One by one they die.
And one by one Klaus collects his siblings, immortalising them by his side.
The first time a sibling finds their way to his side it was intentional - he called upon his powers in a way he never had before and never would after, fists tightly clenched, and hoped. No real effort, no real skill, just blind hope and a healthy dose of luck and grief intertwined.
It had worked, god knows how it had worked but it had worked!- but not quite.
They hadn’t let him in the room, hadn’t let him see the body, so he had no idea just how bad it was until Ben is in front of him, and he has no idea how his brother can even stand with those injuries, can’t even make out his face beneath the gore, and- well. It’s still Ben. Deformed and bloodstained and god it’s so messy, but he still has his brother.
Every time after that they are the ones to find him.
Five is fourteen when he succumbs to his body’s needs.
He’s surprised he lasted as long as he did, truth be told - he’s been stumbling around with ash-laden lungs and wasting muscles and wobbly limbs for long enough. There’s only so much neglect a teenage body can take before it gives up.
Death doesn’t stop him. In fact, it’s almost a blessing. He can work without interruption now, pore every brain cell he has (and he has a lot, he’s smart, but it wasn’t enough to keep him alive was it) into calculations and equations and formulas without having to devote ninety percent of them to survival.
Almost a blessing: the incorporeality is a setback. The chalkboard he’d been so excited to find has become tantalisingly useless, taunting him with the two single strings of work he’d managed to get down before he got too weak to continue. He has to get creative with the rest, resort to assigning numbers and symbols to random bits of rubble and hope he can keep it all straight in his mind, work it out, get back home.
Home. His siblings. It’s been so long. Did they mourn him as he mourned them, like he mourns every day of his continued existence?
He lasted a year. It takes him forty-four more to find his way back.
Ben is seventeen when his body rips itself apart.
His insides are now on the outside, and he may be quickly losing his grip on consciousness but he’s coherent enough to register the wrongness of that. Coherent enough, too, to recognise his siblings’ screaming. He doesn’t want them to see this. Doesn’t want the image to haunt them like it’s haunted him every day since the realisation that this was what awaited.
Someone is applying pressure. He isn’t sure what they’re hoping to achieve. Their basic field first aid training never prepared them for injuries of this magnitude.
It occurs to him, suddenly, somehow, through the mists of pain that are fogging his thoughts. The Horror has decimated him, and his siblings are here. It could destroy them too. He can’t- not them too.
He’s okay with his own death. Okay with having fallen to his own power. He would never forgive himself if he takes his siblings down with him, not them, he loves them too much, there was never meant to be collateral-
There was no other ending, not for him. With the Horror it was only ever a matter of time. He knew it, planned for it, waited for it with bated breath and anxious anticipation. Waited and waited and waited as the Horror got hungrier and he got more afraid.
He was ready. He was never going to be ready.
He waited for the Horror all his life. The Horror did not wait for him.
Diego is twenty and barely started with the vigilantism when it goes predictably wrong.
He isn’t sure what he expected. Patch had warned him. Patch had begged him, and when he wouldn’t end it for her she ended with him instead.
At least he’s confident the people he came to save got out okay. Their attackers are currently piled in a bloody, knife-ridden cluster against the far wall; they won’t be hurting anyone else.
He saved them. He was a hero and he did it his way and dad can go fuck himself. Luther can go fuck himself too, as a throwback to the good old days and the good old rivalry. Fuck them all.
It’s a shame he won’t be saving anyone else.
The dying is slow, arduous. He’d always imagined going out hard and fast in a blaze of glory, but fate has not been so kind. The knife in his chest - his own, to add insult to injury, turned on him by his enemy when he chose the wrong moment to focus on the hostages - probably wouldn’t be enough to end him if he had two unbroken legs and immediate medical assistance, but he’s got neither, so he’s resigned himself to dotting this flower patterned wall with splashes and swathes of red until he finally passes out or passes on, whichever comes first.
If either one could come any time soon, that would be wonderful.
Patch finds him seven hours later, six hours too late.
Vanya is twenty-one when the car shatters her skull.
It hits straight on, full force, propelling her backwards and crunching her head against the rock (why is there a rock of that size in the middle of the main road?).
Her violin goes flying, hits the tarmac hard, splinters and cracks, and for a moment that is all she sees, all she cares about, because she is ordinary and she has nothing to show for her upbringing but the trauma and the rage and that violin, it’s her violin, one of the only things uniquely hers, her dad gave it to her and its the only good thing he’s ever given her and it’s hers and she screams, she screams.
She screams, and if she wasn’t grief-stricken, horror-struck, ghost-stuck, she’d notice the power exploding from her chest.
But she is, and she doesn’t, and neither does anyone else. Her power is great but she is dead, and it passes harmlessly through the living.
Within the car, the rogue commission agent sits with grim satisfaction. They’re out and blending with the crowd before anyone can think to check on the driver. An hour later they’re bleaching their hair with stolen dye. Two hours pass and they’re sitting with the plastic surgeon discussing options, and they’re pencilled in for the next day. Another two hours and they’re in the tanning booth.
Within two days they are unrecognisable. Within three they are found and tortured and dead.
And she is dead too, oblivious to everything. She was ordinary, a violinist on her way to practice, powerless and talentless and ordinary. She never discovered that she could be so much more.
It wasn’t meant to happen this way. The apocalypse dies with her.
Luther is twenty-four when his loyalty ends where they all knew it would.
Chemicals warp his scarred flesh and simian DNA mutates his own, leaving him unrecognisable outside and in. Distantly he can hear Grace and Reginald, his robotic mother and good-as-robotic father, rushing about in a muted frenzy. He thinks one or both of them is yelling. He can’t hear clearly enough to tell.
He’s dead. Time is a mess in his mind right now, he can’t keep its passage straight, has no idea how long he’s been floating half-gone, but at some point he accepted the inevitable. He’s not surviving this. He’s dead.
When it finally ends and he can breathe again, he steps aside and watches the electricity surge through his corpse.
It takes five minutes for them to give up.
Dismissed, Grace defaults to tidying, shifting his body back to the stretcher and wiping his blood from the bed. Her face is blank.
Pogo wheels the corpse away. All he offers is a single tear.
He trails his father to the study. Plans are crossed out, thrown away, rearranged, all without their previous star.
He finds no sorrow there in his father’s expression, no grief. No love.
Only irritation at ruined plans.
Allison is twenty-seven when Patrick presses a pillow where he used to press his lips.
The childhood of training kicks in as soon as her lungs register the lack of air. His terror fuels him enough to overpower her. The rumour blossoms without thought, ignorant of her days-old promise never to use it again. It’s uselessly muffled into the pillow.
She dies helpless, wheezing for air in the room across from the daughter she’d controlled.
She’s lost, confused, hurt, betrayed, understanding, and she sticks around. Watches Patrick collapse, sobbing, over her corpse. Traipses across the hall to where Claire is sleeping and has a good cry at the foot of her bed. Wanders back, and- oh, Patrick is rolling her up in a sheet; he hasn’t stopped crying but the set of his face is determined. He knows what he’s done and what he’s doing and what he’s going to do next.
This was premeditated. This was planned.
Gentle fingers trace her cheekbones before he covers her face, and the look on his - the medley of guilthateregretfearpainrelief- hurts more than dying.
“Was any of it real?” he breathes. She thought she was all cried out but that sets her off again. “Did you ever love me?”
She doesn’t know.
“Did you ever love Claire?”
“Yes,” she gasps through her tears. There’s no air with which to form the words with but she forces them out regardless because they’re important, they’re true, in a life of deceit and manipulation there is one thing she’s sure of and it’s this: “yes, yes, yes- ”.
“I loved you,” he whispers, and draws the sheet across.
Klaus is sixteen when he overdoses for the first time, and sixteen when he overdoses again. He is seventeen when he bleeds out in an alley and eighteen when he trips and cracks his head open on the curb. He is eighteen and eighteen and nineteen and twenty, all overdoses.
He is twenty and not Diego, why Diego, they’re still so young, they only saw each other last week and now his brother is eternally leaking red from an innocuous hole in his chest.
He is twenty-one and doing anything to escape the sight of his Vanya’s brains spilling down her back.
He is twenty-two - another overdose.
He is twenty-three and Five’s ghost finds its way back from the future that killed him, and the truth of his brother’s disappearance is enough to break him.
He is twenty-three and overdosing, twenty-three and overdosing, twenty-three and overdosing and begging for the same release as his siblings.
He is twenty-four and that can’t be Luther, it can’t be, not that warped mass of chemicals and scars and- and hair? Why is there so much hair, matted and clogged with fresh blood?
He is twenty-four and vomiting blood into the river. He is twenty-four and he gets up and he vomits some more. He is twenty-six and his head is split open during a very intimate moment that his siblings refused to watch - they change their minds when he’s bleeding out all over the linen sheets.
He is twenty-seven and eternally the oldest because Allison is here, every breath ragged and rent from a non-existent supply of air.
He is twenty-seven and overdoses and cries himself to sleep and overdoses again and screams obscenities at an unfeeling sky and crying and crying and-
He is twenty-seven and his Umbrella Academy collection is complete, the gang all back together. Dad would be thrilled.
He is twenty-nine and all seven - even loyal Number One, something big must have happened to finally get through to him - are thrilled to see the news of their father’s demise. Except then they realise what that means, where they ended up when they died, and it’s funny how fast that elation turns to terror.
He is thirty and they are still seven and they have never been more relieved.
He is thirty and they are seven: one unidentifiable lump, two punctured atop mangled legs, three forever unable to catch her breath, four inexplicably alive against all odds, five twice their age and brittle and weak, six another unidentifiable lump, seven crowned with a cerebral veil.
Klaus dies more than his siblings combined, multiplied, squared. It never sticks.
But he gets to keep them, his siblings-in-arms, his aggregation of umbrellas.
He gets to keep them, and for the sibling that expected to die first and die alone, it’s more than he ever could have expected.