"

"Forty-five years. Give or take." He shrugged carelessly, built his sandwich together. That made Luther and Diego seem to lose their aggression, slumping back into their seats. 

"So, what're you saying? That you're fifty-eight?"

"No," said Five, and that irritation was back on his face. He looked tired, Klaus thought. Worn thin, on edge, conflicted. "My consciousness is fifty-eight. Apparently, my body is thirteen again." He spoke in a condescending tone, scathing Luther as he explained it like one might explain the alphabet to a stubborn child. 

"How does that even work?" Vanya asked him, shaking her head.

"Delores always said the equations were off," Five muttered, turning to glance out the window with his sandwich in hand. He shrugged. "Eh. Bet she's laughing now."

"Delores?"

"I think he found a lady-friend," whispered Klaus, nudging Vanya with a teasing grin. Five ignored them, picking up the newspaper on the table. He raised his eyebrows slightly. 

"Guess I missed the funeral."

"How'd you know about that?" Luther asked, and he sounded almost offended. Five glanced up. He wondered if there was a limit to the amount of frustration one could take, because it sure looked as if Five was nearing it.

"What part of the future do you not understand?" He retorted. "Heart failure, huh?"

"Yeah."

"No."

Five clicked his tongue at that, almost amused. "Glad to see nothing's changed." And then he began to walk to the door, shoes tapping as he went. Klaus thought that was odd, what with all the teleporting he had just been content to do.

"Is that it?" Allison bit. "Is that all you have to say."

Five didn't even look over his shoulder. "What else is there to say? Circle of life."

"Well..."

"That was interesting," commented Luther. Klaus clasped his hands together and rested his chin upon them, eying the table beneath him. Five had seemed off to him. Tired, with only a slight relief to himself at coming back, and in a fair rush. He didn't linger with them, even after forty-five acclaimed years apart from them, and he held himself oddly, differently. Klaus hovered in the kitchen for a longer moment, fiddling with the hem of his shirt, and then, with a sigh, he heaved himself off the table, stretched his arms up above his head, and watched everyone disperse slowly once more. Vanya lingered, standing but not yet leaving, and she turned to look at Klaus.

"I'm not quite sure what to think," she admitted, wringing her hands. Klaus nodded.

"Nor do I, really. Do you believe him?" He asked. Vanya raised an eyebrow.

"What? About the time travel?"

Klaus shrugged. "Yeah, I guess so. Forty-five years and all that."

"I don't know why he would lie about it," replied Vanya. Klaus bobbed his head in agreement, then ran his hands through his hair, pushing it back from his face and behind his ears. 

"I guess. Think we should go see him?"

Vanya swallowed. She looked down at her hands, her lips pressed together, then she nodded. "Probably. I... we should wait until he comes down, I think. I heard him going upstairs."

Klaus nodded. He drummed his fingers along the table to his side, pursing his lips. "Well, until then," he fished for the bag of chocolate chips he'd been nibbling on, and he held it up. "Chocolate?" 

Vanya snorted softly but, nonetheless, she reached a hand out and dipped it into the packet, taking a few and dropping them into her mouth. Klaus leaned back against the table, losing himself to his thoughts and to the chocolate chips until, finally, there was a flash. It came from the living room and when Klaus turned to peer out of the kitchen door, he could see Five in there. He seemed to just stand in the centre of the room for a while, looking around without moving. Then he stuffed his hands into his pockets, took a few steps around, until he came to a stop to his framed and highlighted portrait on the wall. Klaus and Vanya shared a look, and then stepped forth. Although their arrival into the living room was certainly not quiet, Five didn't bother turning to greet them or look at them. Instead, he just said; "nice to know dad didn't forget me."

Klaus and Vanya shared a look at that, but had no chance to comment as Five turned, glanced at them both, then nodded at Vanya. "Read your book, by the way. I found it in a library that was still standing. I thought it was pretty good, all things considered." He began to walk again, leisurely stepping around the place and eying all the marble pillars, all the trophy cabinets, the roaring fireplace, the chandelier. "Yeah, definitely ballsy. Giving up the family secrets. Bet that went over well."

Klaus saw a look flicker over Vanya's face. Part hurt, part guilt, part anger. "They hate me," she stated. Klaus stayed quiet, standing there and feeling a bit like an intruder as they spoke, and so he cast his gaze aside, choosing, instead, to watch the flames in the fire. He wondered when Grace had lit it, or if it just always stayed alight.

"Oh, there are worse things that can happen," said Five. Klaus wondered if it was supposed to sound as ominous as it did.

"You mean like what happened to Ben?"

Klaus tensed. Ben, Ben, Ben. He could never escape Ben, even after he had died. His death had had a large impact on the family, akin to someone grabbing a sledgehammer and battering it into a mirror; shattering them all into millions of pieces. He saw Ben in the portraits above him, saw Ben in the armchair in the corner, in the bookshelves, in his empty chair at the dining table, in the shitty statue outside, in his cold, abandoned bedroom, and from the corner of his eyes, when he woke up, when he went to sleep, when he dreamt. He could never escape Ben. 

Something crossed Five's face and he paused. "Was it bad?" He asked.

Vanya said nothing, for there was nothing to be said about it. Luther and Ben had gone on a mission. The day had seemed off since breakfast, a stirring in Klaus' gut that told him something bad was approaching. Reginald seemed colder, too. It had rained all day. Klaus had barely gotten any sleep, and Diego was sharpening his knives constantly, whenever he wasn't throwing them. Klaus had been in his bedroom and he had simply been trying to draw to distract himself, and then something had flickered in his vision. It had been Ben, looking lost, dazed, confused, beneath all that blood. Klaus had screamed his throat raw, and no one had been able to calm him down.

Hardly twenty minutes later and the doors were thrown open, Luther yelling for dad, for Grace, for Pogo, for anyone, and Ben had been covered in blood in his arms.

How his mind had done such a thing before he had even seen or known of Ben's death, Klaus had no idea. But he hadn't left his bedroom for days afterwards, and had only heard yelling from Luther and Diego and Allison, and fighting, and more yelling from Reginald. 

Silence enveloped them, save for the crackling of the fire, and Klaus clasped his hands together, then parted them and set them on his hips. He spun around on his heels and raised a brow. "So, fifty-eight then, huh?"

Five blinked and glanced over at him. "My consciousness, yes."

Klaus pursed his lips. "Huh. Not bad for some. Doubt I'll look as young as you when I reach fifty-eight," he joked. Five gave him a look - definitely unamusement - but there was something else in there. A nostalgic warmth, and Klaus grinned.

"I'm... going to get a drink," mumbled Vanya, and then she was scurrying from the room and back to the kitchen, flexing her hands anxiously by her sides. Klaus sighed softly at it but turned his attention back to Five. 

"You didn't miss the funeral, by the way," he stated. "Not happened yet. You just missed the first bout of fighting."

Five rolled his eyes. "Some things never change, I guess."

"Not for the Hargreeves."

"How... have you been, Klaus? There wasn't much about you in Vanya's book," Five said. There hadn't been - she had no secrets of Klaus' to spill, unless she wanted to out his sexuality to the watching world. He wondered if she would have, had they been on different terms. She had painted herself and Klaus as victims of the cruelness of the Umbrella Academy, and other than talking about Klaus as a teenager and running away and the state he had been in after Ben's death, there was never much to say. 

Klaus shrugged. "Won't lie," he began, "fully thought I was about to literally lose my mind when that portal opened up." He rolled his knuckles against the side of his head. "Turned out that was real. Unless I'm lying comatose outside and this is all a vivid dream or hallucination, anyway." He grinned jokingly, though Five didn't take that as a joke either. Klaus hurried on. "Uh, living life. Real good. Everyone in charge of art galleries are pieces of shit and won't put my stuff in there. Debated prostitution to pay for a tube of paint one night. Would've been worth it, really."

Five snorted. It wasn't quite a laugh, per say, but his lips went up, his eyes crinkled, and he shook his head softly. "Glad to hear it, Klaus. Really."

Klaus smiled at him, then turned to look at the portrait of Five looming over them. "You know, I tried to replace that thing with one of my own that I painted. Thought it looked more like you than this. Kept on doing it for, like, a solid week. Annoyed the ever loving shit out of dad, let me tell you that."

Five gravitated to his side. "You'll have to show me it, then," he said, almost hesitantly. Klaus nudged him.

"Hell yeah I will. Apartment two, Ravenscraig apartments. Zap by sometime." He paused, tongue dashing across his lips. "I missed you."

Five remained silent for a moment. Neither of them risked glancing at one another. "Yeah. I... missed you too."

Klaus looked down at him, a smile spreading his lips. "Awww, I knew you cared," Klaus cooed, and then Klaus turned and wrapped his arms around Five. He felt him tense beneath him, arms rigid beneath him. 

"What are you doing?" Five asked, voice chilled.

"I'm hugging you, idiot. If anyone asks, I'll say that you slapped me and I had to force you to accept it," he offered.

It felt odd, touching Five again, and being able to physically hold him, feel him right there, after so long. It would be a horrible lie if Klaus said that he hadn't utterly missed Five these past seventeen years. They had been close, studying together, bouncing equations, languages, theories off one another. (Though some people might think that Klaus was eccentric, all over the place and, overall, not very clever, they would be very wrong. He might not understand quantum physics like Five, but he had corrected his maths on multiple occasions when they were younger.) 

Slowly, Five's shoulders relaxed, he sighed, and then he lifted his arms up to gingerly return the hug as if he had forgotten how to do so. Klaus squeezed him tightly until Five eventually began to wriggle, though he lasted much longer than Klaus had expected, and only then did Klaus force himself to let go.

"Guess we should see about the funeral," said Five, smoothing his clothes out. 

"I guess we should," Klaus agreed.

 

 

 

It was still raining by the time Luther called the funeral and everyone gathered their umbrellas and headed outside, accompanied by Pogo and Grace. Except for Diego and Luther, whom had, for some unknown reason, forgone umbrellas despite the downpour and the thunder. Klaus assumed that Diego did it just to look like that.

Luther carried out Reginald's urn to the oak tree and they all formed a small semi-circle around him. As they slotted into place, Five next to Klaus, then Allison, Diego, Grace and Klaus, Grace spoke up. Her face twisted in soft concern and confusion. "Did something happen?" She asked. Allison frowned, inching closer.

"Dad died. Remember?"

Grace's expression hardly changed. She paused, as if buffering, and then nodded. "Oh. Yes. Of course." 

"Is mom okay?" 

"She's fine," insisted Diego, giving Allison a look. "She just needs to rest. You know, recharge. She's fine."

Allison didn't look at all convinced, and Klaus focused more so on Pogo as he approached, cane tapping on the floor. Pogo turned to look at Luther, saying; "whenever you're ready, dear boy."

Luther took a breath, seeming to steady himself before opening the lid of the urn. He held the urn up slightly, and then he tipped it out, ash tumbling unceremoniously to the ground and landing in a large heap on the floor, quickly slumping as the rain dampened it all, turning it all soggy and like a mess of wet paper towels. Klaus grimaced, a sigh hissing between his gritted teeth, fingers tightening around the handle of his umbrella. 

"Would've been better with some wind," Luther said awkwardly, setting the lid back onto the urn. 

"Does anyone wish to say some words?" Pogo asked, eyes searching all of them. 

Klaus, for a moment, wondered what he would ever say. He felt like he had a whole speech he could say, rants he could go on for hours, and yet at the same time he felt no words would capture what he had felt for years. And plus, if Reginald had never wanted to hear from him before, why should he hear from him now?

No one said anything. Klaus itched for a cigarette; something to occupy himself with rather than focusing on the awkward silence. Pogo sighed. 

"Very well," he said. "In... all regards, Sir Reginald Hargreeves made me what I am today. For that alone, I shall forever be in his debt. He was my master... and my friend, and I shall miss him very much. He leaves behind a complicated legacy-"

"He was a monster." Diego cut Pogo off abruptly, eying the ash on the ground as if he was hardly stopping himself from spitting on it. "He was a bad person and a worse father. The world's better off without him."

"Diego," hissed Allison, voice firm and warning.

"My name is Number Two," said Diego. "You know why? Because our father couldn't be bothered to give us actual names. He had mom do it."

The reference to her seemed to snap her out of a daze, and Grace blinked, lifting her head. "Would anyone like something to eat?"

"No thanks, mom," murmured Vanya, hand resting on Grace's arm. 

"Look, you want to pay your respects; go ahead," continued Diego, and he took a few steps forwards. "But at least be honest about the kind of man he was."

"You should stop talking now," said Luther, and his voice was low, warning. Diego turned to face him, face twisting.

"You know, you of all people should be on my side here, Number One."

"I am warning you-"

"After everything he did to you."

Klaus half tuned the conversation out. He glanced around at everyone else, then settled his eyes on Five, who returned him a pinched, exasperated look. 

"He had to ship you a million miles away-"

"Diego, stop talking."

"That's how much he couldn't stand the sight of you!" He jabbed his finger against Luther's chest. And with that, Luther let go, too, swinging a fist at Diego; to no ones surprise at all. Vanya took a few steps back, tugging Grace with her, and Allison looked thoroughly disappointed and annoyed. Klaus and Five stepped further back, and when Klaus put his arm out in front of Five to urge him further, Five slapped his hand away with an odd look. 

"Boys, stop this at once!" Pogo snapped uselessly, watching Diego duck under Luther's fist and yell back taunts. He seemed to grab the upper hand for a moment, pounding his fists down on Luther's back despite Vanya's yell to stop.

Klaus leaned towards Five. "Would it be bad if I encouraged this?" He asked in a murmur, wrapping his arms around himself. Klaus, as it was, did not like violence. He didn't like people raising their voices or yelling, and he didn't like fighting; if he wanted to see it, he simply didn't take his meds for half an hour and he'd have a whole crowd yelling deafeningly at him, all covered in blood and bruises. If he wasn't so used to Diego and Luther's stupid fights, he most certainly wouldn't have thought of antagonising either of them and spurring them on; he wouldn't have lingered long enough to watch it at all. Whether or not it was the visions of corpses he saw, but aggression simply made all the hairs on Klaus' body stand to attention, made his blood run cold. 

Pogo left. He left, shaking his head in disbelief, walking back into the house, and the two of them gravitated towards Ben's statues. Klaus parted his lips, words on the tip of his tongue, hesitant, before stepping briefly onto the tip of his toes. "Guys," he called out, "guys, just stop - you're close to-"

And Luther's fist sent Ben's statue tumbling to the ground, cracking, head breaking off.

"- Ben..." Klaus finished, swallowing dryly. 

"And there goes Ben's statue," Allison snipped coldly, turning and going indoors. Klaus turned away, too, as Diego tugged a knife off his harness, toying with it in his grasp before letting it free to catch his arm, slicing through his thick coat. Klaus watched him run off back inside, clutching his arm in a way that made Klaus wonder if Diego had actually cut him deeper than he first had thought. Vanya walked forwards, following Luther, though she paused by Diego's side.

"You never know when to stop, do you?"

It took Diego a moment to reply, and when he did, his voice was low and bitter. "You got enough material for your sequel yet?"

"He was my father too," stated Vanya, and Klaus looked away.

There was a wall between him, Vanya and the others, all regarding their misfortune - or, in some cases, their fortune - of being born ordinary. Of course, Klaus knew that Reginald was especially harsh on the others. Him and Vanya did not suffer such harsh physical abuse as the others did in their training or in their missions, and often times the others saw that as a privilege they had. And Klaus wouldn't deny it. But in the same breath one could argue that at least they existed. At least they had an identity, a purpose, their existence accepted. Klaus would describe himself, while growing up in the Academy years, as a bit like a ghost, or a shadow. A blur. A faceless thing drifting in and out of place; something with no name, no face, no sense of self, and he felt discouraged from finding himself as a person and potentially interfering with the others. He had no one to turn to, no one to learn from, to help guide him into a real person, had been split as soon as he could remember from The Umbrella Academy and Them. The undesirables, the useless ones, the ones that, had Reginald known earlier that they would be of no use, he would have gotten rid of - sent them into an orphanage or back to their birth mothers. 

And returning to the Academy now, Klaus felt like he wasn't supposed to be there. The Academy wasn't for him. He wasn't allowed there, wasn't part of it, unless he was there to step silently in the shadows of the corridor and bring no attention to himself. Reginald had thoroughly made sure that he felt as if he ought to make not a single sound; that his footsteps were too loud, his coughs too much. He had constantly felt as if he had to walk on his tip toes and that as long as there was light outside, he was to be in his bedroom, out the way, and only allowed to be out at night, and then he had to be sure not to make a single sound. 

That was all without the addition of a mental illness that his siblings didn't understand and, he suspected, one that Reginald tried to make seem as taboo as he could, just to alienate him further. His siblings were extraordinary. At least Vanya was ordinary. Klaus was something worse than that. Something shameful, something broken, a dirty secret to be hidden from society, erased from all records. Klaus was the mad man that saw and heard things that others didn't. He twitched and he zoned out and, for all they knew, his thoughts were like a broken record of intrusive, murderous fantasies, because he was weird, unstable, and because Reginald said so, even if none of that was the case. But if it made them want to avoid Klaus, then it worked.

Klaus lingered outside even as Diego retreated indoors. Alone and with the rain still pouring down, Klaus fished for a cigarette in his pockets, lit it, and held it between his lips. He inhaled deeply, felt it tickle its way down his throat and scratch at his lungs. He held it there for several moments before he exhaled again, smoke tumbling past his lips. He stayed out there until he was finished with the cigarette and he stamped it out beneath his foot, and only then did he force himself to trudge indoors again. 

Vanya was gone by the time he went inside, apparently. Klaus didn't blame her. 

"Vanya's gone?" Allison said in the kitchen. Klaus slid into a seat, crossing one leg over the other. Five rummaged around in the cupboards behind him, grumbling bitterly to himself. 

"She is," confirmed Klaus, sparing a brief glance to his sister. Allison sighed.

"That's unfortunate."

"Can't blame her," Klaus shrugged. 

Five came forwards. "An entire square block. forty-two bedrooms, nineteen bathrooms, but no, not a single drop of coffee."

"Dad hated caffeine," Allison stated.

"He hated children, too, but look how many he adopted," Klaus laughed. He drummed his fingers along his knees and ignored Allison's odd look. 

"I'm taking the car," declared Five. Klaus sat up at that, leaning forwards curiously.

"Where are you going?"

Five eyed him. "To get a decent cup of coffee."

"Do you even know how to drive?" Allison snorted.

Five's jaw locked, something flickering in his eyes. "I know how to do everything," he said, and he curled his hands into fists.

"Wait!" Blurted Klaus, standing up fast enough that the chair he had been sitting on almost toppled right over. "Let me come with you."

Five paused, hands relaxing by his side. "Why do you want to come?"

Klaus hesitated, then shrugged. "I love coffee," he lied. Five looked unconvinced, but he sighed and, instead of teleporting, he began to walk out the door. Klaus grinned widely, hurriedly following after him. "Knew you loved me, bro," he said, hand landing on the driver's door handle of a van parked in the alleyway beside the main Academy building. Five nudged him.

"I'm driving," he stated. Klaus raised his eyebrows incredulously at him, but then raised his hands in mock surrender. 

"Okay, okay. I kind of just want to see this," he admitted, rounding to the other side of the van and clambering into the passenger's side. Five settled in behind the wheel, adjusted the seat with some colourful muttering, and then, surprisingly smoothly, pulled out and onto the road. Klaus watched the Academy as It fell back behind them, further away, and then he turned to face forwards. The night had gone just as he had expected it to, really, if one ignored Five's sudden and dramatic reappearance. Klaus settled into the car seat, and he simply enjoyed the presence of his long lost brother while it lasted.

Chapter Text

Five pulled up to Griddy's with surprising ease, smoothly parking the car across the street from it. Both he and Klaus clambered out of the van, Klaus almost tripping over his own feet in the process.

He hadn't been to Griddy's forever, it felt like. He had gone once years ago, back when they were all kids and they had all snuck out together. After that one time, though, him and Vanya didn't go with them again. Klaus isn't sure exactly why, although he can guess well enough. Klaus shook those thoughts from himself, though, forcing instead on walking into the place with Five by his side. Five almost seemed on a mission, marching inside and sliding into one of the barstools by the counter. Klaus settled next to him, clasping his hands together on the counter, slipping one leg over the other. Someone else walked in, the door chiming as it swung open, and the man settled tiredly a few seats from them.

"Since when did you start liking coffee?" Klaus asked, turning to look at Five. Five spared him a brief glance.

"At some point," he simply said. Klaus frowned.

"I can't stand it. Too bitter, I say."

Five glanced him up and down. "Well, you're still young. You'll grow into it."

Klaus gave Five an odd look. Did he realise he was in the body of a thirteen year old? It felt odd to have Five tell him that, and he sat up a little straighter, turning to watch as a woman came from the kitchen. She slid up towards them, a smile on her face. "Hi there," she said, "what can I get you." She looked at Klaus expectantly.

"Oh, uh... a chocolate milkshake, please," he said. The woman, Agnus, nodded her head, jotting it down on her notepad. Her eyes flicked briefly to Five and then returned to Klaus. "And for yourself?"

"Oh..." Klaus' cheeks warmed slightly as he turned to look at Five, his jaw locked.

"The kid," he said, "will have a coffee. Black. Please." He flashed her the most unnatural, unsettling smile Klaus thought he had ever seen, and the woman seemed to agree, for she shifted slightly, nodded, and returned to the kitchen.

"Well," said Klaus. "I mean, you do look like a kid."

Five rolled his eyes. "I'm in a thirteen year old body; of course I do," he stated dryly.

"Hey, I didn't mean that as a bad thing," Klaus returned, hands up in defence. "You'll be a hundred without a single wrinkle or grey hair."

Five rolled his eyes once more. He seemed to bite back a comment on his tongue, kept the words inside his mouth, and instead turned to wait for his coffee.

"I didn't know you were a coffee fan," Klaus commented. Five shrugged.

"I got used to it," he simply replied.

"In... the future?"

"In the future," Five nodded.

"Ah. Makes sense. Although I always thought the future and dystopian cities were all about tea. Tea just seems more... sophisticated, y'know? I'm a fan of some. I bought an antique tea set, once. It looked cool. I still use it. It makes me feel fancy. Rich, sometimes, as if the person in the apartment below me doesn't sell crack."

Five snorted. "And how do you know that?" He asked.

"He's not exactly subtle about it," Klaus said. "Every time I go home, he's there, asking if I want some. Oh, look." He sat up slightly as the tapping of shoes introduced Agnes' return, carrying with her a tall chocolate milkshake and a cup of steaming, dark coffee. She sets the milkshake in front of Klaus, the coffee in front of Five. Klaus offers his thanks and she moves to take the order of the other man seated nearby. Klaus' hands shoot out, curling around the milkshake and bringing it close to himself, lips searching out for the straw before finding it. Five brings his coffee closer to himself, blowing gently across the surface before taking a tentative sip. Beside them, the man took his food and left, leaving them alone.

"So," drawled Klaus, "what are your plans, then? Just gonna kick around the Academy? Move to Hawaii? Kick with all the siblings?"

Five glanced briefly at him, quirking an eyebrow. Behind them, the door chimed. Five's eyes turned to the bell on the counter and he hummed. "Not quite," he replied, abandoning his coffee and turning in his seat. Klaus gave him an odd look but craned his head after him, looking at the group of people now standing in the doorway. There was five of them, all dressed head to toe in black, quite like Diego, and they all held guns. One of them came right up to Five, pointing his gun at him. Klaus' eyebrows drew together, shock running icily through his veins; enough so that he had the sense to put his milkshake down.

"Uh... Five?" He murmured quietly. Five didn't glance at him.

"That was quick," Five uttered to himself, looking not at all fussed or surprised.

"Let's all be professional about this, yeah? On your feet and come with us. They want to talk."

"I've got nothing to say." Five eyed his coffee absently, running his fingertips over the handle for it.

"It doesn't have to go this way," insisted who Klaus assumed was the leader of this group. "You think I want to shoot a kid? Go home with that on my conscience?"

Five hummed. "Well, I wouldn't worry about that. You won't be going home." He turned briefly to Klaus, then looked pointedly over the counter, raised his eyebrows, and glanced back to face the group of gunmen. His hand inched towards the butter knife set out on the counter and, as soon as it was clasped in his hand, he disappeared in a rippling light blue, appeared behind the man, and dug the knife ruthlessly into his neck. There was rapid gunfire as it sprayed out of the gun's barrel and Klaus slid off his seat, eyes wide in shock. He scrambled backwards quickly, pulling himself beneath the counter as well as he could, and clasped his hands over his ears. The lights began to fail and flicker, and Five was everywhere at once, gone before the bullets could find him. He teased them, taunting them, flashing outside, kicking them, choking them, driving the butt of their own rifles into their noses and the backs of their heads. He threw plates around, dug pencils into their eyes, used his own tie to strangle people. It had been a long time since Klaus had seen a fight, let alone a fight with one of the Hargreeves kids, trained to kill with anything around. With the skill Five had now, Klaus wondered if he had ever stopped training.

He was a whirlwind of a killing machine, taunting and looking completely non-bothered. Had he not been his brother, Klaus might be terrified. But he was more so focused, now, on the man that inched away from Five, looking around, and saw Klaus. Before Klaus could get up and try and make a run for it, the man was there, hands reaching out and grabbing him, hauling him to his feet and pressing him to his chest, the cool barrel of a gun pressing against his head. There was one other person who, while Five killed the third last man, rushed to Klaus, gun swinging from Five to Klaus as Five turned around. His eyes widened a fraction, then narrowed, teeth gritting as he pulled his tie from around a man's neck.

"Now, we don't want to do this, Five. It's up to you whether or not we shoot," said the man from behind him. The armour the man wore felt solid, like a wall, a shooting wall, and Klaus was pressed up against it, hands lifted slightly, fingers spread, helpless and entirely at someone else's mercy.

"Put him down," said Five, gritting the words out. "You're here for me. Thought you prided yourself on not messing with the timeline; he isn't supposed to die."

"You're a special case," the man said with a shrug. "We can make exceptions."

Wordless, Klaus offered a wavering smile to Five, a nervous chuckle. "Don't you worry about me," he said. The man pushed the barrel of a gun further against his head and the smile wavered, dropped like a lead balloon. Five's eyes flicked around the place and Klaus could virtually see him conjuring up a plan, the cogs in his mind turning. He looked at the flickering lights, looked at the men, looked behind them, around them. Then he sighed, straightened up a little, and Klaus' heart beat rapidly beneath his ribcage. Suddenly, he was extremely glad that Five had wanted to go to Griddy's for nostalgia rather than letting Klaus take them to Dave's coffee shop.

Five disappeared. The man startled ever so slightly and Klaus stilled, eyes screwing themselves shut in anticipation for a bang and then - nothing. But no; the man didn't shoot him. He jostled him slightly as he turned to rapidly look around the place, trying to find Five, though there was no sign of him.

"Think - think it's just you and me, buddy," Klaus said, his hands twitching uselessly in the air. The lights continued to buzz and flicker overhead, and Klaus could hear the breathing of the man behind him and the footsteps of the still remaining second man, shoes scuffling over the ground, crunching glass beneath their feet. The man lowered his gun ever so slightly. There was a pop and his hand was wrenched backwards and a bullet shot out from his gun, but rather than shooting Klaus it found home in the man wielding it. Then Five threw both Klaus and the corpse down before the second man could shoot him, and then the two were wrestling once more until Five managed to get the upper hand, strangling the life out of him until he stilled and fell.

Only then did Klaus dare to slowly peel himself off the floor, sitting upright on his knees in the midst of all this chaos, eyes wide and hair a mess. Five's shoulders heaved with each breath as he worked his tie undone from the man's neck, stared down at him, and then began to redo his tie around his neck. He looked up at Klaus. "You alright?"

Klaus swallowed dryly. "Not hurt," he said with a nod. "I'm fine."

"Good," uttered Five. He lingered on the spot for a moment, as if contemplating his next move, and then he stalked towards the counter, leaning over it and peering around.

"Do I - do I get to know what that was about?" He asked. "Who are they?"

Five didn't spare him a glance. He slid back down the counter, now with a sharp knife in hand that glittered in the flashing lights, and Klaus struggled up onto his feet to watch him roll up the sleeve of one of his arms and position the tip of the blade on his skin.

"Five - whoa, whoa, whoa, wait - what the hell are you doing?" Klaus spluttered, hurrying forwards to cover Five's hand with his own. Five grunted, only then looking up at him.

"It's a long story," he stated, "but right now, I have a tracker inside of my arm that I need to get out before more of them come after me."

Klaus' eyebrows crawled up his forehead, but he nodded no less. And, with that, he looked away to let Five busy himself in pulling out a blinking tracker from his arm. He held it up to the light, rolling it in his now bloodstained fingertips, and Klaus grimaced. He hated the sight of blood. It made his stomach roll.

"Are you okay?" Klaus asked, hesitantly turning to look at him. Five's eyes flickered back to him and his shoulder shrugged half-heartedly.

"I'm fine," he dismissed.

"Do you... want to come back to mine?" Klaus offered. "I have some, like, bandages and stuff back home. I can patch you up, you can get some rest - if you'd like."

Five hesitated at the offer, his lips pressing together. “I can show you that portrait I did of you,” added Klaus, a little hopefully. It seemed to break him. Five slumped in defeat and nodded.

“Alright. Let’s go,” he said, and Klaus looked down at the bodies and blood around them. “Police will have been called,” said Five, and he guided the way outside, although Klaus was the one to drive this time – blood was still trickling down Five’s arm and he still looked tired enough that Klaus didn’t want him behind the wheel when he didn’t have to be.

The drive was short and easy, and Klaus brought Five up into his apartment, locking the door behind them. He regretted, briefly, not cleaning the place up, but in his defence he hadn’t expected for his long-missing-presumed-dead brother to make a reappearance and then to come back to his apartment. The wine glasses and bottle from his and Vanya’s little get together were still out, as was paint brushes and tubes spread out across his coffee table, while canvases, some blank, some covered, were scattered around, taking up large amounts of floor space off to the sides.

Five took his time to step inside and let his gaze roam over everything, familiarising himself with the place, before he settled down onto his couch while Klaus fetched the few bandages and sanitary wipes he had in his possession.

“You like the crib?” Klaus asked, settling onto his knees on the floor in front of Five and holding his hands out expectantly. Five tugged up his sleeve, now damp and heavy with cherry red blood, and Klaus grimaced ever so slightly before pushing onwards, taking the wipes and gently cleaning away the blood.

“It’s definitely very you,” Five commented. Klaus snorted.

“I think I have a phobia of neatness and organisation after living with Reginald,” he stated, half-jokingly. “Had to get some colour in or I might have just gone crazy.”

“It is a nice place, though,” offered Five, avoiding Klaus’ gaze. Klaus smiled, keeping his head down.

“I try my best. I’m, uh, sorry about the mess – this isn’t exactly the night I was planning, if you couldn’t tell.”

Five snorted. “I don’t think it’s the night anyone planned,” he stated. Klaus hummed his agreement. Setting the wipes aside, Klaus reached for the bandages and began to wind them around the wound in his arm. When he was done he rose to his feet, grabbing the wipes and tossing them aside into the trash.

“Do you want a drink or anything?” He asked, watching as Five remained on the couch, his hands clasped and eyes flitting around the place, analysing it piece by piece.

“Are you any good at making coffee?” Five asked, eyebrow raised.

“We can find that out,” returned Klaus with a small smile, though gravitated into the adjoined kitchen and began to busy himself with making a coffee. “I’ll grab some blankets and a pillow,” he said, “if you want to rest for a while.”

When he was done, he handed over the coffee he had made to Five, who accepted it with a grateful tip of his head. He mulled over Klaus’ invitation thoughtfully, watching steam twirl from the surface and disappear into the air.

“I had wanted to talk to Vanya,” he uttered. “Though I suppose it’s late.” His eyes flicked to the clock hung upon one of his walls, ticking away quietly in the background. Klaus shrugged, dropping onto a nearby armchair. He leaned forwards to swipe his wine glass and the bottle off the coffee table, emptied the bottle into the glass, and took a slow sip of it.

“Do what you want,” said Klaus with a shrug once more. “But my couch is always open to anyone in need of it.”

Five grunted, took a sip of his coffee, and then glanced around. He nodded his head to a canvas sitting propped against the wall. “When did you do that one?” He asked.

Klaus followed his gaze and sighed a little. “A while ago,” he said. The painting in question was a family portrait. A portrait in which Luther stood tall, larger than the rest – before he had quadrupled in size, too – with his face set, jaw clenched, and Allison was bathed in the light of camera flashes, a grin just as bright and a twinkle in her eyes that matched the expensive diamond necklace that fell to her collar bones. Diego was angry, his knuckles bruised and matching the one around his red-rimmed eyes – Klaus remembered that night, one after they had left the Academy, one years ago, and they had had an argument because Klaus was twitchy and muttering and drunk and Diego was getting into fights with criminals. There was a figure in the back drenched in blood, with quivering lips and tear-filled eyes, and Five’s face rippled into a portal of blue. Vanya was small and holding a violin in a tight, white-knuckled grip, and above them all was a shadow, towering, dark. Klaus was not in the picture.

Five hummed his acknowledgement.

“You always were talented,” he uttered. Klaus’ lips twitched upwards despite himself.

“Thanks, bro,” he preened. “I try, I try. Trying to get something out there, you know, but, like I said, galleries are for pretentious people and, as it appears, not me,” he scoffed.

Five quirked an eyebrow. “Maybe you’re looking in the wrong places,” he said. Klaus pursed his lips, eying the canvases scattered around, his eyebrows drawing together.

“Maybe… maybe.”

He fell back onto his armchair and reached for his wine, tipping it in Five’s direction before raising it to his lips.

“Can I talk to you, Klaus?” He asked suddenly, drawing his attention back to him. Klaus gave him a questioning look, hurrying to swallow his drink.

“Uh, yeah. Of course you can,” he said, nodding. “What’s up?”

Five kept his eyes on his coffee, as if the dark contents of the mug might lift away to reveal all of the answers he wanted. “When I jumped forwards into time, do you know what I saw?” He asked him, lifting his gaze to him, and it seemed to reach into him, held him still in his tracks.

“No,” Klaus uttered, his voice suddenly quiet.

“Nothing,” answered Five. “Absolutely nothing.” The words dropped off his tongue, heavy and chilling to the bone. “As far as I could tell, I was the only human left alive. I never did find out what killed the human race, but… I did find out when.”

Klaus leaned forwards. His elbows settled onto his knees, hands curled around his wine glass, half-forgotten.

“We have eight days until the world ends, and I don’t know how to stop it,” Five said.

Klaus let the words ring in his ears for a moment, then he eyed his wine. “I – I think I’ve got some whiskey, if you want some?” He offered.

Five’s lips twitched slightly and Klaus took that as a yes. He hurried to finish his wine before heading to the kitchen, pulling out two glasses and topping them up generously with whiskey, handing one off two Five.

“Right, okay, okay. Go from the beginning,” Klaus said, waving one hand in a vague gesture.

Five sipped his whiskey for a moment, revelling in the burn it brought, and then he braced himself, sitting upright and turning to better face Klaus.

“I jumped forwards into time when we were thirteen,” he said. Klaus nodded. “Specifically, onto the first of April, twenty-nineteen. The world was in ruins. Everything had been completely destroyed, and I was the only person left alive. I survived off of scraps; canned foods, cockroaches, anything that I could find. They lied when they said that Twinkies have an endless shelf life – it’s a load of bullshit.” He pressed his lips together, swirling his whiskey around in his glass before taking another sip of it. “But you do what you have to in that situation. You adapt.” His lips twitched at that.

“I tried to get back for years, of course. I never stopped trying, but there was always… something wrong. It took me forty-five years before I managed to correct the equations well enough to bring me back to this timeline. The still must have been something wrong, however, because I’m back to my thirteen year old body, though things could have been much worse, I suppose.” His fingernails tapped along the glass in his hand gently, rhythmically, and Five blinked away darkness in his eyes to focus once more on Klaus.

“I need to figure out what’s going to happen, and I need to stop it,” he finished. For a moment, silence simply stretched between the two of them. Klaus wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say, and he let Five’s information seep into him while keeping his gaze on the drink swirling in the glass in his hands. He pressed his lips together.

Eight days. The world was supposed to end in eight days, then. But the idea of the entire planet, the entire human race, coming to a sudden end, with no build up, no signs, no traces, all within eight days – nearly seven, as the clock ticked towards midnight. It seemed ludicrous, of course. But Klaus eyed Five in front of him, with his jaw set, eyes heavy with memories Klaus ought not to want to know about.

“You don’t believe me,” stated Five. Klaus sighed, shaking his head swiftly.

“It’s not that I don’t believe you, Five,” he hurried to say, “it’s that I’m as stumped as you are. Eight days and no signs of the entire planet ending; it sounds insane, of course. I… don’t know what to think, but I don’t think that you’re making this up for shits and giggles. It’s something I’d try and convince Diego.”

Five eyed him suspiciously for several moments before seeming to relax a fraction, dropping his gaze and nodding.

“Good,” he said, slightly to himself. “Good. Then you understand that it’s important that we try and find out what’s going to happen and that we put a stop to it.”

Klaus raised an eyebrow.

“Well, I’d assume so, but, uh, maybe you ought to bring this to the others?” He said. “Diego, Luther, Allison, you know. Get the team back together, like old times, save the world. I don’t think I’d be much use in the face of the end of the world.” He offered an awkward, sheepish grin, almost apologetic. Five’s gaze didn’t waver and Klaus was the first to look away.

“You’re still my brother, Klaus. I’m telling you for a reason,” he stated. Klaus frowned, looking down at the paint-speckled ground beneath his feet.

“Of course. Of course, Five. And I’m, you know, all here for you. But you might want to let the others in on this.”

Five finished off his whiskey, setting aside the glass. “We’ll see,” he muttered, scrubbing a hand down his jaw. Klaus leaned back into his armchair, turning his gaze away.

“It is really good to see you again,” he offered gently. “Life’s boring without your bitchy comments.”

Five snorted, shaking his head minutely. “I don’t suppose Luther would put up with your half-assed attempts at humour,” he responded, and Klaus grinned.

“Oh, Christ, no,” he scoffed. “He didn’t get my jokes like you did.”

“I never got your jokes.”

“But you liked them,” Klaus pointed out. Five gave him a sceptical look and Klaus grinned. “But hey; seriously, I’m behind you. Though I will say I think you should tell the others as well, preferably soon, all things considered. But stay here, get some rest, and we can figure things out in the morning, yeah?” He offered, rising to his feet. Five’s eyes followed him as Klaus fetched him a pillow and blanket, then took them from him as he returned again.

“Alright,” Five sighed, and he stood to arrange the pillow and blanket into a quick bed on the couch, then slid his uniform blazer off, setting it aside. Klaus grinned at him, clapping a hand onto the back of his shoulder.

“Sleep well, bro. You look like you need to – no offence. You need something, I’m just in there.”

He gave Five a final glance before heading towards his own bedroom, leaving the door slightly ajar. He could hear him shuffle around the place, setting himself up in his bed, and Klaus was eager to slump onto his own bed. He had to force his fingers to work to unbutton his shirt and chuck it aside, and then he heaved himself onto his feet, trudging to his wardrobe and fishing out some tie-dye sweatpants on the off-chance Five needed something in the night and Klaus doubted he’d appreciate Klaus sleeping nude.

It was as he fumbled to kick off his pants that he caught notice of a piece of paper tucked away into his pockets, tumbling to the ground. He bent, nearly falling over as he did so, and swept it up into his hands.

Dave’s phone number, signed with a smiley face.

Klaus’ lips turned upwards to match and he ran his thumb over the number with a gentleness. He took the paper back to his bed, fumbled to find his old phone that he had bought at some point in his life, and added the contact.

Heyyy, it’s me, Klaus, from earlier! I hope this is the right number

He cringed at his own wording but hit send anyway. Only a minute passed before his phone buzzed in his grasp.

Heyyy Klaus from earlier! It is, I was beginning to think you’d forgotten about me already :( I hope you’re doing alright though

Klaus smiled ever so slightly, watching as the three dots bounced when he typed and he could imagine Dave, lying in bed with hair wet from a shower, curling on his forehead slightly, squinting at his phone screen.

You wouldn’t believe the day I had

I don’t suppose you’d want to catch breakfast and talk in person?

Klaus turned over in bed, smiled, typed an eager response and shut his phone off quickly, holding it in his hands and close to himself, as if it might as well be Dave himself there. He heard Five settle down in the living room, heard the patter of rain on his window and, blissfully, he heard nothing else.