Ben groans, clumsily pushing himself onto knobby elbows. The moon is high in the sky, bright and beautiful and not shattered into a million pieces. He almost can’t believe it. A cool breeze passes through, and he shivers—
He’s cold .
Scrambling to his feet, Ben frantically starts patting himself — his warm and squishy cheeks, the smooth blue fabric of the academy uniform, the blades of grass barely illuminated by the moonlight under his feet.
He can feel.
He’s alive .
“Holy shit.” He whispers. “We did it!” Ben laughs, nigh hysterical, twisting to look at his siblings, still crumpled nearby on the ground. “Klaus, wake up! We did it!” He lightly kicks at his downed brother — he can touch things now, this is great — and relishes in the groan.
“Five more minutes... go ‘way, Ben!” Klaus mutters, turning away and snuggling into the concrete. He’ll probably wake up any second now if Ben leaves him alone, now that he’s sober and in a body unused to sleeping outdoors.
Ben kicks him again anyway, for good measure.
“Stop! I’m up, I’m up ,” Klaus moans, dramatically dragging his hand across his face as he sits up. “Oh bejeezus... Ben! You’re alive!”
“I know!” Klaus is scrambling to his feet, and Ben pulls him into a hug, just taking a few moments to take in the warmth and the pressure he hasn’t felt in years. His brother smells — and he can smell now too, at this rate Ben is going to cry from being able to cry — like cigarettes and weed and bad nail polish. It’s awful, and he doesn’t want to let go.
All good things must end, however, and Ben still has five other siblings to hug.
“Ben?” A quiet gasp draws his attention to where Allison is standing up on shaky legs, staring at him with wet eyes. “Ben!” She rushes towards him, stepping over Diego’s and Luther’s groaning bodies.
He welcomes her with open arms.
“Allison!” Allison’s hug is warmer and tighter than Klaus’s, like an octopus curling its tentacles around its prey. He doesn’t mind at all, not even with the growing wet patch on the front of his jacket. “I missed you guys. So much.”
“Missed you too, Ben,” Her voice is muffled, and Ben didn’t think she could hug him any tighter, but she does. His eyes burn. Fuck, he’s missed talking and touching and his entire asshole family so much. “If you get snot in my hair, I’ll kill you.”
“Noted,” He laughs. “You’re paying for this jacket though. Who knows how much snot you got in it?” She pulls away, looking into his eyes. Before he can mourn the loss, Allison reels back and punches him hard in the arm.
“Ow!” Ben yelps, kicking her in the shin as retaliation. Allison doesn’t even flinch.
“Your weak noodle legs don’t do anything to me, Benjamin.”
“Oh, are we on full name basis, Allis— wait, no, that doesn’t work.”
“Aw, I kinda feel excluded,” Klaus pouts, walking over to sling an arm around both of their shoulders. “We should probably do something about the others, though. Pretty sure Numero Dos is about to join the land of the living soon.”
Ben turns to look at where his part-time-janitor, part-time-discount-Batman of a brother lays sprawled on the pavement. Sure enough, he’s pushing himself with a groan and a very pointed glare at Ben.
“I’m not a fucking ‘discount Batman’, you asshole,” He spits, walking over and pulling Ben into a bone crushing hug.
“Didn’t realize I was saying it out loud,” Ben hums, wrapping his arms around Diego’s much skinnier frame. Looks like all those raw eggs were for nothing. “How are you doing, Mr. ‘My Body is a Temple’?”
“I feel like I’m going to throw up. Time travel sucks.”
“Throw up on me, and you’ll get to experience only having Klaus as a companion for seventeen years.” He buries his face further into Diego’s chest. “It’s really good to see you again.”
“You too, man.” There’s a small shift, and Ben sees Luther sitting up, staring at him like he’ll disappear any second. He flinches back a little, hunching into himself and training his eyes to the ground.
Good, Ben wants to say, you got our brother killed and started the apocalypse .
It would be so easy to blame Luther, and Ben is so angry at him.
He’s angry at everyone else too.
And Ben remembers the way Luther would come into his room at night, when the Horror had given him a bad day or special training had become too much or even just because, with arms full of astronomy books. He’d start talking about all the different constellations and planets, not a bit concerned about the possibility of Ben losing control at any second and hurting him.
(“I’m super tough, Six!” One grins, flexing his arms in a joking manner he’d never do in front of their father. “The Horror wouldn’t stand a chance if we arm-wrestled.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re going to throw down with the eldritch being in my stomach.”
“If it’s bothering you, then I might just have to. I’m your brother. I’ll always protect you! All of you!” He whispers it so earnestly, that Six believes him, and never really stops believing in him.)
Everything Luther had done was to protect his family — to protect them. He had seemed so strong and unaffected when they were younger, it was just so easy to forget that he was just as messed up as the rest of them. Between him and Five, Ben wasn't sure who’d he been jealous of more. Their confidence had always seemed so real.
Ben is older now. He knows better.
“What are you waiting for?” A little reluctantly, he pulls away from Diego. A group hug will happen eventually, if Ben has anything to say about it, but maybe not when they’re all still winded from the time travel.
Crouching down next to Luther, he pulls him into a hug. They’re all a lot smaller now, but Luther has always been the biggest, and even now his arms don’t go all the way around Luther’s stiff body. “Missed you, Luth.” Ben murmurs quietly, and Luther’s face crumples. He wraps his arms around Ben and sobs.
Well, that makes two siblings who are paying for his dry-cleaning bill after this.
“Ben.” Luther practically wails, clinging to him with all his strength. It hurts, and he’ll probably have some bruising in the morning, but he can’t bring himself to care. “Ben. For what happened— I’m, I’m sorry.”
“Me too. You’ve suffered just as much as we did, Luther. You’ve made a lot of decisions, and not all of them were the best, but... you did it for us.” Vaguely, he can hear the others murmuring to each other in the background, shifting and moving, but all his attention is on Luther right now. They might not have gotten along all that well when they were actually fourteen, too resentful and bitter, but seventeen years of nothing but introspection and Klaus’s appalling taste in clothing has shaped Ben’s perspective on their childhood. “What happened wasn’t your fault. It’s not your fault I died, Luther.”
“But— Dad said— and the book—“
“Fuck the book. I love our sister a lot, Luther, but she released a lot of private and frankly biased shit in that book. And a lot of it— her blaming you, the shit she said about Klaus and Allison and Diego, using my death and Five’s disappearance to make you guys look bad — it pissed me off.” Just thinking about the book makes him mad again. A lot of the things Vanya had written hurt , even if it was unintentional. But that’s not what this is about right now. “I do agree with what she said about Dad, though. He’s a real asshole, and an even worse father. He never cared about us, we were all just... desperate for his attention. He never cared about us, but we can care about each other.”
That really was it in the end, wasn’t it? When the Horror ripped him apart the first time around, tearing him to pieces from the inside out, Ben’s first thought had been: ‘ I hope none of them got hurt because of me.’
His second thought had been wishing he had punched Dad in the face at least once.
“...yeah,” Luther murmurs, wiping his eyes with his jacket sleeves. “I think I get it. Thanks, Ben.”
“No problem,” They stand up together. Luther leans into him, just a smidge, the tips of his ears red. Ben smiles, and leans back.
“Hey! Nice to see you two doing okay,” Klaus smiles as they walk over. Allison and Diego are checking over Vanya and Five, curled up next to each other. Vanya’s fingers have unconsciously curled around Five’s shirt, pulling him closer to her.
It’s… actually really cute. He wishes he had a camera.
The only thing out of place is the lazy rivulet of blood from Five’s nose, steadily forming a small puddle on the ground. It doesn’t seem like it’ll be stopping anytime soon.
“We should get Mom,” Diego says firmly, staggering a bit as he pries Vanya off Five and takes her limp body into his arms. Luther grabs Five, carefully cradling his head so he doesn’t clog his nostrils and choke.
“Una problema, Diego, and that’s the fact that Mom will definitely tell daddy dearest.”
“Could we go inside first?” Allison asks, jerking her head in the direction of the fire escape. “If the sun’s up, Dad’s up, and I don’t want to make six more cover stories.”
“Yeah,” Ben says, lacing his fingers through Allison’s and Klaus’s, Diego and Luther not too far behind. For the first time in a long time, his family is whole again. It makes his chest feel warm and fuzzy, and Ben squeezes their hands tighter. “Let’s go.”
He’s not going to let anything happen to them.
Once Five and Vanya wake up, everything will be alright.